Holy Week is a significant religious festival in the Philippines. In this predominantly Roman Catholic country, Holy Week is known as both Semana Santa (the original Spanish name) or by the Filipino nameMahál na Araw (lit. "Dear/Precious Day/s").
Beginning Holy Wednesday, businesses in the Philippines either shut down operations until Black Saturday or have later opening and earlier closing times. During the Easter Triduum, usually a public holiday, many local television and radio stations interrupt broadcast or at least replace regular programming with more solemn or religious content out of respect. Many communities observe the Spanish-influenced Catholic rituals such as processions, with many having been syncretised with pre-Hispanic beliefs. This is evident in local practises and the many superstitions associated with the occasion.
At Mass on Palm Sunday (Linggo ng Palaspás), Catholics carry palm fronds to be blessed by the priest. Many Filipinos bring them home after the Mass and place them above their front doors or windows, in the belief that doing so can ward off evil spirits and avert lightning. The usual Gospel reading on Palm Sunday features Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, when he was welcomed by people waving palm fronds and laying their cloaks on the ground for his donkey to walk upon. In some places a procession is held usually starting from an Ermita, a certain chapel not far from the parish church, in order to accommodate more faithfuls. Other parishes on the other hand blesses the palms in a plaza located in front of the church.
In the liturgy, the reading of the Gospel is dramatised wherein each part is read by a different liturgical minister. Generally, the narration is read by the commentator, while the dialogue of different characters such as Pontius Pilate are read by one or more of the lectors. The lines were spoken by the rabble are generally given the choir, with the congregation encouraged to deliver the lines as well. Lines that were spoken by Christ Himself are delivered by the priest.
Maundy Thursday (Huwebes Santo) is the beginning of the Triduum, and represents the build-up of events for the week.
The main observance of the day is the last Mass before Easter (commonly called the Mass of the Institution of the Lord's Supper) usually including a re-enactment of the Washing of the Feet of the Apostles; this Mass is followed by the procession of the Blessed Sacrament before it is taken to the Altar of Repose.
Beginning in the morning, the faithful observe the "Visita Iglesia" or "Church Visit", which usually involves going to either one, seven, or fourteen different churches to pray the Via Crucis; by evening this includes a visit to the exposed Blessed Sacrament on the Altar of Repose.
This is also the day many television and radio networks nationwide either formally suspend operations until Holy Saturday or broadcast religious programming. An exception would be networks owned by the Iglesia ni Cristo, like Net 25 as this denomination does not observe Lent. However the 24-hour ACQ-Kingdom Broadcasting Network observes the occasion, and thus, until 2011 was the only channel broadcasting normally. Only local cable news stations like the ABS-CBN News Channel, Global News Network, and local news channels AksyonTV and GMA News TV, plus a few other cable stations, continue delivering news and information. ANC, GMA, NBN, IBC and RPN also telecast the Papal Masses in the Vatican commemorating the Easter Triduum via satellite feeds.
Another tradition is when parishioners join their parish priest for the usual morning Mass in the cathedral, especially in the large dioceses and archdioceses. Many priests in the country consider this to be the day when they renew their sacerdotal vows. In most cases, banners saying 'WE LOVE YOU FATHER (name of the priest)' is seen outside the cathedral (or somewhere else appropriate) to signify their support their parish priests.
Good Friday, or Biyernes Santo, is a public holiday, commemorated with solemn street processions, the Way of the Cross, the commemoration of Jesus' Seven Last Words or Siete Palabras, and a traditional Passion play called the Senákulo, which in some places is a week long affair. In some communities (most famously in the province of Pampanga), the processions include devotees who self-flagellate and sometimes even have themselves nailed to crosses as expressions of penance, in fulfillment of a vow, or in thanksgiving for a granted request.
After three o'clock in the afternoon (the time Jesus is traditionally believed to have died), all noise and merrymaking is discouraged, bathing is proscribed, and the faithful are urged to keep a solemn and prayerful disposition. Siete Palabras services, both on television and in parish churches, conclude at this moment. The Mass of the Passion of the Lord is held in all parish churches with the veneration of the cross and communion for the closing.
Towards evening, there is a funeral procession of the deceased Christ known as "Prusisyon ng Sto. Entierro", similar to the procession of the epitaphios in Eastern Orthodoxy, which follows the Mass of the Passion. The statue of the dead Christ, known as the Santo Entierro or in Kapampangan as Apung Mamacalulu, is borne on a decorated "Calandra", funeral carriage , after which it brought around the community and back to the church to be venerated by the faithful and the "Pahalik sa Señor". Such a procession may involve images of other saints, but regardless of the number, tradition dictates that the last image in the procession is always the Mater Dolorosa. Other images in groups participating are those depicting the decent from the cross or burial.
Some places accord the statue of the Santo Entierro with proper funeral rites, such as laying the body in state or, as in some instances, by smoking the image over a fire in accordance with local, pre-Hispanic funerary customs.. In the town of Paete, Laguna,a tradition wherein the Santo Entierro is smoked several times along the procession, using lansones peelings for the fire while someone shouts "¡Señor, Misericordia, Señor!" (Lord, Have mercy, Lord!)
The public sorrow attributed to this day gave rise to the descriptive Tagalog idiom "Mukha kang Biyernes Santo", literally meaning "You look like Good Friday". This means that the subject looks so sad that he resembles the suffering Jesus Christ.
The marathon chanting or "pabasa" of the Pasyon, the epic narrative of Christ's Life, Passion, Death, and Resurrection, usually concludes on this day.
Holy Saturday known locally as "Black Saturday" or Sabado de Gloria (Spanish: "Saturday of Glory"), has the traditional silence and solemnity from the previous day spill over. Preparations are made for theEaster Vigil to be celebrated that evening.
Some parishes have a presentation where Judas hangs himself because of his treachery towards Jesus.
Since 2008, television news broadcasts resume on this day on major networks like ABS-CBN and GMA, usually with highlights of the week's observances both nationwide and in various regions, as well as preparations for Easter Sunday celebrations, the Easter Vigil and the traditional Salubong that follows.
Easter (Paskò/Linggo ng Pagkabuhay) morning is marked with joyous celebration, the first being the dawn ceremony called the Salubong (Filipino: "meeting"). Images of the Resurrected Christ and the Virgin Mary, are brought in procession together to meet at a designated area called a "Galilea", usually located at the plaza fronting the church. It plays out the imagined reunion of Jesus and his mother Mary after theResurrection. In some locales, statues of other saints involved in the Resurrection narrative accompany them, such as St. Peter and Mary Magdalene, as well as St. John the Evangelist.
The Virgin Mary is clothed or at least veiled in black to express bereavement. A girl dressed as an angel, positioned on a specially constructed high platform/scaffold or suspended in mid-air, sings the Regina Coeliin Latin or a local language and then dramatically removes the black veil, signifying the end of her grieving. This is accomplished by the "angel" simply pulling off the veil, or by tying it to balloons or doves and releasing these into the air. The Virgin is then transformed into the Nuestra Señora de Alegria, or Our Lady of Joy. The moment is marked by pealing bells and fireworks, followed by the Easter Mass that begins right after sunrise either at 6 or 7 in the morning. In some parishes however the pratice is done on midnight of Easter Sunday after the Easter Virgil the night before.