Today marks the beginning of a significant religious tradition, the Semana Santa. To kickstart the National Museum of Bohol’s 3-part Lenten Special featuring the “Lubi” (Coconut), here’s a quick read on this tropical fruit’s significance to Filipino Belief Systems.
LUBI (Coconut) Cocos nucifera L.
A lone species of the genus cocos from the Arecaceae family, the coconut is a woody perennial Monocotyledon, with no bark and no true branches. Its scientific name, Cocos nucifera, comes from the Spanish word “cocos”, which means “monkey-faced” and from the Latin term “nucifera” meaning a nut-bearing plant.
Native to the Philippines, this ubiquitous plant is so important to our ancestors that it had a prominent part in the myth of the first Lalaki and Babayi, a Visayan version of the Malakas at Maganda creation story with the man and woman emerging from two coconuts instead of from a single bamboo stalk. This version of the popular Filipino Creation myth was mentioned by the 16th century Jesuit missionary and chronicler, Fr. Francisco Ignacio Alcina. Even today, the coconut and its by-products are still used in religious observances and in rituals.
In Bohol and other parts of Visayas, Palm Sunday is known locally as Bendita sa Lukay, literally meaning “blessing of coconut leaves”.
On this day, (April 10, 2022), Filipino Catholics bring coconut fronds and leaves to church to be blessed. Many of these leaves, usually fashioned into crosses will be tucked on doors and placed on family altars as it is believed that these religious artifacts ward-off evil.
For the church, the lukay will be burned and the ashes collected, to be used for Ash Wednesday.