This is the second installment of Semana Santa series where I feature rituals and traditions observed in certain places during the most solemn week in the Catholic calendar. Click on the image at the right to check the rest of the articles.
Lucban in Quezon is rich in tradition, culture and heritage be it from the annual harvest festival called the Pahiyas, its potent lambanog (coconut vodka), lively people, religious fervor and cool climate being located at the foothills of Mt. Banahaw. During the Holy Week, the town is transformed into one great catholic community where age old ritual observance springs to life.
On the morning of Saturday before Palm Sunday, the Don Juan Rañola bahay na bato ancestral house witnesses again another tradition when his descendants gather to do the annual Pagbibihis (Dressing) of the more than a hundred years old wooden image of the dead Christ fondly called the Santo Señor Sepulcro. It is not generally known how old this icon is but it has a rich and storied past.
First owned (or should it be, taken cared of, since religious images were owned by the church but rich families maintain it) by the family of Don Geronimo Rilles, it was said to be pawned in Quiapo due to debts incurred by his wife who was too fond of jewelry which was the source of their indebtedness. With this loss, the townspeople tried to buy back the image but came up only with P300 from contributions, P400 short. It was the patriarch Don Juan who contributed the lacking amount. From that time on, his family has been the caretaker of the image.
Living descendants or their representatives (some are already abroad) releases the image from its glass and wood container. One by one, the garments are removed except the fabric that covers the middle part. With the clothes removed, the Señor is remarkable. It is lifelike, lifesize and the anatomical details, as far as the exposed parts are concerned vey detailed: the left wound on the body with blood gushing forth, the facial features, hands and feet.
A new set of clothes is brought out and piece by piece it covers the image.
Like most antique Lenten images, the Señor is richly decorated. Its blanket is exquisite with embroidery done with gold thread depicting symbols of the life of Jesus. Its wig and head ornament is adorned with jewelry and the metal book with a carving of the lamb biting the handle of a guidon (banner) placed at the chest is made from silver studded with precious stones.
The image is tied to the platform with wire to stabilize it as once the preparations are done, it will be opened to the public for veneration. The feet is anointed with aromatic oils as it is what the faithful touch, smell and kiss. After lunch, the descendants gather to elect a family where the image will be brought to for the vigil starting on the evening of Holy Wednesday.
The image is set for vigil with all the trappings accorded to a deceased rich family member. By Good Friday, just before 1500H, it is placed on its processional bier accompanied by devotees to the church where a few hours later, it will slowly trudge down for its short journey around the narrow streets of Lucban where it has always done so for the past centuries.