Holy Week in Angeles City

(NOTE: Warning: Highly sarcastic and quite possibly blasphemous. Proceed at your own risk…)

Last night the chanting started…

All around town the holy blood marathon booths have been set up and the holier-than-thou vagabond poets have started serenading the entire city with their monotone chanting.

No, not passages from the Bible, although some actually do take a break and occasionally delve into the scripture, this droning is a sort of non-sense rhyming couplets portraying a very skewed version of what this holiest of weeks in the Catholic calendar is all about.

The chanting is almost Buddhist or Muslim like. It is an endless 5 to 6 day religious recital repeated over and over again more like a mantra from the Tao or Koran than any prayer or celebration of the supposed resurrection of Jesus Christ.

You half expect to find at the end of these aural rainbows of tortuous sound prayer rugs laid out pointing towards the east with the Kim Wilde’s of religious chants bowing and bowing as they ‘get closer to God’ while belting out Pontius Pilot’s top ten.

It is ironic that about a week ago the neighbors came over to my house and complained that a very vocal young lady who was extremely into an afternoon session was disturbing them and confusing their child. However, don’t anybody dare complain that the 24 hours a day mumbling on static filled microphones of this Dogmatic Dr. Seuss could in anyway offend those that do not share in the national faith of Pampanga.

Something strange happens to this city around this time of year.

Pampanga above anywhere else in the World turns into some sort of spiritual showcase of the macabre and the bizarre. This small little part of Luzon has been featured on Ripley’s Believe it or Not, CNN, National Geographic, as well as many other news reports and coverage of the fanatic population which seems to follow a different doctrine than anywhere else in the Catholic community.

Pope John Paul II himself when he visited the Philippines in 1981 condemned the archaic and often times barbaric rituals practiced by these confused parishioners, yet as if waving a spiritual middle finger towards the Vatican these people in Pampanga continue to practice their Lemming like sacramental burdens of faith.

The climax of this week is on Good Friday when all the Lemmings run up a hill and crucify each other in the name of the Lord. But before that happens there is the joyous sight of young men with black hoods on marching around the street spraying their blood all over the streets.

This parade sponsor seemingly Marquis de Sade would be proud to see the razor tipped ropes being slapped into young men’s backs self flagellating their way around town going from blood marathon booth to booth with supporters, many children, running behind them laughing and singing away as if they were following a circus parade and not this horrific procession of self mutilation.

Meanwhile the ‘hard core’ Catholic Lemmings all drag their large wooden crosses up a hill and in front of hundreds of dumb struck on-lookers have nails pounded through their hands and imitate Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice.

Well, almost…

In reality they aren’t even up on a cross long enough to sing a full chorus of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” and are taken down before they do enough damage to get an early ticket punch to their supposed guaranteed entry to Heaven. After all, staying up there for a long time would be crazy, wouldn’t it?

The thing that truly amazes me beyond stupefaction is the blind devotion to all these ‘sacramental’ rituals. Celebrities and religious iconic figures come on TV and tell the people not to eat meat for a week, and people don’t eat meat.

This weird practice even invaded our home today.

At dinner one of the girls refused to eat some chicken and I asked her why. The conversation went something like this: (Yes I know I was being sarcastic and probably quite unfair, but hell, that’s me…)

Me: Why aren’t you eating meat?

Her: I’m sacrificing.

Me: Sacrificing what?

Her: To show my sympathy.

Me: Sympathy to whom?

Her: For the people?

Me: What people?

Her: The people on TV. To just do my part.

Me: Your part… Un huh… Ummmm….Do you think not eating meat will bring you closer to God?

Her: Of course not. I just want to help and do my part.

Me: Your part? Your part for what?

Her: My part. To sympathize with the people. And to show I am sorry.

Me: Sorry? Ok wait. You are not eating chicken to sympathize with the TV people and say sorry…

Her: Yeah

Me: Sorry to whom?

Her: Sorry to God for my sins.

Me: So eating chicken is a sin?

Her: No.

Me: Then why not eat it?

Her: Because they said so on TV.

Me: So you want to imitate the people on TV.

Her: Yes

Me: So you envy them and want to be like them.

Her: Yeah, I guess.

Me: So ‘envy’ one of the 7 deadly sins is the reason you are not eating chicken?

Her: And because I sacrifice.

Me: Ok, I think I get it now. *rolls eyes*

The point of all of it was just to show that she really didn’t know why she was doing something, it was just ‘what you do’ here. Like so many other things in the Philippines, they just follow the rules because that’s how it’s always been done.

How many times do you hear, “Sorry sir, that’s just company policy…” and some inane and frustrating rule is followed for no other reason than saving the status quo.

Another discussion for another time, but for now I am praying for a brown out so I could possibly get a little break from the chanters and possibly take a nap.


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