Text and photos by Julius D. Mariveles
LA GRANJA, La Carlota City – There are no pieces of flesh flying or blood spurting from the self-inflicted wounds of penitents. There is no “Hesukristo” who is actually being nailed to the cross but the reflections during the Kalbaryo in this village 54 kilometers away from Bacolod are as sharp as nails or bamboo flogs, scourging the social ills that continue to afflict Philippine society.
“This is not only a re-enactment; this is an attempt to relate the Pasyon of Jesus Christ to the everyday lives of the Filipino people,” parish priest Jacob Segurola says as he serves himself tea brewed from mangoosten leaves, a concoction that has allowed him to tend to his chores, including overseeing preparations for the Kalbaryo, even with only two hours of sleep a day.
Fr. Jacob says the need is “urgent,” more than ever to enlighten people and to help them come up with informed choices especially that the country is now in the thick of the campaigning for the coming May 12 elections. “Evangelization means that the Church should help people see the light so that true changes can be had amid promises of reforms and better lives for them.”
With Good Friday falling on March 29, the coincidence couldn’t be starker, it also being the 44th anniversary of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines that had been waging the longest-running insurgency in Asia, underlining the fact that the armed revolution in the countryside is still raging, fuelled by decades-old issues of injustice and inequality.
March 29 is also the day when the campaign period for local elective position is supposed to start, throwing the people once more into frenzy as the Philippine-style political fiesta begins.
It is against this backdrop that Fr. Jacob conceptualized this year’s “Kalbaryo,” the 21st performance since it was started as the “Taltal “ by now deceased priest Vic Dumalaos until it officially became the “Kalbaryo” under Negros priest Terence Nueva.
“The main purpose is to educate the youth, involve the community and to make the parishioners feel that they are a part of this undertaking,” he says. Preparations start as early as November or December every year and by January, rehearsals are already being held.
With a cast and crew of more than 90 persons, Fr. Jacob admits that it is difficult to stage the show were it not for the help of the community.
Mothers are divided into work groups by area, taking charge of the preparation of food during the rehearsals from Mondays to Sundays while others contribute either cash or rice and vegetables to sustain what is for them a community effort, Fr. Jacob says.
Helping Fr. Jacob are three local artists – Samson Doctora, Danka Sapa and Gerundio “Rondio” Arances, Jr. – all of which are recognized as having made their mark in alternative theatre and cultural production.
“It was really tiring but inspiring to have taken part in the production,” Rondio says about the preparations.
CHRIST’S PASSION, THE NATION’S PROBLEMS
Fr. Jacob makes no secret of the fact that the messages they want to convey during the “Kalbaryo” are political, anchored as it is on socio-economic realities that “have not changed through the years; unless there are changes, then the interpretations would remain the same because these are the same things that we want people to remember and understand.”
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Various forms – street plays, songs and dances – were used this year although the presentation stretched from three hours to more than four hours but it was still attended by hundreds of people who came from neighboring villages of La Carlota City and elsewhere across the province. Some foreigners also attended the presentation, one of them a university professor from Japan.
The presentations were done in three stages. The first was held at the village’s multi-purpose center where the traditional presentation of Jesus’ washing of the feet of his apostles to his scourging was interspersed with songs and dances about poverty and the elections.
Three kilometers away from the Church is the Kalbaryo (Calvary) Hill where the second and third parts are presented, culminating with Jesus’ nailing to the cross and the Seven Last Words.
“Pagkaguba kag pagkawasak sang kabuhi, kalbaryo ni Kristo (Destruction of life, the Calvary of Christ)” is this year’s theme around which the various presentations were based upon.
The music was a mix of traditional Catholic and activist songs, one of which is “Tatsulok” originally sung by Noel Cabangon when he still with the alternative group Buklod and eventually remade by rock star Bamboo.
Culminating the “Kalbaryo” was the reading of the Seven Last Words during which there were cultural productions to dramatize the contextual issues related to them.
Among the issues that were highlighted during the Seven Last Words were the coming elections, the destruction of the environment, the Reproductive Health Law, the plight of women and other issues concerning various sectors.