Top 7 Holy Week Traditions in the Philippines 2018

These Filipino Holy Week traditions let us express our faith in many ways.

By: Arrah Camillia Quistadio-Manticajon | March 25, 2018
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The long Holy Week break is a time to relax and spend time with family and friends. Since it coincides with the warmer months, most people take advantage of the long weekend for a vacation or staycation. But for most Catholic Filipinos, Holy Week means participating in religious traditions which help them strengthen their faith. Below are the top seven traditions Filipinos love to do during the Lenten season.

7. Salubong

Holy Week Filipino traditions

Kids join in the celebration of Salubong.

Image: Philippine Basics

We start off our countdown with Salubong, the Easter Sunday dawn celebration which marks the end of Holy Week. Literally meaning to meet or receive someone, the ritual involves separate processions for the images of the Risen Christ and the Virgin Mary and having them meet in a stage put up especially for the occasion. A young girl dressed in an angel costume lifts the veil of the Virgin Mary, and pomp and pageantry ensue once it is revealed that Christ has risen from the dead. After the procession, participants go to church to attend Easter Sunday Mass.

6. Processions

Holy Week Filipino traditions

Devotees attend a Good Friday procession in Minglanilla, Cebu.

Image: All in Minglanilla

Holy Week wouldn’t be complete without seeing a procession or two. Though there are some parishes which do Palm Sunday processions, these usually start on Maundy Thursday, during which processions for the Passion of the Christ is held. On Good Friday, a popular procession is the Santo Entierro (Holy Interment). For this tradition, the statue of the dead Jesus Christ is carried around town followed by the statues of St. Peter, St. John the Evangelist, the Virgin Mary, and other characters which figure in the story of Christ’s passion.

5. Pabasa

Holy Week Filipino traditions

Devotees lead a pabasa from home.

Image: Ronnie Castro

If you hear people chanting during Holy Week, it’s likely because they are doing Pabasa ng Pasyon (Reading of the Passion) which lands at number five. This tradition originated from Spanish priests’ penchant for chanting which Filipinos incorporated into their own customs. Today, people still chant the epic poem which tells about the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Since a Pabasa can last anywhere from 12 hours to three days, it’s also an opportunity to reflect on Christ’s life and atone for one’s sins.

4. Stations of the Cross

Holy Week Filipino traditions

Life-sized Stations of the Cross at Celestial Gardens, Cebu

Image: Rene Cabrera

Another popular Lenten tradition is praying the Stations of the Cross. Also called Via Dolorosa (Sorrowful Way), it is a devotion where one remembers Jesus’s last few moments on Earth before he died. The practice stems way back to 334 AD when pilgrims visiting the Holy Land put up signposts to mark spots where important events of Christ’s passion took place.

Today, almost every Catholic church have markers for the Stations of the Cross inside the building or out in the garden. Meditating on the stations allow the faithful to walk in Jesus’s shoes and empathize with his suffering.

3. Fasting and abstinence

Holy Week Filipino traditions

Most Catholics go meat-free by eating fish on Lent.

Image: Maggi Philippines

Taking the third spot in our poll is fasting and abstinence. Fasting means lessening one’s food intake, while abstinence is avoiding something you like to do. Catholics over 14 are expected to stay away from eating meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays of Lent. Abstinence can also take the form of a personal sacrifice, such as giving up one’s favorite food or certain activities. Catholics aged 18 to 59 are also obliged to fast on the same days. They are allowed to eat one full meal and two smaller meals.

2. Senakulo

Voter’s comment: “Dito kasi makikita natin kung paano nagsakripisyo si Jesus para sa atin (This is where we can see how Christ sacrificed for us).” – Kent

Holy Week Filipino traditions

A senakulo staged at the Moriones Festival in Marinduque

Image: Moriones Festival of Marinduque, Philippines

Another Lenten tradition that Filipinos look forward to is the senakulo or passion play. It derives its name from the Latin word cenaculum, which means a dining room which references the place where the Last Supper was held. This local community play highlights the events leading up to Christ’s death on the cross. In the Philippines, the oldest senakulo was staged in 1904 in Barrio Dayap, Cainta, Rizal. The senakulo is still practiced up to today, most notable of which is the Moriones Festival of Marinduque.

1. Visita Iglesia

Holy Week Filipino traditions

Locals and tourists can visit Manila Cathedral this Holy Week.

And the number one Holy Week tradition is Visita Iglesia (Church Visit). Commonly done on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, this involves visiting seven different churches and praying the Stations of the Cross. With the number of beautiful old churches to visit around the country, going on a Visita Iglesia can also enrich one’s appreciation of history and culture. In fact, to encourage faith-based travel, the Department of Tourism will be opening up seven chapels in Intramuros this Holy Week to allow people to go on a Visita Iglesia in the Walled City.

Which of these Holy Week traditions will you be doing? Let us know in the comments section below!

Results are based on the Top 10 Things You're Giving up for the Lenten Season posted at the home page of from March 12 to 18, 2018.
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About Arrah Camillia Quistadio-Manticajon
Arrah Camillia Quistadio-Manticajon is the current content supervisor for the Visayas region of ShoppersGuide Marketing, Inc. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication degree from UP Cebu. She has previously worked for a business process outsourcing company, a community newspaper, and a global technology company. When not writing, she putters about in the kitchen, baking or testing new recipes.
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