Most of us are looking forward to Holy Week because this is the time when we can escape from the daily work grind, even for just a few days. A lot of people also use the opportunity to go home to their provinces either to enjoy nature, go to the beach and be a part of fascinating Holy Week rituals. It’s amazing how this solemn time gives a valuable insight to Filipino culture and age-old religious rites, especially if you’re in the right side of town.
Thanks to the Department of Tourism for giving us this info on Philippine Holy Week traditions in the different areas.
If you’re in Manila, the miraculous image of Jesus the Black Nazarene at the Basilica Minore in Quiapo is brought out of its shrine for a procession in the district on Good Friday. This is one of only two times in a year – the other event is during its January 9 feastday – when the life-size mahogany-colored image is taken out of the church for a grand but solemn procession participated in by hundreds of thousands of devotees. The more than four-centuries-old image of Jesus Christ depicted under the weight of the Holy Cross was brought to Manila on board a galleon from Acapulco, Mexico.
Other places in the city that play out the commemoration of the passion and death of Christ (also known as the Senakulo) are the plaza in Malibay, Pasay City and Barangay San Dionisio in Parañaque City.
In the Southern Tagalog region, unique lenten commemorations can be experienced during the Penetensiyahan in Rosario and Pabasa ng Pasyon in San Juan both towns in Batangas; the Cenaculo in Cainta, the Giwang-Giwang and the Salubong in the “Artists’ Village” town of Angono all in Rizal province.
The Turumba Festival in the town of Pakil in Laguna has the largest religious activities which begin on the Friday before Palm Sunday and every nine days thereafter. Then, the feast proceeds to the nine days in May and June until it ends on Pentecost Sunday in September amidst local pageantry. These seven fiestas or lupi venerate the seven sorrows of Our Lady of Turumba through native music during a sober dancing procession among the townsfolk.
The island-province of Marinduque’s colorful Moriones festival is depicted by players masked as soldiers and garbed in biblical Roman costumes performing around the picturesque towns of Boac, Gasan and Mogpog. It culminates with the beheading of Longinus, the centurion who pierced the side of the crucified Jesus. The street festival converts these towns as virtual stages with the story of Longinus unfolding before the local people and visitors.
On Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, a group of men in Tanay and Taytay in Rizal province gather, feast and meditate overnight around the parish church to await the statue of Santo Entierro (wooden image of the dead Christ) for the Subok Festival. Different objects like handkerchiefs, bronze medals, small pieces of paper inscribed with Latin phrases are inserted into the robe, under the feet and in the hands of the dead Christ. During the procession of the Santo Entierro, these men link hands and encircle the blessed image. The objects are then retrieved after the procession and considered as talisman, which the men test among themselves for effectiveness using different deadly weapons.
Pampanga is world famous for the religious flagellants who continuously whip their bare backs as a sign of penitence for their sins while parading the streets of the City of San Fernando. There are live reenactments of the crucifixion in Barangays San Pedro Cutud in San Fernando and Lourdes Northwest in Angeles City. In the towns of Betis, Guagua, Bacolor, Sasmuan and Macalacat in Pampanga; Baliuag and Paombong in Bulacan; and Castillejos in Zambales, several lavishly decorated floats are part of the Prusisyon carrying the images of Mater Dolorosa (Our Lady of Sorrows) and other religious characters depicting Christ’s suffering and preceded by local singers and musicians. The pilgrims join the Penetencia at Ermita Hill in Casiguran and Baler in Aurora. Dipolog City in Zamboanga del Norte has the Katkat Sakripisyo.
Not every town and cities are solemn for Holy Week, however. Suroy sa Surigao turns this city and towns in the Caraga region into sightseeing and water sports destinations. Digos City in Davao del Sur mobilizes employees of different government offices in the orientation of trekkers and mountaineers to the country’s highest peak, Mt. Apo. Through their ethnic culture, indigenous people in Magpet, Cotabato celebrate the Pak’kaat Kal’lo as well as in Mt. Province and Ifugao with their Tungoh ad Hunduan, Changyasan and Gotad ad Hingyon Festivals for their bountiful harvest.