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This blog is an amateur photographer's attempt to show how beautiful the world really is. He is drawn to the colors of nature like a moth to a candle light. What are showcased here are nature's grand display of colors at sunrise and sunset, beautiful beaches and off-the-beaten track locations in his beloved Philippines, waterfalls and some of nature's great sculptures, architectural gems, and other views from around SE Asia that he was fortunate to see at one point.

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March 24, 2015

san narciso | quezon : centurion mask making tradition

Centurion Masks

Some looked angry and grumpy, a few looked really menacing. Other looked funny, while there are some which looked downright weird.  During the Holy Week in the Philippines, men in certain towns in the archipelago don these masks and put on tunics and Roman soldier costumes. They roam the streets from Holy Monday to Easter Sunday and re-enact the search for Christ and the eventual capture and suffering of Christ on the way to calvary, and scaring the kids while they are at it. On this week the Roman soldiers are an angry and evil bunch.

This is part of the age old tradition of fulfilling a vow of penance or thanksgiving during the Lenten season. In the island of Marinduque, this has become one grand festival called "Moriones Festival", attracting thousands of tourists and overcrowding the narrow streets of the island's small towns.

Sinturyons of Quezon

A few are probably aware that this tradition is similarly observed in some towns in the Quezon province (especially those in the Bondoc peninsula). The scale may not be as large as that of the Moriones Festival and not widely promoted as a tourist attraction, but it is observed without fail every year. The locals simply call this tradition "Sinturyon".

Centurion Masks

Some of the masks are handed down from one generation to the other. Sons take up the "panata" or vow from their fathers.

Centurion Masks
Boyd showing his "antique" masks 

A nice lady in one of the local eateries overheard our conversation about the centurion masks and pointed our group to Boyd, one of the town's sinturyon, who gladly showed us several of his family's mask. Its still a week before the Holy Week, enough time to clean the masks and ready the costumes.

"If you want to see really good masks, go and see Herbert Diaz in Brgy, Andres Bonifacio", Boyd suggested. So we did.

The tattoo artist mask maker

Master mask maker
Herbert: tattoo artist and sinturyon mask maker

It was drizzling when we reached Herbert's workshop in Andres Bonifacio on the outskirts of San Narciso. The road was muddy and our rented tricycle had trouble with the uphill road.

Centurion Masks

The soft spoken mask maker welcome us in and lead us to the second floor of his house where several of his "apprentices" are working on the finishing touches on several masks. Most part of the year Herbert is a tattoo artist, but as Lenten season starts he puts on another hat. Orders for masks come from the nearby towns, most especially from the progressive town of Mulanay.

Centurion Masks

Each mask is a one piece sculpture made of santol wood (cottonfruit). Santol is preferred because its strong but light and resistant to insect borers.

Centurion Masks

Centurion Masks

Herbert does the sculpting and the painting (he has been doing this for 10 years already) while the rest of his crew does the other details. Rooster feathers and horses' mane are used for the helmet. Each mask and helmet pair takes at least 2 weeks to make, depending on the design and will set the wearer back 4,500 pesos. A full sinturyon costume will cost at least 10,000 pesos.

Centurion Masks

Centurion Masks

Even with the pricey cost of the mask, there is no shortage of orders every year.  Unlike some masks which uses either fiber glass or paper, theirs is full wood and will last for generations.

Centurion Masks

Centurion Masks
the mask makers[From left to right: Jake, Junior, Patrick, Herbert, and Ombit]

30 years of mask making

Centurion Masks
Mang Ramil and his special mask

A short walk from the town's center is Mang Ramil Allarey's workshop. He has been creating sinturyon masks for close to 30 years already.

Centurion Masks

Centurion Masks

Centurion Masks

He usually makes a very special mask for himself each year, one that is made to really stand out.  He does not keep them though, as its surely to get sold to some collectors.

Centurion Masks

So how does Quezon's Sinturyon compare to Marinduque's Moriones? Mang Ramil thinks its very much like the Moriones. Sinturyon is widely celebrated or observed across several towns in Quezon, but without the "commercial" aspects that eventually becomes part of major festivals. Its a much more intimate and personal one.
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paolo said...

Now this is a fact about San Narciso that I haven't read or heard before. Looks like an interesting trip when they hold the Moriones :) I salute you sir for shooting at off-the-beaten-path places :) I've also been planning to go here to explore some remote but good beaches. Galing po!

Lantaw said...

Thanks Paolo! San Narciso is indeed a good place to visit if you want to see the centurions on Holy Week. I'll be back in San Narciso too for its beaches :)

Lantaw said...

Btw, they don't want to refer to their Holy Week practice as "Moriones". They said that its already associated with Marinduque. They refer to it simply as "Sinturyon"

Unknown said...

Its good to see that this resembles my hometown's Moriones is being widely practice nowadays. Its just that Marinduque have started it way way back ago, during spanish era. And I believe, it remain holy and purely lenten practice. Nakakatuwa lang na like Dinagyang, Atiatihan and Sinulog yung approach nung festival. Marinduque started it and now Bondoc Peninsula and Mindoro parts have it too. Thanks for this info Sir Allan.

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