Maundy Thursday in the Philippines
Maundy Thursday, locally known as "Huwebes Santo" in the Philippines, is a significant religious event that commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with his apostles before his crucifixion. This solemn event falls on the Thursday before Easter Sunday, which is calculated based on the lunar calendar. Consequently, the date of Maundy Thursday changes every year and usually falls between March 19th and April 22nd.
The Philippines, being predominantly Catholic, has celebrated Maundy Thursday since the Spanish colonization in the 16th century. The Spanish colonizers introduced Christianity to the country, and with it, the observance of Holy Week, including Maundy Thursday. The event holds great importance for Filipino Catholics, as it marks the beginning of the Paschal Triduum - the three most important days in the Christian liturgical calendar leading to Easter Sunday.
National customs for Maundy Thursday in the Philippines
One of the most common practices on Maundy Thursday in the Philippines is attending the Mass of the Lord's Supper in the evening. During this mass, the washing of the feet ceremony takes place, symbolizing Jesus' act of humility and service towards his apostles. The priest, representing Jesus, washes the feet of 12 individuals, symbolizing the apostles.
After the mass, the Blessed Sacrament is transferred to an altar of repose, where the faithful are encouraged to spend time in prayer and adoration. Visita Iglesia, or church visitation, is another popular tradition on Maundy Thursday. Many Filipinos visit seven churches to pray before the Blessed Sacrament in each church, symbolizing the Seven Last Words of Jesus Christ.
Fasting and abstinence are also observed on Maundy Thursday, as well as on Good Friday. Filipino Catholics aged 18 to 59 are required to fast, which means eating only one full meal and two smaller meals that do not equal a full meal. Abstinence, on the other hand, is required for those aged 14 and above, which means refraining from eating meat.
Local customs for Maundy Thursday in the Philippines
In addition to the national customs, there are various local traditions and practices observed in different regions of the Philippines. One such tradition is the "Pasyon," which is the chanting of the narrative of the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the local language. This is commonly done in rural areas, where devotees gather in chapels or community centers to participate in the Pasyon.
In some provinces, particularly in the northern region of Luzon, penitential processions known as "panata" take place. Devotees perform self-flagellation, or whipping themselves as a form of penance for their sins or as an expression of gratitude for answered prayers. Though not encouraged by the Catholic Church, this practice still continues in some areas.
Maundy Thursday in the Philippines is a solemn and significant event for Filipino Catholics. It is marked by various religious customs and local traditions, reflecting the deep-rooted faith and devotion of the Filipino people. As the country continues to observe this important day, it serves as a reminder of the teachings of humility, service, and sacrifice that Jesus Christ exemplified during the Last Supper.