I did it last year and I did it again this morning; I helped carry the big wooden cross up Mount Tapachou on the morning of Good Friday...but this year was slightly different for a few different reasons, which I'll touch on in this post.
Every year, the Catholics on Saipan hike up to the top of Mount Tapachou on the morning of Good Friday. They also build a giant wooden cross and carry it up the mountain. Although it only takes about an hour to get up and even less time to get down, some people start the hike as early as 4 AM.
I am embarrassed to have to admit that I don't know exactly why we do this. I am such a bad Catholic. I think that it is a combination of reenacting the stations of the cross, giving penance for one's sins, and suffering to prove your devotion, but I'm not sure. I also know that this is a relatively new cultural/religious event. This was only the 25th year or so. Any insight would be appreciated. I'd love to know who started it and how the idea came about.
If you compare last year's cross to this year's cross, you'll see that this year's was not as big. Still, the cross was made of Ironwood, so it was heavy enough for me to make my "Holy Cow that thing is heavy" Face:
I was talking to a guy from the Philippines up at the top after the whole affair was over and he was trying to tell me that the reason it was so hard to carry the cross was that too many people were trying to help. He reasoned that it would be easier if only six people carried it up the mountain and installed it on the top.
I don't think so, buddy. It took almost 40 guys using heavy ropes to install the cross on the top of the mountain. Trust me when I say that the cross was a lot heavier than it looked.
I mentioned that this year was different from last year. Well, that's because I was there with my posse, Friends of the Mariana Islands and my other assorted Beautify CNMI friends:
Last year on my way back down the mountain I noticed that the road was littered with plastic bottles and Styrofoam cups, so this year I asked these guys to help me clean up the mountain after the event. They are loyal friends, so they agreed to help.
We spent the first half of the morning helping FMI hand out water and snacks to pilgrims hiking up the mountain (breaking only to help carry a 1000 lb cross), then we spent the second half of the morning picking up after the pilgrims who chose not to use the garbage bins provided by the Mayor of Saipan.
In defense of the litter bug pilgrims, the Mayor only put out about five of these painted oil drums...and they were all full by 7 AM. Not that I condone littering (which is punishable by a $200-500 fine and mostly unenforced by the CNMI government), but planning an event for 1000+ people and not providing for solid waste management MAKES OUR ISLAND LOOK UGLY.
Or maybe the Mayor thought that this sign would be enough:
So we did our usual Beautify CNMI thing. We cleaned up all the trash left behind by the pilgrims up at the top of the mountain, including the lookout and the area directly below the cross, then we hiked downhill, picking up the trash along the side of the road along the way. We even separated out the plastic bottles so that they could be recycled:
Can you believe how much trash we picked up? Imagine all that garbage spread out along the side of the road. It's not that hard to imagine, because before we picked it up, it WAS spread out along the side of the road. The irony of pilgrims hiking up a mountain to show reverence to their God only to despoil one of His creations on their way back down is not lost on me.
There is another Mass planned on Mount Tapachou for Easter Sunday. I will not be available to clean up after you; please cleanup after yourselves...that's right, you know who I'm talking to.
One last thing:
My brother, Alex, has a crush on Morgan Rose: