Make your Holy Week vacation more interesting by actually engaging in Holy Week activities. *wink wink*
Going on a social media purge as your penitensya (penance) or beach bumming in places like Boracay or Palawan for the Semana Santa is well and good, but don’t you ever get tired of the same trend every single year? Why not go on a simple summer holiday where you can enjoy your vacation AND still experience something relevant to Holy Week festivities? We have rounded up ideas for your Semana Santa escape.
Barotac Viejo, Iloilo
Iloilo isn’t the first place that pops into people’s heads when it comes to answering the question “Where should I be this Holy Week?” It’s not as popular a destination especially that crowd favorite Boracay is merely on the northwest part of the island. But the sleep town of Barotac Viejo may just give you something new.
The little town is known for having a community that is takes their Holy Week seriously by mimicking the Passion of Christ. The townspeople themselves have been performing the Passion play, with “passion” Hiligaynon every Good Friday for almost half a century in their annual Taltal sa Barotac Viejoand it’s a delight to watch.
Places to see: Bucas Grande, Old Iloilo City, Miagao Church, River Esplanande, “Little Baguio” (Bucari)
Things to do: Party at Smallville, Walk along Iloilo River Esplanande, Island hopping at Concepcion
Bantayan Island, Cebu
It’s an island north of the Cebu mainland that’s become popular for its stretches of fine-sand beaches that is expected to see an influx of tourists this Holy Week. What people shouldn’t miss while in the island paradise is the annual Pasko sa Kasakit, a simple celebration of the stations of the cross, but with a twist where the images in the Station of the Cross are supersized and paraded around.
Places to see: Alice Beach, Camp Sawi, Kota Beach (all in Santa Fe), Malapascua Island, Virgin Island, Hilantagaan Island, Kota Park
Things to do: Biking, snorkel, freedive/scuba, beach bumming, tour the town of Bantayan for heritage houses
This island is starting to blow up more for the views you’ll get than what happens here during Semana Santa.
Siquijor, known across the country as a home to witchcraft and mysticism, but locals have since shed that image and now proudly celebrate their folk healing expertise with the annual Folk Healing Festival, taking place during the last few days of Holy Week. Get yourself treated by local healers or witness how they make various concoctions with the promise of curing almost anything you can think of—yes, including heartaches.
Places to see: Century-old balete tree, Salagdoong Beach, Paliton Beach, Kagusuan Beach (extremely hidden, possible that not even the locals know about it)
Things to do: Go around the island on a scooter, visit a ranch, hit the island’s peaks on a mountain bike, snorkeling, beach hopping
If there’s a Holy Week destination that’s never left off any list, it’s Marinduque. Known as the geographical heart of the Philippines, it’s basically an island that’s made itself known for a festival that celebrates a Roman soldier who became a believer in Jesus Christ: the Moriones Festival.
Most of you will know what this festival centers on commemorating Roman soldier Longinus, who stabs Jesus on the side, witnesses His resurrection, tells the Romans about it, and (gruesomely) gets his head chopped off. This part is often depicted in their version of The Passion play, which talks about Christ’s last moments before He eventually passes on.
Places to see: Tres Reyes islands, Mt. Mataas, Boac, Palad Sandbar, Ungab Rock Formations, Bathala Python Cave
Things to do: Visita Iglesia, Beach hopping
It’s the piece de resistance of a list of Holy Week destinations, and something that’s also been a source of controversy as to whether or not it should be considered a tourist attraction. We’re talking, of course, about the Maleldo Festival in San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga.
The Maleldo Festival is the full (and very real) re-enactment of Christ’s crucifixion. Yes, it’s the whole 10 miles: the garb, the Crown of Thorns, crying depiction of Mary Magdalene, people marching on the streets whacking their backs with things that make them bleed, and someone actually getting nailed to a cross that they’ve been carrying for several miles.
Places to see: Mt. Pinatubo, Subic Bay, Sandbox at Porac, El Kabayo, Skyranch Pampanga, Nayong Pilipino
Things to do: go on a food trip, adventure activities, Visita Iglesia
Yes, you read that right. It’s an option for those who don’t want to go out of the city yet still want to witness something that only happens once a year. The citizens of Makati, particularly those who live in the restaurant-and-bar hub that is Poblacion, stage a parade commemorating Lent.
They hold a grand procession every Holy Wednesday (closed roads, of course) and put up booths with life-size depictions of The Passion of Christ. Another plus: some establishments stay open even during Holy Week!
Places to see: Sts. Peter and Paul Parish (one of the oldest churches in the country), Circuit Makati (but hold off on that after Holy Wednesday), art galleries in Poblacion
Things to do: staycation at one of the many hotels in the area, food trip, pub crawl