Little Miss Homo Sapien's Cave

Holy Week: Consecrations and Decadence

The Catholic world is currently on the cusp of its Holy Week observance. Here in the Philippines, many of the people filed their leave from work as early as last week and already left the city last Saturday for an extension of their much-awaited vacations out of town or/and abroad. Most of the people I know who will be vacationing, however, have yet to leave tomorrow, as many of them still have half of the day to work.

Holy Week is probably the only time when Metro Manila comes closest to being a ghost town. Almost everybody is out there in the provinces in this long holiday to visit their hometowns and relatives, go swimming and island-hopping–basically personifying the very dynamics of a vacationer. The city in turn suddenly becomes quiet and traffic-free, which is unheard-of during its normal daily grind, and which makes itself the complete opposite of the provinces in the same occasion: because its ciudad folks have crowded into the latter’s prized and pristine shores.

I heard that almost half of Manila are currently emptying into Puerto Galera and, of course, the white sands of Boracay. According to the news the excitement is such among the beach goers that most of them, when trooping down to the airports, bus terminals and sea ports they’re already sported in their beach get-ups, which makes them, uh, fashionably half-naked. And ridiculous.

Are we really this pooped from our jobs?

The Holy Week. During this time, every Catholic is summoned to practice its various traditions and rituals, such as fasting, abstaining from pork, alcohol and sex, doing Visita Iglesia, participating in street processions such as Way of the Cross and witnessing live reenactments of the Passion, where some of the religious fanatics willfully have themselves crucified on a cross, a practice of which a celebrated, tourist-attracting affair in San Fernando, Pampangga every Lenten season. (The Church has always been vocal against such “baseless” self-infliction of pain.)

The Lent is supposed to be the time for reflection, repentance and spiritual assessment. Us Filipinos call this ngilayngilay. When we were kids and it’s this time of the year, we would always get told by our adults to never make noises, or else God will get mad at us. Personally when I was a kid, although I spent most of my Holy Week periods running and playing around like there was no tomorrow with my neighborhood friends and exerted this attitude of not being fazed, deep inside of me I was afraid as hell of the idea that God will get furious at me for being loud and boisterous, so whenever I’d I find myself alone after playing, I would never make a sound and sit still.

Although this belief seems stupid and archaic now, I still believe that a little bit of silence is the least thing we could do to pay our respects to this occasion.

As many of us know, when we go to Puerto Galera or Boracay or any beach for that matter during the Holy Week, reflecting, repenting and touching base with our religious side is the last thing we do. Because when we are at a beach full of beautiful people we are like these wild animals freed from the corral and act on our basic instincts: parade our hot bikini/boxers-clad bodies, get ourselves sun-tanned, flirt with other vacationers and tourists, party all night in the clubs nearby and gyrate to the likes of Shots, Like A G6 and Teach Me How To Dougie and drink booze and get sleazy by the seaside past midnight. The hell with being holy, right? Holy Week in the Philippines happens to coincide with the official arrival of the country’s summer season, so we could just justify our degenerate behavior as natural: “it’s summer.” After all everybody’s doing it, so it must be not that bad.

The vision of those rabid believers flagellating themselves as their way of sacrificing and repenting, and those pretty folks cavorting on the beach and whose bodies had been sculpted specifically for this Holy Week respite. I’m thinking, what does it really mean to be a predominantly Catholic nation? Do we even know what it means to be Catholic other than the fact that “we will roast in hell”, for not being one, as our lovely religious officials scare us with? It’s either we go to the extreme of being religious, or we don’t give a flying fig and are only pretending to be religious for fear of getting judged by our co-humans.

A lot people need to figure out, once and for all, what they mean when they say they’re Catholic.

Meanwhile I will stay in Manila, the scene of a mass exodus for the next days, catch up on my half-read books, do DVD marathons, sleep longer than 8 hours straight and listen to the new record of Radiohead. Everyday of my life I’m already figuring out what it means to be born into Catholicism, and how should I deal with it, and I don’t need this particular week to figure it out more; true to being different, I’ll take this week off from figuring out anything religious. And then after that I’ll be back to making ngilayngilay, and going to the beach, just when they’re not “in season” anymore.

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10 responses

  1. This reminds me of a commencement address I was lucky enough to hear. The speaker talked about faith as part of culture. He talked about the disconnect between religion and practice in the Philippines, describing a ritualistic observance of religion but not an actual “living” of it.

    Your post is as timely as it is a concrete example of this disconnect that we are all part of. It makes me sad to think that, as Catholics, a lot of our Filipino brethren may not even know what it’s really about.

    I guess in the end, it’s not about the rituals, the symbols, or the liturgy, or the religion (which is different from faith). It’s about the practice of being good Christian people. (forgive me for rambling, but I just needed to get that out)

    19/04/2011 at 23:42

    • I agree with you, Jensen. At the end of the day it’s not about how you classify the way you live your life, or in this case who you religiously associate yourself with.

      I want to share to you this little piece of thought I scribbled on a notebook of mine back when I was 16. Up to this day, this is still the way I sum up my views regarding religions:

      “How could I possibly subscribe my life to a particular religion without a heavy heart, when I’m fully aware that there are myriads of belief systems out there which other people irrevocably believe as the ultimate, absolute truths? And since I can remember, religions have only launched wars and rifts among the human race. Really, can’t we just all make Love as our one and only religion?

      20/04/2011 at 22:18

  2. I found this article very interesting. I’m not a catholic; I was baptized as one, but I don’t think what your parents did when you didn’t even have the ability to reason counts. What counts are the choices we make when we become adults, and I’m not a catholic. I’m pagan, and we do have this celebration when our God dies to be reborn later. It symbolizes the passing of the seasons and the natural cycle of life, and it leads us to reflect about mortality and rebirth, in every way they can be conceived.
    My mother, though, remains a catholic, so she attends church regularly and refrains from eating meat in general for a couple of days. She avoids the concept of death and she has never reflected about the cycle of life or the many other things Lent is supposed to be about other than the trite topics that are discussed every single year since I can remember.
    In my opinion, Catholicism has largely become an automatic religion, where people do what they’re told and are (at least here) rarely encouraged to reflect and develop spiritual growth.
    So, that’s my two cents worth. Great article, Michelle! And I’m with you about going against what everyone else does :).

    20/04/2011 at 07:00

    • Being born a Catholic is not really something I have an issue with, so to convert has not really crossed my mind. Like you said, it’s what you practice later on in your adult life that matters. Branding your life choices are just for formalities.

      Talking about religion is like walking on a land mine; you have to be extremely careful, or you and the people you walk with will get terribly hurt.

      I wish it doesn’t have to be that way, as each and every one of us is given the right to voice our opinions.

      I’m all for love and respect, that’s it, and personally I don’t need religion (at least for now) to complicate that simple fact of the matter. So I guess I’ll just consider myself as “freelancer”; I will just glean all the good that I see in every religion, and then unleash them for the betterment of the mankind.

      You are very first Pagan that I have a contact with, which is amazing. All the love and respect for you, and I hope you spread the word about your religion and enlighten people as many of them don’t know much about it. I will read up on Paganism later before I sleep. 🙂

      20/04/2011 at 23:01

      • I don’t mind talking about it when the topic comes up, or explaining what my beliefs are if someone asks, but I don’t believe in evangelizing people, or enlightening them to see “the real religion”.
        Paganism is more a set of beliefs than a religion per se, since we don’t have institutions or authorities, just groups of people that get together when and because they want to. You can practice on your own if that works better for you, and that’s what I do. And I don’t think my beliefs are the best ones or The Truth, they’re just the ones I feel comfortable with, and someone else can find peace and guidance in another set of beliefs just as well.
        Pagans generally don’t believe in “spreading the word”, unless it is to defend our right to freedom of religion. We believe in letting people find out on their own what religion or form of spirituality works best for them, and of course sharing what we know if someone asks a question. If you ever have a question, just ask, I’ll do my best to answer :).

        21/04/2011 at 04:57

  3. I understand this.
    I grew up with the church of england but turned my back on it as i grew older.
    It doesn’t make any sense to me why people recite prayers and such that they dont actually believe or are not entirely convinced by.
    The days of people being scared into going to church are over, and it is as if the churches have practically emptied.
    I guess people dont fully understand what is going on with religion, i know i dont

    21/04/2011 at 13:50

    • I myself grew up going to church and practicing Christian routines, from reciting the rosary before the statue of Mother Mary to attending the mass 9 dawns straight til Christmas day. I’m okay with these things up to this day, although I just do them for the purpose of harmless tradition, camaraderie and sociology.

      Because, again, I don’t really have a problem with the concept of a Higher Being; it’s the men who define and customize It according to their fear of the unknown and subsequently shove it up my a** that I have a problem with, big-time.

      21/04/2011 at 15:00

  4. sunsetseasoul,

    What I actually meant by “enlighten” and “spread the word” is that I hope you can clear out to people the many misconceptions about Paganism, and that it is none of the negative things that Christian leaders make it appear to be.

    I should have made an in-depth research about it first before assuming anything about it. My apologies.

    Anyway I’m looking forward to learning more of your being a Pagan. Here’s to hoping we could work on something about this topic.

    21/04/2011 at 14:35

    • It’s ok, Michelle, I know what you meant. I just provided a little bit of information about paganism since you said you had never met a pagan before. Guess the teacher in me takes over more often than I realize 😛

      22/04/2011 at 07:06

  5. Pingback: Summer 2011 – Puerto Galera « Darky's Journal

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