Holy Week in the Philippines is a significant religious observance for the Roman Catholic majority and most Protestant groups.
It begins on Palm Sunday and continues on through Maundy Thursday, when businesses in the Philippines either shut down operations until Black Saturday or have a late opening and earlier closing times.
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.
During the Easter Triduum (usually a public holiday), some local terrestrial television and most radio stations usually go off the air for three days while some of them operate regularly on such religious circumstances including radio stations owned by the Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations which air special programming and those owned by other religious groups may either choose to sign off or to air regular programming.
Those that do operate truncate broadcasting hours and feature religious programming, films, and news coverage of various rites. Cable television channels in the Philippines however continue to broadcast on regular programming service.
At Mass (liturgy) on Palm Sunday 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.
In the provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Marikina City, as well as in Makati a procession of the Passion of Christ is held in the evening of Holy Wednesday. Except in Baliuag, Bulacan, the Passion tableaux are excluded from the Good Friday Procession.
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 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.On Holy Thursday, after services, the faithful visit several churches to pray at each of their Altar of Repose.
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 the Senákulo, which in some places is a week-long affair.
Mass is not celebrated during this day but the people gather at the church for the Veneration of Cross which is celebrated at three in the afternoon. Communion is also given on this day but the hosts to be distributed to the people are pre-consecrated on the Mass of the Lord's Supper.
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. Television and radio stations also air Siete Palabras services from different large churches in Manila, usually beginning at noon.
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 images of saints connected to 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 the last icon in a procession of any length.
Some places accord the Santo Entierro icon traditional, even pre-Hispanic funeral rites, such as washing, laying the body in state, or seating it in a funerary chair. 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 the burning peelings.
At each pause, a man turns towards the bier and shouts, "¡Señor! Misericordia, Señor!" ("Lord! Mercy, Lord!"), to which the congregation follows, "¡Misericordia, Señor!" ("Mercy, Lord!").
In Lipa City, the Santo Entierro procession is held silently and at midnight. The icon is interred in a chapel nearest the parish, simulating the Holy Sepulchre, and remains locked within until the Easter Vigil.
In Catbalogan City, the Santo Entierro procession is held at dusk. More than 20 bright carrozas bearing images of Christ's passion are paraded in the streets by thousands of Catholic faithful. The heavy steel calandra of the Santo Entierro, which precedes the Mater Dolorosa, is hoisted on male devotees' shoulders as a means of sacrifice. A marching band plays music as the procession moves on.
In Alimodian, Iloilo the Santo Entierro is interred at the door of the parish church to enable veneration, usually by kissing the icon's feet. There is also a large crucifix before the altar for people to venerate and kiss. At night, young girls dressed and the Mater Dolorosa, barefoot and bearing lit candles, hold a procession around the town square to meditate and mourn Christ, reenacting the burial rites Christ's female disciples gave him.
Good Friday- 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. 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.
Held every Holy Wednesday and Good Friday, the procession starts at 6:00 pm. The grand procession of more than 80 images became an anticipated attraction on Holy Wednesday and Good Friday.
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.The solemn rite on Good Friday, called the Baliuag Lenten Procession 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.It is the longest Lenten procession in the Philippines.
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.
Easter is marked with joyous celebrations, the first being the pre-dawn rite called Salubong in Filipino and Sugat in Cebuano and Hiligaynon (both meaning "meeting"). The pageant depicts the apocryphal 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 the 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 Peter and John the Evangelist. The two processions are customarily sex-segregated, with male worshippers following the Resurrected Christ, twelve men dressed as the Apostles, and icons of male saints, while female congregants accompany the icons of the Virgin and female saints.
The icon of the Virgin is clothed or draped in a black veil to show her bereavement. A girl dressed as an angel stands at or is suspended in mid-air from the Galilea,which may be the window of a house or some scaffold, chants the Regina Coeli in Latin or in the vernacular before dramatically unveiling the icon to signal 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. The Virgin is then called the Nuestra Señora de Alegria ("Our Lady of Joy"), and the angels shower confetti and flowers on the icons.
The unveiling is marked by pealing bells and fireworks, and is followed by Easter Mass. In some parishes, this rite is held earlier at midnight of Easter Sunday immediately after Easter Vigil.
Cities and towns with famous Holy Week celebrations include:
Arevalo, Iloilo City
Bantayan Island, Cebu
Barotac Viejo, Iloilo
Catbalogan City, Samar
Barangay Población, Makati
Marinduque (see Moriones Festival)
Santa Maria, Bulacan
Santa Rita, Pampanga
San Mateo, Rizal
San Pablo, Laguna
Barangay Santa Ana, Taguig
Vigan, Ilocos Sur
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 Saint James' Parish Church in Iguig, Cagayan.
Thousands of pilgrims, devotees and followers from all over Western Visayas flock to Agony Hill (originally known as Igcaras Hill) in Alimodian, Iloilo for the Via Crucis during Holy Week, most especially during Good Friday. The peak provides a view of Alimodian, the Bucari Mountains, and the Iloilo Strait overlooking Guimaras island from afar. It is also a good place for relaxation.
Bala-an Bukid, Guimaras
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 and also Alimodian still practice the Capilya, where locals erect fourteen temporary altars around the población (town centre) representing the Via Crucis. A group of singers then chant the Pasyón on the night of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday as people gather around the town square and the church. After the 3 pm Mass on Good Friday, a procession follows after passing all fourteen stations while praying while reflecting the death of Christ.
The Black Nazarene icon, brought from Mexico during the Galleon Trade era, is enshrined in Quiapo Church, and is 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.
It is a folk belief that anting-anting (traditional amulets) are especially potent if collected, made, or imbued with power on Good Friday. In Sipalay, Negros Occidental many albularyo (witch doctors) search for anting-anting in unexplored caves.
Procession of Statues
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 life and death. 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.
A cycling tour known as the "Bisikleta Iglesia" emerged in 2010, wherein participants perform the Visita Iglesia and Stations of the Cross pilgrimages on bicycles, visiting seven churches. The 2012 edition spanned a 65 km route through Iloilo.
Many towns have their own versions of the Senákulo, using traditional scripts that are decades or centuries old. A version is held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, sponsored by the Department of Tourism. Popular film and televisions stars often join the cast of the play. In Taguig, they popularize the modern version of Jesus Christ Superstar reshown at the Fort Santiago Amphitheater for the benefit of Manileños. In Mexico, Pampanga and Dinalupihan, Bataan, the actor portraying Jesus has been actually nailed to the cross to simulate Christ's passion as best and as painfully possible. Similar shows are also held in Makati and in the Santa Ana District of Manila.
Pagtaltal sa Jordan
In the Visayas, the passion play Ang Pagtaltal sa Jordan is performed in Jordan, Guimaras and in Barotac Viejo, Iloilo every Good Friday. In recent years, the play's audience included locals as well as people from the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Canada, and other countries.
The Moriones Festival in the island province of Marinduque commemorates the story of the Roman centurion, Longinus and his legendary conversion at the foot of the cross. The townsfolk of Boac and Mogpog are dressed in masks and helmets (moriones), depicting Roman soldiers, and unusually for the country, observe Holy Week in a much more joyous manner.
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 (Captainess) and Tinyentera (Female Lieutenant); the Kapitana can be distinguished by the large banner she waves, while the Tinyentera swings a thurible.
Salubung in Palawan
In Puerto Princesa, Palawan, the Salubong is done at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm by torch-bearing convicts, queued and in uniform for the ritual.
Sayaw ng Pagbatì
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
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 a giant paper flower (often described as a banana flower) to unveil the statue of the Virgin Mary.
The petals are mechanically opened by large paper birds to reveal the angel inside, and as is done in Las Piñas, two young ladies also called the Kapitana and Tenyenta perform a dance called "Bati". Unlike Las Piñas, they both carry a banner during the much awaited performance, that takes weeks of practice and preparation to achieve.
Thousands of lowlanders, Manileños, 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. For the latter, services are offered by Christian churches and the churches of the Catholic Diocese of Baguio during the week.
San Pablo City
Celebrities and movie stars from Manila and neighboring provinces join the procession organized by Don Ado Escudero of Villa Escudero.
Caridad or Pakaridad is a way of giving or sharing food (especially ginataan 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 is also given by local residents living along the processional route.