Monday, April 11, 2011

Barefooted devotion of the Lucban (Quezon) menfolk to their Santo Señor Sepulcro

Close-up of the Santo Señor Sepulcro.

We arrived in Lucban, Quezon before noon of Maundy Thursday last year, and like any backpacker, we sought a convenient landmark to describe our location so that our hosts can give us proper directions to their house in the outskirts of the town.  We were already aching to dip our tired body in the cool spring waters of their pool atop a hill, and their place, they said, would be a 10-minute walk from the roadside on paths winding through rice fields with Mount Banahaw looming clearly from a distance.

Section of the facade of St Louis of Toulouse church of Lucban.

Fresh from our sojourn in Paete, Laguna the previous two days, our focus was to look for the Roman Catholic church as this should also be, like any other old Philippine town, in the central plaza.  The antique stone structure of the St Louis of Toulouse church was indeed a block away from where the jeepney we rode from Pagsangjan dropped us, and where we got distracted by a sudden pang for a quick lunch of Lucban's unique pancit habhab.

The marker said that "[t]he present church was completed in 1738 and the convent in 1743.” The first church was built in 1595, and the second between 1630 and 1640. Our host Jonson would later tell us that Lucban was heavily bombed during the Pacific war.  The church survived but the altar was completely ruined, and it was almost a miracle, he stressed, that the Santo Señor Sepulcro, the image of the Dead Christ, was saved. 

We passed through these rice fields ( Mt Banahaw in the background) to our hosts' place

While we relaxed at the poolside, Jonson told us that we must pay a visit to the Señor at the Rañola house, which is just a short walk from the church, right at the corner where we hailed a tricycle to their place.  

The Señor lying in state at the Rañola house.

Like any true Lucban citizen, our friend Jonson had all the stories about the Señor ready for the telling. We don't know if it's true but we learned that the Christ image is rich--parcels of land and bank account in its name, and the jewels it wears for the Good Friday procession are kept in a bank vault. But we were in awe of the thick antique golden blanket that we saw covering the body at the Rañolas.

The Señor in his glass coffin adorned by fresh sampaguita and ilang-ilang flowers.
Jonson emphasized that Lucban owns the Señor and the Rañola family had been the caretakers ever since the Spanish times (the image dates back to 1840, according to one account). The story was that the wife of the gobernadorcillo was fond of jewelries, and she used the image as payment to a jeweler from Manila. But through the efforts of Don Juan Rañola, the Señor was redeemed and brought back to Lucban.  While the town tried to raise the redemption money, it was not complete; Don Juan put up the rest.

Part of the procession coming out of the church.
That Good Friday we walked to the town early in the afternoon to see the poons of the different families mounted on flower-bedecked carrozas all lined up along the main street to be pulled or carried on the shoulders of devotees. All of these passed through the church by the side door and went out through the main door when the procession began. 

These male devotees carry the andas of their poon.
The Lucban menfolk--barefoot and mostly in white shirts printed with the Christ head with a crown of thorns--were milling around the Rañola house and the church premises, and getting ready to pull the carroza of the Señor. 

Lucban menfolk struggle to get to pull the ropes.

It did not surprise us that some of the male devotees were under the influence of lambanog.  Ever since we arrived, we've been passing by groups of men (and women) on the roadside gathered around and enjoying a jar of this staple drink in many southern Tagalog towns.

The men do not have towels around their neck like in the Nazareno of Quiapo procession but there are handkerchiefs to wipe on the coffin and throw back to the devotees.

As in any Good Friday procession, the Señor, followed by the Mater Dolorosa (Grieving Mother), comes at the end of  the parade of  carrozas carrying saints who figured in, and scenes culled from, the passion and death of Christ.  We were warned that the Señor would take about five hours to return to the church, long after all the caretakers of the poons have rested and the viewers have taken a break at a pancit habhab stall.
Lucban menfolk's expression of religious faith.

The long journey of the Dead Christ through Lucban's procession route was explained by the frenzy of the barefoot male devotees of trying to get to the ropes tied in front and at the back of the carroza.  It seems like a tug-of-war between the front and the back pullers slows down the procession just like that in the jostling and pushing of the male devotees to the Nazareno of Quiapo every January.

We thought lambanog had nothing to do with the Senor's slow journey.  Whoever went to pull under the influence would have gone home sober and feeling renewed after expressing his religious faith in the traditional Good Friday fashion of the Lucban male.

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