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Naga: A Visita Iglesia Capital

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Lenten Season. The ash marked as a cross on the forehead of the penitent is a humble reminder that from dust and unto dust we shall return. It is a forty-day-event observed with confessions, fasting, abstinence, and, sacrifices.

On Palm Sunday, worshipers bring festive palm fronds to church for blessing by the priest before or after the day’s Mass. The fronds are often brought home and placed on altars, doors, lintels or windows, believing these can ward off evil and protect against fires and lightning.

On Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday, the major procession of the Journey to Calvary takes to the streets. The main figure is the Fallen Christ accompanied by the images of the saints present during Christ’s walk to Calvary. There is St. Peter holding the heavenly keys, the beloved St. John, the Three Marys, St. Veronica with her white veil implanted with Christ’s image, Mary Magdalene bearing small bottles of oil and perfume, and the Virgin of Sorrows.

On Holy Wednesday long processions continue depicting the Passion of Christ in towns throughout the provinces.

Maundy Thursday is the beginning of the Paschal Triduum. In the Chrism mass, the Chrism, oil of catechumens and the oil for the sick are consecrated after the homily by the bishop.

The main event is the last Mass before Easter, the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. It may include a re-enactment of the Washing of the Feet of the Twelve Apostles. The Blessed Sacrament is brought to the church’s Altar of Repose. Churches remain open until midnight for veneration of the Blessed Sacrament, while others receive the Sacrament of Confession.

One of the most important Holy Week traditions in the Philippines is the Visita Iglesia. A person has to visit Seven Churches. The City of Naga has myriad chapels and churches that are close in proximity making it conducive for this tradition.

Good Friday is observed with prayers meditating on Jesus’ Seven Last Words (“Siete Palabras”)

The pabasa, or continuous chanting of the Pasyón (the Filipino epic narrative of Christ’s life, Passion, Death, and Resurrection), ends on this day before 3:00 PM.

As children, I remember our late mother would tell us that we are not allowed to play outside anymore. We were encouraged to read the Bible. It was inspiring, we had a children’s version complete with illustrations. And, we were not allowed to take showers anymore. Especially, when it is 3:00 p.m. the hour Our Lord Jesus died.

The Tagalog idiom “Mukhâ kang Biyernes Santo” (“You’ve a face like Good Friday.”) was coined meaning-- a sad person’s demeanor resembling that of the suffering Christ.

Black Saturday or Holy Saturday (Sábado de Gloria) is legally and colloquially termed in English as “Black” that signifies mourning. The term Sábado de Gloria refers to the return of the Gloria in Excelsis Deo during the Easter Vigil held on this day. The hymn is absent throughout Lent except on solemnities and Maundy Thursday.

Easter Sunday is marked with joyous celebrations, the first being the pre-dawn rite called Salubong in Filipino and Sugat in Cebuano and Hiligaynon (both calques of the rite’s Spanish name Encuentro, “meeting”). The rite is done in the early hours of Easter before the first Mass. In some parishes, the rite is held earlier at midnight after the Easter Vigil with the same format.

The ritual is a depiction of the apocryphal reunion of Christ and his Mother. They come from different locations and meet in Galilea (“Galilee”), which is often an open space with a special-tower-like-structure near the church. Traditionally, there are two sex-segregated procession, with male worshipers following the Risen Christ, twelve men dressed as the Apostles, and icons of male saints, while female congregants accompany icons of the Virgin Mary and female saints.

The icon of the Virgin Mary, still the Mater Dolorosa, is draped in a black veil to show her grief. An “angel” (often a small girl in costume) stands at or is suspended in mid-air from the Galilea. At this high vantage point, the angel chants the Regina Coeli in Latin or in the vernacular, with other schoolchildren forming angelic choirs.

The pinnacle is when the main angel unveils the Virgin’s icon, revealing the Nuestra Señora de Alegria (“Our Lady of Joy”); in celebratory veneration, the angels throw flower petals and confetti at the icons of the Christ and the Virgin. The special moment is celebrated by toiling of the bells, musical bands playing, and, fireworks. The flock reunites then gathers inside the church for the first Mass of Easter. (Source: Wikipedia, “Holy Week in the Philippines.”)

Happy Easter! Blessings.

Chuches in Naga City: 1-St. John the Evangelist Parish, Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, Elias Angeles Street; 2-Basilica of Our Lady of Peñafrancia; 3-Carmelite Church, Concepcion Grande; 4-Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Parish, Concepcion Pequeña; 5-Our Lady of Peñafrancia Shrine, Peñafrancia Ave.; 6-San Francisco De Assisi Parish, San Francisco; 7-San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila Parish, Abella St.; 8-St. Jude Thaddeus Parish, St. Jude Village, Conception Grande; 9-Holy Cross Parish, Tabuco; 10-Mater Salutis Parish, Cararayan; 11-Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Carolina.

Outskirts of Naga City: 1-St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Camaligan; 2-Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish, Quipayo, Calabanga; 3-Our Lady of La Porteria Parish, Calabanga; 4-Saint Anne Parish, Magarao; 5Our Lady of the Assumption Parish, Canaman; 5-St. Raphael the Archangel Parish, Pili; 6-St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Himaao, Pili; 7-Christ the King Parish, Palestina, Pili; 8-St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish, San Jose, Pili; 9-St. Rose of Lima Parish, Anayan, Pili; 10-Divine Mercy Parish, Paolbo, Calabanga; 11-Finding of the Holy Cross Parish, Manguirin, Calabanga; 12-Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Haring Canaman.


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