15 December, 2010

Impressions of the Grand Marian Procession 2010 Part Deux

Before I continue, let me respond to one comment about the way I write. I do understand that it takes some getting used to, and the way I use words -big words to some- isn't the usual brand of writing the majority of you want to read, but the Barefoot Baklesa is not here to write for anyone's approval nor is this blog here to titillate gay sensibilities. There are other blogs that cater to that. Furthermore, I'm not being an elitist about this. Ah well, there goes being unapologetic...

Looking at the members of the Cofradia [Confraternity] seated at the top steps of the Manila Cathedral with their view of the "carrozas" passing before them, I can't help but wonder what was going through their their heads as each of the Marian images went past them.

In typical Filipino festive fashion, the Grand Marian procession is not without its dose of the theatrical; and by theatrical, I do mean beyond the Baroque sensibility that already dominates the folk religious art in this archipelago. Aside from the ubiquitous religious heralds, and escorts, and ladies in attendance, some images of the Virgin Mary are accompanied by a cotery of performers: street dancers, if you may call them such. Dressed in their native and pastoral best, these troupes of dancers come in all ages representing the local festivities associated with the virgin. If the entourage of Our Lady of Turumba was any indication of what is to be expected of others, by the time the image of the Divina Pastor [Divine Shepherdess] emerges from the gate, you will surely get the sense that these people have been waiting for the GMP all year. Thus waiting four hours to emerge from the gate of the fort, isn't really that big a deal.

As we went around the left side of the Cathedral, past the gaze of the Cofradia, and the army of photographers clicking away, the streets of old Manila seemed to give way to the solemnity that was always associated with a procession. And then by some irony which I have often associated with my view of the world, the marching band before us played tune currently familiar. And by the chorus, I knew what it was. I guess it did not hurt that it had been one of the most well received songs from a previous episode of GLEE: "Just The Way You Are". And I could not help but look up behind me and smile at Nuestra Señora de la Salud and thinking, "Yeah, she loves you just the way you are."

I know some of you that know me will go like, "There goes Niki with his spiritual epiphanies while in the middle of any religious ceremony." But whatever anyone may have to say about it, at least I'm glad I still have that connection with my spirituality.

And whoah will I be on my high horse on this one- Yet looking at some people living the alternative lifestyle who think that getting into clubs, partying all night, bouncing from one co-dependent relationship to another, and worse -being self destructive in whatever they will- I'm glad I still have experiences like this: knowing some higher power is still up there, and i'm better for it.

But I'm getting sidetracked here...

Moving on; I really admired Trina for being such a sport, the black high heeled pumps she wore throughout the procession would give the cilice [that freaky thing the Opus Dei like to use? just google it.] a run for its penitential value. I remember humorously having to count the meters leading to the cathedral as I assisted her with her "bara alta" which by manner of keeping appearances would challenge one's poise and bearing with those pumps -especially at the cobblestone streets adjacent to San Agustin church. Applause goes out to her for having graciously seen it through.

By the time we reached the vicinity of the Manila Cathdral, the "carrozas" that went before us were already parked by the piazza. And as expected, the crowds that gathered were asking for the flowers that decorated the "carroza" -which by local belief, was blessed by the presence of the Virgin and is considered by some as a talisman of sorts. Trust me, if you are an image owner and have been taking out religious images for procession, you will dread this moment the most. Trying to control devotees from grabbing what they will from the floral displays would also run the risk of breaking the light fixtures and damaging the carroza -or worse- the image itself.

But thankfully, even with the barrage of devotees waiting to get those white flowers, Djaja's "carroza" survived and found a place to park by the piazza. And to my surprise, the image of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, was yet to emerge from the gate. Trina found a convenient place to sit and rest her feet while with "bara alta" on hand, I tried to catch glimpses of some of the many Marian images that have come to rest in the vicinity with camera on hand attempting to capture those that I had missed.

I was glad to catch another friend, Becco [Benjamin Concepcion Esquirres Empleo -you see, I'm not the first to have such a long name] who was to be my company until the end of the evening. As we saw to it that Trina had settled herself in the car and returned the "bara alta" to Djaja's custody, Becco and I went to the gate which the remaining images of the Blessed Mother waited to emerge. It was almost past 7:30 in the evening and the "Festejada" image of the Virgin was still biding her time.

And typical of me and a fellow enthusiast in the local religious arts, we went into our usual discussions about silver "carrozas", gold thread embroidery, ivory carving, and the list goes on. And in doing so, we seem to have lost Djaja and the others. Understandably tired, I knew they had to go ahead and get their rest. So Becco and I decided to catch what was left of the GMP in front of the cathedral. We found a place to sit and chanced upon a fellow Flickr member, Ohmel, who was in town after being abroad for work.

Of all the questions that came from Becco that evening, this struck me the most: "If you had the resources and an image of the Virgin to spare, would you join the Grand Marian Procession?"

And I replied objectively, "It would be nice, but that would be one logistical nightmare for me. Knowing how I get during holy week processions obsessing over the tiniest detail, I don't think I'll be able to survive a GMP. I'll just be happy to see friends take out their images, and help out when given the chance." Ehem, paging Tito Jojo Canlas!!! Hehehehehe.

Remember the commentary I made about the Cofradia a little earlier, about the GMP becoming sort of becoming their amusement, Becco thought the same too. In the vernacular he said, " Alam ko na sila ang Cofradia at nagpapakain sila ng mga kababayan natin, pero alam mo isa lang ito sa mga aliwan nila." I hope I got that right... Roughly translated for my readers from Thailand and the UK [Oh yes, I do...] "I know they are the Confraternity and they have their charity work, but this is only one of their amusements." Having said that, and whatever the GMP may seem or mean to anyone, it's the Virgin Mary that is queen, and her glory in all of this is all that matters. [Oh look, that last one was cannon fodder for the fundamentalist sects out there.]

After the Festejada image of the Immaculate Conception had passed, and the other images have made their way back to the piazza, Becco and I started going around to take photographs of the icons that still had their lights on. It's nice to have shared this experience with friends... Congratulations to Djaja for the "primera salida" of the Nuestra Señora de la Salud, and my profoundest thanks for letting me be part of it. And here's to Becco, I'm praying for thy intentions as well.

Viva La Virgen!!!

Thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa


Jojo Canlas said...

Nice commentary! Did the IGMP for 8 straight years and been there , done that with these logistics.

Sadly the glamour is gone as with everything else.

Lets hope it gets better in the years to come.

Cardinal Richelieu said...

Nowadays, only few images are really worth admiring and not
to mention properly presented.
There was a time venerated
images from far away provinces
were brought to Manila to join
the Grand Marian Procession.
After the event, they were
immediately returned by planes
to their shrines.