Holy Week from history’s pages (2)

By: Zeidrick-J Cudilla

Our reliance to the evocative power of first-person primary sources such as diaries and memoirs magically puts color to the rather monochromatic reimagining of history. The column seeks to offer a glimpse of Catholic life from the bygone years of human existence by taking into consideration the numerous accounts left to us by observers who were too meticulous in terms of detail. What becomes of it for posterity is a fascinating read.

Holy Thursday annually witnesses two liturgies: the Chrism Mass and the Solemnity of the Lord’s Supper. On the former, we have a very brief description of the work from the report of Most Rev.Mariano Cuartero, Jaro’s first bishop installed in 1868. “Each year on Holy Thursday,” Cuartero wrote, “I [consecrate] the holy oils with the assistance of twelve priests, as prescribed in the Roman missal.” A prominent feature of the latter rite is the ceremonial washing of the feet of the persons assigned to act as Christ’s disciples. Most Rev. Maurice Foley, writing in 1918 of his reminiscence of the Holy Week rites in Jaro, narrated: “This ceremony takes place in the Cathedral at three o’clock in the afternoon. The twelve poor old men, called by the natives the ‘Apostles’, are present, dressed in cassocks of every color of the rainbow… The assistant priest pours out the water, and it is my duty to wipe and kiss the feet of the twelve. I haven’t learned yet to do it gracefully… I must say I feel extremely awkward.”

John Marvin Dean, an American missionary who came to Iloilo in March 1900, collated his daily journal notes from his trips to some pueblos of Iloilo. His account of the Maundy Thursday procession in the town of Miagao is much animating:“This evening… I reviewed a typical religious procession…The affair started out with the little boys of the town, carrying tapers and marching in single file at either side of the street… The procession was continued by the little girls, each in a fancy dress with a train and high-heeled slippers and consequent vanity very apparent… [T]he padre saw fit to punctuate the line by a candle-decked float—an image of the Saviour carried upon the shoulders of a number of faithful adults… More floats appeared, ‘Christ in the Soldier’s Cloak’, and ‘Christ Bearing His Cross’”. According to Dean, the procession featured the women wearing “black silk shirts, piña waists and cream mantillas”. Following the elder devotees was the float carrying the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, accompanied by the native dandies, the parish priest, and the policemen.

A quaint scene for Good Friday in the nearby town of Guimbal was also described by Dean: “A large Good Friday procession of natives [filled] the evening. Much the same as that of last night at Miagao. Being the day of the Saviour’s death, however, black predominated. The native band appeared in white suits trimmed with crêpe, the ladies’ veils were confined to the sombre color, and even the lamps on the floats were tied with black ribbon… [B]ands of children are still carrying torches about the plaza from one extemporized shrine to another.”

Enid Rolanda Dauncey, wife of a businessman working in Iloilo in the 1900s, recounted Good Friday of 1905 in Jaro: “The whole parade was a real funeral procession, and the last thing of all, preceded by acolytes in black, swinging censers with large crape bows on them, and followed by priests in black vestments saying (not chanting) prayers, was a huge black and gold catafalque—the coffin made with glass panels—through which could be seen a wax figure of the dead Christ… with a last touch of realism in His head.”While watching the ecclesiastical spectacle, she and her companion noticed that the cathedral doors were closed. They would find out later on that the procession that had passed before their eyes was that of the Aglipayans, who were in conflict with the Catholics. Delving deeper however on the dispute between these religious groups would require another column space. (To be concluded)

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