Articles/Feature/Holy Week 2023: Celebrating the Lenten Season in Cebu City
Holy Week 2023: Celebrating the Lenten Season in Cebu City

Holy Week 2023: Celebrating the Lenten Season in Cebu City


In addition to being one of the most important occasions on the Christian calendar, Holy Week commemorates Jesus Christ's death and resurrection. It is an opportunity to experience happiness and joy as well as devotion, meditation, and atonement. In the Philippines, Holy Week is marked nationwide with a variety of customs and rituals with tremendous enthusiasm and devotion. Cebu City is one of the ideal locations to take in the rich cultural and religious legacy of Holy Week. The "Queen City of the South," as it is often known, has a rich history and culture, as well as a diverse population. From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, Cebu City comes alive with various activities and events that highlight the different aspects of Holy Week. The Holy Week in Cebu City is a deeply spiritual and cultural event that is celebrated with great devotion and reverence by its people. It's a time for reflection, repentance, and renewal of faith, as well as an opportunity to showcase the city's rich Catholic heritage and traditions.

Here are some of the significant places and events that you can visit and experience during this time:

Good Shepherd, Banawa

Banawa Good Shepherd Holy Week
  • Located in the heart of Cebu City, the Good Shepherd in Banawa is a popular pilgrimage site for Catholics during Holy Week. The church, known for its beautiful stained glass windows and impressive architecture, holds daily masses and other religious activities during this time. The church is named after the Good Shepherd, a symbol of Jesus Christ's love and care for his followers. Its design is intended to create a sense of peace and serenity, with its open spaces and minimalist interiors. The church can accommodate around 600 people, and its design incorporates natural lighting and ventilation to create a comfortable and calming atmosphere. 

On Maundy Thursday, the Good Shepherd also holds the Washing of the Feet ceremony, which commemorates Jesus' washing of his disciples' feet before the Last Supper. The ceremony is attended by the faithful, and some even participate in the ritual by having their feet washed by the priest.

Basilica del Santo Niño 

Santo Nino De Cebu
  • The Basilica del Santo Niño is a well-known landmark in Cebu City and is home to the oldest religious relic in the Philippines - the Santo Niño de Cebu. During Holy Week, the basilica holds a series of events and activities, including the traditional Visita Iglesia, where devotees visit several churches to pray and reflect. Today, the Basilica del Santo Niño is one of the most visited religious sites in the Philippines, with millions of devotees visiting every year. It represents the nation's Christian past and has been designated a national shrine by the Filipino government.

The Good Friday procession at the Basilica, which includes life-size representations of the Savior's Passion, is one of the spectacles of Holy Week. Thousands of followers follow the photos as they go through Cebu's Downtown streets during the parade.

Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral

Cathedral Cebu City Holy Week
  • The Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral is another popular pilgrimage site during Holy Week. The 16th-century church, which houses the Archbishop of Cebu's ecclesiastical office, is renowned for its beautiful woodwork and stained-glass windows. The architecture of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral is a mix of Gothic Revival and Spanish colonial styles, with its towering spires and intricate carvings. The interior of the cathedral is equally impressive, with its vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, and ornate altar. The cathedral can accommodate over 1,000 people and is often filled to capacity during major religious events and celebrations.

Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday: These days are usually dedicated to reflection and repentance. Many Catholics in Cebu City attend church services and participate in the sacrament of confession.

On Palm Sunday, the cathedral holds the Blessing of Palms and the procession of the faithful, which reenacts Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. On Good Friday, the cathedral also holds the Veneration of the Cross ceremony, where the faithful venerate the cross that symbolizes Jesus' crucifixion.

Holy Week in the Mountain Barangays

Aside from the urban centers of Cebu City, Holy Week is also celebrated in mountain barangays or rural areas. These communities hold various traditions and rituals that highlight their unique culture and faith. In the town of Sibonga, for example, the community holds the "Sinugdan sa Kinabuhi" or the "Beginning of Life" ritual, where participants reenact the creation of the world and the fall of Adam and Eve. In Argao, the "Panaad" or "Promise" ritual is held, where participants make a vow or promise to God in exchange for blessings and protection. Holy Week in the mountain barangays of Cebu is a unique and special experience for both locals and visitors alike. 

If you are planning to celebrate Holy Week in Cebu, here are some mountain barangays where you can experience the rich and vibrant traditions of Holy Week:

Simala, Sibonga

Simala Cebu City
  • The Simala Shrine in Sibonga is a popular destination during Holy Week. The shrine is famous for its miraculous image of the Virgin Mary, and it attracts thousands of devotees from all over the country during Holy Week. The highlight of the celebration in Simala is the Via Crucis or the Way of the Cross, which takes place on Good Friday. The shrine is located on a hilltop and is accessible via a long staircase lined with religious statues and images. The architecture of the shrine is inspired by European cathedrals, with its Gothic arches, spires, and stained glass windows.

The interior of the shrine is equally impressive, with its ornate altar, paintings, and religious artifacts. The centerpiece of the Simala Shrine is a statue of the Virgin Mary, which is said to have miraculous powers. Many believers claim to have experienced healing or other miracles after visiting the shrine and praying to the Virgin Mary.

Osmeña Peak, Dalaguete

Osmena Peak Cebu
  • Osmeña Peak, the highest peak in Cebu, is a popular destination for hikers and mountaineers. During Holy Week, many people climb to the peak to do a pilgrimage or just to enjoy the breathtaking views of the surrounding areas. The climb usually takes around 30-45 minutes, depending on one's physical fitness. The trail is well-established and relatively easy, with steps and handrails provided in some areas.

Climbing Osmeña Peak during Holy Week is a unique and unforgettable experience for those who want to challenge themselves physically and spiritually, while also enjoying the natural beauty and cultural richness of the area.

At the peak, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the southern part of Cebu, including the towns of Badian, Moalboal, and Oslob, as well as the neighboring islands of Negros, Bohol, and Siquijor. The view is especially stunning during sunrise and sunset.

Brgy. Manunggal, Balamban

Mount Manongal Cebu
  • Brgy. Manunggal in Balamban is where the memorial of the late President Ramon Magsaysay is located. It serves as a destination for pilgrimage for Catholics during Holy Week as they walk the Way of the Cross, which begins at the base of the mountain and concludes at the monument. During Holy Week, a lot of people stop by the location to pay their respects and say prayers for the late president. In the location, a museum honoring President Magsaysay's life and achievements may be found in addition to a statue of him.

The location of the property is on a hilltop, and rolling hills and beautiful vegetation surround it. Away from the bustle of the city, visitors may take in the tranquil and beautiful ambiance. In these mountain barangays, you can experience the unique and meaningful Holy Week traditions of Cebu, witness the local culture and devotion, and reflect on the deep religious significance of this important time.

Holy Week in the Philippines

Holy Week Cebu City

Holy Week in Cebu holds great significance as it is a time when the city comes alive with religious and cultural traditions. It is a time for reflection, penance, and spiritual renewal for many Cebuanos who participate in age-old rituals and processions. The solemnity of the season is palpable as people attend masses, recite the Stations of the Cross, and visit churches for prayer and contemplation. Holy Week is also a time when the city is filled with vibrant street performances, colorful decorations, and local delicacies, making it a truly unique and memorable experience for locals and tourists alike.

Holy Week in the Philippines is a time for reflection, devotion, and celebration. The traditions and practices together with this commemoration are proof of the deep faith of the Filipino people and their unique way of expressing their devotion to God.