Lenten traditions, popular devotions come alive in ‘Fiesta’ documentary

In celebration of 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines, Jesuit Communications Foundation (JesCom), in partnership with The Manila Cathedral, presents the most current and comprehensive video documentary on Filipino religious festivals and popular devotions in Fiesta: Ang Makulay na Pananampalatayang Pilipino, airing at 10:30 pm on April 3 (Black Saturday) over GMA-7.

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

Popular devotions as “missionary tools”

“Popular religiosity is being used as a missionary tool by many Filipinos wherever they are in the world,” says Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, former Archbishop of Manila and currently the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

“For instance, there are many parishes now where the faithful have become lukewarm and very few people come to Mass. But when Filipino migrants arrive, they bring with them their popular devotions, their songs, even their customary sharing of food… You can really see how faith and fellowship are truly revived.”

The cardinal points out that it is also through these different festivals, pious devotions, and other forms of popular religiosity that we can truly appreciate the evolution and deepening of our Catholic faith in the last five centuries. “The grace of faith that we received 500 years ago, we have truly made our own,” he says. “We have given our religious practices a distinct Filipino flavor, which we now proudly share with the rest of the world.”

A virtual celebration

Filmed over a span of three years, Fiesta: Ang Makulay na Pananampalatayang Pilipino will bring its viewers a virtual experience of the explosion of colors, the gaiety of music and dancing, the sumptuous flavor of local delicacies, the melancholic scent of candles and flowers, and most of all, the warm camaraderie that takes place during these religious festivals, when Filipinos open their hearts and homes to family, friends and strangers alike.

Aligned with the liturgical seasons of the church, Fiesta explores unique popular devotions such as the pabasa and senakulo of Lent, the salubong of Easter, the panuluyan and simbang gabi during Christmas, as well as other religious traditionsthat have been solemnly observed by grassroots communities for countless generations.

At the same time, it also captures the grandness and fervor of colorful festivals and processions that Filipinos are known for all over world such as the Sinulog in Cebu and Ati-Atihan in Aklan, the Our Lady of Peñafrancia fluvial parade in Bicol, the traslacion of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, the solemn street procession of La Naval de Manila, as well as the unique “fertility dance” and feast of the three saints in Obando, Bulacan.

“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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