Manila, March 31, 2002 (STAR) By Cecille Suerte Felipe And Felix Delos Santos - A semblance of angels will fly in most Catholic churches all over the country at dawn today to mark the end of the three-day mourning following the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Easter Sunday also ends the 40-day Lent that reminds the world once again of the sufferings of Jesus for the salvation of mankind.
These "angels" are the little girls who remove the lambong (veil of mourning) of the Blessed Mother shortly after processions at Easter dawn, signifying the resurrection of Jesus.
"This ritual is popularly known as salubong because this is done in a procession where the men and women are separated and coming from different directions. But they eventually meet in front of the church," says Dez Bautista, a religious researcher.
The men are led by the image of the Resurrected Christ while the Blessed Mother, still covered in a black veil, comes in the front line of the women.
In Meycauayan, Bulacan, the group of men will come from the chapel in Barangay Zamora, while the women will advance from the chapel in Barangay Hulo, with the Meycauayan church in the poblacion serving as the point of salubungan (converging area).
Bautista believes there was no record that Jesus Christ met his mother when He rose from the dead. The Bible narrates that Jesus only met Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and his 11 disciples.
"But since people are naturally attached to their mothers," Bautista says, "we believe that Jesus Christ visited the Blessed Virgin Mother shortly after his resurrection, so the tradition of salubong was born."
In Cebu, when Jesus and His mother meet, an "angel" who is suspended in midair lifts the black veil from the head of the Blessed Mother. "The Ďangelí is lowered inside a giant paper flower while a host of other Ďangelsí sing alleluias," Bautista says.
Folk superstition has it that the black veil has to be completely taken off from the image of the Blessed Mother or misfortune will befall the people. Which is why a stronger 12-year-old rather than a kindergarten kid is now assigned to do the enviable task of lifting the veil.
"Salubong signals a new beginning not for Jesus but for us. He paid with His life to save us from our sins and this means a new life for us," says Bautista.
Easter, the oldest of all Christian festivals, reflects many pagan customs that are now associated with the holiday. Present-day scholars accept the theory that Easter is derived from Ostern and Ostra, Teutonic and Scandinavian goddesses of spring and fertility.
Easter is a moveable feast, happening yearly between March 22 and April 25. The date is determined by the first Sunday of the first full moon of the vernal equinox.
According to Bautista, towns with elaborate rituals of salubong are Cebu, Angono (in Rizal), Naga City (in Bicol), Pampanga, Dinalupihan (in Bataan), and Marinduque.
Rev. Pros Tenorio, Malolos, Bulacan parish priest, interprets salubong as Godís way of showing the Blessed Virgin still has a mission, and that is to announce that Jesus Christ has resurrected.
"The message of salubong and Easter is that Christ is truly present in our lives, through the Eucharist, the word of God, and Holy Communion. God is present in every heart that loves another," he says.
The Easter Vigil has four liturgical components Ė the service of the light, liturgy of the word (Genesis 1-2, 22; Exodus 14-15; Psalms 16, 19, 30, 42, 104, 118; Isaiah 54-55; Romans 6 and Matthew 28), rites of initiation and the liturgy of the Eucharist.
Unlike penitensiya practices of folk Catholicism like self-flagellation and mock crucifixion (23 men and three women nailed themselves to the cross in Pampanga, Bulacan and Zamboanga on Good Friday) which the Catholic hierarchy frowns upon, the salubong ritual has the tacit approval of the church officialdom.
Sabado de Gloria
To many Filipino faithful, though, the celebration of Easter began yesterday, Sabado de Gloria or Holy Saturday, the day of the expectation of the Lordís resurrection.
The celebration began with a Paschal Vigil that started after nightfall yesterday and ended before the first light of dawn today.
In the quaintly lovely coastal town of Angono, Rizal (the town is dubbed the "cradle of artists" and the site of the ancient petroglyphs), the Paschal Vigil is held grandly in the Angono church, complete with a tableau of the Resurrection. A hillside scene depicting a cave with a round Ďslabí of stone for a portal is set up at the left side of the churchís high altar.
At the end of all the liturgical readings and ceremonies, including the rites of blessing of the fire and water, the renewal of baptismal promises and the profession of the faith, "Roman soldiers" surreptitiously take their posts around the cave.
Precisely at midnight the entire church is filled with the sounds of rumbling of the earth, the boom of thunder and the crack of lightning. The stone "slab" shakes and rolls to the side to reveal the inside of the cave, filled with an intense white light.
As the church reverberates with Handelís Hallelujah chorus and the ringing of bells, the life-size image of the risen Christ appears at the mouth of the cave. The Angono folk break into resounding applause as the Resurrected Christ appears clad in white linen.
The Paschal Vigil continues at home and on the streets, but the mood takes on a festive mod as the faithful eagerly await the encuentro or salubong.
The salubong happens at a designated place called galilea, a four-corner structure of huge and tall bamboo trunks forming an apex. At the center of the galilea is a heart-shaped contraption called puso, wrapped in papel de japon and adorned with cutouts of glitter paper. Four huge paper birds (ibon) hang from each corner.
When the carrozas of the risen Christ and the Mater Dolorosa meet under the galilea, the Angono band begins playing the music accompaniment of the dalit, prayer song, sang by the kapitana, retelling the sorrows of the Mater Dolorosa and exalting her joys at seeing her Son. The kapitana dances with the band music, her left hand resting on her waist while the other waving up high the banner of resurrection, and arching her body as far back as she could as she turns around and around.
And then at a given signal Angono menfolk light up the pyrotechnics, propelling the four ibon to swoop down on the puso, causing the contraption to open slowly and reveal, amid a shower of flower petals and confetti, a little girl angel. After reciting her dalit the angel very carefully removes the black shroud of the Mater Dolorosa, revealing an exultant Mary.
With lots of cheering and the band playing, the faithful bring the carrozas back to the church, greeting each other "Happy Easter!"
Beginning today, the Easter Candle will be placed near the altar, next to the ambo or lectern, to be kept lit in all liturgical occasions for the next 50 days.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
2002 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS
All rights reserved
PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE