It was quite a tedious ride from our starting point, but San Pablo City is full of superlatives in terms of its naturally beautiful landscape. It’s like a pocket of paradise tucked away somewhere in Laguna where you can see peregrine falcons roaming above the sparkling waters of the lake. This city, known for being the City of Seven Lakes in the province of Laguna, is also a popular destination for devout Catholic and curious tourists. During Good Friday of Holy Week, San Pablo stands as host to the one of the prettiest and largest processions in the country. It has been a tradition in Laguna which is more than half a century old (or probably even older than the locals can recall).
My husband and I took our sweet time during the day meandering and inspecting things in the 3.7-km circumference of Sampaloc Lake before we headed towards the Cathedral for the Good Friday traditions in the afternoon. We arrived at the afternoon of Maundy Thursday and we were continuously mesmerized by the abundance of beauty in this place.
After an entire day of chillaxing by the lakeside, we felt energies rising after the long ritual of the Veneration of the Cross in the Cathedral.
After the Veneration, most people swarm towards the plaza to prepare for the procession that commences after the sunset.
While most tourists will only see a single file of procession from sundown onwards, the famous long procession of images is really comprised of two parts: the Catholic and Hacienderos procession, and the Aglipayan believer procession.
The Catholic segment of the procession by itself owns up to more than 50 carrozas which occupy the entire width of the streets of San Pablo. Collectively, some locals of San Pablo call this joint procession organizers as the Samahan ng Pasion.
Customary to the celebratory faith of the Filipinos, this large event is highlighted by festive music from a walking band. The Aglipayan band wore green and yellow, while the Catholic band wore blue.
Ambulance and security detail was also provided for the safety of the participants and onlookers on the side of the roads reserved for the event.
Breathtaking sights can be seen during the procession. Intricate details like flower arrangement, robes for the Bible characters portrayed in the imagery, and the people marching and pushing the carrozas with their candle lights demonstrate a deeply embedded San Pablo tradition hinged on their faith.
Noteworthy Bible snippets during Christ’s passion such as His scene with the repentant thief are portrayed in life-size sculptures. Much emphasis is also put on the death of Christ, which had a red-robed image of Jesus enclosed in gold. Most of the silver in the other sculpture are genuine and some of these images have been part of the procession since the end of the Second World War, which makes it have a solid following among the old generations of San Pablo locals.
This enclosure is maintained by one of the prominent hacienderos of San Pablo who has close ties with the Catholic Church organizers.
Other more popular scenes such as the Last Supper and the poignant image of carrying the cross was also in the procession:
Aside from this, there was also a reenactment of Christ’s passion on the ground:
We were fortunate enough to interview one of the old families in San Pablo (and our very good friends) as we stayed in their balcony to witness this for the first time. They have been inviting us to witness this since last year. The other locals we managed to interact with, like our host family, were kind-hearted people who often helped us take good photos on the lakeside and gave us directions on good places to eat and explore. For our lodging, we booked at the nearby Tahanan ni Meding Hotel more than two months in advance to see this event and meet our friends.
(Having seen immensely amazing things from today’s Good Friday trip, our next target will be the much larger annual Good Friday procession in Baliuag, Bulacan.)
People’s opinions about processions are often divided. For the man in the road with a motorcycle or a car, this is a hassle for traffic. For the devout Catholic who had prayers answered through the intercession of a saint, it’s a way of giving back. For the old generation of San Pablo locals, it’s a part of their culture that is being conserved year in and year out. For the young generations, it’s a way of discovering the past. Whatever the motivation, it’s definitely worth checking out again in the future!