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Observance of Lenten Season in the Philippines

Lenten Season 2015 Schedule:
  • 2 April – Maundy Thursday
  • 3 April – Good Friday
  • 4 April – Black Saturday
  • 5 April – Easter Sundy


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The Stations of the Cross at Catarman, Camiguin – In most churches in the Philippines, they have life-size statues in the churchyard which depict the 14 Stations of the Cross. These stations tell the story of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It has been a tradition among believers to pray and reflect on each of these stations during Good Friday. Holy Week is a religious holiday where Christians focus on prayer and meditation on the salvation of mankind through Jesus Christ.


For many Filipinos, particularly Christians, the season of Lent involves reflecting on Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. Many expats living in the Philippines are actually baffled by the amount of devotion some Filipinos have regarding their religion to the point that they inflict pain on their own bodies.


Traditionally, the Christian Season of Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and lasts up until Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday is 40 days away from Easter Sunday. Alternately, the dates of Lenten Season is either in late March or mid of April. Different cultures practice Lent differently. In the Philippines, in which the most widespread religion is Roman Catholicism, the last few days of Lent have come to be regular holidays particularly Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Black Saturday. If you are a businessman, this means that employees working on these days are paid twice their regular rate.


During Palm Sunday, Filipinos gather in the church for mass while bringing special woven palm leaves that are called “palaspas” to commemorate Christ’s coming to Jerusalem. This also marks a time of fasting. There is no general rule on how a person should fast but most Catholics stay away from red meat such as pork and beef.


On Good Friday, people again gather at church and usually hold a procession to emulate Christ’s passage through crucifixion. Many devout Catholics even have themselves crucified while others perform self-flagellation as a form of penance.


On Black Saturday, Catholics hold another procession for grieving the death of Christ with images of the Virgin Mary, as well as Magdalene.



Colourful “palaspas” made with coconut leaves or palm leaves. These leaves are blessed during the Palm Sunday mass. These are frequently displayed in homes for spiritual protection. After a year, these “palaspas” are burned and the ashes are mixed with holy oil. This mixture is used for Ash Wednesday anointing of the head of Catholics as a reminder of Holy Week.



A religious devotee undergoes actual crucifixion to honour the passion and death of Jesus Christ.

Easter Sunday marks the resurrection of Christ from the dead which is a major celebration among Christians. While other cultures observe these with Easter egg hunts and exchanging Easter baskets, Filipino Catholics usually just hold a feast in their homes with family from a scale of ‘simple’ to ‘grand’ usually after Easter Mass. Still, some denominations have been known to do Easter egg hunts. Eggs represent “rebirth” or “new life”.


The last days of Lent being regular holidays mean there are no school and work. As such, many Filipinos take this opportunity to get together with family and friends. Some of the city dwellers go to far-flung provinces to reunite with family and friends or go vacationing on top tourist destinations like the beaches in Boracay and Puerto Galera. Expect the beaches and other tourist destinations to be crowded during this season.





Author: Rhett Kinneas  



Photo source:

Stations of the Cross – From Lai Marie | Pinay at

Palaspas leaves –

Crucifixion of reglious devotee –

Beach –






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