Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ang Mahal na Senyor: A Tradition of Lucban and My Family

It's almost midnight of Good Friday when the Senyor arrived inside the church, carried by the men of Lucban, a tradition called the "nag-uusong". The men, who wore white t-shirts with a portrait of Jesus printed on them, scampered like fishes, all for the chance of holding on to the rope that's attached to the image and help in carrying it around the town. The nag-usong afterwards tossed their shirts to the men standing beside the image, to wipe their shirts on the glass coffin of the Senyor. This is the highlight of the procession.

The Mahal na Senyor started when our great grandfather, Juan Ranola, used his own money and the devotees' to purchase the image from the family of Cirilo David whom it was pawned to. For the total amount of 700 pesos, 300 pesos were from the people, and 400 from Don Juan, he was able to get it back and brought it home in Lucban. (Poon at Panata: Sining at Paniniwala sa Mahal ng Senyor ng Lucban, Quezon. Cecilia Dela Paz. Philippine Humanities Review vol.10, 2008. p.106 )

Since then, there was an agreement between the 9 sons and daughters of Juan Ranola to have the chance of taking care of the Senyor and all its needs. Each year, the heirs of each sibling is chosen by means of a draw lots to be the “camarera”. The draw lots is performed in front of representatives of each heir before the first Sunday of the Holy week or Domingo de Ramos. Once the family's name is chosen, they will be responsible for the image during the procession and the whole year round, including housing the Senyor. The family would have to wait nine years to have the chance again, since the responsibility will rotate among the nine siblings' heirs. This is still going until now, and I am on the fifth generation already. Here in the photo above, is the family of Ade and Missing Salvosa. They were the camarera for the holy week of 2011.

During Lenten season, the camarera will open their house to the public for the 'besos manos' or the kissing of the feet.

One of the responsibilities of the camarera is to organize the "pabasa" or "pasyon". Anyone was welcome to join. One would picture that it is performed by the elders of the family and neighbors, but to our surprise, even teenagers and younger kids joined the “pasyon”. It was one visual testimony that the tradition is safe and will be passed on. It was a different pasyon, it was happy and alive. The people sang to an upbeat tune. It was like hearing your neighbors singing a chorus to a song on the videoke. According to the apo of the trusted caretaker of our Juan Ranola, Jayson (who is also like an adopted son of the Rañola's), this was due to the genuinely happy nature of the Lucbanin's. The good thing about the pasyon in Lucban is that it was influenced by Kundiman music.

It's innate in us Filipinos to be helpful and practice teamwork, and it was very evident during the preparation for the procession on Good Friday.

I was amazed to find a man on a sidewalk printing a portrait of Jesus for free. Remember for a man to be able to join the pag-uusong, you have to wear white with a Jesus design, though I guess it wasn't just limited for the mag-uusong.

These were real grapes, removed from one of their Church decorations. They were kind to give me one, and it tasted good, with all the dust. They also insisted that I get a pancit habhab during their break. Honestly, I've visited Lucban four times in my life only, and this is the first time for me to eat the pancit. Why just now? I don't know, and I'm glad to find out that its the best pancit in the world! The original recipe includes sayote, carrots and shrimps only.Even kids playing outside were offered pancit. The togetherness is one of the traits that would always make me feel proud of being a Filipino.

A part of our family tradition is that the camarera would carry the Senyor from their house to its glass coffin to get it ready for the procession.

Now the "mag-uusong", as the patron saints are being prepared and lined up on the street, awaits the arrival of the Senyor.

Most of them were under the influence of alcohol. Now one may wonder why these men, who call themselves devotees, drink when the Lord has died. Their reason is that it would give them a stronger tolerance for pain and smell during the pag-usong.

It always happen that all the saints has entered the church, but the Senyor was hours behind. This was because of how it was brought around town.

The pag-uusong starts when the priest arrives at the house of the camarera to fetch the Senyor. Here is when the main event begins. Four ropes are attached to the carriage, two in front and two at the back, each around 50meters in length. The males will take a hold of the ropes, and push the carriage to the church, then around the town, and back to the church again. The males in white are the nag-uusong, and the the ones in red are the organizers. There's so many of them that you couldn't see the rope anymore. Each corner of the streets, the mag-uusong await for their turn to hold the rope and carry the Senyor. When the Senyor leaves the church, the nag-uusong leave too to give chance to other mag-uusong. The belief is that, like the Senyor itself, the rope is blessed, and holding the rope would give these devotees hope that they too (and their family) would be blessed for the year.

This tradition started during WWII. When the Japanese war was about to end, some areas in Lucban were bombed. Our great grandmother asked Nanang Maria, the helper who took care of our grandparents when they were young, to sget the Senyor from the church and save it. She, together with two others, a male and another female, carried it to Mt. Banahaw. Now the Japanese were also fleeing to this mountain because the Americans were coming, and they gun fired every Filipino they see on their way. They believed it was miracle that they weren't killed.

As the Senyor was a few meters away from the Church, another tradition that's only in Lucban was done, the "palakpak kawayan." Because chiming of the bell church is prohibited during Lent, the kawayan was used instead. Dozens of bamboos were clapped together to make a sound. The bamboo is cut in its midsection down to its rectangular hole,about a quarter of its length. When it is clapped, the sound emanates from this hole.

Women? Yes. If the men traveled the Senyor around town, the women brought it to its new home, the next camarera, our family. Funny because they were faster than those hundreds of men.

The Senyor will stay at my lolo's house till the next Lenten season.

The Senyor has two sets of clothing. This one is for Lent is made of gold flat tin-like thread and sewn in high relief. Due to it's age, some parts of it has to be sewn again.

On the sides of the cloth are symbols representing the life of Jesus.

Actually, the Senyor has two clothes for Lent, the red one, which is older. Hence, it's being agreed not to use it anymore and just preserve it. They are kept on a wooden box, away from sunlight.

The gold is only used during Lent, then replaced by a white cloth for everyday use. The hair of Senyor has two colors also, the black for Lent, and brown on normal days. This is replaced together with its clothing. Black Saturday was the coronation day of the next camarera. My dad, aunts and cousins were crowned with white flowers and ribbons as people cheered for them.

We will do what the camarera did for this Lent next year. We all couldn't wait to be the hosts. :)

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