The week after the gulpemano was Holy Week. My Lolo Eddie always said that Easter in the Philippines was his favourite. Now I know why and I feel the exact same way.
I have always loved Easter, but the traditions in the Philippines are way more intense and powerful. It’s not just going to mass everyday… it’s participating in the Paschal Mystery in the most lively way we can as a community.
Palm Sunday was so lovely with all the beautifully arranged palms. I thought I was cool because I knew how to make the palms into crosses, but it was nowhere as cool as the way they make them. I learned how to fold the palms and make them unique. Father blessed the palms and began the celebration at the entrance of the parish, then we processed into the church for mass.
On the Wednesday afternoon, we walked to Bahile for mass and then following the mass we walked back to the parish blessing each station of the Cross along the way. It is a tradition that the parish will pray the Stations of the Cross barefoot from Bahile to the parish on the morning of Good Friday. It was a long and exhausting afternoon, but well worth the experience.
On Holy Thursday, we said mass at the parish and a vigil in the evening. We remembered the Last Supper and the washing of the feet.
Good Friday was a long day, but very much filled with God’s mercy and love. At 4:00am we walked to Bahile for the Stations of the Cross which started at 4:45am. I was surprised and amazed at how many people were dedicated to walking barefoot, especially the children and seniors. Between each station we would sing and meditate on the songs, then at each station we would pray and reflect. It was a large group of us with the statue of Jesus carrying His cross among the group. What a beautiful experience. The most eye-opening part was when we arrived at the entrance of the parish. The whole way was on the road, which did not hurt my feet much. But once we reached the very rocky pathway is when I felt Jesus’ suffering. I can only imagine the pain He felt carrying His cross. It was only my own weight pressing down onto the rocks… but for Jesus… He had His weight, plus the weight of His Cross, plus He had just been brutally beaten and whipped. And I’m sure there were no paved roads where Jesus walked. It was all rocks. Thank you Jesus for suffering for us.
That afternoon after the 3:00pm liturgy which included communion and the veneration of the Cross, there was a procession of the Santo Entierro. We walked to Macarascas High School and back. It was hot and humid, but nothing anyone can complain about as we reflect on that day that Jesus walked for us. The Santo Entierro is the depiction of Jesus laying in the tomb. It looks like Jesus in a glass casket with flowers all over. When we arrived back at the church, we had the opportunity to touch His feet and ask for His mercy.
Holy Saturday began with mass at 6. It was the usual Easter Vigil Mass, however some of the readings were acted out and the service of light was around a bonfire in front of the church. It added another dimension to the celebration. Select past pupils and learners sang the responsorial psalms and Judith sang the Alleluia. They all sang so beautifully and passionately. The past pupils also performed a liturgical dance to the “Luwalhati sa Diyos”, which was the gospel acclamation, and the recessional song. It was a full and incredibly blessed Easter Vigil Mass.