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Lenten 2023: A time for reflection and repentance

QUEZON CITY (PIA) – Catholicism is one of the many influences of the Spaniards during their colonization hundred years ago and today it covers a large population in the Philippines.

The commemoration of Holy Week is one of the significant seasons for Filipino Catholics. It is a time to reflect, repent, and express their faith.

This religious tradition starts on Ash Wednesday which signals the beginning of the lent season. This tradition of wearing ashes on the forehead symbolizes the dust from which God made his people. This continues on Palm Sunday, Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Black Saturday, and ends on Easter Sunday, the time when Jesus has finally resurrected.

Filipinos are big on traditions and common practices, thus, aside from fasting, abstinence, and having a prayerful and reflective season, Filipino Catholics also developed a variety of practices across different provinces and through the years gained popularity as a unique Holy Week commemoration

Visita Iglesia
One of the most common practices during Holy Week is Visita Iglesia (visiting churches). Filipino Catholics dedicate a day during the lent season to visit at least seven churches where they pray the rosary and do the Stations of the Cross.

The goal of Visita Iglesia is to pay homage to the Blessed Sacrament and to seek penance for one’s sins. Catholics believe that if they visit at least seven churches and complete the Stations of the Cross, their wishes and faith requests will come true.

Another tradition across many provinces in the Philippines is penitensiya (penance). On Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, people re-enact the hardships of Jesus Christ by self-inflicting wounds and wearing of the crown of thorns. While hitting themselves on the wounded parts of their bodies, these individuals say their prayers and seek forgiveness for their sins. For some, this has become a yearly devotion.

In Pampanga, they have their own unique take on penitensya as well as senakulo (passion play). Kapampangans yearly prepare an act where they depict the crucifixion in a live audience. For devotees, having a chance to be nailed on a cross similar to Jesus Christ is their way of expressing their faith and their way of repentance.

Pabasa ng Pasyon
Another elderly tradition is the Pabasa ng Pasyon (Reading of the Passion). This is a common generational practice for Filipino Catholic families because it can be done in churches or at home. Pasyon are chanted in a certain tone and mostly it is done non-stop with some having to do it overnight, thus, it requires dedication and consistency to properly do this practice.

Catholics are known to immortalize their faith through images or human-sized figures that they can touch and whisper their prayers. In Paete, Laguna – Carving Capital of the Philippines, they show their faith and visualize Catholicism by creating Bible characters into actual images and yearly, these are paraded across the town. During the procession, devotees walk while praying the rosary as their way of sacrifice.

Moriones Festival
Different from the solemn activities during the Holy Week across the country, people in the Province of Marinduque have a unique take. During the celebration of the Moriones Festival, performers wear masks and helmets or moriones, symbolizing Roman soldiers as the festival is a celebration of Longinus, a Roman centurion who is said to have converted at the foot of the cross in the province.

The Philippines practices different traditions and beliefs. Aside from Catholicism, it is also a home of other religions – Muslim, Protestant, Buddhism, and others but what matters most is the respect we give to each other on our beliefs and how we express our faiths.

Despite the differences in practices, this Lent Season, let us give our Catholic brothers and sisters the freedom to reflect and repent. (MVV, PIA-CPSD)

About the Author

Maria Viktoria Viado

Information Officer

Central Office

Information Officer I

Creative Production Services Division

Philippine Information Agency

Visayas Ave., Diliman, Quezon City 

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