MANILA – Love was in the air on Wednesday for many Filipinos on Valentine’s Day, but it was also a reflective time as people flocked to Catholic churches to mark the first day of Lent.
On Ash Wednesday in Quezon City in northeastern Metro Manila, thousands of people attended hourly masses in the St. Peter’s Shrine of Leaders church.
As part of the religious ceremony, the priest used black ash to mark a small cross on the forehead of devotees, as a reminder – based on a line in the Bible’s book of Genesis – that all people came from dust and will one day return to it.
Masses began at 5:00 am and will run until the afternoon.
Lent, which lasts about six weeks in the Christian calendar, is meant to prepare believers for Easter through prayer, repentance and reflection and commemorates the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert, according to the Gospels.
When Catholics left St. Peter’s Shrine Wednesday, traditional ceremonies met modern ones, as people bought flowers and shiny, red balloons for Valentine’s Day just outside the church.
Most of the Philippines’ 100 million citizens are Catholic.