Ex-‘thug’ who gets whipped as Jesus says it is finished
BULAKAN, Bulacan — When the sun rises today, Easter Sunday, it would signal the end of a 40-yearlong penance for a confessed thug.
For the last time on Maundy Thursday, Arthur Garcia dragged a wooden cross along the streets of this town. Garcia, who was notorious for harassing people on the streets, was whipped and lashed in a local version of the “Senakulo” (passion play) called “dakip” (arrest).
Dakip is a theatrical depiction of the hours before Christ was crucified, which involve crowds of actors beating up the man playing Jesus as he makes his way through the streets while carrying a heavy cross.
Garcia first volunteered to participate in dakip in 1979 when he was 15. Despite his violent reputation in the community, he was assigned various roles in the passion play through the years. He must have absorbed the religious teachings of the play so deeply that by the time he reached 40, he started cleaning up his life.
Dakip, Garcia said, brought him spiritual renewal and changed the life of his older brother, Robert, who was a drug addict.
“I wanted him to heal. He was brought to a mental hospital when he broke down after consuming too much marijuana. When we finally brought him home, he started injecting himself with other drugs,” recalled Garcia, 55, and unmarried.
In 2004, after Garcia had performed in passion plays for 25 years, his brother reformed and started learning trade skills like plumbing and carpentry.
“This is my last (passion play performance),” he said. “I have completed my mission—for my brother, myself and our family. I am also getting old. I’m now 55, and 40 years is a long time of expressing devotion. Many more will follow my lead and, hopefully, will carry their faith for as many years.”
Dating back to the 1940s, Dakip was inspired by an old image of “Kristong Gapos” (the bound Christ), which is displayed inside the chapel of Tibig village here, said Joemarx Lava, a dakip sponsor.
Lava, who spent for the performers’ T-shirts this year, is the 35-year-old grandson of the late Jesus Lava, secretary general of the first Communist Party of the Philippines.
Dakip participants used to perform with costumes, but the current crop of performers have not replaced the worn-out garments, preferring to use conventional outfits.
Before dakip starts at 5 a.m. on Maundy Thursday, Garcia and other performers would line up in front of Tibig Chapel to pray.
From Barangay Tibig, Garcia would bear his cross through the streets of Maysantol (also known as Cupang), Balubad, San Jose and Matungao. At 9 p.m., he and his fellow performers would gather at Tibig Chapel for the final rituals of sacrifices and prayers.
“Dakip shows how Jesus was abducted, slapped, beaten up and whipped,” said 76-year-old performer Virgilio del Rosario, who writes the scripts for each dakip”performance. His other task is making sure that the actor in the role of Christ has not had any intoxicating drink to dull the pain.
“Show us your power. Are you the Son of God? Kick him down. Don’t help him up,” Del Rosario would yell when he assumes the role of the leader of the mob that brutalized Jesus in the New Testament.
But before each performance, the old man said, he would seek forgiveness from God for the things he had to do to the actor playing Christ.
Like Garcia, Del Rosario is making penance in the name of his son who died in a road accident when he was 10. He said his world collapsed and he had nowhere else to run to but God.
Garcia said many devotees similarly atoning for their sins or seeking God’s intercession would take his place and carry the wooden cross around town every Maundy Thursday.
One of them is Juan Carlos Mabanta Manalo from Barangay Maysantol, who is performing the role of Jesus Christ on behalf of an ailing sister and a jailed father.
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