On the second day of April, the rains came. And on the third day, cold wind was all over the old city where I live.
By the lakeshore town of Buhi, these mad days of rain, chill and hot days would have been nothing unusual, years and years ago. Those days were auguring a pageantry. In that town of my father, the Holy Week was as sacred as it was raucous and festive. The “Week”, in fact, was not enough.
Buhi was not keen in the gore of selfie-Crucifixion that men, today, appear to indulge in. Buhi and its people were into telling the story from Creation to the Fall of Man, and from being driven away from the Garden into the Birth of the Savior, from His Passion and Death and gloriously to end with a Resurrection defined by bamboo Heaven, clouds made of cotton and silk textile, and children whose parents could pay enough to make them angels.
The creation of the world passed without much notice, my father would tell us. It was when Adam and Eve were tempted that the drama was cranked up dramatically. Not one but many Devils were running around the town, while young boys and girls made a dash to the safety of their homes. With wings made of battered black umbrellas, the Devils made everyone understand that the sins of the First Parents are in their children, as well.
The more the merrier. The number of Devils and Disciples (they were not interchangeable, of course) depended on the willing and the availability of costume.
The pageantry reached a peak with the retelling of the Last Supper. This was also one of the most well-attended events. Jesus was the lead, everyone knew that. There were two characters that were reserved for the thespians of the town: Longinus and Judas.
Longinus was the Roman soldier who pierced the side of Christ from whose body spurted the blood, which made him see. There are many versions.
Judas was the Misunderstood One, the closet Leading Man in the narrative of our faith, at least for Buhi.
Both roles were wailing, crying roles. They required the actors to be able to rant, scream, trash on the mat-covered floor for hours. The agony of Longinus and Judas could go on and on with the performers drawing from the Bible and other tales, including personal regrets, domestic recriminations, private guilt and anxieties, and secret crimes the atonement of which could be helped by being Longinus or Judas.
The agonies would continue for hours. This would allow some of the characters to take a break, or take a sip from some hidden potent brew. When they came back to the stage, they could be as drunk as Judas or Longinus. There were cases when the Christ himself was as drunk as Judas.
The last time I witnessed this feast was when we saw Judas hang himself upon the nearest small tree. I recall how distraught the mother of the young man playing the Traitor, because the procession just went on neglecting the Iscariot who could not disentangled from the rope.
Some parts of the lake had dried up.
I doubt if the boys and girls of Buhi would still be scared of Devils with wings made of old, battered, black umbrellas. I doubt if they ever think of the Devil in that way.
Image credits: Jimbo Albano