Palm Sunday Philippine Style

Ross Belle Balatbat

“Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem manifested the coming of the kingdom that the King-Messiah was going to accomplish by the Passover of his Death and Resurrection.” (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 560)

Each region and parish in the Philippines has its own customs for celebrating Palm Sunday. Communities re-enact Jesus’ messianic entrance – some hold solemn processions around or towards the local church along with parishioners holding ornately woven “palaspas” (palm leaves). Women in some provinces in a custom called “paglalatag” – spread heirloom “tapis” (aprons) or large cloths or mats on the street guiding to the church as devotional signs of their greeting of the Messiah.

As a child, I did not have a clear understanding of what Palm Sunday is; but, that picture of joyful waving of the coconut leaves and palms is still clearly illustrated in my mind while being blessed by the parish priest. Once blessed, the “palaspas” are brought home and hung on doors or windows. With that ignorance in my faith, I was like majority of Filipinos who hold the palms – A MUST BRING-HOME ITEM to banish evil spirits or to avert misfortune and to prevent bad luck in my life, my home and my family.

Photos by Ross Belle Balatbat

It is with the celebration of that entry on Palm Sunday that the Church’s liturgy solemnly opens Holy Week (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 560). I never realized, not until I was trained to be a catechist that in the new liturgical order of Holy Week, Palm Sunday bears the official title “Second Sunday of the Passion.” Thus the Church enhances the significance of this Sunday as a memorial of Christ’s sufferings, which are commemorated by the reading of the Passion.

Photos by Ross Belle Balatbat

Only then did I start to have a better meaning of Palm Sunday – for it ‘warns’ that anyone can turn against Jesus at any moment in spite of our devotion to Him. They, like us, were quick to profess their admiration and love for Him – singing ‘Hosanna’ during the entrance to Jerusalem; yet little did they suspect that most of them would be crying for His death on Good Friday, that very week!

Photos by Ross Belle Balatbat

From now onwards, as the Holy week commenced for the next years, hopefully, we will not be caught ill-prepared, and deny Jesus or sell Him out. May the Lenten Season and Holy week blessed us with a repentant heart that we turn away from our habitual sins and live a life for others – to take opportunity to use our talents and to help others and inspire them to do the same. If there are times when we have to speak the truth in love no matter what damage it may do to our reputation, may we be able to express them well so as to bring back souls to heaven – letting others experience through us a taste of heaven here on earth – not only on season of Lent but every moment of our lives. May we continue to humble ourselves and carry our crosses without complaining. By being more prayerful and reflective, all evils are casted out not merely because of the “palaspas”; but, because of a clear understanding of our profession of our faith.

[Photos by Ross Belle Balatbat]

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