holy week in the philippines

Science and Faith

I haven’t seen this since I was a little boy: an Ocean of People flocking at the courtyard that sat around a Cathedral and statues of Saints, of the Virgin Mary and of Jesus are like islands atop crashing waves. To move you got to rub shoulder to shoulder. One can hardly breathe. Don’t get me wrong, I go through this Good Friday ritual procession in Manila but the crowd isn’t like this. At all.

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate crowds?

Anyway, so it took awhile but we made our way inside this massive Cathedral, the lights blaze bright. At the end of the massive hall, there stood the Altar, bare. To its side, lines have formed as Men, Women and Children kiss a small statue of the Crucified Jesus.

It isn’t idol worship. Is it?

The status around this massive Cathedral are used as teaching aide. It gives people something tangible to hold on to. It helps a religious people to visualize history like their saints, and the abstract concept of their God.

Some part of me thinks… there are Catholics who don’t see it that way because there is so much more to the faith than this. There is the lesson and wisdom of service in the washing of the feet, for one.

And another is this NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory snap of a very young and powerful pulsar, (PSR B1509-58):

An image of a cosmic hand, as if reaching out.

Faith need not be at odds with Science; the latter is a quest to describe and discover this Universe of myriad possibilities and beauty. This is a universe that Faith believes was made by the hand of God and can be a celebration of that belief. If you happen not to believe, the universe is still a beautiful place, isn’t it? And yet I can not help but wonder that a lot of people will spend this Easter missing that point too.



Credit NASA/CXC/SAO/P.Slane, et al.

This entry was originally published at Filipino Voices on 11 April 2009.


‘It’s going to be a different kind of Holy Week for us Catholic Filipinos,” she said as she tried on bikinis for the beach.

“How so?” I asked.

“The bishops launched a web site that will allow us to do Visita Iglesia online. I can go to the Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Church, Quiapo Church, San Lorenzo Ruiz Church, Tondo Church, Malate Church and Baclaran Church, and get my tan at the same time.”

“I don’t think that’s what the bishops had in mind,” I replied.

“The Church is adapting to the electronic age. Aren’t you happy about that?” she said.

“The Church is availing itself of new technologies to enable the housebound and the OFWs in Muslim countries to participate in the traditional observance of Holy Week. The online site is not meant for couch potatoes and beach freaks.”

“You mean I’m not allowed Visita Iglesia?” she asked, with fingers doing air quotes around Visita Iglesia.

“I was afraid of that.”


“That Visita Iglesia would one day be written with quotation marks and spoken with air quotes.”

“You’re such a fuddy-duddy,” she teased.

“You miss a lot with your virtual Visita Iglesia,” I lamented.

“I don’t think I’ll miss the heat, the traffic and the pickpockets,” she replied.

“Stop that! Holy Week is about Catholics commemorating the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. It’s the most solemn celebration of the Christian faith.”

“Are you saying a digital commemoration of the Paschal Mystery is irreverent?”

“Not if that’s the only way you can participate; yes, if you can, but you’re doing it from the beach.”

“But I’m going to attend a pabasa,” she replied.


“No, it’s not like that. The reason my friends and I are going to the beach is to present a youth-oriented pabasa,” she said.

“What’s a youth-oriented pabasa?”

“Do you know what the image of the traditional pabasa is to the young?”

“Tell me.”

“The Pasyon verses are sung mechanically and in relay by old people who look like professional mourners. And that many times they are even sponsored by politicians and the usual suspects who want to project a devout religious image.”

“That’s so cynical,” I lamented.

“That’s what it would be if we didn’t do anything about it. But we are not nihilists, we are going to make the pabasa appealing to people my age.”

“How are you going to make the singing of the pabasa exciting, if I may use the word exciting next to pabasa?”

“We’re going to sing it to a hip-hop beat!”

“Are you out of your mind?”

“No, Bishop Deogracias Iniguez said, ‘It’s okay as long as it helps reach more people.”

“He thinks it’s okay to sing Pasyon verses accompanied by thumping beats from a boom box; why do I feel uncomfortable with that?”

“Because you just don’t get it. The Church is resilient—it adapts to cultural changes.”

“But the pabasa sang to hip-hop?”

“Listen, the bishop reminded us ‘that the singing or the tune is just an aid so that we could listen to it more closely.’ He believes that it can be done ‘in a meaningful way so people can listen and reflect.’”

“Well, if that’s what the bishop says, then it must be okay. I hope your pabasa attracts a big crowd.”

“No problemo, old man. We’ve got the perfect promo for it.”

“What is your gimmick?”

“We’re going to call it ‘Pabasizzle in Boracay!’ ”

Image credit: Some rights reserved by agapbulusan