Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Apu Iro

In honor of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, here is a post on Apu Iro-- 'Chief Iro', to use an approximate English equivalent, patron saint of Apalit in the province of Pampanga. The image of St. Peter is dressed in full papal regalia, complete with papal tiara and the fabled triple-bar cross. His face and hands are ivory, and his stockinged feet are encased in solid silver. These rest upon a finely worked cushion, while the saint is seated on a portable throne of solid silver. The saint's right hand, too, rests on a cushion, heavy with the burden of keeping the keys to the kingdom of heaven. A jeweled emerald ring shines brightly on the ivory finger of the saint. Like the Pope, the image is carried on the shoulders of men-- in this case, a myriad devotees who compete for the saint's attention. An ombrellino is held by a senior devotee over the saint's head, as a gesture of reverence as well as in keeping with established papal protocol. He is carried amidst mad festivity from his chapel in Sulipan to the town church of Apalit.

The next day, the saint is returned, again with magnificent pomp and ceremony, to his chapel, there to repose until next year's festivities. He is carried to a sumptuously appointed barge-- which the locals call a pagoda-- by the yellow-clad Knights of St. Peter, traversing the river to cries of 'Viva' and the mad flinging of rice and foodstuffs. In heathen days these were said to have been offerings to the crocodiles which resided in the river, for peace and safety. Devotees, meanwhile, engage in a riotous splashing of water, whilst more Knights swim in the river, pulling the ropes attached to the barge in an act of penance and 'sucking up' to the Divine. Finally, their sacred deed done, the men return to their homes, to feast and glut themselves, in honor of Apung Iro.

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