Thursday, April 1, 2010

Katipunan's Holy Week Vendors

By Paul Lee

For commuters passing the Katipunan service road en route to Marikina and Antipolo the Monasterio de Sta. Clara Church has remained one of the most familiar landmarks along the Katipunan route. This familiarity with the sacred is most evident this time of the year especially amongst the faithful as they congregate in observance of Palm Sunday recalling the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem leading to Holy Week and Easter Sunday. However while the worshippers make their presence felt with their pilgrimages; equally ubiquitous during the Holy Week outside the Monasterio is the presence of the vendors congregating both under the flyover and outside the church gates hawking their wares to churchgoers. As the devotees express their reverence to the passion and death of Christ waving their palaspas and praying to the image of Sta. Clara outside for intercession, for the vendors huddled outside the church under the multicoloured umbrellas shielding them from the summer sun it was business as usual.

Often made up of entire families; which include both children and the elderly pitching in to help, the vendors sell both devotional items and native snacks as well as the colour-coded ‘lucky’ eggs sold in bunches that are offered for divine intercession to mortal concerns. Indeed some of the families who have had their businesses outside the Monasterio have been around for decades. Among the vendors who have been in the business outside the Monasterio is Aling Baby. For the past decade Aling Baby has been making a living selling images of the patron saint Sta. Clara as well as rosaries, devotional books and other religious paraphernalia. Being from a poor background; Aling Baby believes that selling religious items is the only livelihood she is most familiar with and that she would not have anything else for the world. Not surprisingly, her son also helps out in her business; thankfully for her the church did not mind both her and the other vendors to run her business since they have formed a vendor’s cooperative.

Aling Baby charges the images of Sta. Clara according to size with the largest being PhP 1200.00 while the smaller images sell for around PhP 150.00. On the right side of the gate is Aling Liza another long-time vendor who has been selling her wares with her family since 1989. In her case; Aling Liza sells the ‘lucky eggs’ usually packed in clusters of six and twelve, and are sold from PhP 30.00 to PhP 60.00 and are packed in coloured cellophane with orange for employment, green for money, red for business and not surprisingly pink for romance.

Of course, there are always the Holy Week bestsellers, namely the traditional palm fronds or palaspas which were sold for PhP 10.00 per frond and both young and old hawk them to the parishioners. At the end of Palm Sunday; most of the unsold fronds will in turn be burned and their ashes saved for next Lenten. And in the end the holidays are often the best time to profit and even the most sacred Holy Week where the Passion and Death and Resurrection of Christ is no exception.

(Paul Lee is a freelance writer. He is currently finishing his master's in creative writing at U.P. Diliman. Photographs by Paul Lee)

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