Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Semana Santa

In the past up to about the early 80's, Semana Santa or Holy Week was an important family affair during summers in Silay.  It would be that time of year when families or children based or studying in Manila and other places would come home for vacation and family reunions. The processions during Holy Thursday and Good Friday were en grande or big events as prominent families would be actively participating either as carosa owners or plain marchers.  It was always a big privilege when  a male member of the family would be asked to be one of the escorts of the Santo Entierro.  To be invited as part of the cortege was an affirmation that you are a respected member of Silay society, so you can imagine how some people would actually lobby to be included in the list.  Holy Week also meant new dresses and/or shoes to be used during the processions since marchers were expected to be wearing their Sunday's best.  The route would always pass by the big (now ancestral) houses in Cinco de Noviembre and Mckinley Streets where family members would sit and gather in their verandas or balconies with a lighted candle to watch and comment on the procession and the participants.  We would wave or give a little nod when we pass by these houses, a  practice not unlike to paying homage to royalty or heads of states.  What is ironic is that what used to be fun and exciting then, strikes me now as having really nothing to do with the essence of Holy Week.   Then everything changed in the late 70's...a new parish priest who also belonged to a prominent Negrense family was assigned to Silay. He "revolutionized" the parish, instituting many positive reforms and practices that have stayed to this very day. He broke down class barriers and for the first time, rich and poor came as one in all church-related events. When I came home in 1980 after studying in Manila for several years, gone was the pomp and pageantry of Holy Week processions...most of the carosas were replaced by actual people performing on moving platforms which I presume was his way of bringing Christ's sacrifice closer to the people.  Today, many of those antique carosas are back but because of this one priest's dynamic ways and quest to communicate what real Christian faith looks like to the people of Silay,  the Holy Week activities remains focused on its real essence, which is to reflect on the meaning of Jesus' death on the cross.

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