Regalado Trota Jose says in his book “Simbahan”:
“The Spaniards found out early in their conquests that they shared the Filipinos’ love for color and ritual, and thus made much of the Church Resplendent – aromatic incense, interminable processions, droning chants, gleaming vessels, gorgeous robes, sumptuous decorations – in bringing the natives to the churches.”
And indeed their desire to convert the natives to the Catholic fold has gone a long way. For even today, such religious pomp is still easily seen in religious activities.
The highlight of Good Friday in San Pablo, as always, was the procession of the carozas kept by some of the well-known and wealthy families in the city. Each of the carriages depicts a scene in the life of Jesus. The rebultos were garbed in robes of different colors (red, maroon, brown, etc.), and decked in garlands made from different flowers and plants. These ornaments have always been the target of the devout for they were blessed by priests in the ceremony in the Cathedral patio before plying the pre-determined route.
The aforementioned ceremony is held together with the group from the parish along with celebrities, singers, and most recently, politicians. Of course, one could not miss the presence of Don Ado Escudero who keeps most of the carozas in their good conditions. As the carriages pass by the makeshift stage, they are sprinkled with holy water with the appropriate songs of music in the background.
As a child, the passing of the rebultos near our street has always instilled awe and fear mainly because of the frozen expressions and the good play of lights in the carozas. Within the procession prayers are uttered almost non-stop. There are also mourners set to walk along the procession, and there are even people acting out Jesus’ supposed walk from Jerusalem to Golgotha where he was alleged to have been crucified.
Although the procession has attracted the devout, the tourists, and the curious alike, one cannot ignore the fact that this annual event has taken a form akin to a feast with all the side-street vendors and the general atmosphere that can be more associated with fiestas. In any case, if that makes them go to church and pray then there seems to be no problem with that.
Inside the Cathedral, prayers were just starting for the vigil and the anticipation of the Resurrection on Sunday.
Jose, Regalado Trota Jose. “Simbahan: Church Art in Colonial Philippines 1565-1898.” Ayala Foundation, Inc., 1992.