Something it’s not

sharper Focus

by Linda Manhardt, Major –

Easter in the Philippines for me, was a major cultural learning experience.

Because the Spanish ruled the Philippines for about 350 years, the Catholic Church remains a major influence in the culture and moral development of the country. Although the Catholic Church no longer sanctions some of the current practices surrounding Easter, the customs of ages past are still carried out today.

From Maundy Thursday to the Monday after Easter, the country is virtually at a standstill. Governmental offices, banks, and shopping centers are all closed in celebration of Easter.

But the streets are not empty. In fact there is a festive attitude that permeates the towns and villages, as pilgrims make their way along prescribed routes to the local cathedrals. Some carry crosses. Some flog themselves as they slowly walk through the streets. All are barefoot. There are even those who go to extremes by piercing their hands and feet with nails in order to repent of their sins and share in the suffering of Jesus. It is felt that by inflicting pain upon themselves in the name of Jesus, they will be cleansed and forgiven.

All along the route, onlookers gather to cheer the pilgrims on. And with the crowds, come the venders. Hundreds and hundreds of venders, selling everything from deep–fried chicken feet to “Hello Kitty” balloons.

As I visited the crowded area surrounding a local cathedral, my heart broke as I thought of how Jesus would react to the mercenary, commercial festival that commemorates his death and resurrection. The account of his overturning the tables of the moneychangers took on a whole new meaning for me. The light bulb went on. I understood his anger.

As I went into the cathedral, I was approached by many women who were selling ”sampguita garlands.” These are like mini leis that are used to put over the heads of the icons of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. To purchase and place these is thought to bring blessings or good luck to the pilgrim.

By the time I left the area, my heart was heavy. They’ve missed it! They’ve missed the whole point of what Christ did for us. They’ve turned the memory of the greatest gift ever given to all of humanity into a circus—an opportunity to make money from the misguided attempts of sinners seeking redemption, and the curious onlookers who follow them.

Our Lord came in simplicity—the simplicity of the cross. His blood and our repentant faith save us. Theatrics just blur the issue and create chaos. Help us, Lord, to remember the simple precious gift of your life for ours, and not try and make it into something it is not.


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