Sunday, April 12, 2009

the Easter Sunday Sugat at Sta Fe, Bantayan

a Lenten Special

To most people, the happiest Christian holiday is Christmas. Perhaps but not quite. In Catholic orthodoxy, it really is Easter, the day when the promise of salvation is fulfilled and Christ came back from the dead. This day is greeted by mirth and merriment befitting the culmination of the promise of the forgiveness of sin and the acceptance into heaven.

elderly woman at Sta Fe sugat
the sugat at Sta Fe, Bantayan was participated by people of all ages

In the Philippines, a grand tradition continues to this day in celebration of Easter. Performed in the wee hours of Easter Sunday morning is Salubong or Sugat in the Cebuano-speaking regions. This pre-dawn ritual, as its name suggests, is a depiction of the imagined meeting of the Risen Christ's with Mary, His mother.

a joyous dance preceded the meeting of the Risen Christ and Mary
costumed dancers performed before the meeting of the two processions

The occasion is not just a spectator event as the community participates by joining two separate processions. The statues of the Risen Christ and select Apostles (the identities can vary by location) are led by menfolk and the icons of the ladies led by Virgin Mary are ushered by the women. The two solemn parades often converge in a specially prepared meeting place or sugatanan usually in the churchyard.

the passion play begins
a passion play preceded the convergence of the two processions

the entrance of the Risen Lord led by menfolk of Sta Fe
the statue of the Risen Christ led by men making its way into the church while the passion play was winding up

Some communities would hold a short play of the Passion, from Christ’s conviction through Crucifixion to the burial of His dead body in a cave guarded by Roman soldiers. The The part where the missing body is discovered missing in Easter morning by Mary Magdalene and Mary of Cleophas is timed when the two processions shall arrive. Usually, the two parties are separated by an arch or by a curtain.

the giant curtain which separated Risen Jesus from Mary
a giant white curtain cordoned the main street of Sta Fe in front of the church for the sugat processions

The climax occurs when a tiny girl dressed as an angel is lowered by ropes from a high platform to lift the mourning veil of the grieving Mother. Then the celebration of Easter begins and church bells are rung, alleluias are sung, the icons are brought inside the church and the mass is celebrated.

just before the sugat
the Risend Christ being brought before the sugatanan

Jesus meets Mary
the parted curtain showed the meeting of Christ and Mother Mary (note the unopened false ceiling at the arch)

In the Philippines, the more famous salubong plays are performed in the provinces of Cebu, Rizal, Naga, Pampanga, Bataan and Marinduque. Easily the most grand of Cebu’s sugat presentations is in Minglanilla where numerous girls are suspended in mechanical contraptions.

a girl angel descends from "heaven"
the false ceiling parted while a girl angel was lowered down by rope harness

the lifting of the veil of mourning
the angel lifts the black veil to signify the end of mourning

I have not yet witnessed the Minglanilla kabanhawan (resurrection) festival but almost every town has their own version albeit in a smaller scale. The photographs here are the ones I took in town of Sta Fe, Bantayan Island. Their affair was down to earth, subdued and intimate but no less sincere in declaring the joy that is Easter.

the Virgin Mary revealed

the fulfillment of the promise of Resurrection
the celebration began after the veil was lifted

Happy Easter everyone!

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