Friday madness

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By Roberto P. Alabado III

Planning Perspectives

Thursday, April 24, 2014


RELIGIOUS rituals and ceremonies serve as a unifying force of a town or city.

Towards the Holy Week, people were busy preparing for the three-day religious activity. It would have been great if they were preparing to join the religious rituals that one must undertake to remind oneself of the his/her faith but many people spent time preparing for a vacation. Many were discussing where is the best beach or resort to enjoy the long respite. I am not the religious type but I am serious in the observance of the Lenten season as this affords me to reflect on my belief system as well as carry on the traditions of my family and the community.

Our family combined religion and vacation - we would go somewhere and stay in a rented resthouse then explore the local churches or chapels for the Visita Iglesia, do the Way of the Cross in the local cathedral, attend the Easter Mass after which we are allowed to have a holiday fun but only after Easter mass. My mom always emphasized that Holy Week was about reflection and not vacation.

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The best Easter Mass so far is in the chapel of Eden where the whole local community celebrates, children give Easter presentations, as well as the local choir singing joyful songs while the early dawn skies in the background change hues to reflect the beginnings of a new day.

I like religions rituals and traditions because these are always egalitarian. All churches are filled with citizens from all walks of life. The poor mingle with the rich, families and friends are bunched together. The Lenten season rituals are one of the few times when status, age, sex, economic class are forgotten because all have the same goal that is to reflect on one's faith.

In Davao City, one of the main highlights of the season is the pilgrimage to Shrine Hills where one can undertake the way of the cross walking up the hill. Again people from all walks of life converge early morning to carry out the same prayers and rituals.

For those of us who have been observing the ritual for decades now, one can see the progress of the ritual. Multitudes still follow the custom which is very encouraging but the activities accompanying the ritual are really dismaying.

While charity work is emphasized as a virtue during the Lenten season, one cannot help but be disturbed by the growing number of beggars lining the street. While this is the time when the maximum number of people open their pockets to help their fellow citizens who are PWDs (blind and crippled), this can never be an excuse for the ruckus that they do to attract the people to come to their aid. I am talking of the speakers and amplifiers that they put in full volume while singing and playing instruments to attract people. How can one do the prayers and reflections if the stations are surrounded by the racket?

Vendors are now lined up all the way to the top of the hill to sell anything to the masses of people trudging up. Before it was just the kakanin, fruits and puto bumbong that were being sold that pilgrims take back to their houses for breakfast. These days, vendors are selling bottled water, ornamental plants, fruits, ukay ukay items, toys, fried chicken skin, eggs, herbal medicine, kakanin, noodles, and what-have-you. Even Dunkin' Donuts and Pepsi had teams joining the fray.

Emily, my sister-in-law, overheard a family conversation where the husband was surprised to see that vendors almost sold everything at top of the hill and the his wife retorted that only Italliani's (the restaurant) was missing because probably the plates were just too heavy to carry. Hehehe.

While I would understand the economic opportunity that the event presents but I am just disgusted with the commercialization of the event. I couldn't concentrate in my prayers with someone beside me shouting "Mineral, Mineral water". Holy Friday is supposedly a day of fasting and abstinence but why are these people out there to tempt people to break from such observance? Clearly business and religious ethics are out of the question here.

Perhaps the city can now intervene and provide some guidance to put some order in the situation. We can label it as part of tourism since the Shrine is a tourist attraction of the city.

Can there be proper zoning of the peddlers, vendors, beggars so that the pilgrims can have a more religious experience rather than a street party ukay-ukay experience?

We can allow the beggars to do their livelihood maybe between the first and third stations but without any speakers or amplifiers to disturb the pilgrims. Can we create a five meter radius from the stations of the cross where other activities except praying is allowed?

To allow unimpeded traffic flow to the top of the hill, can vendors be located after the shrine and not between the stations of the cross? Only protective and emergency services outposts will be allowed in the area. I am sure that people like me will still go to their stalls even if it is located after the shrine area because I would like to have mangoes, suman, puto bumbong for my breakfast when I get home.

Maybe if we can have a more orderly religious pilgrimage in the Shrine Hills every Lenten Season then we can attract more visitors.

The objective of the Lenten season is to allow people to reflect on their past as well as renew their faith, if we can provide our citizens with a proper venue for religious activities maybe we can be a more caring city without the dog-eat-dog attitude of commercialism. rpalabado@gmail.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 24, 2014.

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