The Dying Philippine Holy Week Traditions

I was born and raised as a Catholic . Being raised as one, I miss the Holy Week traditions, celebrations and preparations I grew up with.  The modernized, social media centered culture has made us forgot the Filipino Holy Week Traditions. Instead of learning or practicing the culture, we have started to adopt the Western ways, like doing staycations or out-of-town or out-of-the-country trips.  I can’t blame anyone this is the only longest break from the long work year to spend alone, with family, relatives or friends.  But still, once a year, to relive the Filipino culture wouldn’t hurt anyone.

When I was a little bit younger,  I remember that Holy Week starts at Palm Sunday, the day they said Jesus came to Jerusalem and was welcomed by people waving their palm leaves or covering the ground where he will walk on with the palm leaves.. Palm Sunday is celebrated with the Priests blessing the palm leaves or Palaspas.Lately, I barely see anyone with a Palaspas on Palm Sunday, heck I hardly notice Palm Sunday passed not a door or a person I passed by had one.

Palaspas 2008, IFI Bacoor,Cavite

Following the Palm Sunday is Holy Monday where the Pabasa/ Pasyon is held. Devotees sing or chant the book of the Passion of Jesus Christ instead of reading it.  It has been ages since I heard a trumpet speaker echoing in the neighborhood singing the Pabasa.  Where have they gone?  Although I saw on TV recently that some people from some place sings the Pabasa the modern way, to the tune of a popstar song.  Whichever works, whichever catches the attention of the media?  Sigh.


I used to join the Pabasa with the community I grew up with.  We do this by shifts, by cluster.  We never stop until we finish the book that leads us to until Holy Thursday, the day when all the statues of saints are covered in black cloth. I don’t know why it was done some said they do it to signify that Christianity was nowhere that time some said they do it so that people will only focus on Jesus. Some say this is because Christ has died and there was no God or religion.  I still do not understand.

On Holy Wednesday we also do the Visita Iglesia where devotees visits 7 different churches to pray or do the station of the cross. Or some do the Alay Lakad or Pilgrimage to a religious place or destination mostly to church. Visita Iglesia is a part of Alay Lakad.  Grotto in Bulacan and the Lourdes in Antipolo was the most popular places to visit during those times.  I don’t know where lately?  LaBoracay? Baler? Baguio? Tagaytay? LaUnion?

On Good Friday is when we attend the Senakulo or the re-enactment of the Seven Last Words or Syete Palabras in church that starts at 12 noon upto 3pm the time of Jesus Christ death.

On Black Saturday is the baptism of fire and water where everyone brings a jug or any container with water and candles and will be blessed by the priest.  It was something to do with drought and darkness and anyone who has a blessed water will not go thirsty and those who got the candles will have light in their lives.  This ceremony begins at 8PM and ends at 10PM on Saturday.

That leads to the Salubong on Easter Sunday at 4AM where Jesus and Mary meets up because this is the day when Jesus came back to life.  The most joyous day in Christianity!  But then Easter Sunday has become too commercialized now, we don’t usually do Easter Egg Hunting here in the Philippines, now we do at malls.

Salubong 08'

I have witnessed all these celebrations and the past years since I became an adult I miss them all.  The celebrations are small and some are just done on TV now.  Today not even the television covered or mentioned Palm Sunday!  I guess the Philippines is too Westernized now or maybe most turned agnostic or turned to another religion because of the Church leaders who instead of inspiring the people by being a good example they make the people bitter about the Catholic Church because of their ways.  I wish there is still a chance that the Filipino Holy Week traditions will somehow make it back in the mainstream again sometime soon so as to protect and preserve the rich Philippine culture and heritage. 

How about you? Have you experienced these traditions before?  If non-Catholic would you still want these Holy Week traditions done in the Philippines?

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  1. The sad part about our culture, we tried to adopt all the other countries’ tradition (eg. Halloween Parties vs the old tradition; Easter Egg Hunt vs reflection, etc).

    Change is not bad, but we should not forget our values and identity just because we have seen something nicer and more fun.

    Great post as always Mother Earth 😉

  2. Yeah I agree it is part of our heritage as Filipino we should not let technology ruin this tradition.

  3. I didn’t really get to experience all those traditions while growing up since my parents are not Catholics (even though I am, being schooled in a Catholic school). Anyway, I think these traditions should be preserved somehow, as they are part of the Filipino heritage.

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