Tag Archives: festival

Penance at Holy Week – A Photo Essay

I’ve been a bit out of touch the last few days as I’ve been hunkering down through a typhoon in a place with minimal (i.e., really slow) internet access. I’m currently enroute to Taiwan so I might end up a day or two behind again. Hopefully not, though.
A word of CAUTION: This post contains images that, while I don’t consider to be overly graphic, do contain blood and scenes that some may find disturbing. If this might be you, click here now.

One of the side ‘events’ that took place during the Moriones Festival in Marinduque, Philippines, was a self-flagellation gathering at the Boac cemetery. Similar to the volunteers who carried crosses in the Via Cruces procession, the flagellant participants join in this activity as an act of penance. Contrary to what I expected, the participants did not use whips to thrash themselves. Rather, an assistant would use a razor blade to place a series of small nicks in the skin in order to draw blood. A bundle of smooth, round sticks was then repeatedly beat over the area. This serves to spread the blood around and likely draws more out of the wounds. One might start on the upper arms, thrash them for a while, and then have nicks put in the chest and then thrash that area for a while.

Getting the Nicks

Getting the Nicks - Boac, Marinduque

I spoke briefly with one young man, asking him if this was his first time and why he did it. At 20 years old, he had done this several times since he was 15. Doing so, he said, gave his life direction and meaning. Coming from a different culture, it’s easy to be judgmental, look at these images and say: “This is wrong. They shouldn’t be doing this to themselves.” It’s certainly not my cup of tea nor something that I think most people, including most Filipinos, would find necessary. But who am I to argue if it keeps some young man on the straight and narrow?

Portrait of a Flagellant

Portrait of a Flagellant - Boac, Marinduque

While I’m sure it wasn’t painless, I don’t think it was as damaging or as painful as it looks. Although I’m sure stoicism abounded, none of the guys appeared to be experiencing much discomfort and many of them were smiling and laughing. As far as my discomfort, although I tend to have a bit of a weak stomach when it comes to blood and guts, I was not bothered much by seeing this at the time. I was actually a bit more disturbed later when I looked at the pictures for the first time. While watching, it was mostly a trick to walk around and avoid getting splattered with flying blood.

Hey, This Has Been Fun

Hey, This Has Been Fun - Boac, Marinduque

At the Task

At the Task - Boac, Marinduque

The Tools

The Tools - Boac, Marinduque

A Younger Participant

A Younger Participant - Boac, Marinduque

Walking With the Ghosts

Walking With the Ghosts - Boac, Marinduque

The Arm is Ready

The Arm is Ready - Boac, Marinduque

In Front of the Grave

In Front of the Grave - Boac, Marinduque

Smiling Observer

Smiling Observer - Boac, Marinduque

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Posted in Cultural, Philippines, Photography Also tagged , , |

Marinduque’s Moriones Festival

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.


Moriones - Santa Cruz, Marinduque

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.

Carrying the Cross

Carrying the Cross - Boac, Marinduque

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.


Warrior - Mog Pog, Marinduque

Future Gladiators

Future Gladiators - Boac, Marinduque

Overlooking the Parade

Overlooking the Parade - Boac, Marinduque

The Fight

The Fight - Santa Cruz, Marinduque

Waiting for the Procession

Waiting for the Procession - Boac, Marinduque

By the Light of a Candle

By the Light of a Candle - Boac, Marinduque

Street Dancers on Parade

Street Dancers on Parade - Gasan, Marinduque

Lined Up

Lined Up - Gasan, Marinduque

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Posted in Cultural, Philippines, Photography Also tagged , , |


As seen at a goth festival in the Sydney suburb of Newtown. Someone standing next to me said this woman was some well known crime fiction novelist. Since I don’t read crime fiction, it meant nothing to me. I liked the photo, though.

Famous Writer

Posted in Cultural, Photography, Portrait, Sydney Also tagged , , , , , , , |


Every little town or community in the Philippines holds a festival at some point in the year. Here, the flags are waving in front of a church in anticipation of the upcoming festival in Montalban.


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Posted in Cultural, Philippines, Photography, Travel Also tagged , , , , , , |