Holy Week practices in the Philippines

PASSION OF CHRIST. Scenes from the Via Crusis are re-enacted in the streets of Boac town, Marinduque on Good Friday.

Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published in April 2017. Rappler is updating and republishing this piece this to mark Holy Week 2018.

MANILA, Philippines – Holy Week is observed by devout Catholic faithful around the world. In the Philippines, it's a time for solemn prayer and the observance of traditions, several of which are unique to Filipino culture as they combine religious faith with folk beliefs. (READ: Holy Week superstitions in the Philippines)

Rappler takes a look at some Holy Week practices observed in different parts of the country.

Moriones Festival

The Moriones Festival is held during the Lenten season in Marinduque province. In the week-long commemoration of Jesus' life and death, participants dress up as Roman soldiers and go around the streets from Holy Monday to Easter Sunday, reenacting scenes from the Passion of Christ.

Participants wear costumes, headgear, and masks depicting the faces of Roman centurions as they reenact the story of Longinus, the half-blind Roman soldier who was present during Jesus’ crucifixion.

MORIONES. Scenes from the Via Crucis are reenacted in the streets of Boac town, Marinduque on Good Friday. Colorful costumes and masks of men acting as Roman soldiers highlight the event as part of the Moriones festival.

Photo by Josh Albelda/ Rappler

In the festival, the Morion playing Longinus would go around town on Easter Sunday proclaiming Jesus' resurrection, as other soldiers chase after him. It would culminate in Longinus’ capture and beheading because of his faith.

Crucifixion rites

In some parts of the Philippines, Good Friday is marked by a bloody practice: reenacting the suffering of Jesus Christ, from the flagellation to the crucifixion.

In San Pedro Cutud in Pampanga province, penitents willingly undergo extreme physical pain as a form of atonement. Penitents whip themselves on the back, using whips made of bamboo or paddles with pieces of broken glass to draw blood. 

To complete the rites, some devotees willingly allow themselves to be nailed to the cross, reenacting Jesus' crucifixion. 

Behind this practice is a personal vow or panata. Sometimes the ritual is being done in exchange for an answered prayer for problems with one's health or finances. Some penitents also undergo the ritual to ask for forgiveness.

While the local church does not endorse the practice of inflicting pain on oneself, the tradition is still popular in Pampanga, Bulacan, and Cebu, among other places.

Complete silence

One Philippine tradition, especially in rural areas, is the observance of silence on Good Friday. People are encouraged to turn off their radios and televisions and limit conversations on the day that marks the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.

Through complete silence, it is believed that people will be able to communicate with God through devotional reading and personal prayer.

Easter egg hunt

A fairly new practice that’s starting to become popular in the Philippines, the Easter egg hunt has been adopted from Western countries.

The Easter egg hunt symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The egg is used as a representation of new beginnings, and so it signifies hope.

The egg hunt is usually played out at home or in church activities, but to keep the tradition fun, it is now being played in malls or in activity centers by kids accompanied by adults. – Alanis Banzon/Rappler.com

Alanis Banzon is a Rappler intern