GROWING up in San Fernando, one’s childhood will not be complete without memories of Holy Week or maleldo. My maternal grandparents lived in Santa Lucia which teems with the bloody “magdarame”, and we used to visit relatives in nearby San Pedro Cutud not only to witness the colourful crucifixions but partake in the fiesta-like feasts they prepared for their guests.

Our family lived in Del Carmen and I had my share of local participation during the Holy Week. During the “pabasa” or reading of the passion of the Christ at the barrio’s “visita” or chapel, people convened for the “puni”. Young and old people from the barangay alike were given “toka” per sitio for their schedule when to serve. Usually the elders cooked different merienda fare, culminating in sopas, pancit, and ice cream as a special treat, for the duration of the puni.

I remember a fear of magdarame, “magsalibatbat”, and “mamusan krus” as a child, and I did not dare getting out of the house on early Good Friday. I was also cautioned to take extra care and refrain from frolicking during the Holy Week, lest accidents will befall me. True enough, I once met a biking accident and that became by “santo-santo” lesson learned.

I also recall with fondness how our Tagalog relatives will stay over for long weekends and we used to hop from one barrio to another for visita iglesia and visiting puni as well. I am reminded of the collective hospitality and generosity of each host barrio in welcoming its guests.

Little did I know that I will grow up doing cultural work on my own, becoming both an active and passive participant and observer in the rituals and traditions which have lent a certain sense of fame and notoriety to our city when it comes to Holy Week matters all over the world. This week offered not only an opportunity for personal reflections but for cultural insights as well.

In the past ten years, I have appreciated that beyond the teachings of the church, our people will still manifest individual expressions of faith, more of the spiritual than religious kind, motivated by thanksgiving or petitions, rather than penitence or forgiveness.

Further, beyond the blood and the gore, beyond the discourses and debates on the meanings and assertions of faith, Holy Week traditions contribute to community building and acquiring social capital among our people, and that as long as these functions are fulfilled, these practices and commemorations will still take place.

Happy Easter!