Text and photos by TARA YAP
The Bible has different accounts of how the apostle Judas Iscariot died. There’s a version he was hanged while there’s a version he hanged himself after betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. But in a village in San Jose de Buenavista, the capital town of Antique province in Panay Island, the death of Judas is highly explosive.
To welcome the resurrection of Jesus, the villagers in San Pedro belonging to a breakaway sect of the Roman Catholic Church burn an oversized effigy of Judas on the evening of Black Saturday.
Known as “Hudas-Hudas,” the annual practice on the eve of Easter Sunday is solely distinctive to faithful villagers of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Church) or the Aglipayan Church.
When dusk sets in on Black Saturday, the effigy of Judas emerges from the street that divides the plaza and the church. The Judas effigy is then transferred to a truck to be paraded along the major streets of San Jose de Buenavista while holy mass is ongoing in the church.
By the time the mass ends, the faithful Aglipayans rush to the plaza, in a pompous atmosphere akin to town fiestas.
Right in the middle of the plaza, men drag the effigy of Judas and put a rope over his head to be attached to the triangular bamboo poles. Then locals mock the Judas effigy with chants.
Known as ‘Hudas-Hudas,’ the annual practice on the eve of Easter Sunday is solely distinctive to faithful villagers of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Church) or the Aglipayan Church.
As the main event unravels, more and more spectators gather near the bamboo poles. Then two men with lighted torches tease the crowd by lifting the red-linen cloth that covers the 10-foot effigy made mostly of rice straws.
Moments later, they set the Judas effigy on fire. Amid the cheers from the crowd, the blasts from the firecrackers eventually tear up the effigy into pieces.
It’s not very clear how “HudasHudas” started in San Pedro village. But for Joseph “Nonoy” M. Matias, the “Hudas-Hudas” might have started sometime in the early 20th century. Matias, a former Aglipayan layman minister, surmises how it may have been a practice that started from when the IFI was founded by Gregorio Aglipay in 1902. But without documentary evidence, Matias admits he really does not know.
But a study from the University of Antique has a different finding. Researches trace the origins of the “Hudas-Hudas” back to 1925, started by Miguel Galopo Escanillas, who was the father of Aglipayan priest Basilio Escanillas.
While its history remains murky, “Hudas-Hudas” continues to be a peculiar tradition that startles scholars today. Anthropologist Alicia Magos, a professor emeritus at the University of the Philippines (UP Visayas) in Iloilo, can only describe “HudasHudas” as a product of Christian tradition infused with pre-colonial practices. She points out that the practice needs further study.