SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Philippines — Every Good Friday for the past 27 years, house painter Ruben Enaje has offered himself to be crucified as an act of penitential thanksgiving.
Enaje, who played Jesus Christ in the annual Via Crucis (Way of the Cross), was crucified at around 2 p.m. on a very hot Good Friday in Barangay Cutud here, witnessed by about 50,000 locals and tourists, as well as national and international media.
Fifteen other penitents were also nailed to crosses, four of them in nearby Barangay Sta. Lucia and five others in Barangay San Juan.
Thousands of penitents, called “magdarame” or flagellants, roamed the streets on Good Friday, carrying wooden crosses and whipping their backs with bamboo lashes called “burilyos.”
In Tarlac City, a certain Romeo de Leon was reportedly found dead in his room after performing self-flagellation, a traditional penitential practice among Filipinos during the Holy Week.
The Tarlac police said initial reports indicated it was the first time De Leon performed the penitential act for his ailing mother.
The victim was reported to have started self-flagellation on Maundy Thursday. He was found unconscious and later died.
The crucifixions were held in three makeshift “Calvary” sites in Barangays San Pedro Cutud, Sta. Lucia and San Juan, all in Pampanga.
There were also crucifixions in the nearby province of Bulacan, where flagellants also joined in the annual ritual.
Seven people, including a woman, participated in the crucifixion while hundreds roamed the streets of Paombong town on Good Friday, beating themselves with bamboo sticks under the hot afternoon sun.
Four were crucified at Barangay Kapitangan in Paombong along with a lone female, Precy Valencia, a self-proclaimed faith healer, while three others completed their continuing vow of reenacting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at Santisima Trinidad Church in Barangay Barihan in the provincial capital Malolos City.
Marnie Castro, co-chairman of the “Maleldo” (Holy Week) committee in Pampanga, said more than 2,000 flagellants participated in the Via Crucis that started at about 9 a.m. on Friday.
Penitents, most of them covering their faces with black cloths or masks to hide their identities, walked several kilometers through village streets beating their backs with “burilyos.”
San Fernando police chief Superintendent Ricardo David reported that aside from some minor incidents of theft, the event was orderly and peaceful.
Pampanga’s Via Crucis has been practiced every year since 1955. As for Enaje, he intends to be here again next Holy Week and for as long as he can, as his way of thanking God for saving his life after he fell from a scaffolding many years ago. – With Dino Balabo, Ding Cervantes