Moriones Festival

Moriones Festival

During the holy week in Marinduque, the island shaped like a heart; a joyous festival happens simultaneously in all the towns in this province of the Philippines. A religious festival, ingrained with culture; the Moriones festival is a week full of colorful processions and holy aplomb. Running from 14th to the 21st, the Salubong; which is the activity that culminates the festivities will take place alongside mass. The Moriones festival is a rite of penance relating to the death and crucifixion of Jesus Christ; featuring the reenacted story of searching for one very unlikely roman centurion.  

The Easter Week Festival of Marinduque:

In Marinduque, an island of the Philippines in the java sea; the term Easter holidays means a big deal due to the Moriones festival. An old religious festival, these celebrations are marked by masked costume wearers reenacting the harassment of other wooden cross carrying individuals. Farmers, fishermen and other country fork are the major participants in these Holy week activities in the mainly Catholic population. The religious street festival is a major attraction to tourists and locals alike.  

After the way of the cross, the Via Crucis on Good Friday is succeeded by Senakulo; the venerated beheading of Saint Longinus. Marinduque is part of the ‘Mimaropa’ group of islands and provinces that include Mindoro, Romblon, and Palawan south of Luzon. The depiction on the street reenacts the events of Black Saturday, after which follows Salubong; the Easter Sunday culmination. Moriones or Moryonans are terms that denote people in Roman garb and replicated soldier armor augmented by colorful masks that are an icon of culture with deep religious, traditional inspirations. 

In Marinduque, morion means a mask visor and is a derivation of the 17th-century name for a helmet are worn with colorful tunics and flowing red robes. The masked roman soldier garb wearers roam the streets of Boac, Santa Cruz, Magpog, Gasang and Buenavista on the island; performing tricks and bogeying children. Beginning on Holy Monday to end on Easter Sunday, the Moriones festival turns the Marinduque Island of the Philippines into one huge colorful religious search for Longinus.  

The festival sees events such as the Pabasa; which is the passion of Christ recited like poetry, and the Santo Sepulco happening at 3.00 pm on Good Friday. The elderly ladies in each town line up the street and exchange the verses of the bible that relate to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The famous Via Crucis involves real-life reenactments of Christ’s passion, with self-flagellation and actual crucifixions. 

Who was Saint Longinus? 

As part of the 1807 Lenten celebrations, Padre Dionisio Santiago who served under the Mogpog parish created a pantomime that narrated the story of Longinus. Also called Longino, this Roman centurion was the unlucky soldier to whom the governor; Pontius Pilate, assigned to execute Jesus Christ was. It’s said that during what Longinus only thought was fulfilling his duties, he is the one that thrust a spear into Jesus’s ribs to check whether he was dead.  When Longinus did this, a drop of the Savior’s blood splashed from his spear and fell on him; immediately his right eye, which had a problem, was healed.  

This miraculous healing of his eye, the earthquake and these happenings, Longinus; according to Saint Mathew’s gospel proclaimed “surely this is the son of God.” This extraordinary mission led the conversion of the Roman centurion into Saint Longinus; becoming a follower of Jesus. He is also famed to be the spoilsport who blew the whistle on the Pharisee’s plot to bribe the soldiers. The disappearance of Christ’s body was causing the Jewish leaders a lot of anxiety and reports of a resurrection were beginning to proliferate.  

They had no plausible explanation regarding the empty tomb that soldiers had guarded all night, and they needed to defeat the resurrection story. The plan was, therefore, to have the soldiers spread the rumor that Jesus’s followers had stolen the body at night, but the brave Longinus would have no part in it. Not only did the centurion declare that Jesus Christ had risen, but he also preached and led to the conversion of a few of other Roman soldiers; especially those who had been at the foot of the cross. 

Martyr Saint of the Moriones Festival?

The priests decided to silence him by declaring him a heretic and Longinus deserted his barracks with a couple of his colleagues. After being baptized with other Christians, Saint Longinus left for Cappadocia, where he lived among the new converts of this fiery religion. The story goes on about his return home and the final order given by Pontius Pilate to behead him; or how he disguised himself to welcome his murderers and fed them. The beheading of the Roman centurion made Longinus one of the earliest known martyrs for Jesus Christ.  

Describing the helmet visor of a Roman centurion, Moriones refers to those locals that participate in the biblical reenactments. The search for Longinus continues all week long with pomp and all ruckuses with a proliferation of wooden paper mache masks topped with flowery morion helmets before an Easter weekend finale. Other paraphernalia includes wooden spears, shields, and swords to complement the authoritative roman centurion appearance. 

Get to the Moriones festival either by bus from Manila; the Philippines capital, to Cubao. Alternatively, take the Buendia route from near the LRT station or to the grand terminal in Lucena.  Take a tricycle or ‘jeepney’ ride to the Dalahican port and catch the Fastcraft RORO that terminates at the Balanacan port on Marinduque. From here various modes of transport is available to the desired Moriones festival celebrating town.  

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