Lucban’s Santo Señor Sepulcro


Lucban’s antique Santo Señor Sepulcro in full regalia for the Holy Week

semanasanta_logo.jpg This is the second installment of Semana Santa series where I feature rituals and traditions observed in certain places during the most solemn week in the Catholic calendar. Click on the image at the right to check the rest of the articles.

Lucban in Quezon is rich in tradition, culture and heritage be it from the annual harvest festival called the Pahiyas, its potent lambanog (coconut vodka), lively people, religious fervor and cool climate being located at the foothills of Mt. Banahaw. During the Holy Week, the town is transformed into one great catholic community where age old ritual observance springs to life.

On the morning of Saturday before Palm Sunday, the Don Juan Rañola bahay na bato ancestral house witnesses again another tradition when his descendants gather to do the annual Pagbibihis (Dressing) of the more than a hundred years old wooden image of the dead Christ fondly called the Santo Señor Sepulcro. It is not generally known how old this icon is but it has a rich and storied past.


The image of the Señor is being prepared for the ritual pagbibihis (dressing)

First owned (or should it be, taken cared of, since religious images were owned by the church but rich families maintain it) by the family of Don Geronimo Rilles, it was said to be pawned in Quiapo due to debts incurred by his wife who was too fond of jewelry which was the source of their indebtedness. With this loss, the townspeople tried to buy back the image but came up only with P300 from contributions, P400 short. It was the patriarch Don Juan who contributed the lacking amount. From that time on, his family has been the caretaker of the image.


The richly detailed antique blanket that will cover the image

Living descendants or their representatives (some are already abroad) releases the image from its glass and wood container. One by one, the garments are removed except the fabric that covers the middle part. With the clothes removed, the Señor is remarkable. It is lifelike, lifesize and the anatomical details, as far as the exposed parts are concerned vey detailed: the left wound on the body with blood gushing forth, the facial features, hands and feet.

A new set of clothes is brought out and piece by piece it covers the image.


After a few finishing touches and the image is ready for veneration

Like most antique Lenten images, the Señor is richly decorated. Its blanket is exquisite with embroidery done with gold thread depicting symbols of the life of Jesus. Its wig and head ornament is adorned with jewelry and the metal book with a carving of the lamb biting the handle of a guidon (banner) placed at the chest is made from silver studded with precious stones.

The image is tied to the platform with wire to stabilize it as once the preparations are done, it will be opened to the public for veneration. The feet is anointed with aromatic oils as it is what the faithful touch, smell and kiss. After lunch, the descendants gather to elect a family where the image will be brought to for the vigil starting on the evening of Holy Wednesday.


The vigil of the dead Christ at one of the houses of the descendants of Don Juan Rañola

The image is set for vigil with all the trappings accorded to a deceased rich family member. By Good Friday, just before 1500H, it is placed on its processional bier accompanied by devotees to the church where a few hours later, it will slowly trudge down for its short journey around the narrow streets of Lucban where it has always done so for the past centuries.

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Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications. He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.


  1. Sidney
    March 18, 2008 @ 7:01

    Wow! You are a real expert now! I admire your perseverance to document those Holy Week traditions.
    You are doing a good job here… maybe time to publish another book about the Lenten traditions in the Philippines !
    As always, your images are wonderful!

    I had an overdose of Holy Week last year and decided to move on… maybe next year I will cover again my missing pieces… Paete, Infanta and a few other things.

    Enjoy your Holy Week, Estan!

  2. lawstude
    March 18, 2008 @ 11:07

    I still don’t know where to go this lenten season. My work is piling up and maybe this will be the only opportunity/break for me to update them all.

    anyways, thank you for sharing this lenten series because even though if I end up staying at home, it will feel like I am traveling to some other place.

  3. estan
    March 18, 2008 @ 17:10

    better do this than lose it forever Sidney. if I intend to do a book, that will still be later on as there are still too many places to cover.

    Lawstude, thanx for the comment.

  4. South Cebu Semana Santa | langyaw
    April 7, 2009 @ 8:21

    […] Then from a distance, a gilded carroza comes into view. What a sight to behold! The Santo Intierro’s processional bier is just breathtaking. It’s massive and ornate. Flowers fill it’s sides. Atop it’s canopy is the symbolic lamb biting a cross. Four angels are guarding the dead Christ. Several men are pulling and pushing it up to the church located atop a hill. The image is antique and is taken cared of by one of the town’s illustrious families, a tradition replicated in many other towns and cities in the country. Just like the one in Lucban. […]

  5. » Langyaw #04: Semana Santa in Lucban | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    April 20, 2011 @ 0:51

    […] also includes a separate article on the Santo Señor Sepulcro, the Pabasa, Domingo de ramos and the important days of Holy Week till Easter […]

  6. » Good Friday halo-halo dunked with suman | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    April 21, 2011 @ 10:54

    […] the evening. The minor carrozas and andas of saints has already arrived back at the church but the Santo Señor Sepulcro‘s bier is still somewhere along the maze of narrow streets of […]

  7. » Dressing and readying the San Pedro lenten image | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    April 25, 2011 @ 14:14

    […] it is much smaller compared to bigger images where it will take hours and lots of people, like the Santo Señor Sepulcro of Lucban. For the San Pedro, it was just Leslie and his […]

  8. » Good Friday processions in Carcar & Angeles City | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    April 27, 2011 @ 13:16

    […] follow it. In the old towns around the country, the image used is one of the oldest and storied. Lucban’s is one. Same thing with the spectacular jointed image in Paete with its mystical rite of the […]

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