The Antipos of Gasan
AFTER having lunch, we then boarded our jeepney again to return to Gasan to document the Antipos/Flagellantes. Before that, we did a brief stopover in the ancestral home of some of Boyet’s relatives. He said it was the home of a former mayor and it’s a house that President Ferdinand Marcos himself visited when he was in Marinduque, and even pointed to a chair that the late president actually sat on. After taking a few photos of the home’s interior, it was time to move on.
The Antipos traditionally are based in the Catholic Cemetery of Gasan near the church we visited that morning. On the way there, we got some help with directions courtesy of this Manny Villar supporter:
We did find them there that early afternoon with tourists already taking pictures of them a very short distance away. My TF photographer buddies’ faces were apparently made of thicker stuff because, while other tourists were content in snapping photos from a few meters away, we in the TF group found ourselves milling around with the Antipos snapping pictures literally inches in front of them.
Getting up close to the Antipos educated me on how they went about making themselves shed blood. Contrary to popular belief, they do not whip themselves until their skin gets lacerated and bleeds. What actually happens is that they initially have someone use a razor blade to make shallow cuts of the part of their skin they want to bleed. They then use a hand-held, windchime-like contraption to slap the cuts, making them bleed. The more experienced the Antipo, the more cuts he instructs that be made on him. This isn’t very hygienic because I saw the designated “cutter” use the same blade over and over again for different people.
Soon after, Boyet had this crazy idea of us hiking towards a “nearby” park where our jeepney could pick us up instead of going back to the Gasan town center. That would have been alright were it not for the fact that the “nearby” park could be reached by first going down a very steep slope with a sad excuse for a path (making us think whether we signed for a Photoholic* tour or a Conquer* tour). And then we had to hike up a long and winding 45-degree sloped road. Thankfully, the park was not a disappointment as it is located on top of a hill higher than the church and it gave a sweeping view of the Gasan coast. There was also a pretty gazebo on top with some nice flowers planted around. It was truly a nice place to relax. Take a look:
Our next stop was a butterfly farm – one of a few in Marinduque. Not a lot of people know that Marinduque is actually the Philippines’ number one exporter of live butterflies. So with this particular farm we visited, they offered informal lectures on the life cycle of butterflies and how they affect the natural balance of plant and animal life. They even gave us butterflies to be released in the wild – with the instruction that we must wish for something before we release each one.
Now, that’s corny and boring stuff. What’s not boring, however, is the fact that they had a “resident” boy genius who knew absolutely everything about butterflies. You just can’t shut him up! Try to imagine yourself from kinder to second grade, studying nothing but goddamn butterflies. Well, that’s how that boy is configured. Anyway, I was wrong. You can shut him up… by letting Rico have a few words with him. Hahaha!
Personally, the sad thing about this butterfly farm is that this was where my camera battery ran out. And its sad because this is the reason I missed out on taking pictures of probably the best Holy Week religious procession in all of Marinduque. I’m talking about the Good Friday Processions of Gasan. In structure, it resembles any other Catholic procession on a Good Friday where floats of scenes in Jesus’ last moments are exhibited and the faithful follow them around the procession route with lighted candles. The added flavor in this one is the presence of noisemakers to announce to everyone the start of the procession. These noisemakers are a platoon of teenage to young-adult boys with pieces of bamboo that make a loud “rat-tat-tat” sound. The combined sound of all these noisemakers is enough to make themselves heard by almost everyone in the town.
So the procession began in the late afternoon and extended into the twilight hours. I was impressed by the construction of the floats. Most are grandly designed and does contrast sharply with the generally “humble” atmosphere of the town of Gasan. I think each baranggay of the town was assigned one float each. So in a way, the construction of each float is a community effort. There were two surprises for visitors towards the end of the procession. First is the presence of a lot of black-clad barefoot women wearing fresh bushes on their heads partially covering their upper faces. It’s apparently a panata for many women in Gasan. (For those who have been in Batanes, you can best imagine these women by imagining an Ivatan woman dressed all in black, and the vakul is made up of fresh grasses instead of dried ones.) They mark the tail end of the procession.
It’s the last one I took before the battery ran out.
(Try untagging this, Fung. Bwahahaha!)
As for the second surprise, just when the sun has almost completely set and most tourists think the procession’s already over, a fresh wave of “rat-tat-tat” sounds was heard from the distance announcing another procession. Apparently, the procession we just witnessed is the one for Roman Catholics. The new group is the one for the Iglesia Filipina Independiente – more commonly known as “Aglipayans”. They have a more colorful and dramatic entrance. For one thing, their noisemakers have, as Boyet put it, “Ku Klux Klan costumes” – except that some were colored red and some were colored blue to reflect that particular church’s nationalist slant. They also hoisted and carried flags military-style at the head of the procession. I was told that Marinduque is one of the few remaining places in the Philippines where Aglipayans still had a strong influence, and this procession proves it.
Since most of the second procession was much of the same thing (and since I could not shoot anything anyway) I decided to walk back to Reyes Park and sit by the sea wall to view the evening seascape. Minutes later I was joined by Jessie and we stayed a while there lamenting our sticky skin due to exposure to salt water, and other small talk. We somehow lost track of the time and had to hastily walk back to the town to look for the others, whom we learned already went ahead to Barbarossa Restaurant where we were supposed to have dinner.
Like the two restaurants that we previously visited, Barbarossa was packed and the reservations that TF made were effectively rendered nonexistent. Thankfully, the food was good enough to make the loooooooooong wait seem worthwhile. When you’re hungry, thirsty and your skin seemingly has a 1mm layer of dust, saltwater and sweat, then a meal as simple as sinigang, fried chicken and rice would taste like something worthy of the entire Pantheon of Roman deities.
I’d love to say that after dinner, we went back to the resort, cleaned up and slept soundly. Unfortunately, A&A Resort chose that evening to have all of its services conk out one after the other. So we were victims of a disconnected cable line, air conditioning malfunction and a busted water pump – which was particularly inconvenient for Fung, who at that time was in the middle of taking a shower. Responding to the pleas of our bro, Albert and I went to the person in charge to complain. Luckily, the owner of the resort was actually there and so quick action was taken in repairing the water pump. For the meantime, they supplied Fung with 2 Orocans full of water to finish his shower.
And so before finally being able to shower on my own and retire for the night, Albert, Jesse and I spent some time exchanging stories. It was actually very late before I gave up and decided to sleep, which they soon after also did. We would be going island-hopping at Tres Reyes the following day. That night, I didn’t forget to charge my camera battery.
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This entry is part of the Marinduque I series dated April 1-4, 2010:
1. Marinduque Day 1: Boac, Kabugsakan Falls and a bit of Gasan
2. Marinduque Day 2 (morning): Morion Parade in Gasan, Via Crucis in Boac
3. Marinduque Day 2 (afternoon): Back to Gasan, Back to Boac….with a boy genius and a lot of blood in between
4. Marinduque Day 3: Tres Reyes, Gaspar Island, Buenavista, Torrijos, etc.
5. Marinduque Day 4: The long goodbye