BE PILGRIMS, NOT TOURISTS!
Screamed the big bold letters of a tarp by the main door of the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Fernando with its reminders of protocols to be followed for the traditional Visita Iglesia.
Do give utmost reverence to the Blessed Sacrament.
Do maintain an atmosphere of silence and prayer.
Do observe proper attire during your visit.
Do respect the community that welcomes you.
Do not litter inside the cathedral premises.
Flash photography is prohibited.
So, run the do’s and don’ts.
At the rate the Visita Iglesia – and for the most part all Holy Week religious rites – turned into secular spectacles, demeaned to touristy enterprises through the years, every church should not only be posted with those protocols but warranted that they be followed to the letter. So, rise out of the depths anew our lamentations of…
Maundy Thursday. The traditionally pious pilgrimage in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament losing all its essence of contemplation and sacrifice to simple joy ride or pasyal to seven or 14 churches, invariably culminating in a midnight satiation at Jollibee or McDonald’s.
The meditative prayer on the Stations of the Cross, then variably all 14 in each of the churches or one per church – Jesus is Condemned to Death in the first, down to Jesus is Laid in the Tomb in the last – now consumed in the way of all flesh. Finis. Kaput. Vanished.
The Blessed Sacrament in the Altar of Repose, known to cerrado Catolicos as the monumento transformed, aye, devolved, from the Holy Body for adoration into an object of curious, if shallow, consideration. With the surrounding decorations getting most of the attention.
Who can still meditate, aye, commune with the mystical body of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, amid all those noisy comings and speedy goings, accompanied by the flashes, whirrs and clicks of cameras, by the range of decibels from ringing tones?
By the posings for selfies or groupies – wacky, always included – of just about every “visitor” before the santissimo sacramento? Not a few of them in beachy, if not bitchy – apparel of sandals, denim shorts cut up-to-there, hanging blouses, tank tops and spaghetti straps. OMG! By the Body of Christ, what a body! What blasphemy!
By friends and acquaintances meeting by the altar itself neither to worship nor pray but to compare some scorecards of sorts: “So how many churches have you visited this far? Mekarakal na kayo?”
By some fag…er, gays commenting for all to hear how one monumento looked so “chaka” with its “pa-environmental ek-ek,” of some other altar looking like the set of a horror movie. The devil there not so much in the details as in those faggots. So damn me for my political incorrectness.
And what is Good Friday but one bloody spectacle! Aye, the event be more aptly termed Gory Friday.
For years now, the quiet, serene, reflective early morning walk I take at the village square of Villa Victoria is shattered by the cacophony of noises from usiseros and the fan base of scores of flagellants going about their rituals of numbing their backs with whips tipped with thin bamboo strips – to the rhythmic plak-plak cadence – then their scratching with brushes having broken glass for bristles – all this with not a few heavily puffing on cigarettes. In some Good Fridays past, I even noticed a number getting spirituous, rather than spiritual, fortitude not from the archangel Saint Michael, but from the ginebra San Miguel. Some comic irony obtained there, if not ridiculous stupidity.
And the grandest spectacle of all – the Cutud crucifixions. Now finding stiff , albeit, less bloody, competitions in barangays San Juan, Sta, Lucia and Juliana in the City of San Fernando and in Pampang, Angeles City.
Self-mortification, panata for some supposedly divine favors either asked for or already received. So, it is said of the cause of both flagellant and the crucified. Fearful that I be judged, so I shall not.
Yet, adhering to the Church teaching that the human body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, I cannot but look at these nailings upon cobbled crosses in some makeshift Golgothas as a desecration of that temple into a boudoir of De Sade and a chamber of Von Sacher-Masoch.
No pilgrims’ progress – deep apologies to John Bunyan – there. All regress – To This World From That Which Has Come per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso, est tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti, in unitate Spiritus Sancti…through Him, and with Him, and in Him is unto thee God the Father Almighty, in the unity with the Holy Spirit…
Father, forgive us