Semana Santa in Vigan
Holy Week in Vigan is one of the peak tourist seasons. Local and foreign tourists trek to this city with its old world ambience to experience how the Holy Week or Semana Santa, as it is locally known, has been celebrated throughout the centuries by its predominantly Roman Catholic residents. To get the full experience of this religious observance of the passion and death of Christ, visitors are advised to arrive on or before Palm Sunday. Masses are scheduled throughout the day, participated in by people who bring with them palm fronds or palaspas. These palaspas are woven and knotted into decorative strands by bearers or by the vendors who sell them in the market places and beside the church. Worshipers raise and wave the palaspas at the end of the Mass for the priest’s blessing with holy water. They keep these all year-round displayed in their homes as protection, and burn portions of it as offering in their altar during times of need.
Throughout the holy week, the church has scheduled religious activities that the Catholic faithful have grown up participating in. However, official holidays usually start on Holy Wednesday or Maundy Thursday so those who stay for the whole of Holy Week can use this time to not only observe the religious activities but also visit the historical sights and recreational places of Vigan while there are still not too many people. During Maundy Thursday, the local tourists would start pouring in. They usually observe the Visita Inglesia or the practice of visiting as many churches as they can, reciting in each one a station of the cross prayer.
The pageantry and show of piety is at its highest during Good Friday. Most people abstain from eating meat, while some would fast the whole day. They also participate in the procession of the life-size religious statues borne on carriages or carrozas. Each carriage depicts a scene in the suffering of Christ. These statues are cared for by prominent families who have owned them through generations. They decorate them with flowers and have new clothes made for the statues for the Good Friday procession. The procession usually lasts around two hours circling the city, starting at the St. Paul’s Church, passing through the major streets and then back inside the church where the statues stay until Easter Sunday.
Tourists may opt to join the procession, carrying candles like the devotees, so that they can fully experience the tradition. They may also choose to watch from the high vantage point of their hotels for a better view of the ancient statues that gleam life-like surrounded by candle lights carried by the people walking beside them and by the people who line the streets to light the way of the procession. Easter Sunday activities start before dawn. The scene of the meeting of Jesus and Mary is reenacted by two groups of people, one accompanying the life-size statue of Jesus, while the other group accompanies that of the Virgin Mary. The groups leave the church separately and take different routes, but eventually meeting at a point before again entering the church for the celebration of mass. Like the other Holy Week activities, this one is both solemn and beautiful.ricultural industries in Vigan.