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Moriones Festival: Spending Lent in Marinduque

by Jan Darren Guiwan

The Lenten Capital of Marinduque  holds one of the biggest festivals in the Philippines – the Moriones Festival. Held during the Holy Week, surely, the pristine island province becomes a “Mecca” for Catholics as ports start to have long queues when locals going home and tourists wanting to witness the festival start to flock. Best time to travel to the province is as early as on a Palm Sunday or Holy Monday to avoid the long queues. Once in Marinduque, it is best to find an accommodation in the capital town of Boac, where most of the major Lenten activities are held.

The history of the Moriones Festival focuses on the story of Longinus – a Roman high ranking soldier. He was said to have been healed of his blindness after he speared Christ to ascertain his death. Blood and water then flowed and reached his eyes. Longinus then started to spread the news of his miraculous healing, however, the Roman Empire would want him to stop, until such time that led to Longinus’ beheading. This story is being reenacted during the Moriones Festival in the towns of Marinduque.

Different towns have a different sense or style of observation of the festival. The highlights of Moriones are during Good Fridays, where major events and activities are held. We are able to observe the events of the towns: Mogpog, Boac and Gasan. The morning is dedicated in Mogpog, where the festival originated.  The masks in Mogpog have these unique florets design on the top, with varying numbers. According to Municipal Councilor Bryan of Mogpog, the number of florets signify the number of years remaining of practicing the Morion vow or “panata” in tagalog.  We specifically followed the morion parade, headed by a marching band. After which we visited one of the famous makers of the Morion masks, Sir Dic Malapote of Barangay Janagdong. We were able to don the morion masks and suit for picture purposes. It was almost noon time when we headed back to Boac to have lunch. However, the Via Crucis has already started, as evidenced by the crowd piled on the path of the show. We followed the Jesus Christ actor and by accident, we were able to have access to the stage. After the show, we headed to Gasan town for lunch.

In the town of Gasan, the afternoon is dedicated for the large Morion statue contest, and the Good Friday procession. The procession involves the Aglipay group, wearing long black cloaks with unique bamboo chimes. It is also my first time to see Pupua penitents, ladies wearing long black cloaks and a crown of thickly arranged Pupua leaves. Observing Good Friday in Marinduque is truly my most memorable Lenten activity.  

Marinduque has its own unique beauty. The heart shaped island is geographically located at the center of the Philippine Archipelago, holding the Luzon Datum, the geodetic reference in surveying or mapping the islands. This very point is one of the unique tourist destinations here. The province’s amazing beaches in Torrijos and Maniwaya Island are also not to miss.

Traveling during the Holy Week could mean stressful circumstances due to the influx of people to the ports of entry to Marinduque, hence, it is best to do the preparation and reservations way earlier, given also that there are limited number of accommodations in the town center of Boac.