Saturday, April 09, 2011

Pampanga: Holy Week practices and Mal a Aldo calendar

Pampanga is one of the provinces of the Philippines with really colorful (and at times bloody) Holy Week practices and rituals. It's quite close to Manila too. Which is why it's a good place to experience Holy Week, Mahal na Araw or Mal a Aldo.

Holy Wednesday
The highlight of the day would be the Holy Wednesday Processions. Several towns have very elaborate carrozas, particularly Bacolor, Sasmuan, Guagua, Santa Rita, Betis and San Fernando.

Holy Thursday
Pampanga is quite (in)famous for Holy Week flagellation. And this usually peaks on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. There are other traditions including Dakit Cordero in Mabalacat (2:30 p.m.) and Santo Tomas (4 p.m.). and the Pasyon Serenata in Brgy. San Basilio, Santa Riat (8 p.m. to 12 midnight) and Sitio Maligaya in San Basilio (also 8 p.m. to 12 midnight).

Holy Thursday Dakit Cordero procession in Mabalacat, Pampanga
Holy Thursday is usually commemorated with the cordero ritual. In Morong, Rizal and previously in Betis, Pampanga, the Lamb of God was prepared for an afternoon procession, shaped out of mashed kamote (sweet potatoes) and potatoes. Unfortunately, Betis no longer does the tradition. But the town of Mabalacat still does.

Holy Week flagellation and penitents in Magalang, Pampanga
Pampanga is a hotbed for Holy Week flagellation and Lenten penitents. In Magalang, Pampanga, the barangay of San Agustin is where a lot of these Lenten penitents appear every Holy Thursday and especially Good Friday.

Holy Week spectacle at Pampang Road, Angeles City
Pampang Road in Angeles City is another convergence point of Holy Week penitents. It gets a bit rowdy and out of hand though!

Pasyon Serenata in San Basilio, Santa Rita, Pampanga
Pasyon Serenata is a variant of the pabasa, with two sets of accompanying singers and marching bands playing alternately in what is called a sagutan. The Pasyon Serenata is held in the evenings (usually 8 p.m. to 12 midnight) of Holy Thursday and Good Friday in two locations in Barangay San Basilio, Sta. Rita, Pampanga. One Pasyon Serenata is staged beside the San Basilio Chapel. While another one can be found in Maligaya Street.

Good Friday
On Good Friday, Pampanga's folk and elite traditions take center stage. During the day, the violent rituals that have made the province quite notorious all over the world, take place. These include crucifixions in San Pedro Cutud (San Fernando), San Juan (San Fernando), Santa Lucia (San Fernando), Pampang (Angeles City), San Agustin (Magalang) and Telepayung (Arayat). Penitents, particularly flagellants, move around the northern towns of Pampanga.

Accompanying the crucifixions are street plays on the passion of Christ in San Pedro Cutud (San Fernando) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Pampang (Angeles City) at 3 p.m.

There also used to be the Tinieblas in Betis and Bacolor, and the Tanggal which is still practiced in San Rafael, Macabebe, after the Siete Palabras.

In the evening, the elegant heirloom carrozas of Pampanga's old families are brought out. The best carrozas can be found in the town of Bacolor (5 to 7 p.m.). Other towns with noteworthy processions are San Fernando (6 to 8 p.m.), Santa Rita (7 to 9 p.m.), Sasmuan, Guagua and Betis.

After the processions, you could watch the second night of Pasyon Serenata in Brgy. San Basilio, Sta. Rita.

San Pedro Cutud passion play and crucifixions in San Fernando
The Via Crucis passion play and crucifixions are staged annually in San Pedro Cutud, City of San Fernando, Pampanga. Despite its popularity among tourists both local and foreign alike, the local government has been making an effort to preserve as much as the tradition as possible, and keep out to much commercialism from the passion play which is written in the vernacular Kapampangan language. At least 30 percent of the crowd at San Pedro Cutud were foreigners. And it could arguably be the event most visited by foreigners owing to the international media attention it gets every year.

Good Friday Santo Entierro procession in Bacolor, Pampanga
Indeed, the phoenix has risen from the ashes. I decided to watch the Good Friday Santo Entierro procession in Bacolor, Pampanga by chance since there was no Good Friday procession in Guagua last year due to ongoing road construction around the center of town. It was very encouraging that the Bacolor procession is back to its old grandeur.

Santo Entierro carrozas and Good Friday processions of Pampanga
Every Good Friday, the Santo Entierro or Apung Mamacalulu are brought out in grand carrozas called calandras for the Good Friday procession. Here are photos of some of the Santo Entierro carrozas or calandras of Pampanga. It's a work in progress so I'll be adding photos and descriptions as I receive them. Thanks to the Center for Kapampangan Studies for providing some of the photos including this one of the Guagua carroza being prepared for the Good Friday procession.

Pasyon Serenata in (Maligaya) San Basilio, Santa Rita, Pampanga
After the Good Friday processions, we returned to San Basilio, Sta. Rita, Pampanga to listen to the Pasyon Serenata. But this time, we proceeded to Maligaya Street which is also in San Basilio, which has its own Pasyon Serenata.

As I mentioned previously, the Pasyon Serenata is a variant of the pabasa, with two sets of accompanying singers and marching bands playing alternately in what is called a sagutan. It's held in the evenings (usually 8 p.m. to 12 midnight) of Holy Thursday and Good Friday in two locations in Barangay San Basilio, Sta. Rita, Pampanga.

Black Saturday
A Sabado de Gloria Ball with a rigodon de honor used to be held in the town of Sto. Tomas. But this is no longer organized.

Easter Sunday
Check out the Pusu-pusuan or Salubong in Minalin (4 a.m.), Sto. Tomas (5:30 a.m.) and Bacolor. Since it is the town fiesta of Sto. Tomas, they also have the Sagalas (8 a.m.) and Sabuaga Festival (2 p.m.). The Pakbung Hudas also happens in Minalin (9:30 a.m.) and Sto. Tomas (12 noon).

Salubong procession on Easter Sunday and the colorful pusu-puso
The Salubong is a Filipino tradition done early in the morning of Easter Sunday, wherein the images of the Risen Christ and Sorrowful Mother symbolically meet in a pre-dawn procession. While many parishes have moved it to late Saturday night for convenience, the real traditional Salubong happens right before dawn.

Easter Sunday Pakbung Hudas tradition in Minalin and Santo Tomas, Pampanga
Firecrackers on Easter Sunday! In the towns of Minalin and Sto. Tomas, the Pakbung Hudas (explosion of Judas) tradition is still held every Easter Sunday. We drove to Minalin to catch the Pakbung Hudas festivities at 9:30 a.m. and proceeded to Sto. Tomas to catch theirs at 12 noon.

Easter Sunday salubong, pusu-puso and sagalas of Santo Tomas
On Easter Sunday, the of Santo Tomas and Minalin are the center of activities in Pampanga. Aside from being Easter Sunday, it's also the town fiesta of Santo Tomas. The town celebrates its fiesta on Easter Sunday rather than on the July 3 feast day of St. Thomas the Apostle.

For information on Holy Week traditions in other provinces, check out Holy Week practices in the Philippines.


  1. viena9.9.11

    wow! thanks for this it help me of my research paper project.

  2. hi there,

    here in Santa Rita Pampanga, we revived the tradition of "dakit cordero". we also have "burul" during good friday. hope you can visit next year.


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