Despite the fog, muddy ground, and rain that made the trail slippery, hundreds of Catholics and Christian pilgrims still observed the longstanding tradition of trudging up Saipan’s highest peak, Mt. Tapochau, to mark Good Friday.
People began walking as early as 2am from the base of the 1,545-foot mountain with flashlights, jackets, and raincoats to protect them from the rain. As of 5am, more than 400 have already walked up the mountain.
The island’s Good Friday tradition of hiking to the top of Mr. Tapochau formally began with a giant wooden cross being transported from Mount Carmel Cathedral, where it was blessed, to the base of the mountain, where devotees carried the cross on their shoulders to the top.
Stations of the Cross were also strategically located throughout the path up the mountain.
Santa Soledad parishioners and Fr. Isaac Ayuyu led this year’s prayers to the peak of Mr. Tapochau.
At exactly 7:24am, the cross was finally installed at the mountain’s peak, with the help of many volunteers, young and old alike.
Santa Soledad parishioners continued praying and singing in commemoration of the passion and death of Christ.
One of those who made the trek to the top was a couple who wore T-shirts that had their deceased friend’s picture printed on them. They both said that they wanted to symbolically bring him with them to the trek.
A mother who was with her daughter and son said they do this every year to celebrate the passion and death of Jesus Christ.
A jogger, who ran his way through to the top and back down, said it is good exercise and also a good way to commemorate the Lenten season for all Catholics on Saipan.
Several teenage girls from the San Antonio parish who were making their way down said they joined the hike up the mountain to celebrate the passion and death of Jesus Christ.
The United Filipino Organization was among the first organizations that set up a booth along the path up the mountain. UFO volunteers said they’ve been there as early as 12am to hand out free soup, water, and other food.
Rep. Vinnie Sablan (Ind-Saipan), the Saipan Mayor’s Office, American Red Cross-NMI Chapter, the Camacho family, and other booths were also set up for the benefit of walkers.
Alfreda Camacho, who was with her father and mother in setting up a stand for refreshments, said they wanted to do something for the community and providing them refreshments was one of it.