Food · luzon · philippines · Travels

Philippine Diary: My 2016 Holy Week

My favourite part of Holy Week is always the procession. Since I was a kid I’ve always been fascinated when people walk along the streets carrying figures of saints while holding their lighted candles and saying the prayers I’ve somehow memorized during vigils held in different homes. My grandmother’s family is Catholic, though not as devout, they would still pray the rosary everyday and knew all the verses. Sometimes in her sleep, my grandmother would utter these prayers. I would sleep beside my grandmother on nights when I felt terrified of ghosts or ‘aswangs’ and the sound of her prayers and breathing would lull me to sleep (I still did this even during my late teens. )

My favourite part of the procession would be Mary decked in black garments- I used to call her Black Mary but I think she’s supposed to be Mary of Sorrows. In Mindanao where I grew up, we would usually eat binignit during Holy Week and do the station of the cross.

This year I was able to witness Holy Week in Luzon. My bestfriend in college, Deng invited me to her home in Bulacan over the Holy Week weekend and I never say no because her mom cooks me burong mustasa everytime I visit. Even when Deng goes home to Bulacan on her own she’d bring me some burong mustasa her mom made.

Deng and I met up at the bus terminal in Cubao and the trip to Bulacan felt like 30 mins. because we were chatting all the way there. The bus was full but there was no lineup anymore because most people had gone the day before.

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When we arrived, there was a dozen penoy (hardboiled duck egg) waiting for us. Deng and I probably ate three each, okay.. maybe 5 each, we kind of lost count. We both love Penoy that has some soup inside it and it was hard to find in Manila so we were doing this happy dance in the kitchen. Then we walked to where the procession was happening. There was a total of 115 ‘poon’ (religious figures) depicting the story of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Deng explained that there were fewer poons before but more and more families wanted to participate in the procession. Most of these poons belong to different families.

It was my first time actually witnessing this because I only ever see Mary of Sorrows being carried around.

We waited for the end of the procession because it’s when all the different Marys are paraded.

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We went home and ate sinugbang hito (grilled catfish) with a side of Penoy egg mixed in with tomatoes. Before sleeping we’d drink this delicious tea called Ali Tea that Deng’s brother brought from Dubai. The next day we visited the wet market to buy Talaba (oysters.) Kuya Weng, Deng’s brother was home for a month and he was our Waze to the wet market. Dan (Deng’s boyfriend) and I joked that her brother was like a cat because he never really speaks to us. I’d talk to Kuya Weng and I usually get a grunt or a shrug, Dan told me Kuya Weng’s only ever talked to him this year… and he and Deng have been together for six years lol.

We also visited the Barasoain Church, which is printed in the old 10php bill. The old ten peso bill has a cat somewhere sitting on top of the church, we were debating which side the cat was at.)


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Then we had lunch at Kalye Mabini. For Catholics, you’re not supposed to eat red meat during Holy Week until Sunday but Kalye Mabini’s specialty was ribs so, uhm, we made a little detour on that department.

We also bought inipit and fried itik (duck.) We were looking for halo-halo but the stores were closed so not seen in photos is the detour we took to this store that sells… panties! ย We bought panties. yup, they were cheap and of good quality.

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When we got home Mommy Ponce (Deng’s mom) had already cooked suso (snails) they asked me if I ate suso and I said I did which is true, just that it wasn’t the kind I knew but when I tasted it it was really good. It was cooked in gata (coconut milk.) In the afternoon Deng and I cleaned the oysters while they set up the inflatable pool.

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The oysters were so fresh and delicious, I will never look at oysters in restaurants the same way, especially when we laboured for it! We opened the oysters with knives and would review the clump of oysters almost 4 times to see if we missed any.

At night we took a dip in the pool with our drinks while Mommy Ponce watched on in her rocking chair. The Kuyas were also drinking by the garage and when their friends came they’d remark how they should have brought swimming gear. The inflatable pool belonged to Deng’s twin nieces but they already moved to Saudi Arabia so the joke was that we were the twins all grown up.

On Easter Sunday Mommy Ponce cooked Kare-Kare and we were all able to finally eat meat.

So, this isn’t even the whole Catholic Holy Week picture. There’s a Visita Iglesia too where you visit different churches in a day and the stations of the cross where you walk to the different stations/ stages of Christ’s crucifixion and there’s a prayer that’s specific to that cross. We did that when we were kids, and because Holy Week usually falls on the summer months we spend this with our huge huge filipino families or family friends.

It can be hard being a Catholic at times because we know of so many abuses by the church, and don’t get me started about some of these priests but during these months I always appreciate being exposed to this faith. It’s interesting, colourful, and it reminds me so much of my childhood.


Lastly, we got dropped off at UP Diliman and met Dan there. So we hung out and I 3rd wheeled just like old times. I love you both! โค




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