In these parts, summer lasts all year round but festivals are rarely music.
The weekend is in sight. The night sets in and the Morion Park & Arena de Boac welcomes a crowd eager for fun.
The food, beverage and craft stalls start by retaining and entertaining guests. They are highly sponsored by the São Miguel beer corporation, created in 1890 in a homonymous neighborhood in Manila. not in the country brother, as we also thought.
However, the animators apologize in Tagalog (the Philippine dialect). As they explain to us, for interrupting a national pop hit that made the old loudspeakers and the people vibrate. Even diffused, the sound starts again coming from a semi-lit stage above the fence.
The change provokes a small mass migration that the authorities are forced to control. With effort, the agents distribute people to the neighboring benches while preventing them from passing to a cemented field and to the base of the Roman plaster columns that decorate it.
Gerry Jamilla, our guide, hastily finished his halo halo, a popular Filipino dessert made from ice cream, jelly, condensed milk, beans and pieces of fruit.
It helps us to get a good position among the people and warns us that we cannot get up too high so as not to generate unwanted shadows.
Then add yourself to the confusion.
A Biblical Easter Representation But Very Popular
One voice off summons the participating actors to the stage. As soon as the roll call ends, the massive attendance ignores the presence of the authorities and invades the central cemented area, blocking the spotlights and disputing the unofficial, not even allowed, places of honor.
With this abuse, they frustrate hundreds of other spectators who have been guarding their seats for hours.
We are in provincial Philippines. Asia's most Latin nation is an eastern haven of institutional corruption and laxity. It did not occur to us that the organizers would try to recover the situation.
To confirm it, two or three desperate agents end up helping the offenders to settle down, while the injured ones dedicate a monumental boo to their rivals.
Things calm down. A group of candid-looking dancers begins their act: an ethereal dance that represents the creation of the world to the paradise of Adam and Eve. It continues with theatrical representations of the high moments of the Bible.
The public is a believer like few others but does not let faith interfere with the good mood. Every time an aspect or actor reveals satirical vulnerability, there is a teenager who sends a mouthful in the dark and unleashes contagious laughter, censored by his elders.
King Herod, Pontius Pilate are victims of intense whooping and even paper balls rain down on them. For the sake of its actors, the play is left with the condemnation of Christ.
Place to the Historical Reenactment of Via Crucis
On Friday afternoon, as per the rules, the Way of the cross. Hundreds of Moriones (masked as Roman soldiers), two thieves and a willing Jesus that the centurions harass and whip to the Cross with impressive realism.
Beyond the drama, we are delighted to see that Mary Magdalene and other holy women are played by ladyboys, effeminate boys who abound on the island of Marinduque as throughout the Philippines.
We also appreciate the ease with which the key event of Christianity closes. Restless spectators of the Crucifixion take the local Mount of Olives.
There, they are photographed martyred by centurions, or under the threat of blades pretending to be their swords.
A few hours, miles later, we found serious injuries and an entirely different atmosphere. “Now prepare your mind,” Gerry tells us. “You people in Europe don't have anything like this. Try to take everything as another one of your ethnic experiences.”
From Boac to Gazan: The Impressive Self-Flagation of the Antipos
When we arrived at the parish of Gasan, we began to see men with bare torso and red-stained bodies that gleam in the scorching mid-afternoon sun.
Soon, we climb a staircase and find the city cemetery occupied by antipos – so the Filipinos call their dedicated self-flagellators. We see them divided into different clans, in the shade of tombs, accommodated between graves or above them, overlooking leafy coconut groves.
They whip themselves with a small whip that gathers tiny bamboo slats and produces a teq teq characteristic. This is not the only instrument that dyes them red.
Initially, blood is released using shared slides. As soon as the flow seems stagnant, the antipos they ask colleagues to hit their often thin bodies again.
We also notice that, despite being carried out by atonement and religious solidarity with the suffering of Christ, the flagellation takes place in a convivial manner. It serves as a pretext for long conversations.
Not all antipos withstand the violence inflicted.
The sun continues to climb over the horizon and the tropical heat tightens. An organic smell is installed that makes some of the faithful feel nauseated. One of them loses more blood than was supposed. And the senses. It ends up watched by others antipos that they lay it on the grassy ground and ventilate it.
Hours later, the number of casualties had increased more than expected. Certain groups stop their self-punishment.
Return to the center of Gasan where the Good friday is nearing the end.
Parade of Papoas, Andors, and the Almost Forgotten Antipos
Little by little, the night settles. A procession of illuminated stages travels along the avenue already full of believers, interspersed with a sub-procession of poppies, women mourning the loss of children, who walk under tufted vegetation.
As we calculated, the antipos they weren't gone for good.
When the Catholic parade seemed to have already ended, the end of the street reveals a crestfallen and suffering entourage that the solidary population observes and, here and there, photographs them.
With its final passage, Good Friday gives way to Easter. In the days ahead, this unlikely Catholic nation will celebrate the magic of the Resurrection.
The Filipino blood that honors Christ will not be shed again until the following year.