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Lenten Season

Lenten season is widely practiced by Christians all over the globe. Most Christians observe Lenten season at the coming of Ash Wednesday and ends on a Saturday preceding Easter Sunday. In the Philippines, Lenten season is referred to as "Kuaresma or Panahon sa Kuaresma". Besides the traditional religious beliefs, some local townsfolk have also adapted certain superstitious beliefs in which "fairytale stories" are widespread in many regions during Kuaresma. In contrast, I believe the Kuaresma activities are similar to the Halloween season in the United States, where superstition still plays a role for some people.

Kuaresma has generated many different ancestral scary stories, such as the influx of the "Mamarang" (or the Witch) in dark alleys or secluded roads in the village. Mamarang was believed to have the ability to transform herself into a wild boar, large dog or a black cat. When the Mamarang becomes one of these personified animal creations, she is believed to lay alongside a road that is very secluded or quiet enough to be able to hide under a big tree or a thick lush of bamboo tree awaiting a passerby.

As a passerby approaches, the Mamarang makes a sudden scary move to startle or scare the passerby away. In great fear, the passerby runs so fast without looking back because if he/she looks back the scene changes to show the dog being transformed into a person. Many reports have said that during the old days, many people have practiced this kind of belief and many of them have been hurt or injured because they were running in fear and not looking where they were going. Some townsfolk also reported incidents, such as seeing or observing many roads being obstructed by bamboo trees and miraculously the obstruction disappeared when people gathered to investigate or witness after the reported incident.

Ancestral stories that have also been reported involved prohibiting families from doing certain household chores during Kuaresma. For example, bathing or washing clothes in the rivers or creeks are prohibited during Good Friday because Ingkantos (or Fairies) are believed to colonize in the area, especially during Kuaresma and do not like to be disturbed. The disturbance can cause a person to get sick and can only be cured by an Herbolario (or a Quack Doctor). The Herbolario treats the sick person by making rituals in the river or creek where the incident happened. One of the Herbolario’s reported famous rituals was the use of white-feathered chicken called "Ogis."

Holy Wednesday (two days prior to Good Friday) has been observed as the beginning of Tingpugong (or the Days of Restraint). Tingpugong involves restrain from all routine habits and activities, such as shouting, unnecessary noise, partying, outing, and any other activities which connotes joy and happiness. Townsfolk are observed to be subdued in their demeanor. It is because these townsfolk are Christians who believe that Holy Week should be an observance of Jesus' sacrifices and sufferings, therefore, they should pay their respects through mourning.

Tingpugong ends on Saturday at 3:00 in the afternoon and is marked by the ringing of a Church bell. As soon as the church bell is heard, townsfolk urge their youngsters to jump as high as they can because of the premised belief that it would bring the youngsters good luck and they would grow taller than normal. Then on Easter Sunday morning, after arrival from Church services, the children are encouraged to climb up fruit trees to shake the trees as fast as they can while shouting the word "Gloria." According to ancestors, this would bring good luck and make the fruit trees bear unlimited fruits.

Note: Written above are sensational, but funny stories and practices that most of us have inherited from our ancestors. What this means is that in spite of the changes and influences in our lifestyles, the trademark of being a true Filipino remains unchanged!!!

Ging Mutia