SLIDESHOW: Senakulo in Cainta

Text and Photos by Jonathan Cellona for

Posted at Apr 20 2014 01:17 AM | Updated as of Feb 22 2018 04:42 PM

Devotees in the Philippines, a predominantly Roman Catholic country, observe unique traditions in the practice their faith. At no time is this more fervent, and thus display the most peculiar of its forms, than during Holy Week. In many towns across the country, the Senakulo or passion play depicting the last few days in the life of Jesus Christ, takes center stage.

In Cainta, a provincial suburb east of Manila, the Senakulo starts as early as Monday and lasts until Easter Sunday. It is organized, managed, and acted by the townsfolk themselves. The tradition is passed on from one generation to another.

The townsfolk treat the whole activity seriously starting from choosing the right person for the part. Those chosen take their roles to heart. Professional make-up artists are hired to make them look like their character as close as possible. The realistic costumes enhance the whole experience of the play.

The highlight of the whole Senakulo is on Good Friday, where the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus Christ is played on stage in front of a mesmerized crowd.

Before the Senakulo, a procession of venerated images is held along the town's streets.

People from all walks of life join the procession, which acts as a curtain raiser for the Senakulo.

The procession winds along the town's streets to a captured audience.

The procession calls the attention of everybody in the town.

The procession leads to the church where nearby, the stage for the Senakulo is set up.

People turn out on the streets to catch what is going on.

Children look at the local stadium before the audience arrives for the Senakulo.

A young girl tries out a good spot to view the performance.

People start flocking to the venue.

A stage hand checks the props on stage before curtain call.

The beard is an important aspect of the whole look.

The beard is fitted, retouched and made to look real before the play.

Costumes also play a vital role in the whole presentation.

The actor playing the role of Jesus Christ, Benjie Magracia, is readied for the Senakulo

The actor playing Judas, Ed Villanueva, is given make-up.

Other cast members are readied for the play

Ma. Isabel Guzman, playing the role of Mary, has her make-up done.

Everybody in the cast get equal attention to details.

Actor Benjie Magracia is ready to play the most important role.

Actor Benjie Magracia does some last-minute calls before curtain call.

The costumes are given a final check.

An actor playing the role of a Roman soldier waits for his part.

People start filling the local stadium, the venue for the Senakulo.

Behind the curtain.

Every member of the production does his own role.

Stagehands prepare the stage for every scene.

A guide script is placed in front of the stage where a line reader coaches the actors on stage.

A scene with Jesus and his disciple.

The high priests decide on Jesus' faith.

People spill over to the plaza outside the venue.

Stagehands get ready for the next scene.

Stagehands ready the props needed for the next scene.

The scene of the Last Supper.

Jesus talks to his disciples.

Jesus is lashed with a whip.

Mary reacts in one scene of the crucifixion.

Jesus in his last hours.