Holy Week usually occurs in early April, and for the predominantly Catholic Filipinos, it is a period when families take leave from school and work and spend time visiting churches to observe the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many opt to leave the cities and take vacations, and depending on their temperament, will choose destinations for their party atmosphere, quiet setting, or spiritually-nourishing events.
Here are 7 Philippine places to spend the upcoming Holy Week:
Moriones Festival, Marinduque – a popular celebration which reenacts the story of Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced the side of the crucified Jesus with a spear. Morion means mask, and was once a standard part of a Roman soldier’s helmet. Colorful Roman costumes, painted masks and helmets, and brightly-hued tunics characterize this festival, and several towns in the island of Marinduque become one big stage.
Sagada â€“ located in the Cordillera mountain range of Luzon some 5,000 fee above sea level, this area is world-renowned for its hanging coffins, 60 caverns and pleasant waterfalls. The cool climate, clean air and plush scenery allow for peaceful contemplation with few distractions. Getting to Sagada from Baguio requires a 6-hour bus ride through Mt. Halsema Express.
Subic â€“ a former US naval station which has since been transformed into a premier economic zone and entertainment complex. An Ocean Park, wreck-diving sites, mangrove graveyard, Mt. Pinatubo crater trek, bat sanctuary and golf course await visitors who desire family-friendly fun. Regular flights are available between Metro Manila and Subic; there is also a 50-minute ferry ride off the Cultural Center of the Philippines which travels directly to Subic Bay Free Port.
Boracay â€“ the premier beach in the country, notable for its fine, white sands and turquoise waters. Modern amenities are provided along the shore for the comfort of vacationers, along with bars, restaurants, and clubs. Boracay gets particularly festive during Lent, when throngs of beach-goers mix it up with henna tattoo artists, trinket vendors, masseurs and entertainers. To get to this beach, reserve a domestic flight early from Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 to Caticlan or Kalibo Airport in Panay, then board a commuter van to the Port Terminal, where pumpboats finally take passengers to Boracay Island.
Batanes - the northernmost province of the country has also the sparsest population, and is characterized by steep cliffs, rugged coastlines and unpredictable weather. With no malls and modern distractions, visitors can expect quiet moments of reflection while enjoying the outdoors. Mountaineers can relish a challenge with Mt. Iraya; the rest can go lighthouse-hopping or take a dip at the nearest beach. To get to the Batanes Islands, travelers can take a SEAIR flight from Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Mount Banahaw, Laguna – considered sacred by many cults in the surrounding areas, this dormant volcano, located 165 kilometers south of Metro Manila, is a pilgrimage destination for the devout. Topological features have names based on biblical allusions, and three crosses are placed on important sites. To get to Mt. Banahaw, travel to San Pablo, Laguna, then ride several jeepneys to the foot of the mountain.
Cutud, Pampanga – a Lenten ritual which is highlighted by a dozen or so people who flagellate themselves or nailed to wooden crosses atop a makeshift Cavalry. While the Catholic Church does not endorse this behavior, the locals believe in these acts of penitence and their ability to remove sins. Interested parties can get to Cutud and other participating towns by taking the North Luzon Expressway and exiting at San Fernando, Pampanga, then following the road to the town.
The national government takes big steps to support this holiday mass migration across and in-between the islands with media updates, roadside and port assistance, and heightened presence of police and emergency units. For those who wish to remain in the big cities, expect many malls, restaurants and shops to close from Thursday to Saturday during this week.