The Moriones is an annual festival held on the island of Marinduque during Holy Week that draws thousands of tourists.
Every Easter this heart-shaped island undergoes a transformation from a sleepy province to an extravaganza of color and activity- it will be almost impossible not to see anything Moriones-related. The festival is considered the most famous senakulo (passion play) and is a colorful display of Roman costumes, painted masks and helmets, and brightly-colored tunics.
The Moriones or Moryonan tradition has also inspired the creation of other festivals in the Philippines where cultural practices or folk history is turned into street festivals which displays a combination of pagan mysticism and Roman Catholic influence.
Morion means "mask" or "visor," a part of ancient Roman armor protecting the face. Moriones, on the other hand, refers to the somewhat intimidating masked and costumed penitents who march around the towns from Holy Monday to Easter Sunday searching for Longinus, who according to legend was one of the Roman centurions tasked to execute Jesus. A drop of Christ's blood miraculously restored the sight of Longinus' blind right eye during the crucifixion, prompting him to proclaim his faith which resulted in him being chased by his fellow Romans before being captured and beheaded.
The re-enactment of the execution is the climax of the week-long event. Around the island the towns of Boac, Gasan, Santa Cruz, Buenavista and Mogpog transform into one gigantic stage. Most of the performers are farmers and fishermen who engage in this age-old tradition as a vow of penance or thanksgiving.
A note to the wise: throughout the week moriones take to the streets where they engage in mock sword fights, dances and play sneaky pranks on unsuspecting tourists and bystanders. You have been warned!
How to get there (from Manila): By Bus & Boat - JAM Transit and JAC Liner run frequent trips from their Buendia LRT stops to Dalahican Port (Php220, 3-4 hours). MV Vanessa fast craft (Php250, 1 & 1/2 hours) operates two morning trips from Lucena to Balanacan, which is a 25-minute jeepney ride (Php40) north from the provincial capital of Boac. Montenegro Shipping Lines has slower car ferries aka Ro-Ros (Roll On- Roll Off) than run to Balanacan (Php208, 2 and 1/2 hours) and to Cawit, south of Boac (Php272, 3 hours).
Where to Stay:
Lucky 7 Pension House (332 2777) Gov D Reyes St, Php250-800, offers clean and basic rooms but rooftop restaurant with videoke might keep one up all night -
Tahanan sa Isok (332 1231), Magsaysay St, Php 800-1500, clean, simple rooms with garden restaurant and pool
Gasan & West Coast
Club Marinduque (63 920 852 2667) Php700-1000
Katala Beach Resort and Restaurant (63 915 512 4784) Php700-1000; members.tripod.com/katala.beach.resort
Eastpoint Hotel by the Sea (63 920 900 6892) rooms from Php 600
Poctoy & East Coast
Jovita's Paradise Resort (63 918 7738154) Php800-1500
What to Do: - Malbog Hot Springs (Php70 admission) which is located a few kilometers inland from Buenavista - White Beach in Poctoy (considered the whitest and longest beach in Marinduque but can be very busy during the weekends) - Mt. Malindig ( a leisurely coastal drive at the base of the mountain or a a five hour hike starting from Barangay Sihi on a marked trail/ regular jeepneys from Buenavista to Boac via Gasan/ tricycles Php300) - Bathala Caves in Santa Cruz (Php40 admission, adults only, guided tour Php200 for 10 persons; regular jeepneys from Boac to Santa Cruz, Php35, one hour)