Provincial tourism officials, Catholic church leaders and residents joined the traditional parade of Morions and Samaritanas on Monday morning, featuring people in Morion-inspired costumes or in costumes of biblical characters that morphed Boac, the capital town, into a “small Jerusalem.”
The Morions or masked centurions remained the highlight and crowd-drawer of the festival. A parody of Roman soldiers during the time of Christ, they are dressed in articles fashioned from pieces of cloth, shells, weaves of nito vines and other indigenous materials.
A fierce-looking, often bearded mask made from carved wood or papier-mâché topped by a helmet completes the typical garb of a Morion, who wields a painted wooden sword, spear and shield.
Act of penance
It is believed that becoming a Morion is an act of penance that ensures good health or helps the devotee recover from illness and keeps him out of danger. It guarantees a good harvest and bountiful catch for farmers and fishermen.
For the Morions, their act of penance, thanksgiving or self-cleansing means enduring the hot costumes, hunger and thirst during their long walk around town.
The Moriones originated in the northern town of Mogpog in the 1880s, when a reenactment of the crucifixion was staged by a local priest, Dionisio Santiago.
The part where the centurion, Longinus, who pierced the side of Christ with a spear, but was renewed when his sight was restored, was played out for the first time. Since then, its lasting message of faith and conversion has found a permanent niche in the heart of the Marinduqueño.
The Holy Week observance in Marinduque does not only focus on the Moriones festival but are also the traditional Lenten activities, such as the Pasyon, cenaculo, Visita Iglesia and the Via Crucis.
Each of the six municipalities will stage any one of these events, strengthening the province’s hold on the title of Lenten capital.
The cenaculo (Passion play) at the Morion Arena in Boac is a series of theatrical presentations, complete with sound and lights, seen or some say “experienced” on the evenings of Holy Wednesday and Maundy Thursday, the morning of Good Friday, and after the midnight Mass of Easter Sunday.
Basically, the presentations reenact relevant passages from the Old and New Testaments, starting with the Genesis, the prophecies, the birth, life and teachings, and the passion and death of Christ up to His resurrection.
The Easter Sunday chapter incorporates the full conversion of the centurion Longinus when he witnesses the rising of Jesus from the grave, his eventual disobedience to Pilate by “spreading the Good News,” his capture and his beheading.
The Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) reenacts the sufferings of Christ while carrying His cross to Calvary. Each Station of the Cross is highlighted as the procession winds its way through the streets of the capital in the morning of Good Friday.
There are also the estacion heneral or makeshift altars mounted in front of selected houses in the poblacion that serve as points for the Stations of the Cross. These are done late in the afternoon from Palm Sunday to Holy Wednesday in all of the towns of the province.
Battle of Morions
The newest attraction of the Moriones Festival, the “Battle of the Morions,” will be held on Holy Thursday at 4 p.m. at the Santa Cruz town plaza.
Various groups will converge and compete with each other through choreographed movements, marching drills, sword and spear skills drills and military formations, along with the beat of percussion instruments, just like what the Roman soldiers did.
Rewards will be given to those who will don the best Morion costumes and masks. Visitors will be able to interact with and witness the hundreds of Morions converging in one area.
The climax of the Lenten celebration will be the Pugutan, Marinduque’s other version of the cenaculo. Depicting the life of Longinus, it is presented usually at night in Santa Cruz (Good Friday), Boac and Gasan (Black Saturday), Mogpog and Torrijos (Easter Sunday), and in the other muncipalities.
Flagellants doing penance at the old cemetery of Gasan are also expected to draw attention on Good Friday.