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Marinduque’s Moriones Festival began in 1807 when Padre Dionsio Santiago, a Mogpog parish priest, organised a play based on the story of Longinus (or Longino), one of the Roman centurions assigned to execute Christ. A drop of Christ’s blood miraculously restored sight in Longinus’ blind right eye during the crucifixion. Longinus instantly proclaimed his faith, whereupon he was chased around town, captured and summarily beheaded.
These days, a fabulous Easter festival combining folk mysticism with Catholic pageantry turns Marinduque’s streets into a colourful reenactment of those events, drawn out over the seven days of Holy Week. Each municipality in Marinduque holds its own festival, in which hundreds of moriones don centurion masks and costumes and arm themselves with wooden swords, spears and shields.
The masks take months to prepare and are kept secret from even close friends and family so that the moriones’ true identity is never known.
Throughout the festival week moriones take to the streets and run amok, engaging in sword fights, dances and sneaky pranks on bystanders, with Longinus hiding behind spectators before undergoing a mock beheading and his 'lifeless' body being paraded around town.