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"island notes"
Curated Audiovisual Essays

Marinduque Creative island: Heritage and Traditions of Lent Visual Arts, Moryonan Street play, Cenukulo Performance and Easter Sunday Festival

by Randy Nobleza

The Island Notes series is a curated space for audiovisual essays that offer a more creative way to write about a single island combining visual/audio and text with additional resources.

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Island Notes Curators: Meng Qu and Evangelia Papoutsaki.

Marinduque is known for Marcopper mine tailings spill and butterfly exports. But prior to this and even after the covid19 which coincided with its centennial year of autonomy from Quezon province, the islands of Marinduque have been deeply spiritual if not religious. Between 1807 and 1857, Fr. Dionisio Santiago started a Lenten tradition based from the biblical figure St. Longinus and its native counterpart Longhino, the blind Roman soldier who flipped and proclaimed god is real and Jesus is god. This belief system and worldview is put to the fore from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. This year’s Lenten tradition have certain key changes and innovation with Anto Monteagudo’s Holy Monday’s opening with “Tuldok, Kuwit” literally, semi-colon referring to his painting technique about island daily life focused on moryon masked locals.


Then the comeback of moryon with a vengeance after three years of the raging pandemic. The narrative of longhino, who initially the tormentor of God’s begotten son until he speared Jesus’ side and got his blood unto his eye. Then the street theater begins with three times of evading captivity and the fourth time he would get beheaded and have a funeral rite with other moryons symbolically burying him and having a simple meal after the funeral. Cenakulo was almost a 50 year recorded “bible story” during Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Black Saturday starting from the creation account to the birth and trial upto the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This time, cenakulo sticks to its origins, last supper according to this year’s director Danny Mandia. Marinduque is a silentscape rightly so because God is dead but during easter Sunday, a festive streetdancing parade concludes the 40 days of Lent called Gasang-gasang based on the etymology of the town Gasan.


Gasang-Gasang Street Dancing Festival is organized annualy by the Gasan Culture and Arts Foundation Inc headed by Dr. Rex Emmanuel Asuncion. This assemblage of faith, tourism, creativity and innovation constitute Marinduque as a creative island not only during the Lenten season but hopefully the basis for an orange economy to flourish and nurture changemakers, innovators and creatives as a viable alternative to mining as considered by the national investment board as “green metal.” 


Keywords: lent, holy week, moryonan, gasang-gasang festival, Marinduque

Marinduque: the island and its traditions

Marinduque is the heart-shaped and geodetic centre among the 7,641 Philippine islands. It belongs to the South Luzon Island cluster with Mindoro (west), Palawan and Romblon (south). Primarily, Marinduque is an agro-tourism area with rice and coconut products, high butterfly exports, and renowned for its Lenten rites. The island is about 950 square kilometres with a population of 240,000 (2020 census), comprising six towns and one congressional district.


Marinduque (source: Wikipedia Commons:

Marinduque’s origins are said to be linked to Marina and  Garduke lovers, who eloped to evade suitors and rivals until their boat capsized and eventually merged into an island with a likeness of a heart. There is also an alternative take on its origins, that of Mariang Malindig, whose lovers from faraway kingdoms were turned into smaller islets named after three wise kings, Gaspar, Melchor, and Baltazar (in Gasan). 


Marinduque was once part of Balayan (modern-day Batangas) during the 1500s and likewise under Mindoro from the 17th to 19th century before being established as a separate province in 1902 and becoming part of Abas from the North (now Quezon), eventually being reestablished on February 21, 1920. The province’s namesake is Mt. Malindig, after malindog or marinduk, meaning tall or to stand.


According to Marinduque’s tourism masterplan, the six towns would be divided into four clusters: island (Santa Cruz), heritage (Mogpog, Gasan and Boac), adventure (Marinduque Wildlife Sanctuary), and wellness (Buenavista and Torrijos). Marinduque, for better or worse, is mineralized, with many mining claims, Marcopper and Consolidated Mines Inc. being the most significant, along with earlier concessions of iron deposits. Perhaps one of the reasons Marinduque folks are faithful and spiritual, which, in turn, sprang the traditions of moryonan, tubong and kalutang. 


Based on narratives of local historian Senen Livelo, Moryonan is probably brought by Padre Dionisio Santiago with Manong Bento, sacristan mayor, becoming Longhino along the first seven moryons as Mogpog became a separate visit from Moneserrat de Marinduque (Boac, capital town). 


Tubong or putong is a social practice, a healing ritual that could have been pre-colonial in nature with a babaylan (high priestess) rendering songs, dances and music, while kalutang serves as a pastime and form of entertainment with less of a spiritual purpose. Worth also noting here, the creative maestro Tirso Serdeña, the founder of Pangkat Kalutang, who discovered and innovated the sounds, rhythm and notes of the bayog Pterospermum Acerofolium Willd and twatingan Pterospermum obliqum instrument. 


In recent times, visitors and tourists are welcomed by the locals with putong/ tubong usually during the holy week, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, with Moryons, either with bulaklakan (handcrafted flowers helmets) and roman (more modern), roaming the streets with their choice of weapons and kalutang to serenade the townsfolks for Longhino’s beheading and funeral. Before this, at the Balanacan port, there is a tableau of Longhino’s beheading (pugutan) which is a spectacle during the via crucis (way of the cross), based on St. Longinus, the Roman captain who pierced Christ while nailed on the cross, and who professed his faith after being miraculously healed and for that paid his life in debt. Nowadays, moryons are the subject of murals, public art, underwater sculpture and even boundary markers and souvenirs.   


festival queen.jpg

Festival Queen

Gasang-Gasang Easter Sunday Street Dancing Festival is a popular festival in the Province of Marinduque. It is the only festival in the whole country that commemorates the agony, passion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is celebrated during Easter Sunday. It started in 2003 under the Municipal Ordinance number 100 declaring “Gasang-Gasang Festival an Easter Sunday Dancing Festival and Appropriating Exclusive Funds for its presentation”. It is in celebration of the origin of the town's name Gasan which came from the term "Gasang- Gasang", the local term for coral stones that once abound near the mouth of the Matandang Gasan river. The Gasang-Gasang Easter Sunday Street Dancing Festival name was given by the former Cultural Coordinator of the Municipality of Gasan, Mr. Eli Obligacion. It is the merry-making and choreographed street-dancing to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Participants are dressed in colorful attire made from indigenous materials, danced in full spirit to the beat of the drums as they parade along the major streets of Gasan shouting "VIVA EL KRISTO" in celebration of the Risen Christ. After the street dancing, the ground competition will be held at Guingona Park. Though not as grand as other festivals, it has become a festival to see in Marinduque every Easter Sunday. In recent years, delegations from other towns have started participating.


Gasang-gasang Easter Sunday Street Dancing Festival 2023 program

 To recapture the old Easter Sunday glory of the moryonan, the Local Government unit of Gasan in partnership with then Gasan Culture and Arts Foundation (GASCUAF, Inc), a private organization of cultural workers and enthusiasts decided to stage the first street dancing festival in Gasan in 2002, which is the Gasang-Gasang Easter Sunday street dancing festival. To make the event distinct from other cultural celebrations in the island of Marinduque during Easter, the name adopted Gasang-gasang, the origin of Gasan which is a local term for coral stones that once abound  on the shores of the pre-colonial settlement.

nuestra salvador icons.jpg

Nuestra Salvador

Gasang-gasang easter Sunday street dancing festival is an annual activity which depicts the christian’s celebration of the risen christ and was purposely programmed at the end of the observance of the lent so that after the long and solemn celebration, it will shift into an atmosphere of rejoicing and jubilation. 

[...] then in addition, of course, whenever there is gasang-gasang. We help a lot of small business to thrive. Those who sell cold drinks. They are very glad, we don’t start right away. Everybody gets thirsty. They would buy from vendors. They would sell out. Even turon (banana snack) that is usually overlooked would be sellable again. Even the tricycle and jeepney, (local transportation) whoever enter and leave Gasan would have to ride.they would earn double. What we intend to develop next time around are hotel bookings. To stabilize the business, during moriones, good Friday, pupuwa. That’s not the only reason to stay. But to be extended because there’s gasang-gasang festival. The visitors start leaving, going back to manila by Black Saturday. What will make them stay a bit longer? We have to make waves, and we need to prepare hotel and transportation. (Rex Asuncion, April 14, MSC College of Education)


via crucis .jpg

Via crusis

Cenaculo 2023 directed by Danny Mandia tweaks tradition and innovates the “bible story” with a live rendition of the last supper.  Jesus is portrayed by “Hari ng Pilipinas” (king of the Philippines) Jerson Mendez, the former board member Juan “John” Fernandez plays Pilate alongside with incumbent provincial legislator Dindin Opis-Mercado as Claudia. Antonio “Tres” Mangcucang gives a memorable performance as King Herod and the counter-hero Judas is played-well by Gwynn Jason Arevalo, the eye doctor. 


The opening performance premiered during Holy Wednesday last April 5 and encore by April 6 Maundy Thursday and April 8 was the Finale by Black Saturday at Marinduque Moryon Arena. The 50 million worth multi-purpose venue also hosted the basketball legends and Marinduque Morions during Biyernes de Dolores prior to the annual Semana Santa. 


Marinduque State College Culture and Arts unit provided the backbone for the Provincial Government of Marinduque live performance after three years of the pandemic. The MSC Bachelor of Culture and Arts Education (BCAED) auditioned, rehearsed and gave it all from January to April to come up with a praise-worthy theater piece. 


Marinduque Governor Presby Velasco provided the context of this year’s Cenaculo with recorded messages by the lone district representative Lord Allan Velasco and Provincial Administrator Mike Vincent Velasco. Vice Governor Lyn Angeles also gave some remarks and dedicated the performance to the visitors especially the regional director of the Tourism Department Zeny Pallugna. Finally, before the start of Cenakulo, Director Danny Mandia dedicated Cenakulo to Dr. Daniel “Boying” De La Paz Jr, his brother in-law with some caveats of the materials for better appreciation and in comparison to the previous reiterations of the Lenten drama.


Meanwhile, the MSC College of Arts and Social Sciences being a founding member of Island Innovation’s Academic Council is looking forward to contributing through research, creative work and community involvement, in line with MSC President, Prof. Diosdado P. Zulueta’s five-point advocacy: culture & the arts, environment, entrepreneurship, gender equity, and health & wellness.

Probably as a boy born in Boac Marinduque, even Mr. Danilo Ledesma Mandia, himself could've never imagined that he would later on become an institution, a pillar of the voice acting industry. Although, Mr. Mandia may not want to be branded as an institusyon¦ all the people he has worked with would certainly agree.


Coming from a diverse educational background - an Economics major in Trinity College; Agriculture Courses in the USA and UP Los Baños; it seemed that Mr. Mandia's heart is really into the Theater Arts, which he finished as a Master"s degree at UP.


It was indeed in the theater where he perfected his art as an actor, stage manager, artistic director and instructor since the late 70"s until the 90"s. Also, for a couple of years, he served as an instructor for De La Salle College of St. Benilde, Miriam College and Trinity College.


Since 1991, Mr. Mandia has been working as a dubbing director and translator for the biggest Broadcasting Network in the country, ABS-CBN and since 2005, for Hero TV Channel.


Some of the most memorable animated series he handled were Peter Pan, Dog of Flanders, Remi, Julio at Julia, Snowhite, RayEarth, BTX, Little Women 1 and 2, Zenki, Heidi, Digimon 1 and 2, Hana Yori Dango, Kim Possible, Voltes V celebrity edition, Akazukin Cha-cha. He also had a hand in other TV Series such as Bananas in Pajamas, Meteor Garden, Love Scar (Fantasy Fever), ABCDEF-4, and Girls Marching On among others.

Good evening to all of you. I am pleased, my heart is full of happiness. I feel happy that all of you are here tonight. At this point, what you’re about to witness is live, you’re going to watch actors who spent months and months of rehearsal to give you a good production to your liking for tonight. I just want to clarify, what cenakulo really means? Cenakulo simple means last supper. This play for tonight is what I wrote and focused only about last supper and the suffering of jesus christ until he was crucified. Then that is the ending. So that, the following day of the last performance by Saturday the day after is easter Sunday. I did not interfere with via crucis in the play because there is a spectacle by Good Friday. There is improvisation that I deployed here and there in lieu of via crucis. But this is not the complete way of the cross. It’s a glimpses of via crucis. There are just salient points to see or to show there. That would suffice for to express that he went to the Calvary. Jesus was able to see that persons who mattered to his life. And with this, I am hoping that the audience would take it not as a realistic play. What theater is about improvisation, there’s representation, representational. That would be my surprise to all of you. Hopefully you would be able to appreciate it tonight. This play is dedicated to my brother in-law, pleasant travel to the after live Boying. You would see the face of the lord. Many thanks to all.  (Danny Mandia, April 5, Moriones Arena)




Antonio Monteagudo had a career in advertising but soon found himself serving as a tourism personnel. He was commissioned to come up with several municipal and provincial seal, logo,etc. Anto had a solo exhibit number of years ago but is content with his home studio. Handling workshop from time to time with the advocacy about environment. He won cash prize in Mimaropa Logo contest. Mostly gratis for Pulang Lupa, Marinduque Provincial Hospital. UST CAFA Sculpture Contest in 1973.


Mang Anto is a member of dagta visual arts group, a local collective of painters with different styles but with similar contents about rural scenery, intangible cultural practices like tubong, moryon and kalutang. As a government employee under the provincial tourism office, he was able to mount several campaign, coffee table book and website even some video travelogues. 


He has won some accolades and recognition from the province. Anto has been a invited to paint some mural, contest pieces and commercial works. But his choice of topic is about Marinduque and its folks and day to day practices.



Mang Anto is a bit old and cannot control his bladder at times. With his age, he is more comfortable in his home studio than teaching outside his home.  The new generation of emergent visual artists need a good exemplar with a lasting passion and dedication. A recognition from CCP would be a link from the past to the contemporary. 

…according to my mother, I started drawing when I entered grade 1. I was able to draw Rizal as depicted on the matches when I was still grade 1. She also me that when I was in grade 5, when there was still practical arts. My mark is only 76, my mother went to my school. Demanding for an explanation, why my grades were so low? “He is indeed good at drawing however he’s not turning in his artwork” the practical arts teacher explained. Why are you not submitting your artwork? Asked my mother, so she was disappointed and scolded me. What’s the reason for not passing on time? What we’re doing in practical arts is a thread we pull with colors. i never thought or expected that was art. I thought that art is about drawing and stuff. When I reached grade 5, I was aboe to win a national competition in scribble. A scribble is drawing a line continuously, the same with other contestants all over the country. It’s up to you elaborate, as if it was a fish from memory. When I won, they didn’t even know I won. Not even my cousin or folk.  (Anto Monteagudo, April 3, Boac Casa Real)




Based on both oral and written accounts, the original moryon not the mask but the person is bulaklakan. It’s easy to assume that the word itself, moryon is the Spanish helmet. But according to previous research, prior to the colonial period plants and local fauna served its purpose. Even in the social practice of tubong, there are many local and indigenous names of flowers and plants.


Then again, since the account started with the founding of the town of Mogpog by 1880 as separate from the province’s capital of Boac. Just like the request to have its own visita was sent years earlier to the separation of another visita to be known as Mogpog from Monserrat de Marinduque by 1857. Longinus is the archetype of the moryon, as ex mayor and now councilor Senen Livelo jr. explains between 1884-87 the first moryon who happens to be the sacristan mayor of Padre Dionisio Santiago.

pre pugutan.jpg

Pre pugutan

Following the narrative of san longhino, he used to be a blind and roman captain who pierced the side of Jesus when he was crucified and got in his bad eye. Then he flipped and proclaimed that the king of the Jews is god. Because of this, he got persecuted and was beheaded by his fellow roman soldiers. There’s really little to no narrative about the first woman to don a moryon mask. Perhaps because of the feminine features of the bulaklakan moryon, It suited well not only male penitents but also ladies.


Not long after, if men and women of the town of Mogpog expressed their sacred vow or panata, even children after having their first communion can also practice the Lenten rites. Really it only takes faith and inspiration from the church, kids can also show their beliefs at a young age. Because in the town, there is not distinguishing from one organization or the other. It makes not much of a difference according to gender or age. As long as it does not go against the unwritten rules and coduct of a moryon. Following the steps of Longhino who paid the ultimate cost for believing and the fellow faithful can sympathize and have its funeral and simple commemoration.


Indigenous Bulaklanan feature

It is only of recent addition or innovation that not only indigenous materials are being used. There was a shift of the use or choice of wood, from dita and dapdap to santol or some softwood. It really depends on the season and availability. But since the modern comforts of consumerism, instead of adding to the waste the creativity and ingenuity of the Mogpogueños came up with a viable solution. They made moryons out of non-biodegradable materials which can be recycled soon after the Lenten season is over.


Towards the end, it goes a full circle. When there is no moryon yet and only a person faced by the everyday challenges of survival with his/her resolve. We go back to the local and available materials from the environment. Even the built and intangible heritage is dependent with natural heritage. Just like the kalutang instrument which was a product of relieving boredom. While in other parts, it is used to ward off animals or spirit, the local kalutang is the outcome of change and continuity.


Randy T. Nobleza is based in Boac, Marinduque and an Associate Professor at the College of Arts and Social Sciences of the future Marinduque State University. He was also the director of MSC Center for Language and Culture. He earned his undergraduate and Master’s degree at the University of the Philippines , taking up Philippine Studies. Dr. Nobleza obtained his PhD in Philippine Studies – Language, Culture, Media at De La Salle University. He is the cultural sector focal person  of the MSC Marinduque Futures Lab and a former area coordinator of the Book Nook Marinduque.  Dr. Nobleza was selected as Island Innovation Ambassador and the Island Innovation Academic Council representative since February 2023.


Special thanks

Agimat Sining at Kultura

Anto Monteagudo

Boac Information Office

Danny Mandia

Diyaryo Milenyo

Gasan Philippine Information Office

Gasan Culture and Arts Association 

Good News Pilipinas

Island Innovation 

Marinduque News

Millennial Chronicles

Marinduque State College

MSC College of Arts and Social Science

MSC Culture and Arts

MSC GAD, SWK, BN Interns

MSC Theater Guild

Philippine Information Agency Marinduque

Provincial Tourism, Cultural Affairs Office

Rex Emmanuel Asuncion

Small Island Cultures Research Initiative



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