Filipinos’ observance of the Holy Week (Semana Santa or Mahal na Araw) is said to be one of the most unique practices of anywhere in the world. As I mentioned in my past articles, a majority of Filipinos are Roman Catholics. Therefore, the Lenten Season is a very sacred and solemn occasion in the Philippines. After Ash Wednesday, we begin the tradition of fasting and abstinence on all Fridays of Lent. On Palm Sunday or what we call “Linggo ng Palaspas”, Filipinos go to mass with their palm branches to be blessed by the priest. We then place these branches at the fašade of our homes because we believe that this will bring us luck and more blessings. Our elders tell us that the palm will turn away evil spirits, avert lightning and fires. All is quiet during Holy Week as Filipinos stay at home and pray. There are only a few TV and radio programs that air during this solemn week. TV stations show religious programs and movies. I grew up watching reruns of “Moses” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” every Holy Week. By Maundy Thursday, businesses usually shut down operations. Some establishments open later and close earlier than usual. Some towns and municipalities hold processions or ceremonial walks with colourfully lighted carriages of statues of saints which are pulled by families or their respective owners. This depicts the life and death of Christ as narrated in the Bible. People from provinces and even cities observe the traditional “Penitensiya” or Penitence (flagellation). A group of men walk half-naked through the streets, under the unforgiving summer sun, with their faces covered and perform self-penitence by first slashing their backs with a blade or knife then lash themselves with bamboo-tipped “burillos” or whips embedded with thorns or glass shards. They inflict wounds on their backs as an act of repentance for their sins. There are some Filipinos who imitate Christ by carrying a heavy wooden cross while they make their way to the church. On Good Friday, all throughout the country, the “Senakulo” or a dramatization depicting the Passion of Christ is performed. Some men who play the character of Jesus go as far as crucifying themselves as punishment for their sins. Despite the fact that the Catholic church condemns the practice of self-flagellation, Filipinos still continue to perform them as they are very passionate about their faith and therefore choose to hold on to this tradition. Some Filipinos pray the Stations of the Cross by visiting 9 to 14 churches in different municipalities or provinces. This is called “Visita Iglesia” which Filipinos believe will bring peace to the family. There are people who, instead of driving, walk from one church to another as part of their penance and sacrifice. On Black Saturday, everything is more or less back to normal. TV stations resume regular programming and businesses open as more people come out of their homes. Easter Sunday is the most important day of the Holy Week because it is the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Filipinos attend a Holy mass then go to the malls or have picnics in parks for family meals. Others take vacations by going to beaches and resorts because it is said to be a way of having a final “cleansing” after a week of sacrifice. Each one of us has our own way of observing and remembering how Jesus Christ died for us, to pay for our sins. It is important to remember that the real message of the Holy Week is for us to dedicate more time for prayer and to always put others first before yourself.