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Semana Santa in Lucban, Quezon

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The highlight of the Good Friday procession, the bier of the Santo Señor Sepulcro returning to the church from the procession.

semanasanta_logo.jpg This is the third installment of my Semana Santa series where I feature rituals and traditions observed in certain places during this most solemn week in the Catholic calendar. Click on the image at the right to check the rest of the articles.

The heightened religious fervor, the devotion and the age old practices just come together and intertwine to produce one of the spectacular Semana Santa (Holy Week) observance that I have seen. Lucban in Quezon is one of the must go to places to witness such events.

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Palm Sunday: Worked leaves from young coconut fronds decorated with plastic flowers.

The hazy yellow green sea of palms sway in all directions blanketing the plaza at the church grounds as the faithful is gathered while a priest blesses. A few minutes later, the old banal (holy) women, are racing (I was amazed at the vigor and quickness they displayed) with each other to place their tapis or shawls along the priest’s path as he winds his way to the church trailed with his apostles and the people.

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The ritual pabasa is done with a modern twist in Lucban

While in other places across the Philippines especially in Luzon and Visayas, the Pabasa (ritual chanting of the life and passion of Jesus Christ) is done in archaic dialect in an equally archaic rythmic singing, the one in Lucban is, at first amusing, surprising and different that just makes you realize that after all the centuries of devoutness, one practice actually has adapted to the times. Their Pabasa is usually performed along the street fronting the owner’s house topped by a tent accompanied by modern rythms emanating from karaoke equipment. Again, unlike in other areas, the mood is lively and festive with young children singing along with the adults.

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Maundy Thursday: Men practicing the pagpapako at pagtatanggal (Nailing to and removal from the cross)

I was taking photos in and around the church when suddenly, a group of men entered the main portal dressed in everyday clothes carrying a cross and an image of the Christ. These men were rehearsing for the drama that will be held the next day, Good Friday at around 1500H. It was the first time I saw a Christ image with hinged shoulders that is primarily used for the Pagpapako and Pagtatanggal (crucifixion and removal from the cross) rituals.

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Good Friday: Pagtatanggal (removal from the cross)

The actual Pagtatanggal done by the men that I saw rehearsing the day earlier but this time, fully robed in white. A few minutes later, the faithful will form a line to the altar to venerate and kiss a crucifix. Then the procession will start. The carozzas richly decorated images of the saints and scenes from the Passion are either pulled and pushed or borne on the shoulders of men.

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Good Friday: one of the images from the procession arrives at the church.

Late afternoon and the first carozzas arrives back to the church. The number of these processional images are many, more than twenty, and as it arrives, people rush to get the flowers decorating these.

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Good Friday: Bamboo clappers signaling the arrival of the Señor

Between 1500H of Good Friday and before the Salubong (meeting) procession, bells and anything made of metal falls silent except for bamboo clappers that these young men vigorously manipulate at the choirloft. Made from long pieces of bamboo, it is split three fourths of the way with a hole bored at the end. As the image of the Señor moves out and arrives back to the church, these clappers are used. The rythm and the sound produced by these instruments are one-of-a-kind.

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Good Friday: the Señor carried by the ladies back to the Rañola house

One thing I found about the Good Friday procession in Lucban are the tasks apportioned to the sexes. The men takes charge of bringing the processional bier from the church and around town where fanatical devotion paralleling the Black Nazarene ritual frenzy in Quiapo, Manila occurs (top most photo). After it arrives back, the women take charge and brings the carozza back to the Rañola house.

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Black Saturday: newly blessed fire distributed to the parishioners lights up the church with candles

The eve of Easter Sunday and the faithful again are gathered inside the church for the vigil. At one point, the new fire and water are blessed and suddenly, all the lights are put off. From one lighted candle, to the next, the church slowly lights up again with the flame of a hundred candles. The scene is magical.

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Easter Sunday: the Salubong (meeting) of the images of Mary and the risen Christ

Unlike the Salubong or in my Cebuano language, Sugat, that I am acostumed to back home in Cebu, the Salubong is done at midnight, just after the Black Saturday evening mass. This is the ritual meeting of the Mater Dolorosa and the newly risen Christ. In this town, there is a funny side here. You would be surprised why some people are bringing umbrellas when it is a few days into the dry season. Suddenly, an impassioned plea from the emcee breaks out from the loudspeakers not to hurl immediately the water bombs the youths have been preparing and concealing at hand.

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Easter Sunday: End of the Lenten taboo, water is doused to anyone walking the streets

The Salubong breaks the ritual taboo of not taking a bath during Holy Week. Not that the people still adhere to these (but some may still do), but in Lucban, just as the ritual meeting procession ends, water bombs in the form of plastic wrappers filled with water are playfully flung to the parishioners. So the use of the umbrella comes in handy. In other provinces, Easter Sunday is a trip to the beaches and resorts. Here, being a landlocked municipality, the streets are busy with the water wars. Anyone walking the streets are not spared. Drinking, merriment and celebration can be found everywhere. On my part, I brought a jacket and politely asked people not to douse me as I’m taking photographs. But I cannot refuse the many offerings of a shot of lambanog (coconut vodka).

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Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications.

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces.

I’m open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

10 Comments

  1. Abaniko
    April 3, 2008 @ 0:36

    Ang ganda ng first pic. Pang-glossy travel mag! Galing!

  2. donG hO
    April 10, 2008 @ 8:19

    the first picture is nice. the last picture is funny. nice shots.

  3. Jocelyn Empamano
    December 4, 2009 @ 12:59

    I injoy the holy week in Lucban,I wish I can go home every year.People friendly,lots of good foods,Hows everybody

  4. » Domingo de Ramos in Lucban | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    April 18, 2011 @ 23:28

    […] Domingo de Ramos or Palm Sunday, is one of the significant days of the Semana Santa that marks the start of the Holy Week. It is a reenactment of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem when he was received by the people, waving palms while he was riding a donkey. And I witnessed this in Lucban, Quezon. […]

  5. Non-traditional ways of conducting the ‘Pabasa’ in Quezon, Pampanga | loQal - Home and Living | Philippines
    April 19, 2011 @ 19:03

    […] Estan Cabigas of Langyaw describes  as “amusing, surprising and different”, noting a lot of young people join the […]

  6. » Langyaw #04: Semana Santa in Lucban | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    April 20, 2011 @ 0:48

    […] images, preparing the text and then layouting to come up with this one. Langyaw #04 focuses on the Semana Santa in Lucban which I documented in 2006. This one showcases 60 images with many never seen […]

  7. » Good Friday halo-halo dunked with suman | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    April 20, 2011 @ 13:04

    […] Good Friday procession hasn’t ended yet and it was already 2000H in the evening. The minor carrozas and andas of […]

  8. » Good Friday processions in Carcar & Angeles City | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    April 27, 2011 @ 21:04

    […] Two old towns, Carcar in Cebu and Angeles City in Pampanga have antique Santo Intierro but less the attached rituals and the Good Friday procession is a bit solemn, a far cry from the rowdy and fanatical Lucban procession, especially when it returns to the church. […]

  9. Edmaration
    October 25, 2011 @ 12:32

    very superb article. grabe ks talaga sir estan

  10. Anonymous
    October 30, 2011 @ 12:28

    welcome 🙂

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