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Holy Week in the Lenten Capital of the Philippines

by RepublicAsia

WHEN is Holy Week 2024? This year, Holy Week began on Sunday, March 24 and will culminate on Easter Sunday, March 31, 2024. 

Holy Week, locally known as Cuaresma or Semana Santa, is the most significant week in Catholicism, commemorating the events leading up to and including Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. 

During this sacred week, people pray, repent, and reflect on the profound journey of Jesus’ suffering and victory over death. It begins with Palm Sunday, which marks Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and culminates in Easter Sunday, celebrating His resurrection. Each day of Holy Week has specific religious observances and rituals within the Catholic tradition. 

The island of Marinduque, which prides itself as the “Lenten Capital of the Philippines,” commemorates Semana Santa with a touch of its own rich culture. Here’s how they take part in the week-long observance or celebration: 

Palm Sunday 

Photo courtesy: Diocese of Boac, Marinduque | Facebook

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week. It is celebrated with processions, where Catholics carry palm branches—traditionally known as “palaspas”—to church for the priest to bless. The palaspas are waved and blessed to symbolize victory, peace, and people’s welcoming gestures. It is also a reminder of the Scripture telling us that people welcomed Jesus by laying down their cloaks and waving palm branches (John 12:13).

Marinduqueños celebrate this day by attending mass that includes two readings from the Gospels about Jesus’ entering Jerusalem and reading the entire Passion account during the Liturgy of the Word in the afternoon. After the mass, people commonly display the blessed palm branches beside their Sto. Niños, behind crucifixes, or on their altars. Some take several branches and weave them to make palm crosses and place them in their front doors and windows for blessings and the belief that these palms can move away demons. In the afternoon, people participate in the General Station of the Cross. 

Dried palm branches blessed on Palm Sunday are saved and burned to ashes used in Ash Wednesday services the following year, symbolizing the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, connecting the triumph of Palm Sunday with the solemnity of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. It also marks the start of the 40-day period for fasting and abstinence in imitation of Jesus’ fasting before he began his public ministry. 

Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday

Photo Courtesy: ShotsbySher | Facebook

During Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, daily masses, processions, and pabasa ng pasyon take place like normal during these three days of Holy Week. 

In Marinduque, Holy Monday marks the beginning of the annual Moriones Lenten Rites across different municipalities in the entire province throughout the week. The Moriones Lenten Rites (derived from the word morion, a military headgear of the Romans and Spanish) is a religious festival held annually during Holy Week. The “Moriones” are men and women in costumes and masks replicating the garb of biblical Imperial Roman soldiers as interpreted by locals. Local and international vacationers flock to the streets of different municipalities in Marinduque to witness the Lenten Parade, where people wear caftan dresses and morion costumes. 

People practice the moryonan or pagmomoryon as a penitential ritual. It is distinctive for the wearing of uncanny heavy masks and hot costumes as they walk under the scorching sun along the streets to express their spiritual devotion. 

Maundy Thursday 

Maundy Thursday commemorates Christians recalling the Last Supper. Gospel readings throughout this period feature passages from the Gospels of John and Matthew, highlighting Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, in anticipation of the Thursday liturgy. 

Locals participate in Visita Iglesia and attend holy mass to commemorate the Last Supper and the notable washing of the apostles’ feet and vigil. Jesus performed this act to show His disciples the importance of serving others with selfless love. 

Lenten Parade or the Morion Parade, continues until Easter Sunday.

Photo Courtesy: ShotsbySher | Facebook

Good Friday

Photo Courtesy: MJ Photography | Facebook

On this day, locals fast and remember the suffering of Jesus when he died on the cross. Confession is also done in preparation of oneself for the return of Jesus. 

In different municipalities in Marinduque, the reading of the Seven Last Words is practiced in the afternoon. Tourists and locals flock and witness the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) or the Station of the Cross and “Pagpapako kay Kristo,” a reenactment of the suffering of Jesus Christ and crucifixion, with certain participants bearing heavy wooden crosses and others undergoing self-inflicted pain as a form of repentance for their sins. Additionally, there is a grand procession of religious images throughout the town.

Black Saturday 

Moriones Lenten Rites reaches its climax on Black Saturday with a serenade and precedes with the “Pugutan Play” or the Senakulo, the beheading of Longinus, the blind Roman soldier who struck Jesus on His side with a spear.

Photo Courtesy: ShotsbySher | Facebook

Mass on Holy Saturday is the Easter Vigil, locally known as “Salubong,” which begins the Easter celebrations of Jesus’ resurrection. Bonfire is lit outside the church, and attendees light their candles. Readings from the Old Testament that foretell Jesus’ death and resurrection are read and the mass ends with a reception afterward to continue the celebration. 

Easter Sunday 

Easter Sunday continues the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. Mass is held in the morning to commemorate the most fundamental teaching of the Catholic faith. The sacrifice of Jesus for our sins and his resurrection offer us the opportunity to share eternal life with Him in heaven. 

In the evening, locals and tourists attend the annual free ALIVE Marinduque Summer Music Festival in Poctoy White Beach, Marinduque, presented by Congressman Lord Allan Velasco and the Pusong Pinoy Partylist. 

Previous ALIVE concerts featured the artists and bands of Silent Sanctuary, Chocolate Factory, Jeck Pilpil & Peacepipe, 6cyclemind, Imago, and many amazing local bands. 

The 2024 ALIVE concert performers for tourists to look forward to include the bands Rocksteddy, Aegis, and Brownman Revival. 

Photo Courtesy: IZAG Visuals | Facebook
With reports from Cybil F. Castillo


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