SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Holy Week of time past

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 17 April) – Time was when Holy Week was, well, holy, that is, if one’s yardstick is the degree of silence and inactivity during the final days of Lent.

I can still remember how Grandma would reprimand us if we go outside to play from Holy Monday to Good Friday, but especially on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Noise beyond the decibels that her ears could tolerate was also a no-no.

“Hoy, mahal nga adlaw karon, nag-antos atong Ginoo. Dili magsaba-saba. Maayo pag moadto mog simbahan,” (Hey, [sorry, I can’t find an exact translation of mahal nga adlaw], our Lord is suffering. Don’t be noisy. You better go to church.) she would tell us.

Naughty as we were, we’d snap back: “Lola, maayo karon maghimog sala kay patay ang Ginoo. Dili siya makahibalo.” (Grandma, it’s a good time to commit sin because God is dead. He wouldn’t know.) She would just murmur words we could barely hear and go back to reading the Bible, the ritual that she often did while her vision was still good.

Such petty mischief was the exception though. As children and later as adolescents, we grew up in a culture that placed great significance on Holy Week celebration. It was really an occasion for prayer and reflection to the point of becoming monastic like Grandma would have us behave.

It wasn’t all prayer and reflection though. Holy Week also served as a time for clan reunion. Some relatives would come to while away the days in our house. Grandma prepared for their arrival by cooking native delicacies like bibingka and budbod to go with tableya (hot chocolate). Eating meat was an absolute prohibition at least until Good Friday.

Indeed, the days of Holy Week, Good Friday in particular, seemed like the longest days of the year with the specific behavior and gastronomic sacrifices imposed by elders and tradition.

Yet it was one thing that brought the townsfolk together. For instance, all households would light candles as the procession that followed the reading of the Seven Last Words passed through the town’s main streets, reaffirming a sense of community that transcends religious bonds.

Times, however, have changed. Commercialism has crept into the picture. Holy Week has ceased to be a purely spiritual event. Now it has become synonymous with trips to resorts, beaches and tourist sites, the way Filipinos have transformed cemeteries into party venues during All Souls’ Day.

On second thought, each generation interprets things in different ways. Maybe there’s no telling how human consciousness evolves and adapts, thus I reserve judgment on how the manner of spending spiritual events has changed through the years. After all, the real measure of goodness is neither belief nor obsession with rituals but the capacity for love and compassion.

Saint Paul himself put love above faith and hope. Advance Happy Easter to all.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at