ALBAY, Philippines – Crowds started to flock to the town's park past 5 pm. Many were families with vacationing relatives. A few were with friends.
Vendors went out of their way to sell candles to adults. The kids were conditioned to behave because Jesus rewards the good, if not promised of an ornate sight later.
Outside the St Lawrence the Martyr Church in Tiwi, Albay, pasos (images) had started to arrive one by one. Male devotees carried their floral-decorated carrozas (carriages) with the pasos cloaked in glimmering clothes, and stopped at their designated space.
Inside the church, there was a mass of the Passion of Christ with veneration of the cross which according to the priest, is more important than the activity it preceded: the funeral procession of the deceased Christ.
But the crowd of Catholic faithful outside only grew thicker, patiently waiting for the procession to start.
The family devotee
Among them was the family of Rey, whom I first spotted wiping on the image of Santo Entierro (Image of the Holy Burial of Jesus) with towels handed out to him.
He went down the ground after and headed to a store at the carroza's back for a cigarette.
While he smoked, he said that good health and long life are part of his ultimate prayer to Santo Entierro. He had been a devotee since he was a lad. Then he pointed to his family – two children in their 20s and his wife – beside the carroza.
Later we joined them, and like other groups outside the church, waited until dusk when the procession finally started under the magnificent full moon.
Arlene, the mother, beamed with excitement when the now brightly lit carrozas had started moving. One, two – 5 pasos had moved before us and we're counting. Santo Entierro was second to the last in line.
Our waiting moments were filled with Arlene excusing herself to take a seat nearby; her husband joining the all-male devotees that would assist in moving the carroza; and with me and Shane (the daughter) talking about their devotion.
Shane said that for her, Santo Entierro represents Jesus taking responsibility for our sins and as a result saved us.
“While making mistakes is part of our being human, we should not lose hope,” she added.
After almost 30 minutes, we were still waiting on the same ground. Arlene had gone back beside us.
“The entire routine could make one hungry, especially if you came here early,” she said.
Yet her expression was not of someone complaining, but of embracing the difficulties as part of their devotion.
Shane and her brother were patient too for our turn to join the procession came.
Every paso stopped briefly in front of the church for the reading of its description.
The significance of this image is the testimony that Jesus indeed died.
“The burial of Jesus, therefore, is a matter of supreme importance — intricately related to both the Savior’s death and his resurrection. And it should not be passed over lightly,” said Wayne Jackson, writer for a Catholic website.
Moreover, he said that Christianity is based upon a buried and resurrected Lord which makes it unique from other religions.
The paso is owned by Claudio family. Hilda, its third generation owner, said there was a time she wanted to let go of the responsibility. But she would have a dream where she saw the image crying as if telling her to hold on. This she told me in between sobs.
Photo by Mavic Conde
“Now, locals would come here telling me they're healed of their ailments. But I don’t say anything,” she said.
After the description reading, we continued walking. The followers increased upon reaching the main road, as more groups and individuals joined. Among them was Shane's boyfriend, so I was left with Arlene, as the couple walked with joined hands.
By the time we reached the front of municipal building, we could no longer see the carroza. Then past a hospital, all the way through a coastal barangay, then off to the main road.
Arlene’s son would occasionally look back for his sibling and mother, as if taking the lead while ensuring that his family was within his sight.
When they were way ahead of us, I asked her if we should run after them.
“Let's keep our pace,” she said.
“After all, this is a procession not a race,” she added.
“You're right,” I told her.
A few minutes more of walking, Shane appeared in front us.
Their expressions were priceless, making me realize how little things really matter.
By the time we reached the road's corner to the church, I was feeling refreshed.
The family was all smiles too as they were "reunited" with their father holding a flower from the carroza. – Rappler.com