Despite typhoon, Bantayan ready for Semana Santa
A week before Holy Week, the people of Bantayan were busy preparing for one of Christendom’s sacred celebrations that the island in northern Cebu province has been known for.
Although Bantayan was among the areas badly hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda, its people are back on their feet and are preparing to relive their cherished Semana Santa traditions.
“The Holy Week celebrations, particularly our famed ‘pasos,’ will continue as usual,” says Gerard Desquitado, one of the residents. “It is a tradition that we will continue despite the adversities we face.”
Yolanda unleashed its fury on the entire island on Nov. 8, 2013, destroying or damaging most of the houses in the towns of Bantayan, Sta. Fe and Madridejos. At least 24 people died.
The storm also crippled the tourism and poultry industries on the island.
Even some of the tableau images portraying the Passion and Death of Jesus on big “carrozas” became casualties.
The calamity may have shaken the Bantayanon but they faced their problems with resilience.
Clan members who have pasos, including neighbors and friends, have chipped in time and resources to bring out the carrozas again for the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday processions.
“Families might have to scale down on decorations this year, but everyone will try to bring out their respective tableau scenes,” says Desquitado, who acts as the curator of Bantayan’s parish museum.
In fact, he says, the two carrozas portraying the three Crosses on Mount Calvary and the betrayal of Jesus in Gethsemane will join this year’s events after their absence last year for lack of funds.
Despite the destruction, the Bantayanon never wavered in their faith. “The calamity even brought the ‘un-churched’ back to the church,”says Msgr. Alfredo Romanillos, Bantayan parish priest.
Church attendance has doubled, he says.
Despite their losses, the people were also generous in contributing construction materials and money for the repair of their ancient parish—a huge stone church completed in 1863. Yolanda stripped almost half of the church roof, aside from causing other damage.
The Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Bantayan was one of the first parishes in northern Cebu to finish repairs. It is even helping in the reconstruction of some poor parishioners’ homes.
Yolanda will never prevent the Bantayanon from pushing through with their Semana Santa traditions. During Holy Week in 1973, a big fire struck the island but didn’t stop the processions amid the charred landscape.
“There are no changes. The celebrations will continue,” Romanillos says. “We even hope to see a better celebration and a very solemn one.”
“It’s very clear that stronger faith, persevering hope and constant love of God are always there for the Bantayanon—despite everything,” the priest says.