Sunday, April 12, 2009


Yesterday, Easter Sunday, I regret that I still wasn't able to carry out the plan I've had for years to attend the Easter rites and early Mass in Sampaloc district, Manila, where my family and I used to live about 11 years ago. Parishes around the Philippines have their own Easter rites in the early morning, but the one in our former place in Sampaloc is extra special because it's also the feast (or fiesta) day in the area, specifically for the streets surrounding the chapel of Balumpare (a combination of the words "balon" [water well] and "pari" [priest]--because it's said that in olden times, many priests lived in the area and they fetched water from a well in one street corner which later was replaced by a faucet). Thus Easter Sunday being the area's feast day, there's a steel arch as tall as a two-storey house that's been permanently installed in a street corner about 10 houses away from the chapel. The arch is the center of dawn festivities to celebrate the feast of the Risen Lord. On that day, the arch is decorated with many flowers, lights, and veils. A big paper flower is hanged from the arch's center, in which a little girl or boy will emerge as an angel who will pull up the veil that covered the face of an image of the Virgin Mary. The image was placed underneath the arch by a procession of people. The pulling up of the veil, done along with the live singing of a choir, symbolizes the end of the suffering of Mary over the death of Jesus, as also symbolized by the image of the Risen Lord, which was also placed underneath the arch. Then, together the two images will be led by the procession to the chapel, and the Mass will be held. After the Mass, the streets of the place, which is also decorated by buntings, will be filled with different games organized and participated in by the residents. Toward noontime, the streets will be filled with vehicles as visitors from other places arrive to partake of a hearty lunch in the houses, and also to take part in more street activities in the afternoon like more games, bicycle stunts exhibitions, and other mini-shows in the streets. Throughout the day, a marching band goes around the streets playing anything from old songs to the latest hits. A group of curious kids would usually follow the band as it went in and out the roads. Later in the afternoon, another procession emerges from the chapel. The evening is highlighted with a free show on a stage built somewhere in the area. An amateur singing contest among the residents is usually held (actually the finals night since the eliminations would have been held the night before on the same stage). It's also usual that some invited celebrities would drop by to regal the crowd with a song or two, or just to give their greetings on stage.

I certainly miss that feast day in our old place. Especially since the arch I mentioned earlier was just beside our old two-storey house, and I could watch the solemn and colorful proceedings right from my bed or window. There were also times that the evening show was held on the corner across our house, and, again, we always had a good view of the show. The only drawback was that the show always ended in the wee hours of the morning, and the loudspeakers were blaring right toward our house, too. But, well, it was fiesta time and the little disturbance was part and parcel of the merrymaking.

I do intend to carry out my plan of visiting our old place in the next year's Easter, and relive some more memories of the years we spent there.

Happy Easter, everyone!

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