Holy Week in the Philippines

We’ve always been just at home every Holy Week. Back when I was a kid, we used to just stay indoors and watch Jesus Christ movies and Bible story movies throughout the entire Holy Week. We watched The Ten Commandments movie every single year (the old version) and we couldn’t make too much happy noises especially on Fridays when Jesus Christ is being remembered as the dead Jesus Christ by 3pm.

Throughout our stay in Metro Manila and always being involved in Holy Week activities like witnessing pabasa at my grandmother’s house and barangay and joining the Good Friday procession in our parish since our family had a religious carroza/ carriage that joins the procession too, I’ve witnessed so many practices of the modern Filipino people. We (our family) used to spend the entire day of Good Friday fixing fresh flowers with the florist and preparing snacks for those people who will be joining the procession with us. A lot of our relatives and employees of the family’s business join the procession. I remembered snacks for 150 to 200 people are always being prepared from morning until the afternoon.

It’s also good for our children to know what we grew up with and somehow make them experience them too. There are many traditions and many practices that are already lost today due to the fast-paced and convenient life preferred by many. Here are most traditions during Holy Week. Some still practice these. Did you experience or remember some of these? I’m glad we experienced or at least got exposed to a lot of traditions. I’d love our kids to experience the same.



Palm Sunday in the Philippines is reenacted at the celebration of the Holy Eucharist / Holy Mass to signal the start of the Holy Week ahead. Filipinos attend mass where they buy palm branches (popularly known in Tagalog as Palaspas) from vendors outside the church. It is usually sold at Php20 to Php30 per piece. Depending on the location and crowd (like any other product), the price goes up to Php50. Whatever the design or color are shouldn’t really matter for the meaning of the event is what matters most (one thing we should teach younger generations).

At the end of the mass (sometimes middle of the mass in some churches), devotees flock toward the altar or simply raise their palms up and shake / sway them from side to side while the priest go around blessing all the palms. This was how Jesus Christ was welcomed in his entry to Jerusalem. In the Gospels, Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. Palms were used to welcome people with respect. Some even throw clothes too as a sign of homage. Palms/ Palaspas are symbols of peace and victory.

Filipinos bring the palms home and like us before and until now, we put the palms in the home and preserve it until the next year. Filipinos believe that these blessed palms will protect the home from evil or unlucky elements of life and will protect those who live in that home. Palms are then donated in their respective parishes one year after to be burned and turned into ashes for Ash Wednesday of the the following year.

We also bring home the palms and put it outside or inside our home.

PABASA (Chanting, singing, reading of the Pasyon)

This practice in the Philippines is still being done now in barangays and barangay halls and in some homes in the Philippines. This is when the chanting of the passion of the Christ occur. This has been said to be a tradition of the Spaniard Priests.

Pabasa has been believed to be done by anyone who is prepared to read God’s Word and are prepared to repent their sins and seek forgiveness from God.

I remembered my grandmother always host Pabasa in their barangay and I remembered my aunts and mom participate in it too. I never tried though. I heard the Pabasa in a Neyo song tune before. They have no rules as long as God’s word are audible for people to understand.


The day starts with a Chrism Mass. Some priests renew their vow on Maundy Thursday too. Then a mass commemorating The Last Supper will be celebrated and the Washing of the feet will be done. There are usually volunteers from the parish who the officiating priest will  wash their feet as we remember the special day.


The Blessed Sacrament will then be exposed where churchgoers can pray as people go about their Visita Iglesia / 7 Churches Visitation after The Last Supper Mass.  

We usually don’t attend the Chrism mass but we attend the Last Supper mass and do our yearly Visita Iglesia as a family and have a good meal together. We don’t go out of town.

Sharing our church list for your possible Visita Iglesia destinations this year in Metro Manila.


For those who stay in Metro Manila during Holy Week, you’ll observe people walking in groups with backpacks or water bottles and towels. Some wear the same shirts to represent their family, group, or barangay. They are pilgrims and devotees who choose walking to go to Antipolo Cathedral in Antipolo City, Rizal. It’s a long walk and it’s uphill as you get closer. They call  this Alay Lakad. It’s part of their sacrifice and they offer this gesture up to God.

We don’t join this but I always marvel and salute those people who do this. I see children and teenagers though with big radios. I hope the young people are still preserving the holiness and the meaning of this tradition.



This is the day when Catholics remember Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross. 7 Last Words (also known as Siete Palabras) activities start at noon for some churches and end at 3pm with the Veneration of the Cross and in parishes there’s a procession of religious images at the end. This is where carrozas (carriages) with religious images go around the parish’s streets for believers to see and join in the religious activity. It will end in the Church where the priests bless the carrozas.

After 3pm, Jesus Christ is said to be dead so the dead body of Christ (Santo Entierro) is displayed while the other images are covered in black or purple cloth and some people still do the Station of the Cross too on Good Friday.

When I was a kid, we fixed our family’s carroza for the processions the whole day and we join also in the procession. Now, we usually attend the 7 Last Words mass.


The Church does not encourage this but the reality is that this is still happening now. This is when some people who believe that by crucifying themselves and hurting themselves (just how Christ got hurt before) they are showing how sorry they are for their sins and are seeking for forgiveness. In some places, tourists even flock to witness this event.

I do hope everyone will realize that our God is a forgiving God and self-inflicted pain and wounds are not proven ways for God to forgive us. He always will forgive no matter what. This is a very dangerous practice and we were never exposed to this growing up and until now. We just see them on television and in the news. We were also told to keep quiet after 3pm and no boisterous or happy celebrations should occur since Jesus Christ is “dead” after 3pm. This is when we watch our religious films at home too at night.


In some places, there’s a short play or performance in the parish showing Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. It’s a good way to remind us and relive Christ’s saving grace.

We didn’t experience this but I think if properly done, it’s a good way for children f this generation to learn more about Jesus Christ.



Most parishes and churches close from Friday night to Saturday (before the Easter Vigil). The whole Catholic Church is in mourning as we remember the dead Jesus Christ who saved us all from sin.

There’s a “mass” called Easter Vigil where devotees gather to wait for midnight to welcome Easter when Jesus Christ will rise from the dead (Resurrection). The Paschal Candle is the first candle to be lit in Easter. This symbolizes Jesus Christ as the light or life  of the world. In some churches, Easter Vigil doesn’t reach midnight for convenience and practical reasons.

We usually attend the Easter Vigil but since we had kids (since they’re still small babies), we just visit the church and pray.



This is Resurrection Sunday! A festive day for Catholics around the world. Easter is the most important holiday for Catholics. It’s just that the surrounding are more decorated during Christ’s birthday in December 25 every year.

This is a festive day for everyone when people greet each other and a lot of egg hunt activities are out there with the Easter bunny too. The Churches and devotees celebrate Easter mass.

We hear Easter Mass as a family and celebrate it by having a family get together just like during Christmas. Growing up, I always fix and hide Easter eggs for my brother and sister. I sort of conduct our own egg hunt at home. Today, we still join family egg hunts and this year we checked out a few Easter events and promos  but we have an egg hunt in the neighborhood so the kids will definitely join that and maybe another one or maybe none.

Why eggs for Easter and why is there an Easter Bunny?

Did you every about this from your parents or elders? I hope they knew when you asked because I keep forgetting this and now that we have kids, I think we have to know in time when they ask about so many things.

In Easter we celebrate Christ’s “new” life so the eggs symbolize life since they carry life inside of them. Cracking the egg symbolizes opening the tomb of Christ.

Easter bunny is chosen as a symbol of life since they give birth to a lot of babies. This is the reason why we have Easter Bunnies for Easter.


This year’s Holy Week is another first in our family. First time we will experience Holy Week as a family of 4 with out Matteo on board. Exciting times ahead as we celebrate and be one with the believers around the world for Jesus Christ.

I hope our kids will pass on to their kids what we will teach them. As parents, we know the value of family traditions and how we mold them as God-fearing and God-loving  individuals. This month may be full of other festivities but above all, our religious activities outweighs them. We will be starting new traditions in the family for Holy Week  too. Sometimes reinventing the wheel helps.

As we celebrate Holy Week, we pray for better world for our kids- better environment, better presidents, better role models, goodness everywhere despite modernization. Simply put, a better place for everyone.

Have a blessed and memorable Holy Week ahead! 


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