Why Pinoys find it harder to relate to Easter
MANILA, Philippines – This, for many if not most Filipinos, is the point of Holy Week: to join Good Friday processions, scourge themselves, or even have themselves nailed on the cross like Jesus Christ.
Only this Friday, April 6, a woman in Bulacan underwent flagellation and had herself crucified as part of a ritual that the Catholic Church itself frowns upon.
The central truth of Christianity, however – which Catholic Church leaders admit is obscured in the Philippines – is Easter.
The Catholic Church teaches, in its catechism, that the Resurrection of Christ is "the crowning truth of our faith in Christ." “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain,” says Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians.
Other Christian groups also highlight Easter, sometimes more than Catholics do.
“We have seen how many Filipino Catholics focus almost uniquely on the crucified Jesus. This is understandable, given our own situation of poverty and suffering. Nevertheless it can obscure the full, adequate understanding of Christ, our Risen Savior,” writes the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in its localized catechism.
The Philippines, one of the world's poorest countries, has the 5th largest population of Christians in the world, at 86.7-M around 93.1% of its population, according to a recent report by the international Pew Research Center. Filipinos comprise 4% of the world's Christian population.
Ironically, social inequality and corruption also characterize Asia's largest Christian nation.
To mark Easter, the Catholic Church holds rituals like an Easter Vigil – which Rappler livestreams at 9 pm – and a Salubong at dawn that dramatizes Jesus' meeting with Mary, his mother, on Easter.
“But these Easter celebrations lack the sharp, personally-felt dimension so prominent in Good Friday celebration, and Christmas devotions,” the CBCP says in its Catechism for Filipino Catholics.
“We Filipinos can instinctively be 'compassionate' with a suffering Savior, and a young Mother with her new-born Babe. But the once-and-for-all event of Christ rising from the dead and appearing to his disciples is different. It is not something 'familiar' to our ordinary experience,” adds the CBCP, noting the need for a “special effort” to emphasize the Easter message.
A fatalistic “bahala na” attitude, or “fatalistic passiveness,” could have been the result of excessive focus on suffering.
To be an “Easter People” – the title of one of his books – is one of the things that Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle wants to happen to Filipinos.
On his TV program, “The Word Exposed” on Sunday, April 8, the charismatic bishop and TV preacher emphasizes the hope of Easter.
“Be attentive, my dear brothers and sisters, to the manifestations of the risen life in our day-to-day existence,” Tagle says in his message, the video and text of which appear on Rappler on Easter Sunday.
“I don't mean the spectacular. I don't mean reports of miraculous interventions. What I mean is, whenever our tombs lead to new stories, when we think we're already buried, but then a new story unfolds, and it is a story of life in God, the risen Christ appears to us, and we experience his life in us,” he says.
How, if we imagine it, can an Easter mentality help the Philippines rise from poverty? – Rappler.com