The Many Faces of Lent: Finding The Good in Good Friday

Monday, April 21, 2014

Lent is a very big celebration for us Catholic Christians because this is the commemoration of the passion of Jesus, His death and resurrection. Throughout the Philippines, we may have different ways of celebrating or commemorating Lent, but the message is still the same, the unconditional love which saved us all.

Below are some images of how we celebrated Lent specifically Good Friday.

Photo: Anica Lesca Alcopra
A penitent prostrates on the ground after flagellating himself 

"Penitensiya" as we call it, is one way that people atone for their sins. Here they use the same or almost the same kind of whip that was used to scourge Jesus, a whip with tiny blades that would cut through the skin with every whip.

When I was younger, I was afraid of looking at the penitents doing their procession to the church. After going about town whipping their backs, they would go straight to the church. It was also a tradition in my hometown that after their ritual, they would go straight to the beach which was just a few meters from the church and bathe. 


This is Senakulo. Participants are the towns people.
The Senakulo means passion play. This is one of my favorites because this is a part of my childhood that I would never forget.

Every Good Friday, about twenty years ago, my hometown would have a Senakulo and the actors and actresses would be the town people. It was such a different experience to see the rich and poor alike helping each other to put up a successful passion play where people from nearby towns would want to witness. 

My ancestral house in Tolosa, Leyte was very much a part of the Senakulo, since the play would start from that corner. Our house have a full-length antique mirror and so our house became the dressing room for the participants. The Senakulo would start with Jesus' entry to Jerusalem and the cast would start their first dialogue as soon as they step out of our house. And most of all, the person playing Jesus would always be inside our house because he would put on his make-up infront of the full-length mirror.

As a child, he became the 'prosopon' of Jesus for me. He was big and he had kind eyes. But I don't know why everytime he (as Jesus) was in the house, I was so afraid I would not even go near him. This was one of my earliest memories of my childhood.

This tradition in my hometown stopped when the person playing Jesus grew old and no one was worthy enough to take the role. No one wanted to take the role.

Siyete Palabras

Siyete Palabras or 7 Last Words is sometimes included in the Senakulo or the Via Crucis (The Way of the Cross). But in some places where there is no Senakulo, the Siyete Palabras is done inside the Church and the priests would give reflections on Christ's Seven Last Words.

Visita Iglesia

This is one of our tradition to visit more than one church. Some say that you need to visit at least 7 churches in your area and neighboring towns. Others can go as far as to the next province to visit churches.

There are also others who would do their Station of the Cross while doing the Visita Iglesia.


There is a particular place in Pampanga where people really flocked to witness the re-enactment of the crucifixion. Devotees would have themselves crucified in exchange for some personal petitions that they are asking. In Cutud, Pampanga, several devotees have already participated in the crucifixion. 

Some foreign tourists have also tried to participate in the ritual. Maybe out of curiosity rather than faith. But since last year, tourists have been banned joining the rites because of inappropriate behavior they showed. Years ago, a Japanese tourist participated and started filming, it turned out to be something that he used with pornography. Then another Australian national, a television comedian, became controversial when he participated and filmed his crucifixion, only to air it in his comedy show in Australia. This has stirred a big controversy in both countries. 

A year ago, another tourist backed out on the day of the crucifixion. (A permit and waiver is needed for tourists wanting to participate in the rites.)

This year, a Dane was allowed to participate when he was able to show a waiver issued by the embassy. 

Ruben Enaje, a devotee, is on his 27th year of having himself crucified to reenact the passion
and crucifixion of Jesus. 

A Danish man joined in the crucifixion

The Catholic church does not encourage the crucifixion and the flagellation, but then devotees still follow their own rituals and traditions because of the belief that their petitions would come true.

How I Commemorated Good Friday

On the other side of the country, the Light of Jesus (my spiritual community) celebrate or commemorate Good Friday in a rather different way. In my community, we have started an annual Lenten recollection since 2010 and our Good Fridays are mostly a myriad of emotions. We have praise and worship, and life-changing talks given by wonderful speakers. 

Bro. Arun Gogna giving his powerful talk

Powerful worship!

Break time.

That's mah sistah! I was able to bring her to join the recollection.

Hosts Veia Lim and Benjie Lara

Seated so far from the stage because we came in late. Bro. J Yogawim giving his talk.

During the break

Me and my sister Anna

Me and my music ministry sisters

I am just so glad to be reunited with them

In the evening, we have what we call the Adoration of the Cross and the dead Jesus. This is similar to going to the wake of Jesus. We go to the church and fall in line to adore the cross and view the body of the dead Jesus. 

This is the Santo Entierro. Ater the time of death of Jesus,
a procession is done with the Santo Entierro going over the main roads of the town or city.
After it is brought back to the church, the people can now view, offer prayers to the Santo Entierro.

That's my Matthew trying his best to behave and be good. For a moment he was.
 He said he prayed for Jesus to protect me. Sweet!

My country is rich in culture. As the only Asian country with majority of Catholic/Christians, we have richer religious traditions. It doesn't matter how you commemorate Lent or Good Friday. The most important thing is you see the good in Good Friday. There is always a good in Good Friday. Good Friday is an indication that Easter is coming!

Keep the faith,


On my way home, after the Maundy Thursday recollection, I could not help but overhearing a mother and son's conversation. This really made my day. It went like this:

Son about 12-13 yrs old: "Mom, what time will Jesus die?"( they were talking in the future tense)
Mom: " 3 pm."
Son: " This afternoon?"
Mom: " No, tomorrow."
Son: "Oh okay...(pause) Philippine Time or US time?" :)

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