Friday, April 15, 2011

Holy Week processions of the relics of a 'holy war' in my hometown

Christ figures from the town's principalia in the 1800s:  Apo Kararag (Praying Lord), Apo Raked (Lord with hands tied) and Apo Paciencia (Patient Lord).

 As a boy, we enjoyed holding on to a rope tied to the lead carroza of the libot (procession) of the nangina nga aldaw (Holy Week) of the Aglipayan church.  We now think helping San Pedro with his large key and his white rooster wend his way around the poblacion was all for show because if the rope slackened in the midst of a noisy banter among us kids, the helmsmen would ask us to stop playing, move faster and pull a little harder.  They held the steering shaft, that’s why. We thought then that carrying lighted candles are only for the women and their little girls, some dressed as angels with cardboard wings of chicken feathers. 

Tradition has it that the procession of the aglipayanos goes ahead of the romano's.  But there were at least a couple of times when the Catholics jumped ahead thereby causing some nasty exchange of words that was, thanks to the suffering, dying or dead Christ images in procession, drowned out by the sound of bamboo clappers (the bells muffled until the gloria of Black Saturday), the brass bands and the chorus of pasyon singers following their devotional santos.  The two churches were (and still are) neighbors, the doors separated only by the town’s basketball court in our time, and by the municipal auditorium today. 

Before the liturgical reforms in the latter part of the last century, the Ilocano town of San Narciso, Zambales was witness to two major libot competitions, those of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, as to which procession is longer, a measure it seemed of the following of these churches.  The romanos now have their solo show on Holy Wednesday, and the aglipayanos have kept the Maundy Thursday tradition all their own. The great divide still simmers on Good Fridays though.

We now look at the libot in a new light:  this is a part of the town’s religious history passing by, and the images are relics of a holy war, the religious schism among the town’s families and clans, after independence in 1898, and the coming of Father Gregorio Aglipay.  Here we speak of the secession of the principal families and their antique images to the Aglipayan church and never returned to the Roman Catholic church, and those that chose to remain romano.

Records tell us that cabecerias or barangays from the Ilocos, particularly Paoay, Ilocos Norte, were moved by the Spanish authorities to the central plain of Zambales around 1838, forming the four Ilocano barrios (Alusiis, Sindol, Bobolon and Pamasiraoan) of Cabangan town.  A fourth one, San Marcelino, was formed in 1841 and was attached to Uguit town (now Castillejos). In June 1846, the four Cabangan barrios were constituted into a new pueblo called San Narciso.  The barrio San Marcelino was attached to it later in October that same year.

The parroco de San Sebastian was established in 1849, when all the barrios except Alusiis seceded to form other towns.  Only Alusiis remained as San Narciso. The collection of religious images could have started soon after. The town’s principalia, propertied and educated, could have been asked by the cura parroco Fr Antonio Serrano de Santa Ana of the Recoletos, who stayed there the longest, to commission images, life-size and garbed in rich garments. 

We can imagine the gentry accepting graciously the responsibility of providing the visual imageries of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the various major and minor characters – santos and santas – who were there as participants or witnesses to that great drama.  There were not many of these antique images.   

Santa Magdalena (left) did not go back to the Roman Catholic church. Santa Salome (right) chose to stay romano.
Of the male saints, there were only the San Pedro of the Aquino family and the San Juan of the the Labradors.  Of the women in the passion and death of Christ, there were Santa Veronica of the Farrales family, Santa Magdalena of the Garcia-Aquino families, Santa Salome of the Famitangcos.

Santa Veronica belonged to Don Ignacio Farrales and his wife.  Their son Cipriano would be the town's gobernadorcillo in 1892.  He would be arrested for sedition and executed with eleven other martyrs in 1898. 

The mater dolorosa or Santa Maria came from the Dumlao family.  The descendants still keep the tradition of redeeming the mourning veil from the angel who would take it away during the sabet (Tag., salubong) of Easter Sunday. 

Santa Maria and Santa Veronica has stayed with the Aglipayans.

The agony of Christ was represented by the Apo Kararag (Lord in prayer), which the Fallorina-Rivera descendants fondly address as Lakay Huerto (old man in the garden); Apo Raked (Lord bound with a rope) of the Fontillas-Farin families; and the seated Apo Paciencia (patient Lord) of the Floresca and Academia families. The Apo Nagbaklay (Lord carrying a cross) was owned by the Posadas family, kin of the family of Juan and Antonio Luna.

The Apo Natay (Santo Intierro, Dead Lord) is traced back to Capitan Timoteo Fernandez and his wife Isabel Ramos who could have been with the first group of Ilocano migrants to form barrio Alusiis around 1838. 

Apo Nagbaklay (Lord carrying a cross), and Apo Natay (Dead Lord).
Capitan Timoteo was a cabeza de barangay in San Narciso from 1848 to 1856.  His sons and grandsons became cabezas too as the town's population grew.  There were 10 barangays when Don Timoteo was a cabeza, his oldest son Mariano took over him in the 1860s, and second oldest Miguel in the 1870s.  During the period 1888-1898, there were already 32 barangays, and Don Timoteo’s youngest & 5th son Segundo and his grandsons Rufino (from Miguel) and Eustaquio (from 4th son Vicente) served as cabezas.

Don Rufino Fernandez was one of the twelve martyrs of April 1898.

There can be no doubt that the martyrdom of twelve principales--and there were more who were captured and jailed--fostered antagonism toward the Roman Catholic priestand the anti-church mood blew up to secessionist fervor when Jesuit Fr. Gregorio Aglipay founded Iglesia Filipina Independiente.  

The anti-friars and anti-romanos, like my grandparents, chopped off the noses of their religious images in their household altar.  Then they shifted their loyalty from the Pope in Rome to Father Aglipay, and set up the independent church in San Narciso.

Finally, the migration, so to speak, of the images from the adobe enclave of the San Sebastian church, its façade destroyed by an earthquake many years before, to the new house of faith, which in my mind’s eye, was a structure of unpainted wood, galvanized iron roof, and without any ceiling at all.  All of them moved to this new house except the Santa Salome and the San Juan who remained romano catolico

Almost the entire principalia and, most probably, all their katalunan (land tenants) formed the Aglipayan core of San Narciso.  Some of the antique images have banata or pieces of agricultural land titled to them by the old owners for their upkeep like new clothes, new lights for the carroza, decorations and expenses for traditions that the descendants have to keep like a small feast when the images return from church after the Easter Sunday mass.  The family tree of the original owners have since grown big that it would take years in rotating the stewardship of the images, and needless to say, the transitory hold on the banata, where some rightful gain may be enjoyed.

 Times have changed.  Many Christian and non-Christian faithfuls now walk the streets of San Narciso.  Roman Catholics cross over to the Aglipayan side during libot time.  Old and young faces, cross-section of several generations, forget about churches.  What matters most to them is that they’re home briefly to pull the carroza of their santo or santa, or light a candle in the procession of this venerated relic of their great-great-grandparents’ rebellion against the church that held them in obedient sway more than a hundred years ago.

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