Holy Week 2023: My Personal Reflection

Philippine Christians observe Holy Week by participating in the Stations of the Cross, going on a "Bisita Iglesia" (or "Visita Iglesia"), in which they visit different churches, and rising early on Easter Sunday to witness the "sugat" (in Cebuano) or "salubong" (in Tagalog), or the reunion of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her son Jesus Christ. That is pretty much how we spend Holy Week every year. Yet, since the outbreak, we have stayed inside and followed the activities online.

Both of my parents were quite involved in church activities when they were younger, serving God to the best of their ability and having a strong desire to be of assistance to others within the church community. I was raised watching them serve the church after they got off work, and as a result, I was occasionally left by myself with my maternal grandfather and my maternal aunt. Though sometimes they bring me with them to church, because I was very young at the time, I always sleep while waiting for them to finish the seminars they facilitate.

What I've described is merely a brief overview of my parent's participation in church activities during the 1980s and 1990s. Now fast forward to when we moved to a different archdiocese and my parents stopped attending church. They are probably too old to participate in church events or too far away from the church where they regularly serve.

Personally, I grew up without a strong preference for either Roman Catholicism or the Born Again movement. Everyone on my mother's side is a born-again Christian, and I feel obligated to honor their faith. I've grown up in the same house with my family. I was brought up observing their devotion to the religion they had followed for generations.

Now that I'm a mother of two young adults, I make sure they understand the importance of upholding our faith in God. I entered the Catholic faith through baptism, same with my two daughters. Both my parents' and my extended family's faiths have my utmost respect.


At this point, all pandemic protocols are being lifted, and we are free to participate in any activities planned by the church. By taking part in what is known as the Alay Kapwa, my mother has resumed her service to our GKK (Gagmay'ng Kristiyanong Katilingban), also known as a Little Christian Community. ALAY KAPWA is a resource mobilization program that involves making contributions (alay) to our fellow men and women in the community, also known as our neighbors (kapwa), particularly those who are disadvantaged and underprivileged. The things that unite us and the things that we are able to accomplish for the Anawim, also known as the spiritually impoverished, are manifestations of our solidarity in the fight for genuine human growth.

During this trying time, the practices of pagmamalasakit, pagbabahagi, and pag-a-Alay Kapwa are more compelling and important than they have ever been before.

To tell you the truth, ever since the pandemic protocols were eased, I still haven't made it to church. Perhaps I still have some reservations about going inside. I did nothing more than light a candle in front of the church, and that's it. Indeed, I continue to pray every day in the privacy of my own room, where I also reflect and read from the Bible. I am sorry if you find this weird, but please understand that this is simply how I communicate with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

My family observed Maundy Thursday in the same manner as we always do: by remaining at home and carrying out our usual chores while I am out doing errands to pay our bills and stock up on groceries for our household.

Attending mass on Maundy Thursday, during which the priest washes and kisses the feet of 12 individuals, most of whom are members of the church, is a customary way for us to mark the occasion, as seen by comparisons to previous years' observances. When I think back on it, I realize that one of those individuals is my father. At the time, he served as a liturgical leader in our church. 

Now, I'm stuck in line because I need to pay for my groceries. This is how I spend Holy Thursday.

In the Philippines, it is customary to recite the Stations of the Cross or the Way of the Cross on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday. This is done as part of the tradition known as "Visita Iglesia," which involves going to seven different churches.

As a result of my mother's strong devotion to the Virgin Mary during my childhood, she took me to each of the five churches that are located within our city. Imagine a little girl like me who will always go with her no matter where she goes, even if it is extremely hot and exhausting. That is how I am with my mother at all times on Good Friday.

But, during the year 2015, my father and I took part in the traditional "Visita Iglesia" by going to various churches in the city of Davao. In 2017, I was accompanied by my youngest daughter to participate in the Stations of the Cross. We visited a variety of churches, and I instructed her on how to pray. And in the year 2018, both of my daughters came with me to Shrine Hills so that they could also take part in the Good Friday events. The purpose of including them is not to convert them into devotees; rather, it is to instruct them in the customary manner of performing the Stations of the Cross. I just conveyed to them the traditional values and skills that were instilled in me by my parents.

We did not travel anywhere this week; instead, we remained at home. The same old thing: watching TV, KDramas, or CDramas while simultaneously engaging in other activities like online shopping and eating. It is, in fact, the Friday before Easter, and you are right; we ought to go to church. It is the time to exercise penitence and abstain from food because doing so is the customary way of commemorating Holy Week. But, despite the passage of time and my continued respect for the conventional method of accomplishing this task, I find it to be completely ludicrous. It would be very unfair for us to try to fast, especially considering that my elderly parents are no longer capable of doing so and that both of my children, who are now adults, and I have our own set of health issues.

The final day of the fast is known as "Black Saturday," and it is during this time that Filipino Catholics express their sorrow over the death of Jesus Christ. My father used to bring me to see Jesus Christ's dead body when I was a little girl. I would scream and cry, not because I was sad, but because I was afraid to touch the dead Jesus Christ. I still remember that from when I was a kid, and it kind of messed me up. And I don't want that to happen to my kids, so when they are young, I don't let them see that kind of thing.

Now that I've gone back and stocked up on the groceries I neglected to buy last Thursday, my Black Saturday has taken on a very different tone.

Waiting for the Facebook "sugat" or "salubong" kept me up all night. Alas!  The live video from San Pedro Cathedral allows me to witness Mama Mary being reunited with her son, Jesus Christ.

When I was young, my dad would wake me up early so I could see the "sugat" or "salubong." And it makes this little kid's heart sing to watch my pals playing angelic roles like pulling the linen over Mama Mary's face. And the way they sing the Alleluia makes me think they must all be angels.

On Easter Sunday, I did, in fact, allow my children to observe the "sugat" that is traditionally performed. This is the most exciting thing that happens during Holy Week, and my favorite part is after the service when we get to meet with the risen Christ, give him a kiss, and touch his mother's linen gown. After that, the next step is to purchase kakanin outside of the church. Outside of the church are a number of tiny shops offering various snacks, such as biko, suman, puto maya, etc., and when we arrived home, we devoured all of them!

This time, though, I was the only member of my family up to watch it take place on Facebook Live as the others slept. Well, it is three in the morning, and as far as I can see, I'm the only one who is still alive, alert, awake, and excitedly watching the live streaming. Following that, around four o'clock in the afternoon, Vatican City is streaming live on Facebook the Easter Sunday Mass that Pope Francis presided over.


As we get older and our ideas about life change, so do our ideas about how to celebrate Holy Week. Holy Week is the most important time of the year because it is when we remember the last week of Jesus' life on earth. From the sacrifice, suffering, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the events that led up to them, these are the days leading up to a great awakening.

In the past, we always did things the way Christians have always done them during Holy Week. Holy Week was a serious time. There were no TV shows or radio stations; malls were shut down; and neither cable nor the internet existed.

Kids today won't go through this. Everything changes, and the way I celebrate Holy Week also changes.