Story of faith: Marinduque's Moriones Festival takes place this Holy Week
MANILA, Philippines — All roads lead to the Southern Tagalog island province of Marinduque this Holy Week for the annual Moriones Festival.
A traditional festival that takes place during Holy Week, the Moriones Festival is a colorful weeklong event where participants are garbed in costumes and masks typical of Roman soldiers during Biblical times.
It follows the story of the Roman centurion named Longinus, who was blind on one eye. He was the one who pierced the side of the crucified Christ to make sure the Messiah was dead. But then something unimaginable happened: The blood that spurted from the side of Christ Jesus hit his blind eye and fully restored his sight. The miracle converted Longinus to Christianity, and he ran around town proclaiming that Jesus was indeed the Son of God.
The Moriones Festival has costumed and masked Roman soldiers marching around town every day looking for Longinus, who is scorned by his fellow Roman soldiers for turning into a believer of Christ. The daily “search” culminates in what is called the “pugutan,” or the capture of Longinus and his beheading, which takes place on Easter Sunday.
However, the festival — and the story of Longinus — does not end on a sad note. Instead, it ends on a positive note, spreading the message that after Longinus has fulfilled his mission of spreading the words about the Risen Christ, he courageously accepts his fate and faces death through beheading, knowing fully well that he has found his salvation.
Holy Week activities in Marinduque also include the unique tradition of pabasa, or the musical recitation of Christ’s passion in verses; the Via Crucis, a reenactment of the suffering of Christ on His way to Calvary, with some participants carrying a heavy wooden cross and others inflicting pain on themselves as an act of atonement for their sins; and a grand procession of religious images around town on Good Friday.
Participating in the religious procession are the morions of Marinduque, a number of whom are donning the hand-carved wooden masks and fiberglass or stainless armors with capes and sweating it out under the sun as a religious vow.
After all, wearing the costumes and masks cum headdress is a form of penitence in itself because it is hot and stifling, and the masks only provide two small holes for vision.
Also an important part of the grand Moriones Festival is the reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Mount Calvary and His eventual resurrection. This takes place at the Town Plaza on Easter Sunday. Now, that also ends on a positive note!