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Holy Week is not just about religion

In recent decades, Holy Week in the country had taken a modified direction, partly due to the aggressive shift among Filipinos towards commercialism. Religious reenactments that should be appreciated as a manifest display of our solemn fidelity to the religious significance of the season, have been subsumed in favor of mundane options.

At Sante Fe town in Bantayan Island, Cebu Province, the clash between religious practices and modernity this weekend once again takes center stage with the local chief executive backing the four-day Holy Week music festival. This is actually a downgrade from the controversial bikini show hosted by the same town during the Semana Santa.

In an island where traditional culture is deeper than a politico’s supposed concern for the people’s ‘welfare,’ the conflict of religion (not necessarily Catholicism alone) and tourism in Bantayan has taken ugly dimensions in recent years.

Holy Week ideally should be outside the ambit of sexy shows and booze-laced festivities. It is a cultural thread that cannot be sacrificed simply because the mayor sees money whenever an event is held during this period. One must not be lured into believing that Holy Week is simply a Catholic event. Other denominations also observe the occasion with solemnity.

Local officials must respect culture and traditional events, especially those with religious flavor, and not just sacrifice them for revenues. Of course tourism is important, but to hold it as more important than culture and tradition that shape our social practices virtually amounts to saying ‘ethical standards be damned.’

The contrast between religious events and music festivals is not about the issue of Church and state separation. Such argument is misplaced. The fact remains that the Constitution and public officials’ oaths of office both invoke the blessing of Divine Providence.

Traditions that form part of our cultural landscape must not be sacrificed in favor of exciting creations that desecrate our social values. Bikini shows and the like cater more on the whims of foreigners than local folks.

Mundane social events like bikini shows can be held every day. Holy Week, which is about spiritual reflection and renewal, is observed only once a year. Sanity tells us these contrasting observances can be held at their appropriate time.

Cultural reverence is definitely higher and must prevail over political and monetary considerations. (Johnny Dayang)