Monday, April 9, 2012

Post-Easter Post: Holy Week in the Philippines

In the predominantly Catholic Philippines, Easter (and indeed, all of Holy Week) is a big thing. How big? Well, it's usually several days worth of holidays. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are official holidays, but many people already start leaving for their provincial homes as early as Monday. Traffic is horrendous as you get closer to Wednesday, because that's when most people can afford to leave work and either drive or catch public transport to their hometown and celebrate the religious holidays with their families.

Here are just three elements of the Filipino Easter Experience that you can modify and insert in your campaigns for some religious flavor:

Visita Iglesia

Photo from my man Ivan.
Experience: As the name suggests, this practice involves visiting churches (usually seven or fourteen) and praying the stations of the cross at each church. The Stations of the Cross normally involve meditation and prayer centered around fourteen key scenes that trace the arrest of Jesus all the way up to his Death (old version) and Resurrection (new version). For my non-Catholic visitors, the images of these fourteen stations can be found in any church, spread out along the walls.

Usage: Now, in the modern era, there are a lot of churches in the Philippines. But in a fantasy world, I'm sure that these places of worship, depending on how the religion is structured, would be few and far between. This would make this devotional practice (it's not required, but some folks do it as penitence for sins or sacrifice for blessings) an interesting bit of local culture that is slowly built up as the year rolls around -- perhaps only the elderly practice an equivalent of it at various times of the day.

Then, at the height of the religious festival, the entire community (and perhaps some fair-weather believers) suddenly turns out around the temple, clogging the streets, blocking traffic, and -- in addition to becoming a very dangerous opponent for blasphemous visitors -- a source of religious benefices and protection.


Yes, these folks are tied to the crosses. If you want nails,
look for them yourself, but remember that I warned you.
Experience: Yes, some people get crucified in the provincial areas during this time of year. Yes, some of them go beyond (for me) the bounds of reason and use nails. No, I'm not posting pictures -- google "Easter in the Philippines" for yourself, and you'll get a healthy bunch of them. But I'm warning you, that -- in addition to disturbing pictures of nails and the hands and feet, some of those pics also involve the flagellants and thus involve a lot of blood. Anyway, this is an extreme method of penitence or devotion that the Catholic Church disapproves of, but it hasn't really gone away.

Usage: Running into one of these 're-enactments' may trigger some gung-ho members of the adventuring party into rescue attempts -- that is until everyone, including the folks being crucified, start shouting at them and looking at them as if they were mad.

For the slightly more spiritual-oriented campaigns, one can take a page from RuneQuest and actually have this as an annual event wherein the people in the various roles are not performing some devotional activity, but are actually trying to reinforce or subtly modify important aspects of a religion's -- er -- mythology. Yeah, RuneQuest is funky that way, and deserving of an entirely different post, I'm sure.

Black Saturday

Experience: This also known as Easter Saturday or Holy Saturday. Folk wisdom cautions against travel on this day, and keep close watch on your surroundings and your loved ones, because "patay ang Diyos" ("God is dead"). Nietzschean allusions aside, there is some significance to this during the observation of this day in terms of religious observances:

In Roman Catholic churches, the chancel remains stripped completely bare (following the Mass on Maundy Thursday) while the administration of the sacraments is severely limited. Holy Communion after the Good Friday service is given only as Viaticum to the dying. Baptism, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick may be administered because they, like Viaticum, are helpful to ensuring salvation for the dying.

All Masses are severely limited. No Mass at all appears in the normal liturgy for this day, although Mass can be said on Good Friday and on Holy Saturday for an extremely grave or solemn situation with a dispensation from the Vatican or the local bishop. Many of the churches of the Anglican Communion as well as Lutheran, Methodist, and some other Churches observe most of the same; however, their altars may be covered in black instead of being stripped.

-- source: Wikipedia
Usage: Nothing in the chancel (and almost all religious statues or relics covered), no sacraments or Masses except in extreme circumstances, and the whispers of the elderly urging caution.

I'm sure that many DMs out there are already hatching nasty scenarios to take advantage for such a foreboding scene upon reaching a town or city -- I hope they weren't hoping to get religious services like healing or exorcism or raise dead today!

Note that the liturgical end for this is 6PM, but you can shift it to a more dramatic hour -- perhaps the dawning of the next day?

1 comment:

  1. Good post. I like your taking aspects of our local culture and using them as game inspiration.


That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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