Faith and Spirituality

‘Buhing Kalbaryo’: A Cebuano play of devotion

John Sitchon

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‘Buhing Kalbaryo’: A Cebuano play of devotion

PASSION. The Buhing Kalbaryo reenacts the Passion of Christ along the streets of Cebu City.

John Sitchon

Every year, 'Buhing Kalbaryo' retells the biblical narratives about Christ’s suffering and mission through theatrical performances in Cebu

CEBU, Philippines – “Mura ra’g nangumpisal (It’s just like a confession),” 34-year-old Raffy Anor told Rappler on Holy Thursday, March 28.

For the 27th run of the Buhing Kalbaryo (Living Calvary), a Cebuano biblical play organized by the Cebu City government, Anor played the role of Jesus Christ – a person who Anor considers his personal friend and savior.

Anor has been playing this role since 2012. He knows how it feels to carry the cross and he understands the responsibility of doing so.

Every year, Buhing Kalbaryo retells the biblical narratives about Christ’s suffering and mission to save humanity. The event features theatrical performances and a reenactment of Christ’s final moments before the crucifixion.

Describing the feeling of portraying Christ, Anor told Rappler that it’s like being relieved of one’s sins.

Murag mugaan imung lawas. Murag mawala imuhang mga sala (It’s like your body feels lighter. It’s like all of your sins just go away),” the actor said.

Passion play

The first Buhing Kalbaryo was conceptualized in 1997, through the coordination of then-city councilor Mike Rama and members of the Catholic Church in Cebu. It became an annual tradition during the commemoration of the Holy Week.

“The late Cardinal Julio Rosales, the former archbishop, really liked these theater presentations of the reenactments because he said it’s a very good tool for evangelization and just like the conviction of the mayor, it’s become a ‘refueling’ during the season of Lent,” overall director Elmer Labella told Rappler on Thursday evening.

On Good Friday, March 29, the event started with the baptism of Christ, followed by brief musical presentations that were newly added to this year’s Buhing Kalbaryo and a Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) from Barangay San Nicolas Proper to Barangay Guadalupe.

During the Via Crucis, the actors performed the Passion of Christ, showing Jesus carrying the cross, enduring the pain, and finally spending his last moments crucified by the Roman soldiers.

“It has always been a play of passion…. It is not only for entertainment, it is an observance of the Holy Week,” Labella said.


Twenty-nine-year-old Jayjie Sarnillo, a licensed caregiver, has been a performer since she was 16. Whether there’s a festival like the Sinulog or a dance party, she said she dedicates her performances to God.

“Now that it’s Holy Week, our offering to Him is dance. It will forever be this way that I dance for Him,” Sarnillo said.

She said dancing is much like a prayer and when performed to show reverence, it feels just as comforting as one would experience after a novena.

For this year’s Buhing Kalbaryo, through dance, Sarnillo prayed to receive good health and guidance to do more good in life.

“As we perform for Good Friday, all I want to say to God is that He would be happy because we devote it all to him,” Sarnillo said before her performance. –

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