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‘Moriones’ puts island on map as lenten hub

Sta. Cruz, Marinduque — Masked islanders clad in armor and  brightly-colored tunics on Monday began their seven-day search for  Longinus, a non-believing Roman centurion who later became a saint after assuring the death of the crucified Jesus Christ in Calvary by piercing his side with a lance.

Moriones Festival. This mask shows the face of Longinus, the Roman centurion who regained the vision in one of his eyes after piercing the side of Christ with his lance. Marinduque residents dressed as centurions will celebrate the Moriones Festival this Holy Week

 The scene is the gigantic stage of the whole of Marinduque island, where farmers and fishermen, residents and tourists join the hunt that is taking place in Santa Cruz, Boac, Gasan, Buenavista, Mogpog and Torrijos, the province’s six municipalities.  

 Moriones Festival. This mask shows the face of Longinus, the Roman centurion who regained the vision in one of his eyes after piercing the side of Christ with his lance. Marinduque residents dressed as centurions will celebrate the Moriones Festival this Holy Week Moriones Festival. This mask shows the face of Longinus, the Roman centurion who regained the vision in one of his eyes after piercing the side of Christ with his lance. Marinduque residents dressed as centurions will celebrate the Moriones Festival this Holy Week

The seven-day search ends on Easter Sunday and is a reenactment of the Passion of Christ and the conversion of Longinus to Christianity, the two central figures in the celebration of the “Moriones Festival.”

 “Because of the Moriones Festival, Marinduque is now considered the Lenten Mecca of the Southern Tagalog region and has been celebrating it since 1807,” said Consuelo Jandusay, 68, a retired school teacher of Boac municipality.

 The “moriones,” whose practitioners are mostly farmers and fishermen, are masked penitents impersonating the Roman centurions as a vow of penance and thanksgiving. Morion means “mask” or the “visor” in the medieval Roman armor worn by the centurions who punished Jesus Christ before he was nailed to the cross.

 As Roman centurions, the moriones or masked and costumed penitents march around town and roam the streets for seven days as they re-enact the story of Longinus.

 It is said that the centurions assured the death of a person nailed on the cross by breaking his legs. Convicted criminals Dimas and Barrabas, who were nailed beside Jesus, had their legs broken except Jesus. And to assure Jesus’ death, Longinus thrust his lance or spear on the side of Jesus. Blood and water then spurted from Jesus’ fatal wounds and those landed on Longinus’ blind eye to restore his sight.

 As his eyesight was restored, Longinus cried: “In truth, this man was the son of God!” Jesus was then brought down from the cross and Longinus  helped clean his body.

 Longinus became a monk and later converted to Christianity, but the other centurions hunted him down and then beheaded him. He later became a saint, and his monument now graces St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

 To make the Moriones Festival more festive this year, Rep. Lord Allan Velasco and Santa Cruz Mayor Percival Morales have organized “Morionan 2013” or the “Battle of the Morions,” a competition joined by various Morion groups.

 The competition follows the rituals associated with the festival in stylized form or choreographic movements covering the miracle of Longinus and includes the mock “Habulan” and eventual capture of Longinus, the “Pugutan” and finally the Moryonan Finale.

 While these performances are going on on the night of Maundy Thursday at the Santa Cruz town plaza, drum-and-bugle bands play to regale the crowds.             

 
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