Silent Week

Robert Uy

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Seeing the family hurriedly trying to get the hunt over with, meant my world was fine.

EASTER EGG CANDIES. courtesy of Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

MANILA, Philippines – In the days before cable TV, Holy Week was the silent week. Voices and music were muted, the broadcast stations would sombrely play Fr. Peyton’s Family Theater, and local productions like “Kristo” would be staged alongside community theatre groups and church groups. The air was just different. Belief, faith and superstition were in motion together with possible holiday plans. Alcohol intake was reduced. Having fun had more to do with imagining things rather than experiencing them…up until Easter Sunday.

Today, there is a less muted feel to the week but in no way does that indicate any less respect for what it represents. There is regular programming on the international cable channels. The transport hubs are packed, hotels are booked and there are food outlets and other stores that now remain open; the BPO industry and many other services do not take a break for the week. Regardless of the reduction in silence, there is a muting that still applies…up until Easter Sunday.

While I have not experienced the Moriones Festival in Marinduque, there are uniquely Filipino moments that I can point to that ushered in Easter morn. There was the Salubong (The Meeting Up), which was a dawn procession starting from two points in the town. One point had a statue of the Resurrected Christ while the other had a statue of Mary draped in black, both accompanied by an entourage of other statues. The streets were lined with neighbors, friends and dayo (out of town visitors). The whole procession culminated at the church plaza where a young “angel” pulls the mourning veil (lambong) off Mary as they are reunited.

There was the Easter morning mass that followed. The neighborhood seemed to smile just a tad more that morning. Even the priest cracked a joke or two. The food carts surrounding the church were brighter, the balloons and the colored popcorn were more inviting. The ice cream carts and even the aquarium fish vendors were more welcoming. It was as if the city let out a collective sigh of relief.

Food-wise, I understand why.

EASTER EGGS ON GRASS. Photo by Grant Cochrane

Eggs of different types

After abstaining, fasting and giving up certain indulgences like cake, dessert, alcohol or even Facebook, there is a sound reason for the sigh. Meat returns on the diet together with many other things that march back into the everyday.

The ultimate sign that the world I knew before holy week was back, was hidden in the garden. Mom and Dad — together with the Easter bunny, Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, the Three Kings and all their incarnations, always managed to find a way to be a step ahead.

Initially, these were eggs that were boiled with onions and other vegetables (which provided some color to the eggshells and some funky taste as well). When time permitted, these were hard-boiled eggs that were individually painted with water color. We were not allowed to eat these but they sure looked nice.

Much later, these became sugar-molded eggs with bits of candy inside them – either home-made or acquired at a bake shop. They then morphed into pre-packaged chocolate candies or hard candy shaped like eggs. Then there were the faux eggs, those plastic pull-them-apart egg casings that one could fill with candy, prize stubs or even cash.

The egg hunt started out as a family-at-home tradition with us. It then moved on to being a part of family reunions before the advent of the organized egg hunt/Easter brunch offering of hotels and malls. While not uniquely Filipino, it took root in the psyche.

One did look forward to the stash.

The hunt

Many a child has cried because he couldn’t harvest his fair share. Many a child has been stung by bees, ants and all manner of crawling thing as she scavenged under the bushes. Many a tooth has been broken by a gluttonous bite into hard candy or even a faux egg that looked like something edible. Many should be warned about not eating the real eggs (both hard boiled and raw) that are a part of Easter egg hunts in some communities. These could be an unfortunate source of salmonella.

PAINTING. Image by Tanzania under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

But many have found comfort in finding these nuggets of new life. For some it is about the hunt. For others, it is about the reward. For grown-ups, it is about passing on the joy of tradition. For most everyone, it is about celebrating the true meaning of Easter.

But for me, it was about seeing an Easter morning sun reflecting on blades of grass in our garden. We were gathered to partake of tradition.

Together with the rest of the Philippines, I was also breathing a sigh of relief. Seeing the family hurriedly trying to get the hunt over with, meant my world was fine. It meant there was a meal to follow. It meant there was a tradition to be passed on to my own family. It meant silent week wasn’t so bad after all. –

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