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Friday, March 21, 2008

Lenten Season

My parents are devout Catholics and in the early days of my childhood I remember going to church even at the start of the Lenten Season. My mother takes charge at this time of the year and non-obedience would mean a disciplinary action. I am glad however, my parents had given us the right to choose our own religious beliefs when we get older.

I still recall in my childhood. The start of the Lenten Season is on Ash Wednesday, then Palm Sunday. On Palm Sunday, my sister and I would gather some young coconut leaves. With some touch of imaginations I would shape the young coconut leaves into a bird, a ball or anything I could imagine just to make it look nicer, different from the rests. I worked with caution not to totally take out the leaves from its midribs to prevent the leaves from flopping down. Ribbons tied to the leaves enhanced our "palm leaves", as well . Going to church we would line up when the priest would start spraying the “palms” with Holy Water. These leaves are then brought home after being sprayed with Holy Water. These are hanged at altars or doorsteps, believed to drive the “bad spirits.”

Reading “Pasyon” from our neighbour is among those I have observed on Maunday Thursday until Good Friday. This is a way of reading a book dedicated to the life and sufferings of Christ Jesus. Instead of reading the book, several male and female readers would alternately sing it. Good Friday is observed with solemnity meaning less noise. By noon on Good Friday, hooded barefooted men naked from the waist up would staggered on the street. They have with them wooden or bamboo sticks tied together. They would repeatedly hit their backs with those sticks while walking until they reach the church. They call it penance like sort of a commitment for answered prayers or asking for prayers to be answered, such as healing a sick member of a family.

Nowadays, there are some men and women who, not only hit themselves with those sticks but they let other people hit them. Followed by some devotees they let themselves be nailed on the cross at three o’clock in the afternoon. This is the time believed to be that Jesus Christ died on the cross. Others would visit fourteen different churches on foot. Masses are celebrated for Catholics and Non-Catholics for the “Seven Last Words”. Priests or Ministers would explain the meaning of those words to the congregation.

Maunday Thursday and Good Friday are non-working Holidays in the Philippines. Due to the observance of solemnity, most radio and television stations signed off their programming on theses days. If there are those broadcasting, they would air the story of Jesus Christ from his birth to his death. Though Philippines is dominated by Catholic religion, Non-Catholics or non-religious groups paid respect in the observance of this Lenten Season for keeping these days solemn.

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