Friday, April 3, 2009

'Tis the Season for Palaspas Weaving

It is Palm Sunday again and the streets near churches become a site for a different kind of pilgrimage. This is a yearly exodus to the city from nearby provinces of Laguna, Quezon, Bulacan, etc where palm fronds are abundant. The pilgrims would gather fresh leaves of available palms like coconut, nipa, oliva, pitogo, etc and haul them all the way to the city. They would camp out on the sidewalk near prominent churches with every available family member. They erect make shift tents and shelter, sit under the shade and weave away the palms to palaspas pieces till the wee hours leading to Palm Sunday.

Palaspas weaving is a seasonal livelihood which would start a week or two before the Holy Week or Mahal na Araw. The people who take advantage of the demand usually have day jobs and other businesses. Come Lent they break away from their usual routines to perform the seasonal craft of weaving the palm fronds. An entourage of palaspas weavers could weave hundreds of individual pieces, hoping all would be sold in time for Palm Sunday. A lot of craftsmanship, skill and art are involved in producing a piece, though watching a weaver would seem that it is just a breeze to do. But with all the effort that went into making one palaspas would make it a shame if it would remain unsold and let go to wilt and waste.

Palm Sunday is celebrated to commemorate the biblical account of Jesus Christ entering the city of Jerusalem, greeted by tree branches by the Jews. But in place of the branches, Filipinos depict the religious practice with palm fronds, in most cases coconut or cycad palms. The Pinoy's ingenuity has evolved the Filipino tradition into an art expression resulting to various displays of the weaver's skill. Thus the simple palm frond is transformed into an art piece. Ultimately the craftsmen's masterpieces are waved at the altar after the Palm Sunday mass. The blessed fronds are then brought home to individual households and placed near door ways and entries. They are said to ward off evil spirits for the whole year, till it is time to buy a new palaspas the next Palm Sunday.

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