Paete Holy Week Procession

FOLKSY PROCESSIONS. A massive crowd waving Palaspas before an image of Jesus on a donkey called the Humenta is the first procession of the Holy Week. This Palm Sunday Procession recalls Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  Important Holy Week processions follows on Holy Wednesday for the Via Crucis, on Maundy Thursday for the procession of the Eucharist to the Altar of the Repose, on Good Friday for the funeral procession with the Santo Entierro and on Easter Sunday for the Salubong with the image of the Risen Christ.

In the woodcarving town of Paete, Laguna, a folksy procession is held on Holy Wednesday that brings us back to our ancestral world.

A FESTIVAL OF CARROZAS. Arriving late in the afternoon, local spectators and some eager tourists have already gathered in front of the Paete Church. A fellow blogger, Sidney Snoek has already found a good spot to take his photos.

Inside the centuries-old church of Paete is a festival of carrozas. The pews were purposely removed to give way to the massive carriages bearing the images of saints, via crucis celebrities and tableau based from Biblical scenes. It is amazing to see how the carrozas were lined up inside the church.

THE ROLE OF THE RECAMADERA. Completely decorated with flowers and fully illuminated, standing out from the carrozas are the statues carved by the town’s artisans. Some images date back to the 1700s. Old or newly carved, the statues were exquisite.

Images are entrusted to the recamadera who is in-charge of the cleaning and the dressing of the statue and its carroza for the procession.  Traditionally, the recamadera was a matriarch who spends for decorations and the feeding and temporary lodging of those who will join the procession.

HEIRLOOMS AND TRADITIONS. All the statues are family heirloom and are safeguarded at all costs. I have learned from locals that to loose one is considered a grievous offense not only to the family’s reputation but to the entire town as well. During World War II, the heads and hands of the statues were taken to the hills to hide them while the enemy torched the entire town to the ground.

According to local tradition, whoever inherits the statue also inherits a rice field, at a very least a hectare in size. A large portion of the income from the field is allocated for the statues maintenance, its dress, accessories, carroza, lights and flowers when it is taken out on the processions. The rest of the money is spent when the owner of the santo must open their house to all devotees of the statue for a whole day of feasting.

PRUSISYON. I was talking to Sidney, when the ancient tower bells began to toll. I went to my position near the church’s entrance while leaving Sidney somewhere in the courtyard. From the church’s double door the first carroza rolled out followed by the next one. Each float bearing saint or scene is introduced by a voice over.

The Holy Wednesday procession presents scenes and characters from the Stations of the Cross. Traditionally, each carroza is accompanied by guilds based on the image’s attribution. For example, the carroza of the Oracion en el Huerto, a scene in Gethsemene is followed by landlords and orchard owners. Accompanying the Nazareno are jeepney drivers and mechanics much like the scene in Quiapo. The Pieta is followed by workers and owners of funeral parlors. While image of San Pedro is followed by sabungeros, the image of Sta. Veronica with the face of Jesus on a piece of cloth is followed by painters and artists.

EPILOGUE. The procession went through its way across the courtyard and then through the narrow streets of the Paete.

In this day and age when commercialism dominates our traditions and fiestas, an event like the Holy Wednesday Procession in Paete brings us back to our ancestral world.

-Holy Monday 2016



ON THE EVE OF LENT. Every year, we turn over the dried and dusty Blessed Palaspas to our parish church on the eve of Miercoles de Ceniza. Old blessed palms are burnt and mixed with water for the anointing of ash on the forehead during Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Cuaresma or the 40-days of Lent. Like the Christmas season in Catholic Philippines, the Lenten season is as lively and as colorful.

Palaspas making

Palaspas vendors

PALASPAS-MAKING TRADITION. On the eve of Palm Sunday, vendors of palaspas line the church patio and street alleys. The palaspas are woven on where they are sold. The unopened coconut leaves are often used to make the palaspas.

Like the annual making of the folksy parol, palaspas-making is a family tradition that is passed on to generations. When I asked vendors on how he or she learned to make palaspas, their answers were similar. They were taught by their parents, uncles and aunties, lolos and lolas to make palaspas and sell them on Palm Sunday.

Palaspas humenta

Palaspas binondo

THE BLESSING OF THE PALMS. On Palm Sunday, the palaspas becomes part of the reenactment of Christ entry to Jerusalem where He is welcomed by a crowd waving branches. In some towns, a statue of Christ on a donkey called the humenta is carried on an andas in solemn procession. In Tondo, The priest plays the role of Christ in a procession where he rides a horse while blessing the crowd waving palaspas. In Binondo, the women spread the banig before the priest on procession that begins from church and ends at Plaza Calderon dela Barca.

Folk traditions taught us that anything touched or blessed by a holy man becomes sacred. Like crucifixes, religious statues, anting-anting medallions, the palaspas once blessed can ward off evil.

palaspas by the window

THE VERSATILE PALASPAS. Traditionally, sanctified palaspas are brought home and are placed on windows and above doorways to shield the house from evils spirits and calamities and bring good fortune. Some blessed palaspas are placed at the edge of the roof as protection from lightning. Burnt palms are scattered on rice fields to ensure good harvest.

In the local film Shake, Rattle and Roll, the one with the manananggal episode, palaspas was used to ward of the man-eating aswang. In Cabanatuan and Aklan, palaspas ash is mixed with coconut oil, incense charcoal, and a piece of holy candle to make a cure-all ointment. A healing ritual in Pakil involves the burning of blessed fronds before the sick. Its vapors meant to heal and the ashes are stirred into a glass of water as a drink for fever. In Ilocos, a small palaspas is woven to replace the cross from a rosary on a corpse’s right hand. This ritual for the dead guarantees an entrance to St. Peter’s gate.

10 February 2016
Miercoles de Ceniza

Published in: on February 10, 2016 at 12:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Tanay Church

Tanay Church

SAN ILDEFONSO’S GOLDEN CHASUBLE. One day in year 657 A.D., the Blessed Mother came down from heaven to personally reward the Archbishop of Toledo, Ildefonso with a golden chasuble for writing a book in the Her honor. Centuries later, the archbishop became a saint and pilgrimages are made on the site where the Blessed Mother appeared to San Ildefonso.

In Tanay, Rizal, a church dedicated to San Ildefonso de Toledo was built in 1773 where we climbed the stairs behind the main altar to touch the image of the saint dressed in a golden chasuble.

Tanay Rizal Church

Tanay church facade

A NATIONAL CULTURAL TREASURE. We went to Tanay on a chilly January for brunch at a street-side carinderia that serves generous bowls of steaming bulalo. Rambull’s Bakahan sa Tanay is just across the 200-year old Iglesia Parroquial de San Ildefonso de Toledo.

Construction of Tanay church is a product of the Baroque taste of the Franciscan friar Alonso de Fentanes. The church was declared a National Cultural Treasure for its architecture and for the exquisitely-carved Baroque retablos along with the antique images of saints and the wooden relleves with folksy sculpture showing the Stations of the Cross.

Tanay Church side altars

Tanay Church main altar

BAROQUE RETABLOS. The smell of old wood mixed with fresh floor wax dominates the air upon entering Tanay Church. Glowing in Baroque splendor at the end of the dimly lit interior are the massive wooden retablos. Baroque style became popular after the completion of the Jesuit mother church Il Gesu in Rome. This style is characterized by the lavish use of serpentine scrolls, decorative spirals and grandness that will make the viewers feel they had glimpse of the richness of heaven.

The retablos at Tanay Church were installed in 1786. It was an era when the Baroque style was predominantly applied in church buildings and interiors in order to strike the natives with awe and make a statement of wealth, power and dominance of the Catholic Church.

Tanay Church stations of the cross

FOLKSY RELLEVES. Equally impressive were the wood reliefs with primitive sculpture depicting the 14 Stations of the Cross carved by a native artist.

When the Spaniards came, they admired the ability of the natives at imitating things they see and make copies of them on wood. Relleves were at first folksy and crude copies from estampitas or illustrations from prayer books brought over by the friars. As the demand for religious images became more immediate, woodcarving skills developed and the relleves became ornately carved with colors and gilt.

EPILOGUE. There are those that say that the golden chasuble of San Ildenfonso is just a legend akin to the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail. Some say that relic is kept in a Holy Chest along with a bloodstained piece of cloth believed to had came in contact with Jesus after the Crucifixion.

True or fiction, the message of this legend is clear. The Heaven never forgets to say thank you.

23 January 2016
Feast of San Ildefonso de Toledo

Published in: on January 23, 2016 at 12:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Pasinaya Festival

Pasinaya Festival

FESTIVAL DAY. The mesmerizing dance of the Maranao just ended with a crash of a gong when performers of the Jota Batangueña began clicking their castanets and the dancers makes a graceful entrance to the improvised stage on the drop-off ramp of the CCP Main Theater. At the parking lot, the Philippine Madrigal Singers serenade the crowd competing with a marching band performing on a street-side while a post-Modernist artist greets visitors at the CCP bookstore. At the old Senate Hall, a children’s choir performs a Visayan folk song. In Intramuros, actress Mae Paner makes bubbles while tour guide Ivan Dy coaches children in playing traditional Chinese games.

All of these simultaneously happening at Intramuros, Luneta, the National Museum Complex and the Cultural Center of the Philippines in celebration of the Pasinaya Festival.

Cultural Center of the Philippines Pasinaya


PASINAYA. At the start of the year, the Cultural Center of the Philippines gives a sampler of Filipino dance, music, theater, film, and visual arts by hosting the Pasinaya FestivalThis one-day event draws crowds of different artistic interests and it is held in different venues along Roxas Boulevard and around Manila. 

It’s good to start at the CCP Complex where spectators can avail of an audience pass to all of the participating institutions for a minimal fee. We avoided the long lines at main theater and Tanghalang Batute so that we could catch as many happenings as possible on that day.



FREE ARTWORK FROM THE PRINTMAKERS. At the second floor of the CCP Main Theater, the Philippine Association of Printmakers (PAP) led by Benjie Torrado Cabrera demonstrates basic printmaking. The art of printmaking involves the process of transferring an image from a plate onto paper.

At the PAP kiosk, creativity isn’t restricted to the artists. Spectators line up to experience pulling out paper from a block of wood carved with an image and take home a free artwork from the Printmakers.

Jamie de Guzman CCP

Jamie de Guzman at the CCP

JAIME DE GUZMAN. During the festival, prices of publications by CCP were sold at a discount. We got the coffee table book Tuklas Sining from the CCP bookstore and asked post-modernist artist Jaime de Guzman to sign the page where his celebrated work, Gomburza is printed.

A recipient of the Thirteen Artists Award, de Guzman’s body of works inspires generations to reflect on our social realities. His distorted human forms and powerful strokes representing inequality and unrest as seen in his works during 1970s are as timeless and relevant in our current political scenarios.



FOLK ART ON WHEELS. By lunch time, CCP is already crowded with spectators. We left CCP via the colorful jeepneys that transports passengers to other festival venues.

The Philippine jeepney has been traditionally known as a mobile art piece. Its loud and festive colors, chrome embellishments, plastic trimmings and chrochet curtain that hang along the windshield and a rosary dangling from the rear view mirror makes it an epitome of folk art on wheels.

Pasinaya Old Senate

Pasinaya National Art Gallery

NATIONAL MUSEUM. The folk art on wheels ferried us to the National Museum. After touring the different galleries, we were led to the old Senate hall where a children’s choir performed a set of Visayan folk songs.

Built in 1916, the imposing National Museum building was based from the plan of Daniel Burnham. Its original Neoclassical architectural is evocative of the Greek Parthenon which coincides with the American branding statement that the ideal government is founded on democracy. For several years the Philippine Senate held its sessions on the second floor hall until 1996 when the senate offices vacated the building.



INTRAMUROS OF MEMORY. From the National Museum, we walked to Intramuros where a portion of General Luna Street was closed down to traffic. In Barrio San Luis, music is provided by a banduria ensemble. Makeshift stalls sell trinkets and handicrafts. Spectators are invited to create handicrafts and participate in the building of an art installation in the middle of the street.

This festive Intramuros recalls the pre-War feria on the feast days of San Nicolas and Sta. Lucia in front of the Recolletos Chruch, the June 13 procession of San Antonio de Padua at the San Francisco Church, the feast of the Sacred Heart at the Jesuit Church of San Ignacio and the Fiesta of La Naval de Manila at Sto. Domingo Church and the traffic jams in front of the Capuchin Church because of the pilgrims of the Our Lady of Lourdes. All the churches mentioned are long gone and can only be seen in old photos like the ones in the book Intramuros of Memory.

Pasinaya Bipoa

Te tit Pasinaya

BAHAY TSINOY. The audience pass allowed entrance to various museums. At Bahay Tsinoy, we explored the the different galleries exhibiting Filipino-Chinese heritage and artifacts. Ivan Dy of Old Manila Walks introduced the guests to traditional Chinese games Bipao and Tet-it at the museum lobby.

EPILOGUE. The annual staging of the Pasinaya Festival ushers the year with appreciation for art across different mediums of expression. Whether through dance, music, theater, film, and visual arts, Pasinaya leads the spectators into discovering the kind of art that goes straight into their heart.

Published in: on January 3, 2016 at 12:26 pm  Comments (1)  

Intramuros Grand Marian Procession

Grand Marian Procession

FIESTA OFICIAL. There are two dates in December that were assigned by the Catholic Church as holy days of obligation, one is the birthday of Jesus on the 25th and the Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion on the 8th. I remember back in grade school when the 8th of December was declared as fiesta oficial and our teacher would remind students to go to mass on that day.

In the Spanish colonial days, everyone attended the solemn
Te Deum at the Cathedral in Intramuros. In the evening, the Walled City was illuminated by candles from carrozas carrying images of the Blessed Mother and from every window hung the blue and white colors of the Virgin.



GRAND MARIAN PROCESSION. The tradition continues to this day in Intramuros as the Grand Marian Procession that is usually held on the Sunday closest to December 8. Venerated images of the Blessed Virgin from Piat to Zamboanga are brought out from the church’s altar and from private homes to Intramuros for this annual congress of magnificent carrozas and images of the Virgin Mary dressed in extravagant embroidery studded with gold thread and gemstones and ostentatiously accessorized with gold and silver fittings.

The procession is the longest and most flamboyant religious parade of different representations of the Mother of God in country. Images are accompanied by joyful marching bands and colorful folk dancers complete with fiesta props.

Grand Marian Procession Consolacion y Correa

Grand Marian Procession Piat

MARY LAND. The Marian cult in the Philippines began with the finding of the image of the Lady on top of a pandan bush. According to the legend, when Magellan arrived in Cebu, he presented to the wife of Rajah Humabon the images of the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus. The converted queen chose to keep the Child Jesus. The image had become the venerated image known as the Sto. Niño de Cebu. In 1571, the a member of the Legaspi Expedition found the image of the Virgin Mary enshrined on a screw pine on a beach in the village of Lagyo. It is believe that this is the same image that Magellan presented to the queen years earlier. This image is enshrined in Ermita Church as the Nuestra Señora de Guia.

From the Nuestra Señora de Guia, a Marian cult multiplied in different parts of the country as the Nuestra Señora de la: Inmaculada Concepcion, Consolacion y Correa, Paz y Buen Viaje, Santo Rosario, Medalla Milagrosa, Dolores de Turumba, Soledad de Porta Vaga, Piat, Pronto Socorro, Perpetuo Socorro, Buensuceso, Regla, Desamparados, Divina Pastora, Porteria, Carmen, O (La O of Pangil), los Remedios, Pilar, Peñafrancia, Manaoag, Casaysay, Salambao, Aranzazu, Montserrat, Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, Estrella, Angeles, Gracia, Rosa, Candelaria, Caridad and so on.

Grand Marian Procession Aetas

Grand Marian Procession Ina Poon Bato

OUR LADY OF THE AETAS. In Zambales, there is legend about the image of the Blessed Mother that antedates the arrival of the Spaniards. According to the legend, an Aeta chieftain named Djagig was resting after an unsuccessful hunt when he heard a woman’s voice calling Djagig take me home. Turning around, he found an image of a woman perched on a rock. The chieftain took it home but his disappointed wife threw it into the fire but the image did not burn. Djagig announced the the miracle to his tribe. When the first Recollect friars came to Zambales in 1607, they went to the Aeta village to see the famous wooden icon. The friars were surprised upon seeing the image of the Blessed Mother that came before them.

The image was brought to the parish church. It stayed there until the Philippine Revolution when a group of katipuneros killed the parish priest Fray Julian Gimenez and brought the image to an Aglipay Church. In 1976, a Columbian priest commissioned famous santorero Maximo Vicente to sculpt a replica of the
Ina Poon Bato.

Grand Marian Procession Intramuros


EPILOGUE. As we have seen in the Intramuros Grand Marian Procession, there are hundreds of icons of the Blessed Mother all over the country that are enshrined and venerated in churches and are in custody of families and private individuals. Each are surrounded with legends and stories of miracles like Pakil’s Turumba, Quezon City’s Santo Rosario de La Naval, San Mateo’s Virgen de Aranzazu, Antipolo’s Virgen dela Paz y Buenviaje and so much more.

But more than the many ways we call the Blessed Mother and the several ways we celebrate her fiesta, it would seem of the several wishes and pleas from the people described as pueblo amante de Maria many have been granted in the mysterious workings of prayer to the first follower of Jesus Christ.

8 December 2015
Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion

Published in: on December 8, 2015 at 12:01 am  Comments (1)