Hugas Dugo: Staying true to their legacy

Text by: Kimmy Baraoidan
Photos by: Chris Quintana and Kimmy Baraoidan

Every Good Friday, most places become ghost towns, but Pakil, a sleepy town on an ordinary day, comes to life. The town plaza is teeming with tourists from all over and with vendors selling almost everything from religious charms to animal-print leggings. Walking around downtown, I see a woman toting a small, red papier-mâché horse, which has absolutely nothing to do with the religious activities going on around. Commercialization has now invaded religious events even in small towns like Pakil.

Just in front of the town plaza is the Church of San Pedro de Alcantara. Jesus would have been livid, with all the commercial activity happening just right in front of the church. This church is a famous destination for those going on Visita Iglesia. It is not uncommon to see visitors, especially the younger ones, in their summer outfits posing for photos in front of the church or taking photos, selfies or groufies using the latest gadgets – a stark contrast to the older ones who enter the church quietly and actually pray.

Members of Hugas Dugo share a meal under the bridge as others still wash up in the background in Pakil, Laguna. Photo by: Chris Quintana

Members of Hugas Dugo share a meal under the bridge as others still wash up in the background in Pakil, Laguna. Photo by: Chris Quintana

Not far from the church, hidden from the crowd’s exoticism-clouded lenses, down the long, winding road past the public cemetery, a group of men who call themselves Hugas Dugo prepares for the day’s activities. The group, which has been in existence since the ‘80s, performs self-flagellation during this time of the year and roams the downtown streets, each member’s identity concealed in makeshift cloth facemasks, worn-out shirts, and banana leaves. The previous year, the flagellants wore hand-crafted headdress made of dried leaves, but this year they decided to make do without them. I first encountered this group of men last year, and this time it was not hard for me to find where they are tucked away.

Flagellants in Pakil, Laguna take off their bloodied shirts and banana leaf skirts and throw them in a pile to be burned later. Photo by: Chris Quintana

Flagellants in Pakil, Laguna take off their bloodied shirts and banana leaf skirts and throw them in a pile to be burned later. Photo by: Chris Quintana

A flagellant, after receiving slits on the back, is whipped by a leather belt on top of a bridge before they start flogging themselves while walking along the streets of Pakil, Laguna. Photo by: Kimmy Baraoidan

A flagellant, after receiving slits on the back, is whipped by a leather belt on top of a bridge before they start flogging themselves while walking along the streets of Pakil, Laguna. Photo by: Kimmy Baraoidan

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