In the Philippines, Holy Week leading up to Easter is celebrated with great fervour and passion.
In the Philippines, Holy Week leading up to Easter is celebrated with great fervour and passion. Attendance at mass rises dramatically and special ceremonies and pageants bring particular colour to the Filipino remembrance of the crucifixion of Christ. About 90 percent of the country's forty-four million people are Christian, making it unique in Asia where majority religions are Buddhist, Moslem or Hindu. Some of the rites observed by Filipinos during Holy Week are probably unique in the Christian world.
SYNOPSIS: In the village of Barrio Pampang, fifty miles (ninety kilometres) north of Manila, these men took part in a ritual flagellation ceremony shortly before Easter, (11 April).
In this annual procession to the village chapel the flagellants wore masks to conceal their identity. Here, they used whips to beat themselves, but in some areas of the Philippines flagellants use chains.
This form of penance is milder than some. Every year, many zealots re-enact the crucifixion by having themselves briefly nailed to huge crosses. Throughout the country parades re-enacting the walk of Jesus to the Crucifixion site on Calvary are held with flagellants, and penitents, carrying their own crosses.
Christianity was brought to the Philippines in the sixteenth century by the Spanish. Most of the country's Christians are Roman Catholics, with a great love of pageantry.
In many ways Easter is more important to the Filipinos than Christmas. Images in the church are specially robed and decorated and the faithful believe many miracles occur at this time.
At Paete, east of Manila, many believe an image of the Virgin Mary sheds tears at Easter. But, if Good Friday and Saturday are tinged with sadness, Easter Sunday, when Christians believe Christ rose, comes in with the joyful pealing of church bells, and a happier style of celebration for the Filipinos.