Unknown to many, the famous annual Good Friday procession in Baliuag, Bulacan, has an interesting twist: a miniature version.
In 2006, youth leader Paul Vincent Simbulan of the town’s Tibag village organized a procession of minute carroza exactly copied from their life-size counterpart.
“Because of my childhood desire to own a religious icon, as Baliuag is known for many santos during the Lenten season, I made smaller versions of those,” said Simbulan in Filipino.
Now on its ninth year, “Caru-Caruhan” has grown from the original 13 small carroza during its first staging to around 50 today, as more children from Tibag and other villages have joined in.
The materials used during its first years were kiddie meal toys. But nowadays, kid’s dolls are used.
Last year, the event was held on May 2 and 4. The two days were needed since the annual procession in the town is held twice as well—on Holy Wednesday and Good Friday.
Simbulan also explained that organizers and participants had to wait and witness the two processions so they could pick on what carroza to copy.
Simbulan added they watched the event so they could copy the carroza well: “We also ask from the owners the filings of the cloths they use for closer resemblance.”
Although the Caru-Caruhan does not have prayers during procession, children’s devotion is still the reason for its annual staging, said Simbulan.
Msgr. Andres Valera, who became parish priest of the town only last November, weighed in on the event.
“First, an image of a saint by the teachings of the church is for veneration,” he said. “In fact by theology, a seminarian can not bless an image. A seminarian can bless a house, even a lay minister can bless a house and a car, but not an image because, according to theology, the image, the rosary and sacred objects carry indulgence and hence, only an ordained minister can bless an image in the church.”
He noted: “So, a toy is a toy, and an image of a saint is a sacred object.”
The prelate said that the procession is not a religious procession since participants don’t pray.
Simbulan and his mother, Janet, agreed the event is child’s play but it’s already becoming a tradition. They added that the procession has enjoined the participation of young people, drawing them away from vices.
Msgr. Valera said that in Spain, children also play miniature carroza: “Shops there would sell toys of miniature carroza and miniature images…”
A study conducted sometime in the early 1980s indicated that Baliuag’s Lent procession, the event from which “Caru-Caruhan” is copied from, has about 50 to 60 carroza, said Msgr. Valera.
“Old images are small. They’re not even life-size. They’re not big because most of them are being carried on the shoulders,” he added.
He said that those who own the images are landed gentry. The friars made sure that if one owns an image, that person can support it.
The priest said some of the images were called “Birhen Bukid” (Virgin Mary of the rice field) and “Santo Intierro ng Bukid” (Dead Christ of the field).
Another example he gave is the Angustia, one of the oldest images in Baliuag. This was formerly owned by a family with 35 hectares of rice fields. But as time went on, the land was divided.
The landed gentry was eventually replaced by the mercantile class or businessmen who also wanted to have images of their own, but owners of the old images would not sell theirs.
Msgr. Valera, referring again to the study, said devotees had other images built.
For example, if somebody already owned the image of Jesus such as the Señor na Gapos, an image of the Christ being scourged at the pillar, a rich devotee would have the same image made—but now with Christ facing Pilate; and if he had more money, even with the boy handing the basin to Pilate for the latter to wash his hands.
The images then started to become bigger and bigger until all became life-size, prompting the author of the study, as Msgr. Valera related, to ask if this is the way the new rich announced their arrival in society.
But the parish priest said the annual church procession is not a show-off between rich owners. “There are rules,” he said, and one such rule is to attend a recollection.
He said that since the number of carroza increase every year, all owners have to personally attend the recollection for them to get a number for their carroza.
Instructions for the event are also given during the recollection.