Marinduque’s Moriones Lenten Rites
While all provinces in the Philippines are never short of symbols and traditions that encapsulate its fascinating history, Marinduque stands out to me as it brims with unique, strong, and deep Catholic devotion shown through its culture that I have never seen anywhere else.
One can attest this in its commemoration of the lent and Jesus Christ’s passion and death. From Holy Monday, passengers from Manila would start to flock at Dalahican Ferry Terminal to go home to or visit Marinduque to take a break for the Holy Week and witness the spectacle of the Moryonan Lenten Rites. Having experienced this tradition, I can say that this is really something you wouldn’t want to miss and now I don’t wonder why as it nears, the number of passengers boarding multiply.
Meanwhile, at Marinduque, the devotees are gearing up. Perhaps even from weeks or months ago, they have dusted off their costumes which they use annually and some are into the final touches of their masks.
The Spectacle Starts
The Moryonan lenten rites happen more than a week here. It begins on a Friday before Palm Sunday when fairs and shows begin. There are holy masses from Sunday until the end of the week. Some of the main highlights start on Holy Tuesday, where each municipality hold their lenten parades one by one. We happen to witness one in Gasan, in Poblacion. Men and women in costumes and masks replicating “Morions” or biblical Imperial Roman soldiers appear on the streets, a symbol of devotion to them.
The Cenakulo Stage Presentation is also one of the most-anticipated activities in Marinduque. They used to dub the show, but this year, we heard that this is their first time to do it live and we were fortunate to watch the first show at the Moriones Arena in Boac. The whole arena was full that night! The actors were good, the production was commendable, and the overall performance was unforgettable to me especially because it’s my first time to watch it.
Lenten Rites That Happen in Marinduque
The most surreal experience that left me in awe was on Good Friday in Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) and the dramatization of Christ’ Crucifixion in Boac. Devotees begin to fill the streets near the Boac Cathedral as early as 7:00am to witness the portrayal of Jesus Christ’ last moments before he was crucified along with the two thieves which included flagellation. They painted themselves with fake blood stains but with the scorching heat and breeze of the summer, I was sure it wasn’t a pleasant experience for them.
The Morions and other dressed-up devotees created an adequate space for the Via Crucis through holding a rope. The one who plays Jesus and the thieves carrying big crosses were always hit, whipped, and beaten like how the real thing happened! As a witness in the crowd, I could only imagine how hard that was.
At the end of the Via Crucis, they were crucified as sentenced also by an actor playing Pontius Pilate while the whole crowd still continued to watch.
Later that night, we witnessed another long-known tradition in Marinduque, this time at the municipality of Gasan – the procession. And to signal that this procession officially begins, loud noises are made using a wooden instrument the locals made and used ever since and this is called Pataraka. They are dressed in red or white with their faces covered. Even kids participate in this, too! It’s an unusual experience and I also haven’t seen this anywhere else.
At the same street, the procession also included the Pupua Women. These are women who parade themselves barefoot, all dressed in long black long-sleeved dresses and with the highlight of their look – a crown of Pupua leaves. This wasn’t an easy stint either, because the leaves are itchy and hard to manage as they walk along in the procession. However, for them, this practice is their way of devotion and thanksgiving.
Ways of faith and devotion, especially in a Catholic-dominant country like the Philippines, can sometimes be complex and hard to understand. I am both in awe and in wonder of how these people, the whole province in fact, are deeply rooted and would practice these traditions yearly – even if the ways are painful and full of sacrifices. I realized that Filipinos, when devoted to someone or something, would really go on lengths beyond one can imagine.
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