As soon as Ash Wednesday sets in the land of Pampanga, the official lenten spirit starts creeping slowly until the dawn of Holy Monday. As the pabasa or “puni” as we call it, makeshift chapels, starts they chant, penitents start treading their way on the street. If you grew up in Pampanga, it is normal and usual to see penitents with their bleeding backs or carrying cross walking the streets and main thoroughfares of the province – whether be it in the urban or rural area.
The tradition of the “magdarame” is intertwined in the Kapampangan culture and is being practiced from generation to generations, as fathers or male figures of Catholic families would seemingly pass the practice to their younger kin. This practice has been contradicted by the Catholic church.
I grew up having fear of these “magdarames” because their eerie get-up: the veiled face, crown out of leaves or flowers, roped extremities or the “Nazareno” robe, the maroon robe. The “mamusan krus” or cross bearers are the quite sneaky ones as they walk quietly, almost without a trace of sound, contrary of the “mamalaspas” who have this characteristic sound of bamboo sticks flogged on their back that is audible from a distance.
This year’s Maleldo is different for me since I have developed the guts to capture these penitents as photographic subjects, as addition to my collection of Kapampangan rites, observations, and festivals. Despite my personal belief against the practice and that lingering anxiety inside my chest, I still trod the streets of City of San Fernando with Ms. Armela Patalud of http://www.aroundthemetro.ph, last Good Friday and joined other photographers, both foreign nationals and locals, in covering the event that put Pampanga as a prime location to visit during Lenten Season.
After taking shots in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral of the innumerable penitents that paused in front of the church, we moved to San Pedro, Cutud, the main site where crucifixions are held in Pampanga. We watched the 31st crucifixion of the famed penitent Ruben Enaje, with the local and foreign media groups, under the scorching heat of noon sun.
Another Kapampangan observation tick from my list.
More photographs [some graphic]: