Having shared the distinction of the only 2 predominantly Christian nations in Asia, the Philippines (together with Timor Leste) are on full swing to commemorate the Passion of Jesus Christ. The "Semana Santa" or Holy Week in English was mainly brought by the Spanish Conquistadores to the Philippines and the Portuguese colonizers of Timor Leste.
Let's feature the observance in the Philippines. This solemn observance or "festival" is truly a sight to behold. It's visually evocative and the air is full of emotions as the whole country commemorates the death of Christ by re-enacting the events. Each province or region has their own "interpretation" and style of commemoration. And it's truly a glimpse of faith that defiend this great nation.
Tourists come to see Filipinos crucify themselves as a re-enactment of the passion of Christ more than 2,000 years ago. There are countless "Cenaculos" and "Pabasas" in traditionally written verse form and dramatized version. This is truly a Filipino tradition and definitely one of Southeast Asia's attraction.
Flagellants. They scourge themselves in a somewhat paganistic manner considered medieval by many. This is done by stripping themselves naked from the waist up, walking barefooted under a midday sun and flagging themselves bloody with ropes and broken pieces of glass attached with strings to bamboo sticks. They do this as a means of atonement of their sins. It is a sort of retribution of their offenses and human weaknesses for past favor such as after going through some crisis or danger in their lives. This is commonly practiced in the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac, Rizal and practically all over the Tagalog region.
The Pabasa. It's a family affair with the cooperation of relatives and neighbors. Others do these twenty four hours daily within the seven days of singing and reading of the Passion and Death taken from the verses of the Bible. Foods and drinks are being served to the singers.
The Black Nazarene. A century-old black statue in Quiapo, sculptured in Mexico during the Galleon Trade era, considered miraculous by devotees is brought out for procession every Good Friday. The statue is borne on the shoulders of male devotees in a slow, difficult procession around the narrow streets of the district, a score of men struggle to keep the image moving on. Thousands more try to muscle their way to touch the Nazarene as if carried by a powerful tide in an ocean of humanity.
The Moriones. Marinduque Island is famous and known throughout the world. No one could recall its beginning but old folks claimed it started since time immemorial. Usually it is held in the plazas of Boac and Gasan. The towns present a spectacular pageant wherein people are dressed like Roman soldiers to commemorate the beheading of Longinos. The festivities have a Mardigras atmosphere.
Visita Iglesias. In Manila it is a practice of Catholic believers to visit, if possible, 14 churches within Metro Manila representing the fourteen stations of the cross.
This unique style of observance of the Christian Holy Week of the Filipinos makes them distinct from other Catholic countries around the world. Truly an evocative experience. Come to the Philippines and experience it yourself. And by the way, it starts tomorrow! The 6th of April through the 8th and beyond. This is the biggest happening in the Philippines next to the Christmas season (which runs from 16 December through 3 January of the succeeding year).