The things "WE" do during Holy Week
From the Desk
For two years we have missed perhaps one of the most important events in the Christian Calendar. All thanks to this Pandemic, Holy Week Celebrations meant solitary confinement and reflection all on your own. For Pasiguenos, this is so hard to do. Being a town renowned for its faith intertwined with tradition and culture, "Ang mga Mahal na Araw" is not only a time to head to the beaches but also a moment where we trace back our olden Catholic Ways and discover ourselves living in a time capsule of a town.
Palm Sunday begins with a procession. This procession commemorates the triumphant entry of the Savior in Jerusalem. At the early hours of the morning right just before the sunrays hit the ground, people are assembled in "Kubols" or stations in the nearby streets heading to the Church. Every year, kubols are changed and assigned in the 10 sub-parishes of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. The people are in charge in decorating their Chapels and Stations with palms and other trinkets that are reminiscent of Jesus entrance to the City. The procession would usually start in the host Chapel. There was a time when the people themselves because of their piety and popular religiosity would make this simple procession memorable by renting a donkey or a horse where the priest can ride. Just like how our are Savior went in to walls of Jerusalem.
As the priest walk to the kubols, the Choir is singing a familiar tune which even the people knows by heart:
Hossana, Hossana, Hossana sa anak ni David!
Hossana, Hossana, Hari ka ng Israel!
Pinagpala ang naparirito sa ngalan ng Panginoon!
Hossan, Hossana sa Kaitasan!
With jubilant voices and while waving their palms, the people accompany the priest carrying a beautiful staff made of palms. This is also the first time where 12 young men acting as apostles are seen by the public. These men are chosen and not all can actually volunteer. As early as January, invitations are sent out to ministries to nominate their "apostle" and from there, a series of recollections are hosted by the Church. Being an "apostle" is indeed an enriching experience.
As the procession continues, you'll see women young and old dressed either in Filipiniana or Sunday Clothes laying beautiful tapis for the priest to walk on. His feet is not allowed to touch an inch of uncovered ground. It is somehow a puzzlement how some ladies with their well seasoned ages are still able to kneel with their backs but that is indeed one of the miracles of serving every Holy Week. As the sun continue to shine, people can now see the silhouette of the great Church. As the congregation near the gates and eventually the door, the louder the singing and waving. Usually it culminates in the 6am Mass with all triumphantly welcoming the priest as the proxy savior at this Church. Palm Sunday is a very busy day for the Church as every inch is filled with people with their palms on their hands hoping that a drop of agua bendita may bless their palms and after which place them in their front doors. These palms would be at their doors up until the next Ash Wednesday where these dried palms would be burnt and be used as the ashes.
Holy Mondays and Tuesdays are reserved for long drives and Visita Iglesias. Since Pasig is nestled in the footsteps of Rizal, most of the Pasiguenos would use this route and traverse the historic Churches all the way to Laguna thru their entry point in Tanay and then Paete. The "Rizal Loop" as bikers and travelers would call this route is a very scenic travel. The sharp curves and picturesque views of the Sierra Madre would greet you as you go on from one mountain to the other. Travelers can have a quick stop to a simple restaurant or buy fruits like rambutan on the road. This journey would give you a glimpse of the best Churches of Southern Tagalog where Pasig used to be part off.
The moment you enter Holy Wednesday in Pasig, one would be amazed on the different Santos and Tableaus to be processioned in late afternoon. 30 or so carozzas will be lined up in the street of Justice Jabson fronting Pasig Catholic College and the Colegio del Buen Consejo while a Balcon Mayor - a makeshift stage would be installed in front of the Church where a lector would be introducing each of the Santos while the Priests are blessing the faithful and the images.
Maundy Thursday is the first day in the Easter Triduum and unlike other Churches, the Pasig Cathedral is the only church open at the early hours of the day because of the Chrism Mass. As the center of the Diocese, the Pasig Church hosts the Chrism Mass just like how it used to be when everyone was still under the Archdiocese of Manila. This is a special mass as priests from all over the diocese would renew their vows at the presence of the Bishop and their beloved parishioners. This mass is also the moment where the Chrism Oil is distributed to the priests for their Sacramental needs and Pastoral Works. After the mass, the servers would prepare the Church for the Mass of the Lord's Supper and the Washing of the Feet which happens late in the afternoon just right before dusk. After this mass, the parish priest would set up a simple dinner together with the "apostles" and the rest of the congregation re-enacting the "last supper". While this is happening, the Altar of Repose is being prepared and once done, people would be flocking in praying in front of it. Pilgrims would start coming in for their Stations of the Cross or pray in the altar. The last part of Maundy Thursday is the Tenebrae, a Latin phrase for the "Darkness". The rite is characterized with the gradual extinguishing candles and by a "strepitus" or loud noise taking place in total darkness after the service.
Good Friday would start with the Way of the Cross followed by the Seven Last Words and then the Procession of the Lord's Burial. The Way of the Cross is a very early service, usually the procession and prayers would begin at 4:30am and would traverse the same route as that of the Palm Sunday Procession. The people would be accompanied by the Choir and Lectors who would lead the congregation in the prayers with the image of the Black Nazarene at the end of the procession. There was a time when the stations are so far from one another that the Way of the Cross was still on going while the Church is already having its Seven Last Words Service. With this the Church made sure that the locations are properly set and appointed in order for this not to happen again. The Siete Palabras is a well attended service even to day when everything is done online. It would usually start with presentations from the Youth Ministry, followed by the Priest's reflection, a song and then finally a sharing. The Service starts at 12noon and ends around 2:30pm just right in time for the ceremony of the "Pagbaba kay Kristo sa Krus".
Often the most photographed and witnessed of all the services in Good Friday is the "Ang Pagbababa sa Krus" where there is a reenactment of the La Pieta and the symbols of the Cross. Tourists and even "balikbayans" visit the Pasig Church just to see this uber emotional service. This would make anyone teary-eyed and would be moved by the emotions of the actors and melancholic songs of the Choir. After this service is the procession of the Lord's Burial while the Church would remain open for the veneration of the Cross. Just like the Holy Wednesday Procession, the Balcon Mayor would be used for the blessing of the images. The procession is distinct because of the "Paso" or the people that caries symbols of the Lord's sufferings.
The moment the coffin of the "dead Christ" enters the nave of the Church another procession begins, the Soledad. A simple procession where the Mater Dolorosa, the sorroful Mother Mary traces back the route her Son's passion. Before the procession begins, a beautiful rendition of the Ave Maria is sung in homage of the Virgin. This is often accompanied by the people, the choir, lectors and priests. The Lectors lead in the prayers and the reflections in the stations.
Black Saturday technically has no happenings just the normal pilgrims finishing their Stations of the Cross but towards the evening, the most important Mass of the Year takes place - The Easter Vigil. This Service is the culmination of the Lenten Season as it narrates the resurrection of the Lord. The service starts with the blessing of the Holy Flame which will be used for the Paschal Candle. After which, the congregation together with the servers and priests would proceed to the pitch dark Church carrying with them their candles to be lighted by the Holy Flame. The darkness symbolizes Christ's death and the flame his triumph over it. Several readings would be read narrating the greatness of the power and love of the Lord culminating in the gospel of Christ's resurrection. The vigil is also the time where there are adult baptisms and confirmations. The service would end with the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus by Handel a triumphant hymn the praise Christ's triumph over death.
The Salubong - a cherished Filipino tradition is beloved by every Pasigueno. Sometimes people who attend the Easter Vigil continue their service in the Salubong. The ceremony starts at around 3am but for the hosts of the Image of the Risen Christ and His Mother, it is a vigil of prayers and thanksgiving. It has been the practice that the procession of the Risen Christ would be accompanied by males while the beloved Mother by females on separate streets culminating in the intersection of the Church and the Pasig Museum. Before the unveiling of the black veil of the Virgin a ceremonial dance called the "Bati" is performed by young ladies.
The meeting of the Mother and her Son is the most awaited and usually, the honor of unveiling the Virign is done by a child dressed as an angel. The moment the veil is dropped, jubilant shouts and claps are heard with the bells of the Church ringing and after this the singing of the Gloria is lead by the Bishop and the Choir. The Salubong Mass is at 4:30am with the most beautiful psalm sung by cantor "Ito ang Araw na Ginawa ng Panginoon."
Easter Sunday is filled with activities from Easter Egg Hunting by the Chiro Youth Movement to the selling of Easter Eggs by the Young Ladies Association of Charity. In sum, Sunday culminated the whole of Holy Week and ends with triumph and complete happiness and bliss.
Despite the pandemic and ongoing ECQ, Holy Week activities can still be practiced at home. Thanks to the Virtual Masses and Services, the faithful can join a virtual congregation yet and most people would agree that nothing can really replace the thing WE do every Holy Week. Hopefully just like the Easter Message of the Lord, there is always home and light at the end of the tunnel. As they say, we can always overcome.