MARINDUQUE, Philippines – The famous Moriones tradition is more than a showcase of cultural heritage here. For the people, the vow of a Morion unveils the utmost faith and a shared passion to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for humanity.
During the Lenten season, thousands troop to this heart-shaped island-province to witness and glimpse of the incredible array of soldiers donning themselves in Roman-inspired costumes.
Many tourists opted for photo-ops with a Morion soldier. Few, however, wish to know how it feels to be wearing the integrated Roman centurion helmet, cape, breastplate, leggings, sword, and spear.
For this reason, this writer opted to wear the Morion costumes to unlock the mysteries of bearer’s vow to a practice that were handed to them from generations to generation.
Non-devotee is prohibited from wearing the costume. But the Kapatirang Morion ng Marinduque, one of the three Morion groups here, allowed me to wear one for me to experience the Morion’s way of life during the Lenten season.
It was not an easy decision for the group as the Morion’s vow reiterated that a soldier’s gear is only fitted to himself and not to others except when he let it go.
Stripping me from my casual wear, a pair of Morion soldiers fitted the costumes that were intended for me that day. One-by-one, each piece brought significant meaning and a sense of pride.
I fell like a Centurion, a commander of over 100 soldiers, gearing myself for a long war. After 30 minutes, I hit the streets of Boac town.
The National Museum of the Philippines here disclosed that the story of Moriones was traced back in 1807 when Padre Dionisio Santiago, parish priest of Mogpog, organized a group of players to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The staging of the play evolved around Longinus, the Roman Centurion, who was assigned to the execution of Christ on Calvary.
Longinus was the one who thrust a lance into the side of Christ and in so doing caused the precious blood to flow whereupon a drop fell unto his blind left eye and miraculously healed it.
He served as an officer of the guards of Christ’s tomb and witnessed the resurrection. He rushed into town to spread the news, which prompted the High Priest and Scribes to order for his execution.
As the Morion soldiers fitted my headgear, I felt the entire weigh of my costumes, more than 15 kilos on my estimate.
My first step was hard as my feet were not used to the heavy-shod of Roman soldiers. A little unevenness on the surface of the ground could topple me down.
I learned that a Morion must learn to control his steps so as not to find himself rolling on the grounds.
Visual was the most difficult as the mask offered only a half centimeter in diameter hole where one has to thrust his eyes so he can have better visuals.
Daytime offers “little” problems, but even veterans have to deal with the visual’s greatest perils during night time.
With closed headgear, the Morion’s sense of hearing was also at the minimum so he can’t have full awareness of what is coming from his left or right shoulders.
Crossing the streets, with racing pedestrians and vehicles, was not as easy as it looks. He must also learn to cope with the minimal air that is coming in from his neck portion for his breathing.