St. Peter’s rooster
The early evening Good Friday drive back to the city from their old hometown was made memorable by a red moon rising from the hills. Blood-red orb peeking through the silhouette of coconut trees; it looked huge and strangely beautiful in a poignant sort of way. Or perhaps, they were only interpreting inside the symbolic context of God’s death.
Every year, they take this drive home, tired from a few full days of hard work but happily carrying with them tales of how it has been over the years that they, and whoever of the family clan is there, help prepare the family carrozas for the yearly Lenten processions. The family carrozas take part in the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday processions. The carroza of Hesus Nazareno comes out only on Wednesday. The San Pedro carroza comes out for all three processions including the Sugat, which replays the meeting between Mary and the Resurrected Christ. This final procession begins on the evening of Saturday and lasts until the dawn of Easter Sunday bringing to a festive climax the wonderful and colorful local celebration of the second Christmas of the Catholic faith, which is what Easter is. It occurs inside a complex of ritual practices.
Days are spent decorating the carrozas with light and flowers. They have restored and improved the carrozas over time. Used to be, the San Pedro was borne on human shoulders. But it was always a hair-raising affair. The tradition was to ply the men who carried it with tuba, the local alcoholic brew, to give them the strength and wherewithal to do this heavy task. This practice was changed in the 1970’s when fewer men of age volunteered to do this task. And so they built an undercarriage for it, a metal four-wheeled cart to replace the need to humanly lift the saint and its heavy wooden pedestal.
But on the whole, this social ritual has become popular once again. The participants in the processions have increased, the quality of the carrozas become better. And overall, the locals take these days to reunite with relatives and family since quite a number of them live and work in the city. And they as well, to whom the care of these carrozas was passed by the church many generations previously, some dating back to the beginning of the 1900’s.
Their Hesus Nazareno has an undercarriage which might have been from the family’s old Ford Model T. The leaf spring suspension is transversely positioned just like the old iconic car. They have restored the wood parts of the carroza over time, taking away layers of odd redesigning and old paint until its present state was achieved. The old noisy electric generator has been replaced by a noiseless Inverter system and LED lights.
But some things are irreplaceable. Such as St. Peter’s rooster. The taxidermist’s rooster is placed beside the sad-looking statue of St. Peter to recall how he, as predicted, denied Christ, three times before the dawn of the day of the Savior’s death. This taxidermic rooster has a long history. They remember it always looking rather bedraggled and moth-eaten. At one time, they replaced it with a real rooster, a Bantam cock named Winsor. But it didn’t work. Especially, where the Bantam itself was concerned. It got spooked by the crowd and almost died halfway into the procession. The taxidermic cock should have been easily replaced by another, as it once was. But that too eventually fell victim to time, even as the only professional taxidermist they knew passed away. And so, this year, they were back to the original rooster, the oldest, the ugliest and last cock they have.
They know this was the original one because this was the same cock that was once stolen from the old house by Paner, the local street-dweller. He must have been crazy or why would he keep it for a pet and constant companion as he went about his life in the town for weeks on end until the townspeople recognized it for what it was: St. Peter’s rooster. By the time it was returned, it had acquired the near-to-destroyed look it had.
This year, they “plasticized” its most weathered parts with resin and then painted this over with airbrush to simulate the feathers. In the end, they achieved an acceptable level of realism; though it might possibly be less than the reality Paner saw in his head back in those days. They drove home that Good Friday under the light of the moon feeling quite fulfilled with their work and happy to reunite with brothers and cousins to remember the old days and their many odd tales. They looked forward to next year.
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