Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Madridejos- the other procession in Bantayan

In Cebu and perhaps in Central Visayas, the most grand and most famous is arguably the Holy Friday procession of Bantayan in the island of the same name. It is not just the spectacular ostentation – carrozas as tall as 25-feet are more like floats than processional carts – but the religious images are mostly ivory antiques that are more than a hundred year old.

Veronica in the afternoon of Holy Thursday before the procession, Madridejos, Bantayan Island, Cebu, the Philippines

But when we found ourselves in Bantayan Island on Holy Thursday of 2006, we chose to go up north to the much smaller town of Madridejos, a place so sleepy where everyone seem to still know their neighbors by name.

Veronica during the procession at night

We went to Madridejos by personal invitations of several colleagues of the University of San Carlos Chemistry Department where I used to teach. Having arrived early, a whole carload of us went around the houses of our friends who were all busy with the preparations. The traditional days of procession in Madridejos, as well as just about every other town in the Philippines, are Maundy Thursday, when the Passion of Christ are featured, and Good Friday, when tableaux of Christ’s death and burial take their turn.


The town’s most revered santos is also its oldest- the Holy Body of Christ of the Locaylocay family. Carved in the early 1900s, the Santo Entierro (the Holy Burial) is the centerpiece of Good Friday parade.

Santo Entierro of Locaylocay
the Santo Entierro, as it was prepped up at the Locaylocay ancestral house

Part of the lore of the image is that once removed from storage, it attracts flies. The bugs were certainly over the “wounds” of the image during our visit. The chemists in us proffered several explanations but they mattered little. To this day, townsfolks, believing in its miraculous power, still place prayers, petitions, fish nets, books and any items they wished to be blessed on the 15 foot 4-tier pagoda-like carroza during the procession.

Santo Intierro
the Santo Entierro of the Locaylocay family, Madridejos, Bantayan Island, Cebu

The Locaylocays are a family of chemists. Our hostess, Ma’am Joy, is the former chair of the Chemistry Department and I, my wife and my brother are her students. Her two sons are also chemists, the eldest of whom married a chemist. Something in chemistry seems to promote inbreeding.

Locaylocay's Sta Marta
Santa Marta of the Locaylocay family, as it stands in their ancestral house’s dining room

Another chemist friend, Eugene Bacolod, also maintains a recently commissioned tableau, the Kiss of Judas. He took us around the town and gave us a front seat view of the proceedings of the procession.

the Kiss of Judas (Hawok ni Hudas) of the Bacolod family

Judas kiss
the Kiss of Judas during the Holy Thursday procession

Compared to the flashy carrozas of Bantayan, the presentations in Madridejos were more spare. Decorations were simple and lighting was subdued. There were hardly any tourists. The parade was intimate and attended mostly by local folks.

fresh flowers from Cebu
roses and azucenas imported from Cebu mainland (Bantayan is relatively parched and too dry for raising flowers)

The solemnity of the procession shone stark and strong in Madridejos. It still rings clear to this day I hear.

Pontius Pilate washes his hands
Pontius Pilate washing his hands (Ang paghugas sa kamot ni Pontius Pilato)

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