Lenten Season Observance: Holy Week in Pampanga

3 March 2023
Lenten Season Observance Holy Week in Pampanga

Mahal na Araw, commonly known as Semana Santa or Holy Week, is one of the most significant times of the year for Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines. Given that it honors the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is a very important ceremony in Filipino culture. It includes Palm Sunday, Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday), Good Friday, Black Saturday, and Easter Sunday. In the Philippines, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are regularly observed as public holidays. The Philippines' observance of Holy Week customs is a strong manifestation of Filipinos' religiosity and devotion to religious practices. Most pious Filipinos were raised with a variety of additional religious traditions in addition to fasting and abstinence. The Philippines observes a number of Holy Week customs, mainly in the province of Pampanga.


In contrast to the previous three years, when the National Capital Region (NCR) and neighboring provinces were placed under strict lockdown due to a rise in the number of COVID incidences, this year's Holy Week will be observed closely back to its customary. The year 2023 has brought the Filipinos a pleasant change with the gradual easing of pandemic restrictions around the nation. And, it is consoling to know that we can all enjoy and observe our Holy Week customs in the Philippines with just a few precautions; allowing a larger number of people to attend public events while adhering to fundamental health procedures under the following restrictions: 1) Face masks are required to be worn during religious services; and 2) everyone is expected to abide by the government's rigorous "Social Distancing" policy. After liturgical events, church staff members must keep their buildings clean and provide alcohol for our believers' sanitation.


One of the provinces in the Philippines known for its extremely vibrant (and occasionally violent) Holy Week rituals and ceremonies is Pampanga. As it's not that far from Manila, it's a wonderful place to spend Holy Week or Mahal na Araw as a result. Activities like reenacting, experiencing Jesus Christ's life again, and partaking in his passion are prominent during this Lenten Season in Pampanga. With these preserved traditions, both local and foreign tourists are visiting the province.



Preserved Holy Week Observances and Traditions in Pampanga


1. Palaspasan /Palm Sunday/ Domingo de Ramos

Holy Week officially begins on Palm Sunday. Typically, Filipino families would carry palm leaves (or palaspas) for blessing as they made their way to church. Outside the church, sellers frequently offer palm leaves. They would pursue you and make sure you bought one before entering the church. As the priest sprinkles them with holy water during the Holy Mass, they hoist their palaspas or palm fronds into the air with the congregation. After the ritual, people bring their palaspas home, where they hang them from their windows or doors or place them on the altar. Blessed palm leaves are believed to drive out bad luck and bring good fortune into a house. The palaspas are kept on the door or window for a year as part of a ritual by the Filipinos.



2. Abstinence and Fasting

Fasting and abstinence are two more customs associated with Holy Week in the Philippines. Even young practicing Catholics who engage in excessive social media or online gaming try to abstain from some vices during Holy Week, such as smoking and drinking alcohol. They fast and avoid eating sumptuous dishes or their favorite meals, or anything with meat, especially on Fridays. As much as possible, meals should only be consist of fish, fruits, and vegetables.



3. Pabasa or Pasyon

During Holy Week, another Catholic observance or devotion is Pabasa or Pasyon. It is a poetry or religious texts that tell the account of Jesus Christ’s passion and death. The faithful assembles at the house of those who host the Pasyon where they partake in the book’s sing-song reading. This commences on Palm Sunday afternoon and continues 24 hours in a day until the book is complete. For others, it starts immediately following the Palm Sunday mass. It is also observed from Holy Monday till early Maundy Thursday morning. It concludes at roughly noon on Good Friday. The pabasa can be sung or played utilizing a number of musical instruments. Others of the younger age would join the pabasa and make music to accompany the reading of holy texts.



4. Penitensya

Pampanga gains an exceptionally high reputation for penitents who self-flagellate in public or carry a wooden cross as a sign of repentance for their sins during Holy Week. Hundreds of tourists, both local and foreign, travel to Pampanga to witness this age-old Filipino custom. The village of San Agustin in Magalang, Pampanga, is home to several of these Lenten penitents. This ritual entails simulating the crucifixion and portraying Jesus' suffering. Beginning on Maundy Thursday in Pampanga, penitents conceal their faces and beat themselves with a set of bamboo sticks that have been tied together and strung together. People gather in Barrio Cutud in San Fernando on Good Friday to witness men being willingly put to a cross and nailed to a cross in a recreation of Jesus' execution. A cenakulo portraying Judas' betrayal for 30 pieces of silver prior to Jesus' arrest and death comes before it. The highlights of the cenakulo are invariably Judas' regret and suicide.

However, Mayor Edwin Santiago in the previous years has put a ban on self-flagellation, crucifixion, and any act emulating Jesus Christ's suffering. An executive order was published stating that violators will be detained and punished.



5. The Washing of the Feet

A Holy Mass for the Lord's Supper on Maundy Thursday includes time for the washing of the feet. Twelve men are chosen to symbolize the disciples in this solemn ceremony and the priest represents Jesus Christ, who while kneeling on the floor washes the feet of the 12 persons one by one. It evokes the believers of the scene in the Bible after the Passover feast when Jesus washed the feet of his followers. That event symbolized His humility and attitude of service that we should all emulate.



6. Visita Iglesia

This is a traditional Holy Week tradition for the majority of Filipinos. During Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, it is customary to visit at least seven different churches as part of the Visita Iglesia tradition. This is best done with family. This custom originated in a 16th-century Roman tradition led by St. Philip Neri. To honor the Holy Sacrament and look for atonement for one's sins are the two main objectives of Visita Iglesia. It is believed that a person's wish will be granted if they can visit seven different churches. During trips to the church, Stations of the Cross are frequently observed. Some churchgoers would visit 14 churches to complete the 14 stations, or they would pray at two points for each church. Even in Metro Manila, many people have the practice of visiting at least seven Catholic churches to honor the Holy Sacrament. Walking from one Church to another becomes a social activity for families and friends, whose company makes the journey more bearable. This is usually done on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday.

You should see Pampanga's beautiful churches as part of your Visita Iglesias. Among the most visited and must-see churches in Pampanga during the Lenten Season are as follows:

- Santa Rita de Cascia Parish Church in Santa Rita Pampanga

- Holy Rosary Parish Church, Angeles Pampanga

- San Guillermo Parish Church, Bacolor Pampanga

- San Agustin Church, Lubao Pampanga

- Metropolitan Cathedral, San Fernando Pampanga

- Betis Church, Guagua Pampanga

- Santa Catalina de Alejandria Church, Porac Pampanga



7. Station of the Cross

The Stations of the Cross is a way for believers to remember the death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. The 14 images that make up the stations depict Christ's suffering from when he prays in the Garden of Gethsemane until he is laid in the tomb. The devout pause at each Station to reflect and to pray.



8. The Seven Final Words

The seven final statements uttered by Jesus before he died on the cross are known as the Seven Last Words by Catholics. Priests guide the faithful in meditation and thought on the importance of Christ's teachings on Good Friday.



9. Procession of Santo Entierro

The Santo Entierro Procession, which features life-size and antique carvings of saints, occurs on Good Friday. A carozza that has been beautifully decorated with flowers is frequently used to transport these images. Saint sculptures are frequently covered in velvet that has been jeweled and decorated. The culmination of the Philippines' Holy Week custom occurs when a sizable throng gathers in front of the church for the late-afternoon holy procession. The only Catholics who are "free" from participating in the march are the old, disabled, and ill.



10. Salubong de Pascua or Easter Salubong

According to Christian doctrine, Christ died on Good Friday and rose from the grave on Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday custom known as salubong starts at 4 in the morning. It is a vigil to remember the moment Mary and Jesus met again after His resurrection. This serves as God's Son's welcome ceremony as well. Jesus and Mary usually lead two separate processions from opposite ends of the town, starting the ritual at each end. A little girl playing the part of an angel will then remove the black veil that Mary is wearing to symbolize sadness from her face as the two processions converge in the middle. Given that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, it signifies the end of her mourning. Families prepare feasts to celebrate Jesus' Resurrection and indulge in foods they had avoided during Holy Week.



Roman Catholics in the Philippines observe Holy Week as a means of penance, adoration, and prayer to God and His Christ. It is a tradition that Catholics in the Philippines hold dear. No situation, including the epidemic, can stop the pious Filipinos in ensuring that the country's Holy Week customs are upheld. Catholics use the customs and traditions of Holy Week to renew their faith and reestablish their connection to God.


Pampanga is not just a place for preserved Holy Week observances and traditions, the province is also seeing an increase in real estate investment. When you are in Pampanga, you should look at some of its affordable house and lot for sale so you may experience these traditions and customs up close every year at the comfort of your own house. Lumina Homes can help you with that. As one of the leading developers and providers of house and lot in the Philippines, we guarantee you that you can own your place in Pampanga in no time.

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