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Philippines / Marinduque / The Province

Marinduque was one of the areas of the archipelago hit worst by typhoon Sisang in November 1987. As Sisang destroyed some 70% of the island's crops and rendered thousands of people homeless, there has been for a few years visible poverty on Marinduque.

Except for rice, primarily grown for own consumption, the island's main crop, and the only produce exported in large quantities, is coconuts. As the damaged trees take years to recover, normal harvest was not expected before 1992.

Marinduque is of touristic importance mainly because of the Moriones Festival in honor of the Roman soldier Longinus in Boac, Gasan and Mogpog.

The name Moriones is derived from the Spanish word 'Morion' meaning mask or helmet. The Spanish conquistadores were wearing Moriones. The origin of the festival is traced to Mogpog and the year 1807 when the parish priest of said town, Fr. Dionisio Santiago, organized it for the first time. (While the accuracy of the date has not been definitely established, most Marinduqueños agree that the Moriones festival originated in Mogpog in a time this municipality was still under the administration of Boac.)

Acting participants in the festival are almost exclusively men. And as is the case with Good Friday crucifixions elsewhere in the Philippines, to participate in a leading role is usually based on a religious vow. To participate is considered a penance because of the heat the participants must endure under the heavy wooden masks and in their costumes.

The festival lasts from 'Holy Monday' (in Philippine terminology the Monday before Easter Sunday) until Easter Sunday. During the week men wearing masks disguising them as Roman soldiers mock-terrorize the town folks, frightening the children and playing all sort of pranks. Only on Easter Sunday, the one-eyed character of Longinus comes into the play which is an adult version of hide-and-seek. The role of Longinus, whose mask is easily distinguished from all others, is to avoid the other characters in the spectacle by hiding and escaping whenever 'Roman soldiers' come near him.

When Longinus is discovered, a wild chase begins through streets, houses, fields and rivers. Eventually, Longinus is caught and carried to a kind of court where the 'Roman procurator' Pilate and the Pharisees await him. He is made to kneel, sentenced and 'beheaded'.

The beheading in this case is of course only a mock-execution, though this author wouldn't be surprised if sooner or later, a religious fanatic should sacrifice his life in some reenactment of a biblical episode. Religiously motivated suicides have happened in the Philippines time and again. And each year on Good Friday, hundreds of Catholic fanatics voluntary agree to be whipped by co-actors when re-enacting Jesus' way to Golgotha. This is already a bloody affair; but as if this would not be enough authenticity, there are a number of Filipinos who really and truly have themselves nailed to a cross each Good Friday. (For an eyewitness account, please see the entries, appropriately found in the chapter Entertainment.)

The Moriones spectacle has so far not become quite as deadly serious as the crucifixions, though in the current neo-medieval age of religious revival, especially in Islamic countries but in the Catholic world primarily in the Philippines, it cannot be ruled out as impossible that some fanatic would even be willing to sacrifice his/her live during a re-enactment in order to become a self-styled modern day martyr.

The following is a quote from a brochure published by the local government, either of the town of Boac or Marinduque Province (details not indicated), to inform tourists about the Moriones Festival. The quote recounts the story of the Roman soldier Longinus, in whose honor the festival is held.

The excerpt is purposely left uncorrected as thereby it does not only give information on the historical personality of the Roman soldier Longinus (for which there are no neutral sources) but also captures the reverence the people of Marinduque feel for their adopted hero: "The story of Longinus, the Roman Centurions who's conversion to Christianity is recorded in the Gospel, has been beautifully woven into the fabric of Marinduqueños cultural tapestry giving it color, exoticness and artistry. The account of Longinus finds itself historically linked with the story of Christ's cruxifixion. The Gospel finding no fault with fearing the wrath of Public opinion, eventually issued the death sentence. The judgement was given in spite of the strong admonitions of Pilate's wife, Claudia Procula, who in a dream was foretold of Jesus innocence and holiness."

"And for three hours that Jesus lay in agony on the Cross, Roman soldiers kept watch, jeering and mocking the crucified Christ. After those hours, the Roman Guards still were not very certain that Jesus was really dead. To erase such doubts, Longinus acted immediately and sent his sharp spear to the side of Jesus , piercing and wounding it deeply. Truly Jesus was dead, but from His wounded side burst forth blood and water, spurts of which hit Longinus blind eyes. This was the moment of Truth and Enlightenment! For Longinus, this was the dawn of a new Life! He pondered deeply on these thoughts. Could it be that He is really the Son of GOD. He could feel some stirrings in his soul, pulsating, growing stronger, disturbing his otherwise complacement and self-confident nature."

"He was in this strange predicament when the third day of Jesus crucifixion and death, a much greater drama unfolded before his eyes. The Gospel also reads that Jesus was permitted to be buried in a garden lot own by Joseph of Arimathea. However, Pilate, with the advice and concurrence of the Chief Scribes and Pharisces, ordered the guarding of the tomb for they feared and the disciples might steel and hide Jesus body and then proclaimed His as having risen from the dead."

"Headed by Longinus, the Roman centurions religiously stood watch over the tomb. Suddenly, the earth began to tremble. Flashes of blinding light accompanied by a strange noise and rumble, made the Roman soldiers dazed and spellbound. Beholding Jesus rising from his tomb in all His resplendent glory, and majesty, the soldiers feel unconcious to the ground. This the real turning point for Longinus."

"Fully strenghthened in his conviction that Christ is truly the Son of GOD, Longinus, adamantly refused to be threathened of scribes of Pilate to cover up quiet about Christ's resurrection. With renewed strength, he departed on his way, proclaiming and praising the glory of Christ and His Resurrection. Pilates wrath knew no bounds. In consultation with his council of scribes and pharises, he ordered the arrest of Longinus was able to escape from the soldiers, but ultimately he voluntarily surrendered and give himself up for execution at the gallows. Longinus died for Christ's sake, truly penitent, faithful and devoted convert."

The above quoted text may be full of syntax and spelling errors, and even regarding the content, the version published by the local authorities doesn't fully agree with the Catholic dogma. However, a well-founded historical account, would provide less, not more information on the Moriones Festival, because what is celebrated it is not the historical figure of Longinus, but Longinus as perceived in a supernatural world of gods, holy spirits and miracles.

Even a grammatically corrected version would be less not more informative. The above description of the adopted local hero could be given by any participant in the festival, and with all the syntax errors it truly mirrors the sometimes confusing religious believes of an ordinary Filipino. The Western visitor whose religious believes are likely to be more sophisticated than what is reflected in the quoted text, can nevertheless enjoy the Moriones spectacle as something truly native, last not least because it has remained naïve.

In Philippine history, the island only played a role in 1646 when it was the site of a battle between the Spanish and an attacking Dutch force. The Spanish won. Since then and up to today, military events have spared the island and its population as even the NPA has not opened a front there.

Among the better known personalities of the province is Dr. Fe Del Mundo (born on Marinduque 1907). She finished a course in medicine at the University of the Philippines in 1933, made her graduate studies in pediatrics at Harvard, was trained at New York's Mt. Sinai hospital and was a resident physician of Chicago Hospital. She returned to the Philippines following WW II and invented an incubator and a jaundice relieving device.

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Philippines / Marinduque / Geography

Land Area: 959sqkm (370sqmi)

Topography: rugged except for the western side which is a plain

Mountains: Mt Gasan 745m (2,444ft); Mt Maarianga 1,157m (3,796ft)

River: Boac

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Philippines / Marinduque / Population

Majority Group: Tagalogs;

Language: Tagalog

Minorities: Mangyans

Island Population: 186,000

Cities, Towns: (Census of 1990; x1000): Boac 41, Buenavista 15, Gasan 25, Mogpog 25, Sta. Cruz 53, Torrijos 25.

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Philippines / Marinduque / Boac

The municipal administration has, in a flyer distributed free to guests visiting the town, provided the following information about Boac: "The name Boac is meaningless. It was derived from the Tagalog word 'biak' , which means divided. It happened thus: In the olden days when there were only three established towns in the Island of Marinduque, the town of Boac comprised a very vast area of land and mountains as well as islets, namely, San Andres, Salvaria Pangapasan, and Agpisan. It also had a very good port in Balanacan... The river which ran from the eastern hinterland to the western plains down to the sea had divided the town into two areas, the northern area and the southern area. The people used to say 'Ang Bayan ng Biak' which means the town is divided by the river into two parts. In the course of time, by means of verbal intercourse [sic] and communication and the exchange of letters and notes between the people of Marinduque and Mindoro, the Tagalog word 'biak' had been corrupted to 'Boak' and then to 'Boac', the name of the town which persisted to this day"

The town dates back to 1580 when Franciscan missionaries set up a community with the name 'Our Lady of Monserrat'. In 1622, it became a Jesuit parish.

Social critics have pointed out that Catholicism as practiced in the Philippines is rife with sexual undertones to an even wider extent than Catholicism in southern Europe (and certainly to a wider extent than in central or northern Europe). Accordingly, Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, or variations thereof, seem to be the most preferred name given in the Philippines to Maria figurines, Catholic churches or institutions. The town of Baybay on the Island of Leyte is the site of a Catholic school that has aptly been named Franciscan College of Immaculate Conception - aptly, because it is run by Franciscan nuns.

The first parish church was furnished with a statue of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, and 'Immaculate Conception' is the patron saint of Boac, as it is of Baybay, Leyte.

While an 'Immaculate Conception' patron saint may lend more wings to the fantasies of the pious, especially the young, in would probably, in the interest of the holiness of the Catholic Church, be better for parishes to choose patron saints, such as St. Peter or St. Paul or even Our Lady of Fatima -- titles which certainly would not invite sexual thoughts.

To chosen names that are more sex-neutral would also be advisable to avoid the irony that while a town fiesta may be dedicated to an 'Immaculate Conception' patron saint, it's throughout the Philippines precisely the town fiesta that gives The Country youth the prime occasion to pursue the business of a rather non-immaculate conception. Traditionally, the town fiesta is the time when the unmarried country youth mingles and makes new friends, thus laying the groundwork for marriages and traditionally child-rich families. (More serious breaches of the Immaculate Conception concept during a town fiesta dedicated to an 'Immaculate Conception' patron saint are not insinuated here.)

Social critics and psychologists have claimed that a language needlessly enriched with underlying sexual allegories is an indication of a hypocritical social order. In the case of Boac they could point at the choice of an 'Immaculate Conception' patron saint as well as, in a minor case, the inclusion of "verbal intercourse" in the town's official brochure.

To repeat the sentence in question: "In the course of time, by means of verbal intercourse and communication and the exchange of letters and notes between the people of Marinduque and Mindoro, the Tagalog word 'biak' had been corrupted to 'Boak' and then to 'Boac', the name of the town which persisted to this day." The inclusion of the phrase 'verbal intercourse' adds nothing to the meaning of the sentence; 'by means of communication and the exchange of letters and notes' is just as conclusive as 'by means of verbal intercourse and communication and the exchange of letters and notes'. Therefore, one may suspect that the author chose to use the phrase 'verbal intercourse' for its possible double meaning, sort of using it as a valve for the unconscious.

The town fiesta of Boac is on December 8, and it's in honor of the town's 'Immaculate Conception' patron saint. The official Boac brochure assesses: "Many people from the different towns of Marinduque, Mindoro and Quezon had always looked forward to this date to join the pilgrimage to the town of Boac to pay homage to the Immaculate Conception and partake of the fiesta."

Well, this author's experience from more than a decade in the Philippines has been that most folks look forward to a fiesta more for its entertainment value than the chance to pay homage. On the other hand, the municipal administration of Boac always stresses the religious aspects of live. Accordingly, the official motto of the town is "Service to God and People". The town's official seal not only bears this slogan but also a depiction of the Holy Spirit as dove.

By the way, the town not only has an official slogan but an official flower and an official tree as well. The official flower is jasmine, the official tree is acacia. The reader may remember that pupils in Philippine schools nationwide learn that the sampaguita is the national flower of the Philippines, the mango the national fruit, and nara the national tree.

As far as trees are concerned, nations always seem to glorify on flags, or by adopting them somehow officially, those trees they have lost. The flag of Lebanon depicts a majestic cedar tree - but that country has hardly any left. In the Philippines, nara trees have been heavily decimated. On the other hand a Filipino couldn't imagine to pick the coconut as national tree, or the banana as national fruit.

As it is a small town, there is little practical information, the visitor to Boac will need beforehand. There are at least four permanent hotels or lodging houses, the Boac Hotel, Lagio's Resting House and Ruby's Lodging House, all three on Nepomuceno Street, as well as Cely's Lodging House on 10 de Octobre Street; all have rooms at around 100 pesos. During the Moriones Festival, many private households also rent out accommodations, and the rates at proper hotels and guest houses are higher than during the rest of the year.

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Philippines / Marinduque / Sta Cruz

Rico's Inn Boarding House

Joville's Resort Hotel, Matalaba

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Philippines / Marinduque / Attractions

Cawit Beach - 8km (5mi) south of Boac, jeepneys from Boac; gray-brown gravel/sand beach; accommodation is available at the Seaview & Sunraft Hotel

White Beach - near Torrijos

Palm Fringe Coral Beach - near Gasan

Bathala Cave - at Gazak, 10km (6mi) northwest of Sta Cruz; the caves are visible from the road to Sta Cruz and are on private property. Visits are possible with the owners' permission.

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Philippines / Marinduque / Festivals

Jan 6 - Feast of the three Kings in Gasan and Sta Cruz

Holy Week - Moriones Festival in Boac, Gasan and Mogpog; it is one of the most colorful religious festivals in the Philippines; dedicated to the Roman Longinus who was converted to Christianity when Jesus was crucified. During the festival it is hard to find vacant hotel rooms. For more details on the festival, please see the introduction to this chapter.

Dec 28 - Niños Inocentes throughout the province

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Philippines / Marinduque / Transportation

The most frequently plied route (by jeepneys) is Boac - Sta Cruz. Other destinations around the island have irregular service by jeepneys or tricycles.

Masiga Airport lies 12km (7.5mi) south of Boac; one can get there by jeepney or tricycle; the PAL Office is in Nepomuceno St, Boac. PAL has two flights daily between Boac and Manila, one in the morning, one in the afternoon.

There is a daily ship connection between Balanacan on Marinduque and Lucena on Luzon; the trip takes about 4hrs. There are also two or three connections per week by outrigger between Gasan on Marinduque and Pinamalayan on Mindoro; this trip is said to take 3hrs.