As the other baby boomers will tell you, nothing will compare to the celebration of holy week during our time in the 70s. From Holy Thursday until Black Saturday, everything turns bleak. All the regular programming of radio and television stations are put on hold, and purposely replaced with dull religious dramas which, in today’s terms, mostly depict a blow-by-blow account of what had transpired thousands of years ago. Then these programs simultaneously climax on Good Friday, with the crucifixion of the Christ as the prime story arc from which all Catholics are supposed to reflect on until Easter morning.
During all of our holy week years, reruns of old epic movies like Ben Hur and the Ten Commandments lorded it over cinema and, if we were lucky, also shown on TV. Meanwhile, radio dramas that almost always featured voice-overs by famous local stars, likewise dominated the AM-FM airwaves. With not much else to do, trying to guess the identity of the players in these radio dramas, had become a yearly house game for me during all those Holy Weeks.
Back then, everyone, especially the young, was encouraged to be prayerful, to be reflective of transgressions and to therefore refrain from loud activities or music of any kind during those three days. The latter activities were greatly frowned upon by the older folks of each Christian household. They mainly presided over the holy week activities, encouraging (more like coercing) both children and teens to prayer, and then organizing family visits to the churches. For the young and boisterous that belonged to the boomer grouping, holy week might as well be hell week because of the cancellation of their many personal liberties.
In our family’s case, having a matriarchal but overly-conservative lola was a double whammy of sorts because it somehow meant the enforcement of old beliefs which, even under the standards of that time, still seemed very strange and irrational.
For one, bathing was strictly forbidden on Good Friday. My late aunt, who at one time caught me with my hair still damp, warned me of the dire consequences because of my violation of the sacred practice. Second, if you happened to suffer a gash or a wound of any kind on the same day, the old folks say that it will take very long to heal. Lastly, at nighttime, children are not allowed to leave the house because satan and devils freely roam the earth, especially on good Friday (and the next day). Children often ask, why is that? Because God is dead.
Then, a little at a time, changes in the observance of holy week occurred with each passing year. For one, the once-rigid radio and TV programming had been relaxed a bit. Musical programs were put back in the schedule, thus becoming welcome alternatives to the lusterless radio dramas. In the case of television, the entry of cartoons and musicals, became the fitting rivals the went against Charlton Heston and his two tablets. Later in the 80s, with the advent of Betamax, the floodgates had finally burst. Anybody could now tailor fit their holy week observance, ahem entertainment, any way they wanted. Also by this time, the boomers were much older now, and finally free, and off the clutches of the conservative home dictatorship. More important to note, they were now a part of the workforce, so that in short, their holy week hell days had unceremoniously been transferred to the next generation.
As a postscript, with the coming of the internet a decade later, their “sufferings” had not been as long. The same goes with the gen Y and the Z, them millennials. With the unlimited games, movies, readings or hobbies to be had online nowadays, what hell are we talking about? Suffice to say, these whiners still complain at anything, not aware of their blessings. In the end, let us just leave it at this: everything might be relative, but our kind of hell was heller, if there is such a word.
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