MAHAL NA ARAW
The grandest of Paete festivities, Holy Week processions feature what could be the largest collection of the most exquisite images depicting the Passion of Christ. In my time, little children dressed up as angels hovered around the image of Our Mother of Sorrows, Madriņan's Mater Dolorosa. As regards Holy Week celebrations 100 years ago, historian Dr. Eugenio Quesada had this to say:
American and German tourists came to Paete to observe the celebrations. In Paete church during Holy Thursday, 23 groups of these statues of saints depicting the Passion of Christ were displayed, surpassing by sheer number any other collection of Holy Week statuary among parishes in the Philippines, perhaps in the whole world. After the procession in the evening, the church remained open and the story of the Passion of Christ was chanted. People went to church and prayed an hour or so each during the whole night. The whole town was really in mourning, in deep sorrow.
The next day, Good Friday, people continued in their quiet, solemn way. When I was a boy, I saw how the "Capitan" (municipal captain) imposed discipline in an absolutely noiseless way by carrying a whip hidden inside his coat, and flogging any boy who made any noise either inside or outside the church.
In late afternoon, the Good Friday procession would start. This time, the number of statues was less because those figures depicting the Passion of Christ were withdrawn. But the images of saints were retained and dressed in black - as in a funeral procession. (The central figure of the Good Friday procession is the "Seņor", the image of the dead Christ laid out in a heavy ornate glass casket surrounded by weeping cherubs who hold in their chubby little hands censers, nails, the crown of thorns, and other instruments of His death. The casket is carried on the shoulders by an army of male penitents marching in unison.)
Finally, there was one part of the Holy Week celebrations which children both enjoyed and feared. This was the custom of having some people dress up as Jewish authorities and Roman soldiers wearing mustachioed masks and plummed helmets, and carrying spears. (Elsewhere in the Philippines, this custom is called "Moriones.") The small children very often got scared of them but the bigger ones got lots of fun. The "Hudiyos" were the only people allowed to jump around and make noises during Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. In later years, this practice was abandoned because it was becoming more of a nuisance than a religious vow.
Semana Santa celebrations in Paete always end up with a bang. On "Sabado de Gloria," morning of Holy Saturday, hordes of young people climb up the mountain for a pilgrimage to "Maykurus", site of the three crosses on the hilltop, and to picnic on sweet young coconuts. In the evening, people dress up to the nines and dance the night away. This practice has been criticized by the more pious residents of the town, arguing that the Lord was still dead and therefore improper to celebrate. But holidays being what they are - a gathering of long lost friends and relatives coming home to Paete - people feel the need to entertain and be entertained. Reconciliation is usually reached on Easter Sunday when the entire town turns out for the early morning Church services.
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