Monthly Archives: March 2016

Semana Santa 2016 Madrid

As I observe and celebrate my second Holy Week here in Madrid, I decided to be up close and more into it this time.  Especially during the days leading up to Easter, I soaked up the city’s main way of celebrating the Semana Santa, which is the procession, a congregation of a variety of people, or “los gentes” – the devotees and believers, Cofradia officers and members, Nazarenos, Costaleros, tourists, and even the watchers and the curious lot. It’s fascinating to see how everyone wants to participate, whether as one of those parading through the streets and plazas for hours to carry heavy religious statues, or as a mere bystander who’s content to watch from the sidelines. Lent in Madrid is all about things meant to remember Christ – chanting, band playing, reciting oraciones, hearing masses, and even more processions.

Needless to say, my effort to be more involved was greatly rewarded. More than being the learning experience that it is, everything was a total eye-opener, which meant me letting out the boxed-up feeling of my somewhat latent appreciation for the Catholic faith. It’s just one of the many positive things that I gained as I went through the almost-sublime experience that is Madrid’s Semana Santa.


Nuestra Señora de la Soledad y Desamparo

JUEVES SANTO – Nuestro Padre de Jesus del Gran Poder / Maria Santisima de la Esperanza Macarena at Real Colegiata de San Isidro, Calle Toledo

HOLY THURSDAY – the day when I thought some cosmic forces decided to conspire against me. Just an hour before the procession, I discovered that I left my abono (Metro train/autobus travel pass) while already at the stop, so I went scrambling back to the apartment. Precious time gone to waste. Then later, while already having boarded the bus, I thought I left my ID card as I checked my things. So I hurriedly got off the next stop at Cuzco, only to find out upon rechecking that it was tucked in my passport wallet after all. And to make things worse, when I arrived at Calle Toledo, all I managed was to be within 100 meters, a distance so far I couldn’t even see the facade of the church. These wretched circumstances, they caused me to miss the procession altogether. Despite (or because of?) the frustration, I resolved to be early for Good Friday’s procession.


I was far, too far from the entrance of Real Colegiata de San Isidro. Worse, the procession turned the opposite way

VIERNES SANTO: Maria Santisima de los Siete Dolores, at Parroquia de Santa Cruz, Calle Atocha, 6

GOOD FRIDAY – I gave up the usual engagement (read: home chores, blogging) to clear my afternoon and make sure that I am off to Santa Cruz early. Leaving home an hour and a half before the procession time, I rushed to the bus station at Paseo de la Castellana and Calle de Rosario Pino, hoping that autobus no. 5 would arrive soon. It did. As soon as I was seated, it somehow put my mind on ease about missing the procession. Arrived at Puerta del Sol at 6.45, now I am too early. I decided to look around to while away time. To my surprise, the sight of a myriad of people greeted me – doing the usual things like shopping, roaming around, and sightseeing, like it’s an ordinary Friday. Yes, I agree that Puerta del Sol is a tourist area, but then again, I presumed that on a Good Friday, activities in the area would be toned-down. As it is, most establishments were doing business that day. El Corte was open, and so were other high-end boutiques, the Mercado de San Miguel, restaurantes like Museo del Jamon, and the souvenir shops in Plaza Major and beyond.

I realized that the Holy Week isn’t quite enough reason for the Spaniards to deviate, even if momentarily, from their normal day-to-day life, which I thought is a demeanor that’s fine and not offensive or even egregious. It is apparent that being observant of the Holy Week, while acting like it’s just another normal one, is a behavior typical of them. It’s their nature, which I wouldn’t dare judge or underrate, in the same degree that I don’t want anyone to judge mine.

Upon arriving at Parroquia de Santa Cruz, I chanced on the Nazerenos gathering at the front part of the parade, carrying their processional crosses, torches, and banners. They had their faces behind pointy capirotes to hide them from general view. Minutes after 6:30, the crowd livened up and roared with gusto upon seeing that the procession is about to start. The procession moves at last, even if slowly, to cause everyone to applaud in appreciation.


Maria Santisima de los Siete Dolores stands atop a float exquisitely decorated with flowers and candle lights. Hearty cheers and applause from devotees welcome her as she is brought out of the church to join the procession.


Cofradia or brotherhood is depicted in this photo, wherein the Costaleros work together to carry the magnificent float of Maria Santisima de los Siete Dolores to its destination. Typical statues chosen for display atop such floats are the major players of the Lent, like Christ or the Virgin Mary, or the barrio’s patron saint. The floats, tronos in Spanish, are themselves an attraction. Many are priceless, being in existence for decades, some even centuries, and have been passed on from one generation to another. They are masterful creations of well-known Spanish artists. 


At the end of the procession is the marching band playing music in honor of the Maria Santisima de los Siete Dolores

SABADO DE GLORIA – Nuestra Señora de la Soledad y Desamparo, Iglesia de la Concepción Real de Calatrava, Calle Alcalá, 25

According to procession schedule posted online, there is only one religious parade on Black Saturday in Madrid, and it is happening at the Iglesia de la Concepcion Real de Calatrava, along Calle Alcala. I liked that the event was on an afternoon – the photos were clearer as every shot comes with great, natural lighting. The sun was up and the air was cool – I felt comfortably warm even with just a light sweatshirt on. The weather was conducive to holding a great procession.

imageWomen and men don traditional clothes as they await the start of the procession. Elderly officials and members of the Cofradia are dressed appropriately in attune to the occasion. Customary wear for women are black gowns and veils (mantillas). The latter are a beautiful adornment, held high on their heads with the use of a comb called the peineta. Men are also dressed in black attire, either a suit or robe. In contrast, penitents wear a simple garb, with their faces behind a cover and feet bare to emphasize a remorseful mood.

image The statue of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad y Desamparo emerges from the church atop the float carried by costaleros. It’s obviously heavy beyond description, which must be why the pall-bearers do rhythmic swaying motions – they probably help ease the load that pushes hurtfully onto their shoulders.

Following the statue of the Nuestra Señora de la Soledad y Desamparo is the musical band playing slow-beat music

imageJoining the procession are officials of La Communidad de Madrid and leaders of the Cofradia

imageThe statue passes by the former BBVA building and the current headquarters of the Ministry of Environment and Territorial Planning

image Participants wear purple and black-colored pointy hoods and carry scepters as they trail the float of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad y Desamparo. Nazarenos, who hold crosses and candles during religious parades, are known to walk barefoot as a sign of penance. However, I didn’t notice this group doing so.


Happy Easter! It has been the tradition to welcome the Risen Lord via the beating of the drums at Plaza Mayor, in Central Madrid. Called the Tamborada del Domingo de Resureccion, it is the awaited event of the day, where numerous drums are beaten and played to recreate that thunderous sounds and quakes that were said to have happened during the Resurrection of Jesus.

image The Lord is risen! Throngs congregate in the middle of Plaza Mayor to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.
Drummers beat their instruments loudly to signify the Risen Christ. Each participant’s pounding is  in sync with the rest to create a simple yet melodious booming rhythm, keeping everyone engrossed in their performance.

Religion in Spain: Palm Sunday Scenes

The Lent is fully observed here in Madrid as it is in many other Catholic countries in the world. In fact, I noticed an increase in the number of masses scheduled throughout the Lenten Season in the churches that I go to, such as the Parroquia de San Antonio de Cuatro Caminos at Bravo Murillo. Musical orchestras claim the altars of churches as their temporary mini-concert stages, like the neoclassical-styled altar of the medieval church of San Gines in Calle Arenal, albeit performances are wholly solemn to conform to the season and venue. Evidently, religion in Spain is very much alive – and this is true in all aspects.

March 20, 2016 was Domingo de Ramos, or Palm Sunday, the start of the Holy Week. Peddled intricately-woven palm branches within and surrounding the church premises are aplenty, offering the churchgoers varied options in terms of sizes and shapes. However, I found them to be exorbitantly high, with some sold as much as 5 euro apiece.

An awaited event during Palm Sunday and done in many parts of Spain is the religious procession, a congregation of devotees marching the streets of cities and barrios in a slow fashion while chanting prayers and hymns. Beloved religious icons are carried along – they serve as centerpieces that remind the Catholic faithful of the ultimate sacrifice, which is the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. The central area of Madrid boasts of its own procession, with a route that includes popular tourist areas such as Puerto del Sol and Plaza Mayor. The Cofradias, brotherhood associations in Spain, organize these street events during the Semana Santa. Keeping alive the age-old custom of holding Semana Santa processions has been these groups’ unwavering quest, ever since such tradition started during the Middle Ages.

I wasn’t able to go to Sta Iglesia Catedral de Sta María la Real Almudena, which was the procession’s starting point.  Instead, I first attended the 6PM Mass at San Gines, and rushed to the Plaza del Sol afterwards to join the good-sized crowd that were already watching it. A significant portion had already passed through, which was unfortunate since I’ve wanted to see the huge cross that was said to be held high in front.

Palm Sunday in Madrid

Processions carrying the Statue of Christ usher in Palm Sunday, the start of the Holy Week. If we were to remember, Jesus rode a donkey and tread the streets of Jerusalem where he was welcomed by the crowd. I was a bit disappointed (like everyone else, presumably) that the Christ Icon was cloaked in plastic, but it was understandable as it was meant to protect the holy relics from intermittent rains that afternoon. I was in the midst of onlookers, with some holding palm branches and waving them up in the air to welcome the participants. Among the enthusiastic welcomers were a few women elaborately dressed in black gowns and headdresses.

I might not have witnessed the procession from start to finish as I planned, but I was exhilarated just the same to have seen even if only a part of it. The experience inspired me to pursue a deeper and more meaningful observance of the rest of the Semana Santa. Likewise, I’m happy that the Spaniards do observe these religious holidays just like back home. They take to the streets during the Holy Week, but this time not to drink and enjoy some merrymaking, but to reenact important scenes from the Passion and Death of Christ. They do not treat the Semana Santa as merely a way of having more time for vacation and family, but as a means of continuing olden traditions as practicing Catholics.

imageWhile other processions feature bands playing drum and cymbals, the marching band yesterday at Puerto del Sol used wind instruments to play slow religious music to accentuate the solemnity of the occasion.
imageGetting the attention of the crowd are ladies dressed in black, elegant gowns and similarly-hued mantillas espanolas (veils) hanging over their peinetas, or high combs. These were attires similar to the ones I saw at Parroquia de San Antonio  and Almudena Cathedral during important town occasions in the past. 
imageIt was Domingo de Ramos, the start of Semana Santa, and so it would have been ideal if the sun was out. Unfortunately, the weather was cold and rainy, with a bit of wind. And as expected, the rains caused some inconvenience, like the organizers needing to cover the beloved icon with plastic to protect it from damage. Just the same, the float was beautiful, being fully adorned with c0lorful flowers. According to the schedules announced online, the procession starts at 4.30. The rains obviously slowed down the procession as it took them more than two hours to reach nearby Puerta del Sol.


Participants wear pointy headdresses called Capriotes and long white gown worn during penance activities called Nazareno. It is said that the Capriotes point to the sky to make for an easy road to heaven. They wear white hood to cover their faces in order to hide their identity as remorseful penitents. Some Palm Sunday processions are joined by those with their feet bare and heavy chains attached to ankles to render a more difficult penance.

Rey Carlos III, at Plaza  del Sol, appears to lead the way for the Christ icon as the float that carries Him wades through eager onlookers. As the float passed by me, I tried to pry on what’s underneath it, looking for Costaleros, or the men assigned to carry the float on their shoulders. Any Spaniard takes pride in being a Costalero as carrying such heavy weight thru the entire route of the procession meant forgiveness of his sins and immense blessings. Such great rewards, which is why a Costalero would not mind suffering great pains for hours just to ensure the float reaches its final destination.

Puerta del Sol by Night

Nothing shines brighter than Puerta del Sol in the midst of Madrid where streets and pavement roll; over yonder where the young night skies are blue. It’s so magical everywhere I look; indeed, it is utterly true.

As the evening grows deeper, and the stores one by one close, only the incandescent lamps remain lit, yet they only keep me active, and not a bit morose.

These undulating waves of golden luminescence that reach everywhere, and touch every corner, every nook – put me in a trance-like state that’s seen in my gait, and apparent in my look.

Oh, I yearn to stay at the plaza an hour more, or perhaps two, to continue admiring  scenes around – every single sight, every single view.

And even when time creeps steadily into the night’s ungodly hours,  relentless meandering I continue- while trying to keep sleepiness at bay. I’m one of the scant number of souls who still survey the place, albeit trudgingly i must say.

Until finally, even if my heart will not budge if it had its way,  I accept that I am too languid, too weary not to call it a day.

image Dusk sets in, signaling tourists to come in and roam the beautiful Plaza del Sol

image Fountain right in the center of Puerta del Sol – a familiar landmark of the plaza

image Tio Pepe Neon sign is a permanent fixture at the plaza

imageOne will rarely see Plaza del Sol as bare as in this photo, taken just as the clock’s about to strike 12 MN

image El Oso y El MadroñoimageStatue of Rey Carlos III riding his horse as it faces Real Casa de Correos

image El Corte Ingles, a premier shop in Spain

imageAt right is the entrance to the Vodafone Sol Metro Station

Plaza de Santa Ana – Home to Melia and Teatro Espanol

If you’re unfamiliar with Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor and Atocha, or surrounding areas, and decided to wander around these places, there’s a chance that you will pass thru  Plaza Santa Ana without even knowing it. This is precisely what happened in my case. From Plaza de Sta Cruz at Atocha, instead of taking my usual route to Plaza del Sol via Calle de Carretas, I turned right to Calle de las Huertas. Passing through Plaza del Angel,  I found myself inside a square, not aware that I’m already at Plaza de Santa Ana. As I head towards Calle de Principe, I realized that I just passed by ME by Melia. I was happy and awed by the sight of the hotel, which I heard is the hotel of choice by tourists who want to live near Sol. (Actually, I imagined Melia to be a hotel of swank, that speaks of grandeur, and is patronized by the rich who wouldn’t not spare any expense just to get the best.)
image Plaza de Santa Ana

Looking around, I see the hotel perfectly complements the plaza. The latter is an enclosed square surrounded by buildings in all sides. Plaza de Santa Ana resembles any typical plaza, except that at most times of the day, it teems with people, presumably a mix of locals and tourists. Melia Hotel directly faces the square, with the statue of Calderon de la Barca accentuating its front area. At the opposite side of the plaza, along Calle del Principe, is the Teatro Espana, touted as the oldest theater in Madrid. As I examine the building, I can’t help but be appreciative of the apparent neoclassical style of its facade.

Plaza de Santa Ana is perhaps one of the busiest plazas I’ve been to. People visit it for a number of reasons. For one, the plaza sees a good traffic of pedestrians walking through to reach surrounding side streets. Also, many consider the plaza as a worthy destination. Droves go there to be awed by the place, check Teatro Espanol to possibly watch current show offerings, and marvel at the statues of Calderon de la Barca and Ferrero Garcia Lorca. A privileged few choose the Melia as their temporary address while in Madrid.
imagePlaza de Santa Ana holds its own against other more popular squares in Madrid as it reeks of prestige and historical significance – and even affluence.

Of course, any square in Madrid is not without its share of terrace cafes and restaurants. Santa Ana has a few good restaurants surrounding it, such as Las 10 Tapas de Santa Ana, known to serve some of the best tapas, and Naturbier, a perfect option for those who crave for some great-tasting beer. Dining areas are extended to a significant part of the plaza’s center. Don’t be surprised if early in the day, you see the establishments, especially those with terrace areas, already bursting with customers. Most do opt for outside dining, since it offers the choice seats to enjoy some sumptious meals while taking advantage of the fine ambiance the plaza offers. Indeed historical Plaza de Santa Ana is an exquisite place to unwind after a tiring day of sightseeing, and cap the night with some sumptuous dinner and coffee or copas.

imageTeatro Español, a landmark of Plaza de Santa Ana, is directly opposite of the luxury hotel, ME by Melia.  A towering fixture at the Plaza de  Santa Ana, it is an edifice of grand design that exudes neoclassicism.

imageME Madrid Reina Victoria or Me by Melia has earned a distinguished reputation in the hotel industry  – this makes it a top favorite of local and international guests. It is also the hotel of choice of first-time visitors of Madrid because it is located in the heart of of the city, and hence near to the capital’s major tourist sites and attractions.

image The Statue of Pedro Calderon de la Barca, a man of letters and theater, stands in front of Melia Hotel at Plaza de Santa Ana. Calderon is recognized as one of the best Baroque writers of Spain during the Golden Age.

image The statue of Federico García Lorca facing the Teatro Espanol. Lorca is a well-known artist, playwright and major proponent of Spain’s 20th Century theater and literature

image Señor guitarist serenades dinners at Plaza de Santa Ana

Sanissimo: That Healthy Fast Food in Madrid

You can call Spain the Land of Meat Lovers (think jamón) and you’re right about that. But definitely, it is not without its share of food joints that cater to vegetarians and vegans. From what I see around and online, the current trend veers towards healthy living.  This is apparent in the good number of restaurants and fast food establishments that offer veggie dishes to meet the needs of the health-conscious Madrileños.


Craving for Burger

I am a burger guy. Serve me quick a warm burger anytime, and I would devour it just as easily. And it would not hurt a bit if it is created and cooked in a healthy way. In fact, I love it more if it was vegan. It is why I was beyond happy to have chanced upon Sanissimo, at Calle de San Vicente Ferrer in Tribunal.

Scanning Sanissimo’s menu board by its entrance, I see that it boasts of great options: veggie burgers, bagel, and wrap, and healthy juices and smoothies. If offers heavenly desserts to indulge in such as cookies and cakes – perfect to cap the meal and keep any customer satiated for the rest of the day.

imageSanissimo’s glass counter display with its many vegan and vegetarian goodies

Who say veggie foods are bland and boring? Not if it is done right – and Sanissimo makes sure of it. According to the restaurant’s website, “Saníssimo is a young, dynamic company committed to offering safe and healthy food with dedication…” I can say that not only do they serve “safe and healthy food” but they churn out ones with delectable flavors as well.

I went for Terra Nostra, Sanissimo’s burger with patties made of lentils, a grain legume that’s basically carbohydrates, starch to be specific. The good thing about lentil is that it’s healthy. Apart from being protein-rich, it full of dietary fibers. Hence, it takes more time to digest (a boon to those with blood sugar levels that shoots up whenever simple carbo is consumed). Just perfect for me!

image My food so divine in the form of Terra Nostra, one of Sanissimo’s four veggie burger offerings. This one’s made of lentil patties. I like that it’s filled with tomatoes, a heap of spinach, and the most delectable veggie dressing. A good portion of steamed broccoli as side dish makes it more healthful. With a refreshing Bavaria lemon drink that washed everything down, it’s such a complete healthful dish option at only 8.95 euro. Such a steal, right?

I chose Terra Nostra mainly because I crave for garbanzo-based food big time.  Why wouldn’t I, after all those years of eating felafel and humous in Tel Aviv? After a good bite on my burger, I swore I wished I had a bigger sandwich to consume. Of course, it didn’t taste like beef, but heck, it was just as juicy and tasty as the real thing. Overall, it was a yummy treat.

I was served enthusiastically by its courteous “senora de sanissimo.” She tried to speak in English upon seeing how I struggled with my Spanish, groping hopelessly for the right words as I ordered. I got express permission from her to use this photo, by the way.

And so, I queried if indeed, the patty was made of lentils. I must have scared her off because she was quite frantic when she asked if I had any problem at all with lentils or chickpeas. I assured her that there’s nothing to worry about, and that I was just gathering facts for my blog. Its website advises customers to disclose any allergy or adverse reaction to a particular ingredient. Such information will help the staff in making proper adjustments and recommendations regarding orders.

Apart from Terra Nostra, Sanissimo has three other burger offerings: Red Dragon and Green Peace, both patties of which are made of Chickpeas or Garbanzos, and the soy-based Gossip Girl burger. There are many other delicious and healthy meal items to choose from, like bagels, wraps, salads, cakes, and pies. You may order online via its website.

Location / Dining Area

Sanissimo is cozy and makes you feel quickly at ease. The place’s not overly decorated, no serious frills, and just a few frames here and there that feature signs and sayings (about life and health). Accentuating the tables are cute lamps, which i don’t know if they’re functional or not. I wish they could add a few tables more (currently, there are three) to accommodate the anticipated influx of customers during peak hours, albeit doing so might be quite impossible since the area is small.

Simply put, vegetarian is the way to go. I’ve done this in Manila for a time, and happy that I was at my lightest and healthiest then. But this time, it’s one herculean goal. As it is, I am now “living the dream in Madrid”, which meant having acquired the taste for these fine meats, and my current food pleasures – jamon, calamares, and albondigas. Even so, for the sake of my health, I’ll make sure to go vegan once in a while, and drop by at Sanissimo and enjoy the healthy benefits that its food offers.

Calle San Vicente Ferrer, 28, Tribunal, Madrid
How to go: Near Tribunal Station and Autobus Station of 149, 40