We could hear the beginning of the Roman Catholic holy week from our house on Saturday night (March 27). Around 8:00 at night some singing/chanting began over some loudspeakers. We hear noise and music so often here that at first we didn't pay it much attention. But soon we realized it was the same 10 line tune being sung over and over without a break. The words were Tagalog and it continued without abatement through the night. When it was still going in the morning, Daniel looked it up on the web. It's called Pabasa and is the singing of the Passion of Christ. Several centuries ago someone wrote the story in Tagalog and put it to a tune. If the whole thing is sung it can take up to 3 days. Happily this must have been a shortened version, because it was finished by the time we got home from church that Sunday evening. We played our Psalms to drown it out.
Some other activities or "good works" related to holy week are visiting churches, doing the stations of the cross, and going on pilgimages. Our landlady, who is catholic, told me that she took a bus trip with the people of their parish to visit all the churches in Bataan province (14 of them). Each neighborhood has its own stations of the cross set up. People make their way from one to the next, praying at each.
A Station of the Cross in our Subdivision
There are 14 Stations Altogether
(Each marks a spot on Jesus' way to the cross)
Thursday afternoon and evening thousands of people walked past our subdivision in a pilgrimage to the Antipolo Catholic church. We went down to watch for a while and counted about 400-450 people coming by every 2 minutes. Some were carrying crosses and images, and many were barefoot. Although we didn't see it, there are also those who flagellate themselves as they walk.
The Pilgrimage to the RC Church in Antipolo
Notice the Image
We went for a drive Friday morning to see what we could. There were still hundreds of people in Antipolo, and hundreds walking back home out of Antipolo, as well as lots of packed buses, jeepneys and tricycles.
Pilgrims Returning Home on Friday Morning
Walking and Riding Tricycles
Some Taking the Bus Home
Friday is a day of mourning to mourn the fact that God is dead! Because of that they feel it's not safe to go out. All the shops are closed and most people stay at home. Friday night we saw a funeral procession for "Jesus." All the people were carrying candles, there were large images of "Mary" (some weeping), and lit up glass coffins with the "body of Jesus" in them. Saturday is called Black Saturday and is still a day of mourning, but the shops are open again.
For other acts of penance, we have been told that in some neighborhoods altars are set up. People go from altar to altar to lie on them and get whipped. In one of the provinces here they even have crucifixions. People volunteer themselves to be crucified. (They get tetanus shots before they are nailed to the cross, and they are taken down before they die.) According to the web there is one man who has done it 20 some years in a row. The Catholic church says they discourage this particular practice, but they do tell their people to try to feel the sufferings of Christ.
"But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 15:57).