WebClick Tracer

SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Cross, culture and “contradictions”


MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 15 April) – Holy Week doesn’t only remind Christians, Roman Catholics in particular, to reflect on the meaning of the crucifixion, it also brings to the fore some elements of local culture that add color to the celebration. Vestiges of indigenous beliefs, rituals that look bizarre, and renewal of kinship and community bonds manifest alongside the faithful’s observance of piety and abstinence.

Neighbors in the provinces would cook and share among themselves native delicacies like tabirak, binignit, suman and biko. On Good Friday, households would light candles as the procession carrying the image of the crucified Christ and His grieving mother passes by, a gesture of oneness in faith.

It is during the Holy Week that churches and pilgrimage sites swell with worshipers, although that may no longer be the case with COVID-19 still around. More candles are lit, more flowers are offered before images of the crucified Messiah, and more prayers try to find their way to the doors of Heaven. Solemnity reigns in everyone’s heart.

Indeed, for many Filipinos, Christendom’s most important event brings solace from the promise of redemption, and revives practices that define our own conception of spirituality and human solidarity.

There is, however, the phenomenon of folk Catholicism that has found its way into the heart of the celebration. This is shown in the practice of penitensiya (penitence) where people, mostly menfolk, engage in apparent acts of masochism like self-flagellation and literally mimicking the crucifixion as their extreme way of atoning for sins.

Yet, who should say what practices are more spiritual than the rest? There’s no way to settle the issue; beliefs are shaped by the experiences of each individual, each group, each community.

Even among some Lumads the Holy Week serves as a venue to deepen their own sense of spirituality. For instance, every Good Friday members of the Bukidnon-Daraghuyan tribe of Malaybalay City would gather at the peak of Mt. Kitanglad for a ritual. Interestingly, in one such ritual that I joined a few years ago, their shaman, Bae Inatlawan, invoked not just their deities but also The Christ to ask for blessings. Wow, I told myself, a marriage of indigenous beliefs and Christianity.

As a Catholic (albeit just a nominal one), I felt shame. Here are Lumads who find no problem believing in Nature’s spirits and the Son of Man at the same time. In contrast, I often heard Church people declaring the total incompatibility between animist and Christian practices.

I’m still wondering why those Lumads seem to have discovered that Magbabaya and Yaweh are just two different names of one Supreme Creator – the entity called the Great Spirit by America’s First Nations and Allah by Muslims – while [most] Christians haven’t.

Yet, while Christians tend to look down on animism they don’t notice that they too are still practicing it like when they observe “palihi” (a form of ritual) before harvesting crops, building a structure, or opening a business. Many still observe making the sign of the cross on a birthday celebrant’s forehead using blood from a slaughtered chicken.

So, there, the Lumads embracing elements of Christianity in their rituals, and Christians injecting animist practices into their faith. Who can explain in full this marriage of “contradictions”?

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at hmcmordeno@gmail.com)

Your perspective matters! Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We welcome diverse viewpoints and encourage respectful discussions. Don't hesitate to share your ideas or engage with others.

Search MindaNews

Share this MindaNews story
Send us Feedback