Our first time to celebrate Holy Week in the Philippines. In Germany, the highlight would always be the Easter Sunday; which is much, much different from the traditions I grew up with.
First I told my husband that usually, all works stop on the Wednesday before Maundy Thursday. But the real thing is that, a week before Holy Week, everybody's already in a vacation mode that there would be no more work done as most people are already in vacation or preparing for their vacation. He wont believe it until he noticed that most of his emails went unanswered and we couldnt reach anybody anymore. The usual answer, 'please call after Holy Week.'
To the girls, I told them that usually, there wont be any good shows on tv because most televion stations would be closed or would only be showing Holy Week specials. And that malls and shops and almost every commercial business would be closed. They noticed that!
I also informed them that they could join the parade of angels and princesses who would be on hand during the dramatization of Jesus Christ's way of the cross which is a famous tourist event in our hometown in Pasay. They did join the procession. IC was an angel and walked half the station, and MC was a princess, and she joined the whole procession until the end.
The way of the cross is a part of the local tradition of 'cenakulo', which is a nine-day extravagant stage play that derives its sequence of events from both the Gospels of the Bible’s New Testament and from the Book Martyr of Golgotha.
Before that, we visited the church where they watched a theater group about the life of Christ. I also pointed out to them that all the images inside the church are covered, because Christ has been stripped bare.
After that, they saw the procession of various life-sized religious images. I also told them that midmorning, there are also the 'penitencia' or the flagellants walking back home together from their assembly place. I assumed they are not ready to see those things, which they are!
As our usual practice, too, there were no meat on Good Friday. Good thing the girls loved the buttered shrimp and fried fish that my mother prepared for us.
Since the girls were getting fascinated by the colors of the events during Good Friday, I decided to give them a list of traditional happenings during the Holy Week in the Philippines.
- Pabasa -- the Gregorian chanting of the poetic prayer story of Jesus’ life, passion, death, and resurrection known locally as the “pabasa” or the “pasyon” . It remained well preserved particularly in the provinces where it is held continuously day and night sometimes for as long as three straight days. In recent years, the melodies of pop songs are sometimes used to make the chanting of the Biblical passages sound more interesting and lively. And after those 'pabasa' -- there are food and drinks served.
- Visita Iglesia --Visita Iglesia (Spanish for "Visit of the Churches") is a Holy Thursday tradition of Philippine Roman Catholics, brought to us by the Spaniards. It is the practice of visiting 7 churches to pray and meditate. The tradition has its roots to the early years of the establishment of the Church, when there were 7 great basilicas in Rome that Christians would visit for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament after the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday. (We experienced this already last year, but this year, the kids said they would pass; simply because, they forgot what this is all about!)
- Moriones Festival -- In Marinduque, the colorful and unique festival attracts thousands of tourists every year. Male participants wearing oversized masks and costumes patterned after the ones worn by centurions who tormented Christ.
- Salubong -- is an Easter Sunday pre-dawn ritual that reenacts the Risen Christ's meeting with His mother. It is performed in the churchyard under a specially prepared arch where the veiled image of the Virgin Mary has been placed. A child dressed as an angel is lowered by ropes from a high platform to lift the mourning veil of the grieving Mother. The church bells are rung, and there is a procession of the images of Christ and his mother that ends up inside the church.
The participants in the procession are segregated by gender. The men and boys follow the image of Jesus Christ, while women and girls follow the image of Mary. The procession ends with the two groups meeting in the church, where Mass is said. It is re-enacted in the evening of Black Saturday.
- Easter Egg Hunting -- This is a western tradition that is now being done in most hotels and malls in Manila. Of course, in our home, we mix our traditions in such that we did our egg coloring with the kids and tomorrow, Easter Sunday; there would be egg hunting, too.
Oh, and some myths and fads: nobody should take a bath or wash their clothes on Good Friday!