MANILA—It was an Easter moment 2 years in the making for 10-year-old Shauneice Martine Trinidad, one she, her family, or their church mates did not expect.
Last year, she was set to play the angel tasked to sing and lift the veil from the image of the Virgin Mary before it met the risen Jesus Christ during the traditional “salubong” of the St. Joseph Parish in Las Piñas City.
But the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic prevented children such as her from leaving their homes.
A teenager who had served as the Easter angel in 2015 took Shauneice’s place in a scaled-down ceremony at the Bamboo Organ Church that year.
“Dream ’yon ng every angel. Hosanna angel siya for 3 years so nilu-look forward namin ’yan,” Shauneice’s mother, Sam, told ABS-CBN News in an online interview.
The Hosanna angels serve as entourage during the church’s Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday celebrations.
Hoping the opportunity would open again this year, Shauneice had practiced again for the part as early as January.
The reimposition of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the Greater Manila area for the entirety of the 2021 Holy Week put that again in jeopardy.
But with the aid of video editing and close-in coordination with church volunteers, Shauneice was finally able to play her part, in true pandemic fashion, from their house.
The parish’s livestream of its Easter Sunday Mass opened with the recorded video of Shauneice, wings flapping, digitally placed above Mary and seemingly removing the veil from the figure for the symbolic meeting.
Church volunteer Ferdi Espeleta, who oversaw the production of the video called it “medyo digital, medyo modern, pero andoon pa rin ’yong tradisyon. Hindi pa rin nawala.”
Espeleta said he became worried the church might have to repeat the style of last year’s celebration when the ECQ was announced.
The St. Joseph Parish, best known for its bamboo organ, also boasts an Easter celebration tradition spanning its 2-centuries-old existence.
Besides the dawn “salubong” commonplace among Philippine Catholic churches, the parish conducts a large procession of the images called “saboy”, led by a dancing host of “angels” strewing petals and confetti on the main road surrounding the parish.
With the church currently marking its 225th year, Espeleta said they decided to still find a way to mark one of the most important feasts in the Christian calendar.
“Ang hirap na hindi kami mag-celebrate ng todo,” he said.
“So hangga’t maaari lahat ng events ng simbahan, medyo extra level ng pagka-special kasi may pandemya na, tapos hindi magagawan ng paraan ito.”
He said they had to squeeze in production of the video between the other Holy Week activities of the parish.
They recorded the procession of the images after the Easter vigil on Saturday (getting delayed by sound system problems) and edited the video overnight.
The editors also recycled footage of dancers from an earlier celebration to intersperse with the procession of the images to the altar.
Shauneice’s portion, meanwhile, was recorded more than 5 hours on Good Friday with her parents Kenneth, 38, and Sam, 33.
She recorded first the audio for the song “Regina Coeli”, which was then played over speakers during her performance, where she sang while laying on her stomach on a platform.
The literal in-house production at the Trinidad family’s backyard consisted of Kenneth operating the wire that moved the girl’s wings, with Sam and trainer Dr. Jean Arevalo coaching her through the camera.
“Medyo kinabahan po, kasi siyempre vini-video na po ako noon. Medyo maingay lang ang paligid,” Shauneice said, recalling the experience.
Without the actual statue, the Trinidads placed the veil over their home’s own Mary statuette.
“Para at the same time ma-feel din ni Shaun na tinatanggal niya kay Mama Mary. Kasi naisip namin na kapag parang scripted lang siya, parang ‘di mo dama e. ‘di mo siya mafi-feel,” Kenneth said.
Shauneice, a Grade 4 honor student at the parish school, began to actively participate in church activities at a much younger age.
Alongside her, other girls were also groomed to take on the angel’s mantle, but like her all were affected not getting to physically perform the salubong.
Sam, Shauneice’s mother, described the feeling as “less excitement,” but added it was for the better.
“Alam namin po para sa safety ng anak namin iyon, so support lang din po kami and may support naman kami. Turned out naman na maayos lahat, and first time naming lahat na ginawa iyon,” she said.
Espeleta said he was thankful that despite the limited time the video turned out smoothly, earning praise from parishioners and others who watched the video.
“Nakaka-proud dahil sa ganitong pandemya nakapaglabas kami ng ganitong klaseng salubong at naihatid namin lalo dito sa parokya namin,” he said.
“Sobrang worth it itong nabuo na’to.”
For father and daughter, there was but one end to all their efforts — the real star of Easter.
“Expected na rin namin na hindi ganoon kadali [like] ‘yong traditional way, but still nairaos, nagawa namin. Siyempre para kay Lord,” Kenneth said.
While Shauneice may not have gotten her dream of being hoisted up at the church for the “salubong”, she said she was fine with how things turned out.
Her take-away from the experience? “Ang lahat po may paraan.”
“Kahit ganito ‘yong times, nagagawan pa rin po ng paraan para kay Jesus.”