“Off with his head!”
April 22, 2014 3 Comments
Although the practice has lived for more than 100 years, the term Moriones is but a modern invention coined by ‘outsiders’ in the 1960s—native Marinduqueños prefer to call their festival Moryonan.
The Moryonan culminates in a roller-coaster ride of a ‘pageant’—at times raucous and jubilant, with moments of sadness and grief—reenacting the final days of the Roman centurion Longinus, the Pugutan or Beheading.
Christian legend has it that Longinus was a partially blind Roman soldier who thrust a spear into Christ’s side at the crucifixion—that spear became the much sought-after Spear of Destiny. Some of Jesus’ blood fell upon his eyes and healed his impaired vision. Despite this miracle though, Longinus was not fully convinced about the Divinity of Jesus Christ. Later events after the death of Christ will lead to his complete conversion to Christianity.
Upon orders of the Roman High Council, Longinus and his legion were ordered to guard the tomb of Christ to prevent Jesus’ disciples from stealing His body and ‘fake’ His resurrection. Well, we all know that Jesus Christ, on the third day, indeed had risen from the dead, an event witnessed by Longinus with his own eyes! On that first Easter dawn, he ran around the town narrating what he saw, proclaiming that Christ is indeed is the Son of God!
… and of course, the Roman High Council, led by Pontius Pilate, was furious; and ordered the arrest of Longinus. This is where the “fun” starts.
The Habulan or mad chase for the ‘errant’ soldier begins—with Longinus playing antics while running in chaotic circles around the cheering audience to elude his captors. The newly converted centurion keeps chanting: “Christ lives!”, losing himself in the crowds or even using the spectators as a shield against the pursuing morions, much to the delight of everyone watching, who, at times, unwittingly becomes part of the comedy-drama.
With the crowds ‘approval’, Longinus finally accepts his fate, seeking an audience with Pilate’s wife Claudia to tell her that he’s surrendering. In the final acts of the show, Longinus—after a monologue asking for his newfound Savior’s forgiveness— is beheaded.
His “lifeless” body is then paraded around the auditorium for his “funeral”, where all morions renew their vows of penance.