The Philippines is predominantly Catholic. The Holy Week (Mahal na Araw) is a very significant religious observance in the country. The tradition begins with Palm Sunday, where people bring palaspas or palm fronds to the church to be blessed by the priest. The palaspas are usually brought back home and hung on the front door "to drive away evil spirits and to attract good fortune."
On Holy Monday, Pabasa begins. It is the public reading and chanting of the Passion of Christ. It ends on the morning of Good Friday. During Maundy Thursday, the Visita Iglesia takes place where people visit at least seven churches in town. It is an act "to meditate on the Way to the Cross."
On Good Friday, the Catholic Filipinos go through the Station of the Cross. This is usually performed in hilly or mountainous areas in the country. At noon, Jesus' Seven Last Words is remembered and reflected upon. At 3 in the afternoon, at the time Jesus was said to have died, the veneration of the Holy Cross is observed. This is a very quiet time in the country. In certain cities in the Philippines, a Senakulo is performed in public. It is a Filipinized account for Jesus' passion, death and resurrection. It is highlighted by the Crucifixion where men and women who portray to be Jesus actually get crucified as their own act of penance.
On Black Saturday, the Church is on mourning and the cross is covered with black. The entire week is spent on quiet reflection, meditation, penance and sacrifice. Most Filipinos avoid eating meat for the entire Holy Week and some fast as a way of sacrifice and "cleansing of the soul." Most of the business establishments are closed on Good Friday and Black Saturday.
On Easter Sunday, everyone is in a festive mood after the week-long quiet. It usually begins with Salubong during the dawn mass where people have two separate processions with a statue of the risen Christ and Virgin Mary with the other. The two processions meet at a square that is called Galilea, usually in the square fronting the church. In addition to the festivities, elaborately prepared dishes are also served. By this time, Filipinos are ready to go back to their normal diet of meat, seafood and native delicacies. Lechon (whole pig roasted over a fire pit) and other festive dishes are commonly served during Easter Sunday.
On Easter Sunday, my Filipino-American family had a three-course Filipino dinner that is composed of the popular lumpia (fried spring roll) for appetizer; paella for main course; colorful puto (steamed rice cake) for dessert and buko salad samalamig (young coconut salad drink) for refreshment. The lumpia and puto were a great hit with the kids. Instead of serving deviled eggs I decided to just stick with the traditional and most popular appetizer in the Philippines which is the lumpia. The pastel colored puto is supposed to represent the colors of spring. Well the Philippines does not have true seasons. It is very close to the equator and it is literally summer all throughout the year there if you won't count the rainy season and a number of Monsoon wind that it gets. But since we live in Florida now, I thought I should represent Spring on my Easter table, too. Puto was actually consumed by the kids while I was steaming it in batches. The paella is the well-revered item on the table. My husband called it "the dish made out of love" because of all the ingredients used and the procedure it entailed to prepare it. Finally, the buko salad drink was a perfect companion while I was slaving away in the kitchen. It made a good dessert drink, too after we ate the paella. I made the lumpia one day ahead and froze it. You can also prepare the puto batter the night before. If you are to make everything on the same day, allow your self at least 9 hours.
Click on each title of the menu item below to get redirected to the recipe page:
Easter Sunday Filipino Dinner Menu
Crispy golden sticks filled with ground pork, shrimp and vegetable
Saffron-infused rice boasting with the flavors of seafood, meat and vegetable in tomato sauce
Delicately sweet, soft, fluffy colorful steamed rice cake
Cool and sweet refreshment with young coconut, jelly and tapioca pearls