IF THERE’S one thing that this unprecedented pandemic has also given us, this is the opportunity to examine ourselves and recognize our shortcomings. As the world seemingly stopped, the silence its brings allows us to reflect. In this season of lent under a new normal situation, we can still journey towards the passion of Christ, the death and resurrection of Jesus, through reflection.
"Pamalandong" is a Hiligaynon word that means reflection. This is where Talisaynons drew inspiration for a Lenten exhibit that has been a testament of their strong devotion for five years now.
On March 14, the St. Vincent Ferrer Chapel within the compound of St. Nicholas de Tolentino Parish in Barangay Zone 6 in Talisay City, Negros Occidental once again opened its doors to the faithful who wanted to experience a unique journey during this season of lent.
Dubbed "Pamalandong," the 22-day Lenten exhibit, which will run until April 4, is themed "Pasyon ni Kristo sa tion sang kwaresma, kusog kag kabakod sa tunga sang pandemya [The passion of Christ in times of lent, force and strength in the midst of pandemic]."
Kenneth Parra, curator of the exhibit, said this year's "Pamalandong" features 25 religious figures owned by city residents whose faith has also been sculptured and hardened through the years.
Parra said these images immortalize the notable personas, as well as remarkable scenes, in Christ's journey, specifically His passion, in the last over two millenniums. Six of these figures are centuries old already, and stood witnesses of how faith transcended generations.
“Lent is a perfect time to reflect," he said, adding that Covid-19 pandemic cannot stop us in growing our faith.
The curator stressed “despite the difficult situation that we are in, the people would really find ways to nourish their faith. This is what we thirst for, now.”
Started in 2016 with 13 featured images, the Lenten exhibit is said to be the first in Negros Occidental, if not in Western Visayas. The activity, which was first conceptualized by Parra and the parish, was then held annually except from 2020 due to stricter measures set in light of the Covid-19 threat.
Parra recalled that, before, it was unusual for the owners of these religious figures in the city to come together and put them in an exhibit. What they used to practice was to bring out their “pasos” every Good Friday for the procession, he said.
“Pasos” refers to religious images, mostly saints, that are placed in a “carroza” or carriage.
For this year, 25 out of the 28 “pasos” that can be found in various private residences in Talisay City are being displayed in the exhibit which is opened from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays except Monday, and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during weekends.
These life-size images include that of La Jumenta (The Triumphant Entry to Jerusalem) owned by the Verdeflor family; La Uncion delos Pies de Jesus (Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus with oil) of Marilou Fregil and family; La Ultima Cena [The Last Supper] of Suzette Lacson and family; Jesus Lava el Pie de Pedro [Jesus washes the feet of Peter] of Guadarrama and Agarrado family; Oracion en el Huerto [The Agony in the Garden] of Roger Jamison and family; Jesus de la Columna [The Scourging at the Pillar] of Suzette Lacson and family; Jesus dela Paciencia of Cuenca family; Jesus Nazareno [Jesus carries the Cross] of Diaz - Lacson family; El Encuentro [Jesus meets Mary] of Dueñas - Figueroa family; Tercera Caida [Jesus falls the third time] of Engineer Mario and Lorena Negre and family; La Perforacion [Jesus is pierced by a lance] of Lester and April Cubid and family; La Pieta of Kilayko family; and Virgen dela Soledad of Raymund Granada and family.
Other attractions in the exhibit are the images of San Juan Evangelista [St. John the Evangelist] of Azela Kilayko and family; Santiago Mayor Apostol [St. James the Great] of Franklin and Lourdes Escandallo and Gonzales family; Santa Marta [Saint Martha] of Ma. Fe Alontaga and family; Santa Maria de Betania [Saint Mary of Bethany] of Dolores Lopez and family; Santa Maria Salome [Saint Mary Salome] of Jose Miguel Ereñeta and family; Santa Maria Cleofe [Saint Mary, wife of Cleophas] of Felipe Lacson Jr. and family; Susanna of Miguel Gutierrez and family; Santa Veronica of Adela Lacson and family; San Pedro Apostol of Verdeflor family; and Santo Entierro (parish) of Nena Cango and family.
For Parra and his family, they shared two of their religious images, the Jesus ante Pilato [Jesus before Pilate] and Santa Juana de Cuza [Saint Joanna, wife of Chuza].
Growing up in a family inclined to practices like collection of religious images, Parra started to grow his interest toward these images as early as his pre-school years. He was a sacristan and lector.
His family now owns eight figures, some were first collected by his grandmother. Their first “pasos,” the Jesus ante Pilato, was actually realized in 2010 as a graduation gift to him by his parents.
“These images give us the sense of calmness. It enables us to reflect that you have to entrust everything to God,” he said, adding that “this is not just about collecting images. More than this, it’s a product of an upbringing in the family that allowed me to be of service to the church.”
For the Lenten exhibit, which is now on its last week, it will continue to accept visiting faithful with minimum health protocols in place like wearing of face masks, sanitizing of the hands, body temperature check, social distancing, and limiting the number people inside, at 10 persons at a time.
Among those who have already visited the exhibit were parishioners from cities of Victorias, Bacolod and Bago, and San Enrique town, among others.
Parra, who is also the secretary of the St. Nicholas de Tolentino Parish Pastoral Council, said one of the purposes why the church has religious images is to catechize, to teach a story about His passion. During this Lenten season, these images are meant to tell a story about the life of Jesus.
By looking at the images, it already tell a story. It brings us to the past. By going in this exhibit, it refreshes our mind and soul, he said.
Parra said the pandemic has deprived us of the usual Holy Week celebration especially last year. With the current situation, even without procession, the people can still visit this exhibit, see these images and reflect.
“In the middle of this pandemic, this very tough journey, we have no one to hold on to but our prayers and faith. This is how the exhibit can help us, through reflection,” he added.