The Good Life
with Eli F.J. Tajanlangit
It was as though the heavens sent the proper lighting for the traditional Easter Sunday dawn “Engkwentro,” or Encounter yesterday in Bacolod, when the Risen Christ, icon of icons of the Catholic faith, meets His Mother, apostle of all apostles, first model of Christian vow of obedience.
The moon was descending in the west, casting a sallow yellow over downtown while the sun, still lying low and deep, was throwing faint rays in the east, framing the age-old San Sebastian cathedral with a faint, gray-blue hue.
Rizal street fronting the cathedral was bubbling with excitement, albeit muted, as the crowd started thickening, while the processions from two points were proceeding closer. Smoke rose from the stalls as vendors started preparing rice cakes.
From the north would come the Blessed Mother. From the south, Her Risen Son. Both would meet in the Cathedral courtyard where the angel will lift Mary’s veil of grief, and angels sing and the first Sunday mass after the resurrection will be celebrated. For weeks on end, the faithful would stand to sing the Gloria during the mass to hail the Christ’s resurrection
Expectations hang in the air – for the faithful, it came from standing on the edge of the Church’s biggest feast, Easter, this celebration affirming our salvation and redemption. For the simply curious, it came from the thought that the procession of these elaborate images, antique art pieces from another age but the same faith, was arriving soon, and a tableau was going to be staged. Of course for the vendors, it must have been the prospects of sales briskier and bigger than the usual Sunday take.
For seven days, this street had seen waves upon waves of people coming together to celebrate their Christianity – from the triumphant entry to Jerusalem that was marked as Domingo de Ramos, to the Last Supper, the Passion, the Crucifixion, the Soledad, the long lone walk of the grieving Mother, to the Mass of Resurrection and now this, Easter. In between, there had been visitas and vigils.
The carrozas bearing the “welcome committee” of John the Evangelist, Marta, Mary Magdalene and Mother Mary came early, ahead of the Risen Christ, and so they parked a block away.
Soon, the slow staccato of drums and the lone trumpet could be heard, and from a distance, the carrosa of the Risen Christ rolled slowly to the Church. This way! This Way! voices directed the carrozas amid the throng that had come to witness the event. There was some pushing and pulling there as the carrozas had to be parked properly for the rites, especially so for the little angel to be able to reach the black veil and remove it. By the way, the little girl also had such a long soliloquy explaining the symbols and meanings of the moment which she did with aplomb, while one or two of her fellow children, standing in the background as angels unsuccessfully stifled yawns.
It took a few tries for the veil to drop, signifying an end to Mary’s grief, and marking the start of the festivities. A seemingly stunned public stood still, until someone cried, “Palakpaaak! Clap your hands!” and it broke into applause. The processional for the mass followed.
Outside, the sun was starting to climb on the horizon, at the back of the Cathedral. The background was still predominantly blue and gray, but a few rays of gold were trying to burst through. Somehow, the sun and sky yesterday were attuned to the messages of hope and faith and their power to break through the darkness.
Happy Easter, everyone!*