Holy Week: Family and tradition in Castillejos, Zambales – Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

I have few childhood memories of Holy Week. I do remember the house, though.

There were stairs leading up to a small porch, where there was a table and some benches. Inside was an open area with a long dining table, and three bare bedrooms. My mother and her female cousins would take one room with all the kids, and I think some of the older aunts would take another room. I guess the older uncles got the other one, because I remember my mom’s male cousins exchanging stories about having to sleep in the chapel, and scaring each other that the Senor would pull on their foot while they slept.

The house and the Señor survived the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, but it did not survive a fire that was caused by a break-in. The house burned down in 2006, and we were so grateful that the Señor was not hurt.

Today it’s just a large lot with a chapel, though we don’t keep the Señor there anymore, and we still refer to it as ‘the house.’ On Good Friday we’ll set out early and travel to Castillejos, as will my mom’s cousins. We all aim to be at the house by lunchtime. As soon as we arrive, we greet the relatives, and pay our respects to the Señor by kissing His feet.

Over lunch we catch up, sharing stories of the traffic. At some point the florist will finish arranging the flowers on the karo, and we’ll have to wrap a cloth around it to cover the wheels. Somebody (usually my mom) will call for a family picture, so we remember who was there that year. Another relative will decide that it’s time to put the Señor in the karo. There will be much arguing.

Usually someone will mention that it’s 3:00, which means it’s time for the re-enactment of the crucifixion. It’s always done in a small lot across the highway from our house, though we don’t really get to watch it because there are many people crowding around the spectacle, and it’s too hot to stand there for long. Around this time, we’ll leave to go to our nearby hotels, so we can freshen up and rest before the procession. We try to be back by 4:30, but usually there’s traffic rerouting, or just plain heavy traffic.

There’s always merienda ready at the house by the time we get back. In years past it would be pancit and lumpiang togue, which my brother and I loved. But it’s been getting harder to find someone to cook for us on Good Friday, and the easier option is to just order ahead and have food delivered. The challenge is making sure all the food is free of meat!

Over the years we’ve also learned to be prepared. We bring water, flashlights, knives or scissors, candles, and matches or lighters. In the past few years we’ve started carrying a fire extinguisher too, because one year, one of the other karo was on fire!

Exciting times. Read about the year it rained here. Stay tuned for part 3 next week!

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