Easter Salubong: Rooted in culture, family ties
Many Catholic practices are creative displays not just of Filipino faith, but of the Filipino culture. One of these is the Salubong, which takes place at dawn on Easter Sunday.
Devotee reenacts role of Jesus at Mandaluyong Senakulo. Ferdinand Santos, who has been acting the role of Jesus in Mandaluyong City since 1994, re-enacts the Last Supper during a Senakulo, a Lenten play that depicts events from the Old and New Testaments related to the life, sufferings, and death of Christ. Reuters/Cheryl Ravelo
Salubong is practiced in most Catholic communities across the Philippines, though it is more famously celebrated in the provinces, especially in Cebu, Angono in Rizal, Pampanga, and Naga in Camarines Sur.
The ritual recreates the imagined first meeting of Jesus and Mary after the resurrection.
As per tradition, it begins with two separate processions, where images of the Mater Dolorosa and the Resurrected Christ are carried from opposite ends.
“The womenfolk bring the statue of the Blessed Mother, covered in a black veil [called a lambong, a veil of mourning]. The menfolk carry the statue of the Resurrected Christ,” said Ronald Subida, an organizer of the Salubong in Poblacion, Makati.
Eventually, the two processions will meet at a middle point, during which an angel will lift the black veil from the face of the image of the Blessed Mother. The angel is played by a young girl from the community, and is typically suspended mid-air from inside a giant paper flower.
At the precise moment that the veil is lifted, the Hallelujah Chorus is played, and celebration ensues. In some places, such as in Poblacion, there are even fireworks. Usually, the event continues to an Easter morning mass.
The event is prepared for at least a week in advance, and the children who participate in it usually begin memorizing and practicing the processional songs as soon as school ends.
According to Subida, the Salubong is a perfect example of folk Christianity.
“It’s not biblical at all,” he explained.
True enough, the account of Jesus Christ’s resurrection in the Bible says that upon resurrection, Jesus greeted his disciples, Mary Magdalene, and “the other Mary.” There is no mention of the Resurrected Christ greeting his mother first.
But unlike other Holy Week practices like the Penitensya which is disapproved by the Catholic Church hierarchy, the Salubong is actually supported by them, even with its lack of basis in the Bible, but rooted in the dynamics of Filipino family relations.
“It is actually initiated by the Church,” Subida said. He added that the Salubong is a manifestation of the value Filipinos place on family.
”The Filipino psyche kasi has this tradition of the son being attached to his mother always. In the Philippines, the first person you run to is always your mother,” he explained.
“The Salubong is based on that belief that the first thing Jesus did after he was resurrected was go to the Blessed Mother,” he added.
Italy has a similar Easter custom, which they call the Madonna che scappa in piazza (“the Madonna who hastens in the square”). This practice also reenacts the first meeting of Jesus and Mary after the Resurrection, although the Italian custom takes place on a stage, and is watched by onlookers—more of a tableaux or play than a procession.
Meanwhile, in other Western countries, Easter traditions revolve around the symbol of the egg, which represents resurrection or new life. Most countries celebrate Easter Sunday by decorating eggs and hosting egg hunts.
In Spain, Easter takes on a Christmassy mood, and is celebrated with a Sunday feast where families cook special food and godparents give their godchildren gifts and a special Easter cake called “La Mona de Pascua.” The celebration even extends to Easter Monday, where families hold picnics and serve Easter food.
In central and Eastern European countries like the Czech Republic and Slovakia, one Easter custom has the men whip women around the legs with an Easter pomlázka (braided pussywillow twigs), in the belief that doing so will preserve their health and beauty. In thanks for the whipping, women will give the men an Easter egg and money. — KG/ELR, GMA News
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