Welcome to the third installment of our Holy Week series! (In case you missed the first two installments, go here and here.) Today, we will tackle Holy Week traditions that are either unique to the Philippines, or are so embedded in the Filipino culture that they might as well be unique. Some of these may already be familiar to you, while others may surprise you yet. Among others, we have:
Also known as "Passion Play," the senakulo depicts the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Though it's staged all over the country, the most famous is arguably the one in Jordan, Guimaras called Ang Pagtaltal sa Balaan Bukid, which is performed every Good Friday and draws thousands of onlookers every year. Other places where you can watch the senakulo include Barangay San Dionisio, Parañaque City and Malibay, Pasay City.
Taking place in Pakil, Laguna, the Turumba Festival starts on the Friday before Palm Sunday, continues every nine days thereafter, and ends on Pentecost Sunday in September. These celebrations mark the seven days of sorrow by the Our Lady of Sorrows of Turumba. At the end of every day of festivities, a novena booklet is folded to mark the pause until the next celebration, hence the name lupi ("to fold") for the fiestas.
One notable feature of this festival is the shredding of the Lady's dresses to be given to pilgrims. According to local superstition, these pieces can protect the holder from injury, calamity and other misfortune. So if your luck is less than stellar lately, pay a visit to Pakil this Holy Week.
Black Nazarene Procession
In Quiapo Church, there is a life-sized statue of Jesus carrying the cross known as the Black Nazarene. It's taken out only thrice every year: on New Year's Day, on January 9 and on Good Friday. Carved by an unknown Mexican sculptor in the 17th century, the Black Nazarene is said to have miraculous powers.
For that reason, the Black Nazarene draws thousands of devotees every year, scrambling to get as close to the statue as possible, or to at least have their kerchiefs wiped on it. If you plan to participate in the event, know that you're going up against a huge sea of people, so be careful.
One of the more well-known Holy Week traditions in the Philippines, the Moriones Festival is held on the island of Marinduque between Holy Monday and Easter Sunday. Featuring men and women dressed as Roman soldiers, the festival reenacts the story of Longinus, a centurion famous for piercing the side of Jesus with the Holy Lance. With his famous words "This man certainly was the Son of God," Longinus was said to have converted into Christianity, and eventually sainted.
There are two main highlights of the Moriones Festival: the Santo Sepulcro and the Via Crucis. In the Santo Sepulcro, old women exchange Bible verses to commemorate the death of Jesus at 3 PM on Good Friday. In the Via Crucis, participants reenact Jesus' journey to Calvary, when He was being whipped on the back while carrying the cross. Some participants even crucify themselves!
San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites
Speaking of "crucifying themselves," none are more famous (or infamous) than the residents of San Fernando, Pampanga. Like some of the festivals already mentioned, the San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites reenact the Passion of Christ — but in a more extreme manner.
Some participants roam the streets of San Fernando while flagellating themselves with bamboo sticks tied to a rope. Others are taken to a field in San Pedro Cutud, where they are crucified with actual nails. As painful as this sounds, it may relieve you to know that the aforementioned nails are coated in alcohol to prevent infection.
Still, that didn't stop these rites from becoming controversial. The Catholic Church made it clear that they do not endorse these bloody practices, while the media constantly plays up the "barbaric" aspects of the rites. This is rather sad, considering how San Fernando has other, more "normal" festivities whenever Holy Week rolls around.
Rizal's Holy Week Celebrations
If you're travelling outside Metro Manila this Holy Week, you can't go wrong with Rizal province. You can head over to Tanay and Taytay, and witness men testing their talismans against guns, knives and other dangerous objects. Visit Antipolo, and watch devotees carry the image of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage to the town. Or witness yet another reenactment of the Passion Play in Cainta.
And these are just a handful of events you can participate in, or at least witness, during Holy Week in the Philippines. Remember that, no matter where you go in the country, each place has its own special way of remembering Jesus' death and resurrection. Until then, have an awesome day ahead!