Story by Ronelo S. Ladiao
Photos by Jeehan Fernandez

“Pagtaltal sa Guimaras” which has placed the mango country in the global tourism map stemmed from the divine passion of Aquilino Secusana, fondly called Tay Quiling, 37 years ago.

“Pagtaltal,” literally means “to remove from the cross” depicts Christ’s ministry, condemnation, and crucifixion portrayed by devoted cast from Guimaras this Lenten season.

Tay Quiling, 76, then a street vendor and tricycle driver is the brilliant man who founded “Pagtaltal” that has carved a deep mark in the history of Guimaras and its religious devotion to Christ’s sufferings.

In the late 1950s, Tay Quiling was inspired by his involvement to Church activities in Manila especially his devotion to Virgin Mary that led him to present his proposed religious activity to Fr. Melecio Rubrico, parish priest of Jordan and Mayor Luis Herrera who was the political leader of the town during that time.At first, he was just a simple Roman Catholic Christian but kept a reverie inside his mind to make the Holy Week an important event in the lives of the Guimarasnons.

It was approved and Tay Quiling’s dream became a reality when the people of Guimaras united to make “Pagtaltal” an annual Lenten religious event.

Arturo Segubre was the first local folk to portray Jesus Christ for almost 20 years followed by Luis Herrera and finally, Rodrigo Gauzon was the third man to portray the Holy Messiah.

Year after year, “Pagtaltal” flourished and many volunteered to audition for the cast.

“Realistic, the scriptwriter & director (Mel Gibson) of the film “Passion of the Christ” is realistic enough to show the truth…Jesus was totally turtored,” said Tay Quiling, the living gem of Guimaras.

“I even remembered the time when I used to borrow old gowns from local muses for the costume of Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene, put sash on every cast to recognize the biblical character they play in Christ’s story of suffering,” Tay Quiling said in gentle voice.

He was responsible for writing the original script of the play based on the Bible and the teachings of the church. He does not sleep well days before the play because he needs to finish the whole script and make sure the play is successful.

After three years of patience, hard work and perseverance, “Pagtaltal” ceaselessly captivated not only local and national tourists but even international dignitaries and guests just to witness this religious presentation in the humble town of Jordan, Guimaras.

Even in his golden age, Tay Quiling can still remember the names of prominent ambassadors, dignitaries and famous people he invited and were deeply touched by the significance of the annual religious event that depicted Christ’s sufferings to save humanity from sins.

Guimaras has become famous, far and wide during Holy Week as one of the major tourist destination of foreigners and Catholic devotees.

“Pagtaltal” filled the pages of local, national and even international tabloids and magazines throughout the years. It was even featured in the National Geographic TV special and represented in the WOW Philippines of the Department of Tourism as the only prominent religious festival.

Every year, Tay Quiling is expecting the presence of foreign VIPs and dignitaries to witness “Pagtaltal.”

“I have no riches or any material wealth to leave behind but the Guimarasnons will simply inherit from me the priceless legacy of “Ang Pagtaltal,” said Tay Quiling who is proud of his home like a museo for Guimaras with his collection of car plates and religious icons.

“Sometimes it’s hard to invite guests and promote ‘Pagtaltal’ because we have insufficient fund. People think I make money through this religious event but I guess they ought to know that what I am doing is for the benefit of the whole province in terms of tourism and I believe this is my living legacy to the Guimarasnons. However, I am still grateful for their cooperation and sincerity year after year,” he uttered with joy in his eyes.

“Shooting two birds with one stone, I guess that’s what most tourists and visitors do during Holy Week. If they come to witness ‘Pagtaltal’ as a form of religious devotion they will eventually feel and see the natural beauty of Guimaras especially the wonderful beaches and breathtaking attractions that makes this province one-of-a-kind,” Tay Quiling said with great pride.

More than a decade ago, the “Pagtaltal Foundation was dissolved since it was no longer important due to insufficiency of fund. But this religious event survived because I was always there personally to devote my effort and the humble people of Guimaras to make sure my legacy will not be forgotten.”

The “Pagtaltal” presentation is choreographed by Mrs. Mariza Descutito and there are about 160 casts who voluntarily devoted their time for this grand religious event.

“Though I have no family of my own still I am happy and contented with my life because I was successfully left a legacy for the people and rich history of Guimaras,” he said.

Tay Quiling as a graduate of commerce degree from Letran College in 1964 and a retired employee of various offices in Manila could no longer ask for more in his meaningful life.

Every time a foreign diplomat or guest would ask him as payment in return for his invitation of witnessing “Pagtaltal”, he would usually ask for their car plate from their country. Collecting car plates and religious statues were his lifelong hobby.

Tay Quiling was also dreaming to write a book about the history of Guimaras, maintain the grandeur of “Pagtaltal” as the province’ cultural and religious pride and show to the world his province is a beautiful paradise.

“My message for the young Guimarasnons is to be proud of your culture and identity because ‘Pagtaltal’ is my greatest legacy and love your neighbor as Jesus Christ’s greatest commandment,” Tay Quiling revealed a smile that reflects the radiance of his heart and soul.

May his legacy live and remembered for many generations of Guimarasnons to come for he is a true gem, a rare treasure of Guimaras.

So, come and witness the “Pagtaltal” in Guimaras on Good Friday, and renew your vow to live a worthy, holy and righteous life by remembering Jesus Christ’s compassionate suffering to save humanity from eternal damnation.

This modified story first appeared in The News Today March 22, 2005