Holy week in the Philippines is anything but the ordinary. It is revered and is a time to reflect for Filipinos. If you happen to be visiting the country during this week, here are things to do:
Palm Sunday - The first day of the Holy week, this day commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Churchgoers bring with them palm branches or palaspas to be blessed by the priest during the mass. Once blessed, the palaspas are placed in the altar or hung on the doors of houses. Filipinos believe that the blessed palaspas can ward off evil spirits and devastation.
Join the Filipinos as they celebrate Palm Sunday through devotion. It truly is a sight to be seen when the people raise their palms to be blessed, a depiction of how the early people in Jerusalem welcomed Jesus Christ.
Holy Monday - The second day is the start of the Pabasa, the beautiful chanting of Jesus’ life. A tradition that lives on in the filipino culture, Pabasa is a unique way to experience Filipinos’ spirituality.
You can catch a glimpse or mingle with the locals at a Pabasa in the province of Bulacan, Pampanga, or any other part of the Philippines. Pabasa is usually located at small chapels with make shift altars.
Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday - Flagellants, who are either whipping their backs or carrying a heavy cross, will be seen anywhere. This form of panata or vow is a form or sacrifice or penitence. Depicting and experiencing what Christ has gone through in his last hours by the nagpepenitensya (flagellants) is a common Filipino tradition during lent.
Maundy Thursday - Churches on this day will be decorated with a symbol of hope, repentance and love for Christ. There is also a tradition of the Visita Iglesia, where Catholics visit 7 to 14 churches and pray the Stations of the Cross.
Traffic will be inevitable on this day as people flock to the churches to pray. There is also a belief that if you complete the 7 churches, on the last church visited, whatever wish you ask for, it will be granted.
Good Friday - This day marks the death of Jesus Christ. A re-enactment of Christ’s suffering and crucifixion can be witnessed at Cutud, San Fernando Pampanga. An actual crucifixion is done by penitents who are doing this sacrifice for years now.
A similar attraction can also be witnessed at the island of Marinduque. The Moriones Festival depicts the suffering of Christ and the story of Saint Longinus, in colorful Morions (masks) and costumes.
Black Saturday - On the eve of Easter, Salubong (meeting) is celebrated during the Easter Vigil mass. This is the portrayal of the reunion of The Virgin Mary, donned with a black veil, and The Risen Christ. A procession of the icons precedes the reunion, and when Mary and Jesus meet, the black veil of Mama Mary is removed by an angel (portrayed by a cute little girl). A 4 hour mass celebrates the salubong and welcomes Easter.
Easter Sunday - People rejoice for this day, it is the day of the Risen Christ. Catholics celebrate through songs and prayers during the Easter mass. The altar of the church is decorated anew and the church bells are blaring for everyone to hear. A celebration of Jesus having risen from the dead is considered as the most important day in the Catholic Calendar.
Filipinos also celebrate Easter by adapting the western tradition of Easter egg hunt. Several parishes, even hotels and restaurants organizes this kind of event specially for children.