Remember the old Edwin Hawkins Singers song, “Oh, Happy Day”? It is one of my favorite songs to sing during the Easter season. It is here, in full swing, and it is an entire week long celebration in the Philippines. Holy Week is probably the most important holiday in the Philippines or at least on equal footing with Christmas. Many foreigners do not realize just how important Holy Week is to Filipinos.
Holy Week is so important, the actual educational academic year is influenced by the timeline of the Easter celebration. Public and private schools end their academic year before Holy Week kicks off. Our son's school let out on March 24. All the students on every level are on vacation until the 1st or 2nd week of June, when the new term begins.
It's A Festival
Holy Week kicked off last Sunday with Palm Sunday and was followed by Holy Wednesday. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Black Saturday and Easter Sunday round out Holy Week.
Around the Philippines there are other festivals within The Festival. For years, the Philippines has received worldwide attention with enactments of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, in a number of locations throughout the country. Some devotees are actually nailed to a wooden cross. This will be the 29th consecutive year that one devotee will be nailed to a wooden cross. He is indeed devoted in his belief. Others engage in acts of self-flagellation while parading in the streets.
There are many Passion Plays, which include less graphic presentations. Many children are also participants in these plays.
Most every city, town and barangay will have a procession of religious statues. The processions attract large crowds, as many want to reach out and touch one of the religious statues. Many people believe the statues have the Power. Financial blessings, healing and all types of miracles.
During Holy Week, many decide to give up something. Many will not eat meat the entire week. Others will fast the entire time, while others may have half day fasts. Some people will not drink, smoke or engage in sexual activities. The rule of thumb for many is that they will give up the one thing they enjoy the most, refraining during Holy Week.
I recall my first Holy Week in the Philippines and that was way back in 1987. At that time, I was living with a Filipino family in Metro Manila. I was a student at the University of the Philippines and the family had basically adopted me. I was one of the family. Reading the King James Bible aloud for 24 hours on either Good Friday or Black Saturday was the activity the Patriarch of the family annually required in the family. Of course, many different family members took their turns in reading from the Bible aloud but it was non-stop for one full day.
When was the last time an entire mall shut down where you live? In Bacolod City, SM Mall will be closed all day on April 2nd and 3rd. Not a single store will be open.
Holy Week is a time when many business owners lock their doors and take one week vacation. I hope you have stocked up. I certainly have because this Thursday and Friday, it will be very limited in being able to buy anything.
Public transportation will be limited. My wife's taxi business is now shut down until Monday, April 6.
When the large supermarkets reopen this Saturday, that will be the time I buy an imported ham and a jar of cherries for making a cherry glaze for the ham. Foreigners seem to be most of the ones in the Philippines who engage in having a Food Fest on Easter Sunday. I may also add lamb or goat to the Easter menu. I already have the mint sauce. For sure, we will have good side dishes.
No matter where you live and even if you do not celebrate, wishing you a very Happy Easter.