In the Philippines, the most celebrated and devout time of the year goes on for four days straight popularly termed as Holy Week. The four day holiday leads up to Easter which falls on the first Sunday after the Full moon date, usually this lands on or after the 21st of March. If the full moon is on a Sunday, then Easter will be celebrated the following Sunday.
This 2019, Holy Week begins on April 14, welcomed by a Palm Sunday mass and ends on Easter Sunday, April 21. Several traditions take place in the country during Holy Week and practicing Roman Catholics all make time to participate in such religious customs. Some of which entails fasting and abstinence, participating in Visita Iglesia, and even reenacting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ also known as “Penitensya.”
The undying faith of the Filipino people is truly showcased in this time of the year, which continues to be a trademark value that the Spanish colonizers left on the Philippines after hundreds of years of colonization. It’s become more than just a custom, but also a way to give back and proclaim their gratitude to their Christian god.
3 Filipino Catholic Traditions during Holy Week to Observe
1. Visita Iglesia
One of the most practiced traditions in the Philippines is Visita Iglesia. It’s a solemn commemoration of Jesus Christ’s passion and death which annually takes place on Maundy Thursday, the first official day of Holy Week. The main purpose of the custom is to honor the Blessed Sacrament through pilgrimage and meditation, wherein devout members of the Roman Catholic Church visit at least seven churches.
2. Penitensya (Crucifixion Rites)
A more extreme custom some Filipino Catholics take part in some parts of the Philippines is the Crucifixion Rites or Penitensya in Tagalog. This custom is observed every year in several provinces in the rural areas of the country like in San Pedro Cutud in Pampanga. This usually takes place during Good Friday where the bloody practice of reenacting the suffering of Jesus Christ, from the flagellation, carrying of the cross, and actual crucifixion scene where some brave individuals are nailed to a wooden cross.
The practice is frowned upon by many other practicing Catholics alike for its exaggerated and unnecessary depiction but is still a widely celebrated custom in other parts of the Philippines. Behind the practice, is actually an exchange for an answered prayer for problems with regards to health or finances. Some volunteered penitents also undergo the ritual to ask for forgiveness and mercy from their Lord Jesus Christ. Despite the local churches neglecting the endorsement of this practice, provinces aside from Pampanga who practice this include Bulacan and Cebu among others.
3. Easter egg Hunt
A fairly new custom that Filipinos have been recently incorporating in their Holy Week traditions is the Easter egg Hunt on Easter Sunday, a custom particularly catered to children. The annual Easter egg Hunt was actually a practice adopted from a Western culture where the egg hunt represents the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The egg in itself symbolizes the idea of new beginnings, as well as the clear signification of hope. The egg hunt usually happens at home, or at church activities, and recently in mall events that aim to keep tradition fun and alive during the rebirth of Jesus Christ.
Keeping Tradition Alive
The customs of Filipino Roman Catholics often bring a sense of reflection in their faith and their roles as Christ’s followers and allies. The sense of religion is much alive in the Philippines, being the only Asian nation that practices Catholicism. Holy Week is celebrated annually with the goal of every Filipino to take a step back and just reevaluate their life choices, pay respect and gratitude to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to the Catholic world. It’s also a time to practice discipline and respect for other practicing Catholics trying to welcome the coming of Christ.