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VIERNES SANTO


A Good Friday rite is the meditation on the Seven Last Words --
the Siete Palabras -- officiated not by a priest but by lay speakers.
 


At 3:00 PM, the hour of Christ's death, a procession
goes around town, complete with a band in mourning costumes
playing funeral dirges.
 


It's the funeral procession of the Santo Entierro
of the Corpuz family.
 


Though it's a purely private initiative, the procession
is allowed to pass in front of the church.
It's all that remains of an old Good Friday tradition.
 


The Senor once played the central figure in the church's
Siete Palabras tableau. With movable arms and head, 
the image used to be nailed onto a high cross at the main altar. 
Then at 3:00 in the afternoon, a hidden string would be released
to make the statue's head droop,and its eyes would close as in death 
-- all accompanied by deafening "thunder rolls" created by beating
tin sheets together. The theatrics would end with the statue being ceremonially
removed from the cross, and then taken around the poblacion in 
a funeral procession. In time, the Senor began showing wear and tear, 
and its starring role in the church's Siete Palabras rite had to
be given up if only to preserve the antique statue.
 


After the procession, the Senor is taken
to a viewing hall for the pahalik.
Its arms and feet may be touched and kissed by the faithful, 
but not its face. The shroud is never removed.
 


Cotton balls soaked in arnica-smelling perfume
called balsamo santo are given away to the faithful.
 


Back in church, the Good Friday service revolves around
the public exposition of the Holy Cross...
 


and its veneration.
 


By late afternoon, the crowd swells outside the church,
awaiting the start of the procession.
 


The object of much attention is the Santo Entierro.
 


The image of the dead Christ that belongs to the Ortiz family
is encased in a glass carroza traditionally festooned
with sampaguita flowers.
 


Nearly everybody in town turns up either 
to watch...
 


or join the kilometer-long procession.
 


After the procession, the carroza of the Santo Entierro is taken home -- to be stripped
of sampaguitas by people wanting to get a fistful of the flowers which they believe are medicinal.
 


Oblivious of the near-riot outside, the Senor
lies in state inside a private chapel...
 


where it's His turn to be mobbed by
the faithful eager to kiss His perfumed feet
and take home a piece of cotton ball
reeking of balsamo santo.
 

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