Pupils sing religious hymn "Hossana" as they toss confetti from the balcony of a house during Palm Sunday in Mogpog, Marinduque. Photo by Erik De Castro, Reuters
MANILA -- Catholic devotees in the Philippines began the first day of the Holy Week by waving palm fronds in a morning mass celebrating Palm Sunday.
Thousands of worshippers in Manila attended the morning service at Baclaran Church and had their palm fronds blessed by Catholic priests.
The blessing rite recalls the story of Jesus Christ's entrance to Jerusalem before his passion and crucifixion. He was welcomed by the people with cheers while strewing his path with small branches of trees.
In Catholic belief, the waving of palms is a symbol of discipleship.
"Palm Sunday is very important for us Catholics because this is the time we can show our faith," said Catholic devotee Alejandro Suarez.
Palm Sunday is fraught with significance in predominantly Catholic Philippines, with devotees hanging their blessed palm fronds on their front doors or windows as a sign of welcoming Christ in their homes.
Some Filipino Catholics believe that hanging the palms can also ward off evil.
Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy Week, and the eight days leading to Easter Sunday where Catholics remember the last stretch of Christ's earthly life as recorded in the Bible. These are the most intense days in the Roman Catholic Church's liturgical calendar.
Over 80 percent of the 97 million population in the Philippines are practicing Catholics, making it the biggest Catholic nation in Asia.