Holy Week in Apo Island in the Philippines is a really holy, holy, holy, holy week. The Catholics celebrate it seriously and religiously to commemorate the Passion of Christ by doing the The Way of The Cross from the first station to the 14th station. It begins when Jesus is condemned to death and ends when Jesus is laid in a tomb.
In some parts of the country, especially in Pampanga, Holy Week celebration is like no other in the world. Men volunteer and compete to play the role of Jesus and are willing to be nailed up on the cross, suffering excruciating pain, like Jesus did. There are also people who parade on the streets to inflict pain to themselves by self-flagellation. Gore seeps though their backs and it’s a surreal sight for both believers and non-believers of Catholic faith.
However, in every small village, town and city where there’s a presence of the Church, devotees congregate and do their own version of The Way of the Cross. Fourteens stations are scattered around the village where pilgrims are going to halt and commemorate the sufferings of Christ in each station.
This Holy Week, a friend of mine spent 9 days in one of the, Apo Island. This tiny island in the Visayas is a world-renowned marine sanctuary where hundreds of rare species are found. Thus, it’s a popular diving and snorkelling site for/among locals and foreign tourists. And most of all, Apo Island is your place to unwind yourself from the gadgets of modern technology—electricity only runs from 6 – 9 in the evening. After that, a bazillion of stars light up the island with the sparkling Pacific Ocean billowing to the shore where the sands wait like a patient lover. 😉
This is what my friend, Anna, says about her Holy Week experience in Apo Island:
It’s my first time to join a pilgrimage so I was really curious how it is done in this tiny fishing village in Apo Island. At around 5:30am all the village people gathered in front of the chapel and had free coffee and bread as breakfast.
The procession started at 6:00am and there were 12 “apostles” who took turns in carrying the cross.
The trek was easy at the beginning as we had 2 stations in the village.
And while walking to the next station, everyone was singing. The location of the stations of the cross were carefully planned out as we saw all the beautiful sights around the island.
We stopped by the beach, at some very remote village and on top of the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Some places were shaded others were not.
The procession was quite long and we were all sweaty, exhausted and hungry — but I tried not to complain. Those guys carrying the heavy cross reminded me that I was in better position than them. So, I kept mum. 🙂
There were also a lot of fruit trees along the way and everyone tried to grab some wild guavas and mangoes to give them more stamina in walking and hiking up the hilly places.
At 9:45 a.m., the sight of the chapel where we all started was a relief. Though exhausted and still catching up our breath, we were all happy to be part of and made it safely back.
Photo credits: by Anna