Holy Week: Family and tradition in Castillejos, Zambales – Part 3

Read Part 1 here. Part 2 is here.

The procession starts at the church, goes around several barangays, and ends back at the church. One of my pet peeves is how long the procession has become over the years, and how many figures are unnecessarily added to it.

If I remember correctly, there should only be a few figures in the Good Friday procession. A Virgin Mary, definitely. Mary Magdalene, of course. This Wikipedia entry says (and it makes sense to me):

The retinue is normally composed of images of saints connected to the Passion narrative, such as Peter, Mary Magdalene, and John the Evangelist. Tradition dictates that regardless of the number of images used in the procession, that of the Virgin Mary, dressed in black and gold as the mourning Mater Dolorosa, is always last and alone as a mark of importance.

Unfortunately, it seems our parish and many others have decided that Good Friday is a free for all and anybody can join in as long as they have some sort of religious figure. So it annoys me no end that there is a figure of Christ entering Jerusalem on a donkey–which happened on Palm Sunday, not Good Friday!–as well as countless other saints, and other scenes from the Passion, such as the Scourging at the Pillar.

I seem to recall an uncle asking the parish priest about all these additional figures, and he was told “Para masaya!” (So that it’s more fun!) I hope my uncle was joking.

Regardless of how long the procession gets, it’s an ordeal. You walk for several hours on rough roads, through several barangays, surrounded by the murmur of prayer and smoke from candles. We always start out praying, but after praying the rosary we end up walking in silence. An uncle might come over and pick our brains about how to repair or improve the karo, the lights, the generator.

For many, completing the procession is too taxing. Some family members, like those with young children or those physically incapable of walking the whole way, would walk for one barangay, and return to the house.

I haven’t been able to complete the procession since I was pregnant in 2016. I was glad this year that not only did my son agree to walk through one barangay with us, but he insisted on walking next to the karo the entire way.

For some, completing the procession is a form of penance. For others it’s a pledge. I remember Danny, a distant relative who had been devoted to serving the Señor for many years. His daughter had gotten sick, and he’d sworn to grow his hair and serve the Senor for seven years, praying his daughter would get well. And she did.

I have no such faith and devotion, but my brother, my husband and I used to complete the procession, I guess to watch over the Señor, and to make sure there was someone from the family around. We would let the other relatives know when we were nearing the church, so that they could join us at the end of the procession.

One of the reasons we would stick around until the end was what some of us have taken to calling “riot police duties.” The Señor is parked in front of the parish church, and people would ask for the flowers that decorated the karo.

One year we were worried that they would swarm the karo, and it would tip over. We took the length of rope that was used to pull the karo on the procession, and formed a perimeter around the Señor to keep the crowds at arm’s length. My brother reached for the flowers on top of the karo and give them out. Some people asked to simply wipe their towels on the glass of the karo.

From there, we would take the Señor to a cousin’s house, where the figure would be laid to rest, until the following Holy Week. Then we would take the karo back to the house, removing the foam that held the flowers, the cloth skirt that covered the wheels, the lights, before parking it in the garage.

After dinner, we say our goodbyes, and the next year we do it all again.

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