Zentraveler treks to Bantayan Holy Week!

As I have been in the Philippines less than a year I also realize how important festivals are to the people. It gives the people a chance to have a parade visit with relatives and friends and sell every sort of snack and item you would normally find at a carnival.

“The ancient customs of observing the traditional religious festivity during the Lent is drawing bigger and bigger crowd of devotees every year to Bantayan. The main attraction is the passion and death of Jesus Christ well illustrated in life size figures, mounted on high, richly decorated and brightly illuminated “carrozas””. These are paraded along the main streets on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Besides the passion and death of our Lord, images of saints as related in the Bible are also depicted. To this date, the scenes are complete from the Last Supper down to the scene when Jesus was being laid to His tomb”….Bantayan. gov


“BANTAYAN – Origin of a name. BANTAYAN as the name implies has a very interesting history as an island group.

During the time of Governor Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera ( 1635 – 1644), the Visayas were continually harassed by the Moros. Consequently, tall stone walls and watchtowers wer built in the different parts of the archipelago, for refuge and protection of the people from the moro aggression. The tall walls surround the convent and the church including half of the area where the Public Plaza now is. These watchtowers were loacally known as “BANTAYAN SA HARI ” , meaning, ” WATCHTOWERS OF THE KING” “KING OF SPAIN”. The watchtowers served as look-outs for the incoming moro pirate vessels. In the course of their vigil after the moros, it became the common expression for them to say, BANTAYAN! BANTAYAN!, meaning, “KEEP WATCH! KEEP WATCH! , and that was how this island-group got its name. The presence of the relics of those watchtowers till today, attest to the well-.fitting name BANTAYAN.

There are no dates to fix the time when the first people came to Bantayan, nor do we know of their places of origin. NO conscious records of their doings were left us to arrive at amuch certain conclusion. Some said, they can be traced back to Panay, others believed that the bulk of them were of cebuano origin, and still others say, they came from Leyte and Bohol.

However, there are indications that there existed some connections between Bantayan and the aforementioned places are the mixed dialects spoken by the people, the family names of the prominent old inhabitants, and their ancient culture such as cloth weaving, dances and architecture. AS to family names, the Rubios, the Arcenaces, and the Alvarezes, can be traced back to Panay, the Rodriquezes, the Ancajases, the Mansuetos and the Villacrusises to Cebu, the Villacins, The Villaflors, the Ortegas, and the Carabios to Leyte, the Hubahibs, the Garcias, the Caquilalas to Bohol. The majority of the old inhabitants, however, agree that they are a mixture of all these, a product of different blood and cultures.”…..Bantayan .gov.

I had the opportunity to meet the curator of the St. Peter and Paul Parish Church’s Museum which dates back to the days of Magellean. The walls of the church are at least six feet thick of square cut rock and once had cannons mounted on top and through the sides of the church to defend Bantayan Island against intruders.

The story told to me by the owner of Kermits… Eumel Lopez (a fantastic restaurant and stop for foreigners) who want to get really excellent snacks including: Italian cannolies, home made herb and wheat bread, and all sorts of delicious looking sweets in the cases. He also makes a real bacon cheeseburger that is to die for. And if you want any local information Eumel will be glad to share with you his knowledge of the area and probably sit down and have a cup of coffee with you… as his staff makes freshhy baked goodies of all sorts. When you go to Bantayan it’s a must visit to go to Kermits just off of the main plaza.

The story goes something like this the history books show Magellean coming into the Philippines and locating somewhere near Cebu City! According to local ledgend Magellean actually probabbly landed in Bantayan Island first and then sent his warfareing and discovery crews through the sea as a scouting party… and kept their main brigade right here in Bantayan… so they wouldn’t lose their entire brigade in a suprise battle in Cebu!

As I toured the churchs museum I saw robes made of pure gold, wooden replicas of religious figures, and an extremely rare manuscript with the pages made of pure sheeps leather… which is hundreds of years old and in perfect condition.

You cannot photo anything and I asked if I wrote an article about the museum it might be helpful to include some photos. The curator has now agreed to let me photo the rare items in the churchs museum . The only problem I have been back about ten times and cannot find the museium curator and the museum is closed.

Magellan’s Cross
This cross of tindalo wood encases the original cross planted by Fernando Magellan on this very site April 21, 1521

At any rate a Holy Week in Bantayan, Philippines is a really significant event and something you should consider experiencing on your own. As the religious tone intensifies you can witness the different stations of the cross as well as watch a magical parade displaying some of the important religious figures of Christainity. One that stands out is a float with Jesus on the cross in the trees with sun streaming down and the next float has hime being buried in the tomb.

The park adjacent to the Colonial built stone church is picturesque with an array of flowers and trees and serves as the focal point for the festivities. The parade goes clockwise around the park with the streets packed full of people. The central plaza is filled with flowers, cotton candy, all sorts of barbequed foods, and baloon vendors….adding even more color to an already colorful festival.

As part of religious tradition… you purchase a handful of candles and watch them burn over the embers paying your respect to the dead ancestors and pray for the future! Everyone goes to the festival including all babies, grandparents etc. People flock here from all over the world with the majority coming from the Philippines to attend Holy Week! Their literally is not one space to be found for sleeping.

The young and more adventerous simply camp-out on the beaches and others pile into the houses as if they were the best relatives ever! All of transportation in on a standsdstill and ferries are overloaded handling the approximate crowd of 70,000 new members coming onto the island for the Holy Week celebration!

As one foreigner said: “I wouldn’t miss this for the world, but maybe next year I will seek an deserted island for quiet and rest.”

So there you have it! If you would like to experience one of the most festive Holy Weeks in all of the Philippines… why not plan ahead and book into the beach resorts of Santa Fe just twenty minutes away from Bantayan Holy Week! Fair warning… the prices are escalated and it is very difficult to get your rooms… so you must plan ahead-and yes it is certainly worth the effort to see a celebration of life as only the Pilipinos can do!

QUOTE: Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. (Confucius) …

THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW:Magellan brought Christainity to Bantayan Island in the year 1521 as is witnessed by the placement of the cross called Magellan’s Cross… located in St Peter and Paul Parish just off the main plaza.

THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO SAVE: Religious Cards! Just go on the internet and google religious cards, which are collected around the world, and sold to collectors who are not only enjoying this hobby, but also makeing a business out of it. It’s great to open the mails from Romania, Germany and foreign destinations and see the beautiful work the artists created.

ZENTRAVELER SAYS:Maybe it not the Holy Grail but it’s a great time to explore and give regards to all of the religions of the world!

From here to Infinity is a relatively short ride! The next leg takes eons and eons as you fly through the Barycentric Dynamical Time Zone! …and on and on and on.

Follow the Zentraveler Blog often for Travel, Health and Zen-like stories and such. Where else can you get a three in one blog for the price of free?

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