Karakol: An Expression of Faith and Culture
‘Religion and life are inseparable. Long before the Spanish colonizers came, Filipinos had been holding thanksgiving celebrations or festivals that are religious in nature. Hornedo tells us that this “native love for festification” was replaced with lavish fiesta celebration by the colonizers.’ This statement was part of our observations when we undertook a study of the Devotion to the Black Nazarene in Quiapo together with my two professors and two of my classmates (Bina Agong, George Capaque, Timoteo Gener, Ian Habionada, and Adonis Parian. Poverty, Religion and Culture in the Devotion to the Black Nazarene. The Church and Poverty in Asia. ATS & OMF Lit.: Philippines, 2008).
In the province of Cavite and some other parts of Luzon, this fusion is evident in the traditional Karakol, a procession characterized by dancing in honor of a patron saint accompanied by a brass band or a pre-recorded audio mobile (Raas, S.V.D., Fr. Bernhard, Saenz-Mendoza, Fr. Virgilio and Laurora, Sr. Franzia).
According to Mr. Anthony Asuncion Astillero, the current adviser of Junior Chamber International (JCI) Imus Haligue, the City started to hold Karakol in 1980 under the leadership of Mario Guttierez and Bert Sabale, Chapter President and Project Chairman respectively of Imus Haligue Jaycees (Now JCI Imus Haligue).
This year, the City of Imus celebrated its 35 years of Karakol.
Mr. Anthony Astillero started his vow in 1990 when he was invited to join the karakol by JCI Imus Haligue. Since then he regularly participates in the yearly traditional karakol (Watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rCq1-rEeaM for my interview of Mr. Anthony Asuncion Astillero).
Karakol is a form of folk Catholicism, the popular form of Cathlolicism practiced by many Filipinos. According to Segundo Galilea, “folk religiosity has a particular affinity with the poor because it is only in this level that people’s religiosity is consistent with their culture.” Its religious practices or behavior are identified closely with the cultural traditions of the people. These play a vital role in establishing the cultural identity and continuity of a local community (Bina Agong, George Capaque, Timoteo Gener, Ian Habionada, and Adonis Parian. Poverty, Religion and Culture in the Devotion to the Black Nazarene. The Church and Poverty in Asia. ATS & OMF Lit.: Philippines, 2008).
The practice of karakol may pose some questions from other religious denominations, but beyond this tradition is a genuine Filipino culture that has persisted throughout history. I think this matters most, beyond our religious differences, it is our culture that will bind us together as one nation, one people. We are all Filipinos regardless of religious affiliations.
This authentic Filipino culture is shared by all walks of life.
Represented by almost all sectors of society.
My online conversation with Mr. Anthony Astillero (via FB Messenger) revealed another aspect of the traditional karakol. Just like the Devotion to the Black Nazarene, devotees of Nana Pillar, (the name commonly used by the local folks referring to the statue of the patron saint, Our Lady of the Pillar) who regularly join the traditional karakol claim that their sicknesses have been healed and their prayer concerns are met. Mr. Astillero testified that his request for healing was granted when he joined the karakol, “ako po bilang naging taga Pangulo at project Chairman ng Karakol ay patuloy na namamanata sa taunan na karakol dahil ako na mismo ay nadinig ang aking kahilingan sa aking karamdaman noong September 27, 2007 na naka experience na pagdating ng October 11 ay bigla ako nagkaroon ng karagdagang kalakasan at natapos ang mahigit na 6 hours na pagsasayaw ng Nana Pillar sa Bayan ng Imus.” (I myself, as a former President and Project Chairman of Karakol continuously fulfills my vow in the yearly karakol because my requests regarding my illness was heard in Septmeber 27, 2007 that when October 11 came, I experienced a sudden surge of strength and was able to finish more than 6 hours of dancing the [image] of Nana Pillar around the town of Imus).
Faith is enhanced when people’s needs are met. “In popular religiosity, devotions play a major motivational role in religious practice. Devotions meet legitimate psychological, physical, social and cultural needs. They fulfill the “deepest yearnings of common Filipios” (Bina Agong, George Capaque, Timoteo Gener, Ian Habionada, and Adonis Parian. Poverty, Religion and Culture in the Devotion to the Black Nazarene. The Church and Poverty in Asia. ATS & OMF Lit.: Philippines, 2008).
It resonates with the character of Filipinos as social beings – people who long for solidarity, and the desire to connect with the powers that be through symbols and rituals such as karakol. Thus every time they express that faith by joining or supporting karakol that same faith is strengthened.
In the Bible there are instances where God honored people’s faith no matter how bizarre they may be, as long as it is directed towards Him. Some of them are the faith of the centurion in Matt. 8:8-12; the faith of the woman bleeding for twelve years in Matt. 9:20 and the miraculous healing ministry of Peter and Paul in Acts 5:15 and 19:12 respectively. In that sense devotees must not only focus on the patron saint or the ritual such as karakol but to God. They must first give importance to the celebration of the Eucharist where Christ is preached before going out into the streets.
I always believe that we Filipinos has a peculiar brand of religiosity, faith and culture. Something we can be proud of in this era of moral, political, and religious complacency. This is capsulated in the words of Mr. Anthony Astillero, “ipinagmamalaki ko ako ay isang Imusenyo…at naging parte ng makasaysayan na traditional na karakol.” (I’m proud to be an Imusenyo…and being part of the historical traditional karakol). Congratulations City of Imus for nurturing one of our distinct Filipino expression of faith and culture. Proud to be PINOY!
Special Thanks to Mr. Anthony Asuncion Astillero: JCI Adviser (incumbent), President JCI, 1998; National Vice President, 2001; National Chairman and Youth Leadership Excellence Award, 2006; National Executive Vice President, 2007; and National Nomination Committee, 2008.
Special thanks also to Mr. Arvin Obilla.