WHEN WE WERE growing up in Dupax, we would know the Lenten season was near when one morning our old folks would come home from church with black cross-like marks on their foreheads.
Curious, we would hear someone would say that day was Miercules de Ceniza and Roman Catholics were supposed to go to church to manpa-uling (Isinay word that literally means: "get charcoaled").
Of course, the practice was puzzling to us pre-communion kids then. We could not quite comprehend what getting an ugly soot on one's forehead was all about and, in fact, although said in jest, we quite agreed with a witty uncle's remarks that went something like: Why take the trouble to have the priest blacken your head when there was so much charcoal in the dalikan (Ilocano for fuelwood-fired stove) or the bottom part of the kaldero (rice kettle)?
In much the same manner that even when we were already undergoing summer cathechism classes we could not still get the connect between Ash Wednesdays and our being good children of God, the words Semana Santa, Domingo de Ramos, Jueves Santo, Viernes Santo, Sabado de Gloria, and Sabet that we would hear uttered a few weeks after were also Greek to us.
It developed, however, that through an osmosis of sort we would soon imbibe the observance of Lent in our system. Before we knew it, we would also got into this habit of looking at the calendar to find out which dates, nay, which particular week, would it be when the Thursday and the Friday were colored red.
You see, the red Thursday and Friday would mean a different season for us kids just starting to enjoy our school vacation. It meant a lot of prohibitions and a lot of expected modes of behavior -- all revolving around the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ was nailed on the Cross and died for our sins.
|Image of the Dead Christ inside a glass coffin at the St. Vincent Catholic Church of Dupax. Equipped with wheels, this coffin is a major part of the Good Friday procession along the major roads of the town. [Dec 29, 2010 photo by charlz castro]|
Very quickly now, among the beliefs and customs related to the observance of Holy Week in Dupax Isinay country are the following:
The Palaspas as Household Amulet
It may be slightly different in other Philippine regions, but in Dupax the palaspas (palm fronds) used on Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) was mainly kept as a guard of sorts the way the blood of sheep was painted on walls of the friends and relatives of Moses to prevent the plague from killing their first-born sons. In our case, however, we kept the palm fronds on the space between the main door and the ceiling. The belief is that the blessed palm leaves have the powers to prevent evil spirits, including lightning, from entering the house.
Maundy Thursday as Good Day for Making Coconut Oil
Coconut oil was preferably made during Holy Week, usually Jueves Santo or Viernes Santo, as its efficacy as multi-purpose ointment would be stronger and its shelf-life as a lotion is believed to be longer. Called laro in Isinay (lana in Ilocano, langis ng niyog in Tagalog), coconut oil was multi-purpose. Women used it as hair oil and men as pomade. The appearance-conscious used it as skin lotion for dry arms and legs (called manggavu^ in Isinay, agkursing in Ilocano). Some used it to smoothen hair preparatory to removal of lice. Local bone doctors (manguy-uy in Isinay, mammullo or mangngilot in Ilocano) preferred it for use in curing dislocated joints or nerves (such as cases of naligus, nalita, nasingkol) or even fractured bones. I also found it effective to lessen the itch caused by contact with hairy caterpillar, and as ointment for minor scratches. My grandmother used it to massage the tummy of pregnant women in the barrio when she went to check the condition of the baby inside and she also used it when the women have given birth and she went to advise them what to do next. When I was little, I accidentally touched my eyes after meddling with siling-labuyo being dried in the sun, and to ease the searing heat my grandmother applied coconut oil on my eyes.
Good Friday as Good Day for Making Martin Birds Talk
Glorious Saturday as Good Day for Undergoing Circumcision
Easter Sunday Ringing of Bells as Time to Jump for Good Luck
(to be continued)