How I spent my Holy Week Vacation (annually)

(The Crucifixion at the Hills of Calvary or Golgotha)

Most of the people I know spent their Holy week vacations on the beaches, resorts, tourist spots, provinces, out of towns, abroad and so on. I, along with my fellow 50+ church members spent ours kinda differently. 8 years ago, the Parish Youth Ministry from Kolbe Parish and Ina ng Buhay in Novaliches introduced to us the concept of doing the live Cenakulo or the Stations of the cross. And since then we execute a play each year for almost 8 years now and we consider this as our most hectic and strenuous youth activity.

What we do is we make a live performance or play of the last 24 hours of Jesus Christ’s life before he was crucified. The main characters such as Jesus himself, Mary and the apostles down to the high priests, soldiers and the crowd are all being played by the youths in our community from ages 12 to 30. It’s actually not an easy task to do since the preparation usually starts at least 2 months before the holy week. We plot everything out, from the script, dubbing and mobile, rehearsals, props and materials, costumes, the characters, venue, food and sponsorship, etc. It’s definitely a full production each year!

But get this, it’s not just a typical play being performed on stage. We, in fact execute the play outdoors along the streets of the areas and chapels of the surrounding subdivision in our parish, these are mainly St.Jude, North Olympus, Gawad Kalinga, Hobart Village and Cruzville Subdivisions, respectively. It’s like a marching play really! We scout the areas and look for the perfect spots that depicts the scenes of the 14 stations of the cross. And we march along the main road of Zabarte (the road that links all the subdivision together) to the last plot which is a spacious field in Cruzville that resembles the hills of Golgotha or most know during that time as the mountain of skulls and bones.

All the actors has gone through a very painstaking and thorough workshops and internalization for them to really comprehend get into the characters they are portraying. And I’m telling you, you’ll be amazed by how great these youths are in acting, even the younger ones! Do you know how hard it is to act when you’re on stage while the cameras are rolling? Imagine this, you’re acting with all the cameras and crowd looking at you, plus you’re marching on the street under with the heat of the sun and exhaustion from walking for about 1.8 miles in bare foot. No cuts, no retakes, you only get to pause for about a minute or so while the Liturgical Ministry says the prayer after every stations. And Jack, who portrays Jesus, literally carries a massive cross for about 8 miles and was being beaten and whipped around his body while walking and acting at the same time. Man, that is one big and significant penitence if you’d ask me.

Of course as much as possible we don’t want our actors to experience any harm during the process since most of them are teenagers, that’s why all the scenes go through accurate and careful rehearsals with the guidance of our advisers and elders, especially the scenes when Jesus falls down with His cross and the Crucifixion. (Don’t worry, we don’t really put nails in their palms). 🙂

 Each year, we face different dilemmas. For instance, we couldn’t comply with the schedules of the main characters since most of them are students or young professionals, we also had difficulty finding sponsors for the food, transportation and other expenses to be used for props and costumes etc. There even came a time when we fight among ourselves due to miscommunication and difference of opinions. But we believe that all this mishaps happens for a reason, that our faith and teamwork are just being tested. Amazingly, we always managed to survive and pour our faith and hearts out through this significant Cenakulo each year. And with each passing year, our bond and relationship grows stronger and fonder and our number grew larger. Even our talents were enhanced that’s why we always make it a point to do better than the previous years. It’s like we’re competing with ourselves! hahaha 

(The scene where Jesus falls down the first time)

(Jesus and the women of Jerusalem)

(Mark Jonas as Simon who helped Jesus carry his cross to Golgotha)

People has been asking me what do we get from doing all this? Well, surely we’re not after the fame since we’re not real actors and this isn’t viewed nationwide. And we’re definitely not being paid for this! So what do we really get from all this? Well, being a part of the Parish Youth Ministry and to act or help make the Cenakulo possible is no easy task at all. Who wouldn’t want to stroll along the beach on Holy Week vacation with your friends and families? Or simply stay indoors just relaxing while watching DVD  all day with the coolness of your air-conditioned homes? Of course we want that but why are we doing this? Basically, because it’s our Panata or annual oath and devotion. There’s been a lot of times when we want to give this up and just go on our separate ways during Holy Week but then at some point there’s always this magical force that’s been pulling us to make this happen. It’s really hard to explain, totally surreal but maybe it’s God’s mysterious hands working around us, telling us to make this happen. That we should continue to proclaim His son’s story and share it to the world and start making a difference. Like I told you before, each year we’ve been facing lots and lots of dilemmas but God really does make a way. He never failed to send his love through different sources or people that serves as an instrument for us to go on. He really made us feel His presence from beginning to end.

(The exceptional and moving performance of the youths as pro and anti Christ)

(The ever extravagant scene of Mark as Pontius Pilate and Farah as his wife Claudia)

(The scene where Jesus is being taunted by Brian as King Herodes)

(At the gates of the Gawad Kalinga where Santi as the Head Soldier, is waiting with Jesus’ cross)

(Jack as Jesus, embracing his cross)

One of the reasons why this annual play continues to become a success because of the brilliant portrayal of the actors. After going through a lot of acting workshops and internalization headed by Toni, the director for this year, their acting has been truly became incomparable and it seems like you’re watching professionals acting out on widescreen. The expressions and emotions are real and truly heartfelt that they’re drawing you in and making you feel like you’re really present during the time of Christ’s sufferings.
As much as we don’t want to make a big deal which regards to who plays who, but it is an honor and privilege to play a certain role for the Cenakulo especially as one of the main characters. And the pressure in choosing whether who plays who occasionally falls on us. So how do we resolve this? Well, aside from the annual auditions for the play, the core group chooses among the actors through the daily workshops and of course based on their commitment for the Cenakulo. And truth be told, all the actors, staff members, committees, and marshals  are all volunteers. We don’t see each other everyday, even during Sunday masses but when the Summer nears and planning for the Cenakulo starts, one by one, the youths and the organizers would turn up. It’s like automatic and you’d know that deep in their hearts, they find way from their busy schedules to help and make the show go on! See? Who says miracles doesn’t exist anymore? 🙂

(The most-love-to-hate antagonist during Cenakulo, the great Nenito as Caifas)

(Jesus uttering his last words at the cross)

After watching the film by Mel Gibson, “The Passion of the Christ”, I was blown away by it. The actors, the costumes, the stage design, and the filmography, accents and even the gruesome parts are just plain perfect! That film was so inspiring that during the time I was directing the play, I can’t help being emotional and I said to myself; I want this play to deliver what that film conveys to me. And it’s so uplifting seeing the faces and reactions of the people watching that they are really moved by all the scenes every year, especially the Pieta scene. And honestly, I’ve seen and directed that scene a thousand times but it never failed to make me cry!

(Kelvin as John with Mae (Mary) and Apple as Mary Magdalene at their most emotional scene)

(The most heart-rending scene is the Pieta.)

All the scenes are emotionally and physically draining but the actors never stopped and never showed any signs of weariness. The cries and shouts of the taongbayan (people) is what keeps the production moving. Whenever Jesus (Jack) was being beaten by the kawal (soldiers), their cries was really extreme and they don’t mind being hurt on the process as long as they manage to go near him and execute their role very well. And let me remind you, most of them are kids aging from 12 to 17.

(And finally the last scene, the Resurrection)

After the curtains where laid down (figuratively speaking), the names of the actors and their respective characters were mentioned, and the pictures were all taken. At the end of it all, only hand shakes, applause and appreciation from the crowd are what we get. We don’t get special treatments for it, we don’t expect flowers and gifts waiting for us in the dressing room, we don’t even have a dressing room! hahaha Well, that’s is what most people think. But what they don’t know is that we get more than just those things. We get more than just material stuff, you see, after all the exhaustion and the tan lines from parading beneath the sun, we always felt light-hearted, peaceful and so blessed. That among all the people in the country and the world even, we have the ability and the motivation to showcase our talents for the greater glory of God and share His news to all the people within our reach and especially to those who are losing their way in the dark.

(The youths from St. Jude and North Olympus subdivision)

(Even with the heat, they’re still smiling for the camera)

(I wouldn’t miss posing with the brawny soldiers with Karding, the head of Props Committee)

(The youths from Cruzville Subdivision as the apostles)

(Apple, Mae, and Kelvin before their emotional scene)

(The talented and most patient director, Toni)

(The soldiers and Caifas clown around before their scene)

(Upper rowv from left: Patrick, Santi, Mel, Reina, me, Jem, Mark and Mark Jonas, lower row from left: Kelvin, Sunny, Rio and Jack)

(Clockwise: Gaizka, Danica, Carmela, Tita Dada, Fr. James Gaa, me, Mel and Reina, Tito Aji, Jem with baby Gab and Rio)

(The Parish Youth Ministry after the Cenakulo, refreshed and energized)

(My colleagues Jem, Mel and Reina as one of the organizers and in charge with music and mobile)

So, we’re not just doing this for fun or whatsoever. From the bottom of our hearts, we’re doing this because we want to convey Christ’s message to our community that He lived among us, died for us, and has risen once more. And I hope that this blog has touched the harden hearts of the people and will gain courage to step out of the dark and start believing that the Lord’s love is genuine and pure.

And to all the actors, organizers, committees, PPC members, our advisers, my fellow PYM and CYC members, to all the supporters who stayed with us from the beginning of the play to the very end, the kind-hearted sponsors, our parish priest, families and friends, a thousand THANK YOU and may we continue to become servant leaders and beacon of light. And may God bless us all. See you all next year 🙂

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13 comments on “How I spent my Holy Week Vacation (annually)

  1. Thank you for sharing with us … very interesting reading and wonderful photo’s.
    Didn’t know that you acknowledge Easter and what it stands for in this way. Thanks ones again. Wo

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