My Vacation in Mansalay, Phillippines - Holy Week 2011

In 2011, I spent my Easter holiday in Mansalay Philippines, one of the most beautiful village in the  Phillippines where residents relied on fishing and land cultivation to make a living. Once I had arrived, I was embraced by a tranquil town in simplistic natural settings outside the busy cities: fresh air, palm trees, farmlands, seaside, one-level houses, a strip of small shops, a secondary school with a small basketball court, a government building and a catholic church. Such a peaceful, exultant place had made me feel soothed and lighthearted. People were so welcoming and amicable that they never had hesitation to openly discuss a wide variety of topics with me. No matter where I went, I had always seen them carried a serenity expression on their faces.

Before the Holy Week celebration, I took a short break at a famous holiday resort. Calmada Bay, a private seaside resort in Cabalwa Mansalay owned by a German retiree, Mr. Lothar, is a popular site for short escapes in Mansalay. A closed gate community of six two-level houses with a swimming pool in the middle, a gloriette and a lounge. It was a new development at the time. Spending an afternoon at the dazzling fine white sand beach, the silence and the sound of sea waves were two precious things that I adored the most. At night, when there was at low tide, I had found many nautical friends such as sea stars and sea urchins moonlight bathing on the beach out in the dark. Such an immortalize experience had invigorated me.

Moriones, the Holy Week celebration in Mansalay, was very entertaining yet meaningful. I have to say, it was the most memorable Easter holiday I have ever had. Early in the morning, everyone from Mansalay were gathered in the center of the main road of the town to wait for the celebration to begin. There was a stage with two large speakers had already set up on one side of the road. A judge panel was assembled next to it facing the main road. Twenty children and teenagers were dressed up in handmade costumes awaiting their turns to perform.

The highlight of the celebration was the performance/competition among young contestants which they were divided into two groups, from age 5 to 12 and from age 13 to 18. They were dressed in their handmade costumes as their favorite ancient Roman heroes. All of the costumes were made of materials that can be found in everyday life such as card boards, bags, old clothing, feathers and beads. Each of them presented a dance or martial art form, which they had created by themselves, along with American rock-n-roll music in front of the judges and the audience. Winners of each group were awarded with a small amount of money: first prize received 200 dollars, runner-up 100 dollars and second runner-up 50 dollars. During the competition, I was mesmerized by their excellent costume designs as well as self-directed choreography which truly manifested their enthusiasm and creativity. Their outstanding performances had won endless applause from the audience. I felt sorry for the judges that they very often had a tough time to make their decisions. In the end, all the winners had received their prizes and we all gave them a big round of applause.

After the celebration, I was being invited to the famous Eco-Park on a mountain top to enjoy an authentic Filippino meal especially for celebrating Good Friday. Whilst we were on top of the mountain, a breathtaking view overlooking the ocean and mountains in the distance could not be ignored. Since Mansalay is a fishing and farming village, one of the main produce is seafood, in particular, prawns and fishes. To indulge myself in such a beautiful scenery, nothing would be better than enjoying a gourmet feast of seafood. Meanwhile I was sitting in a gloriette at the top of the mountain caressed by sea breezes enjoying the view of the April sun shinning on the sea, effortlessly I found myself had left my stress behind.

My stay in Mansalay was an unforgettable one. I was totally drawn by the serenity of the environment, the harmonious people in the town and last but not least, the fresh, palatable local produce. I have spent so many Easter holidays, but never had experienced a celebration quite like this before. What had impressed me the most in this trip was the talent of those young contestants. They had not only done a distinctive job in creating their own dance and martial art choreography, but also creating and making their own costumes which made the performance absolutely amazing. 

--- Michelle Lam
A Manchester Business School graduate, an enthusiast of marketing and innovative ideas. Worked in Silicon Valley, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan in the fields of Marketing and Business Development.