H and I flew to Manila on Holy Wednesday. Though it was raining the night before, it didn’t occur to me that I had to worry about any flight cancellation for the trip that day – it was summer and supposed to be El Nino. In the morning, there was a light downpour but the skies continued to be clear. On the way to the airport, the raindrops got heavier. When it was nearing high noon, the estimated time of arrival of the aircraft, the sunlight abruptly faded and the whole environment turned gray. This time, the downpour was very heavy. Then we were told that the plane was already hovering up above but it couldn’t land. This has been a perennial problem of our airport. The passenger beside me said that it was also the case the previous day, and the plane never landed and instead proceeded to Cagayan de Oro City. Some few minutes passed and the plane was still high up the sky, flying circles. Hubby and I laughed. We were thinking it served us right if we can’t push through. It was Holy Week and we weren’t supposed to be traveling-I would have stayed put at home but hubby and I found ourselves empty what to do during the week – four-fifths of my immediately family were already in Manila; my cousin and her family, whom we always spend holy week with, also left town for a week in Hong Kong. By God’s grace though, the plane landed in the midst of the downpour ^___^.
We were supposed to go straight to my sister’s house in Cavite where my mom and my aunt were already staying for two weeks with my sister, my brother-in-law and my niece. However, my youngest sister called me up saying she will be starting her Pedia-ICU rotation the next day and will probably have no time to see us in the whole time we will be there. Knowing this, I called my other sister and told her we will be spending the night in the condo instead, so that I can catch up with my other sister. Hubby and I headed straight to the condo. Since it was the holiday rush, there was a little bit of heavy traffic from the airport to Vito Cruz.
We met my youngest sister for dinner at Cabalen’s and ate “Eat All You Can”. Soon after we lined up the food line, we realized it was holy week and we were supposed to be fasting. My sister and my hubby went on to eat the meat dishes rationalizing it was still Wednesday and that they will fast on the Triduum. I could not bring myself to have some meat so I concentrated on the vegetables and the fish dishes. It was not fasting though because I was so full. While eating, we caught on the recent chika. I thought my sister was spending the night with us but she didn’t because she wanted to sleep early and be physically, mentally and emotionally ready for the next day – day one of her pedia-Neo ICU duty. She said this was the hardest rotation in her second year of residency at Philippine General Hospital. This rotation will be the most demanding because the patients are the youngest (days old) thus the consultants are expected to be twice demanding of the residents. My sister’s friend said that during her rotation in neo-icu, one of the consultants screamed “you’re dumber than my dog!” to a co-resident. My sister was conditioning herself to have enough strength and courage for the month of April.
The following day, my other sister, her husband, my niece, my mother and my aunt picked hubby and me to start our traditional Visita Iglesia, the practice of visiting seven churches during Maundy Thursday to reflect on the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. My niece was very happy to see us and immediately hugged us after opening the door of the condo. I was amused very much that my niece, who proclaimed her “new nickname” to be Marti, was already speaking straight Visayan sentences, hehehe. My mom and my aunt continued to speak to her in English but she must have picked up the dialect as everybody in their house, including the two house helps, speak Visayan. My niece even beat her dad, who until now, could not even understand the dialect completely, what more speak it!
It was a little past nine in the morning when we started out with our Visita Iglesia. Since time immemorial our family has always observed this tradition. First on the agenda was the Sta. Clara Church in Marikina (correct?). The streets of the metropolitan were bare – it was just like driving around our city back home. However, when we reached Sta. Clara, it took us a while to find parking because a lot of people were already flocking in the area. We got down the vehicle and stopped at the sidewalk to buy eggs as offering for the sisters of Sta. Clara. I also bought the “Way of the Cross” guide because all of us left our religious pamphlets at home.
It was several meters walk to the church. Once inside, my mother and my sister proceeded to the prayer requests queue [which was quite long] so that they can hand over their offering and also their prayer requests. The rest of us proceeded to the pews and took our seats to pray. While waiting for my mother and my sister, I used the time to educate my four-year old niece who was all questions about why the religious images were all covered in purple cloths. She had a lot of “why” every after answer I told her that to shut her up, I told her we recite the rosary instead. Yup, I’m proud to say that at four years old, my niece could already lead the whole Holy Rosary : )
Five decades of the rosary later, my mother and my sister were not done yet because they’ve now transferred to the lines for confession. I no longer confessed because I was able to do so when I chanced to visit the Basilica of Sto.Nino in Cebu City in February this year. I also make it a point to do my confession during lent a few weeks before Holy Week because the lines just get so crazy when all the faithful rush to confess on Maundy Thursday.
After about two hours in Sta. Clara Church, we proceeded to the Holy Sacrifice Parish Church in U.P. Diliman Campus. Along the way, we combed the area for any open restaurants so that we could buy our lunch. It was originally our plan to start fasting that day and my sister already brought the egg sandwiches as our lunch. However, we were already very hungry and succumb to temptation when we saw an open Jollibee fast food. Even then, we only ordered Bangus with Rice, hahaha.
About to die of hunger, upon entering the UP Diliman Campus, we immediately scuttled to the kiosks in the sunken garden to eat our lunch. It was very windy that the little flowers of the tree beside the kiosk rained on us and on our food while we ate; my niece was delighted.
After taking lunch, we carried on with our Visita Iglesia and reached the Holy Sacrifice Parish Church inside the campus. There was an ongoing recollection in the church and after we prayed, we joined the crowd and settled in our seats to listen to the lady who was currently in tears as she was sharing an emotional experience with everybody. The sharing was long – it took more than thirty minutes for her to finish it [we were not even there yet when she started it]. After the widow’s testimony, we hurriedly stood to leave before another sharer could take the microphone.
Next on the agenda was the Twin Hearts of Jesus and Mary Church in West Avenue, Quezon City. It was a neighborhood church and was modest in size. Nevertheless, parking was still a little difficult that my brother-in-law just dropped us first so that he can look around and find a space. It was my first time to be in that church. There were a lot of parishioners inside. We did not linger in church. After a brief prayer, we moved on.
After the Twin Hearts of Jesus and Mary Church, the Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon Avenue was next on the list. Making our way out of West Avenue to Quezon Avenue, my sister suddenly remembered ABS-CBN’s Big Brother House and suggested the wild idea of making a side trip thereto. Absolutely, none of us objected because we were all thrilled to visit Kuya’s famous house.
Right in front of the ABS-CBN building stands the familiar blue and yellow house. My niece was so excited and hastily grabbed my hand towards the gate. She nudged me to ask the guard inside the gate where Melay and Jason were. Marty is a die-hard fan of Melason. Of course, they were not there anymore, but Marty continued to push me and ask again. And again. And again.
After several poses in front of Kuya’s house, we moved on to the direction of Sto. Domingo Church, this time a little refreshed from the side trip at the PBB house. All of us in the car recognize this church as the church where the remains of the Fernando Poe Jr. was laid for public viewing. Recently, this church was also famous for the one where Mar Roxas and Korina Sanchez tied the knot last October.
I have been to Sto. Domingo Church once but it was only during this recent visit that I noticed it has enough parking spaces inside its premises. The first time I visited, I entered in the main entrance so I did not know that the church has another side entrance from the parking lot. Going to the church, we passed by the administrative office of the church, the little shop where religious items were sold, and some other offices. Images of Christ, Mary, and other saints were already paraded in the sides of the hallways. My niece commented that in that church, no purple cloths were wrapped around the images and asked me [again!] why it was so. I told her it was probably because they were already removed inside the church that it was no longer needed to hide them behind the purple cloths.
Korina Sanchez said, in one interview before her wedding, that she chose Sto. Domingo Church because the aisle to the altar was long that she will have a good walk up front. I agree with her on this as I looked around the church after I said my prayers. My niece was walking along the aisle too and I had to run after her afraid I might lose her in the crowd.
From Sto. Domingo Church, we went to the chapel in the University of Sto. Tomas in Espana, Manila. By this time, the intense heat was already killing us. How could this Visita Iglesia take almost a whole day to complete? Back home, it was only a mere hour and a half!
Parking was very far in the vast grounds of UST. Walking under the sun plus being cramped inside the fairly small chapel was indeed a sacrifice, not a mere suffering. That time I recalled what Fr. Arlo said in one of his homilies during our pilgrimage, that sacrifice is suffering made out of love. The chapel was supposed to be air-conditioned, but that time, it wasn’t turned on. We could hardly find seats inside. We did not stay long and quickly left.
Then we proceeded to Intramuros for our last two churches. We first went to San Augustine Church. Whew, in UST, parking was far but it was available. This time, parking was far and very challenging. We had to rely on the “barker” to save us a space for a fee. It was again a scorching walk, although farther than the others.
I last visited San Augustine Church more than ten years ago and I had forgotten how beautiful the church was. It’s grandiose is comparable to the small churches we visited in Europe. The church was also full of people. It was very humid inside. At the entrance of the church, the image of Christ lying dead was already displayed in a glass mirror and my niece hovered at the image. I was wondering why it was there already when it was still Maundy Thursday and there was still mass later in the evening for the last supper and the washing of the feet.
Finally, we were on our way to the last church, and it was none other than the Manila Cathedral. It was lucky that my brother-in-law thought of looking for parking space at the side entrance of the cathedral – we instantly spotted a vacant space. It was almost four o’clock in the afternoon already and we swiftly got inside the church to evade the consuming heat.
As we got inside, my mom told my aunt this was the cathedral that the eulogy for the late Cory Aquino was held. I almost forgot about it. The cathedral was a little dark and also filled with a lot of people. Compared with the altar of St. Augustine Church, this one was a little bare, but it was certainly thrice larger. After a short prayer, we took off.
Happy to finally conclude our Visita Iglesia, we decided it was time to go back home to Bacoor, Cavite – but not before I suggested we stop over an open Chowking in the area for halo-halo. Yup, we were supposed to be fasting but I just got so thirsty and was dreading to cool down with halo-halo. Just round the corner from the cathedral we found Chowking. We happily got down and settled in the air-conditioned fast food joint with Fiesta halo-halo.
It was almost six o’clock when we arrived at my sister’s house in Cavite. We were all so tired and hungry again [the devil’s luring us!]. Hubby and I brought our bags to my niece’s room. Marty eagerly showed us the princess bed we gave her, with matching white flimsy lacy thingy hanging from the ceiling towards the bed [she later told me it was a mosquito net].
A few minutes later, we were called down for dinner. There wasn’t pork on the menu, only vegetables and fish. After dinner, I gave my niece a bath [I do this whenever I’m with her], then we went to her room. She said she will sleep on the bed with hubby while I will sleep on the pull over bed below [!]. Marty always sleeps with him whenever he’s with her; they’re BFF. We read her stories until she drowsed to sleep.
In Good Friday, we just stayed home the whole morning. We spent the morning watching movies – Jesus Superstar [but we did not finish it because it was weird] and Jesus of Nazareth. If we were back home, we would have attended the dawn Via Crucis but since my sister was still new in the neighborhood, we didn’t’ know what time [or if there was any] it would be held. We were supposed to visit the church after lunch for Station of the Cross but my other sister said she was off duty early and will be on her way shortly. So we waited for her…until it was almost four o’clock. I called her and it turned out she fell asleep! She said she will already be on the way and she arrived at around five o’clock. We didn’t head to the church immediately because she wanted to eat the “puto maya” the house help cooked.
It was almost six o’clock in the evening when we reached the church in Molino, Bacoor, Cavite. We passed by several processions on our way over. Just when we were about to turn and enter the premises of the church, the procession has just started. Like crazy, all of us got off and hurriedly joined the Santo Entiero procession while my brother-in-law parked the car.
It wasn’t our plan to join the procession as we intended to meditate on the Way of the Cross only. I was in three-inch clogs. My niece walked too. It was so far, we walked about two hours and a half. When the procession ended, we found out it halted in another church. My brother-in-law had to find a ride back to Brgy. Molino to get the car. My sister got drinks and chips from a nearby sari sari store while we waited at the basketball court in front of the church. When my brother-in-law came back, we went inside the church first. I was dressed in red and black and as I walked up front, several of the people looked at me … I later learned from the house helps of my sister that it was announced previously to wear white or black only. Hehe, I was in flaming red.
I had mentioned to the family that definitely, we will fast for dinner. But, hello?! The procession left us exhausted and weary! I compromised and said we will just eat sardines and dried fish [still yummy for me!].
Black Saturday was uneventful, although we went to Manila to fetch my sister and also to meet my cousin and the rest of the family who just arrived from their weeklong vacation that day. The kids were sick-ish and my cousin’s husband was having a stiff neck and my sister had to go and answer her call of duty. We just met at the lobby of Edsa Shangrila and had apple juice. When I learned the price of the juice was P 240.00, I forced myself to finish the drink although I’m not a juice person.
The following day was Easter Sunday and I instructed my sister to call the church in Molino for the dawn mass. We were told it was at 4:00am. I woke up at a little past three in the morning and took a bath. On our way to church, we passed by the dawn procession where the image of the risen Lord and Mama Mary will meet but remained firm in our intention to just attend Easter Mass [my feet had not healed from the Good Friday procession!].
We found ourselves in a poorly lit, uninhabited church [whoa, everybody attends the procession there?]. There was one entrance which was opened. We got in and waited for an hour. It was only at 5am that the procession returned. Mass did not start yet because the children-angels outside had to sing Regina Coeli as they remove the black veil of the image of Mary. Balloons were even released after the little ceremony outside the church.
We got back home at 6:30 and ate breakfast. Then we prepared to head off to Taal Vista in Tagaytay. The traffic was slow on the way up the highlands. It seemed like everybody was going there. We arrived just in time for my niece to join the Easter Egg Hunt. There was a painting contest, magic show, puppet show and of course, egg hunting. Marty’s activities lasted until twelve noon.
We had lunch in one of the restaurants in Tagaytay. We ate ordered meat with a vengeance – Bulalo and Crispy Pata, among others. After going around Tagaytay a little more, we headed back home. It was again slow-moving going back.
It was my first Holy Week out of town. I’m glad that somehow, we substantially observed it as we usually did. Last year’s Good Friday at the beach and missing the dawn Via Crucis disturbed my conscience. It was good to see how Holy Week was celebrated outside our city. I’m pleased to see that a lot of the faithful are still actively participating in the traditions of the church. I was also astounded that our activities back home during Holy Week are exactly the same as those in Manila. Overall, I had a great time, being with the family and keeping the traditions demanded of me as a member of the Catholic Church.