Want to go to the heart of the Philippines? Yes, this summer, you can actually go to the heart of the country – which is Marinduque. Not only is this island province shaped like a heart, it is also strategically located – right where the heart “anatomically” should be.
The Lenten season is upon us; and if you are one of those looking for something truly spectacular with which to spend the long Holy Week break coming up, why not grab your backpack and a few of your friends and hie off to Marinduque?
Yes, going to Marinduque for the Holy Week rituals should be on everyone’s Top-10-Experiences-to-Try-Before-You-Die list. I say this, of course, because I am a true-blue Marinduqueño (a fact that I am very proud of) and also because, for me, nothing compares to the spectacle of the Moriones Festival. It is both a cultural and spiritual journey that has to be experienced to at least once in one’s lifetime.
Now, to load up on some pertinent information. Morion to the mask made of papier mache patterned after the medieval Roman armor covering the face. And Moriones are the people, both locals and visitors masked and costumed as penitents marching around the town from Holy Monday to Easter Sunday ostensibly to look for Longinus. Longinus, of course, was the Roman soldier who pierced the side of the crucified Christ to find out if he was still alive. From the wound spurted out blood and water. According to legend, Longinus was bling in one eye; and when the blood and water that squirted from the side of Christ spilled into his eye, his blindness was cured. This miracle converted Longinus to Christianity and earned the ire of his fellow centurions who then beheaded him.
Actually, the original name of the religious ritual was moryonan but media coined the term Moriones in the 1960’s. The first participants who observed the religious tradition were farmers and fishermen as a vow of penance or thanksgiving. The reenactment, which is at the core of the festival, reaches its climax when Longinus is caught and beheaded.
From Wikipedia, we find some other very interesting tidbits about Longinus: An early tradition, found in the 4th-century pseudepigraphal ”Letter of Herod to Pilate,” claims that Longinus suffered for having pierced Jesus, and that he was condemned to a cave where every night a lion came and mauled him until dawn, after which his body healed back to normal, in a pattern that would repeat till the end of time.
The body of Longinus, twice recovered and lost, was asserted to have been found once more at Mantua in 1304, together with the Holy Sponge stained with Christ’s blood, wherewith it was told – extending Longinus’ role – that Longinus had assisted in cleansing Christ’s body when it was taken down from the cross.
Now, isn’t that cool? According to local historians, the festival originated in Mogpog in 1807 when the town’s parish priest, Fr. Dionisio Santiago, organized it for the first time. Today, the Moriones Festival is observed not just in Mogpog but also in all the municipalities of Marinduque, which include Boac, Gasan, Sta. Cruz and Buenavista. The festival is characterized by colorful Roman costumes, painted masks and helmets, and brightly-colored tunics.
If you want to try out being a Roman centurion yourself, perhaps, you should link up with some locals to experience this uniquely unforgettable high. But then again, there are other also exciting things to see during the Moriones Festival. Aside from watching the festival and the highlights of it, you can join the pabasa, which is a sing-song Christ’s passion in verse. You can also watch and pray the Way of the Cross or the Via Crucis, which is a major highlight of the festivities. There are also plenty of those who go around town flagellating themselves, carrying their cross, and getting themselves hoisted to it in an effort to reenact the crucifixion.
Whatever your reasons may be – as a spiritual cleansing, as a cultural fix, as a barkada gimmick – visiting Marinduque this Holy Week is guaranteed to be a rewarding experience.
And, hey! The beaches, hot springs, caves and heritage houses are not bad either…