Paombong, Bulacan — A chapel at the farming village of Kapitagan, here, has become a pilgrimage site for many Catholic faithful – and now even for local and foreign tourists – because of rare and old traditions that continue to be observed during the Holy Week.
Washing Of Christ
Bulacan tourism consultant Jo Clemente said one such tradition that attracts multitudes of the faithful is the so-called “bathing” of the centuries-old image of the crucified Christ on Holy Thursday.
As the village’s patron saint, the revered image is endearingly referred to by local as “Krus ng Mahal na Poong Sto. Cristo.”
“Every midnight of Holy Thursday, the image of the Crucified Christ is being taken down from the chapel’s main altar before it is being doused and bathed in oil and perfume,” said Clemente.
“After the ritual, the perfumed oil is collected and distributed to the people,” he added.
This is what attracts pilgrims, who believe that the perfumed oil works miracles and has healing power.
For more than 100 years now, thousands of people carry bottles and fall in line from midnight until the wee hours of the morning to receive the perfumed oil.
The lines close before dawn when the image is cleaned and then taken back to the chapel’s main altar, Clemente said.
Oil Then Blood
This town, which is known for its palm vinegar, is also known for its bloody Lenten rituals such as the “panata” in which bareback penitents whip their backs to a bloody mess on Good Friday.
The flagellants gather for a procession. They come shirtless, barefoot and their faces are covered by cloth.
Each one holds a whip with wooden tips and their backs are bladed with small cuts to prevent blood clotting when the whipping ritual begins.
The flagellants then whip their backs from the beginning of the procession until the end.
While a couple of villages in Pampanga, particularly in the City of San Fernando and Angeles City, are known to have penitents being nailed to the cross on Good Friday, the same tradition is being observed in this town, said Clemente.
At high noon, faith healers in Bulacan – some of them women – pick up their wooden crosses and remake the passionate walk of Jesus Christ under the cross to a man-made “Golgotha” beside the chapel in this barangay.
There, they are nailed to their crosses and raised for a number of minutes. The rare event draws many foreign tourists among the crowd every year that Bulacan Governor Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado has put up Public Assistance Centers (PACs) in the area to maintain peace and order.