It's Good Friday once again and time for my annual trek to Orani, Bataan, my father's hometown.
Lent and most specially Good Friday is a day of rituals, traditions and ceremony in many towns all around the Philippines.
In Orani, where my father was born and where he grew up -- evening of Good Friday marks the time for the procession or the prusisyon which is participated in by carrozas showing different scenes of Christ's passion and death.
Every year when I was growing up, we would go back to Orani for the Holy Week and my father would take his place behind one of the carrozas and march in the procession.
He has since passed away and many years ago, I decided to follow the same tradition and take up where he left off.
Most of the carrozas are familiar from my childhood but the number has dwindled from more than 25 to about 18. The procession starts at dusk and winds its way around the town,
passing through the many different barangays. It takes about 2 hours from start to finish.
The walk is slow and illuminated by the bright lights that adorn the carrozas and the flickering candles that people carry.
I remember that when I was young and walking in the prusisyon with my father, it was a solemn and quiet affair. No one talked beyond a whisper.
You could only hear faint sounds of murmured prayers and the mournful tones of the accompanying violins and instruments from the high school marching band.
Unfortunately, times have changed and not for the better. People now join the prusisyon and it has become the town's social event.
Gone is the solemnity, replaced by chit chat, laughter, crying babies -- why would anyone bring babies or small children is beyond me -- and the ubiquitous sound of mobile phones ringing.
Called the Mater Dolorosa, it is an image of the Blessed Mother, in black mourning robes, standing in front of an empty cross which is draped by billowing linen cloths.
She follows the funeral cortege bearing the Señor del Santo Entierro or the statue of the dead Christ.
As I follow the Mater Dolorosa on Good Friday evening, I am able to tune the raucous noise out.
It is my time for reflection and meditation -- in preparation for the resurrection and the promise of new life that Easter Sunday brings.