The neat piles of freshly gathered singkamas (jicama) at the “saudan sa parada” (market place) of Calabanga reminds one that lent is just about the corner. It is as important as the deep faith of every Calabangueño, going back to the roots of their religious past–rich religion, tradition and culture. The lenten season is highly anticipated, then celebrated in town thus one is compelled to come home until the whole duration of semana santa (holy week).
Whenever I have time and resources to travel, I take it a very good opportunity for my children to experience a rare kind of celebration that only my hometown can share.
Semana Santa in Calabanga offers always something to be remembered. Todate, there is the ever growing number of devotees that visit the town year after year. Good to note the municipal tourism of the municipality invites the public to take part in the continuing history of the community of religious and devoted people who amidst the advancement of science and technology have always taken time out to stop and reflect on the sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Prior to that, the via crucis is observed in the expansive lawn of our Lady of Porteria parish. The image of the Nazarene is brought out reliving the stations of the cross. Such stations are donated by families in town or a Calabangaueño who made it good in his own field of work in the country or on some foreign lands. Via Crucis before the Sunday afternoon mass is never complete without the bunches of singkamas.
The Palm Sunday (that is tomorrow) is an important not-to-be missed event specially by folks and their young ones who just came from the city. Little kids dressed in white adorned with flowers on their hair sing songs of welcome and adoration to the King dramatizing the triumphant entry of Jesus in Jerusalem. Farmers and other town folks gather the petals of the flowers hoping that these will bring good harvest and good luck to their families.
Monday and Tuesday are quiet days but busy ones for the cast of the passion play or sinakulo. The church combento (convent) grounds and town plaza are abuzz with the homegrown actors practicing for the play; most of them are teachers and personnel of the nearby schools and private individuals who have made their yearly participation a part of their devotion. This soon will the staged starting at the eve of the Holy Thursday during the last supper and extends until Good Friday. The whole cast perform at the main streets of the town, in a tableau. One can never forget the passion and beauty of Ana Nacino Calisura who for a number of times portrayed the role of the sorrowful mother Mary. And what a beautiful mother Mary she is!
By Holy Wednesday and Good Friday, the longest procession being staged in the whole Bicol region ushers in. The first procession is in the afternoon of Holy Wednesday, just after the mass. Around 20 pasos (saints) are brought down for all the people to see in solemn procession complete with all the flowers beautifully arranged on their caros (carts or carrriages). Each caro is taken cared of with pride by different families in town.
The Good Friday processions are held not once but twice. The first starts after the afternoon mass and upon the arrival of the “funeral coach” of Amang Hinulid tugged by thousands of devotees, many walk the street barefoot. What makes this occasion unique and memorable are the different stations of the cross along the procession route with live people portraying biblical characters, an expression of the Calabangueño’s artistry and spiritual devotion.
At about ten o’clock of the same Friday night, the image of mater Dolorosa with all the other selected images of saints are routed again for a procession. This time, it is the symbolic search of the Virgin Mary for the lifeless body of Jesus in Calvary. This processional search is called Soledad. Many professed devotion to joining the late night procession for its spiritual significance.
Not to be left behind are budding friendships- boy and girl who started as ordinary friends and end up with the young swain receiving the much awaited yes from his lady love due to the very long and tedious walk to the designated Calvary. At the end of the night a devotee is grateful for the spiritual obligation fulfilled while the heart of the young swain is filled with joy by the fulfillment of his dream for a young love.
Black Saturday is a time for reflection although in some places, Sabado de Gloria is just the right time to go out to the beach; but the Calabangueño reserves the day for outings until the Easter morning. Sabado de Gloria however is the best time for family reunions. The town plaza has become a common place for all the banners announcing the clan reunions held one after the other on some venues about town.
The much anticipated Easter Sunday is the culmination of the Holy week celebration. But of course, it is the heart of our Christian faith. The Lord has risen. Halleluiah!! It comes in to break the past days’ solemnity and mourning to usher in the joy of the resurrected Christ. The sound of the caros and the ringing of the church bells beckon the faithful devotees for the salubong (meet) or pagtunton I would rouse my children for them to see this special event which has become a rarity in the metropolis.
The pagtunton dramatizes the meeting of the risen Christ and the blessed Virgin Mary. After the early morning procession, the pasos converge at the four corners of the castillo (castle) with little children dressed as angels singing melodious songs in jubilation to the risen Lord. The highlight of this event is the unveiling of the blessed Virgin by an angel who pours perfume on the head. The angel happens to be the winner of the popularity and fund raising contest sponsored by the parish pastoral council. The angel’s family gather for a celebration where sinuman (sweetened sticky rice cooked on coconut milk) is unmistakenly served or coupled with ibos (sticky rice cooked on rolled young coconut leaves) and hot chocolate.
Even after the holy week in Calabanga comes to a halt the devotees of Amang Hinulid in its shrine in Sta. Salud still come by the bus load. The long queue of devotees start from Yu’s residence and was at its highest number in attendance during Good Friday.
Semana santa is a tradition deeply rooted in the heart of every Calabangueño. The holy event is ever so old and yet always new. The Calabangueño reflects in solitude, in sanctity and in seclusion. Deep in his heart finds joy and anticipation of the filial, friendly and Godly devotion renewed and refreshed by the holy week celebration. Thus, it tugs him to go on a yearly exodus he just wouldn’t want to miss.
So here we appreciate the joint efforts of the local government unit headed by mayor Evelyn Yu and the sanggunian members together with the parish priest of our Lady of La Porteria Fr. Antonio de los Santos and the parish pastoral council headed by Mrs. Zenaida Bonete. Mrs. Bonete I remember most as my former science teacher way back in Calabanga Central school days.
(Read another post of Dengay Avila here: What’s in a name or nickname?)