I can not start this story without thanking ivanhenares.com for giving me a heads up about what’s happening in Ivan’s and my shared province of Pampanga during the Holy Week.
The top three things I saw this Holy Week in Pampanga were:
1) the church at Betis, Guagua, Pampanga
2) the chapel at Pio, Porac, Pampanga
3) the exploding Judas (Pakbung Hudas!) in Minalin, Pampanga
So let me begin, I’m half Kapamgpangan. Ever since I was a child, I would go up to Pampanga to celebrate Christmas, Holy Week or a birthday of one of my many grand aunts. I went from big house to big house, watched my relatives dress up the different saints for the processions, and, of course, eat lots and lots of food. But I was always confined to the city of San Fernando. I always wondered about the Bank of Florida(blanca) or the hacienda that my family, the Panlilio’s came from. What was Mexico, Pampanga? And more intrigingly, what was Sexmoan, Pampanga? So this year I decided to find out.
My adventure began right away, on Wednesday night, I walked down Consunji St., to check out the SM being build right smackdab in the middle of the San Fernando Heritage District. Grrr, SM (shakes fist). I noticed a beautiful white house, which I’ve always seen, except this time it was lit up. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could go inside?” And as usual, as you declare something to the world, the world opens up to you. When I went back to our ancestral home, one of our guests actually lived there. So I got to see it. It was an awesome house, much bigger than ours. My favorite feature was that it had a balcony overlooking the street. And when the procession came by that night, they had giant wicker plates filled with jasmine that we strew on the saints as they drifted by.
The next day, I drove off to Lubao, the birthplace of Diosdado Macapagal, the father of our last president, and a president himself. Ivan and his crew have already constructed brown signs on the road to help us find the different tourists sites of the province (but we could still have more ;). Lubao church, even though it was the oldest in the city, wasn’t that exciting, and neither were the neighboring churches in Sasmuan (Sexmoan, damn Yankees) or Guagua. The winner church was in the town of Betis in the municipality of Guagua. Betisanyos (yes, they have their own name) have a proud history of woodcarvings. Their church was full of them. But my favorite part was the whole floor of the church was covered in hardwood. That’s pretty awesome.
The next day was Good Friday. It was finally my time to watch the crucifixions in San Pedro Cutud, one of the barangays of San Fernando. One should park as early as possible, and as close as possible to the site. And honestly, if you could bring a beach umbrella to the site, you should. It’s darn hot. You could buy a “souvenir” if you like of one of the pamalos that the penitents use to whip themselves for 300 pesos. The crucifixions themselves were actually passion plays where one should be reverent, but even the announcer could not deny that the highlight was the nailing. Are these things moral? No. But I did look. It wasn’t as gross as I expected it to be, but it sure must’ve hurt like heck. One day it will probably be banned. Just like the holy stampedes of Quiapo.
On Holy Saturday, I continued my exploration of the province. I went to Floridablanca, Basa Airbase, Porac, and Poracay. But my favorite place, and again thanks to Ivan, was a little chapel in the barrio of Pio in Porac. It was probably more a hacienda chapel than a full-blown church according to a commentor on Ivan’s blog but it was extremely cute (if you could call a church that). It was built on top of a hill in 1861, and it’s still used by the community every Saturday at 5pm for Mass (Ivan). I liked it. I could imagine it being used for intimate weddings or baptisms. I went to another chapel in Hacienda Dolores, also just outside of Porac, but you have to drive deep into the hacienda to see it. After I ate in C on the Perimeter Road of Clark Air Base. I had a really expensive panizza which was good for two, oh well, at least it was good.
On Easter Sunday, I went to Pakbung Hudas or Exploding Judas in Minalin, Pampanga. The parish priests want to say it’s now more a symbol of all the sins of the world, but we all know in the end, we’re blowing up Judas. Sto. Tomas, the neighboring town, now blows up a paper mache Earth instead of a Judas. How corny. Minalin is going to kick their butt. Minalin blows up Judas at 9:30 AM and Sto. Tomas at 12:00 PM. So you could actually watch both. But Minalin’s is better.
So that’s my lenghty recap of what I did for Holy Week. Next time I’ll check out Willy Layug, master sculptor of Betis in San Agustin, Barangay Ursula. I’ll find out why the Macabebe scouts are so reviled. Might get even closer to Arayat. See the swamps of Masantol and Candaba. And see the original hacienda in Mexico (Masicu, damn Yankees) in Pampanga.