In photos: Holy Week celebrations in the Philippines
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In photos: Holy Week celebrations in the Philippines

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.

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Filipino devotees wave plam fronds while a Roman Catholic priest blesses them with holy water during a celebration of Palm Sunday at Redemtorist church in Baclaran, Paranaque city, metro Manila, Philippines March 25, 2018. Source: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

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.

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Filipino religious devotees wave palm fronds in front of an image of Jesus Christ on a cross during a celebration of Palm Sunday. Source: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

SEE ALSO: Philippines: Duterte accuses Roman Catholic Church of being full of ‘hypocrites’

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.”

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A girl touches the mask of a penitent called “Morion” during the start of Holy Week celebrations in Pola Oriental Mindoro in Philippines March 26, 2018. Source: Reuters/Erik De Castro

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.

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Residents on a motorcycle ride past a penitent called “Morion” during the start of Holy Week celebrations in Pola Oriental Mindoro in Philippines March 26, 2018. Source: Reuters/Erik De Castro

“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.

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A devotee takes part during a procession of religious images during Holy Week celebrations in Pola, Oriental Mindoro, Philippines March 28, 2018. Source: Reuters/Erik De Castro

The mass migration of people during this time causes more traffic accidents, according to the Philippine Star.

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Devotees pray during Holy Week celebrations in Pola, Oriental Mindoro, Philippines March 28, 2018. Source: Reuters/Erik De Castro

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.

SEE ALSO: Philippine Catholic church slams ‘anti-family’ legalisation of divorce

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.

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Hooded penitents perform self-flagellation to atone for their sins during Good Friday Lenten rites in Cutud town, Pampanga province, north of Manila, Philippines March 30, 2018. Source: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

The government also warned penitents or people nailing themselves to crosses to use sterile nails and be wary of tetanus.

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A penitent is flogged with sticks in a re-enactment of Jesus Christ’s suffering during Maundy Thursday traditional rites in Mabalacat, Pampanga province, Philippines March 29, 2018. Source: Reuters/Dondi Tawatao

“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.

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Penitents performing self-flagellation to atone for their sins, lie on the ground to pray inside a Catholic church during Maundy Thursday Lenten rites in Mandaluyong city, Metro Manila, Philippines March 29, 2018. Source: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

Holy Week concludes on Easter Sunday.