Best time to go to Philippines

Holy Week & Easter 2020

Numerous processions, Passion plays, the Way of the Cross—religious traditions make it the most spectacular week

Holy Week & Easter in Philippines 2020 - Best Time
Photo by

Leocadio Sebastian

According to Christian tradition, Easter celebration begins with the Holy Week, namely with Palm Sunday. To commemorate Jesus' entry to Jerusalem, Philippines buys coconut leaves as a substitution to the original palm leaves and get them blessed. After the Palm Sunday liturgy, they bring them home and either attach the leaves to the back of the main door or pun them in the corner—it's supposed to protect the household from any danger.

Holy Week & Easter in Philippines - Best Season 2020

One of the most widespread traditions is Senakulo, a play about Jesus' life and passion that traditionally involves costumed actors and drama. It's performed either on a stage or in the street, often on several nights during the Holy Week. Street performances feature a statue of Christ bearing a cross which is paraded throughout the city. It's practiced in a number of communities, particularly in the provinces of Rizal, Bulacan, and Pampanga.

In some areas, these plays involve real bloody scenes. The provinces of San Pedro Cutud, San Fernando, Pampanga, Kapitangan, Paombong, Bulacan, and Guimaras Island have the most infamous versions of Senakulo reenactments. Often male devotees whip themselves to blood. Some are even tied and nailed to the cross to live through the sufferings of Jesus. However, such practices are actually discouraged by the Church.

Good Friday observance in Barangay (barrio) San Pedro Cutud 2020
Good Friday observance in Barangay (barrio) San Pedro Cutud

Another traditional devotion is Pabása. It presents Jesus' Passion by singing and reciting rather than actually reenacting the scenes.

Holy Week processions also take a significant part of the celebrations. They may occur on the various days of the week. The provinces of Malolos, Bulacan, and Rizal have huge processions on Holy Wednesday running from 6 pm till late evening. They feature the statues of Jesus, Virgin Mary, 12 Apostles, and many other saints.

Best time for Holy Week & Easter in Philippines 2020

The longest one is Lenten procession by Saint Augustine Church, Baliwag, Bulacan. It consists of 111 floats. Beautifully adorned dioramas depict the scenes from Jesus' Passion and death. The Lenten procession takes place twice a week—on Holy Wednesday and Good Friday.

Holy Thursday is marked with more pious traditions. This day commemorates the Last Supper when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. To commemorate this, the rite of feet washing is performed in many parishes across the country. Another tradition of the day is the Visita Iglesia (literally visit of the churches), it is essential to visit seven churches.

Good Friday is also marked with the dawn processions that recall the Stations of the Cross. One of the best provinces to observe it is Manila, but it's common among parishes in other provinces. Often the stations are set up in the town so that believers can walk the Way of the Cross. At 3 p.m. churches call for Good Friday Service of Commemoration of the Passion. Every church across the Philippines has Pahalik—a devotion that involves kissing the image of the dead body of Jesus. Some parishes also hold the Holy Burial ceremonies, known as the Santo Entierro procession.

Easter Vigil, Visita Iglesia, Stations of the Cross, and confessions are all part of Black Saturday. Midnight Mass often involves outdoor fire and the blessing of the Paschal candle.

The last day of festivities is Easter Sunday. Easter is locally called Pasko ng Pagkabuhay or Pasko ng Muling Pagkabuhay, where Pasko in Tagalog means "Christmas", Muling—"again", and "Pagkabuhay"—"Resurrection". The main Easter day tradition is Salubong or "welcoming." It consists of two processions—men accompany the statue of the Risen Jesus, and still-sorrowful women follow the statue of the Virgin Mary until the mother and the son meet—this marks the start of the joyful celebration. Masses on Easter Day are overcrowded.

You might wonder whether Filipinos organize Easter egg hunts—they do, right near churches, and sometimes also in the shopping malls. So the kids have options to participate and some people also hold egg hunts at their homes.