Holy Week Tradition

Holy Week is a religious tradition celebrated by most Filipinos all over the Philippines. A country where majority of its people are Roman Catholics and taken possession by Spain for three centuries. The religious tradition was perhaps influenced by the Spaniards and adapted by Filipino customs.

The week commonly known as Mahal na Araw (Tagalog translation), or Semana Santa (Spanish translation) is celebrated in total solemnity. Time to remember the passion and death of Jesus Christ.

It all commences on Palm Sunday, where Catholics carry and wave palaspas (palm leaf), which are blessed by the priest during a mass. After the mass, the palaspas are brought home to symbolize Christ as a welcome gift.

Come Holy Monday to Holy Wednesday indicates the start of the singing of the Pasyon or Pabasa. The Pasyon signifies the vernacular verse on the life and sufferings of Jesus Christ, which continues day and night, for two successive days. The chanting tradition of the Pasyon is a solemn pledge made by the family or an individual where the reading was made.

Likewise, during Holy Wednesday particularly in Batangas, some men carry out the Penitensiya, which is common during holy week. It is an act of self-punishing penitent, where somebody who whips himself as a form of penance. Or one could see someone, would reenact the sufferings of Jesus by carrying the wooden cross. These actions are carried out until Good Friday.

On Maundy Thursday, a mass is held in the morning with a joyful celebration only at the cathedral. The mass is considered by most priests to be the day when they reaffirm their sacerdotal vows. Likewise, parishioners traditionally go to church for Visita Iglesia, a practice of Roman Catholic believers to visit several churches and pray the Stations of the Cross.

In addition, the Last Supper Mass will be celebrated in the late afternoon or evening. During the mass, the Washing of the Feet of the Apostles is reenacted. After the mass, a short procession of the Blessed Sacrament follows before it is taken to the Altar of Repose. On the other hand, the church doors remains open for Visita Iglesia.

Good Friday, the church remains open, but no mass is held. A religious service is made to reveal the Seven Last Words that Jesus said on the cross. The priest and parishioners will take turns in the discussion, which normally starts at twelve noon and culminate at three in the afternoon. This is the said time of death of Jesus Christ. During this time, each one is in solemn prayer.

In the late afternoon, a long procession follows. And at the very end of the procession is the statue of the bloodied and dead body of Jesus encased in glass. During the procession the rosary is said and joined by the image of the Virgin Mary together with images of different saints.

During this time it is a tradition for most Roman Catholics not to eat meat (pork & beef) or for some to do some forms of penance or fasting. Most of television and radio stations are off the air. Even offices are on a holiday since Maundy Thursday.

Black Saturday is generally observed with quietness and solemnity. Parishioners prepare for the Easter Vigil to be celebrated in the evening.

The mood changes the next day Easter Sunday, marked with a joyous celebration at first dawn, known as the Salubong. A procession of two groups, from different directions will meet at an appointed place. The first group, led by the image of the Resurrected Christ and the second group is led by the image of the Virgin Mary with a black veil. In the designated spot, a girl dressed as an angel, sings the Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven) and will pull the black veil of the Virgin Mary. This will signify the end of her sorrow and see her Resurrected Son. Immediately the church bell rings and the sound of lighted fireworks are heard. Mass will be celebrated and the song Gloria will be sung.

However for the modern Filipinos, especially in the busy town of Metro Manila, it is the time to pack and head towards the beach. A joke made by a priest in his sermon, that they are the real sun of a … and a known destination is the beaches of Batangas. Majority of resorts in Batangas are fully booked as early as February during the Holy Week.

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