It’s a Long Holiday Weekend: Is Your OFS Unresponsive? Here’s Why…

This year, the end of March marks two important occasions in the religious history of the Philippines:

  • Holy Week for the Catholics
  • The final days of the holy month of Ramadhan for the Muslims

This is a sort of convergence for the two biggest religions in the country – it’s the month when both Muslims and Christians were fasting, albeit in slightly different ways.

Lenten Traditions that Your OFS May Engage In

Lent is a 40-day period of fasting and abstinence. During this time, Roman Catholics in the Philippines engage in various traditional religious activities that start on Ash Wednesday and culminate on Easter Sunday. 

In the period following Ash Wednesday, your OFS VA should still be available to work most of the time. However, expect their availability to wane during the Holy Week, or they may even be completely unavailable. 

When is the Holy Week?

The Holy Week falls on the last weekend of Lent, which starts on the Thursday immediately preceding Easter Sunday. There is no fixed date for when the Holy Week is celebrated each year. However, it does consistently happen somewhere around the end of March to the first two weeks of April. 

During Holy Week, your Catholic OFS may take part in various religious traditions including:

  1. Fasting – they are required to avoid eating pork and other meat products on Fridays. On the other days of the week, devotees are required to limit their meals to one full meal and two small snacks. 
  2. Visita Iglesia (Visiting 7 churches) – this pertains to a vow made by a devotee to visit seven churches. For some devotees, this serves a dual purpose of honoring their devotion and having a reason to go sightseeing with their family. In some extreme cases, you may even see a few devotees walking barefoot from one church to another.
  3. Pabasa ng Pasyon (Chanting the Passion of the Christ) in front of an altar. The chanting is a narration of Jesus’ journey to the cross up until his resurrection. If you’re ever in the Philippines during Holy Week, this is one of the highly recommended traditions that you must not miss. 
  4. Stations of the Cross – an activity that commemorates the passion and death of Jesus Christ. Devotees go through 14 stations, chanting prayers in each station until they reach the cross. 

There are strict rules for these traditions and when each activity is supposed to be observed. 

However, there are cases when one activity is done on a different day than the traditional day. In recent years, many Catholics have been doing the Visita Iglesia in the days leading to the Holy Week. Some elderly Filipinos may also opt to do the prayers for the Stations of the Cross on the Wednesday that precedes Good Friday. This way, they can avoid the heavy crowds that are often expected on Good Friday. 

Why is an OFS Unavailable During Ramadhan?

Ramadhan is one of the 5 Pillars of Islam. It primarily involves fasting and abstinence. 

Fasting and Abstinence

The availability of a Muslim OFS may be limited during this time. They are most likely conserving their energy during the daytime since they are not allowed to consume any food or drinks from sunup to sundown. Some may also be inactive on social media, since fasting also includes cleansing the mind of evil thoughts. Other activities that Muslims are required to abstain from include sex, gambling, and any other form of immoral behavior. 

This tradition is believed to cleanse the Muslim’s mind and renew their faith and gratitude for the blessing that they receive from God.  

Breaking the fast normally occurs at sunset, anywhere from past 5 pm to around 6 in the evening. Devotees break their fast the moment they hear the evening call to prayer at dusk.

Nightly Prayer

After breaking their fast, devotees then proceed to the mosque for the nightly Taraweeh. The prayers normally last about an hour. 

In the last 10 days of Ramadhan, Muslims anticipate the night of Laylattul Qad’r or the Night of Power. This is the night when Muslims believe that the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). There is no specific night for when this falls. Devotees usually double their efforts to do good deeds during this time as it is believed that the rewards are multiplied. 

Eid’l Fit’r: The End of Ramadhan

Ramadhan normally lasts for up to 30 days. The end of Ramadhan is declared upon the sighting of the new moon. The following day is then celebrated as Eid’l Fit’r. On this day, devotees flock to the mosque for an early morning prayer. This is the one time when you’ll see thousands of Muslims gathered in prayer in any available public space aside from the mosque: an outdoor sports arena, an open field, or a community center. 

After the prayer, devotees immediately proceed to the homes of their elderly relatives to pay their respects. They would then spend the entire day celebrating with family and visiting friends. 

Unlike the Holy Week and Easter Sunday, Eid’l Fit’r doesn’t have a semi-fixed date since Islam follows the Hijrah (Lunar) calendar. It falls on the 9th month of the Hijrah calendar, which may correspond to a different month each year in the Gregorian calendar. This year, Eid’l Fit’r is expected to fall somewhere around the 9th to the 11th of April.

So if you’ve hired a Muslim OFS, it’s best to ask them ahead as to when Ramadhan is expected to fall so you can then make the necessary adjustments. 

But… The OFS I Hired Says They’re Not Religious

The Philippines has a reputation for being a religious country, notably being the 3rd largest Roman Catholic country in the world. It also has a large population of Muslims that is mostly concentrated in the southern regions, specifically in Mindanao. 

But you’d be surprised to know that a large number of the population are no longer practicing devotees of any religion. 

Does this mean your OFS would be available for work even during the Holy Week? 

Probably not. 

First, you have to note that Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are national holidays. And Wednesday is also often declared as a half-day holiday. That’s a long, long weekend. Then take into account the close family ties that is inherent in the Filipino culture. 

And you’ve got yourself an OFS who would take advantage of these days to catch up with family and friends who were finally able to get away from their 9-5 office jobs. 

You probably won’t find your OFS at home, too. They’d either be at a popular vacation spot or staycationing at a hotel partying it up. In this case, they would have booked their tickets and set their itineraries months in advance. It’s easy to set something up at work so that they can take those days off. 

But in the rare instances when they do decide to stay home, chances are they’d be too busy partying it up with the family. The videoke would be playing non-stop (except on Good Friday), and the kitchen brimming with hectic activity. 

And Eid’l Fit’r is the biggest holiday in the Muslim world. Regardless of how non-religious a person is, if they were born into a Muslim family, they will celebrate Eid’l Fit’r. 

So set your expectations properly by not really expecting your OFS to be responsive during the Holy Week or on Eid’l Fit’r. 

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