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Stations of the Cruise.

Holy Week is a unique season the faithful and travel bugs look forward to because of the long holidays where they can do religious traditions, bond with the family, or hide off to a destination on the bucket list. The good thing is, there are scores of Holy Week festivities across the country which enable you to both observe the age-old holy days and explore the idyllic archipelago without the sense of hedonistic guilt.

Panaad. Loosely meaning 'promise' in the Visayan language, this is a penance ritual for Catholics where they walk around the 64-kilometer road of this island-province of Camiguin. Getting there is a pilgrimage in itself with the multimodal mode of transportation involved. The most popular and least expensive manner is to fly to Cagayan de Oro City airport, take a bus or van to Balingoan port for a one-hour boat ride to Benoni port in Camiguin. From there, there are vans and jeeps bound for the capital town of Mambajao. Another way is to fly to Bohol, take a bus to Jagna port for a three-hour boat ride to Mambajao. The most convenient but costliest way is to take a flight from Cebu.

Some 30,000 devotees set off before sunset on Maundy Thursday from Mambajao, and complete the penitential walk within 24 hours, making stops for prayer and personal needs. Devotees sleep at homestays where residents offer their homes for overnight stays for free or a minimal fee, while others put up makeshift sleeping quarters along the way.

The sojourn culminates at the Stations of the Cross at the Vulcan Daan or 'old volcano' which can be reached through a walkway of about 1,000 steps and pilgrims get to pause every few minutes for prayers at each of the 15 stations with life-size tableaus of the passion of Christ. Townsfolk have decided to add the 15th station, the resurrection of Jesus, to emphasize His victory over death. Along the slopes of the extinct volcano, you will be rewarded by the breathtaking vista of the sea, mountains and the giant cross of the Sunken Cemetery. Mount Vulcan erupted in 1871 and submerged the old town proper of Catarman, leaving behind ruins of a church and a belfry known as the Old Church Ruins, declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum last year.

After fulfilling the religious obligations, pilgrims cool off in the must-see attractions on Black Saturday, such as Ardent Hot Springs, Santo Nino Cold Springs, Taguines Lagoon, Soda Water Park, White Island Sandbar, and the waterfalls of Katibawasan, Tuasan and Binangawan.

Camiguin Nightscapes in Mambajao is an alternative site for prayer vigils as the faithful anticipates Easter. Located at the Mount Timpoong-Hibok Hibok Natural Monument, it was declared a Natural Heritage Site of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Centre for Biodiversity.

Masked Romans. A most iconic image in the olden days is the moryon, a devotee in Marinduque dressed in the full-regalia of the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus. Akin to an ancient version of a 'cosplay' (costume play), this tradition has become known as the Moriones Festival, which has various versions in the town of Mogpog, Santa Cruz, Gasan and Boac, where the outfit is said to be the most pompous.

Far from just being a tourist spectacle, masked men who play the part consider it a religious devotion which they do with reverence, especially if they are playing the role of Longinus, the centurion who commanded the troops who carried out the crucifixion.

According to legend, he was blind in one eye and was miraculously able to see after he got sprinkled by the blood of Christ when he speared Him as He was hanging on the cross. Longinus became a believer of Jesus as God's Son, reason for him to be hunted and beheaded by his Roman comrades in arms in a ritual called Pugutan, the highlight of the event which takes place on Easter Sunday.

Due to the migration of Marinduquenos to neighboring provinces, Moriones has evolved into the Centurion Festival of Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro, and General Luna, Quezon, each with a unique version in retelling the myth.

Pagtaltal. An enduring tradition in every nook in the country is the cenaculo or dramatization of Christ's last few hours. In Guimaras province, they have infused splendid theater production values inspired by Germany's epic Oberrammergau Passion Play to take it to the next level and called it Pagtaltal.

The presentation begins on Good Friday at the Smallest Plaza in Jordan, and moves around key spots in the town, and concludes at the Balaan Bukid or 'holy mountain' for the crucifixion scene. Along the climb is the Stations of the Cross, and on its summit is the Chapel of Ave Maria Purisima and a big white cross with a sweeping panorama of Guimaras and Iloilo.

Prusisyon. While the Good Friday night-time procession is a common sight even in cities, there are certain areas where the ritual seems to be more interesting than the others because of the many number of carroza or tableaus on wheels being taken out to the streets.

History buffs and culture vultures can have a visual feast at the century-old carroza in Malolos, Bulakan and Baliuag in Bulacan, and the heritage cities of Vigan, Ilocos Sur and Carcar, Cebu, being taken around the poblacion where old churches, ancestral houses and colonial-era monuments still proudly stand.

Intramuros is another heady place to witness a prusisyon as antique carriages stored at San Agustin Church and Manila Cathedral are toured around the Walled City.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Apr 14, 2019
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