Moriones Festival

Travel: Moriones Festival in Marinduque Island

Marinduque is a famous tourist destination during the Lenten season in March or April. It is called the “Heart of the Philippines” due to its shape and its position at the center of the archipelago. For 200 years, the residents of Marinduque has celebrated the Moriones Festival which is a part of the reenactment of the Passion of the Christ story. Men (and even women and children) dress in the garb of Roman legionnaires parading around the streets of Marinduque for a whole week.

Moriones Festival
The morion mask may look beautiful but it is also incredibly uncomfortable to wear. It is suffocating and hot especially when walking under direct sunlight.

While the Moriones tradition is also now celebrated in Oriental Mindoro, one of the major difference that I’ve noticed is the extravagance in the costume design. The Moriones of Oriental Mindoro are far more visually elaborate probably because of the motivation behind joining the festival. In Oriental Mindoro, this festival is also a contest; the most beautiful costumes win prize money amounting to several thousand pesos. However, this excessive focus on the extravagance of the costume somehow strays from the original Roman soldier look. In Marinduque, the penitents join because it is tradition and it is their personal conviction as part of their penance and thanksgiving. The costumes range from cheaply made to extravagant but it is a colorful and dramatic festival all the same that sticks to the original tradition.

Oriental Mindoro Moriones Festival
The Moriones of Oriental Mindoro look more like computer game characters than Roman soldiers. (Photo by Lhen Fajutagana)

The festival also includes “antipo” which is the act of self-flagellation of some devotees. They get small cuts on their backs, chest, arms and thighs and they use whips to hit themselves. The rite is bloody and may look disturbing to some.

Antipo
You’d have to deal with the sight and smell of fresh blood if you want to follow them around.

One of the highlights of the festival is the parade of Moriones during Good Friday reenacting the Passion of the Christ along the streets of Boac, the capital of Marinduque. Three actors play Jesus and two thieves carrying their crosses. They are ultimately “crucified” on a hill.

Moriones Festival: Crucifixion
This is unlike the event in Pampanga where the actor is actually literally nailed to the cross.

While other provinces may differ in terms of the visual impact of its Moriones, the overall experience of the Lenten Season in Marinduque is unmistakably more “genuine.” After a couple of centuries, the residents still hold to their own tradition and culture with consistency and pride.

Besides this eventful celebration, other reasons to visit Marinduque are its several beaches, waterfalls, caves and hot springs. Boac, the capital of Marinduque, also has many Spanish-era houses all over the place that it almost feels like Vigan, Ilocos Sur without the cobblestone streets. The residents of Marinduque are also some of the most welcoming and hospitable Filipinos. The province has been ranked as the #1 Most Peaceful Province of the Philippines in 2013 due to its very low crime rate.

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