Monday, May 02, 2011

La Muerte!



Don't worry, I haven't forgotten that it's already Easter. Rejoice! He is truly risen and has conquered death. But the following images were just too intriguing for me to let them pass unnoticed. Traditionally, the processions of Good Friday in the Philippines are heralded by a statue of Saint Peter. The reasoning for this is simple: since Saint Peter is the keeper of the Keys of Heaven, it follows that he, too, is in charge of unlocking the pearly gates in order for the celestial procession to "pass through" earth. With Saint Peter is his infamous cock, standing on a pillar, who heralds the ominous coming of the day when "God died." In some regions, though, it is Death that leads the procession. Nowhere does this practice seem to be more prevalent than in the Bicol region, one of the most Catholic provinces in the country.

Unlike Santa Muerte in Mexico, the image of Death isn't really known by any specific name. Some call him La Muerte, San La Muerte, or even simply as Kamatayan, the Filipino word for death. Kamatayan is male, unlike his female Mexican counterpart. He is dressed almost like a bishop, with a black mitre, a cope, and he even holds his scythe much like a bishop holds his crozier. Since Kamatayan is no saint, his carriage is very minimally decorated (at least ideally); in some cases, he is simply borne on the back of a flatbed truck or a similar vehicle. Kamatayan processes as part of the Good Friday rites to demonstrate the seeming invincibility of Christ's defeat, of the futility of His mission. Like a specter which haunts the damned and the guilty, he is a reminder of man's sinfulness and articulates, quite well, the terror of that day when Christ died. Most of the pictures I've selected are from the Bicol region, specifically from the province of Camarines Norte. By far the most spectacular one I've seen, though, is the one from Carcar in Cebu: its skill and hands and feet were all carved from ivory, and the statue is dressed much like a king, complete with a golden crown. You can read more about the Carcar Kamatayan here: Langyaw.com


2 comments:

Catholic Catechist said...

Actually the ivory comes from my home town Argao...

Archistrategos said...

Thanks for the correction!