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Holy Week Traditions

Every year, the Philippines celebrates Holy Week (Semana Santa, Spanish for Holy Week and Mahal na Araw in Tagalog), it is a time of solemn reflection on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For Catholics who adhere to tradition, it's just as important as any other holiday season. The Philippines is a nation that strongly emphasizes religious and spiritual growth despite its variety in culture and religion. The majority Catholic population of the Philippines celebrates Holy Week as a significant religious event. Catholic processions, for instance, are frequent in many areas where the faith has been influenced by Spanish colonial traditions.


Here are some of the traditions that Filipinos do every holy week:


  • Fasting and Abstinence

The Catholic Church observes a day of fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday to remember Jesus' death and resurrection for the benefit of humanity. Many people mark Holy Week by doing this, whether it's a rigorous meat-free day or a general fast. The Church defines this as one main meal a day, plus two smaller meals that, taken together, would not exceed the main meal in quantity.


  • Reading of the Passion 

Although the majority of us would prefer to be on vacation, there are still some people who want to take part in this traditional ceremony known as "Pabasa ng Pasyon" (Reading of the Passion). Throughout Holy Week, devoted Catholics in the Philippines chant the "Pasyong Mahal," an epic poem from the 16th century describing Jesus' life, passion, death, and resurrection.


  • Senakulo

The Filipino term "senakulo" has its roots in the Spanish word "cenáculo," which refers to the "place where Jesus Christ shared the Last Supper with his apostles." This is a traditional local theatrical production portraying the life and death of Jesus that was created as a Holy Lenten Presentation performed during Holy Week in the Philippines.


  • Seven churches visitation

A common custom and significant religious observance among Filipino Catholics is to visit seven churches on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in remembrance of Christ's death. This custom has been known for many years as "Visita Iglesia."

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