Lent in the Philippines

For me; a sacrificial journey leading to the Cross of Christ.

Lent (kwaresma) festivities in the Philippines have survived the test of time ever since these were introduced by Spain, showcasing the Philippines as a predominantly Catholic country.
The festivities remind us of the unique aspects of Spanish influence in the celebration of Lenten season by Filipinos. In Paete, Laguna, you can witness the procession of statues and “moving saints,” mesmerizing any visitor who happens to witness these at the right time and place.

Self flagellation is enacted in San Pedro Cutud town, Pampanga province.
Photo: Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

Colorful garments also light up every parade, especially the Lenten procession in Baliuag, Bulacan. This is not to ignore the flagellation and nailing of penitents in Pampanga, simulating the sacrificial death of Jesus on the Cross.

In the southern Tagalog area, mountain climbing on Mt. Banahaw has become a yearly practice for natural healers on the belief that certain plants picked on Good Friday have healing power; others believe that Semana Santa is the best time for amulet (anting-an-ting) hunting.

Lent is incomplete without the traditional pabasa in every parochial church. In my home province, one can hear over the airwaves the story of the Passion of Christ in non-stop dramatizations, also known as pasion. But radios and televisions go silent past 3 p.m on Good Friday.

Like in any other activity, food is an important concern; some may have chosen fasting; others may refrain from eating meat products. Popular food is mostly fruits and vegetables, and since Lent falls in springtime, the famous shave ice (halo-halo) and ice candies are sold everywhere.

Transformation of these traditions has shifted to focus on people’s activities like going to the beach and having a picnic or get-together. Philippines has declared Maundy Thursday and Good Friday as holidays. Only Good Friday is a holiday here in the United States. No wonder the beaches in Hawai‘i are fully packed on this day.
Lent is also the time when superstitions of Filipinos are reinforced, such as:

• Avoid getting injured during Holy Week.
• Don’t take a bath after 3 p.m. on Good Friday.
• Don’t eat meat on Good Friday.
• Don’t make noise during Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

To me, Lent should lead us to self-reflection because this is the best time to ask for forgiveness, a moment to culminate the sacrificial journey of Christ on the Cross. To cap it all, let us not forget to celebrate Christ’s resurrection on Easter, when we can finally eat anything in our favorite restaurants, or when we can prepare any food to end the Lenten season.