Known for its rich culture, the Philippines boasts its many different traditions for each occasion and season throughout the year. These customs have been around since ancient times and still passing on from one generation to another.
Lenten is one of the most widely celebrated seasons in the country. Being the bastion of Christianity in Asia, the Philippines is home to various activities performed during the Holy Week.
How do Filipino Catholics and Christians across the country reflect during Holy Week?
- Palm Sunday – The Sunday preceding the Easter signals the start of the Holy Week. Filipino Catholics troop to churches carrying palm fronds (palaspas) to have them blessed by the priest. Its purpose is to welcome the Christ.
- Pilgrimage – While pilgrimage can be done at any time of the year, most Filipino Catholics do it during Lent. Devotees flock to sacred places across the country to perform religious duty, reflect, affirm their faith, or express the great significance of their religion. Filipinos visit popular pilgrim churches (e.g., Quiapo, Antipolo, and Manaoag, etc.) and holy places to worship, which are often far away.
- Penitence – Some Filipino Christians and devotees perform ritual acts that show repentance to atone for their sins. These include marching barefoot under the scorching heat of the sun, carrying heavy wooden cross, and re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Passion play and Lenten rites at San Pedro Cutud are a popular tradition.
- Fasting – Also a form of penance, Catholics go on fasting and abstinence during Holy Week season. During this period, they reduce intake of food and at some point refrain from eating meats.
- Visita Iglesia – This is an old Maundy Thursday practice among Catholic faithful where they visit, pray, and recite fourteen stations in at least seven churches.
There are many other local Holy Week practices. These include pabasa, procession of religious statues, and salubong ceremony, among others.
During this modern age, these customs and traditions remain but are somewhat altered. Let’s just pray that they won’t die away in the future.