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How Filipinos Celebrate Holy Week? - Holy Thursday

Filipinos find in the Holy Week an opportunity to unite with family. Parents drag their children out of their lazy beds and make them travel for long hours before dawn to reach their hometowns where gramps and granny eagerly await them. Mom and dad enjoy a free trip down memory lane while junior learns all the childhood tricks from gramps. Then, the family goes to the local parish church on Holy Thursday to join the Holy Mass of the Last Supper.

In the city, families go out in the evening to visit seven nearby churches after the Last Supper Mass on Holy Thursday. They call this tradition Visita Iglesia. The Chapel of Holy Relics in Tabor Hill makes a great destination for this visit. Many pilgrims come to this place to pray with the relics of their favorite saints. The chapel is run by the friars of the Order of the Discalced Augustinians(OAD).

Experience Holy Week in Tabor Hill

Holy Week in the Philippines happens at the wake of the heat season or summer in this tropical island paradise. That is why people make use of this long holiday to enjoy a relaxing vacation at a beach out of town. They only want to get away from the humid air and suffocating fumes of the traffic in the city. They go home to their homestead in the province and fulfill their religious duties there.

But going out of town can be very expensive for the entire family. Some families cannot afford to travel to the countryside every year. So they decide to spend Holy Week in the city where they live. They simply attend the Last Supper Mass at the local parish church. Then they let their children experience Holy Week in the tube. Local TV stations at this time will only show movies related to Holy Week like Jesus of Nazareth, The Exodus and other bible stories.

Tabor Hill provides an alternative place for families to enjoy the outback without traveling far in the Holy Week. This pilgrim center stands on a hill in the suburbs of Talamban, Cebu City. Men in motorbikes wait in line at the town center to take pilgrims to the site. A one-way trip to the hill costs from ten to fifteen pesos but remember to stand your guard. Some of these drivers abuse newcomers. They will charge higher than usual.

Motorcycle Ride

Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday with the Blessing of Palms taking place in front of the abovementioned Chapel of the Holy Relics. A foot procession going up the hill to Saint Rita Hall where Holy Mass is celebrated follows. Throughout the entire week until Black Saturday, the Augustinian priests take turns in hearing people's confessions. The Last Supper Mass takes place on Holy Thursday evening at Saint Rita Hall.

Confessions @ St. Rita Hall

Although Holy Week already started on Palm Sunday, the celebration only heats up on Holy Thursday with the Last Supper Mass. It is one of the highlights of this week-long celebration of the Catholic Church. It is also a special kind of liturgical celebration. Within the Mass, the priest portrays that scene in the gospel when the Lord Jesus stooped to wash his disciples' feet. Twelve men in the community volunteer to act Christ's disciples.

Washing of the FeetAt the end of this Eucharistic celebration is another foot procession going down to the Chapel of Holic Relics where the consecrated bread is laid. The chapel transforms into a royal haven for pilgrims who wish to pray and meditate. At this time, the area starts to get crowded as more and more pilgrims arrive to do the Stations of the Cross. Some would even spend the night there.

Chapel of Holy Relics

The OAD Tabor Hill Pilgrim Center also offers humble accommodations for people who wish to spend the night on the hill. Function rooms are available for retreats and seminars. Visit or call the secretariat office for more information on bookings and reservations. Make sure to book in advance if planning to stay in for the Holy Week as the rooms are only limited. The writer does not have the authority to make transactions on behalf of the institution.


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