Lent is a very big celebration for us Catholic Christians because this is the commemoration of the passion of Jesus, His death and resurrection. Throughout the Philippines, we may have different ways of celebrating or commemorating Lent, but the message is still the same, the unconditional love which saved us all.

Below are some images of how we celebrated Lent specifically Good Friday.

Penitensiya
Photo: Anica Lesca Alcopra
A penitent prostrates on the ground after flagellating himself 

"Penitensiya" as we call it, is one way that people atone for their sins. Here they use the same or almost the same kind of whip that was used to scourge Jesus, a whip with tiny blades that would cut through the skin with every whip.

When I was younger, I was afraid of looking at the penitents doing their procession to the church. After going about town whipping their backs, they would go straight to the church. It was also a tradition in my hometown that after their ritual, they would go straight to the beach which was just a few meters from the church and bathe. 

Senakulo 

Photo: www.mariobabiera.com
This is Senakulo. Participants are the towns people.
The Senakulo means passion play. This is one of my favorites because this is a part of my childhood that I would never forget.

Every Good Friday, about twenty years ago, my hometown would have a Senakulo and the actors and actresses would be the town people. It was such a different experience to see the rich and poor alike helping each other to put up a successful passion play where people from nearby towns would want to witness. 

My ancestral house in Tolosa, Leyte was very much a part of the Senakulo, since the play would start from that corner. Our house have a full-length antique mirror and so our house became the dressing room for the participants. The Senakulo would start with Jesus' entry to Jerusalem and the cast would start their first dialogue as soon as they step out of our house. And most of all, the person playing Jesus would always be inside our house because he would put on his make-up infront of the full-length mirror.

As a child, he became the 'prosopon' of Jesus for me. He was big and he had kind eyes. But I don't know why everytime he (as Jesus) was in the house, I was so afraid I would not even go near him. This was one of my earliest memories of my childhood.

This tradition in my hometown stopped when the person playing Jesus grew old and no one was worthy enough to take the role. No one wanted to take the role.

Siyete Palabras

Siyete Palabras or 7 Last Words is sometimes included in the Senakulo or the Via Crucis (The Way of the Cross). But in some places where there is no Senakulo, the Siyete Palabras is done inside the Church and the priests would give reflections on Christ's Seven Last Words.

Visita Iglesia

This is one of our tradition to visit more than one church. Some say that you need to visit at least 7 churches in your area and neighboring towns. Others can go as far as to the next province to visit churches.

There are also others who would do their Station of the Cross while doing the Visita Iglesia.

Crucifixion

There is a particular place in Pampanga where people really flocked to witness the re-enactment of the crucifixion. Devotees would have themselves crucified in exchange for some personal petitions that they are asking. In Cutud, Pampanga, several devotees have already participated in the crucifixion. 

Some foreign tourists have also tried to participate in the ritual. Maybe out of curiosity rather than faith. But since last year, tourists have been banned joining the rites because of inappropriate behavior they showed. Years ago, a Japanese tourist participated and started filming, it turned out to be something that he used with pornography. Then another Australian national, a television comedian, became controversial when he participated and filmed his crucifixion, only to air it in his comedy show in Australia. This has stirred a big controversy in both countries. 

A year ago, another tourist backed out on the day of the crucifixion. (A permit and waiver is needed for tourists wanting to participate in the rites.)

This year, a Dane was allowed to participate when he was able to show a waiver issued by the embassy. 



Photo: independent.ie
Ruben Enaje, a devotee, is on his 27th year of having himself crucified to reenact the passion
and crucifixion of Jesus. 

Photo: philstar.com
A Danish man joined in the crucifixion

The Catholic church does not encourage the crucifixion and the flagellation, but then devotees still follow their own rituals and traditions because of the belief that their petitions would come true.

How I Commemorated Good Friday

On the other side of the country, the Light of Jesus (my spiritual community) celebrate or commemorate Good Friday in a rather different way. In my community, we have started an annual Lenten recollection since 2010 and our Good Fridays are mostly a myriad of emotions. We have praise and worship, and life-changing talks given by wonderful speakers. 

Bro. Arun Gogna giving his powerful talk


Powerful worship!


Break time.

That's mah sistah! I was able to bring her to join the recollection.

Hosts Veia Lim and Benjie Lara

Seated so far from the stage because we came in late. Bro. J Yogawim giving his talk.


During the break

Me and my sister Anna

Me and my music ministry sisters

I am just so glad to be reunited with them

In the evening, we have what we call the Adoration of the Cross and the dead Jesus. This is similar to going to the wake of Jesus. We go to the church and fall in line to adore the cross and view the body of the dead Jesus. 

This is the Santo Entierro. Ater the time of death of Jesus,
a procession is done with the Santo Entierro going over the main roads of the town or city.
After it is brought back to the church, the people can now view, offer prayers to the Santo Entierro.

That's my Matthew trying his best to behave and be good. For a moment he was.
 He said he prayed for Jesus to protect me. Sweet!


My country is rich in culture. As the only Asian country with majority of Catholic/Christians, we have richer religious traditions. It doesn't matter how you commemorate Lent or Good Friday. The most important thing is you see the good in Good Friday. There is always a good in Good Friday. Good Friday is an indication that Easter is coming!

Keep the faith,








P.S.

On my way home, after the Maundy Thursday recollection, I could not help but overhearing a mother and son's conversation. This really made my day. It went like this:

Son about 12-13 yrs old: "Mom, what time will Jesus die?"( they were talking in the future tense)
Mom: " 3 pm."
Son: " This afternoon?"
Mom: " No, tomorrow."
Son: "Oh okay...(pause) Philippine Time or US time?" :)


In connection to my previous post about letting go, I think that one of the ways that we can let go is to forgive. I have written so much about forgiveness, because I believe, based on my personal experience, that unless we forgive, we lose too much.

But forgiving is easier said than done. It would take a great soul to forgive someone easily. And to instantly forgive is what only extraordinary people can do. We “normal human beings” would take an entire process to finally give our forgiveness to those who wronged us.

Photo: rodarters.wordpress.com

I am not a saint nor do I pretend to be one. I have my days. Even though I said that I have already forgiven them who wronged me, there are still times that I react to something they do or say.  It is easier to forgive someone who just broke your heart. It is easier to forgive someone who accused you of so many things. But is forgiving easy to someone who molested you or someone who nearly raped you?

Can we just choose whom we should only forgive? Does our forgiveness rely on the weight of how much we got hurt by an act? When do we start to forgive?

I have read so many stories about forgiveness, the latest was about one Iranian mother who forgave her son’s killer by stopping the public execution. She went over to the man, slapped him and released the noose that was already on his neck. Such a wonderful act of forgiveness! 

Photo: verybestquotes..com


During the recollection that I attended, the second day was all about reconciliation or forgiveness.  I was able to reflect on how much I was fearing because I wasn’t forgiving. I realized that I was already choking. Blessings and love wasn’t flowing through me because I was being choked by my past hurts, negative emotions , rejections and failures.

Oftentimes, I mask all these emotions with work. I drown myself with work, in the hopes of not being able to feel, to be numb.

Forgiveness is a process. Since we are but human, I believe that we need to go through a processing of emotions before we could fully forgive. On the other hand, there is also a system of forgiveness. Here ‘s what I learned about the system of forgiveness (in the words of Bro. Mike Vinas):

-          -Forgiveness is as essential as breathing.  As fast as they offend you, you have to let it go. ( I guess this is where I fail at.)
-         - Anger must have an expiration date. In Ephesians 4:26 it says something like do not let the sun go down on your anger. On the lighter side, you have until 5:59 to get angry at someone. Too bad if the sun go down earlier than that. J
-          -Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.
-         - Forgiveness is for your freedom and future.

“In every relationship, we would always be constantly called on to ask for forgiveness and to forgive.”- Bro. Arun Gogna

We cannot really escape having to forgive someone.  By living, it means having relationships of all sorts. And when we enter into a relationship with someone, we give that person the ability to hurt us. 

Photo: meetville.com


"The moment we love, we give the person the power to hurt us." - Fr. Dave Concepcion

I still am a work in progress. I still have a long way to go. But I cannot say that I will stop loving because I can’t forgive. In fact, my love tank’s starting to fill now. And with this, I am hopeful to be able to forgive.

Something to  ponder on:

Who am I to be so unforgiving, when I myself am a sinner?

Keep the faith,



Lent is over. So I am back to blogging. But what I would like to blog about are my experiences in attending the life-changing Let Go Recollection which I religiously attended for three days.

 If everything else in our life is not going in the direction that we are supposed to take, then the best way to do is to go back to the root of our humanity, our spirituality. And Lent was the season to do just that. I have been in such a depressive mood in the last few weeks and everything in my life seems to go wrong and not the way I envisioned it to be. I am glad that I had this opportunity to reflect on everything that’s happening in my life now.


Let Go was the theme for the recollection done by my spiritual community, the Feast Alabang of the Light of Jesus, a Catholic Charismatic community founded by Bro. Bo Sanchez. Two years ago, I had the honor of serving in the music ministry and that turned out to be one of the happiest moments in my life. Last year, I was in Tacloban City and there is no LOJ (Light of Jesus) community there so I celebrated it the traditional way.

“Where am I right now? “, I asked myself this for the nth time during the 3 day recollection. The past three days have been so emotional for me, as you can probably imagine how a recollection is done. But more than that, I know that at some point, I know that I am changed.

And this is the biggest revelation I had during this recollection, I was able to learn about how and why we need to let go of certain things in our life. This to me was a revelation, because I have a habit of holding on to things and even persons.

Photo:rainsvoice.blogspot.com

I  learned and I acknowledge and I know many would agree, that no matter how certain you are of not feeling any more for a past relationship, knowing that the person has moved on, and may have found someone, this thought would still sting. Not too much, but just a bit. Oh okay, more than just a bit. And I thought, if I was the one who ended our relationship, why would it still bother me?

It bothers me because for the period that we were together, I never looked at any other men, and I have been faithful to our relationship. I may have kept some things to myself for the sake of avoiding arguments, but I have never once thought of any other men. It still hurts to know how fast he was able to move on. More importantly, it affected me, because it opened up new feelings of fear in me.

Photo: birgitjurock.com


I fear of being alone, fear of being left by my children and choosing their dad over me, fear of growing old without a man who loves me by my side, and fear that my kids will no longer need me.

I fear that my children would choose the new woman in their dad’s life over me. I fear that they may like her and would want to spend more time with their dad and her more than they would want to spend time with me. I fear that I will grow old alone, without someone to love me and take care of me.

And with all these fears, I realized that I am afraid of letting go of the things or people I love. There are just some things that I cannot sacrifice over something that is essential, even though I may have been able to let go of the possessions that I had during Haiyan when I was forced to evacuate my family and leave everything behind. But that was a very different situation.

But I learned that at some point, we need to let go. We need to let go of the things that are keeping us from receiving the greater blessings that is in store for us, be it an attitude or an emotion like fear, an addiction, a lifestyle, or a person that is bringing in all the toxicity into our lives. In my case, I know that I need to let go of these fears and learn to trust more, in God and in man. For the past three days, these fears were all I have been contemplating on. I know deep inside that this is what I am asked to do.

Photo: therapyinashville.com

We fear because we can only see a part of the big picture. And I am afraid to do it because it doesn’t make any sense. Does it make sense for me to allow my children to go to their dad when I had invested a lot in getting them back 2 years ago? ( I had to go through a court process to be able to gain custody of my children). But really, most of the time, God doesn’t make sense. He just doesn’t make sense when He wants us to do something.

As in the words of our preachers, “Letting go means emptying ourselves. Man’s greatest fear is nothingness, to be nothing and to have nothing. And it is in our nature to fill ourselves, not to empty ourselves.”

And that is why letting go is not an easy thing to do. It is something that requires a lot of willpower. And a lot of faith. 


“The usefulness of the cup is its emptiness” – Bruce Lee.

God always gives us what we need, maybe not in the time when we want it, but during the times that He knows we need it. But He cannot fully give us the things we need, when we are filled with the things that we want. And that is the why we need to empty out ourselves with the old, to let the new, greater blessings to come.

When we cannot empty ourselves, we are not open to receiving more blessings.


Reflection:

In the story of Abraham, he was called upon by God to sacrifice his precious, most beloved son, Isaac. But because he was a man of faith, he did exactly what he was asked to do. And that was when he passed this big test of faith. Can we be like Abraham? Can we give up or let go of our Isaac?

What is your Isaac?

God has defied nature in giving us what we need. Can you defy nature to follow Him?  Are you ready to step out of your comfort zone and give up “stuff” to follow His will?

Remember:
In this world, there is only God and the rest is “stuff.”- Arun Gogna

"If you cannot relinquish it, you are possessed by it." -Fr. Dave Concepcion


Think about it.



Keep the faith,







Read my next post To Forgive Is To Be Free.
One of my frustrations is being a fashionista, that is, in the sense of always trying to go with what’s “in” in the fashion industry.  I have tried to be one, at some point, but I really thought and felt deep down, that it really wasn’t me. I just didn’t have the confidence. I envy fashion bloggers such as An Apple a Day and Tastes Like Coke, two fashion blogs that I have been following. I am always amazed at how they come up with beautiful things to wear, especially the dresses, compared with the usual jeans and shirt that is a staple for me.

When my boss told me that I would be doing something that might interest me because it has something to do with a website related to fashion and luxury or designer items, I honestly told him that I would be interested to do it, because it would mean doing something out of my comfort zone, and not because it has to do with fashion in the real sense of the word.

I am a shirt and jeans kind of girl, and you can count by the numbers on your finger the number of times I did wore a dress, and it was only during these times:

  • 1.       My First Holy Communion (I need to wear a white dress as per the school/church’s instructions-my mom bought for me)
    Top: I am in second  row, second from the left; Below: I am covering my nose with a hanky. Oh yeah, very feminine, I got a hanky. :)

  • 2.       When I was the Maid of Honor in one of my aunt’s wedding (I got to wear a gown- borrowed from someone)
  • 3.       During my high school piano recital (I wore a fuschia dress- my mom had someone make the dress for me)
  • 4.       During my JS Prom in High School ( yes, it was also done by a seamstress we knew)
  • 5.       When I won Summer Youth Queen ’92 in my hometown ( I got to wear a cocktail dress- borrowed)
  • 6.       Being a contestant of Ms. Intrams ’92 in my alma mater (I got to wear at least 3, don’t ask me how it went. It was a disaster!- dresses all borrowed)
  • 7.       Wedding of a high school classmate in 2009 (the dress I asked an aunt to buy for me which I kept until Haiyan drowned it.)
  • Can you guess which one is me? I can barely recognize myself. 
  • 8.       A cousin’s graduation day (this was last week- the dress was given to me by my other boss/friend)


I just realized that I have never really made a purchase for a dress myself. The dresses I wore were either bought for me or done for me. I have not really spent on a dress! And to think I call myself a woman!

I can vividly recall the times I wore a dress because those are very important moments in my life. I want to start wearing a dress, as casually as I would wear my pants. But this would require a complete reprogramming in my brain’s neurons. And this is going to be quite a challenge.

With this, I have decided to embark on another challenge or journey, and that is embracing my femininity or my womanliness. It just never occurred to me before, although I am not in doubt about my womanliness or femininity ( I have four kids, and they all came from my womb), to actually celebrate my womanliness by embracing it rather than suppressing it. As a single parent, I felt like that I need to be tough to be able to hold the family, and wear the pants, literally and figuratively speaking.

So maybe you’re asking now, why the sudden change of heart?

Because I feel that I am not getting any younger. Sooner or later, I would reach at that point where wearing a pair of pants won’t look as good as it is now that I am younger. One day, my chest will flatten even more (lol!), my butt will sag, pants won’t look good anymore and only dresses would be what’s left for me to wear. So, why not familiarize myself with wearing them now?

Seriously, as I mature, I felt the need to embrace my womanliness more. I can’t explain how I feel but it’s like there is something that’s driving me to. Hormones maybe. So, I have decided to do more of the things in a feminine way, rather than imposing my masculine way of doing things.  I am challenging myself to embracing  and becoming more feminine in a matter of days. Here is the list of things that I plan to do. Some are things that I would do the first time:

  • 1.       Buy and wear dresses more.
  • 2.       Wear lipstick all the time when outside the house. I put on a lipstick when I go out, but I am just so lazy to retouch. ( I’ve got a lot of lipstick, because I used to sell them, but never really used much.)
  • 3.       Have a vanity kit handy at all times.
  • 4.       Wear sexy shoes. ( I may have to say goodbye to my favorite black flats.)
  • 5.       Talk slower and project my voice sexier rather than a high-pitchy voice which always works like magic with my kids when they’re starting to get anxious, but not with men.
  • 6.       Be a bitch when the situation calls for it. (going to be my favorite, but is this being womanly?)

Wearing a dress on my cousin’s graduation day was a form of an expression of freedom. It was important to me because I felt that I have started to break free from my own prison in my mind. I felt so free because I now have no one to tell me what to wear and what I should not wear. Would you believe the driver didn’t recognize me when he came to pick me up? Because he was so used to seeing me in jeans, he really didn’t know what to expect even though he was told I would be wearing a dress so he can easily spot me in a sea of people.

My latest attempt to wear a dress. Because I did not anticipate that the place (Orchard Golf and Country Club) would be so windy, I ended up holding the hem most of the time, afraid that the wind will blow the thin fabric to my face and expose myself.
I remember the two guys I had a long relationship with would almost always dictate what I wear. The first one wanted me to wear tank tops and mini skirt or shorts ( partly maybe because that’s what his ex-gf and now live-in partner likes to wear), and the other one would go ballistic if he caught me wearing something like that.

And of course, I have my own set of critics, my two brothers and my mom, who told me I look like a “matrona” when they saw me in a dress last Sunday.

But now, only myself can stop me from going on through this challenge. I may be able to go through with this or not, at the very least, I tried and I don’t care what people may say.

I may change how I dress, act and talk, but it will never change my character. I would only be more feminine on the outside, maybe combing my hair more, but deep inside, I am still the same old me.



Be happy and keep the faith,

Mei


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