Moriones Festival

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The Moriones Festival is a Philippine religious festival which takes place in Marinduque during Holy Week in the Philippines. Its highlight is a street play performed on Easter Sunday by penitents wearing large, colorful hand-painted masks carved out of wood. Each mask has a Roman centurion’s helmet, from which the name of the festival is taken, morion being Spanish for helmet.



Legend has it that Longinus, a Roman centurion who was blind in one eye, was one of the soldiers present at Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. When Longinus plunged his lance into the side of Christ to make certain He was dead, a drop of Christ's blood splashed onto his blind eye and its sight was restored. Later, according to some versions of the legend, Longinus was also one of the guards at Christ's tomb, and was a witness to the Resurrection. These miracles impelled him to convert to Christianity, earning the ire of the authorities and leading to his arrest and execution.

The Moriones Festival began around 1807 as a reenactment of Christ's crucifixion, revolving around the story of Longinus. It was started in Mogpog (now a town of Marinduque but at that time a barrio of Boac) by the parish priest, Fr. Dionisio Santiago. It is now practiced in the other towns of Marinduque -- Gasan, Santa Cruz, and Buenavista —- as well as in Mogpog and Boac.


Starting on Holy Monday, the penitents dress up as Roman centurions in bright costumes with heavy colorful masks. Having to endure the summer heat while masked is part of their penitential sacrifice. Thus disguised as fierce-looking soldiers with black beards and helmets, they go about the town playing tricks on people, frightening children, and flirting with women. They also disguise their voices by making bird-like sounds rather than speaking. They are supposed to be looking for the main character, Longinus.

When the soldiers spot Longinus, he leads them on a lively chase through the town but finally Longinus is caught and brought before an actor representing Pontius Pilate. Other people take the role of the Pharisees judging him, and on Easter Sunday they act out Longinus' execution by beheading.


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