Marinduque – home of the Moriones Festival
…world-renown Holy Week Festival of the Philippines
By Apolinario Villalobos
Marinduque used to be a Malayan settlement in southern Luzon and in 1590 was made a sub-corregimiento of Mindoro. It was also a former sub-province of Batangas, then of Quezon, finally, becoming an independent province in February 21, 1920.
The 95, 258 hectares total land area of the province provides a solid, though not so fertile ground for the good-natured Marinduqueῆos who earn their living by planting coconut trees and by fishing around the islands. The heart-shaped island is considered as the center of the Philippine archipelago. With Boac as its capital, the province is located between Tayabas Bay to the north and Sibuyan Sea to the south, southwest of Quezon, east of Mindoro and north of Romblon. Mompong Pass separates the province from the Bondoc Peninsula of mainland Luzon.
Smaller islands such as Polo, Maniwaya, Mompong, Tres Reyes, and Elephant also form parts of the province. At 3,796 feet above sea level, Mt. Malindig, formerly called Mt. Marlanga at the southern tip of the main island, is considered as the highest point of the province. Completing the curious and stunning endowments of the province is a cave system comprised by the Talao cave with its 12 chambers lording over the western part, San Isidro with its subterranean river, and the imposing Bathala cave. Marcopper, a mining giant has become synonymous with the province, especially, with the disaster that occurred.
The province is composed of six towns, such as Boac, the capital, Buenavista where Bellaroca Resort and Spa is located, Gasan, the central point of cultural activities of the province, Mogpog where the Moriones Festival originated, Sta. Cruz the largest town in area, and Torrijos where the Poctoy White Beach is located. The name of the province is the combined names of two legendary lovers, Mariin and Gatduke, which as always happens in the love-centered folklores, the father of the woman did not approve of the relationship. The two eloped and sailed out into the sea and drowned themselves. Days later, an island surfaced which the natives called “Marinduque”.
Archaeological diggings yielded Chinese urns, gold ornaments and vases that proved a flourishing trade and commercial relationship with the Chinese who came from the mainland China. An ancient wooden idol was also discovered, indicating that the early Marinduqueῆos had their own kind of worship. The artifacts can be found in a museum in France, the Musee de la Homme, Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. USA, and Marinduque Museum in Boac.
The Marinduqueῆos speak Tagalog but spoken in a unique way due to its strong accent, which is said to be the way how it was done before the arrival of the Spaniards. Noticeable though, are sprinkling of Bicol and Visayan influence. Very hospitable, they have their own way of welcoming visitors to their home, especially, during fiestas. The ceremony is called “putong” or “tubong”, in which the guests crowned with garlands of flowers are seated in front of the welcoming crowd. Special songs intended for such occasion are sung while petals of flowers and coins are thrown at them.
The tourism industry of the province is highlighted by the Moriones Festival celebrated during the Holy Week. It centers on the story of Longhinus, a Roman centurion who had a prominent role during the crucifixion of Jesus. Morion refers to the mask carved from a soft wood called “dapdap” and painted to resemble a classic face of the Roman centurion, complete with beards, moustache, and penetrating stare of the glaring eyes. The mask is made complete by a papier mache helmet. In time, the “morion” has been referred to the participant who is also fancifully garbed in a Roman soldier attire. Part of the ceremony is the striking of two pieces of woods called “kalutang” by the “moriones” to produce syncopated sound.
Moriones Festival, locally called “Moryonan” is an interesting and colorful cornucopia of religious activities for the duration of the Holy Week. At the onset of the Holy Week, the “morions” go around the town and play pranks among the townsfolk, especially, the children. “Nobisyas” garbed in long skirts and white bandanas also take to the street as their own way of sacrifice. The Good Friday is dominated by self-flagellants or “antipos” who use several five-inch long bamboo sticks tied together that they use in flagging themselves while walking barefoot around the town. The self-flagging is proceeded by the cutting of the flagellants’ skin to induce bleeding on their back and thigh. At Boac, the wounding ritual is confined in the Catholic cemetery atop the hill overlooking the town.
The dawn of Easter Sunday is for the traditional “salubong” or the meeting of the Virgin Mary and Jesus that highlights the procession. A little later, the colorful spectacle that centers on Longhinus makes the town more alive, as Longhinus is “chased” around, so timed until the sun begins its descent, for the “pugutan” or his beheading on a makeshift stage which indicates the end of the festival.
To date, some Marinduqueῆos are nurturing butterflies, some of which find their way to international patrons in Europe and the United States, although a significant portion of the live export commodity are in demand for local use during special occasions.
The province is part of the roll-on, roll-off (ro-ro) national ferry route system making it accessible by buses from Manila that take the ferries departing from Lucena. In the province, the ports are located at Balanacan and Cawit. It is also served by interisland airlines served by the airport located at Barangay Masiga between Boac and Gasan. Those who would like to attend the Moriones Festival are advised to make early flight and hotel bookings with travel agents. And those who would like to make it on their own, airline tickets should be purchased at the earliest possible time.