Monday, March 30, 2015

Annual Holy Week Devotions in Iloilo

Pasyon, photo courtesy of Santa Barbara LGU

The week-long tradition of Semana Santa or Holy Week begins during Palm Sunday and leads till Easter Sunday. For Christians, it is a time where they prepare themselves with prayer, penitence, and sacrifice.

In many towns all over Iloilo, there abound a number of religious destinations that offers spiritual enlightenment to visitors. Many of these local traditions are well known and people annually gather to pay homage to these important events. 

the Roman Catholic Chruch of San Joaquin, photo by Bombette G. Marin

Most popular is the Visita Iglesia where Ilonggos visit as many as seven or more churches in day. The most popular churches are in the southern portion of the province: the Saint John of Sahagun Parish in Tigbauan is known to be the oldest existing church in Panay; The Saint Nicolas of Tolentine Parish in Guimbal is known for its yellow sandstone walls and predominantly made of adobe blocks locally known as Igang was finished in 1774; the Saint Thomas of Villanova Parish in Miagao is considered to be one of the most popular churches in the country because of its unique fa├žade of native botanical motif. It was declared as a National Shrine in 1973 and was included in the World Heritage List under UNESCO in 1993, the only one in the Visayas and Mindanao; The Roman Catholic Church of San Joaquin is considered as the most militaristic church in the Philippines where its bas relief sculpture reveals the cavalry and infantry led by St. James, the Moor-slayer, breaking the Moorish defenses under a minaret tower against a landscape of date palms. It was declared a national shrine in 1974.

The life-sized statues of saints and Lenten characters on beautifully-decorated and lighted Pasos or floats are paraded on the streets every Good Friday. Many of the pasos were created by artistic masters and were handed from one generation to the other. The overall atmosphere is supposed to be of mourning, like a traditional funeral procession. The towns of Leganes and Igbaras are known to have the most number of Pasos in the province.

Passion plays are popular Lenten treats in other communities where people watch the recreation of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. Taltal in Barotac Viejo is a very important Lenten event that is religiously celebrated every Good Friday since in 1975. It has drawn in many visitors to this town every year to witness the story of Christ's passion.

Pasyon in Santa Barbara, photo courtesy of Santa Barbara LGU
Pasyon is another popular Lenten activity for the people of Cabatuan and Santa Barbara. Celebrated every Good Friday after the procession, it is a competition of continued singing that recounts the life of Christ. The singers are of young and old engage in a marathon of chanting while seated on little makeshift bamboo chapels clustered in the different streets all over the poblacion.

Kapiya in Santa Barbara, photo courtesy of Santa Barbara LGU

Besides Cabatuan and Alimodian, the town of Santa Barbara is also known for its annual Kapiya competition that beautifully displays series of sculptures made of indigenous materials popular in the area. The characters are life-sized and are even well-lighted during the evening.

Holy Week is something that people should experience every year.  It will not only show how our local culture is deeply rooted to our traditions and commitments but it will also help you discover other important attractions surrounding them.

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