“Fiesta” documentary relives Lenten traditions, other popular devotions while Filipino faithful stay at home

This Black Saturday, don’t miss the chance to relive some of our most revered, most enduring, and most spectacular religious festivals and rituals in Fiesta: Ang Makulay na Pananampalatayang Pilipino, airing at 10:30 pmon April 3 over GMA-7.

Fiesta: Ang Makulay na Pananampalatayang Pilipino is the most comprehensive video documentary on Philippine folk traditions and popular piety to date. Produced over a span of three years, this highly anticipated project was initially targeted for airing last year but like many similar initiatives, it was delayed by the many unforeseen impacts related to the global pandemic.

Fortunately, this much-awaited project will now be unveiled as a tribute to the resilience and devotion the Filipino faithful, in line with the ongoing jubilee for the 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines.

Rekindling the spirit of camaraderie

For the Filipino faithful, observing Holy Week means breathing new life into the timeless acts of piety and devotion that have been passed on for many generations — mostly performed in groups in order to strengthen the bond of families and communities.

Lent is when our traditional practices such as pabasa, palaspas, cenaculo, visita iglesia, Via Crucis, salubong, and different kinds of prusisyon dominate parish activities, along with official liturgical rites such as the sacrament of reconciliation and the celebration of the Eucharist.

Sadly, the current pandemic restrictions hinder us from observing our time-honored Lenten rituals as a community. Just before Holy Week – for the second year in a row — Catholic dioceses have declared a lockdown of all churches until Easter due to the rising number of COVID cases in the country. This comes as a big disappointment to millions of Filipino Catholics who have been looking forward to some semblance of normalcy at this most solemn time of the year.

It is not surprising for many Filipinos to feel a deep longing for the sights, the sounds, and the sentiments evoked by our most cherished rites and festivities that highlight just about every season of the liturgical calendar. The vibrant mood and spirit of camaraderie that mark these events seem so distant now.

Fortunately, although devotees cannot congregate in person, we can still celebrate virtually in spirit through the familiar images of piety and revelry that have been captured and preserved in Fiesta: Ang Makulay na Pananampalatayang Pilipino.

A gift to the Church and to the world

Featuring over two dozen religious festivals and traditions across the country, Fiesta is a testament to how popular piety finds itself in the heart of Christian worship and how they can lead us to a deeper understanding of the Christian message.

With its lively visuals enriched by annotations from various scholars in theology, religion, and Philippine culture, Fiesta’s roster of resource persons is led by no less than the former Archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, in his last local interview before leaving for Rome to assume his post as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Cardinal Tagle, in his message to Pope Francis after the recent thanksgiving mass for the 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines, highlighted the importance of popular piety in shaping the faith life of the Filipino people when he pointed to the Christian faith being “received by the majority of our people and given by them a Filipino character” as God’s gift. It is this same gift that Filipinos bring with them and share to others, wherever they are in the world.

“When lonely moments come, Filipino migrants find strength in Jesus who journeys with us, the Jesus who became a Child (Santo Niño) and known as the Nazarene (Jesus Nazareno), bore the Cross for us. We are assured of the embrace of our Mother Mary and the protection of the saints. When we miss our families, we turn to the parish, our second home… We sing, we smile, we laugh, we cry, and we eat,” the cardinal said, in obvious reference to some of the most familiar devotions and communal activities that make Philippine fiestas not only religious events but cultural traditions as well.

Produced by Jesuit Communications in partnership with The Manila Cathedral, Fiesta: Ang Makulay na Pananampalatayang Pilipino is presented through the support of its major sponsors San Miguel Corporation, Inc., UNILAB Inc., Washington Sycip Family Foundation, Inc., and SMART Communications, and media partners Manila Bulletin, TV Maria Philippines, and Veritas846 Live.

“We wanted to create a documentary that will not only highlight the beauty of Christianity but also of how intrinsically linked it is to the Filipino culture,” adds JesCom creative director Pauline Mangilog-Saltarin.  “Fiesta is our gift to the Catholic Church and we hope it becomes a great resource for those who want to know more about the Catholic faith.”

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