On days culminating the Lenten season, Filipinos are accustomed to participate in the various traditions and rituals between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. This year, we spent our Holy Week in San Mateo Rizal.
Widely participated in San Mateo are the processions on Holy Wednesday and Good Friday where sixty two life-size religious statues depicting characters and key events in the passion of Christ are paraded on the streets.
On both separate events, the church patio of the Diocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu and the main street in front of the church swell with images on decorated carrozas. Each carroza are trailed by devotees reciting the rosary or a brass band. Since the Lenten month falls on summer, it is a sultry afternoon and the procession moves through a wall of heat made even more intense by candle flames.
The procession consists of two distinct parts: first part presents the important characters leading to the Crucifixion and Burial of Christ. Second part are tableaus depicting the Passion of Christ. In San Mateo, the procession were led by the four Evangelists then by the Apostles followed by key personalities present during the Crucifixion and scenes of the Passion of Christ and Mary.
According to procession expert Basilidez Bautista in Cuaresma, there can only be one of each event in the Passion or paso in a procession. In some processions, however, there have been two or more versions of certain paso. This situation arises when members of a community become financially able, and wish to have their own carrozas.
To accommodate them, pasos that lend themselves to acceptable variations are given an additional biblical character, or have certain details of the event isolated and portrayed. In the San Mateo procession, The Washing of the Feet and Last Supper are depicted on separate floats.
The line-up for San Mateo Holy Wednesday and the Good Friday processions is identical, with the exception of the Pieta, a tableau of Christ being brought down from the Cross, and Christ on bier, which are brought out only for the Santo Entierro procession on Good Friday.
In Holy Week processions, the Tres Marias are constant: Maria Magdalena, the sinner turned saint who is portrayed with a vial of perfume; Maria Cleofe, mother of the apostles James the Younger; and Maria Jacobe, mother of the apostle James the Greater and John, whose iconography includes a broom.
Santa Veronica’s story has proved quite appealing to Catholics. One of the women of Jerusalem, she was filled with compassion when she saw the bloodied Jesus on the way to Calvary. She gently took cloth, which was folded thrice, to his face. Unfolded, the cloth revealed three imprints of the face of Christ. Her name comes from Greek veron meaning true icon.
The Mater Dolorosa is traditionally the last image in all Holy Week processions. Dressed in blue and white on Holy Wednesday, she is in mourning black on Good Friday. Hands clasped, tears poised on her cheeks, she it the very image of sorrow.
Bautista pointed out that in Her many personifications, the image of the Sorrowful Mother may be adorned with the araw, a halo around her face, instead of atop her head. Twelve stars signifying St. John’s Vision of the Apocalypse might also encircle her lovely face.
Her heart is pierced with seven daggers, signifying her Siete Dolores (by which title she is also known) or seven dolors of pains. These are the prophecy of Simon foretelling the destiny of her Son; their flight to Egypt; the lost of Jesus for three days; her standing beneath the cross at Calvary; her receiving on her lap the sacred body of Jesus after it was taken down from the cross; and her witnessing the burial of the body of Jesus.
The principal figure is the Santo Sepulcro or Christ in the sepulcher dressed in a richly embroidered cape with tres potencias resting on His chest. Tres Potencias –the rays on Jesus’ head are reserved for the members of the Holy Trinity: God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Benjamin Baislidez Bautista in Cuaresma