The Moriones Festival on the small Philippine island of Marinduque is a rather quirky event. Comprising the entire week of Holy Week, the Moriones Festival, as it is officially called, might be better called a Lenten Celebration as the moriones comprise only a portion of the weeks activities leading up to Easter. The festival is based around the story of Longinus, the Roman soldier who purportedly gave Jesus ‘the sword’ when he was hanging on the cross. Longinus, blind in one eye, claimed to be healed when a drop of the holy blood spurted into his eye. From then on, he professed to believing that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. From then on didn’t last very long, however, as his new found faith didn’t exactly please the Roman ruling elites and he was quickly chased down and relieved of his head.
Returning to today, the Moriones Festival has evolved into a large week-long street party that seeks to recreate the story of Longinus through various events occurring in several communities around the island. The festivities are most notably known for the costumed revelers, or morinones, men and children (and a few women) dressed as Roman soldiers. Many of the costumes are hand made and quite elaborate, often making use of unusual materials. The moriones roam the streets throughout the week, occasionally playing pranks on people, and taking part in the many parades, contests, and reenactments, culminating with a ceremonial beheading at the end of the week.
The main event is a passion play that takes place over several days and includes a Via Cruces parade, or Stations of the Cross, which reenacts Christ’s journey through the streets on his way to Calvary. The reenactment is quite realistically done as the volunteers who play Jesus and the thieves are literally whipped and beaten as they proceed through the streets. The sun was intense; I was exhausted and drenched just from keeping up with the procession. I can’t imagine what those guys went through, although they did pause a few times to give them water. At the end of the parade, they are hung up on the cross, although unlike other reenactments in the Philippines, they are not actually nailed up. I believe that much of the blood in the picture below is real, though.
In addition to the Moriones activities, the weeks events include several candlelight processions, team dance competitions and parades, as well as the traditional Catholic church ceremonies, and a group self-flagellation in the cemetery (which I’ll cover in another post). All in all, it was an interesting week that kept me running around keeping up with as much as I could. Here’s some more images from the week.