Just want to give you a head’s up that this week is Holy Week.  It’s a big deal in the Philippines, so expect that your OFS might take a leave of absence on April 6 and 7, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, respectively.

The Philippines is predominantly Catholic, which is why they celebrate this. They have a lot of traditions that they do around this time, and those traditions can vary depending on where in the Philippines your OFS lives.

In most places, they have what they call “Visita Iglesia” or a church pilgrimage. They go to different Catholic churches to offer prayers or light candles. Filipinos would visit between 3 to 14 churches, depending on their local tradition.

Another tradition is the Stations of the Cross, where they visit a Catholic shrine and pray on these 14 stations that show the different stages of Jesus’ last day on Good Friday. This can be as simple as a walk around a church or walking several kilometers.

The one tradition that makes the international news (because of how extreme it is) is when penitent, called magdarame, walk for miles, whip themselves on the back, carry heavy wooden crosses, and have themselves crucified on that cross! It’s not practiced as much anymore because it’s dangerous, but there are people who still do it because they feel like it’s a way for them to pay for their sins. My son is in one of those areas where they still do this.

There’s another tradition called Santo Entierro, where they re-enact the burial of Jesus. They cover His statue with a shroud and flowers and do a funeral procession around town. The people around the procession chant, throw flowers, or try to approach the statue and touch it for good luck.

If your OFS is not Catholic, they’re more likely to take a break around this time. Days before Holy Week is considered a peak season for local tourism because the long weekend gives Filipino workers time to visit their families or go on vacation.

This may not be a big deal where you live or in your culture, but it is in the Philippines.