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marcial tayag caniones
marcial tayag caniones God lent us His Son so we can be saved


Have you ever wondered why come Holy Week we see forced sad and grim faces on almost everyone? Except for the hot dry humid air that causes our brows to frown, the strewn mystical eerie tunes from the voice of the most senior woman in our villages, as she reads verses from the Bible, causes us psychic irritation and creates an ambiance of confused repentance rather than of an uplifting redemption.

Have you also ever wondered that statistics show and as has often been observed that come Holy Week most accidents happen? Old folks have constantly reminded us of taboos during the holy season—no climbing on trees or high places, no long travels, no naughty deeds, no giggling, and, in old far-flung barrios, no bathing even or swimming on lakes, ponds or rivers.

Pragmatists say that accidents happen during this season because of the increased and simultaneous travel of people from cities rushing to the provinces to enjoy the long non-working holiday vacation and to have a breath of fresh countryside, beachside, lakeside, cooler mountainside air. They say that accidents happen because of speeding vehicles trying to race each other to get first to whereever their destinations are, though not necessarily somewhere spiritually connected.

The conservative religious may relate it to the crucified Christ—that the season should be a remembrance of the suffering Jesus nailed on the cross, and that all our actions should be pious and reserved because doing otherwise may cause us our own harm or suffering as it were a punishment from the Lord Himself. They even say, "How come you have the heart to take a vacation or be in a joyful mood while Jesus is suffering on the cross?" "Balamu ikayu e Judas" ("You're like Judas"), one of my very conservative grandmothers would tell us. I was wrong to make a comment, "E pu wari kanta ya pa mete e Jesus" ("Isn't it that Jesus died long ago"). I was made to kneel and pray "Our Father" for the nth time in front of her well polished chalk crucifix still wrapped in plastic.

For me, Lent viewed from an ultraconservative's superstitious and baseless approach can generate strong depressing vibes and manifest unfounded fear in the minds of the religious that may even leap across the minds of pragmatists. Superstition creates a subtle collective wave of psychic negativity on the Christian world that may transform into physical form such as numerous accidents or even deaths.

If I may ask, should we focus on the death and suffering of Jesus Christ rather than on His Divine Resurrection and His Good, Positive News?

Antics Thesis

As my family and I were praying the three o'clock afternoon rosary led by perspiring and kneeling aunts and grandmother, in the middle of the repetitious murmuring of holy words of the shut-eyed praying faithful, I excused myself and pretended to go to the bathroom. I sneaked out the living room door, passing stealthily over the extended feet of my grandfather, who usually sat at the far end from everyone while joining in the prayers. As soon as I was out of the gate, I ran hurriedly to the house nextdoor, my playmate's, Ronald, who was three years older than me.

Reaching their place, I found him assembling something. He was carefully punching tiny holes using a small nail on about ten used popsicle sticks he gathered from trash bins days ago. He individually inserted thin sewing strings through the hole of each stick, knotted and tied them tightly, leaving free strands of string about two inches long. He then circularly bonded the ends using a thin electrical copper wire he salvaged from an old speaker to an inch thick and a foot long abaca rope.

"This is my palaspas (penance whip)," Ronald said. "I can make you one, too. I still have plenty of sticks, if you want." I said yes, and he told me to call the other neighbor kids and said that he would also make one for each. So I started the rounds calling them. Luckily, their families were not as religious and strict as mine, so it was so easier for them getting out of their houses. We helped collect scattered sticks and handed these over to Ronald to start making ours, and soon enough all seven of us had one.

Ronald told us that we will do a magdarame (flagellation). Some of us got excited and started giggling, while the younger ones among us were so seriously curious as if it were the real "penance act." He instructed us to bare our top and use our shirts to cover our faces. As we removed our shirts and helped each other cover our faces and heads ninja style, he picked up some coconut leaves from a fallen truck and fashioned loops out of them, crude crowns he then tightly placed on top our heads. He made us line up, single file, and went in front, telling us to follow what he does. He began hitting his back with his whip in a dance-like motion, his shoulders swinging left and right. Although his face was covered, he appeared unusually serious, as if he were indeed an adult magdarame (flagellant).

After some practice whipping on ourselves, we all went following his lead, hitting our backs in unison with our palaspas. We proceeded in a slow march through the entire neighborhood, pausing every ten steps while furiously whipping our already reddish bare arched backs in synchronized rhythm. We attracted quite a large audience from the neighborhood, probably stirred by the loud heckling of other children already out playing on the streets. Some were even clapping, impressed by our coordinated procession. Some children were laughing, a number of them scared by our spectacle. A few teenagers came near us and mildly slapped our napes (sagap ), saying, "Aydayung bugok!" as they laughed, too. Other children followed us and picked red bougainvillea flowers, mashed them with their hands until a red paste was extracted, which they then smeared on our backs to look like we were bleeding.

At home later that night, I got a real whipping—Menga saplid ku rugu (I was pitifully whacked) on the butt and thighs by my grandfather using his leather slippers (tsinelas ). I thought I would be nailed on the cross, too. "Loko, keng kabolanagan mu, pota a paku daka keng kurus," ("Fool, because of your stupidity I might as well nail you on the cross,") I caught my grandfather saying with a serious cynical grin.

For me, the real message and celebration of Lent is not the Cruci-fiction, but the Resurrection. From simply just being Human to being eternally Divine.


As we think we suffer, so we do
As we think we have sinned, so we did
As we think we are redeemed, so we are
As we think we are saved, so we shall be

[About the author. Marcial Tayag Caniones, a Political Science graduate is assistant manager at the Community Extension Services Office of Clark Development Corporation. He was born on the 10th of July in 1965, became vegetarian when he was 24 years old, started serious reading when he was 32, and began writing at 39. He admits to being ugly but claims to ooze with sex appeal.]

-Posted: 11:13 AM 3/31/10 | More of this author on eK!