Holy Week traditions practiced in the Philippines. Credits to Balay.ph

The Philippines is known to be a great travel destination during the Holy Week, dubbed locally as “Semana Santa” or “Mahal Na Araw,” owing to the Catholic majority’s faithful observance of the religious holiday.

In 2018, over a million tourists flocked to the Manila walled city of Intramuros as the century old churches were opened to the public for Holy Week, for the first time since World War II.

Pinoys are brought up with church tenets about the passion and triumphs of Jesus Christ and the ensuing observance of feasts, processions, and other practices which make up the commemoration of one of the most important events for Filipinos second only to Christmas.

Filipinos around the world carry these traditions but the best place to witness the people still following these religious practices is at home.

Good News Pilipinas presents this short guide for travelers visiting the Philippines this Holy Week. CLICK on the title of the tradition for further reading:

Visita Iglesia (Church Visitation) is the tradition of visiting 7 churches while reciting the prayers for the stations of the cross. Catholics go with families or groups to together from one church to another while praying and reflecting on their lives.


Fasting and abstinence from regular food and activities are practiced among Filipinos to help them experience and understand the suffering and sacrifices that Jesus went through on earth more than 2000 years ago. Filipinos reduce what they eat, switch to non-meat dishes, and sometimes do not eat at all. Churches encourage adult Catholics to practice the act of fasting and abstinence but exempt children because they still have to eat well to grow. Fish and other seafood are dominant fare during the Holy Week, replacing meat products. Even markets pull out meats from their shelves and replace these with seafood and vegetables. The practice is not limited to Catholics but in other Christian religions.

Pabasa (Reading/Chanting of the Passion) is a community activity during the Holy Week where people gather to sing or chant the words of the passion of Jesus Christ. The pabasa starts in the morning and continues until the entire book is read – sometimes going on for days!


The ritual of the Washing of the Feet is practiced on Thursday of the Holy Week where several priests congregate in a mass service and literally, wash the feet of churchgoers as a sign of willingness to serve others. The practice is done to commemorate the act of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.

Salubong is a dawn procession reenacting the meeting of Mother Mary and Jesus after his resurrection from the dead. The Salubong of the statues of Mary and Jesus happens early in the morning of Easter Sunday, heralding the Christian world’s celebration of Jesus’ triumph over death.

With reports from Marclee Agustin

Do you have a Holy Week practice to share? Leave your comments below and tell the world how uniquely Pinoy you are.

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