Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"Holy Week" or "holy week!"?

Our house is located right at the border of our village. Beyond the border are squatters' homes and other low-income households. I remember when I was a kid, even 2 weeks before Holy Week we would hear the singsong sounds of the Pabasa over a couple of loudspeakers. It was sometimes irritating, because the mournful sounds would go on all through the night, but most of the time it was just a background reminder that another long weekend was coming. In the time before the Internet, it also served as a distraction from the monotony of waiting through the Holy Week.

Now, I don't hear the Pabasa at all. Instead, loud music comes from boom boxes in different households, or sometimes just the normal sounds of the metropolis. Perhaps the neighborhood has changed, or most likely the people in them have changed. It's a bit disconcerting that a predominantly Catholic country like ours would find one of its holiest days relegated to something as simple as an extended weekend.

I remember the admonitions that one shouldn't eat meat, shouldn't take a bath on Good Friday, and countless other restrictions that do not seem to be followed by the majority nowadays. Now, it's more common to head over to the beach or hang out at home than participate in religious activities.

Just this past Holy Week my wife and I went back to her hometown of Lucena and I was surprised that even in a provincial city, there were a couple of eateries and establishments that were open even on a Good Friday. There was a time that even in Manila, Holy Week would make the streets a ghost town and too bad for you if you didn't have enough groceries to last the distance.

Is this really the price for progress and modernity? Admittedly, I'm also a victim of the times and I'm certainly no devout parishoner. However, all the religious activities during Holy Week are part and parcel of our history and our identity as a people and I can't help but feel some small concern that we are losing a part of ourselves as we get more enamored of "modern" pleasures.

Perhaps it's the stress of living that we all feel for most part of the year. So that even a few days off would be golden before going back to the penitensya of ordinary life and work. I guess it really is ironic that everyday life would be considered a burden, so that the commemoration of Christ's crucifixion, death and most importantly, His resurrection becomes a footnote in our minds. But when I watched The Passion of the Christ, I could not help but wonder what is the value of our whole droll existence when compared to what Christ went through? And what would it say of us that such a sacrifice was paid back by a few days of frolicking in the beach, drinking beer and eating sisig like crazy?

I guess we would know if our transformation would be complete if Maundy Thursday and Good Friday would not be considered holidays anymore (just like in the U.S.). In any case, dark as it may seem, it's really something to think on for the rest of the year.

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