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 ngilay–ngilay. 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 ngilay–ngilay, and going to the beach, just when they’re not “in season” anymore.
- Atlantis Dive Resort – Puerto Galera, Philippines (travelpod.com)