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PHOTO ESSAY: Holy Week spirit moves amid empty Poblacion streets

Text and Photos by Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 10 2020 11:50 AM | Updated as of Apr 10 2020 01:17 PM

The streets in Makati's Barangay Poblacion should be filled with pilgrims praying and makeshift Kalbaryos or small chapels by the Holy Week.

Instead, it's virtually empty, save for a few people in facemasks or vehicles making their grocery runs due to the lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.

As of April 9, Barangay Poblacion recorded 20 positive cases of the novel coronavirus, the highest number in Makati City, according to the Makati City Government. 

An image of the Sto. Niño de Pasion de Makati goes around Barangay Poblacion in Makati City in a small procession on Holy Monday, April 06, 2020. The Sts. Peter and Paul Parish will hold a similar procession as part of the Holy Week liturgies, with devotees advised to participate from their homes.

Holy week activities were cancelled after the entire Luzon was placed under the enhanced community quarantine. The Archdiocese of Manila and the Makati LGU discouraged activities that would draw in crowds to prevent spread of the virus. Organizers had to explore ways to continue the community’s long-held traditions in the heritage hub of the Makati.

For "Kalbaristas" or the various collectives of devotees in the barangay that are the backbone of the Lenten activities, it was saddening and disappointing for the tradition to break for the first time, especially as some have prepared and raised funds.

"Siyempre malulungkot ka. Yearly naeexpect namin na yung sa mga Kalbaryo, laking bagay nun. Doon lang parang yung tradition na stinart ng parents namin na tinayo yung Kalbaryo, papadasal, tapos after ng Good Friday, procession, nakabarong kami, yun ang nawala," restaurant owner and kalbarista Oyet Kasingal said.

Kasingal also cites that even though some kalbaristas currently live outside the barangay, many return to visit Poblacion during the Holy Week, even those living abroad. 

A total of 48 kalbaryos can be found in the heritage district according to Sts. Peter and Paul Paris.

On Good Friday, from the kubols, 62 images are loaded in carriages for a procession, the route takes hours to finish.

The parish is also saddened as it celebrates its quadricentennial year, 50 years older than Makati itself, they plan to hold a longer procession that would include two other barangays under their jurisdiction, Valenzuela and Olympia.

Parish priest Monsignor Gerry Santos still believes God speaks even through this time. 

"Pero kung ating susuriing mabuti kung ito ba ay bahagi ng plano ng Diyos sa buhay namin, nakatitiyak ako na walang nangyayari dito sa mundo na hind kagustuhan ng Diyos, kahit yung mga masasakit na pangyayaring ito. Ito lagi ang sinasabi ko. May sinasabi ang Diyos sa atin na may ibang pamamaraan ng pagdiriwang ng 400 years ng simbahan."

 

While the scene looks 'dead' with the empty streets, the spirit of the Lenten season remains alive in various forms even in the time of physical distancing.

Devotees on lockdown are encouraged to recite the "pabasa" from their homes, ensuring their safety.

While masses in church are cancelled, the parish streams masses and other Lenten activities via Facebook Live, which began with Palm Sunday.

"Andaming nagbubuhos how depressed they are with what's happening. And knowing that we are livestreaming, it comforts them." parish pastoral council coordinator Malou Tagunicar shares. Tagunicar along with the priests, seminarians, and staff remaining in the church during the lockdown interact with the livestream audiences, entertaining questions and accommodating prayer requests. 

Instead of a procession of many images, the parish holds a procession within the 3 barangays with an image relating to the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ loaded on to a pickup truck with a convoy from the Makati LGU in tow in different days within the Holy Week. Residents are advised prior to observe the procession within their homes as the images pass by, and if available, to light a candle.

Monsignor Santos emphasizes that these images being processioned are images of hope amid the pandemic. 

"We hope that in doing so, we can give hope to our kabarangay, those who are feeling so low and depressed and most especially mawala na yung pandemic, " Tagunicar also adds.

The parish through St. Paul Makati also took in some city hall frontliners, mostly those transporting PUIs in the city to hospitals.

Some parishioners, kalbaristas, and other groups have donated physical goods and grocery vouchers to the poor and stranded workers within the area. With some overflow from donors, some of goods reach to parishes outside Makati.

Capable kalbaristas like Kasingal's family also anonymously prepare food packs, face shields, and other essential items for frontliners, notably health workers from Makati Medical Center. The Kasingal patriarch also mentions coordinating with fellow kalbaristas on where each would give out goods.

 

"Jesus is alive because he has risen from the dead. That is one of the most important truths of the Christian faith. And Jesus is alive when we do good to others, and doing good these days is feeding the hungry, reaching out to the frontliners, enabling other people to feel comfortable, housing the street dwellers, feeding the street dwellers, dito sa ating parokya, nawala man yung mga tradisyon na yun, buhay si Hesus," Monsignor Santos reflects. "If Christianity means sharing, the essence of that is celebrated during this Holy Week. Yung pagbabahagi, pagdadamayan, at pagbabayanihan."

"At siguro ito ang gusto niyang ipaabot sa amin sa parokya, na may ibang klaseng pagdiriwang maliban sa prusisyon, maliban sa pagbabasa ng pasyon - maganda iyon, pero dahil sa nangyari nga na ito, gumawa kami ng paraan at gumagawa ng paraan ang mga parishioners para sa ibang klaseng pagdiriwang. Let this be a celebration of life, not death, because Jesus has risen."