Friday, March 21, 2008

Some Lost Good Friday Manila Traditions and Rituals

Anthropologists of religion say that once a religious ritual or practice becomes non functional, it dies. Sometimes it takes a war (the old religious rites of Intramuros died when the churches there were destroyed in 1945) or cultural changes (The Latin Mass is an example. When Vatican II closed, it signified a real religious cultural revolution. Very few lay today Catholics would trade in the vernacular Mass for the Latin Mass. Catholics today barely know a word of liturgical Latin.)

Since Vatican II, priests have been creative enough to update lenten practices. A few diehards tried to preserve the pre-Vatican II rites and this resulted in a major international schism (the first since the Reformation). But it wasn't the Vatican II church that split into a zillion denominations. It was the conservatives. It was a sort of Protestantism in reverse. The Vatican II Catholic Church is one.

So we see new updates to Good Friday practices especially in Manila. The "pasyon" has been made into a "rap" and some have been translated into bossa beat! "yeech! UGH!" The lenten processions have been updated too. I have seen one with multimedia presentations on top of the "carrosa".

These updates will ensure that the rites will be functional.

But there are urban rituals that have died.

Let me list these

With cable TV, the usual TV fare of the Seven Last Words, Cecil B de Mille's "Ten Commandments" and a host of biblical films have largely passed into history. Local networks find it better to shut down.

It is a pity since the "bible" films have a lot of sexual content. Do you recall that Golden Calf scene in the "Ten Commandments"?

One of the results of the Vatican II council is the popularity of "Jesus Christ Superstar". In the 70's my sister played her vinyl on her sofa sized Panasonic stereo when Holy Monday kicked in. This of course irritated my Pre-Vatican II Lola (a quintessential church "Manang") who in her last years was trying to make sense of the religious revolution then raging.

My sister and I over all those years have memorized the libretto. To this day I can still sing that campy "Caiphas and Annas" operatic exchange or that "Herod's Song".

"Superstar" was always shown on Good Friday on Channel 9. That is now a lost Good Friday ritual (Whatever happened to Channel 9 anyway?) Today's kids and teens have no idea who Ted Neeley is or even Yvonne Elliman.

Another lost ritual is the Protestant bible show on TV. After we saw the "heretical" re-run of "Superstar", the Church of Hollywood "bible" movie and the orthodox "7 Last Words" we would tune in to Ernest Angley. Now whatever happened to those repent and be saved TV shows?

Then to bed. That was Good Friday for us.

While some rituals haven't died, (The Stations of the Cross and Visita Iglesia have survived in their post-modern form) one lenten practice is almost dead. This is buying from the hawkers on the church patio. After Vatican II many church patios have been converted to serve as "pastoral centers"and with it sellers of eggs, kakanin and samalamig. (Of course you can still find them outside the church gates but that isn't the same. There was a sense of holiness among the vendors if they sell on the church patio.)

A vestige of the practice can still be seen at the gothic San Sebastian Church in Manila. On the church patio vendors belonging to parish societies sell eggs,kakanin but no samalamig. In lieu of that, they sell C2!

Well the old rites and practices are almost dead. And as anthropologists would predict, new ones will replace the old.

On TV in replacement of the Church of Hollywood movie, "Superstar", the local Sinakulo, Catholic lenten reflection, Protestant bible show etc we see the postmodern replacement.

One cable TV channel has re-run the interview of " Jun Lozada. We see the smiling face (often shifting to tears) of the Truth Teller.

Our society has need to raise a new Good Friday icon. The only thing left for Lozada is to get crucified.

In that case I would rather opt for the bossa version of the Pasyon!


DJB Rizalist said...

I love reading the Gospels and these long, hot Holy Week days have been perfect for the reflective mood they always get me in.

A bossa version of the Pasyon sounds pretty cool though, will have to suggest to our local pabasa folks haha, it might catch on.

blackshama said...

The Catholic Church in the Philippines should follow through with the Bossa chant!

Anyway I think Judgement Day is upon us when we hear Freddie Aguilar's songs turned into bossa!