ONE of the most anticipated events in the City of San Fernando and the rest of Pampanga is the “Mal A Aldo” or Holy Week or Semana Santa. At this time of the year, Capampangan folks living outside the province make their homecomings while tourists also visit to experience the colorful traditions and spectacles.
Maleldo as a whole offers a lot of opportunities to immerse one’s self in the arts and culture, aside from being a spiritual or religious experience. The Lenten folk rituals which feature the “magdarame”, “magsalibatbat” and other forms of penitents transform our streets into vivid landscapes that are photo-worthy for professionals and enthusiasts alike.
Our Holy Wednesday and Good Friday processions in Pampanga are sights to behold and most of the time very grandiose. Heirloom or family-owned images are exquisitely dressed and placed atop beautifully crafted and heavily decorated carrozas for the processions. When you hear violinists play the Stabat Mater during the procession is a moving musical experience. The pageantry of Easter Sunday “salubong” has also become a staple in several parishes around our province. In our own parish in Dolores, I always anticipate that dramatic moment when the chosen angel lifts the black veil off Mary.
The Visita Iglesia on Maundy Thursday is a chance for us to acquaint ourselves with the historic churches in our province in terms of aesthetics and architecture, in addition to the spiritual journey which fuels it. My favorite churches in the province include San Guillermo Church in Bacolor, San Luis de Gonzaga in San Luis, Santiago de Apostol Church in Betis, Santa Rita de Cascia in Santa Rita, San Agustin in Lubao, and my hometown’s Metropolitan Cathedral with its newly restored retablo that is both formidable and serene.
The season also features a profusion of theatrical productions that are inspired by the passion and death of Christ. Because the focus has been established on the actual crucifixions, most tourists who come to San Pedro Cutud miss out on the performance of the 59-year old street play entitled “Via Crucis” (Way of the Cross) written by an amateur playwright Ricardo Navarro. This year Ruben Enaje will once again play the role of Christ for the 24th or 25th time and will be nailed on the cross for the 28th time. Roberto “Bob” Velez who used to play the role of the Christ in the 1970s will be crucified for the 38th time this year. The script of the Via Crucis has been passed on through three generations of the Navarro Family and the current director is Ricardo’s grandson Allan who also safekeeps one of the few extant copies of the original manuscript.
In the nearby village of Santa Lucia, a similar re-enactment of the passion and death of Christ entitled “Ing Lasa ning Guinu” will also be staged and will culminate in the actual crucifixion of Melchor Montoya who will be nailed on the cross for the 25th time this year. This year’s production is directed by a local named Philip Tayag.
In our neighboring City of Angeles, several productions will be presented during the Holy Week. I had the chance to preview Peter de Vera’s Sinukwan Performing Arts’ production of “Panata at Panalangin” last year when they did a preview at the Heroes Hall. The performance combines mixed media installations in the form of framed fabrics with bloody imprints from actual penitents, dances that interpret and depict lenten practices, and prayers that are offered for social realities that we face in our daily lives. Personally I found it to be a very spiritual experience.
I’m also looking forward to watching Andy Alviz and Randy del Rosario’s musical masterpiece “Tulauk” which is composed of a powerhouse cast coming from the combined forces of the Arti Santa Rita, Teatro Ima at Arti, and the Kapampangan clergy. I chanced upon a rehearsal at the Residencia Romero one time I dropped by to visit Tita Agnes and the voices of the cast were close to heavenly. The play is scheduled to be performed not only in Angeles City, but also in Santa Rita and Lubao. Hopefully next year we can also include it in the San Fernando calendar of activities for Holy Week.
With the wealth of cultural resources that Pampanga has during the Maleldo, an immersion in our province can prove to be both an artistic and spiritual learning experience.