Penitence

In a matter of a few days, the Holy Week will begin. In these days of solemnity, the world will once more see sights such as not seen in other times of the year. But one of the most curious of these is the way in which some people seek the forgiveness of sins: self-punishment – men flogging themselves, some beating themselves with nun-chucks, some walking around with the cross, some crawling on their bare chest on the streets, and even some volunteering to act as Christ or one of the two other beside Him to be crucified; among others.

Although the practice is not one which is officially endorsed by the Catholic Church, many people keep at it. Some, if not all who do it, believe that it is the only way with which their sins can be forgiven. However, there are risks involved in this method of penitence – physical and spiritual alike.

Physically, it is a fact that these people are giving their lives to chance. Although there’s not been such profound records of fatalities during these events, the risks are evident – from the nails used in the crucifixion to the wounds themselves. The Department of Health itself has issued a warning against these acts. Nevertheless, it is evident, from the preparations being televised, that people choose to be stubborn and not heed the warnings of some people who know better.

However, the greater risk lies in their spiritual being. Why? If these people are doing these things sincerely and to repent their sins and not just for show, we can fairly well say that it is an effort to seek for forgiveness. And, we can fairly well say that they believe in God. Which means that they are missing one very important element: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, King James Version)

Another very sad aspect of this tradition is that it has somewhat started being commercial. The news has stated that this event is one of those that which attracts foreigners to visit the Philippines – most especially, the reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It’s a good thing, though, the the Department of Tourism has explicitly stated that they have not done anything to promote this event for tourism in the Philippines.

We all know that reenactments of various events in the Bible are some of the most well-kept traditions of Catholicism in the Philippines. And a reenactment of the crucifixion of Christ is one of the most visited. However, these things need not pose danger and we should always consider the implications and results of all the things we do. In the aspect of commercialism, one can only hope that it will be kept like so, even decline, and not reach a point when things like these, which are supposedly Holy Traditions, will not end up being nothing more than an amusement for people.

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The Fall of Traditions

Traditions are a significant part of what makes a culture. It is like one of the colorful threads that weave together to form the pattern that is a nation’s culture. And this culture is also a very significant component of a people’s identity. Sadly, some of these traditions are gradually declining in practice. And some of them are already but a part of history.

Religion is, more often than not, a strong identifier of a nation. In our small town, it used to be that the people cared more about religion and its traditions. I remember those nights, when I was small, when we would pray and sing hymns and praises in honor of a saint. After that, we’ll have a procession from one house to the next with the image with us. We’ll be doing that every night until the days are fulfilled.

Now, I no longer see that happening. Though, I can still hear the prayer leaders singing hymns and praises and praying the usual prayers. But the difference is clearer than a transparent sheet. This time around, they do it in the middle of the afternoon. A time which is hardly any good if you wanted more people to join in.

When I was small, us kids were encourage to go with them, to pray with them, to learn about the traditions of our place with them. Now, it’s just the old people, the prayer leaders, a few people.

Worse still, they’ve reached the point when they no longer send the image from one house to another. Instead, they let it stay in one house and the prayer leaders will just go their. My mother told me it was because they are already getting old and are old enough to reason that they tire easily. It’s not exactly some sound reasoning given that, usually, the houses in our place are hardly even five meters apart. But, yes, they are already old.

That’s just one of those that are gradually nearing non-existence. There also used to be theater in our place. A tale of kings. I’m rather certain I never understood what that story was all about because they used a deeper form of the local dialect and I was too small then to understand such. It used to play around the time of the local fiesta, about the end of May.

Now, I cannot see even a shadow of it. Even if it was a small town production, I know I can give them credit for the costumes and the effort they give to make the play successful. But theater has died in our town.

I have also heard of stories, read some, and watched some on TV and movies about a courtship practice called the harana. It’s when the guy visits a girl’s house with a song to sing to her. The guy throws some rocks into the girl’s window to get her attention and open up, then, he starts singing and playing his guitar while she watched him, and he tries to win her heart with a song.

No, I can never say for myself if those things ever happened because it was already dead when I was born. Or, they never really happened that way.

Perhaps, if I look deeper into the history of the Philippines, I’ll find more of these things – traditions that were once integral to the lives of Filipinos. And if I do, it’ll be sad as it can only mean the undoing of centuries worth of traditions, history, and culture.