Holy Week in the Philippines

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Holy Week in the Philippines (Spanish: Semana Santa, Filipino: Mahál na Araw, English: Holy Week) is a significant religious observance for the Roman Catholic majority and most Protestant groups.

Beginning Maundy Thursday, businesses in the Philippines either shut down operations until Black Saturday or have later opening and earlier closing times. During the Easter Triduum (usually a public holiday), some local terrestrial television and radio stations sign-off (except radio stations owned by the Catholic church). Those that do operate truncate broadcasting hours feature religious programming, films, news coverage of religious ceremonies and deviates regular programming. Many communities observe Spanish-influenced Catholic rituals such as processions, with many having been syncretised with pre-Hispanic beliefs. This is evident in local practices and the many superstitions associated with the occasion.

Palm Sunday[edit]

A priest blesses palms on Palm Sunday in the church of Plaridel, Bulacan (2012).

At Mass (liturgy) on Palm Sunday (Linggo ng Palaspás, Domingo de Ramos), worshipers carry palm fronds to church to be blessed by the priest. Many Filipinos bring them home after the Mass and place these on door lintels or windows, in the belief that the fronds (considered by the Church as sacramentals) can ward off demons and avert lightning. In some places a procession is held towards the main church before the service, sometimes starting from an ermita/visita (chapel of ease), with the presiding priest riding on horseback. Other parishes would have the priest bless palms in a plaza fronting or near the church.

Holy Wednesday[edit]

In the provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal and Laguna, as well as in Makati, a procession of the Passion of Christ is held in the evening of Holy Wednesday (Miyérkules Santo). Except in Baliuag, Bulacan, the Passion tableaux are excluded from the Good Friday Procession.

Maundy Thursday[edit]

Maundy Thursday (Huwebes Santo) is the beginning of the Paschal Triduum.

The first rite of the day is the Chrism Mass, in which parishioners join their parish priest for morning Mass in the cathedral, especially in the large dioceses and archdioceses. Many priests[who?] consider this to be the day when they renew their priestly vows. This Mass, over which presides the bishop of the diocese, is when the Chrism, oil of catechumens and the oil for the sick are blessed after the homily. Priests bring the oils to their respective parishes after the service and store these for future use.

The main observance of the day is the last Mass before Easter, the Mass of the Lord's Supper. This usually including a re-enactment of the Washing of the Feet of the Twelve Apostles, and is followed by the procession of the Blessed Sacrament before it is placed in the Altar of Repose.

One of the most important Holy Week traditions in the Philippines is the Visita Iglesia (Spanish for "church visit", also known as the Seven Churches Visitation).[1] On Holy Thursday, after services, the faithful will visit several Churches where they will pray in front of each church's Altar of Repose.[2]

Good Friday[edit]

Good Friday, (Biyernes Santo) is a public holiday, commemorated with solemn street processions, the Way of the Cross, the commemoration of Jesus' Seven Last Words (”Siete Palabras”) and a traditional Passion play called the Senákulo, which in some places is a week-long affair. In some communities (most famously in the province of Pampanga), the processions include devotees who self-flagellate and sometimes even have themselves nailed to crosses as expressions of penance, in fulfilment of a vow, or in thanksgiving for a prayer granted. The pabasa or marathon chanting of the Pasyon (the Filipino epic narrative of Christ's life, Passion, Death, and Resurrection), usually concludes on this day.

Santo Entierro[edit]

The usual highlight of Good Friday is the Santo Entierro ("holy interment"), which is the name of both the rite and the wooden or resin sculpture of the dead Christ lying supine used in the ritual. Comparable to the Eastern Orthodox practice of processing the epitaphios, the calandra or bier carrying the Santo Entierro is brought about town, normally followed by a retinue of images of saints connected with the Passion narrative such as Peter and John the Evangelist. Tradition dictates that the image of the Virgin Mary, dressed as the mourning Mater Dolorosa, is always last in the procession regardless of the number of statues involved.

Some places accord the Santo Entierro traditional, even pre-Hispanic funeral rites that are given a human being, such as laying the body in state. In Paete, Laguna the Santo Entierro is smoked over burning lansones peelings: during the procession, the calandra makes several stops along the route, and each time is placed over a fire with the peelings. At each pause, a lone crier turns towards the bier and shouts, "¡Señor! Misericordia, Señor!" ("Lord! Mercy, Lord!"), to which the congregation replies, "¡Misericordia, Señor!" ("Mercy, Lord!").

In Lipa City, the Santo Entierro funeral procession is silent, and held at midnight. The image is interred in a chapel nearest the parish, simulating the Holy Sepulchre, and remains locked within until the Easter Vigil.

Good Friday processions in Baliuag[edit]

Photo of 1 of the 102 floats (carrozas-carriages of Holy Images, March 29, 2013 Good Friday procession in Baliuag, Bulacan.

In Baliuag, Bulacan, the 2013 “Prusisyon ng mga Santo” was the Lenten rite wherein 102 carrozas participated compared to some 83 religious images that were paraded through the streets in the previous years.[1] In the Lenten procession, religious fervor and piety compelled the town people of Baliuag to launch over a hundred richly adorned giant floats depicting the passion of Jesus Christ.[2]

Held every Holy Wednesday and Good Friday, the procession starts at 6:00 in the afternoon. [3] [4] The grand procession of more than 80 images became an anticipated attraction on Holy Wednesday and Good Friday.[5][6][7]

The 2013 Good Friday 102 massive carriages carrying life size dioramas depicting a scene in the life of Jesus were paraded all over town after sunset.[8] The solemn rite on Good Friday [9], called the Baliuag Lenten Procession [10] was witnessed by local and foreign tourists, including the current Apostolic Nunciature to the Philippines' Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto who was accompanied by his aide Msgr. Gabor Pinter.[11] [12] [13][14]

It is the longest Lenten procession in the Philippines. The 102 Baliuag (St. Augustine Parish Church of Baliuag) floats showcased the grand parade of lavishly decorated carriages which event culminated in the blessing with holy water of the floats and the faithful by 2 Baliuag Priests from the Team Ministry of the Diocese of Malolos.[15][16] Passion [17]

Popular culture[edit]

The ritual mourning and generally somber mood attached to this day gave rise to the Tagalog idiom "Mukhâ kang Biyernes Santo." Literally translating to "You look like Good Friday," it refers to a sad person's demeanor resembling that of the suffering Christ.

Several taboos are customarily observed on this day, such as the avoidance of excessive noisemaking and, in older times, bathing (except for health reasons). The prohibitions are usually effective after 15:00 PHT, and are done to mourn Christ, who is said to have died at that hour.

Black Saturday[edit]

Holy Saturday (known officially in the country as Black Saturday; Spanish: Sábado de Gloria, "Holy Saturday"), continues the traditional silence and solemnity of the previous day, as a form of ritual mourning for the "dead" Christ still lying in the tomb. Preparations are made for the evening's Easter Vigil, where the Gloria is sung for the first time since Maundy Thursday (hence the day's name).

Some parishes maintain the custom of hanging Judas Iscariot in effigy for his betrayal of Christ; until recently, the Judas effigy would then either be set ablaze or blown apart with firecrackers.

Easter Sunday[edit]

Easter (Linggó ng Pagkabuhay) morning is marked with joyous celebration, the first being the pre-dawn rite called Salubong in Filipino and Sugat in Cebuano (both meaning "meeting"). The custom re-enacts the imagined reunion of Christ and his mother after the Resurrection. Statues of the Risen Christ and the Virgin Mary are borne in two separate processions that meet at a designated area called a Galilea, often in a square fronting the church. Some locales include statues of any or all the Three Marys (Mary, mother of James, Mary Magdalene, and Mary Salome), along with Saint Peter and Saint John the Evangelist. The processions are almost always sex-segregated (i.e., males following Christ, actors playing apostles, and the male saints while women accompany the Virgin and female saints).

The Virgin Mary is clothed or draped in a black veiled (Tagalog: lambóng) to show her bereavement. A girl dressed as an angel, standing in a window of a house or a temporary high scaffold, or suspended in mid-air, sings the Regina Coeli in Latin or in the vernacular before dramatically removing the black veil to signify the end of Mary's grieving. The veil may also be removed by other "angels" who might either simply pull it off the statue, or tie it to balloons or doves and release these into the dawn sky. Folklore holds that the veil must be easily removed, with difficulty or imperfect performance of the act being a sign of misfortune for the following year. The Virgin is then called the 'Nuestra Señora de Alegria ("Our Lady of Joy") and confetti and flower petals are showered on the statues. The moment is marked by pealing bells and fireworks, followed immediately by the Easter Mass. In several parishes, this rite is held at midnight of Easter Sunday immediately following Easter Vigil.

Notable observances and pilgrimage sites[edit]

Cities and towns with famous Holy Week celebrations include:

Via Crucis[edit]

Pilgrims often visit life-sized tableaux depicting the Stations of the Cross erected on hillsides, praying the devotion as they trek up the simulated "Calvary".

Popular sites with Stations of the Cross statues include the Grotto of Lourdes in Novaliches, Quezon City, and the hillside by St James' Parish Church in Iguig, Cagayan.

Bala-an Bukid, Iloilo[edit]

The huge, white cross erected on a peak on Guimaras Island overlooking the Guimaras Strait and Iloilo City, is a popular destination for Visayan pilgrims.


A town in Zamboanga still practices the Capilya, where locals erect 14 improvised altars around the población (town centre) representing the Via Crucis. A group of singers then chants ballads about Christ's suffering and death.

Black Nazarene in Quiapo[edit]

A centuries-old black statue in Quiapo, sculptured in Mexico during the Galleon Trade era, considered miraculous by devotees is brought out for procession every Good Friday. The statue is borne on the shoulders of male devotees in a slow, difficult procession around the narrow streets of the district, a score of men struggle to keep the image moving on. Thousands more try to muscle their way to touch the Nazarene as if carried by a powerful tide in an ocean of humanity.

Amulet hunting[edit]

It is a folk belief that anting-anting (amulets) are especially potent if collected, made, or charged on Good Friday. In Sipalay, Negros Occidental many albularyo (witch doctors) search for anting-anting in unexplored caves.

Procession of Statues[edit]

In Paete, Laguna procession of 45 statues beautifully decorated carrozas (floats) depicting the life of Christ. In Siquijor, the Good Friday procession consists of huge, centuries-old statues bedecked in fresh flowers.

On Holy Wednesday, a procession is held with Paete's 53 images of Christ's Passion and Ministry on display. The procession goes through the town's narrow streets en route to the church. It stops three times to give way to the Salubong (meeting) which depicts three scenes of Jesus' passion and in which Paete's "moving saints" take part. These are: the meeting of Christ and Mary, held at the church patio; the wiping of Jesus' face by Veronica, which takes place at Plaza Edesan; and finally, the encounter between Mary and Veronica where the latter shows the miraculous imprints of Christ's face on her cloth. This is held at the town plaza

Passion plays[edit]


It is held in the Philippine Cultural Center sponsored by the Department of Tourism. Cast of characters include popular movie stars. In Taguig, Rizal they popularize the modern version of "Jesus Christ Superstar" reshown at the Fort Santiago Amphitheater for the benefit of Manilans. In Mexico, Pampanga and also Dinalupihan in Bataan there is one who actually had himself nailed to a cross for his "crucifixion" simulating Christ's passion as best as he painfully can.

Pagtaltal sa Jordan[edit]

In the Visayas, the passion play called "Ang Pagtaltal sa Jordan" is performed in Jordan, the capital of Guimaras every Good Friday. In recent years, the play's audience included locals and dignitaries from the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Canada, and other tourists.

Moriones Festival[edit]

The Moriones Festival in the island province of Marinduque commemorates the story of the Roman centurion, Longinus (Tagalog: San Longhino) and his legendary conversion at the foot of the cross. The townsfolk of Boac and Gasan are dressed in masks and helmets (moriones), depicting Roman soldiers, and unusually for the country, observe Holy Week in a much more joyous manner.


Salubung in Palawan[edit]

In Puerto Princesa, Palawan, the Salubong is done at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm by torch-bearing convicts, lined up in uniform for the ritual.


The Saboy is a traditional dance performed by girls on Easter Sunday in Las Piñas, Metro Manila. The dance is divided into two parts, the "mourning" section and the "joyful" version.

The first dancer is the Salubong Angel, who often has large wings and bears a black veil. Second are the Hosanna Angels dressed in white, who usually hold baskets with rose petals and comprise a majority of the dancers.

Third are the Tres Marías (English: Three Marys), three older girls dressed in pink and also bearing baskets. Last are the blue-clad Kapitana (Female Captain) and Tinyentera (Female Lieutenant); the Kapitana can be distinguished by the large banner she waves, while the Tinyentera swings a thurible.

Sayaw ng Pagbatì[edit]

The Salubong is also held in Parañaque City, but with the Mass followed by different renditions of the Sayaw ng Pagbatì ("Dance at the Greeting").

The dance has been performed on occasions other than Easter: On May 11, 2010, during the founding anniversary of the Cathedral Parish of St. Andrew, in 2011 to accompany Our Lady of Good Success during the annual Intramuros Grand Marian Procession in the City of Manila, during the 1st Sunduan Festival in 2014 and in 2015 during the arrival ceremonies of the Papal Visit at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City and the opening ceremonies of Palarong Panrehiyon 2015 in Aseana City grounds, Parañaque.

Vigília ng Muling Pagkabuhay[edit]

Black Saturday in Angono, Rizal is highlighted by a three-hour presentation at the church steps. On Easter Sunday, the customary Salubong is performed but with the girl, dressed as an angel, descending from an inverted giant paper flower to divest the Virgin Mary of her mourning veil. The petals are mechanically opened by giant toy birds to reveal the angel inside, and as Las Piñas, two young ladies also called the Kapitana and Tinyenta perform a dance.

Baguio City[edit]

Thousands of lowlanders, Manilans and foreign tourists flock to this summer capital to escape heat. Hotels and lodging houses are all booked a month before the Holy Week. Others trek to the mountain to view the city of pines and people enjoying the merry making not minding the religious people are in church for this Holy occasion.

San Pablo City[edit]

Celebrities and movie stars from Manila and neighboring provinces join the most attended procession organized by Don Ado Escudero of Villa Escudero.

Tondo Manila[edit]

Caridad or Pakaridad or simpy Karidad is a way of giving or sharing food especially Guinatan Or Suman to the neighbors or to the local church or chapel to be given to the crowds of people who attend the Good Friday procession a complimentary drink of water will be given by the local cityzen of the street where the procession will pass thru

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Vila, Alixandra Caole (April 2, 2015). "IN PHOTOS: A look at churches where Pinoys spend Visita Iglesia". The Philippine Star. philstar.com. Retrieved 13 April 2015. 
  2. ^ BARTOLOME, JESSICA (April 1, 2015). "Doing the Visita Iglesia in Metro Manila More from: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/463006/lifestyle/artandculture/map-doing-the-visita-iglesia-in-metro-manila". GMA News.