Thursday, April 29, 2010

The 'Kubols' of Makati

For many citizens of Metro Manila, Makati City is the glitzy, posh enclave of the rich and famous, home to the country's financial hub as well as the ritziest commercial centers in the land. But unbeknownst to many, just fifty or sixty years ago, Makati was just swampland, part and parcel of the Hacienda San Pedro de Macati of the Zobel-Ayala clan. World War II destroyed the traditional enclaves of the moneyed class; Ermita and Quiapo, formerly the playground of the superwealthy (up until forty or so years ago, store clerks in Ermita had to speak Spanish, as it was the favorite spot of the small but landed Spanish Mestizo population of the Philippines), are now home to girlie bars and old thrift shops, a far cry from their days of glory.

In Makati, remnants of the old, rural life of the city still remain. Just a few meters away from one of the most popular malls in the city is Poblacion Street. A popular Holy Week tradition among its residents are the erection of kubols, or 'kalbaryos' (calvaries)as they are more popularly known -- small huts or tents which contain images of the Passion and Death of Our Lord, which serve as places where the Pasyon (the story of His passion in verse, chanted for a period of 12 to 24 hours) may be performed. In recent years, these kubols have become more and more elaborate. Samahans, or loose, local association of the faithful, contribute time and money for their upkeep. Some of these outdoor shrines are now made of concrete and are large enough to accommodate the families of the various samahans' members.

Here are some photos of these kubols, taken on the morning of Holy Thursday. You may view them by following this link:  The Kalbaryos of Makati

It is interesting to note that the prevalence of this practice has continued, unabated, for decades now. As it stands, very little of the samahans that maintain these kubols are duly recognized and 'licensed', as it were, by the Church. Interesting too is how they survive in such a modern metropolis as Makati City. Admittedly, in the Philippines, distribution of wealth is vastly skewed and money, more often than not, only circulates among the already moneyed; it is very much a devotion of the lower to middle class strata of society. The popularity of  these devotions over the approved, official practices of the Church-- and not to mention the appropriation of some of the 'currents' of these practices by the folk Catholic mind-- suggest, to me at least, that popular Catholicism in the Philippines carries a mark of anti-clericalism, in that they have little 'use' for the official version of things.

As far as things go, Calvary is a spot of dry earth in Pampanga where drunks and drug abusers come to crucify themselves, or a cave in some the so-called holy mountain of Banahaw, where amulets and fetishes come to be 'recharged' every year. But this is a matter for another post entirely.

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