Countries such as the United States don’t celebrate Holy Week as official religious holidays. The Philippines, however, being a predominantly Roman Catholic country, has long treated Maundy Thursday and Good Friday as non-working national holidays, resulting in a 4-day weekend (or, this year, actually a 5-day weekend because the Day of Valor holiday is on Monday).
In the Philippines, during the latter days of Holy Week, all banks are closed and other businesses shut down or have shorter hours. In fact, even the local television stations have limited broadcasting hours during Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday (believed to be the three days of Christ’s death), out of respect.
The next most significant day of Holy Week after Palm Sunday is Maundy Thursday (Huwebes Santo). On this day, Filipinos observe the Visita Iglesia (Church Visit). This is usually a family event, in which immediate, also often including extended, family members travel together to visit seven different churches to meditate on The Stations of the Cross. The Stations of the Cross refers to a series of artistic representations, usually hung or displayed inside the churches, depicting the events leading to Christ’s crucifixion. The family prays over each of these stations in the various churches they visit during Visita Iglesia.
Good Friday (Biyernes Santo) is usually celebrated with various street processions depicting the Way of the Cross around many different cities in the Philippines. These processions reenact Christ’s endeavor of taking up the cross and walking to his death. Some places also hold the traditional play called the Senakulo on this day, which narrates the trial, death, and suffering of Christ. At 3:00 in the afternoon, Filipinos often offer a silent prayer, as this hour is believed to mark Christ’s death.
Black Saturday (Sabado de Gloria) is usually spent in silence and solemnity. Filipinos often just stay at home out of respect for Christ’s death.
Easter Sunday (Linggo ng Pagkabuhay) is marked by huge and joyous celebration for Filipinos. The festivities start at dawn with a procession called the Salubong. During this procession, a life-sized statue of Christ is brought by a stream of people towards a church, where a life-sized statue of Mary wearing a black veil (to express her bereavement) stands. Children dressed as angels are situated around Mary’s statue, often standing on a platform at level with her head, or with one child securely suspended in mid-air. When the statue of Christ arrives, the children sing, and the angel situated nearest Mary’s head announces that Christ is risen, dramatically removing Mary’s veil to signify the end of her mourning. Doves are often released or fireworks set off afterwards. Easter mass is then held in the parish. Some parishes hold Easter lunch beside the church after mass.