"TOURISM is all about respecting customs and traditions."
Karen Tiopes, regional director of Department of Tourism in Eastern Visayas, said this following the criticisms being thrown to the hooded all-male religious group Penitentes who are regularly taking part during Holy Week observance in Palo, Leyte.
Netizens and other travelers have mocked the group's traditional attire, likening it to the infamous "white supremacist" and "racist" Klu Klux Klan in the U.S.
"While I understand that the costumes worn by our Penitentes are similar to the ones worn by the Klu Klux Klan, we hope that instead of bashing, they try to find out the beginnings of this age old tradition," said Tiopes.
"While I respect their opinions, we also ask that they learn, understand, respect and appreciate a religious event of Eastern Visayas, that we, the locals, have been practicing for years and years now," added the tourism director.
Despite the comments, Tiopes maintained that they will not change the costumes of the Penitentes, whose presence is a crowd attraction in Palo.
"We are proud of our traditions. We will stand by our tradition," Tiopes said.
The tourism official however said they take the comments on the "positive note."
"Given the attention and reactions it is generating, we trust that those who made comments will find time to read more about 'Tais-Dupol' and other local customs, traditions and rites practiced in different parts of the country," she said.
In 1894, Spanish Franciscan priest Pantaleon de la Fuente, who served as parish priest of Palo from 1887 to 1898, introduced the Penitentes to add "dramatic" representation on the Holy Week's tradition of death and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. (Ronald O. Reyes/ SunStar Philippines)