Good Friday. Atlanta Georgia. And here I am nursing a cold while the rest of the family enjoys our first full day on vacation in the deep south. I miss Holy Week back home. It is the only time of the year that Manila's splendor comes out in full bloom. Imagine Manila with no crowds, no polluting vehicles, sky's all sunny and blue and the heat---oh, the lovely heat. People are quiet, the malls are closed. Without the pollution, the greenery comes alive. It may not be as colorful as a spring bloom in the temperate latitudes, but multiple shades of green does have its own beauty and wonder.
I could imagine why the Spaniards and the Americans loved Manila---well, till the pollution took over.
And no traffic too...my friend Wendell Ramos (yes..the actor)loves just to drive around the City during holy week. I too enjoy being able to zoom by without having to worry about traffic or not getting on time. The rest of the city goes on vacation mode. Here is a tip: Boracay or Baguio during Holy week? Forget it, everybody is there. The Manila traffic goes up North to Baguio and the Mall foot traffic goes to Bora. It could get pretty dirty there this time of the year.
Churches are full. Crime rate is down. And Quiapo? Good Friday? Imagine yourself trying to grab a statue of the Black Nazarene with 10,000 other guys all jousting and shoving each other as the procession goes by. Last year only one guy was killed. One foreigner I talked to said that the Quiapo procession has the same reputation as the bull run in Pamplona, Spain. I am still trying to find the guts to do it..well probably next year.
I also remember a lot of travelling to my Dad's province in Tarlac. One of our favorite family story is of how this chicken got stuck in our car's bumper on our way to Tarlac. This answered two important mysteries: How did the chicken cross the road? (answer: Got hit by a car and got stuck in the bumpers) and could you eat meat on Good Friday? (if it came free, why waste it). In Tarlac, We would climb trees, pester the carabao, swim at the river and do things that you would do before hormones took over.
There is another welcome respite for me. Philippine television is on limited broadcast from Holy Thursday to Good Friday. I remember when we were young, we had no cable, the TV stations would show these bathrobe classics during Holy Week, The Ten Commandments,El Cid and my favorite The Robe. There was also Jesus of Nazareth and sometimes Jesus Christ Superstar. I never realized how much noise television makes till it is turned off. I work for a Philippine Television company now, and I now know the reason why we have to do limited broadcast during Holy Week. This is the time we clean the transmitter and the studio.
Enjoy your vacation in lovely Manila.