Domingo de Ramos or Palm Sunday mass is the first mass of the Holy Week. It celebrates the entry of Jesus to Jerusalem. We’ve learned from the Bible that Jesus entered the town of Jerusalem on a donkey instead of on foot, and was acclaimed by crowds waving branches.
Unopened leaves of the coconut are often used to create the palaspas. Since the palaspas is made of perishable material, they are most of the time woven on site and are sold either the night before or very early in the morning.
Blessed palaspas from the year before are burned to make ash for the rites of anointing the forehead during the Miercoles de Ceniza or Ash Wednesday, which is the start of the forty days of lent. However, not all Filipino Catholics turn over their brown and dusty palaspas from the previous year.
The sanctified palaspas are brought home and placed by the window or hung over doors of houses. This practice is inspired by the belief that any blessed object like a palaspas wards of the devil and when displayed in one’s home shields it from natural calamities as well as the supernatural beings. The sanctified palm is also believed to bring forth good fortune.
The blessing of palaspas or palms is the highlight of Palm Sunday activites. In Santo Nino Church in Tondo Manila, the priest blessed the palms not inside the church but in an open plaza near the old market along Juan Luna Street.
After the blessing of the palm, Christ’s entry into Jerusalem was reenacted. A priest playing Christ led the twelve apostles and the faithful in a reenactment of the Savior’s triumphant entry in Jerusalem. According to Biblical text, Christ rode a donkey while entering Jerusalem.
In Tondo, this event is reenacted but instead of a donkey a priest astride a horse while blessing the palms. The image of Jesus on a donkey is known as the Humenta. This is the Palm Sunday fiesta in Tondo.
In Binondo, banig or woven mats were spread before the priest. This ritual is known as the paglalatag.
In the olden days, the people put up little balconies ornamented to look like medieval castles in churchyards or on major streets during Palm Sunday, hence it was called the castillo. In Binondo, the procession paused at designated stops where a group of little angels stood on a makeshift stage covered with white cloth.
As the priest and twelve Apostles approached the improvised stage, the little angels scattered petals and flower while a choir sung Hosana Filio David which praises the Son of David who came in the name of the Lord.
Traditionally, The rites continue with the staging of the osana upon reaching the church’s main door. A choir from inside the church chants Gloria, laus alternately with the faithful outside for three times. The priest knocks on the door using the palaspas then asked permission to be admitted. The door opens for mass as a symbol of a New Jerusalem.
Information source: Cuaresma, Fernando Nakpil-Zialcita