Holy Week Processions

One of the things I love best about the Philippines is their strong cultural observances, customs and traditions. You don’t have to be Catholic (or even Filipino) to get swept into a Holy Week procession and become part of a living collective energy.

This is our first Easter in Iloilo City and yesterday Jerry and I turned out to watch the Catholic procession pass by our street. I was raised a strict Presbyterian — where Catholic traditions and culture were touted out as sinful and against the teachings of the bible — but as Jerry is Roman Catholic I’ve taken the time to learn about Catholicism and take him to mass most weeks. I have no doubt the ratio of sinners to saved attending Catholic mass or Presbyterian church services anywhere in the world would be pretty much the same. I do love this procession each year.

As we stood waiting for the 14 beautifully decorated floats to recreate the journey of Jesus to Mount Calvary, Jerry complained bitterly about it being HOT and (worst of all) BORING. I sternly told him to be quiet, but (masking a smile he could not see) was instantly taken back to being his age and contemplating the horror of all that extra church during a typical Presbyterian Easter weekend.

Despite his protests, we stood as the sun fell into dusk over the 14 floats and the men hauling their charges switched on generators (transported via bicycle rickshaws) to illuminate representations of Jesus, his Mother, and the Apostles. Each float in the procession passes by all 14 stations of the Cross — recreated on the streets and guarded by the Barangay officials in each local diocese.

Can you see the tall bamboo post with a makeshift cross held by a man in pink tshirt? Each float had a man assigned to carry a similar bamboo implement — to raise low hanging electrical wires as the floats passed underneath.

By some co-incidence we stood alongside Station 6: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus and as the last float approached — with the nuns leading the faithful in ritualistic chants — Jerry heard the name of his mother called above the crowd. He looked up in confusion, and (possibly a little hopeful) repeated her name aloud.

Veronica.

Easter Procession took on some significance at last as I explained how the lady Veronica had come out of the crowd and wiped the blood and sweat from the face of Jesus.  And that his mother had been named after someone who was kind. Interesting that Station VI which acknowledges the compassion of Veronica would be the placed at the end of our driveway.


Blogging-U: This blog was prompted by the WordPress online course Writing: Shaping Your Story – 1.4 Once you’ve got detail, look even closer — a new angle may be waiting to surprise you.

Written by Melinda J. Irvine

Melinda J. Irvine is a freelance writer, poet, and blogger — writing slick sales copy for clients from all over the world. And blogging poetry. In her spare time, Mel is busy building (and writing) a free online learning centre for the marginalised kids of Estancia, Philippines.

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