I could hear the hoofs of horses among the ambient noise from the gathering crowd as we approach the stage where the performance would start. A few people garbed in Roman Soldier Armors on horses and a few more in clothes in the time of Jesus were already at the venue. Under the scorching heat of the noon time sun, the spectators were already eager to get the program started. It’s the Siete Palabras at Barangay Lourdes North West (LNW), Angeles City Pampanga. A street theater re-enactment of the Seven Last Words by 70 volunteer performers in the barangay.
Like Angeles City who is doing this Siete Palabras for the firs time, it would also be a first for me to cover such an event. And judging from the number of people, the numerous stalls lined up at the streets, this is a much awaited debut for the city. There were even a number of foreigners in the area. There’s this group we met while having a snack who I thought were Filipinos but came from Jakarta, Indonesia that morning to watch this Lenten Event.
The re-enactment started and it was in their local Kapampangan. It wasn’t really a problem since I think a lot of us Filipinos would be familiar with this Passion of Christ story by now, except for the young ones who I heard asking “Why are they hurting Jesus?” when the Roman Soldiers started whipping the actor playing Christ with banana leaves. It was a challenge to shoot here behind the lines since I don’t have a media ID to go around.
But wits does make a way and I found myself soon inside the line of the procession but it still is a challenge as the cramped Pampang road makes the crowd more excited as the performers approaches. The Roman Soldiers also acts to repel the crowd and give space as the actors approach. The performers were really into their roles from Pontius Pilate to the Three Mary’s at the crucifixion.
It gets really chaotic midway so my friends and I decided to just wait at the actual crucifixion grounds. The perimeter were fenced with some barb wires on top. People were already there waiting for the main event to happen. I was watching out at the entrance of the grounds hoping that I could get in. Even if I did secure a media ID, media were not allowed to go inside. Only the performers were on the ground.
The re-enactment moved faster than expected. I think the milling of the crowd led them to step-up their rehearsed pace a bit making the 3pm crucifixion moved closer to 2pm. We were away for a bit to see the actual nailing on the cross. But I wasn’t too sure if I could handle it seeing up close.
As soon as the performance was over, each one of the performers were brought down the cross one by one. People were asked to clear the way to the ambulance near the entrance. It was interesting to see these performers carried over to the ambulance with their hands still dripping of blood from their nailed wound. I saw the medical attendant quickly placed antiseptic-soaked cotton swabs over their wounds.
I’m not sure if the people were paying attention to the Seven last words as I mostly remember is the mildly chaotic part of the crowd or maybe my disconnection with the Kapampangan language. Nevertheless it was an interesting re-enactment with the performers really into their roles. I wasn’t expecting much since I haven’t seen other lent activities as this like Cutud. But I did hear from people that this is now a worthy alternative to the said place during Good Friday of the Holy Week. I expect it to get a lot better every year.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.