We were supposed to leave Manila Wednesday night but due to my work load, my sister and I postponed going to Pampanga
that night. Instead, we went there on the morning of Thursday. We would be crashing on a friend's place which turned out to be not just a modest house. Anyway, upon arrival we went straight to the church of Sta Ana to help on the preparation of the altar of repose which would be unveiled after the last supper mass. It is quite a big deal for my friend because it is an annual tradition where all towns of Pampanga prepares such altar. It is crucial since everyone plays critic to each other, and I heard, people could be really harsh.
After the preparation, we went back to my friends place to rest.
We slept for a couple of hours then we started visiting different nearby churches. I am always amazed to see beautiful churches built during spanish time. Most churches built during this time are not the common european looking churches, churches built were more of a fortification and have strong side support that make them earthquake proof. Each town have a very good church to boast. A reflection how the natives fell into deep forced labor during the occupation, lives had been sacrificed just to built these massive and grandeur churches. After the psuedo-visita iglesia, we rested a bit, then went to the church to hear the mass. It was in Capampangan, so i barely understood a word, but I like singing with them, it sounds like tagalog (my mother tongue), pronounced as tagalog yet totally different since I can barely recognize a word.
After the mass, the priest invited our group to eat with the "disciples" re-enactment of Last Supper. The disciples are clad on different wardrobe. They are the shiny disciples because they wore satin robes. After the dinner, I went out alone, took some picture. And alas! one flagellant was kneeling in front of the church. His back with razor scratches, his whole back is covered with his own blood. His head is covered to make him anonymous. What a sight, such a painful sight. Is it being spiritual or barbaric act? No one can judge those who do penance by hurting themselves.
After the dinner, we were out for the traditional visita iglesia (church visit). It is the tradition that after the Last Supper Mass, one has to visit 7 different churches. This means that we will be seeing 7 different altar of repose.
I totally forgot the 7 churches that we visited, but 2 churches left a deep impression on me. First is the Church in Bacolor
. Bacolor is the town buried by lahar (volcanic debris) when Mt Pinatubo erupted. The whole town was asleep when the lahar came to them without warning. This town is now considered the Pompeii of the Philippines
. The church is the living witness of that tragedy. The current entrance door used to be the choir loft window, the windows are almost covered now. The church despite half-buried continues to serve as a symbol of this town spirit that despite what happened life should move on, reflecting one basic character of Filipinos, resiliency.
Another church is the one in Betis
. It interior of the church is so beautiful and rich. It look like a smaller version of the San Agustin in Manila. It is regarded as the Sistine Chapel of the Philippines
. I have not explored the whole chuch since all the statues are covered with white clothes as part of the Lenten tradition. I will come back maybe next month to take some photos.
After churches including the Cathedral, we reached home almost midnight, I was all out that I forgot to brush my teeth, to change to more comfortable clothes. I went directly into deep sleep. It was a good one.