ARTS AND CULTURE: Semana Santa: Senakulo 2016

9:00 AM

It is the Catholicism of the past centuries - theatrics with a healthy dose of barbarism. 
Senakulo, the dramatization of the Passion of Christ, is quite a popular practice here in predominantly Catholic Philippines. Staged during Semana Santa or Holy Week, it is a rather captivating spectacle whose highlight is the crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday.

More popular in the provinces, the most famous of which is the one staged in barangay San Pedro Catud in San Fernando, Pampanga. It is well-known for the flagellations and crucifixion of penitents. People from all over – some even from abroad - come just to witness this lenten custom.

Apart from its relevance to Holy Week, part of the appeal is perhaps the savagery. In this day and age of political correctness, the sight of one nailed on a cross is just too novel and riveting. Even with all the violence reported every day and purported by the entertainment industry, to be across a person crucified by his own accord remains to be quite surreal.

The mall next door, named after a Catholic saint, annually puts on its own production of the Passion of Christ. But in their case, like their grand New Year celebrations on December 30, the Senakulo is done a little bit early. The mall will be closed on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, so it’s just logical to have the show during the weekend of Palm Sunday.

Cainta Nazareno Inc. presented this year’s Senakulo and did it in poetic form. The audio was a bit spotty during the first few minutes but eventually evened out. The actors certainly made up for it with their spirited performance as well as their characters’ fantastic costumes and the larger than life set.  

The evening started with a procession around the mall then followed by a mass. It was Palm Sunday and most of the faithful had a palaspas in their hands. Then, there was the second part of the Senakulo – the first half presented the evening before – which lasted about three hours. In the end, we were left with just a cross on stage. But unlike other kinds of production, the finale didn’t leave the expected satisfying sense of completion. Instead, at the risk of sounding cliche, it indeed left a feeling of emptiness.  

Crucified Jesus flanked by the two thieves.
Roman Centurions all dressed up and ready for the procession.

The kids of Judaea
More of the cast in their rather nice costumes!
The cast getting pretty waiting for the go signal.

The evening starts with the procession of characters
The chariot awaits for the Roman Governor

Before the Senakulo was the celebration of the Eucharist.
People waiting patiently for the mass and the senakulo

Lots of people! Chairs placed along the crossing for them to sit on.
The Roman Governor of Judaea and his family.
One of the thieves that's about to be crucified
The other thief  being paraded in front of the crowd

Jesus on the way to his trial before Pontius Pilate. 
The men of Judaea
Palm Sunday.  The mass started with the blessing of palms.
Mary pleading for help for her son Jesus
Some folks of the Sanhedrin
Even the people on the bridge are captivated!
Sanhedrin trial of Jesus

Jesus in front Pontius Pilate
Jesus at Herod's Court

The scourging of Jesus at the pillar
The crowning of thorns
Pilate's wife blaming him for the death of their son
Jesus carrying his own cross

The audience looks on, rather captivated. 

The production is legit, with lights, sounds, and a camera man!

The curtains opened and there He was crucified to the cross. 

The cross is now being erected with the crucified Jesus. 

Crucified Jesus. Yes. This man has his hands crucified to the cross. 

The dead Jesus being taken down from the cross while children are looking on.
The dead Jesus in the arms of his devastated mother. 
The cross where Jesus died.


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