Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, as such, the observance of Holy Week or Mahal na Araw is an important religious event. Here are some of the practices of Filipinos during the Lenten Season.
Ash Wednesday – it marks the first day of Lent which begins 40 days prior to Easter. Masses are held and the priest marks the forehead of the faithful with black ashes in the sign of the cross, while saying “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return”
Fasting and Abstinence – these disciplines are observed by the Catholic Church during Lenten season as a form of penance for one’s sins. Fasting means eating one full meal in a day, while Abstinence is to refrain from eating meat. Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are obliged to fast in Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. In addition, all Catholics 14 years old and older must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays of Lent.
Palm Sunday – is a commemoration of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the week before His death and resurrection. Catholics carry “palaspas” to be blessed by the priest outside the church. Then, the priest will read the Gospel account on how Jesus rode into Jerusalem humbly on a donkey greeted by a crowd waving palm branches. This is followed by a solemn entrance into the Church and the Mass is then celebrated.
Pabasa or Pasyon – it is the marathon chanting of the story of Jesus’ life, passion and death which continues day and night starting on Holy Monday and usually lasts for three consecutive days.
Visita Iglesia – this tradition is observed by Catholics by visiting 7 churches on Maundy Thursday and recites the Stations of the Cross.
Via Crucis or Way of the Cross – is a devotion consisting of prayers and meditations before each fourteen stations with images commemorating the events of the passion of Jesus.
Senakulo or Passion Plays – is a dramatic presentation depicting the passion of Jesus using old script from the Bible and folk tradition that was later set down in poetic form. The Senakulo is performed in different venues, on the traditional stage, inside the church or even in the streets.
Siete Palabras or The Seven Last Words – the seven last phrases uttered by Jesus on the cross before His death are reflected and contemplated from mid day until 3 pm. After which the celebration of the Lord’s passion is celebrated, it consists of three parts: the Liturgy of the Word, the Veneration of the Cross and the Holy Communion.
Flagellation or Penitensya – is an extreme act of mortification in which the penitent first cut their back with a blade then begins whipping their backs with bamboo tipped burillos as the blood flow out of their wounds. The practice of flagellation is being discouraged by the Church and urged Catholics to focus on prayers, meditation and good works instead.
Crucifixion as a devotional practice – this annual ritual draws thousands of spectators to San Fernando Pampanga to see penitents voluntarily nailed on the cross to imitate the suffering of Christ and for the atonement of their sins.
Good Friday Procession or Santo Entierro – is commemorated with solemn street procession of an image of a dead Christ on a carriage, followed by the images of Salome, Mary of James, Mary Cleophas, Mary Magdalene, John the Evangelist and Mater Dolorosa.
Salubong – is an Easter Sunday pre-dawn ritual that re-enacts the Risen Christ meeting with His Mother. It is performed in the churchyard under a specially prepared arch where an angel from a high platform lift the mourning veil of the grieving Mother. The church bells are rung and there is a procession of the images of Christ and His mother that ends up inside the church. This is followed by a joyous Easter Mass.