FAMOUS FESTIVALS IN THE PHILIPPINES: HOLY WEEK, BLACK NAZARENE AND GETTING NAILED TO A CROSS

FAMOUS FESTIVALS IN THE PHILIPPINES

Ati-atihan in Kalibo, Aklan, January, the best and biggest in the country, it commemorates the feast of the Sto Nino with a week-long street party. Groups of dancers dressed as the aboriginal Atis, representing different communities from the city participate in the festive weeklong street party that highlights during the feast of the patron saint; Pahiyas in Lucban, Quezon. May 15, the annual harvest festival and feast of San Isidro Labrador. Witness the colourful display of kiping and other thanksgiving offerings hung in the houses that line the street where the procession of the image of the patron saint will pass. Giant papier-mache effigies join the parade to add to the spectacle of a celebration; Masskara Festival in Bacolod City, October, coinciding with the city’s charter day celebration, the festival features carnivals, fairs and a mardi gras-style parade by costumed and masked street dancers. There are as many festivals as there are towns in the Philippines and when you attend and enjoy a Filipino celebration, you come closer to understanding the culture of the people. [Source: Philippines Department of Tourism]

Other unique Philippine cultural events and activities include the cultural spectacle Santacruzan—a Maytime procession of beautiful Philippine maidens staged as a re-enactment of St. Helen’s quest for the Holy Cross; the awesome display of Filipino religiosity in the frenzied Black Nazarene procession during the Quiapo fiesta every January in Manila; the Holy Week rituals in San Fernando, Pampanga— proof of the Filipino’s and Philippine culture’s deep Catholic roots; and the displays (giant Christmas lanterns), rituals (dawn masses) and traditions (noche buena feasts) that mark the Filipinos’ celebration of Christmas.

The Kinabayo is an exotic and colorful pageant re-enacting the Spanish-Moorish Wars, particularly the Battle of Covadonga where the Spanish forces under General Pelagio took their last stand against the Saracens. They were able to reverse the tide of war with the miraculous apparition of St. James, the Apostle. A Kinabayo Festival is celebrated every July in Dapitan City, attracting thousands of tourists to the city.

According to winlovemclaren: “With more than one hundred festivals in the Philippines, Dinagyang festival is the most famous because of it's excellence in folk choreography and a perfect showcase of Ilonggo's culture and heritage. Mainly, the festival is a thanksgiving and a celebration in honor of Sr. Santo Niño; it is celebrated every fourth week of January. People from different places all over the world go to the Philippines during the festival to winess the colorful, loud-drumbeat and street party in Iloilo City! [Source:winlovemclaren.hubpages.com ^^]

Higantes Festival - Angono, Rizal: Using an art form brought from Mexico by Spanish priests, people from Angono created a larger than life caricatures of their Spanish landlords. The townspeople made the best enjoyment out of a bad situation when the Spanish owners prohibited all celebrations because they were concerned about the costs. With a colorful and gigantic artworks, people in Angono celebrates this joyous festival in honor to their patron saint of fisherman - San Clemente. The festival is a procession of giant artworks or the "Higantes" and the "pahadores" or the devotees dressed in colorful, local costumes or fishermen's clothes, wooden shoes and carrying boat paddles, fishnets and traps. ^^

Kadayawan Festival - Davao City: A celebration of life, gifts of nature, wealth of culture, the bounties of harvest and serenity of living! Kadayawan festival is the main festival of Davao City celebrated every third week of August and also a celebration of the plentiful harvests of fruits and orchids during the season. Kadayawan is derived from the prehistoric word "madayaw" meaning a warm and friendly greeting used to explain a thing that is valuable, superior or beautiful. During the festival, floats of fresh flowers, fruits and street party everywhere; also colorful tribes parade the street with their tribal costumes and jewelry. ^^

Barefoot Hordes Honor the Black Nazarene

On January 9th the Feast of Black Nazarene is held in Quiapo, Metro Manila. It often draws hundreds of thousands—even millions—of people. Enshrined in the Quiapo Church, the Black Nazarene is a life-size statue of a kneeling Christ that is brought out once a year in a frenzied procession led by a crowd of barefoot male penitents who carry the statue through the streets as followers shout "Viva Señor" ("Long Live the Christ") and jostle and shove each other for the chance to touch or carry it. The Black Nazarene is said to have miraculous powers.

On the 2014 event, AFP reported: “Barefoot devotees poured into the Philippine capital Manila for one of the world’s biggest Catholic parades honouring an ebony statue of Jesus Christ they believe has miraculous powers. Schools declared a holiday and police went on full alert as thousands of male and female pilgrims battled for position at dawn to get near the Black Nazarene statue hours before the parade starts. “This is my way of saying ‘Thank You’ to the Lord and asking Him for safe delivery of my second child,” heavily pregnant housewife Kaye Morales, 32, told AFP. “My eldest, a 13-year-old boy, met an accident last month and we believe it was the Nazarene’s help that he recovered quickly,” she said. Seven months pregnant, Morales travelled to Manila from Bacoor just south of the capital and queued for hours to kiss the feet of the statue.” [Source: AFP, January 9, 2014 ^*^]

The Philippines “is deeply religious, but the annual march through Manila’s old quarter — the biggest religious event in the country — is an extreme form of veneration. Many are injured and sometimes people die as devotees scramble over one another to get near the statue as it is borne from Luneta Park to its traditional home in the Quiapo church in a slow moving procession that takes an entire day. The life-sized statue of Jesus was brought to Manila by Augustinian priests from Mexico in 1607, decades after the start of colonial rule. It was believed to have acquired its black colour after it was partially burnt when the Spanish galleon carrying it caught fire. ^*^

“Filipinos believe that the icon is miraculous and that by joining the procession, barefoot to humble themselves, their prayers will be answered. For Manila labourer Wilson Faculto, one such miracle happened just two months ago. He and his wife, Marilyn, had been married for 15 years but could not have a child. Five years ago the couple began joining the annual Black Nazarene procession, and in December, their prayers were answered. “A woman we didn’t know gave us her baby for adoption, and walked away,” he said. “This boy is our Nazarene miracle,” he said, as he cradled the two-month old baby in his arms. Other members of the family had camped out in the park for two days to be among the first to touch the statue. They slept on the grass, unmindful of the foul smell from overflowing portable toilets nearby. ^*^

“The men prepared to brave the throng to wipe white handkerchiefs on the statue. Many were teary eyed, and appeared in a trance. “For a devotee, just touching the Nazarene makes all problems go away,” said Efren Delantar, a 42 year-old security guard. Apart from asking for a bountiful year ahead for his family, Delantar also prayed for the souls of his relatives who were among thousands who perished when Super Typhoon Haiyan pounded the central Philippines in November. “They are no longer with us, but we are asking for special intercession for them,” he said. “I know that wish has been granted. They are all in heaven.” ^*^

Worries About a Terrorist Attack at the Black Nazarene Event in 2012

In January 2012, Associated Press reported: “The Philippines lifted a terrorist alert in the capital after millions of Roman Catholic devotees ended a 22-hour parade of a Christ statue that authorities feared was a tempting target for Muslim extremists. Authorities had deployed a massive police cordon after Philippine President Benigno Aquino III warned over the weekend that terrorists might target the raucous annual procession. After the parade ended, they said the event a success and lifted the security alert in Manila. [Source: Associated Press, January 11, 2012 /*\]

“The government did not have specific intelligence on a terrorist plot. Still, about 15,000 policemen, backed by hundreds of army troops, secured the 5km procession route for the charred wooden Black Nazarene statue from seaside Rizal Park to a popular church in Manila’s congested Quiapo district. Air force helicopters stood by and cellphone service was blocked in procession areas to prevent its use to trigger bombs. Despite the president’s warning, huge crowds of devotees wearing maroon shirts surged near the statue, believed to have healing powers. /*\

“Devotees waving handkerchiefs and towels let out shouts of “viva,” as the statue was finally brought inside the church at the end of the grueling procession. Aquino announced at a hastily called news conference that several terrorists had been reported in Manila with plans to disrupt the procession, but that the threat was not high enough to cancel the event and that police would work to keep it safe. Aquino’s warning sparked one of the most elaborate security deployments for an event in the capital in recent years. /*\

Philippine Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin said the threat, involving possible bombings by two groups of Muslim militants from the country’s volatile south, prompted police to raid several suspected terrorist hideouts in the Manila area, but without any results. There were suspicions that attackers might come from two radical Muslim groups, including the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, which is on a US list of terrorist organizations for deadly bombings, kidnappings and beheadings. /*\

“The procession was delayed for hours because the wheels of the carriage carrying the statue broke. Police said at least 3 million mostly barefoot devotees took part in the event. The wooden statue of Christ, crowned with thorns and bearing a cross, is believed to have been brought from Mexico to Manila in 1606 by Spanish missionaries. The ship that carried it caught fire, but the charred statue survived and was named the Black Nazarene. /*\

Ati Atihan

Ati Atihan in Kalibo, Aklan is a lively festival that re-enacts a famous Panay barter of 1209. During the celebration people cover themselves in soot and wears tribal war costumes and march through the streets, brandishing spears and chanting "Hala bira!" ("Come on and join") to the accompaniment of dancing and drumming. Ati-Atihan literally means "to make like Atis."

The Ati-Atihan festival, celebrated in the third week of January, honours the Santo Niño. According to philippines.hvu.nl: During the last three days of this week-long festival (fiesta), a parade is characteristic. A colourful happening with celebrants who paint their faces in many different ways and who are dressed in the most exceptional costumes. The dancing on the rhythms of the drums makes this festival comparable with carnival in Rio in Brazil! The fiesta is celebrated in Kalibo on the island of Panay (Visayas). [Source: philippines.hvu.nl >>>]

The origin: In the thirteenth century, long before the Spaniards came to the Philippines, light-skinned immigrants from the island of Borneo (Kalimantan) in Indonesia arrived on Panay. The local people of Panay, the Ati (negritos), a small and dark (black) kinky-haired people, sold them a small piece of land and allowed them to settle down in the lowlands. The Atis themselves, lived more upland in the mountains. One time the Ati people was in need of food because of a bad harvest in their homelands. They came down to the lowlands of the Maraynon and asked them food. Every year since then, the Atis came down to the lowland inhabitants to ask for some food. They danced and sang in gratitude for the helping hand. A real friendship was born and the Maraynon started to paint their faces black in honor of the Atis and took part in the fiesta. >>>

Spanish influence: After the Spaniards settled down in the Philippines, some Catholic elements infiltrated in the fiesta, especially honoring Santo Niño. A Spanish representative arranged a deal with the local leaders of the Atis and the leader of the immigrants from Borneo. The outcome of the deal was, that in the future the existing native celebration would be dedicated to the Santo Niño. Nowadays it is a mix of parades, procession and dancing people on the rhythms of monotonous music of drums or the rhythmic tinkling of metal and stone on bottles. It looks as if the dancing never stops! The ritual dance originates from the Atis. The name Ati-Atihan means "make-believe Atis." >>>

Viva kay Santo Niño! It is said that the procession is the climax of the fiesta. It is held on the last Sunday. The street dancers never fail to enter the Kalibo church every time they pass by. Honoring Santo Nino The slogan "Viva kay Santo Niño!" is repeated frequently. It is clear that it is Santo Niño who is honored. >>>

Filipinos Flock to Northern Town for Fertility Dance for Patron Saint

The town of Obando is well-known in the Philippines for a May festival with a fertility dance. In 2011, Reuters reported: “Hundreds of couples flocked to a town in the northern Philippines to take part in a centuries-old ritual dance, honouring a patron saint believed to bring fertility. The ritual took place this year amid an increasingly acrimonious battle over a controversial bill promoting artificial contraception in this intensely Catholic nation. [Source: Reuters, May 18, 2011 <~>]

“Those seeking children packed into Obando by the thousands for the annual May ritual, inspired by miraculous stories of the babies it has brought. Couples dance in the two-hour long procession, swaying their hips to a traditional folk tune from bamboo and marching bands. The ritual is accompanied by a short chant and prayer to Saint Claire, the local patron saint of fertility, asking her to bless them with children. <~>

“The rite has taken place in Obando for centuries and apparently originated from an ancient fertility ritual where couples once rubbed their body parts against an idol. But the act was later changed by the Catholic Church when they introduced Saint Claire, the patron saint of fertility, to the locals. The dance also promotes fertility in a different way, with the saint playing matchmaker to help people find a partner. Newlywed Tess Faustino said she found her husband after asking the patron saint for guidance. “This is my first time to wish for a child,” she added. <~>

Manila Water-Drenching Ritual Honors John The Baptist

In late June, thousands of Filipinos in a Manila suburb honor their patron saint, John the Baptist, by drenching passers-by and motorists with water in a raucous celebration watched closely by police to prevent scuffles. It is somewhat similar to water-drenching festivals held elsewhere in Southeast Asia. [Source: Associated Press, June 24, 2007 |::|]

On the 2009 event, Associated Press reported: “Thousands of San Juian City residents honored their patron saint John the Baptist by drenching passersby and motorists in a raucous annual water festival. Police intensified street patrols to prevent any scuffles in the city, where armies of residents -- some armed with drums of rainwater from a tropical storm -- woke early to train water guns, high pressure hoses and buckets on shrieking crowds. One small child dumped a bucket of water on a police officer; he managed to keep his cool along with most of the commuters caught up in the one-day celebration.

Mayor JV Ejercito joined the annual merrymaking by riding in a convoy of fire trucks that used their water cannons to drench children and other revelers under an overcast sky. Susan Samuele, a 40-year-old mother of four, filled six water containers with rain water dumped by an approaching storm overnight then waited with her cousins and friends in a congested alley armed with toy water guns. By noon, she said she had ambushed about 100 passersby, and not one had complained. “It’s clean fun with clean water,” Samuele said. While the frenzy draws large numbers of tourists each year, many avoid San Juan to stay dry. The ritual has sparked scuffles in past years. [Source: Associated Press, June 25, 2009]

On the 2007 event, Associated Press reported:“Mayor JV Ejercito led the annual celebration in San Juan by joining a convoy of three fire trucks and training a water cannon on crowds that erupted in shrieks and applause as they were drenched under an overcast sky. "It's a tradition," said Ejercito, the son of ousted President Joseph Estrada. "It's the happiest fiesta in the Philippines." The ritual has been celebrated for decades to commemorate Christ's baptism by John the Baptist. Residents, carrying pails of water or armed with hoses attached to faucets, drenched passers-by, motorists and commuters aboard open-air jeeps, setting off laughter when they made a good hit. The ritual has sparked scuffles in past years when some residents threw dirty canal water on passers-by.” |::|

Holy Week in the Philippines

During the Lenten season, most communities do a reading of the Passion narrative and a performance of a popular Passion play. The custom of reading or chanting of the Passion could be an adaptation of a pre-Spanish practice of chanting lengthy epics, but its continuing importance in Philippine life probably reflects the popular conception of personal indebtedness to Christ for His supreme sacrifice. At least one observer has suggested that Filipinos have, through the Passion, experienced a feeling of redemption that has been the basis for both millennial dreams and historical revolutionary movements for independence. [Source: Library of Congress]

Holy Week Rites are celebrated in March or April with religious passion plays, processions, solemnity and pageantry in almost every Philippine town. Maudy Thursday is three days before Easter. Good Friday, two days before Easter, is a somber affair marked across the Philippines with people, including children, walking barefoot through dusty vilage streets beating their backs with ropes and pieces of wood and soaking spectators with their blood. Passion plays are featured all over the country. Castelloejos hosts a a brutally realistic reenactment of the crucifixion called the Balaybay Calvary that features penitents, followed by flagellants, lugging wooden crosses to a hilltop. In Sant Antonio on Siquijor sorcerers gather to perform animist tang-alap rituals.

Anne C. Kwaantes wrote in Christian Classics Etheral Library: “The celebration of Jesus' suffering and death is a big event than Christmas. Filipinos normally go to mass on Ash Wednesday and receive ashes on their forehead from the officiating priest. On Palm Sunday, cleverly woven palms are bought and blessed at church, and then later brought home. Many rituals are observed as Holy Week continues. The passion story is chanted from booths temporarily constructed along the streets. In the cities some people drag heavy crosses along the road. Others walk along the streets whipping themselves to fulfill a vow to God or to do penance. On Thursday, all those who can, return to their home town. Every year on Good Friday, some individuals allow themselves to be publicly and openly crucified for some minutes. The country comes to a standstill. The people sleep. [Source: Anne C. Kwaantes, Fourum, Winter 2000, Christian Classics Etheral Library, pages 6, 7]

On Easter morning, the meeting of Jesus and his mother, Mary, is acted out in church services and in public dramas. Yet, in the Filipino setting, the resurrection of Jesus is far less important than his suffering and death. Paradoxically, at the same time that people remember the suffering Christ, they also gather with their families to eat and drink in a festive mood. A further paradox is found in the crucifix, a cross with Christ hanging on it. The typical Protestant cross, in striking contrast is empty. It eloquently declares that Christ is risen.

Filipino Holy Week: A Culture of Masochism?

Neal Cruz wrote in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, On “Good Friday, human blood flowed, literally, in many parts of the Philippines as flagellants flogged themselves bloody and had themselves nailed to crosses in imitation of Jesus Christ. This primitive practice is so widespread (and still spreading) that it portrays the Philippines as a nation of masochists. [Source: Neal Cruz, Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 4, 2010 ==]

“Why do Filipinos inflict pain on themselves? The penitents believe that by hurting themselves in imitation of Jesus, they would be forgiven their sins — the more painful, the more forgiveness. Others do so to keep vows (panata) made to God — to do the masochistic act every Good Friday in exchange for making a sick family member get well, or to get a job in the Middle East, etc. They believe that if they break the vow, God would punish them. So they do it year after year against common sense. ==

“And the voyeurs, Filipinos and foreigners alike, lap it up. They flock to the places where penitents have themselves nailed, literally, to crosses; or on the roads where lines of penitents pass while flogging themselves silly, or plod bearing heavy wooden crosses while being flogged by assistants. Tourists find it so quaint, so weird, so curious, so exciting, so primitive; and local government officials (and perhaps also the Department of Tourism) encourage the masochism to attract tourists every year. It is no different from white tourists ogling black tribesmen dancing to the beat of tom-toms in “Darkest Africa.” All that is missing is Tarzan’s ape-cry reverberating through the treetops. And mass media plaster the spectacle on their news pages and television screens. ==

“Because of Christ’s sufferings (to atone for the sins of mankind, the Bible tells us), masochism and superstition are embedded in the Christian religion. Old folks walk on their knees from the door to the altar of Quiapo Church in exchange for favors they are asking from God. The superstitious rub their sweepstakes and lotto tickets on the statue of the Black Nazarene in the belief that would make the tickets win. During the Feast of the Black Nazarene, thousands of barefoot devotees flock to the procession, vying with one another to hold on to the rope pulling the Nazarene’s carroza, and climbing over the heads of fellow devotees to be able to kiss, or even just touch, the statue of the Nazarene. Some of them are injured or get killed doing this. ==

“Why do they do it? Panata, a vow, say the devotees, among them our incumbent Vice President. Alas, this is not the correct way to practice the Christian religion, or even to atone for and ask forgiveness for one?s sins. If one is truly sorry for his sins and resolves never to commit them again, he does not have to flog or hurt himself or get himself nailed to a cross. In the first place, that masochistic practice is bad for the health. The wounds can get infected, especially since the penitents bathe afterwards in a river that, in the Philippines, is most likely polluted. Worse, the penitents can die of tetanus from dirty nails that pierce their hands and feet. ==

“To guide its faithful followers, the Catholic Church should educate and wean them away from this form of masochism. True, some bishops and priests issue press statements during Holy Week, advising penitents not to continue the practice. But they have little effect because the Church does not warn, preach and advise strongly enough as much as it fights, for example, the reproductive health bill and divorce. To have any effect, the warning should be preached from the pulpits and discussed in Catholic schools, not only during Holy Week but as often as possible. Churches should have pamphlets distributed after the Sunday Masses. Local government officials should be told by the Church and the national government to discourage and ban the practice. Likewise, mass media should not play up this barbaric practice because the penitents like to see their pictures in media. It gives them celebrity status and makes them heroes of their villages. Instead of teaching the out-of-school youth of their villages, Filipinos hungry for recognition just have themselves nailed to a cross once a year and they achieve the near-immortality that they hunger for.” ==

Filipino Catholics Observe Lent with Gory Rituals

Many Filipino devotees perform religious penance during the week leading up to Easter Sunday as a form of worship and supplication, a practice discouraged by Catholic bishops, but widely believed by devotees to cleanse sins, cure illness and even grant wishes. From Mabalacat in 2012, Reuters reported: “Hundreds of barefoot Filipinos marched on roads, carrying heavy wooden crosses and whipping their backs until they bled on Thursday in an annual gory religious ritual as the mainly Catholic Philippines observed near the end of the Lenten season. "I do this penance out of my free will because I believe that God will help relieve my sickness," Corazon Cabigting, a domestic helper and the only woman in a group of about 50 men carrying wooden crosses on their backs. [Source: Reuters, April 5, 2012 /=\]

“Like the men, Cabigting wore a maroon robe and covered her face with a veil, held on her head by a crown of stainless wire, dragging a 30-kg (66-lb) wooden cross and stopping every 500 meters (546 yards) in makeshift roadside chapels. Elderly women chant the passion of Jesus Christ at some of the chapels, while the penitents, with their hands tied to the cross, are beaten by sticks and hemp. "Priests often tell us that we should not be doing this," Melvin Pangilinan, an organizer of the annual Lenten ritual who carried cross in his younger days, told Reuters. "But, it has been our tradition for decades and we have to honor it." /=\

“In nearby Angeles City, bloody gashes from repeated strikes of whips could be seen on the backs of devotees as they walked barefoot along the streets, believing that their sacrifice would somehow grant salvation for their sins. Devotees, begin the ritual by tying a rope around their arms and legs and inflicting wounds on their backs with a blade marching for about four to five hours under a scorching sun.Carlito Santos, a pastor at a local Methodist Church, said the practice cannot be easily relinquished as it has already been embedded in the local culture. "It is easy to change these religious practices by asking these devotees to refrain from practicing it, but, because of culture and tradition, it does not always work," he said. /=\

“Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, spokesman for the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said the Church has discouraged the practices, describing them as "inappropriate". "What happens here is that we want God to grant us what we wish for," Quitorio told Reuters, saying it is enough for true Catholics to pray, fast and give alms during the Lenten season.

Moriones Festival of Marinduque

The Moriones Festival is a folk-religious event held annually during Holy Week on the island of Marinduque, considered the geographical heart of the Philippines. The word "Morion" refers to the visor of the helmet that is associated with the armor of Roman soldiers. The word "Moriones" refers to the local inhabitants who dress up in costumes and masks of Roman soldiers during Biblical times. These costumed locals are farmers and fishermen who engage in the street theater as a form of penitence.

For seven days, from Holy Monday to Easter Sunday, the masked and costumed Moriones march around town scaring children and making a ruckus in a reenactment of the search for Longinus, the Roman centurion who pierced the side of the crucified Christ. In the Bible, Longinus was blind in one eye, but the blood that spurted out of Christ's side reached his eye and fully restored his sight. The miracle converted Longinus to Christianity, but he was scorned by his fellow centurions who ended up murdering him.

The locals' reenactment of the Biblical story climaxes on Easter Sunday, when Longinus is beheaded. Marinduque is a heart-shaped island surrounded by islets. It is part of the MIMAROPA regional group of island-provinces (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), a tourist destination south of Luzon.

Nailing People to the Cross

Good Friday is marked in San Pedro Cutud by people who have nails driven completely through the palms of their hands and are fastened to crosses like Christ during his crucifixion. Some crosses are lifted and carried around with the people nailed to them. People are also sometimes nailed to crosses in Kapitangan in Bulacan Province and San Fernando, Pampanga, north of Manila. On the same day in certain places such as Cainta in Rizal penitents carry heavy wooden crosses and wear crowns of thorns. In other Manila suburbs flagellants whip themselves until they bleed.

San Pedro Cutud is a farming town in Luzon near Mount Pinitabo. Every year a handful of Filipinos and some foreigners are nailed to crosses there as part of a Good Friday crucifixion re-enactment. The Catholic Church generally discourages such practices but generally does not try to stop them. The event has become quite well known and every year several thousand tourists show up to watch.

During the ritual, four-inch, alcohol-cleansed nails are pounded through the participant’s palms with ordinary hammers into wooden crosses. A few also have nails hammered in their feet. The crosses are then lifted by men dressed as Roman centurions to a vertical position. Ropes around the participant’s arms and body bear the weight not the stainless steel nails, but even so the ritual is quite painful. The barbed-wire-crowned participants scream and wail through much of it. After hanging from the cross for about two minutes they are taken down, and their wounds are treated with alcohol and their hands are bandaged.

The Good Friday event in San Pedro Cutud also features a parade of penitents, who march down the streets beating their bare backs with ropes and throwing blood at spectators. Some have their backs cut open with a glass instrument before they begin whipping themselves A Filipina nurse who showed up to watch told Reuters, “ When I first saw people waking around with blood on their backs it felt weird.”

The ritual began in 1955 and almost came to end in 1991 when San Pedro Cutud was covered by more than three feet of volcanic mud after the eruption of Mount Pinitabo. All the props and costumes used in the ceremony were buried by mud. But villagers worked to make new props and sew new costumes so the ritual could continue.

People Who Have Been Nailed to the Cross

People who are nailed onto the crosses in San Pedro Cutud typically stay on the crosses for only a few minutes. Most are performing the ritual for some cause and believe that their act of penitence will help get their prayers answered. Over the years visitors have had themselves nailed to the crosses to help homeless children and relatives with diseases. Some local people said their pain and sacrifice might have spare their town from mudslides from the volcano.

Most of the participants are men but not always. In 2002, two of the 13 people who were nailed to crosses were women. In 2001, one woman and 11 men did it. In 1993, a Belgian woman tried it and fainted on the cross. She was revived with guava leaves, a local herbal medicine.

In 1995, a dozen Filipinos and a 30-year-old Japanese were nailed to crosses. The Japanese man said that he hoped to help his ailing 24-year-old brother by participating in the ritual. The woman who did in 2001 was a faith healer. She told Reuters, “I am the actress of Jesus on Good Friday” and said she did it “because Jesus is the one that has called me for this kind of position.” She told Reuters she had go through the ritual 14 times. After she was nailed to the cross in 2001 she chatted, laughed and answered questions.

A 45-year-old man who had been nailed to the cross 15 times as of the early 2000s told Associated Press, "It's a form of sacrifice, of penitence. I'm also praying as I do it so that the mud flows will not come here again so the community can return.” He has played the role of Christ in a re-enactment of the original crucifixion that features men dressed as Roman Centurions and Pontius Pilate.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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