FILIPINO Christians are in the middle of observing Holy Week, the lead up to Easter in which communities observe unique rituals that blend Catholic and pre-Hispanic beliefs.
The Philippines is the largest Catholic-majority nation in Asia and the third biggest in the world after Brazil and Mexico. More than 80 percent of its 105 million people adhere to Catholicism.
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, which marks the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem before he was killed. During this time, the Philippines sees a mass exodus of people returning to their home provinces to spend Holy Week attending church, public processions and time with their families.
Ateneo de Naga University Press director Father Wilmer Tria told Rappler that the purpose of Holy Week’s processions “is to remind us of the biblical characters during the public ministry of Jesus and of His passion and death.”
Manila’s Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle urged Filipino Catholics to focus on Jesus rather than arrogant “kings”, reported The Inquirer. The Catholic Church has been strident in its criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, which has seen thousands of poor Filipinos killed.
“Let us look and listen to Him to get to know Him again. It’s important that we again deepen our understanding of Jesus,” added Tagle.
The mass migration of people during this time causes more traffic accidents, according to the Philippine Star.
The Philippines Department of Health warned citizens to remain hydrated and fed during Holy Week as people attend church. “When feeling exhausted or hazy, immediately grab a glass of cold water,” said Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III in a statement.
The most devout Catholics become penitents, self-flagellating in order to repent for their sins and experience the suffering of Jesus Christ prior to his crucifixion.
The government also warned penitents or people nailing themselves to crosses to use sterile nails and be wary of tetanus.
“The DOH is one with the Christian community in observing the solemnity of the Holy Week. We would like to emphasise that it can also be enjoyable it is disease-free, worry-free and stress-free all throughout the season,” Duque said.
Holy Week concludes on Easter Sunday.