It was all over me, specks of red on my camera and camera bag, shorts, legs, arms and shoes as well as face. I was splattered with blood following the flagellants at Lourdes Northwest, Angeles City. Pampanga.
This is part of my Semana Santa series where I feature rituals and traditions observed in certain places during this solemn week in the Catholic calendar. Click on the image at the right to check the rest of the articles.
It’s not for the faint of heart but the sight of blood on the backs of these men, on their flogs called panghampas, their stained clothes, walls, on other people, heck, even a bright light blue wall wasn’t spared, can be a sight!
Despite having got into close call before with flagellants in Infanta, I was still feeling icky. Maybe because of the sheer numbers coming and going from time to time. But that was just the start. After sometime, it all became normal.
Self flagellation has been a tradition of many Filipinos, a practice introduced by the Spanish friars in the late 16th century. Curiously, it has only been limited in Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and Metro Manila. During prewar Negros, the hacienderos, sugar barons practiced it discreetly, usually in their rooms.
Contrary to popular notions, flagellation is not for the forgiveness or atonement of sins. Flagellants do it as a panata, vow, to ask God for favors like the healing of a sick relative or family member, or as a goodwill in exchange for a brighter future for the family and children. Most of these men don’t even go on Sunday masses. Depending on the panata, it can be a few to several years.
In Angeles City, flagellants, together with some carrying heavy wooden crosses, are found along the streets in groups but most congregate at Lourdes Northwest where I was brought by Wyatt and met Tintin and Archie there. All three were my hosts while in this city. And it was really a sight! Tourists and the curious were gawking, filling the side of streets and taking photos of the flagellants, mostly with their heads covered. Vendors are also around and thank god for them, I quenched my thirst with melon juice and two plastic cups of dirty ice cream.
It was just hot and humid and the sun beating down on me. At one point, the stench of blood heavily hung in the air that people with weaker stomachs might puke. I was even thinking if I was at an abattoir because of the putrid smell. But I guess, its part of the experience.
I’ve been following the flagellants for a few blocks and not minding when I get splattered again. Sometimes, the panghampas even hit both of my arms but I just continue walking and looking for interesting visuals.
At one point along the road, where the wailing cries, err, songs of the Pabasa were heard via loudspeakers, the flagellants turned left and stopped infront of the chapel. Lying prostrate, and some kneeling, perhaps praying. After some time, they stood up, ended their ritual and retraced their steps to wash.
My gratitude to Mayor Ed Pamintuan and First Lady Herminia de Guzman-Pamintuan of Angeles City, Archie Reyes, Angeles City Information Officer as well as foodies and food bloggers Christine Nunag and Wyatt Belmonte for inviting, accommodating and touring me around their city and the province of Pampanga.