STO. TOMAS -- This town will soon revive an almost forgotten Easter ritual that is expected to become an addition to the growing number of festivals in Pampanga.

Provincial Arts and Tourism Officer Arwin Lingat said Sunday that this town will be reviving the old Easter ritual here under the festival name “Sabuag Sampaga.”

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Sabuaga Sampaga roughly means “to scatter flowers."

Old tradition revived

A few decades back, Easter Sunday in this town has always been the center point of the observance of the Holy Week. It is celebrated as the fiesta in Poblacion, taking precedence over the official July 3 feast day of the patron St. Thomas the Apostle.

“Over the years, Thomasians have gladly acknowledged and observed Easter Sunday as the feast of all feasts. Those who already reside abroad or other nearby provinces always find time to go home and be with their cabalens (townmates) in commemorating the Maleldo (Holy Days),” Lingat said.

He added that Easter Sunday is celebrated with pomp and pageantry, unique to Sto. Tomas, until the late 19th century.

The town also celebrates the "Salubong" (The Meeting), which is a folk tradition of the first meeting between the Virgin Mother and the Risen Christ. Such meeting, however, is not found anywhere in the Bible.

“Here, the Salubong the event is spiced up with a puso-puso – a multi-layered heart-shaped funnel that unravel at intervals, raining confetti and petals on the image of the mourning Virgin Mother below until a little girl dressed as an angel descends from it to take the veil off Mary. At this point, the curtain that separates the Mother and her Risen Son is opened for their joyful salubong,” Lingat said.

The Easter procession then begins, with the town’s fairest maidens in their best ternos and formal gowns as sagalas, 12 lasses called estabats and shower with petals the Atlung Maria (Three Marys) symbolizing the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and Mary Cleofas.

By tradition, the center (the spot for the Virgin Mary) is reserved for the most beautiful of the three sagalas. The procession ends in church with a High Mass.

By noontime, the faithful congregate anew at the churchyard for the burning of the effigy of Judas Iscariot, Lingat said.

A new start

Community leader Irwin Nucum said that this year’s observance will have a fitting climax.

“It’s the signature uniqueness of the Holy Week rites in our town. Hence, petals and confetti will literally rain on the processional route around Poblacion, starting 2 p.m. of Easter Sunday (April 4) as revelers join groups coming from the town’s seven barangays in street dancing,” Nucum said.

At the town plaza, where the revelry culminates, groups in their most exotic costumes will be feature and each will do its own interpretative dance presentation on the theme of the Sabuag Sampaga.

A trade and industry component to the festival will be provided by the town’s one-barangay-one-product exhibit around the town plaza, with each barangay displaying its produce, notably the pottery and ceramics of Sto. Niño, and the caskets of San Vicente.

Sto. Tomas is known as the casket capital of Central Luzon, having at one time supplied funeral parlors throughout the whole archipelago and even nearby Asian countries, said Nucum.

“In effect, Sabuaga will serve as a one-stop showcase of the spirituality, culture, and industry of the people of Sto. Tomas,” he added. (IOF)