PUNTA, Aparri, Cagayan- Life goes on normal here at the tip of Luzon island where the China sea and the Pacific Ocean meets. A handful commercial stores were closed in the observance of Maundy Thursday. Other than the hot 34 to 36 degree temperature recorded in the province; no other signs give a bit of impression that it is Holy Week.
BARANGAY PUNTA, A QUIET FISHING VILLAGE IN THE NORTHERNMOST TIP OF LUZON ISLAND IN THE MUNICIPALITY OF APARRI, CAGAYAN.
Thirty five years ago, I use to hear the traditional “Pabasa” in every corner of Ilagan and in my grandparents' place in Cabagan so as in Tuguegarao, Cagayan. The same tradition is known here as “Pasyon” narrating the passion of Jesus Christ prior to his crucifixion and eventual resurrection sung for days and nights during the holy week.
HOLY FRIDAY PROCESSION IN ILAGAN, ISABELA
A local radio station in Cauayan city was commercializing the topic of the waning tradition asking texters to send in their views for discussion. Sadly, its morning anchor; apparently ignorant of the topic read in haste text feedbacks 10 minutes before the end of his show. Worst, he read stupid text queries pertinent to their ongoing raffle draw, amid the pressing topic.
Greetings and the sharing of your thoughts over their airlanes are no longer free as it was before. One should send it through text to their exclusive text portal where your two-peso text message are accumulated as their network share of the income.
It was totally disastrous for an age-old culture and tradition ending up into such commercialized scheme instead of being discussed intelligently to educate the uninformed.
THE FAMOUS MAGAPIT SUSPENSION BRIDGE IN LALLO, CAGAYAN. GATEWAY TO THE ILOCANDIA
Off to the 15th Century Church of Nueva Segovia
Packing my things; I am off to Lallo, Cagayan- site of the very first church erected in northern Luzon and Cagayan Valley's cradle of Christianity.
Christianity was established in here in 1582 when Dominican Cristobal Salvatierra and the Augustinian Francisco Rodriguez accompanied by the Spanish troops under the command of Captain Juan Pablo Carreon initiated the first religious mission.
THE HISTORIC 15TH CENTURY CHURCH OF NUEVA SEGOVIA
Carreon was appointed first Governor or the Alcalde-Mayor of Cagayan Valley- one of the four first provinces (Alcadia) in Luzon. The other being Manila, Camarines and Ilocos. Carreon drove away Japanese pirates holding base in Cagayan shores after which established the Spanish settlement in Lallo where the religious also made their base.
Lallo was renamed to Nueva Segovia and became the Capital of Cagayan and seat of the Diocese by that name.
The Diocese of Nueva Segovia has jurisdiction over the entire Northern Luzon. Its first Bishop is Miguel de Buenavides who later became Archbishop of Manila and founder of the country's oldest educational institution- the University of Sto. Tomas.
Nueva Segovia was not only known as the seat of Christianity in Cagayan Valley but also the very first territory to be considered a City with 27,000 Christianized population.
The territory of Nueva Segovia in 1588 has 50 private and royal encomiendas that pay regular tribute to the government, has a fort manned by 40 soldiers and an Augustinian monastery.
I told myself perhaps I can find Filipino Lenten traditions still practiced in the place other than the usual Thursday noon mass, good Friday readings on the seven last words of Christ, the procession of the “Enteirro” (dead Chirst) and the Suday “Salubong” depicting the risen Christ meeting his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
THE CONSTRUCTED STAGE FOR THE "SALUBONG" ON SUNDAY HAS OBLITERATED THE CENTURIES OLD WOODEN CROSS INFRONT THE CHURCH
Boarding a Bus bound for Vigan Ilocos Sur from Tuguegarao City; my next stop is Barangay Magapit; home of the famous suspension bridge leading the highway to Ilocos region in the west. I am heading north to Aparri and soon dropped to what they call “crossroad”- a junction in the place where one waits for a ride in all four directions. The other two is east to Sta. Ana, home of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) and Port Irene and south is from where I came from in the Capital of Tuguegarao city.
I found the usual beerhouse tunes heard from Videoke joints in the vicinity instead of the sorrowful rhythm of the “Pasyon.” Girls aged 18-24 working in the area in their summer outfit apparently had their lenten break too; they have just finished taking lunch when I asked where the waiting place of the local center-driven cycles (which is the famous counterpart of the “toot-toots” in Thailand). Instead, much sturdy multicabs that resembles the centerbikes took the line of the Magapit-Lallo route.
Boarding down to the famous 15th century church of Nueva Segovia; the old heritage place was just beside the national highway. It was then that I realized that the historic church was very much accessible. The only reason why no one notices it is because the church's rear is the one facing the highway and its facade could be found in the community's interior facing Cagayan river.
THE REAR OF THE CHURCH IS FACING THE HIGHWAY
THE CHURCH'S MODERN DAY RENOVATED INTERIOR
THE SPANISH TIMES PULPIT WHERE "PADRE DAMASO" TELLS INDIOS WHAT TO AND WHAT NOT TO DO
No signs of any lenten activities is seen from the town proper except for the constructed stage for the conduct of the traditional “Salubong” that has obliterated the centuries old wooden cross encased in glass infront of the church. “Hindi na uso ang mga pasyon at penitensiya ngayon” comments the man doing the electric wiring installed around the “salubong” stage made with board. If Nueva Vizcaya Bishop Ramon Villena is around; the man would get a tongue lashing lecture from the prelate. Villena expressed concern over our vanishing cultural practices concealed by intense commercialization. In one point, the latest news was about the plan to bastardize the traditional passion into rap version to suit the interest of the youth.
CENTURIES OLD BRICKS, MUTE WITNESS TO THIS HISTORIC TOWN
THE HISTORIC CHURCH IS ACTUALLY LOCATED IN THIS PLACE CALLED "KALABASA"
IN BIG MALLS IN THE CITY, THERE ARE "WATERLESS" URINALS, IN THIS QUIET HISTORIC CHURCH THERE IS A "WATERLESS" COMMUNAL TOILET- LITERALLY
THE OFFICIALS OF LALLO IS VOCAL IN SENDING PRESIDENT NOYNOY AQUINO'S STANCE IN POPULATION MANAGEMENT EVEN THOUGH TREATHENED WITH EXCOMMUNICATION CONVEYED IN THIS SIGN AT THE CHURCH'S VICINITY
At the community hall besides the church was a meeting of the local farmers' group concerning their venture.
Still no trace of any cultural lenten practice.. a van on its way to the next town of Aparri has just stopped to unload passengers. I boarded in.
Aparri, the heat is on
Upon arriving at the town proper just as you cross the bridge is the silent public market. This is since the noisy fish vendors, dealers and stevedores are on a Lenten break. The fish section is at the immediate facade facing the main road as you can smell the stench of hoarded fish along “calle commercio.” No wonder, the famous air conditioned food chain across the street had flies. I could not imagine how it looked like four years ago when I saw its inauguration on a television news footage. Its customers lined up until fifteen meters outside the small food outlet of about eight to 10 tables.
APARRI DOWNTOWN SCENERY, MAUNDY THURSDAY
The heat was intense, 34 to 36 degrees celsius, disclosed the local Philippine Information Agency posted on its Facebook account. Michael Divina 29 told me I brought the sunshine. Two days earlier, it was raining cats and dogs.
A VINTAGE HOUSE IN APARRI'S RESIDENTIAL DISTRICT
“Maganda ang dating niyo sir; maganda ang araw” Michael, a criminology graduate said. He currently drives a tricycle for a living while he waits to pass the board exams and hopes to land a job with the Philippine National Police.
THE NEWLY RENOVATED ST. PETER THELMO CHURCH
The parish is currently doing the finishing touches of their renovated church as Assistant Parish Priest Rev. Adelbert Barut gladly permitted me to feel free taking pictures. The Church is as huge as the Ilagan cathedral the way I see it from the outside.
APARRI PATRON, SAN PEDRO DE THELMO
Aparri is celebrating their Patronal Fiesta on the 10th of May. The group of wandering fanfare conducting Bingo and other fiesta betting, rides and unusual people have just arrived installing their tent and makeshift stalls infront of the church. Still no trace of any traditional Lenten practices around.
LOCALS PREPARE THEIR DRIED STIFF FISH FOR MARKETING
Not far from the church is Petron's oil depot beside the sea. Michael suggested that we see the seaside of Barangay Punta where the Cagayan river meets the sea.
Groups were having good time picnic in the sea. Three days ago; Tuguegarao Archbishop lamented most Christians are preoccupied more on planning their out of town shindig than finding the peace of reflection and retrospect.
Punta is a busy district where you find the locals drying their fish and selecting sizes of those already dried and stiff ones for market trading even on a Maundy Thursday. The same is with the Taiwanse funded magnetized sand quarrying in the shores of Punta whom Michael says, an object of intense protest of residents because of the environmental threat it poses to the community like erosion, siltation and the sudden surge of water during high tide. New People's Army rebels had earlier denounced the Taiwanese firm and had its facilities and equipments burned last year.
Nanang Seling a grandmother aged 65 said her townmate's indignation seem to have been a lone cry in the wilderness. The Political leadership in Aparri is like a private company, where the patriarch only hands down his position to his son, then wife then back to himself laments Nanang Seling. This is after consuming the election ban for running a fourth consecutive term in the same elective position.
APARRI FISHERMEN ON A LENTEN BREAK
The sun is going down; I have to wrap up and catch the last trip back to Tuguegarao city.
I believe I found what I have been looking for.
I saw the Passion of Christ in all the places I went through in one day.
Our sufferings wrought by disregard, negligence, commercialism, exploitation, indifference, greed and arrogance were reflected in the situations I have encountered.
The social circumstances I found were more sorrowful than looking at the scene of the blood letting flagellation or the marathon “Pasyon” I planned to see.
“Ang paghihirap natin ay hindi parusa kundi daan patungo sa pagbabago”- Ilagan Bishop Joseph Amangi Nacua, April 22 Lenten Message.