Sunday, March 27, 2016

City slickers join pilgrimage to heartland of Pampanga on Maundy Thursday

By Nancy T. Lu

Maundy Thursday this year was somewhat different but truly unforgettable for it was spent for the first time with the Reyes clan in the heartland of Pampanga. The trip from Manila to Mexico was unusually long because the bus with more than 40 mostly related passengers representing at least three generations moved at a snail’s pace due to the heavy exodus traffic. Light banter kept impatience and boredom from setting in. Sandwiches from Aristocrat and Jack 'n Jill snacks also helped keep mouths busy.

Reminders that this was a day calling for Lenten prayer were clear to see upon arrival at the Sta. Monica Parish in Mexico, Pampanga. Only the belfry tower of the original 16th century church could still be seen today. The rebuilt main church has beautiful stained glass windows all around.

The Visita Iglesia sites were decked out for the influx of devotees. Signs put up in the church premises emphasized that the church visit must not just be for tourism and picture-taking. Expected was a pilgrim’s behavior. The Ten Commandments were even clearly spelled out to help in the examination of the conscience. Biblical passages sent across the message about God’s great love for humanity.

Interiors of churches visited if parking was not a problem were stripped bare of decorations. Statues were all covered and wrapped in purple, casting a somber mood on the surroundings. A need to show reverence .was not forgotten.

The greatest story ever told was enacted partly, Philippine style, on the national highway. Penitents dressed like the Black Nazarene but with faces covered carried heavy crosses while negotiating their way to their Calvary to keep their personal vows. Flagellants already bleeding on their backs whipped themselves as they followed. Actual crucifixion for some of them was to take place on Good Friday.

Special prayers for divine grace were said and votive candles lighted especially for loved ones and friends nearing the end of their Calvary. For now, they must continue to endure great pain and sufferings brought on by old age and/or sickness,

During the visit to the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Angeles City, the group came upon a tarpaulin sign warmly welcoming  the Reyes family. A poster next door which indicated Taiwanese presence in Barangay Suclaban announced the direct recruitment of Filipino workers in the community for a Taiwanese factory. Offered was a monthly salary of 20,000 New Taiwan dollars plus overtime pay.

A surprise activity of the day - an idea of Clara Reyes Lapus of Mama Sita -  was the planting of papaya sprouts on the farmland of the Reyes family. The tiny plants were prepared beforehand. So were the colorful flags identifying the arriving planters. Somebody did the advanced digging of holes on the ground to ensure proper spacing of the papaya plants, too.
Bart Lapus, the farming expert in the group, suggested returning in December for the fruit harvest. He gave assurance that watering the papaya plants would not be a problem due to the caretaker’s access to a water pump.

Pampango style of palate pampering naturally became part of the experience of the entourage from Manila. Lillian Mercado-Lising Borromeo, fondly called Atching Lillian, received a special request to handle the lunchtime food catering. She selected a buffet menu that highlighted a comforting culinary culture in the province of Pampanga. Sisig - pork cheek and jowl boiled, broiled and then put on a hot plate - tasted particularly delicious.

The 75-year-old author of the cookbook “Atching Lillian’s Heirloom Recipes” sat down with the guests, narrating amusing stories behind some of the traditional dishes. She also signed copies of her cookbook bought by the diners.

The  program of activities on Maundy Thursday for the Reyes clan concluded in the past with hearty dining at the Aristocrat. This tradition was kept this year. The originally planned watching of the reenactment of Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles at the Christ the King Church in Quezon City was skipped because of the group's late return to Manila. The all-too-familiar parking problem was also a factor contributing to a change of plan. 

All told, Maundy Thursday was spent meaningfully in Pampanga. The bonding that took place among families and friends also made the day very memorable.

No comments:

Post a Comment