The lively beat of the drums, the flashy gladiator tunics, the brightly-coloured sneering and bearded masks and the dynamic re-enactment will urge you to secure a ticket to the beautiful island of Marinduque, Philippines as its towns unite to create one gigantic stage for the celebration of the Lenten Season!
The Philippines, with most of its population composed of Catholics, holds plenty of festivals the whole year round. It has become part of the Filipino culture to observe certain practises and hold festivals during these important events. But when Lenten Season comes, there is one celebration that surpasses all others and becomes the center of attention, the Moriones Festival of Marinduque, Philippines.
The term Moriones came from the word ‘Morion’ which refers to the helmet that comes in par with the armor of Roman soldiers. Locals began to develop the term ‘Moriones’ in the 1960s and since then, it’s what they call the local inhabitants in Marinduque who pretend and don costumes of Roman soldiers during the time of Christ. These participants hide their identities by wearing masks which is part of the entire garb.
The festival was traced back in the 1870s when it first began. It was introduced by Fr. Dionisio Santiago to the locals when he was assigned in a parish in the town of Mogpog in order for them to become focused on the purpose and meaning of the Lenten Season.
When Holy Monday comes, you will notice these energetic and colourful figures will begin to roam the streets of Marinduque. Pulling pranks on children by scaring them on their wits ends and displaying antics that will entertain the crowd and draw attention. You may think that these costumed soldiers are tasked to bring amusement in the streets, well it is true, but it is actually very vexing on their part to put-on those heavy, hot and stiff garbs; a reason why this has also become part of their penance.
On Good Friday, when the afternoon strikes three, you may join the women in the Santo Sepulcro as they stand and read verses from the Bible for the wake of the dead Christ.
The Via Crucis is another event to watch out for in this festival. As a form of atonement for their sins, some men re-enact the passion of Christ. They walk in procession and whip their backs while carrying huge heavy crosses. Sometimes they even end up actually being crucified!
The highlight of this event is the story of Saint Longinus, who, according to Bible, pierced the side of Christ’s body when he was crucified, and when the blood poured down and dripped on Longinus’ blind eye, it got cured. This re-enactment creates the huge stage as the man who acts as Longinus runs around town proclaiming Christ’s Resurrection and his new-found faith while trying his best to hide and avoid those garbed ‘Roman soldiers’. If given the chance, you can even help him escape from his enemies! All of this will climax on high noon on Easter Sunday when Longinus is finally captured and beheaded.
How to get there?
From Manila you can go to the island of Marinduque through air transportation and land in their airport located in Brgy. Masiga, in the municipality of Gasan.
If you want to travel by land and sea, you can ride a bus heading to Dalahican Port in Lucena, Quezon Province from Manila. You may also take a bus from Alabang heading to Lucena Grand Terminal with a fare of P180 with a travel time of 2-3 hours. From there, you can ride a jeep heading to Dalahican Port where there are ferries that will bring you to Marinduque.
This escapade will surely allow you to become closer to the Filipino culture as you enjoy the frolics the streets of Marinduque has to offer in its Moriones Festival! So if I were you, I would mark my calendar and reserve a ticket to one of the Philippines’ most prominent festivals.