Wednesday, April 4, 2012

5 Best Places to Observe Holy Week in the Philippines

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This could also be: Holy Week. More fun in the Philippines.
Do not be surprised if you find a lot of locals and tourists in ports, terminals and tourist attractions this week.  Holy Week in the Philippines is an important celebration observed by many Catholics in this country. Government offices as well as most business and commercial establishments close early or cease operations during Holy Week, especially from Maundy Thursday until Black Saturday.  And for this year, most offices (including museums) are closed until April 9 (Monday) since it's Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valor, a national holiday.

For those who wish to observe the religiosity, traditions and mysticism of the Filipinos' Holy Week celebration, it would be a good idea to head to any Catholic Church (especially in Manila, Batangas and Laguna) and check the schedule of Lenten activities. Now for those who want a little more adventure, these are the best places to visit and observe the major events of Holy Week in the Philippines:

1. Marinduque - The heart-shaped island of Marinduque, located south of Quezon Province, is well-known for its annual celebration of the Moriones Festival. The festival commemorates the story of Longinus, a Roman soldier whose sight was restored by the blood of Jesus Christ. Large community parades are held in Marinduque's major towns with men wearing colorful masks and costumes that are inspired by Roman soldiers searching for Longinus. There are also street plays that highlight Jesus' walk to Calvary as well as the beheading of Longinus.  Below are the schedule of activities from the Marinduque government's website: 

Moriones Schedule: Holy Monday to Holy Wednesday
Moriones Schedule: Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday
2. San Fernando, Pampanga - During Holy Week, thousands of spectators head to the barangays of San Juan, Sta. Lucia and San Pedro Cutud in Pampanga to witness the Maleldo, considered as one of the weirdest festivals in Asia.  The Maleldo is a reenactment of Christ's long walk to Calvary and his crucifixion on the cross. What makes it bizarre to most observers is that the participants of the Maleldo practice flagellation while others reenact the crucifixion by having themselves literally nailed to a cross. (Note: This is not for the faint-hearted!) This Holy Week tradition marks its 50th year this Good Friday (April 6). According to Sun Star Pampanga, the Maleldo rites will start at 9:00 a.m. in San Juan, followed by the Via Crucis at 10:00 a.m. Re-enactment at San Pedro Cutud will start at 11:00 a.m. while the nailing on the cross will begin at around 1:00 p.m.

3.  Lucban, Quezon - Although it's more popular for its colorful Pahiyas Festival (held every May 15), Lucban is also known among locals as the venue of the most fervent celebrations of  Semana Santa, from the lively Pabasa (religious chanting) to the festive dousing of water during Easter.(Read more about Lucban's  Lenten activites in this post.)  Lucban is also the location of the  Kamay ni Hesus Shrine. Hundreds of pilgrims arrive very early during Holy Week to climb on 300 steps to reach the statue of the resurrected Jesus Christ on top of the hill. Some residents from neighboring towns, as an expression of their devotion, walk all the way from their homes to the shrine!

Lucban's Church (L) and Kamay ni Hesus (R).
(Church photos from Sen Villanueva). 
4. Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur  - These two provinces of the Ilocos region, located 8 hours away by land from Manila, are famous for their old churches and natural wonders. Thus, it is a good place to observe Holy Week especially if you want to participate in a Visita Iglesia, the tradition of visiting 7 or 14 churches and pray the Stations of the Cross. This is usually done on Maundy Thursday although some visit churches earlier in the week to avoid crowds. Most towns in Ilocos, especially Pasuquin in Ilocos Norte and the city of Vigan in Ilocos Sur observe Holy Week with much solemnity and pageantry. Naturally, by Easter Sunday, locals head to the beaches of Pagudpod and other attractions of Ilocos to celebrate Christ's resurrection.

5. Antipolo City -  The Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage can be found in the City of Antipolo, located east of Manila. During Holy Week, devotees of Our Lady, also known as the Virgin of Antipolo, commemorate the return of Blessed Virgin's image to Antipolo from Quiapo Church, where it was temporarily stored for safekeeping during the Second World War. Called Alay Lakad, devotees start their  pilgrimage during the evening of Maundy Thursday (April 5) until they reach Antipolo on the dawn of Good Friday (April 6).
Antipolo Church: Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage

Now that I've shared with you some of the best places to observe Holy Week in the Philippines, it's now your turn to share your thoughts. Where will you be spending Holy Week? Is Holy Week observed in your hometown? Have you witnessed any unusual or unique Holy Week celebration in another country? 


  1. Friends went to Pampanga last year to witness Holy Week celebration there and you're right, the Maleldo is not for faint-hearted. Looking at the photos they captured during that event shocked me.

    1. I witnessed the flagellation before and didn't have the guts to take photos. The penitents' threshold of pain is really out of this world.

  2. Some places not included in the list are: San Pablo and Paete Laguna, Baliwag Bulacan, and Angono Rizal

  3. Great places. Like the quality information provided on the same. Have bookmark your post and surely will make a plan to visit these holy places. Keep Posting.


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