Infanta, Quezon: Rituals of repentance, April 22, 2011

The Philippines is full of  traditions and customs, one of them is self flagellation of penitents.

Came in ten minutes late at the Raymond Bus Terminal in Manila and missed the 7PM bus, so we had to wait for the next trip. But the next trip is already fully booked as per the reservation officer. but we need to be in Infanta, Quezon by at least 2AM. So we took our chances and rode the 9PM bus. one of us had to sit on the floor near the driver as there really was no seat reserved for us. Luckily the conductor found empty seats as he organized some of the passengers while collecting fare.

We arrived in Infanta, Quezon at about 2:15 AM. Bought some cookies and a chocolate crinkle at a bakeshop and had some coffee at a Big Mak burger stand. 

After eating we walked around and looking for penitents until we reached the Infanta Church. We couldn't find any one so we asked around for information and we were directed to a certain street where most of the penitents are coming from.

As we were walking my photography bud saw this lugawan (congee) serving lugaw with kalabaw meat (congee with carabao meet) and since it was still early like the locals said, we decided to eat... again! ( lol )

When we finished our congee we walked around again asking locals some more information about their tradition. They say that the penitents go to the church and then goes to a river or the beach to wash them selves.

At about 3AM right in front of us with our very own eyes, we saw the first few penitents walking from the dark. I was stunned as if I saw a ghost. It was so surreal, I found my self standing unable to think what to do next. Then my friend told me to shoot, I replied "sige ikaw na muna". I was trying to digest the imagery until i finally came to my senses and took my first shot.

A penitent's saya, panyabat and tucarol

What's unique about the penitents in Infanta, Quezon is that they start their rituals before sunrise just before sunrise. The reason to this as one of the penitents say is that it takes time to numb them selves before they scathe their selves to bleed.

        A penitent waiting for his back to be cut.

One of the penitents who started early. His back looks like has ex-foliated his top skin already

Just like what the locals that we asked the penitents went in front of the Infanta Church where they prayed for their thanks giving or requests.

Penitents praying in front of the church

After praying they go back to the streets of the poblacion to continue their penitence.

The picture looks blurry but i like it. It seems like the images are moving when you look at them.

A man holds a surgical blade that he uses to cut the backs of the penitents. He says that it is his own devotion to cut penitent's backs during the holy week.

Sunlight has broken and they have not stopped still, I can now see better the extent of the damage they have inflicted to them selves.

a penitent standin on the streets while the sun continous to rise.

After a while they left the poblacion and converged into this place. I asked them where they are heading the penitent just said "sa tulay" (to the bridge). I asked him if they are to wash them selves there after flagellating them selves and he said no.

We decided to follow them and looked at what they would do. While walking we saw other people also headed to the bridge as well.

When we got to the place, we saw them continuing to hit them selves. It was a small barangay road, I asked around and I guess the reason they gather at this place is its proximity to the beach where they will clean them selves.

A foreigner trying to get a picture of the penitent.

A penitent's side that seems to be skinned off already.

Once again they line up the streets while self flagellating.

A penitent catching up with his comrades. 

Another person part of this ritual is the one who has the devotion to give lambanog to the penitents. Penitents drink lambanog while self flagellating to make it more tolerable for them.

From time to time they wash their blood drenched panyabats in water, that is why you should keep your distance from them if you don't like your shirts to get bloody like mine.

We decided to leave already and head to another place until we found this small shack where some of the penitents continue to self flagellate.

Penitents actually ask other people to hit their backs for them so that the blood (im just not sure if the blood that has came out or the hemorrhage forming) would look even

Finally we decided to leave 

We all have our way of saying sorry or asking for forgiveness. Though this is a culture rich event let us not forget that the true penitence happens in our hearts. After all the physical abuse that we did to our self let us stay silent and listen to God.

You can check the rest of the photos HERE or you can go to my site at thanks!
Directions going to infanta

You can take a Raymond bus in Sampaloc, Manila going straight to infanta. The fare is 185 pesos on a regular bus. you can walk around the town center or you may also take a tricycle to the beach which is about half a kilometer from the town center.

You can also check out the beaches of real Quezon while you're at it.


Aleah said...

Wow, I never knew it was also like that in Quezon! Would like to go next year. Their head gear's so elaborate. Quite different from the ones in Pampanga.

Nicely said...

Parang gusto ko ding mawitness ang Holy Week dyan, kaya lang baka hindi ko ma-stand ung "kaduguan" sa pictures mo pa lang, parang naiiyak na ako eh. Masyadong makatotohanan.

ian said...

@aleah... true at natameme talaga ako nung una kong masulyapan yung mga magpepenitensya as in nagfreeze ang utak ko parang panaginip... and yes ung mga tucarol nila (headgear) ang galing merong mga nageffort merong mga hindi pero ang galing parin...

@nicely - hehehe.... ung t-shirt ko nga puro dugo tapos at one point nilalangaw na ako kase puro dugo na din pala legs ko kase naka shorts lang ako.... pero its an experience talaga...

salamat po sa pag daan! =)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...

Your photos evoke drama! Awesome.

chino said...

sa totoo lang nakakatakot sila tingnan, parang mga mumu....mga zombies hihihi... pero nakakatuwa may mga ganito pala sa quezon akala ko nga sa tarlac pampanga lang may naggaganyan sa likod... parang nakakakilabot makakita ng mga sugat.. naalala ko tuloy ang movie ni azumi ....thanks for sharing

ian said...

@gay - salamat po ng marami =)
@chinchan - hehe honga.... kaya din siguro ako biglang nanigas nung nakita ko... hehehe

tnx sa inyo/...

Unknown said...

grabe. gusto ko to makita pero im cringing at what i see. blood. di talaga ko pede magdoctor. hehe. nice set! :)

ian said...

thanks @the lost boy lloyd =)

Batang Lakwatsero said...

ok.. may pinagpipilian na ako holy week destination for 2012... either ito or the one in San fernando, Pampanga

The Lost Boy Lloyd said...

grabe. gusto ko to makita pero im cringing at what i see. blood. di talaga ko pede magdoctor. hehe. nice set! :)

Nicely said...

Parang gusto ko ding mawitness ang Holy Week dyan, kaya lang baka hindi ko ma-stand ung "kaduguan" sa pictures mo pa lang, parang naiiyak na ako eh. Masyadong makatotohanan.