The Lenten Season (or Lent) is widely observed in the Philippines, with Catholicism being the majority of the population. It is notable for a variety of Filipino traditions and activities that people participate in as a manner of practicing penance like food intake, or sacrifice daily habits in remembrance of Jesus Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection.
Filipino food every Catholic family is familiar with during the Lenten Season and Holy Week
Apart from going from church to church for Visita Iglesia, reading/singing the Pasyon, going to confession, and watching Holy Week specials (which are literally the only shows on TV during Holy Week), one of the practices that Catholics engage in during the Lenten Season is fasting (on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) and abstinence on all Fridays of Lent.
While people strive to eat less meat, if not none at all, during this season, the customary diet would be replaced with vegetable and fish. During Lent, you’ll see the following dishes on a Filipino family’s table:
Rice and fish
Rice and fish are the staple food for Filipinos. Because everyone needs protein, fish is generally substituted for red meat during Lent. Fish and shellfish dishes will always be present on the dining table, whether fried, cooked in sweet and sour sauce, or steamed, and served with a warm cup of rice and a side of sautéed vegetables.
As difficult as it may appear for people to preserve and uphold such a practice, it is the Catholics’ small way of demonstrating sacrifice. After all, Lent will soon be over, and people will be able to resume eating red meat throughout the year.
Canned sardines in tomato sauce
The canned cooked fish is used as a key element in Misua soup, as an ingredient in pancit, or as a stand-alone dish, with the sauce soaking into the rice and imparting a deep tomato flavor.
During the abstinence days, sardines became a low-cost replacement for pricey fish. It’s a portable cuisine that doesn’t need to be heated, cooked further, or flavored, and it’s inexpensive, convenient, and well-liked.
Ginisang monggo with dilis (and gata)
In so many ways, a basic, austere serving of mung bean stew and fried dry and salted fish reminds me of Lent. During difficult times, families also have relied on this simple vegetable stew for nutrition. A nice Lent recipe that would go well with fried fish, another variety, Monggo guisado with gata (or coconut milk) is a usual Friday menu for a creamy new twist.
Binignit or Halo-Halo stew
Binignit is a delicious stew made with banana slices, sweet potatoes, taros, sago, and glutinous rice, all cooked in coconut milk. During the Holy Week or Lenten season, the meal is very popular in Cebu or the Visayas region.
Because the sweet stew contains no meat, Filipinos traditionally eat it during Holy Week. Because the majority of Filipinos are Christians, they are advised to fast and avoid eating meat at this time. Binignit has become a comfort meal for Filipinos during the Lenten season.
Puto maya and sikwate
Puto maya is made from glutinous rice simmered in coconut cream, it has a distinct ginger aroma to it and is best paired with Filipino hot chocolate made from Tableya (roasted cacao, grounded and pressed into coin-shaped tablets). It is one of the favorite native delicacies of Filipinos during the Holy Week.
There are exceptions to this rule. Pregnant women, the sick, the elderly, and the very young, for example, are excluded from the fasting regulations of Lent.
There are other Filipino food options prepared during Lenten Season. Some of them are featured “20 local dishes you should give a try when you’re in Cebu” that we recommend you to read.
Many people also abstain from doing something for the full Lenten season. Some Filipino Catholics abstain from certain food, such as chicken or chocolate, while others abstain from certain habits, like as watching television.