(Below is a slightly edited piece I’ve written for a blog that has gone offline for more than a year now and was posted on April 8, 2012 when I was still working for InterAksyon.com.)
The minute I hopped into the taxi cab I knew I was in for a talkfest.
This was because the driver opened his mouth even before he switched on the meter.
And as soon as I was comfy at the back, I could feel his eyes already on me, sizing me up on the rearview mirror, much like a con-artist checking out his mark.
“Dami bang tao?” he asked, turning the radio so low you needed a stethoscope on the speakers to hear the commercials.
“Oo,” I said.
I wasn’t exactly in the mood to talk. I went out for groceries that evening of Maundy Thursday, expecting very few people, if at all.
I was wrong.
The grocery store was packed.
Along the aisles, shoppers with grocery carts battled those with baskets, struggling to secure every bit of floor space for that chance to get first crack at any items marked down.
There weren’t any, as far as I was concerned.
But that was beside the point.
I hadn’t planned on attending a reunion with the entire Metro Manila population when I decided to go on this errand, however poorly scheduled.
But here they were, picking up snacks and supplies, testing gadgets, chatting, eating, lollygagging.
I even saw three teenagers buy a television set about the size of the Spoliarium. If Thursday was Maundy, I was pretty sure that Friday for these kids would be good, audiovisually speaking. [See: Spoliarium]
I was itching to tell all of that to the cabdriver and pour out my trivial concerns except that I didn’t have the heart to steal the thunder from his very own talkshow.
“Dapat Good Friday lang ang bakasyon,” he said. “Hindi naman kasi lahat ng Pilipino Katoliko.”
It wasn’t just an empty gesture to show that I had heard what he said.
It was because—to a greater degree—I agreed.
Filipinos place too much emphasis—some of which are misplaced—on religion and at no time is this best witnessed than during Holy Week. [See: InterAksyon Holy Week 2012]
As early as Holy Monday, you could feel the languor set in, slowing down the wheels of commerce and industry, encouraging city hall employees to take three-hour breaks, instead of the usual two.
Even the Philippine Stock Exchange Index closes lower during the Holy Week—or at least during some years. This has prompted InterAksyon columnist Noel Reyes to demystify what appears to be a yearly trend. [See: The Holy Week effect]
Despite its disadvantages, the Philippines’ Holy Week traditions are here to stay. Simply put, it dies hard.
After all, for all its religious overtones, Holy Week is also a time for families to get together. This much was pointed out by Euan Paolo C. Anonuevo in his piece for InterAksyon. [See: My Holy Week is a twin celebration of family, religion]
Every Holy Week, he and his family make it a point to go to Lumban, Laguna, a good two to three-hour drive from Manila. This year, he even took photographs of the town and its religious rites for InterAksyon.
“Our family—pinsans, titos and titas, pamangkins, and lolos and lolas of various degrees—converge in one of the residences here owned by the Tabias, on my father’s maternal side, during Good Fridays to share lunch while some relatives spruce up the household’s karosa,” Euan writes. “Each year, we take part in this twin celebration of family and religion, which is shared throughout Lumban’s neighborhood.”
Too bad I was unable to drop by my parents’ hometowns this year. Better luck next year, I guess. And that goes for buying stocks as well.