MANILA, Philippines - Filipino Catholics troop to churches today to observe Ash Wednesday, the start of the 40-day Lenten period.
As early as 5:30 a.m., a novena mass was celebrated at the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Redemptorist, Baclaran in Parañaque City to signal the start of the Lenten period.
As part of tradition, Catholics will have their foreheads dusted with ash from burnt palm fronds gathered during last year's Palm Sunday.
The ash will be applied on the faithful's forehead, forming a cross, to signify submission to Christ, remorse for sins, and a turning away from sin.
The ash also symbolizes the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which resulted in man's freedom from sin.
It also reminds the faithful that life is short, and one day, man will return to ashes.
Lent is the time when the faithful remember the sufferings of Jesus Christ which culminated in His crucifixion.
The Catholic Church has reminded the faithful to fast and live the essence of Ash Wednesday.
Meanwhile, during the homily in today's early novena mass at the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, the faithful were encouraged to go back to God and nation.
Majority of Filipinos belong to the Catholic church. -- Report from Dominic Almelor, ABS-CBN News