Observing Lent the Cebuano Way

Celestial Garden Cebu

Apart from summer vacations, a lot of Filipinos look at March and April of each year as the time for them to look into themselves and ask for forgiveness for their sins. Cebu, being the first Catholic settlement in the country, has always been known for its religious activities. In time for Holy Week, most Cebuano faithfuls observe these:

Fasting and Abstinence

From Ash Wednesday, many Cebuanos promise to give up on some things to cleanse themselves from their sins and as a form of sacrifice. There are some who would decide to just take one full meal a day for a certain period, while others give up on meat, become more charitable, and others also promise to abstain from other things.

Getting Active with Church Activities

Since the Holy Week is a religious observation, a lot of Cebuanos also participate in different church activities. There is the washing of the feet on Maundy Thursday, Seven Last Words and procession of Christ’s dead body on Good Friday, Baptism of Fire on Black Saturday, and Easter vigil.
Many Cebuanos, especially those who have life size statues of saints, would adorn carosas to participate in the processions.

Refraining from Long-distance Travels

Many parents also tell their children not to go out for summer getaways around this time of the year as they believe that Christ died and so there may be untoward incidents that may happen to them while they are away. While this belief is slowly fading, a lot of people still refrain from traveling mainly because Lent is the time to remember Christ’s sacrifice to save humankind.

Not Taking a Bath on Good Friday after 3:00PM

Many children are told not to take a bath once 3:00PM passed on Good Friday because it is like bathing in Christ’s blood. While there are no Biblical explanations to this, some could only theorize that this is one of the elders’ way of disciplining children and get them to attend religious activities.

Not Cooking Grilled Food

Grilled food is delicious but during Holy Week, this is frowned upon and the elders would say that anyone who eats grilled food will have freckles. Obviously, this is just one of those beliefs that have been passed on from generation to generation.

Eating Various Delicacies

While many people abstain from social media on Holy Week, there are still a lot who would comment how their newsfeeds are filled with images of binignit, biko, and other delicacies. Indeed, Holy Week is also the time when most households feast on Filipino delicacies since they are avoiding eating full meals, especially meat.

Skipping Work

A lot of people are glad that Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are declared holidays in the Philippines. These days are considered very important as everyone is encouraged to reflect on Christ’s passion and resurrection. Elders usually frown upon their younger family members who could not skip work during these days.


The church discourages people from doing physically painful measures to show penitence. However, there are still those who would hit themselves with whips, lashes, rods, switches, nine tails, sjambok, and others. In the more extreme cases, other faithfuls would also have themselves nailed on the cross just like Jesus Christ. Gilbert Bargalyo is one Cebuano who was nailed to the cross for several Good Fridays already and during each time, thousands of people would flock to the location to see this ritual of his.


Churches are usually filled with people who want to confess all the sins they’ve committed in the past year. This is a ritual many would want to go through so they can ask for forgiveness for their sins and welcome the new year (Easter) with renewed spirit.

Sugat (Easter Dawn Mass)

At the end of the week, Christians also hold Dawn Masses/Services to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. This is a great time to celebrate Christianity and many churches all over the world hold grand celebrations complete with plays, songs, and other activities.

Beach Time for Easter

Of course, Cebuanos never miss the opportunity to celebrate Christ’s resurrection and as a ritual of washing their sins, families flock to beaches. It is not a surprise that beach resorts are filled with visitors on Easter Sunday because everyone wants to celebrate and savor the remaining day of vacation.

To some, these beliefs and practices are bordering on absurdity and fanaticism but historical experts say that this is just testament to the pagan practices that Filipinos practiced for thousands of years even before the Spanish conquerors came. While there is nothing wrong with modern practices, many parents would still encourage their children to adhere to these beliefs until now.