Every year, during the Holy Week, many people are going to San Fernando, Pampanga in the Philippines to be part in the Lenten Rites, or just to go and see them, in Barangay San Pedro Cutud. A re-enactment of the passion of the Christ is played there and a few devotees are nailed to a cross with real nails. It is a passion play culminating with the actual nailing of at least three penitents to a wooden cross atop the makeshift Calvary.
Crucifixion as penitence
Every Good Friday, which is the Friday before Easter, sometimes a dozen men, and from time to time also women, are nailed to a cross using two to four -inch (5-10 cm) stainless steel nails that have been soaked in alcohol to disinfect them. Many other men are using whips to punish themselves for their sins in a long procession going to the makeshift Calvary.
Read a CNN story about a few penitents in this yearly event.
Although the Catholic Church is against it, people (for once) do not listen to the church and continue to do so year after year.
The government health and safety officials are keeping their eye on proceedings, after health minister Francisco Duque told those planning to be crucified to ensure they have a tetanus injection and use properly sterilised nails. “Never mind the clear dangers to your health of crucifixion, so long as the danger of infection is safely reduced.”
Thousands are watching the spectacle in Cutud every year, which has grown from a village production started in 1962 and has become a media and tourist attraction and is now copied in other parts of the country.
Several hours before the crucifixions, lines of men, hooded and half naked, flayed their backs with whips and paddles topped with pieces of glass. Blood splattering all over the road.
The atmosphere is very festive, with merchants selling cold beer, ice-cream and souvenir whips all over the village. VIPs are watching from elevated “viewing platforms”, specially erected for this purpose.
Ruben Enaje was the first to be crucified to the cross in San Fernando. He began his yearly rite after surviving a fall from a three-story billboard in 1986.
In 2013 a total of 18 men were crucified in San Fernando, Pampanga. It is said that they are sponsored to do so by some businesses, to attract more tourists and media.
Crucifixions elsewhere in the Philippines
Crucifixions are also held in Barangay Kapitangan, Paombong, Bulacan, which is locally-known as a pilgrimage area and a haven for faith healers.
Also in Barangay Duljo-Fatima, Cebu City a yearly crucifixion takes place. Here is a YouTube film of 2013 of it.
Part of the Good Friday celebrations is The Siete Palabras (Seven Last Words) play in Angeles City, Pampanga, depicts the sufferings of Christ from his sentencing by Pontius Pilate to his death. This takes the form of a colorful street play, with dozens of men carrying wooden crosses as heavy as 50 kg (110 pounds) and scores flagellating themselves in Barangay Lourdes Northwest, Angeles City, between 14:00 and 15:00 PM.
These re-enactment plays can be found in many more places in the Philippines and on different days. Real crucifixions are not seen in every place, but knowing the Filipinos, it will spread over the country.
So: Soon in your village or city too!
Pictures from: Miguel Candela,CNN and unknown others
Check here for other attractions and festivals in Holy Week in the Philippines