Heat keeps pilgrims indoors thousands flock North
Jean Marvette A. Demecillo (The Freeman) - April 21, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  As thousands flock to Bantayan Island in northern Cebu, officials observed fewer people participating in outdoor Holy Week activities in Cebu City. A plausible reason - the scorching heat of the sun.

“Usa sa factor ang grabe nga init maong gamay ra atong nakita nga migawas sa simbahan nga mag Way of the Cross (The scorching heat is one factor why we see fewer people joining the Way of the Cross outside),” said Councilor David Tumulak, deputy mayor for police matters.

 At least 20 people who joined the Way of the Cross on Good Friday lost consciousness and had to be attended to medically.

Tumulak said the Cebu City’s Command Control Center deployed ambulances and fire trucks to all churches, in Tabor Hills, Talavera House of Prayer, and Good Shepherd.

“Good Friday ra na-busy ang Good Shepherd ug ubang lugar dinhi sa syudad compared sa previous nga tuig (It was only on Good Friday that Good Shepherd and other areas in the city compared to previous years),” he added. 

Good Shepherd is a hilly area in Barangay Guadalupe where Catholics go to walk the Way of the Cross. It features life-size statues and stations of the cross.

Bantayan Assessment

North of Cebu province, however, thousands flocked to Bantayan Island to take part in the observance of the Holy Week and for a vacation.

The island has three main towns – Santa Fe, Bantayan, and Madridejos.

In Santa Fe, Santo Niño Roman Catholic Parish Priest Fr. Roy Bucag said this year’s observance has been the “most peaceful” observance of the Holy Week.

“Akong nakita ang sanctity sa iyahang celebration kay nakasabot na ang mga tao unsa ilang gisaulog. At the same time, gusto na silang ma-refresh ilang faith (I saw the sanctity of the celebration because the people understood what was being observed. They wanted to ‘refresh’ their faith),” he told The FREEMAN.

In the past, Santa Fe became known the Isla Music Fest during Holy Thursday or Good Friday. This has not happened for two years now following criticisms from religious groups.

This year, an estimated 15,000 registered visitors arrived at the town as of Good Friday. Last year, an estimated 20,000 visited.

Many of those who go to Bantayan visit the island because of its white sand beaches and pristine waters and Bucag said there is nothing wrong with that as long as the visitors will respect the sanctity of the observance of the Holy Week.

“Kon maglangas naka dinha sa imong pagligo sa dagat, maybe, maglisod ta og pangita og Ginoo pero kon naa raka dinha sa imong pagkaligo, makita nimo ang God’s beauty… makaingon ka nga fruitful akong pag-anhi kay dili lang ingon nga nagligo-ligo lang ko kay duna man poy napalambo sa spiritual life (If you’re too noisy while at the beach, you can’t find the Lord but if you give yourself a time to reflect, you can see God’s beauty…  you can actually enrich your spiritual life),” Bucag said.

One of the unique events in Santa Fe on Good Friday is the simultaneous procession organized by two churches – the Santo Niño Roman Catholic Parish and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Aglipay).        

Majority of the carriages from the two churches look similar.

The Santo Niño Roman Catholic Parish believes in the leadership of the Pope while the IFI does not.

In Madridejos, hundreds participated in religious activities like the Last Supper, washing of the feet, and Passion of the Lord despite the ongoing construction of the church there.

In Bantayan town, Fr. Joselito Danao, parish priest of Saints Peter and Paul Church, said religious activities are the highlights of the observance of the Holy Week.

Traditionally and historically, he said, the town is known for its life-sized images mounted on carriages used in two processions – Maundy Thursday’s Last Supper, which is participated by 13 carriages, and Good Friday’s Holy Burial procession, which is participated by 16 carriages.

The observance of Holy Week in the town was peaceful despite the thousands of local and foreign tourists participating.

“Ang procession is itself a sign that we are pilgrims. Ang kaning ngan nga parokya is a Greek word meaning pilgrims. What is our journey? From here on earth to the promise place which is heaven (The procession represents that we are pilgrims. What is our journey? From here on earth to the promise place, which is heaven),” he told The FREEMAN.


Allen Pacina said the families of Batayola and Pacina have participated in the Last Supper’s procession for 51 years. 

Pacina who is based in New York said building a carriage for the procession has been his mother’s dream.

He said all members of the families, now on the fourth generation, contributed to building the carriage that depicted Veronica wiping the face of Jesus.

Like the image depicted by that scene, Pacina said it is his mother’s dream, who passed away several years ago, to continue the legacy of helping the community.

“Participating in this activity gives us cohesiveness and love and respect to each other. It brought us all together. We are now living in different places like me in New York, that’s my primary residence but we always go back to Bantayan for this,” he said.

Meat on Holy Week

Meanwhile, eating meat in Bantayan during Holy Week continues to be a topic of conversation.

Danao said there is a need for locals to help the church educate tourists about the expired Papal Indult, a document issued by Rome in 1824 that allowed locals to eat meat on Good Friday. This Papal Indult was effective only until 1843.

“That is one issue that we have to resolve. It was executed and the people in Bantayan was given the permission to eat meat during Lenten season because everybody was really religious and there was no people who will do fishing kay moapil man sila sa seremonyas,” he said.

“Observing Holy Week is one way of disciplining ourselves that we can always say no to our human desires, that’s fasting and abstinence. We can say no to ourselves and yes to God,” Danao emphasized.

He hopes that visitors will visit the island on Holy Week as pilgrims and not as tourists.

“When you come to a certain church, mas maayo unta nga you come as a pilgrim and not as a tourist. To be a tourist, you have to be responsible. What do I mean about responsible tourism? You have to respect the culture, the values, and the character and tradition of particular place,” Danao said.

Bantayan tourism consultant Vince Escario, however, is not worried about perceptions.

“The best way for them to discover the island is to allow the island to speak to them through its people and through the experience of living with us and among us,” he said on the influx of tourists.  JMO (FREEMAN)

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