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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Holy Week Beliefs and Practices

Beliefs

       Varied religious beliefs and practices are related to the Holy Week in this community. These are handed down from one generation to another by word of mouth. Some are reasonable and justifiable but others are out of place. Practically, those which are already found to be unfounded were already discarded by the new generation.
       During the Spanish regime people believed that they can eat meat during the Fridays of lent and on Good Friday if they have the Santa Bola which can be bought from the Spanish authorities. This is not true during our time.
       At present the church advocates fasting and abstinence during Ash Wednesday, Fridays of Lent and Good Friday for all Catholics except those who are sick, invalid and 60 years old and over.
The old folks in this community also believed that fruit bearing trees would be shaken when the church bells ring on Holy Saturday so that they would bear much fruit. Children who were quite stunted in growth were held by their elders and lifted up and shaken so that they would grow taller and bigger. Old folks also prohibited children to bathe on Good Friday for fear of getting sick.
Babaylans and quack doctors found Good Friday a busy day for them as they went to the caves and mountain to get herbs and bark of trees which they needed for their medicine. It was believed that the medicine was potent if taken on that particular day.
      These beliefs may sound quaint to the young generation, but those were religiously followed by the folks of long ago.

Some Holy Week Practices

      Since the Philippines was colonized by Spain, the people in the whole archipelago embraced Christianity. Churches were constructed in the parishes and people started strengthening their religious faith.
      Religious practices introduced by the Spanish priests were handed down from generation to generation. One of them is the construction of 14 Capilyas or makeshift or improvised chapel in strategic places in the town following the route of the procession.           These 14 capilyas represent the 14 stations undergone by Jesus Christ in his passion and death in Mt. Calvary. Each capilya depicts the station in the Way of the Cross.
       In this community the route of the procession is from the church to Libo-on Street, Magallanes, Maximo, Exaltacion, Magtanong, Alvior, Plaza Libertad and back to church. After the procession, people of all ages, and sex retrace the route of the procession several times until midnight as they eat peanuts, watermelon and other edibles. Young men and women together exchange conversation and laugh to their hearts’ content until midnight. The town plaza becomes a little Luneta with a sea of faces.
       There is a sort of merrymakings on street corners. Laughter and peoples’ voices fill the air. In many towns in the province this practice has been stopped, but loyal Alimodiananons feel that young generation will have to experience the joy and fun going around the capilyas as many times as they want so they can say that “Holy Week” was well observed.
       This practice is the exact opposite of what the church wants people to do. Lay leaders of the church have attempted to alter the practice but to no avail as it are much easier to amend a law rather than the custom which has long been practiced by the people.
At present the practice of having a procession on Holy Thursday is against the church liturgy, but upon the insistence of the people, there is procession on both Holy Thursdays and Good Friday.


Bitay and Resplandor

         Easter Sunday is the greatest celebration in the whole Christendom. The people are awakened early by the pealing of bells beckoning the faithful to church to attend the early mass. The church is full and crowded with people from all walks of life.
        When the mass is over all men follow the image of the resurrected Christ as they take the right turn from the church. A young man clad in barong tagalog carries the church banner. The women group follow the image of Virgin Mary and take the road on the northern side of the plaza. The two groups – meet in front of the Plaza where the Easter Sunday ceremony is performed.
        The Bitay which corresponds to an angel who was seen on the tomb of Jesus, rides up on a carriage which takes the shape of star, comet, flower or any shape or motif that the family so desires. The image of Virgin Mary, whose head is covered with a black veil, is brought near the Bitay and she begins to recite and sing the age-old ballad and song which I will include in the later blogs.
When the angel or Bitay has finished delivering her speech, she removes the black veil on the head of Virgin Mary which she later returns to the priest.
         It is the Resplandor’s turn to deliver his discourse, cursing Judas for selling Jesus to his captors, when the Bitay is through reciting. An effigy of Judas’s figure is made to move when his name is mentioned by the Resplandor. This makes the spectators laugh.
        At the end of the speech of the Resplandor the effigy of Judas is burned to depict hatred of the people to Judas. Then the whole congregation returns to church amidst loud pealing of church bells, march music of the band and rejoicing of the people.

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