If you’re Filipino, there’s a high probability that you have been raised as a Roman Catholic. There are several Catholic seasons and one of the major ones is Easter. In this article, we list some of the most common customs practiced in the country during Holy Week and Easter.
Saying that Filipinos are religious would be an understatement. The Philippines was originally a Pagan nation, primarily believing that spirits inhabit nature and have remarkable powers. When the Spaniards arrived in the 15th century, Filipinos were exposed to various Roman Catholic beliefs and practices. Today, the country, with a population of around 108 Million, is composed of several faiths and beliefs. Majority of the population identify themselves as Roman Catholics (86%), while the remaining identify with Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism.
For Catholics, Easter (the Holy Week) is one of the major seasons in the year. The season, which is also interchangeable with “Lenten Season”, starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. Dates change every year and are dependent on the full moon and spring equinox calendar, but generally occur between the end March and early April.
While everyone has the freedom to choose what faith to practice, it is quite interesting to learn about the various traditions that people follow. In the case for Pinoys, some Easter traditions were influenced by colonization, while some have evolved into something uniquely Filipino.
Here are a couple of traditions that are widely practiced during Holy Week and Easter:
Good Friday Fasting
Fasting is usually just required during Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. On these days, people are urged to only consume one full meal during the day and abstain from eating meat. Seafood, particularly fish, is often eaten in place of meat dishes during this time. Abstaining from meat (ie. beef, pork and chicken) is also to be practiced throughout the season every Friday until Easter Sunday. Some Pinoys even go to the extremes of going on a liquid diet. Exemptions apply to the elderly and sick.
Waving of palms
During Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday, which happens a week before Easter Sunday, churchgoers are expected to bring a palm leaf to have it blessed by the priest. In the Philippines, leaves of the young coconut tree are used instead of the typical date palm found in Europe and in the Middle East.
Pinoys have made this custom their own by creatively weaving leaves into intricate patterns and adorning it with flowers and bows.
Visiting of at least seven churches during Holy Week
“Visita Iglesia” has its Spanish origins and dates back to the Spanish colonization. The term “visita iglesia”, which translates to “visit church”, is technically Spanish but has been embraced by Pinoys as part of the Filipino language. The reason behind the number seven is that it is a division of 14, which is the number of the Stations of the Cross. Some devotees even strive to make 14 visits, as it is believed that their prayer intention will be granted if this is done. Filipinos hold onto many different beliefs, some religious and others are just cultural superstitions passed on through generations.
Going home during Holy Week
It is common practice for a lot of Filipinos to come back to their respective hometowns during Holy Week, which usually starts from the Wednesday night before Easter Sunday. This is because it is customary to pray as a family and watch the neighborhood’s own rendition of the processions and “Senakulo”, or the reenactment of certain biblical events. Whilst the reenactments may be the same every year, Pinoys consider this as one of the traditions done with the family.
Since traveling all the way to provincial homes can be quite expensive, sending some support can be helpful. Transfer money from Australia to the Philippines with Sable Remit.
Going on a trip with family
Catholicism in the Philippines in widely practiced but for the modern Catholic family, the Easter holiday may be one of the only times that they have free time outside of work. Hence, going on a holiday is now accepted in lieu of traveling to their hometown. The compromise here is that the family still prays and visits several churches during the break.
Easter decorations and an egg hunt
Just like elsewhere in the world, Filipinos also treat eggs, bunnies, and chicks as symbols of Easter. The hare is actually a creature of fertility in paganism. Since Easter symbolizes the rebirth of Christ, and the hare is quite prominent in paganism, it is not surprising that Filipinos have embraced rabbits as one of the symbols for the season.
In fact, most public spaces, especially mainstream shopping malls, are adorned with such symbols as part of their seasonal décor. It is also quite common to hand paint eggs and host egg hunts inside the home. Cash and sweets are usually given to young children as part of the festivities.
Celebrating on Easter Sunday
Easter Sunday is one of the major events for Pinoy Catholics, as it signifies “Pasko ng Pagkabuhay” or “Christmas Reborn”. Since the past weeks were spent on abstaining from certain foods, Easter Sunday marks the day when festivities can fully resume. This also translates into eating anything that one desires. It is then customary to hold family reunions during this time and prepare festive and meat-based dishes like “Fried Lumpia”, “Pork barbecue”, and “Kaldereta”. Here’s a recipe of the delicious Fried Lumpia.
Filipinos like celebrating in general and often shift from one festive season to the next. For instance, September to December is considered as “Ber months” and is seen as Christmas season, while January to February is for the Lunar New Year and Valentines’. March to April is Lent; April to May is summer or the time when floral festivals are celebrated, and so on.