In the predominantly Catholic Philippines, Holy Week is an important occasion. For Filipinos, Holy Week is a time for prayers, reflection and repentance. Some people go on fasting or abstain from eating meat the whole week. Many join pilgrimages. Others flagellate themselves or get nailed on the cross to cleanse themselves of sins. There are also those who takes the opportunity to go on a week-long vacation or have quality time with the whole family. In whatever manner they choose to celebrate, Holy Week is a time for Filipinos to strengthen their religious faith in Jesus Christ and the Catholic church.
Spanish for “Visit of the Churches,” the practice, usually done during Holy Thursday, entails visiting seven churches and reciting the Stations of the Cross. The tradition is said to have been initiated by Pope Boniface VIII who used to visit seven churches in Rome during his time.
Visita Iglesia is one of the most popular Holy Week activities in the Philippines thanks to numerous churches in the country, some dating back to hundreds of years ago during the Spanish rule.
In Manila, the famous centuries-old churches include the Manila Cathedral, Paco Church and San Agustin Church. The most frequented, and considered miraculous, are Quiapo Church and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Baclaran. Only a few hours from the city are Our Lady of Manaoag in Pangasinan, Barasoain Church in Bulacan and Calaruega in Batangas.
Meanwhile, among the favourite historical churches located in the Visayas region are Iloilo’s Miag-ao Church, a UNESCO Heritage Site; Cebu’s Basilica Minor del Santo Niño, otherwise known as the oldest church in the Philippines; and Bohol’s the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon as well as the Church of San Pedro.
Moriones Festival Marinduque
Locals and tourists flock to Marinduque for its Moriones Festival, a week-long festival celebrated from Holy Monday to Easter Sunday. Moriones came from the word “morion” which means mask or a part of the medieval Roman armor which covers the face. The festival recalls the story of Saint Longinus, a Roman centurion who was blind in one eye, characterized by colorful Roman costumes, painted masks and helmets, and brightly colored tunics. Must-see is the “Via Crusis,” a re-enactment the passion and suffering of Christ on his way to Calvary.
Senakulo in Pampanga
The religious rites in San Pedro Cutud, San Pedro, Pampanga, draw a lot of tourists, visitors and devotees from all over the world during the Lenten season thanks to its almost real-life depiction of the Senakulo, a play about the trial, suffering and death of Christ. The devotees playing the part of Jesus Christ and the two criminals get their hands and feet literally nailed on the wooden cross. . These brave souls are only taken down “when they feel cleansed of their sin.” Some devotees take to the streets and flagellate themselves using bamboo sticks tied to a rope.
Mt. Banahaw Pilgrimage
Believed to be a holy mountain, Mt. Banahaw is a dormant volcano located between the provinces of Laguna and Quezon. Every year, pilgrims would trek Mt. Banahaw for meditation and “spiritual experience” of sorts. Considered sacred spots in Mt. Banahaw are Kalbaryo (Calvary), Kweba ng Diyos Ama (Cave of God the Father), Pintong Lihim (Hidden Door) ,Santong Durungawan (Holy Window) and the miraculous Kinabuhayan Stream.