Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Week

When I was a kid, Holy Week usually meant I had to endure cloying heat, no cartoons, and absolute boredom at home. This, after all, was pre-cable, pre-FEN even (and if anyone can relate, I know how old you are!). I can't even remember how many years I watched The Ten Commandments on RPN9.

For maybe a couple of years, my family headed to Laguna to stay with some relatives, and this, to my brothers and me, was some form of penitensya. I wasn't close enough to my relatives on that side to have any sort of fun with them (I still hadn't developed any social skills at this point), there was absolutely no TV, we didn't have the luxury of holing up in our own rooms. It was hot, but the breeze wasn't always a welcome visitor for it brought with it a strong smell of pigs coming from the farm. Until now, farm smells trigger memories of those days. I smile when I think about them now--back then, I didn't feel there was much to smile about, but today, I look back at the Laguna trips fondly as part of growing up. In my head, they could be an episode of my own personal Wonder Years.

One year, my parents decided to take us to Pampanga, a province a couple of hours up north. I can't remember where we stayed, but I do remember hearing the pabasa for the first time. My young mind (and ears) couldn't comprehend why people willingly handed the microphone to those so utterly tone deaf. Hour after hour, they painfully chanted the Lord's Passion for the whole town to hear.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I was too young to be allowed to witness the re-enactment of the nailing on the cross come Good Friday. But, afterwards, my kuyas gleefully recounted how the penitent men doused their hand wounds with loads of alcohol after being taken down from the cross. I cringed as they told me this, but til this day, a part of me wants to see it live.

Another year--I must have been about 16--my clan went up to Baguio--titos, titas, cousins. My nephews and nieces, who are now all taller than me, were still itty-bitty kids then. One night, we had some sort of seder meal. I remember saying special prayers, and eating a dish made of chopped apples and possibly raisins (back in the day when I used to like raisins). Then our family sat around the living room and had some sort of sharing session, very much like a retreat. There was this air of solemnity so befitting of Holy Week--and we didn't have to contend with Manila heat! If I got my timeline right, this was about the time my immediate family was in turmoil (something I don't really write about here), so it was just great feeling this love and support from my clan. That's one of my favorite family memories.

For over a decade now, way before "staycation" became a buzz word, I've been staying in Manila. I understand that this is the perfect opportunity for some to go out of town on an extended vacation, but I guess for all my questions about my faith lately, I've still got a hefty dose of Catholic guilt ingrained within me. Every Holy Thursday, my mom and I hear mass at Betania, where we witness the washing of the feet. (There was that one year when we went all the way to Tagaytay to see Hamil act as one of the apostles at the Pink Sisters.) Betania is a little chapel within a convent, situated amid gardens and stone paths. It can get pretty warm but there's often a nice little breeze rustling the leaves of the trees outside. There's a heady scent of incense, which I greedily breathe in--for some reason, incense appeals to me the same way the smell of Pentel pens is addictive to others.

One year, I went to Betania somewhat heartbroken and with a cynical view of love. (Can you say teenage angst?) I was so lifted up by the nuns' beautiful rendition of the responsorial psalm ("Our blessing cup is a communion with the blood of Christ") that I actually considered becoming a nun. That was kind of short lived, but each year, I eagerly await the psalm, wishing that the sisters would sing it the way they did that one time--a way that calmed my heart and made me feel like I was in the presence of angels. I considered getting married at Betania--because of that memory, and because of its significance to me and my mom--but it was just too far from my reception venue. (And I'm not sure weddings are allowed there.)

After Holy Thursday mass, my mom and I go on visita iglesia. Since I got married, there have been some new traditions: My husband now joins us as we visit seven churches. On the evening of Good Friday, the two of us go for a run--21 kilometers for him and...whatever I can manage for me! I guess it's our form of meditation: just us, the pavement, and the still night air. Last year, we shared Bonifacio High Street with no one else but a parking attendant. All the establishments were closed. Last night, it took us forever to get a parking slot, and families were happily having dinner at one of the many open restaurants. I missed the solitude.

Times seem to be changing: Holy Week now comes with cable TV, open-all-night restos and coffee shops, and much more noise than in previous years. I'm sure they'll change even more as the years go by. My hope is that people would still remember the reason for this annual four-day weekend.

What's your Holy Week like? Has it changed since you were kids? What's it like for Catholics in other parts of the world?


  1. When I was born, my dad had the thought I would grow up to be a priest. It's a long story. I wasn't supposed to live, but I made it anyway. I never considered it.

    I grew up attending the church where the Catholic Church was establised in the US. We even had a Shrine ( Holy Week meant spending a lot of time there--we only went to other churches for confession. Great thinking on my parents' part--confess to someone who won't recognize your voice. LOL!

    Happy Easter Tishie.

  2. PS - Never miss the Ten Commandments.

  3. "confess to someone who won't recognize your voice"--hahahahaha!

    Happy Easter, Ric and Sam!:)

  4. Usually my family attends service on Thurs and Fri and then Easter Sunrise service on Sunday. But since I haven't gone home to CDO for Holy Week in a long time, I haven't done any church-related Holy Week or Easter activities. :S

  5. When I was young, I used to join this procession called Salubong in our parish. My mom dressed me as an angel. Those were definitely good times!

  6. Mine has changed too. My family used to take this opportunity to go to the beach, etc. My dad is a military officer, who is busy all the time, so when he's free --- we take advantage. After awhile, we couldn't be bothered anymore. We would stay out of the house for a few days but check in at Mandarin (which is still in Manila) for a pretend vacation.

    For 2 years now, we've just spent holy weeks at home. I wonder what changes next year will bring, when Bon and I are married na. I bet, I'd be in Pampanga and he'd show me the nailing and beating (he always talks about that --- and like you, I've always been curious).

    Anyway, Happy Easter Tisha!


Oh, so sweet of you to drop a line!:)