Salubong: A Praxis of Catholicism and Folk Religiosity
Salubong takes place at dawn on “Linggo ng Pagkabuhay” (Resurrection Sunday) or ‘Easter’ as called by the Roman Catholic believers.
“It is marked with joyous celebrations. The event depicts the apocryphal reunion of Christ and his mother after the Resurrection. Statutes of the Risen Christ and the Virgin Mary are borne in two separate processions that meet at a designated area called a Galilea, often in the square fronting the church.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Week_in_the_Philippines).
“The icon of the Virgin is clothed or draped in a black veil (‘lambong‘ in Tagalog) to show her bereavement. A girl dressed as an angel, standing in a window of a house or a temporary high scaffold, or suspended in mid-air, chants the Regina Coeli in Latin or in vernacular before dramatically removing the black veil to signify the end of Mary’s grieving. The moment is marked by pealing bells and fireworks, followed immediately by the Easter Mass. In several parishes, this is held at midnight of Easter Sunday immediately following Easter Vigil” (Ibid). In the video above a boy removed the veil from the image of Mary.
In the Gospels’ account of Jesus’ resurrection, it says that he appeared to Mary Magdalene early in the morning (Mk. 16:9-10), to his disciples (Lk. 24: 34; Mk. 16:14; Lk. 24:36; Jn. 20:19) and to the other women also early in the morning (Mt. 28:9-10). All these appearances happened on the day of his resurrection. There is no record of the Risen Christ meeting his mother Mary first.
Despite its lack of Biblical support, Salubong is an excellent display of folk religiosity which in this respect is rooted in the Filipino culture of close family ties especially that of the significance and respect accorded to the mother. I suppose this is the reason why the Catholic Church widely supports this tradition. In my observation, most of the Catholic rites and devotions are mixed with folk religion which is an effective application of missiological syncretism.
This could explain why Filipinos widely embrace Catholicism because it appeals to their sensitivity. It is “very Filipino”, it does not come to them as a foreign concept. It is highly contextualized. Unlike other religious sects that view missions as a spiritual warfare, thus destroying the perceived enemies of their missiological efforts resulting to the building of “walls rather bridges”.
If all religions in the world could only learn the real value of contextualizing religious concepts such as the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, then instances of atrocities, conflicts and misunderstandings will be lessened if not totally eradicated. Don Richardson, the author of the book Peace Child argues that there are certain local or even tribal cultures that can be utilized to illustrate the meaning of the Christian gospel. (Don Richarson. Peace Child. California, USA: Regal Books. A Division of GL Publications, 1976) So as not to upset the local culture of a people, thus allowing the Gospel to be “friendly.”
One must appreciate a local cultural setting if he wants to engage in an effective preaching of the Gospel. Stephen Bevans in his book Models of Contextual Theology argues that “appreciative awareness” is an effective “theological source.” (Bevans: 25-27). For me, this means that you can effectively present God, Jesus or the Gospel to a given group of people if you have a deeper knowledge and appreciation of their local culture.
Bevans warns however, that those who practice contextualization “must try to keep a balance. It is not enough to focus exclusively on cultural identity, but it is also too much to lose that identity by selling out to western modern thought. One must take popular religiosity into account as well, but the old ways must never get in the way of making the gospel the challenging and good news that it really is.” (Ibid)
In this regard, the CBCP also warns a more Christ-centered religion not “a saint or Mary-centered faith.” (CBCP: 64-65. Also mentioned in the book The Church and Poverty in Asia: 120). The Salubong may have Mary as one of its significant character but this warning from the Catholic Church will help “redirect the focus of the faithful away from the deification of saints or Mary toward a proper regard of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the only Mediator between God and humanity (1 Tim. 2:5).” (Ibid).
As an evangelical believer, the Salubong with its praxis of Catholicism and folk religiosity is a reminder that I should be very careful in dealing with local Filipino culture and its implications in doing church. I should labor in finding what Don Richardson calls “the principle of redemptive analogy – the application to local custom of spiritual truth.” (Richardson’s introduction to his book Peace Child).
Acts and Decrees of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines: 20 January – 17 February 1991. CBCP: Pasay City: Paulines Publishing House, 1992.
Bevans, Stephen. Models of Contextual Theology. Revised and Expanded Edition. Manila, Philippines: Logos Publishing, Inc. 2003.
Bina Agong, George Capaque, Timoteo Gener, Ian Hibionada, and Adonis Parian. Poverty, Religion and Culture in the Devotion to the Black Nazarene. The Church and Poverty in Asia. Philippines: OMF Literature, Inc. and Asian Theological Seminary, 2008.
Richardson, Don. Peace Child. California, USA: Regal Books. A Division of GL Publications, 1976.
http://www.saaparish.com/special-events/555-emilio-medina – for the Featured Image.