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Philippine Catholics Commemorate Sacrifice of Jesus
'Semana Santa' is a time of reflection and observance across the Catholic world
Alex Argote (alexphil)     Print Article 
Published 2007-04-08 15:22 (KST)   
Faithful devotees pray at the statue of the risen Christ, in Iligan, a small city in the northeastern section of Mindanao island in the Philippines.
©2007 Alex Argote
Following an age-old annual tradition handed down by the Spanish conquistadors to natives whom they converted to Christianity hundreds of years ago, most Filipinos of today momentarily take a pause from everyday life in the first week of April to remember the sufferings of Jesus Christ.

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During these days of Lent, devout Filipino Catholics usually abstain from wine and carnal acts out of respect for the commemoration of the crucifixion of Christ on a Roman execution cross outside Jerusalem.

Pious Filipinos begin the most holy of weeks by attending Mass on Palm Sunday. This is no ordinary Sunday, as millions all over the Philippines flock to Catholic churches bringing "palaspas" or coconut palm fronds to be blessed with holy water by priests.

They then bring the blessed palm fronds to their respective homes and put on doorways and windows ostensibly to ward off evil spirits and, hopefully, to bring good fortune.

On Holy Monday, devotees start the "pabasa pasyon" or the marathon chanting of the epic life of the Saviour which lasts day and night for more than 48 hours until all the important events of Jesus' life, death and resurrection are recited verbatim.

Praying the "Stations of the Cross" follows on Holy Thursday, in which the faithful pray with rosaries at each of the 14 stations of Christ's ordeal on his painful death march to Calvary, while bearing a heavy cross.

The city cathedral is packed with devotees in the pre-dawn Easter mass.
©2007 Alex Argote
On Good Friday, processions of the statues of Jesus, St. Mary, Mary Magdalene and that of the 12 disciples are held in reenacting the various scenes of the Lord's passion. In Central Luzon, devotees even go to the extreme acts of self-flagellation, and a few even elect to undergo the excruciating ordeal of being nailed on a cross.

Some Filipino Catholic men participate in this extreme act of sacrifice in exchange for answered prayers or gratitude to the Almighty.

The gloom of Black Saturday gives way to joyous celebration during a dawn reenactment of Christ's resurrection. Called "Salubong" or "reunion of Jesus and his mother Mary," the dawn Easter Sunday procession is attended by thousands of Filipinos who roused themselves from sleep in the early hours of the Sunday morning to witness and be part of the festivities.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Alex Argote

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