Ay on, manaya: Cuaresma lamet

April 17, 2011 at 8:02 pm Leave a comment

By Elina Marinas Velasco-Ramos

It can be very warm this week, just as it has been in the past few weeks. It is not just the thought that the Holy Week is upon us. This is usually the warmest part of the year and I remember Gramma saying “Cuaresma la.”

To the Catholics, Cuaresma is Holy Week and it is usually associated with long periods of no rain, the reading of the Passion of Christ, visita iglesia and long walks with so many people following the Hudyo (Jews) as they looked for the Kristo.

Growing up in a family of devout Catholics, the Holy Week brings back memories of grandparents, aunts, uncles and grandaunts who have passed away long ago.

They were the ones who followed the Catholic rites to the letter. The expression “Singa Biyernes Santo,” (It is like Good Friday) is deeply rooted in Catholic rites that included prohibitions that we grew up with.

The oldies allowed no child to play starting on Maundy Thursday. Neither were we permitted to shout, laugh, nor get into trouble with anyone.

One stern look and we get reprimanded if we did not act according to the allowed decorum. A generation older, people would get allowed beatings, lewet na bislak to Pangasinenses, on Black Saturday for erring on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. In those days, my father would recite to us, it is taboo to hit an erring child with a stick or a leather belt.

Meat in the diet is strictly not allowed. Before Good Friday, Ina Sinay would boil a lot of camote (sweet potatoes) , pontin seba (a type of cooking bananas), kamas ya balang (small hickamah) even kamantilis (camachili). She would not allow anyone to touch the pots and pans on Good Friday. All that we were allowed to do is eat, listen to the passion played over the radio, join the street play and at the strike of 3:00, get a rub of oil from coconut she has cooked from 12:00 noon when “Christ has been caught and eventually crucified.”

Under the scorching sun, we would all run to the street and join the street zarzuela with old women singing the passion while men clad in colorful Hebrew soldier costumes chant in search for the Kristo.

My heart would beat faster with every noise I hear on the street as the Hudyo slashed twigs on the Kristo, whose face was always concealed with a black cloth.

The dialogues incomprehensible, my artistic mind would translate it as “Aburido la iray Hudyo,” (The Jews are already worried). In all honesty, I did not have the guts to asked Ina Sinay what the soldiers were telling Christ.

The Good Friday street play zarzuela always included Mama Pedring as Ponsyo Pilato and Mama Carding as leader of the soldiers. Aside from them, I knew no one else, but I love Claudia, because she always pleaded that Christ was spared from the death penalty.

After the zarzuela, which usually ends with the actual nailing on the cross, we rush home for more of the boiled fruits, take a quick shower, after the oil rub, and we would all rush to the cathedral to line up for the libot (procession).

Children from my household looked forward to this Lenten activity. We get to see the old houses in town, besides, having to see life-sized images of so many saints, taken out from private houses only once a year.

It would still be very warm when we go home after the procession. “Cuaresma lanti,” Ina Sinay would always tell us. So no one would try to complain of the prickly heat from the day’s out-door activities.

The Baguio Film Festival about two weeks ago featured two films “Two Funerals” and “Itim,” which had the Lenten procession as backdrop.

These were actual footages of the procession, so we get authentic Catholic observation of Lent in the Philippines, which are still very much alive in many towns and cities.

In my household, however, the passing away of Ina Sinay in the late 70’s eroded much of the traditions because she was the stricter Catholic among my olds. With the death of Nanang Leonor and later Nanang Milling, all of us seemed to have forgotten the family rituals for Lent.

Modern-day Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ and not so his way to the Cross that Catholics dramatize.

More people now find a welcome respite in the long vacation on Holy Week. They beat the heat on the beaches, swimming pools and spending longer hours indoors. Or they simply travel to Baguio City and suburbs to run away from the warm weather in the lowlands.

While there are still those who still go on visita iglesia or observe Catholic rites during the Holy Week, it is still safe to say that a larger portion of the present-day Filipinos have a lot more ways to spend the season than endure the heat on the streets as “penitents.”

Let me iterate that “Ay on, manaya!” is also “Ta lanti, awa?”. Both expressions signify concensus, realization or unification, that results from healthy discussions, heated engagements, even spiritual and emotional purification.

As I have always been doing, I will attempt to discuss in this column the Pangasinense way of life so that the younger generation of Pangasinenses will learn to appreciate their culture.

This column will also try to encourage the young to speak up by publishing here their contributions, be it in the form of essays, editorial, or the literary poetry and other forms of the written word.

Share us your thoughts. Email me at eyenvr@gmail.com for comments and contributions to this column. Ay on, manaya, you can write in the local tongue of the Pangasinenses. #

Entry filed under: News.

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