Two versions of Self-abnegation

Two versions of Self-abnegation

18 April 2014. Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines: Pupua crown and Antipo whip crosses path on the road in and out of the Church grounds. Pupua is Lenten sacrifice practised by women, while Men goes with the self-flagellation, locally called Antipo. (Photo by Joel S. Mataro)

18 April 2014. Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines: Pupua crown and Antipo whip crosses path on the road in and out of the Church grounds. Pupua is Lenten sacrifice practised by women, while Men goes with the self-flagellation, locally called Antipo. (Photo by Joel S. Mataro)

(17 April 2014, Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines)
Every Good Friday in Gasan in the island of Marinduque, Philippines, men and women of faith have a different way of emulating the passion of Christ. Women in black don a large crown of green thorny leaf, while Men without upper clothes, cut with blade the most vulnerable part of their body skin until blood drip out.

18 April 2014. Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines: Two Pupua women shares a light moment prior to the procession. (Photo by: Joel S. Mataro)

18 April 2014. Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines: Two Pupua women shares a light moment prior to the procession. (Photo by: Joel S. Mataro)

An elderly 80plus -year old woman when interviewed stated that, the donning of Popua leaves, an endemic plant in Marinduque, could be traced back to the Spanish times. She recalls that her grandmother would dress up in full black, neck to heels, in puritanical fashion during Good Friday, then walk bare-foot to the Church to hear the Siete Palabras or Seven Last Words of Jesus. As it was before, so it is until today.

The ritual of the tradition starts with the choice of green thorny Pupua leaves,   about a foot long of stalk and leaf. They would then fashion it in circle like crown of cascading leaves, heavy and massive enough to cover the whole head, scalp and face. It would take the whole morning to arrange the Pupua. At around three-o-clock in the afternoon, these women would go to the Church on top of the hill, they would not yet wear their Pupua crowns, not yet until the procession starts.

18 April 2014, Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines: Leaders of the Pupua group checks on the name of early arrivals. The list of Pupua participants are sorted out according to barangays for recognition. (Photo by Joel S. Mataro)
18 April 2014, Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines: Leaders of the Pupua group checks on the name of early arrivals. The list of Pupua participants are sorted out according to barangays for recognition. (Photo by Joel S. Mataro)
18 April 2014. Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines: An 80-year old Pupua peniten, gestures as she explains. Pupua practioners are all-over Gasan, Marinduque. (Photo by Joel S. Mataro)

18 April 2014. Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines: An 80-year old Pupua peniten, gestures as she explains. Pupua practioners are all-over Gasan, Marinduque. (Photo by Joel S. Mataro)

The line of bare-footed Pupua women in black clothes, white candle on one hand with heads adorned with massive green crown is a sight to behold. Here are women in their 20s and a handful in their 80s ages practises this Lenten Tradition in solemnity and in prayer. Aware that that this is their outward expression of participation in the passion of Christ, they do this sacrifice as a form of Prayer, a form of Thanksgiving for the blessings received, a form of Atonement and Penance for the sins committed.
After the whole town procession goes back to the church, the Popua women goes to the cemetery and removes their head gear then burns them. The removal and burning symbolizes new life without sin.

18 April 2014, Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines: A Pupua woman, dons her crown as she gets ready for the procession. (Photo by Jayvee S. Mataro)

18 April 2014, Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines: A Pupua woman, dons her crown as she gets ready for the procession. (Photo by Jayvee S. Mataro)

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18 April 2014. Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines. Old women who had practised Pupua gets themselves into the line for procession. (Photo by Jayvee Mataro)

About the same time as the Popua Women marches into the church, bands of Men troop to the cemetery almost naked with only a small short as cover.

As one enters the cemetery, the hotness of the afternoon only magnifies the strange mixed smell of alcohol and blood. On the skin surface, the “Antipo” as these flagellants are locally called, is a tradition of machismo and masochism rather than penance and faith? Under the skin, one hopes it is not, for what else could be the reason of doing it?

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18 April 2014. Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines: The designated cutter incised small cuts to create a tear of blood all-over a penitent’s body. The same blade would be used again for anyone who wants to have a cut of his own. (Photo by Joel S. Mataro)

Persons chatted for a small talk, reveals that they do this as a form of penance for their sins. Remembering how Christ was flagged by roman soldiers before his crucifixion, the Antipos first have another person cut their skin on the most vulnerable skin part. Using a razor blade, the assigned person delicately makes a cut in small strokes, just enough to make a tear of blood. The cuts are made on the stomach, at the back, at the side arm, at legs, soon the guy is almost covered by his own blood. Soon thereafter, to aggravate the bleeding, the penitent torments his own flesh with a whip made of an odd number of 6-8 inch long, thin-knife edge bamboo sticks, cluster and tied together on a string or thin rope. While all of this is done while sipping gin or a local coconut wine, nobody seems to utter prayer or at least do it with sacredness, instead you will hear laughter and conquest of something. And when one is ready, the penitent goes out of the cemetery, out on the street for all people to see until the end of the procession where every Antipo takes a river bath, believing they will emerge from the water scar and wound free.
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18 Aptil 2014, Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines: . Detail of bamboo whip, drenched in blood. While penitent is framed by the arm holding the bamboo whip. Included in the photo are the onlookers and friends sharing a drink or two insde the cemetery. (Photo by Joel S. Mataro)

18 Aptil 2014, Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines: . Detail of bamboo whip, drenched in blood. While penitent is framed by the arm holding the bamboo whip. Included in the photo are the onlookers and friends sharing a drink or two insde the cemetery. (Photo by Joel S. Mataro)

Antipo

Both Popua and Antipo joining the same procession of the Santo Sepulchro seems like an ironical interpretations of faith in observance of Good Friday, it is as if, we do not have enough suffering. While Popua is a more acceptable, demonstration of atonement, is Antipo an insult to suffer like the Messiah? Unless the local Church issues a more definitive guidelines of observing the Holy Week, traditions like these would continue to thrive, of raw faith, regardless of theology or not.

18 April 2014. Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines: An Antipo penitent poses for a portrait. Almost covered with self inflicted cut, the Antipo holds a bamboo whip for self-torment. At the back is the church of Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines and some Morions walking on a Good Friday afternoon. (Photo by Joel S. Mataro)

18 April 2014. Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines: An Antipo penitent poses for a portrait. Almost covered with self inflicted cut, the Antipo holds a bamboo whip for self-torment. At the back is the church of Gasan, Marinduque, Philippines and some Morions walking on a Good Friday afternoon. (Photo by Joel S. Mataro)

(Documented with Jhuly Panday and Jayvee Sotto Mataro.April 2014.Gasan,Marinduque,Philippines. )

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