Binignit and the Holy Week

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By Nina S. Custodio


Saturday, April 19, 2014

I WOULD like to say that I have, ever since, really observed the Holy Week in ways that are quite expected and acceptable to most. In my younger years, my family spent Semana Santa in Tarlac where I witnessed the traditional Pabasa and Penitensya (talked about it last week).

Some were spent in Baguio City where, as the years passed, it has become crazier and much, much filled with monstrous traffic that stretched down that snake of the road called Kennon. A few years ago, we spent it in Mati amidst the serene scenery and the cool water of its pristine beaches. The ride home even provided the perfect opportunity for reflection as the paths were lit up by moonlight.

You gain a sense of gratitude and appreciation for what you have been given in your life by witnessing how the sun sets and the burst of colors of the sunset reminds you that indeed, life is beautiful.


When I lived in Manila, I attended Lenten recollections at the Greenbelt Chapel (also known as the Santo Nino de Paz Chapel). Attending the recollection during Holy Week in 2000 saved my life literally.

Tuesday evening of the Holy week, I decided to complete my three-day recollection at the Chapel and forego surprising my family by going home to spend the remaining days of the Holy Week. The following morning, Holy Wednesday, I woke up quite late and was quite surprised that I had more than 30 missed calls on my mobile phone. The news was on TV. A plane had crashed on Samal Island. No survivors.

Air Philippines Flight 541. I got up, and walked over to the table where I had left the piece of paper with my flight details.

It said: “FLT 541 5AM.”

I still get a chill when I remember that day. I feel it even more now, realizing that I am writing this piece today, April 19 (I almost always write my articles on Saturday). It has been exactly 14 years since that fateful plane crash. Much as I am forever grateful for being saved from it, I had good friends on that flight. A lot of good people were on that flight. It comforts me to know that they have found eternal peace.


So, this year, I decided to just chill and stay home. Still observed the Holy Week but with a more relaxed schedule. Not much funfare like travelling or days on the beach but, I have been binge watching. And I have been enjoying my no-meat all week diet, gorging on seafood and eventually developing a huge like for Tuna Pie (yum). I hope the fastfood chain that makes them extends its availability.

Having a lot of time to just “be,” I have been on the social network most of the day and I have noticed something which I found quite peculiar. Pictures of Binignit (Guinataang Halo-Halo or just Guinataan in other places) on my timeline! I paid no attention to it at first but as the days wore on, there was an increasing preponderance of its pictures and I began to wonder what the hoopla about this merienda fare was all about! For those who are not familiar with this yummy Filipino dish, it is a sweet concoction of root crops (camote and taro usually), bananas, jackfruit slivers, milled glutinous rice formed into balls and tapioca pearls (sago) simmered in a sugared, coconut milk broth. Yup. Yummy! Like I said, I consider this merienda fare and so I was amused that pictures of different versions of it were being posted on Facebook by my friends and friends of my friends both here and abroad!

What’s with Binignit and the Holy Week?

You may find this funny but I really asked! What was I missing here?? It made me feel like I had been living under a rock all these Holy Week observances that have come and gone in my years on this earth. I felt so left out! So I waited for answers to pour in and even googled it!
Apparently, it is a tradition to eat Binignit during Holy Week. It is so because it is supposed to be a meatless week and well, Binignit does not have any meat at all! Its affordability also makes it quite ideal for practicing ‘humility’ in meals. The less extravagant, the better. It is also quite heavy on the tummy which makes you last through the day better than eating fish. For some, it is a ‘sacrifice’ with benefits.

I have friends who are reminded of their childhood memories whenever they have a bowlful of binignit. Even the choice of fruits and add-ons means something. It signified each family member, represented by their favorite ‘sahog.’ The unique combination that become their special binignit all add up to a representation of their happy family. Cool, right? I found it absolutely endearing!

For my friends abroad, it reminded them of home. Moments spent with family preparing it and sharing it once it was all ready to eat. I guess having a bowl takes them back to the Philippines with their loved ones. I actually had a bowl of binignit shared with me from the United Kingdom!

Observing the Holy Week has always been a national tradition for our mostly Catholic country. The religious practices have been there for as long as your grandparents can remember. Although there have been sweeping changes and there is even a threat for some old traditions of fading away, it cannot be denied that it remains to be among the most important Philippine Holy-days. Binignit or no binignit, we will continue to observe it and be thankful that Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice to save us from our sins. Let us spend some time in reflection and then enjoy the week with our family and friends!

Happy Easter Everyone! :)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 20, 2014.


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