|Masks of the Moryons: Easter Week in Mogpog|
BiteSize Travel eBook by Trish Nicholson
Masks of the Moryons is a unique travel book giving us an insider’s view of traditional rituals to celebrate Easter in one town in the Philippines.
It is the first ever detailed account of Moryonan, the re-enactment of the Legend of Longinus in the spectacular weeklong Easter pageant held only in the town of Mogpog, on the Philippine island of Marinduque. The Legend of Longinus has been re-enacted in Mogpog in celebration of Holy Week for almost 150 years. Illustrated with 26 original colour photographs, Masks of the Moryons, reveals who the Moryons are, their preparations and rituals day by day, their history, and how these cultural traditions have survived.
Anthropologist, photographer, (and storyteller), Trish Nicholson takes us behind the scenes to experience Moryonan as a participant, to wear the mask, to find out how they are made and what it all means to the community. Appendices, glossary, annotated bibliography, and a section on how tourism affects cultural traditions, make this an informative and pleasurable read.
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Preface from Masks of the Moryons
Spanish missionaries began converting the pagan population of Marinduque Island to Christianity in 1571, but Mogpog is the only town on the island whose population is almost entirely Roman Catholic, and it is here that the Moryonan originated and is still practiced in traditional form. The author lived with a family in Mogpog to study and participate in this weeklong re-enactment of the Passion, and legend of the martyr, Saint Longinus – a Roman captain executed for his conversion to Christianity when his partial blindness was cured after piercing Christ’s side with his lance.
We see the fantastic masks and costumes of the Moryons: local people, both men and women, performing their panata (solemn vow of penitence) by roaming daily through the town in noisy and colourful burlesque. While in Saint Isidor’s church, the life-size statue of Christ is reverently bathed and erected on a cross behind the altar guarded by Roman soldiers, and in every street, groups of neighbours chant the pasyon – the 980 verses of Christ’s life-story written in Tagalog around 1704.
From Holy Monday to Easter Sunday, parades of hundreds of masked figures; processions of the Virgin Mary’s statue; singing of hosannas from house balconies, and marauding bands of serenading Moryons, bind every corner of the town together in celebration. And on Black Friday, penitents carry out their own bloody flagellation near the church before joining the end of the final procession. The finale sees the hectic chase of Longinus through the streets, in and out of buildings, even climbing scaffolding as he tries to evade capture, but the legend will have its inevitable closure in his dramatic beheading – the pugután.
Behind the scenes we learn how Moryons make their wooden masks and exotic costumes, and hear participants explain the origins of Moryonan and some of the changes that have taken place over the years, especially since the festival became a tourist attraction. Finally we share some of the author’s thoughts on the meaning of Moryonan, and the difference between ritual and theatre. Part of the celebration of Lent, Moryonan rituals in the street and in the church have far more significance than a ‘colourful event’. “If you don’t observe all the rituals of Holy Week it benefits only the eyes, and not the heart.” (A resident of Mogpog)
Stavros Halvatzis from Australia, a writer, teacher, and author of the science fiction thriller Scarab sent me this fantastic review. He rates it as an informative and entertaining read – highly recommended. Click here to read the review.