Experiencing Marinduque and the Moriones Festival

Sunday, May 18, 2014

April 16 - 18, 2014

I was six year old, a curious hyperactive child in the first grade, and it is in one of my mom-bought books that I have first read (and found out) about Marinduque.

Probably noticing my propensity for staying still when there is a book in my hands, my mom, when I was but a neophyte bibliophile, used to buy me loads of reading materials. And thanks to a collection of alamat and pabula, I still have a relatively palpable recollection of the story of how the island of Marinduque came to be.

I remember a beautiful maiden named Marina, a handsome fellow called Duque, a forbidden love, a double suicide, and then the inevitable materialization of an island that shall be henceforth known by the amalgamation of the lovers' names - to commemorate their love. How romantic. I will try to retell this story one of these days.

At any rate, Marinduque is an island south of the Tayabas Bay. Because of its location, it is dubbed as the "Heart of the Philippines." It is composed of six muncipalities - Boac (its capital), Gasan, Buenavista, Mogpog, Sta. Cruz, and Torrijos - and is famous for the Moriones Festival.

This year, I got to spend my holy week in this island and witness the fascinating culture of the Marinduqueños.

The adventure began on April 16.

Right after my MBA graduation, I proceeded to meet with my friend, Ate May. She had invited me to come with her to her hometown, and since I am suffering from an extreme and incurable case of The Wanderlust, I said yes without hesitation.

After a few hours of preparation, we headed to Lucena. It was in Talao-talao port that we boarded a ferry to the island.

The interesting part: We arrived in Lucena at around 6PM, April 16. We were able to get on a ferry boat at around 4PM, the next day. We had spent almost 24 hours in the port. There was a huge influx of passengers, both on foot and on wheel. So avoid traveling to the island during busy days, e.g. during the Holy Week, to stay clear of the long lines and possible overnight stay in the port.
Chit-chatting to pass the time
Almost there!
Beat the heat with smiles!
Loooooooong lines for RORO

I truly didn't mind the long wait. I was excited, first and foremost, to ride a roll-on/roll-off ferry boat! Bucket List Item No. 89: CHECK!

What's more is that we were rewarded with a spectacular sunset on our way to Marinduque. Good things really come to those who wait. :)

We arrived in Gasan a little past 9PM. I imagined Marina and Duque giving me a warm welcome.

Fast forward to the morning after, Good Friday. We woke up early to go on a short trek to what they call the Grotto.

I'm no religious person but I appreciate great architecture and amazing vistas. And the Grotto in the neighboring town of Buenavista certainly did not disappoint.

On the top of the drawn out stairway, a mountain greeted me. It was Mt. Malindig, Ate May told me, and I made a mental promise that I will climb it someday. 

Aside from the form of Malindig, rolling hills ala Chocolate Hills also said their good mornings. 

And there was also the towering statue of the Virgin Mary which was the main feature of the altar.

Then fast forward to the late afternoon procession at the Gasan town proper. Here, I witnessed the traditional processions of two religious orders - the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) and the Roman Catholic. The highlights, of course, were the life-size renditions of scenes that lead to the crucifixion, as well as after.
The Last Supper
There were the colorfully hooded men wielding noise-making instruments called pataraka...
...and the penitents locally known as antipo.

Another highlight was the group of women with a wreath of what appeared to be grass. Ate May explained that these women had made a panata (an annual promise) in exchange for a fulfilled wish. She referred to this practice as nagsusunong ng pupuwa.

Another tradition, similar to the adulation for the Nazareno in Quiapo, is the devotion to the Santo Sepulchro image. The rope used to pull the caro is also divided among devotees and is believed to bring good luck and protection from evil.

And how can I forget the Morions? These are locals dressed as exaggerated, almost cartoonish, versions of the Roman centurions. They reenact the search for Longinus, and were often inovoked by parents to scare little children. Clever.

Again, I'm not religious but I am very open-minded. I enjoyed experiencing the Moriones festival and the Marinduqueñian way of celebrating the Holy Week. I'm glad I was able to be a witness to this tradition.

Cheers to the next adventure!

P.S. Thanks to May Semilla, Arleen Semilla and Arrianne Semilla for the photos. :D

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