The Filipinos’ way of life is a melting pot of various cultures. Having been under Spanish rule for more than 300 years, many of our nation’s traditions and religious rites have been adopted from the Spanish culture.
Most notable of these, is how we celebrate Holy Week in the Philippines. This occasion begins on Ash Wednesday when people bring their dried and old palm leaves used in the previous year for burning in the churches. The priests make a sign of the cross on the forehead of the parishioners using the ashes that come out after burning these leaves.
After a few weeks, the Holy Week will commence on Palm Sunday. During this day, people reenact how the Jews celebrated the coming of Jesus in Jerusalem by singing and waiving palm leaves. After a few days in that same week, comes Maundy Thursday. This is the beginning of fasting and abstinence which ends in Black Saturday. Ironically, some people celebrate it by going into picnics and resorts. They claim that this is their only time to take a break from work.
In some provinces, some folks still follow the practice of whipping one’s back with a whip and sharp objects. We call these folks as penitents or flagellants. Some carry heavy wooden cross. They cover their faces with black or white cloth and wear replica of thorn crowns on their heads. When I was a young child, I was afraid to look at them. My relatives say that they cover their faces because they were ashamed of their sins.
One of the tourist attractions in the country is the real reenactment of nailing on the cross of some penitents in the province of Pampanga on Good Fridays. Before the nailing begins, some groups perform a theatrical drama of the passion of Christ called “Cenaculo”. Characters that can’t be missed in this drama are Pontius Pilate, the Jews, Mary, Magdalene, Peter, Veronica, and many others. The performance goes to a hilly place purported to be the Golgotha.
The climax of the drama ends with the nailing on the cross using real nails on the hands and feet of the penitents. This scene depicts one of the excruciating pains that Jesus Christ suffered when He was executed. Despite the continuous summons of the church against such practices, these penitents believe that they can be pardoned from their sins by doing those acts of repentance. They feel that by doing so, they somehow share in the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But church leaders tell that the Savior has already done the sacrifice for us. He gave His life for us, sinners, so that we will be saved from hell. All these rites are futile. Only faith and good deeds can save us from eternal condemnation. Nevertheless, who are we to judge? Only God can judge the passions of our hearts. Only He knows whether we are worthy of His pardon or should be thrown in the pit of eternal fire.
Image via Wikipedia