What You Need To Know: Holy Week Traditions in Philippines

The Holy Week in the Philippines is celebrated every year from the deeply rooted Roman Catholic traditions, which can be traced from its religious roots way back in the 1500s when Spain colonized the country.

A predominantly Roman Catholic nation, Holy Week or also known locally as Semana Santa is one of the most important religious festivities of the year. The Lenten season begins during Ash Wednesday when people go to Church and the priest put ash on their foreheads during the mass.


It culminates during Good Friday wherein it reminds locals of the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. The Easter Sunday marks the end of the Holy Week in celebration of the rising of Jesus Christ to heaven.

Here are some more Philippine Holy Week traditions:

Palm Sunday


Palm fronds or locally known as Palaspas are brought to the Church for the priest to bless during mass. Filipinos wave them in the air while waiting for the priest to bless them with holy water before or after the mass. These are placed in their houses either on the doors, windows or living area and are believed to ward off evil spirits.


Scorge Crucifixion

The Senakulo is a dramatization in installments during Holy Week and begins during Palm Sunday. In San Fernando, Pampanga and in other provinces in the country, Filipinos perform it as an act of repentance for their sins and they have penitensiya wherein they are crucified in public with the crown of thorns on their heads or they walk the streets while lashing themselves with thorns on the back which results to bleeding. 


Fasting and abstinence

Catholics fast during Holy Week wherein Filipinos avoid eating meat starting on Ash Wednesday, every Friday, and Good Friday. Some can also do fasting with bad habits such as smoking or giving up particular types of food to symbolize sacrifice during the Lenten season.


The Pabasa is a tradition of elder Filipinos wherein they sing or chant the words from the Pasyon, which is a story book about the life, passion, death and resurrection of Christ. There are two groups that are divided who sing or chant the lines or stanzas alternately with a string instrument like a guitar usually for three days.

Washing of the Feet

In the olden days, the host provide water for travelers to wash their feet upon entering the house which is a sign of humility and a service to other people by Jesus during the last supper. It’s commemorated during Holy Thursday mass when the priests wash the feet of 12 churchgoers who represents the 12 apostles in the bible.


Visita Iglesia

The tradition is to visit seven or 14 churches during Holy Thursday or Good Friday wherein Filipinos pray on their own or with their family and recite the Stations of the Cross. There are a lot of famous churches in Manila and in the provinces of Philippines which can be visited. (You may visit the Visita Iglesia post).



It reenacts the first meeting of Jesus Christ and Mary after His resurrection which happens on Easter Sunday. The Statues of Jesus Christ and Mary are carried the opposite ends of the community wherein the statue of Mary is covered in a black veil of mourning called lambong.

Photos from different websites

For more info about Catholicism in the Philippines, you may visit Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website.

One thought on “What You Need To Know: Holy Week Traditions in Philippines

  1. I saw some of these traditions during Holy Week celebration last week and I’m interested in witnessing more of it next year. Good post!

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