When we were children I remember quite well the way we celebrated holy week. It was a week like no other week. It was entirely different both in the atmosphere it created and in the manner we carried out our daily chores. There were old people in the house then - people who, despite the steady encrouchment of modern culture, chose to uphold tradition at least for the duration of the holy week. We call these practices then, mga panimad-on.
Domingo de Ramos which announces the beginning of the week, actually begins two to three days early, when we prepare our Ramos. Creativity was a silently demanded here, for the competition for the best ramos is a unconscious duel we could not resist. We hang on it fist-size balls made of lukay, create various figures like little snakes, tails, miniature horns, and whatever we can think of - all made of lukay. The day was equally festive with all those hosannas sang by little girls as we shake our ramos for all its worth.
After this however the mood immediately changes. Little by little a sober like atmosphere settles in. The radio, which was a daily fare in rural areas was drastically toned down. Work became slower, and so was the fun - no more shouting, no more loud games . . . and the weather seemed a lot hotter, compounding the already heavy penances we made. Even business cooperated during those days. We had an eatery then whose main menu was batchoy but during those days lugaw was served.
Holy Thursday was then the time for the family confessions. We were all herded to the church and one by one made to confess our sins to a priest.
Holy Friday was a day of complete penance. In the morning we all went to church for the way of the cross. And in the afternoon we attended church services together and join in the procession. It was a long procession and one time I remember even going barefoot which most people did. And my family approved.
That was holy week then and it was a time when family and society together created a mood that enhanced our Christian practices making it easier for us to enter into the spirit of penance and reconciliation. That time then was not a time for personal devotions - there was then no room for a privatistic outlook on the rites of Holy week. Everybody was involved. It was a communal act.
In the bible penance was always a communal act - it always involves the whole household or the bigger society. Why? because sin was never considered merely personal affecting merely the individual. Sin affects everybody, and personal sins engenders and aggravate the sins of society. Thus penance was always a communal act involving everybody and even livestock.
That was Holy week then, my experience of one. And I still long for the day when all of us we look at this not in memory but as a rich tradition of pleading for mercy and forgiveness.