Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More Holy Week Rituals - Paete

Traditionally, the most solemn of all Good Friday processions in the Philippines has always been that of the Holy Burial-- the Santo Entierro, as it is popularly known here. In the Tagalog region, Laguna is remarkable for its elaborate rituals for the Santo Entierro; I have already blogged about the rituals in Pakil, and now it is Paete's turn. Paete and Pakil are 'sister towns' in that they are quite close to each other; both have churches more than a hundred years old, and both take great pride in preserving the traditions of old.

The photo above was found in one of my favorite weblogs, Sidney Snoeck's My Sari-Sari Store blog. You may also view the full set by following this link: Paete's Holy Week Rituals. If you are wondering about how the Senor is seated on a chair, it is because it hearkens back to an earlier time, way before the Spaniards ever set foot in the Philippines. Traditionally, pre-hispanic Filipinos celebrated their dead by sitting the corpse on a chair; the family of the deceased would eulogize him and sing songs of lamentation around him, while their friends and subjects (if the deceased were a datu) came to pay their respects to the corpse. In some places in northern Philippines the dead continue to be buried in jars in a seating position.

Now, I know that the images can be quite 'disturbing', so here is a note on the matter. In the Philippines, and presumably Spain and her other colonies as well, it is considered rude and impious to refer to images of the saints as objects; they must always be referred to as if they were real persons. That said, devotion becomes more than a mere tradition, but a living, breathing, action, so to speak. Saints and images of the Virgin and Our Lord are bathed, sometimes with rose water, and as in the case of Paete, a mixture of lambanog and cologne (just like Pakil's Entierro). They are smoked with orange blossom, lanzones, and even incense in some areas; they are perfumed, manicured, and even have their hair done. I know of one case where a certain family commissioned one of New York's top salons to create a wig for an image of the Lord. Perhaps the most visible ornament of the 'santo', though, are its clothes. They are made of the most expensive materials available and embroidered with sublime artistry. In many cases, and if the family can afford it, gold thread is used generously, as are pearls and semi-precious stones. The cost of such gowns and robes can climb into the hundreds of thousands of pesos.

There, too, are the aureolas, the 'halo' of the santo, which are often of silver or gold, plated if the family's means cannot afford it. Crowns of the Virgin are the most elaborate, while images of the Lord are given the 'tres potencias', three rays jutting from His head, which, depending on whom you ask, represent either the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, the Three-fold ministry of Christ, the Paschal Mystery, or the qualities of the human soul.


christopher said...

I really wish I could make a prolonged visit to the Philippines again, this time as an understanding Catholic. I missed so much in my youth. Thanks for providing constant insight and education.

Archistrategos said...

They really are quite fascinating, these rituals. I'm very thankful that the people are still very much enamored with them, thus we see it today largely as it was fifty or sixty years ago.