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How People Celebrate the Lenten Season in the Philippines

Updated on February 26, 2017
Chin chin profile image

Chin chin is a Christian stay-at-home mom with five children. She's been a Sunday School teacher for about 30 years now.

I am writing this hub just to share how I discovered the true meaning of Easter. It is divided in two parts, The first hub describes how I used to celebrate and understand the Lenten Season in the Philippines.

The second hub describes how I and anyone else can make a life-changing understanding of the relevance of Easter according to what the Bible says. I am thankful that God showed me how the yearly Lenten and Easter celebrations can truly be meaningful in my life.

In writing these two hubs, I find this familiar quote appropriate to describe my journey in discovering the true meaning of Easter: "Sometimes God offends the mind to reveal the matters of the heart." I hope you will find these two hubs personally and spiritually enriching.

Ash Wednesday

As a child, I know very well when the Lenten Season is just around the corner. Being in a predominantly Catholic country, most people who follow the Catholic faith start the Holy Week with the Ash Wednesday.

What is the Ash Wednesday? This is usually the day when you see people walking the street with ashes on their foreheads. They got it by attending the Catholic mass and reminds of what was said in the Bible "You are dust, and to dust you shall return." This ceremony also reminds people of their Lenten penance.

We are reminded on Ash Wednesday that we will all return to ash or dust.

After rain & ash. Image by Pleuntje
After rain & ash. Image by Pleuntje | Source

Palm Sunday

Then comes Palm Sunday. It serves as a reminder of the account in the Bible telling of Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It is observed on the first day of the Holy Week when people see a lot of cut palm leaves (called palaspas in the Philippines) sold near the chapel and people buy them and have the priest bless them during the mass. Afterward, the palaspas is brought home and placed outside the home such as the window. I remember some old folks telling me when I was young that they are meant to drive away evil spirits.

Palm Sunday reminds us of Jesus's triumphal entry to Jerusalem.

Jesus entering Jerusalem. Image by the Flying Pharmacist.
Jesus entering Jerusalem. Image by the Flying Pharmacist. | Source

What Do People Do During the Holy Week?

The following days of the Holy Week are observed solemnly. Some even do partial fasting by avoiding meat in their meals. Unless one has to go to work (usually until Wednesday), most just stay home. But nowadays, there are also a lot of people who take the opportunity to use the holidays to go out to the beach, have a family reunion or go to other vacation destinations.

On Maundy Thursdays, Holy Fridays and Black Saturdays, if you're stuck at home, you will find many religious television programs that suit the mood of the season. Usually, stories in the Bible are shown especially the story of the life of Jesus, his death and resurrection. There are also televised church services talking about the "Seven Last Words of Jesus."

But there are also a lot of people who go out in the street and observe some of the religious traditions like the pasyon and pabasa, penitensya, visiting the Grotto and doing the senakulo.


The pasyon is the poetic narration of the life and passion of Jesus in different dialects in the Philippines while the pabasa is the singing of the pasyon . The singers usually gather together in the chapel or in a public place within the barangay or community and begins singing on Holy Wednesday and ends on Good Friday. When I was small, I remember going there since my mother also sings the pasyon and enjoy the food and drinks served too.

Here's a Sample Video of the Pabasa

Penitensya and Senakulo

There are also many men who engage themselves in penitensya or public penance. Some flog their backs with sharp and thorny whips while others carry a heavy wooden cross and have themselves crucified. I really dread watching these bloody people closely. Most of them do these as a panata or vow in the hope of atoning for their sins and receiving answers to their prayers.

Common also during this time is the senakulo or cenaculo . The senakulo is the dramatization of the life and passion and death of Jesus. Many enjoy watching this as they get to see members of the community act out the senakulo .

Penitence during Holy Week

Penitensya, CC BY 2.0
Penitensya, CC BY 2.0 | Source

14 Stations of the Cross

What I somehow enjoyed during the Holy Week when I was small was the visit to the Grotto of Lourdes in Novaliches where you get to visit the 14 Stations of the Cross. As you walk from station to station you will find the scenes represented by life size statues in the passion of Jesus. Many devotees also stop by each station to read some verse and pray. By the end of it all, you're feet is sore tired but many don't mind at all.

What are the 14 Stations of the Cross?


When Easter Sunday comes, many Catholics look forward to the salubong which means meeting and is commonly the way the resurrection of Jesus is celebrated. The salubong is a reenactment of the meeting of the risen Jesus Christ with Mary, his mother. At dawn, two processions begin at different points, one with the icon of the risen Jesus and the other with Mary, the mother of Jesus. At a certain point (in the church), both processions will meet thus called salubong . After which a dawn mass commences and is followed by festivities.

(Note: This is how the resurrection of Jesus is interpreted though by studying the Scriptures, it is not Mary the mother of Jesus who first saw the risen Christ but Mary Magdalene and another woman named Mary.)

The Philippines is very rich in these religious Lenten Season traditions especially espoused by Catholicism. I used to join some of the events I mentioned above. But not anymore. Read on to my next hub What the Bible Says is the True Meaning of Easter to know why.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Chin chin


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