Via Crucis sa Balic
Good Friday in Cabatuan is not complete without the Via Crucis to the Baluarte Hill, otherwise known as the Balic Hill. Every year, thousands of devotees make their pilgrimage every Good Friday by participating in the three-hour Via Crucis that starts at the church at 6 a.m. The procession’s winding route is about three kilometers long, crossing the Balic Bridge, and ends at the summit of the hill. As the first pack of devotees reach the cross at the top of the hill, the tail of the procession can still be seen from the outskirts of the town, proof of the magnitude of participants in this religious event.
After the Via Crucis, residents of Barangay Balic serve devotees with ibus, alupi, puto, conchinta and other variance of rice cakes, native chocolate and ripe mango. The practice started in 1952 when Patricio Confesor, owner of the property when the hill stands, hired a bulldozer to cut an upward winding road which in short distance below look like a ribbon on top of a semi-circular vertical cliff.
Pasyon Singing and Kapiya
Another feature of Lent in Cabatuan is the pasyon singing and kapiya contests, a townwide undertaking participated in by 14 groups from 68 barangays. Preparations for the contest last for a week. The kapiyas are makeshift altars with a tableau of colorful life-size figures made of indigenous materials. These are put up in 14 street corners, each representing one station of the cross.
It is in these kapiyas where the afternoon Via Crucis stops for meditation. Men, women and children in barong tagalog and baro’t saya sing the pasyon in the kapiyas, starting at dusk. The pasyon relates the story of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ in a song chanted for two hours by choirs composed of 15 to 40 members. During the Via Crucis, life-size images of saints kept by the town’s elite families join the procession. It is followed by the hadu, or kissing the wounds of the Cricufied Christ at the church which lasts until the wee hours of Black Saturday.
Held at dawn of Easter Sunday, this is the announcement by an angel, portrayed by a child, of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The announcement is made after the images of the Mother Mary and the Resurrected Christ, each coming from opposite directions, meet and side by side, lead the procession back to the church. The declaration of the angel is held in a well-decorated stage complete with sound and visual effects. This is equivalent to the Salubong in the Luzon area.
This is Cabatuan’s version of Iloilo City’s Dinagyang and Kalibo’s Atiatihan. It showcases various facets of the unique culture and traditions of Cabatuan. It was started in 1995 to find Cabatuan a place in the tourism map and to highlight the townspeople’s ability to transform traditional ceremonies into modernized dances. Courtship and marriage rituals as well as farm dances of the olden days were performed to the music of the modern times.