Easter in Malibay, Philippines

The last 3 days of Holy week are attended by great numbers of people taking part in the rich liturgical ceremonies.

Malibay is a very traditional place and has customs that date back for many years. One of these is the Cenakulo (Lenten play) which has been performed for the 110th time this year. This production is said to be the oldest continuing play of its kind in the Philippines, a distinction recognised by the National commission for Culture and the Arts. The Passion is sung in ‘old Tagalog’ and the actors portray the events. It is common to see Roman soldiers and little angels walking along the nearby streets between times for appearing in the play. 

On the afternoon of Good Friday, there is a procession of all the participants of the Senakulo down the main street. It is viewed by the residents of Malibay and the surrounding area. We greet many of the families with whom we work as the procession passes. 
Another event takes place in Malibay which is discouraged by the church, but seems to get more followers each year. This is the public ‘Flagellation’ when many men scourge themselves with whips. Blood flows to the extent that the volunteer fire Brigade follows after them to clean it from the street. The reasons to do this are many, but include repentance for sin and ‘gang initiation’. Many young men take part in this.
 In the evening, there is another procession of statues depicting aspects of the Passion. Jesus in Gethsemane, Ecce Homo, St. Mary Magdalene, the dead Christ, St. Peter is recognised by the cockerel which shares his cart. The carts are owned by different families in the parish and following the tradition, they are gaily decorated by the whole family who are willing and eager to perform this time-consuming task.
Another custom which I think is particular to the Philippines is that of the Salubong which takes place at dawn (or before) the first mass of Easter. In our Parish it was at 4 a.m. There is a strong belief that Jesus appeared first of all to His Mother Mary though this is not recorded in Scripture. Thus two statues, one of the Risen Christ and the other of the veiled Mary start out in procession from either end of the street. When the statues reach the church in the centre, a child unveils the statue of Mary. Mass is then celebrated in the street outside the church for the numerous people attending.
The last 3 days of Holy week are attended by great numbers of people taking part in the rich liturgical ceremonies.
At the end of the vigil mass where we celebrated, Easter was greeted with the Hallelluah Chorus from Handels Messiah. It was sung in a very professional manner with all the congregation taking part in the appropriate parts for them. It was truly a great beginning for the Easter mass of Sunday !
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