Women 'Morions' join return of festival after two-year absence

Text and photos by Basilio Sepe 

After a two-year absence due to the coronavirus pandemic, Morions have once again graced the streets of Marinduque in the observance of Holy Week. 

The staging of the play revolved around the story of Roman centurion Longinus, the officer of the guards outside Jesus’ tomb who is believed to have witnessed His resurrection. 

This centuries-old tradition marking the observance of Holy Week in Marinduque is more than just a display of creativity in making costumes and masks. It is a vow, or in Tagalog, “panata,” that serves as an act of penance for the devotees. Most of them see this festival as a time for healing and a form of sacrifice. 

“It will always root from penance, from wanting to share your role as a Catholic to relive the Passion of Christ, even as a woman,” says Maria Go, who works as an officer for the Department of the Interior and Local Government office in Marinduque and also a 'Morion' devotee. 

The Moriones festival originated in the town of Mogpog, when Catholic priest Fr. Dionisio Santiago organized a group of players to re-enact the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. 

For the people of Marinduque, the ‘Moriones’ festival has become a religious vow not only for men but also for women during the observance of Holy Week. 

“When the pandemic hit, we still tried to observe Lent within our homes,” said Go. 

Wearing the ‘Morion,’ a costume replicating the garb of biblical Roman soldiers, is normally seen as a role for men. But for some, it can also be done by women. 

“There really is no issue for me or any malicious thinking. The most important part is its purpose. Being a man or a woman should not be the foundation of being a Morion,” said Princess Airra Murillo, 17, who has been wearing her Morion costume since she was 12 years old. 

“For me, as a woman, there is no problem wearing it since everyone in the community is friendly and most of them are my close friends,” Murillo added.

The festival also serves as a tourist attraction in the province, which was heavily affected by COVID-19 restrictions. 

“The pandemic has changed a lot of things in our lives. And now that we are able to do these kinds of activities again, we should go back to the source of all these celebrations, which is Jesus Christ,” says Wilfredo Magcamit, secretary of the Diocese of Boac. 

Millions of people travelled to various summer destinations or their home provinces for the Holy Week.

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