27 nailed to crosses in Pampanga, Bulacan

- Ding Cervantes () - April 8, 2012 - 12:00am

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Philippines – Twenty-seven penitents in Pampanga and Bulacan fulfilled their vow to have themselves crucified on Good Friday despite admonitions from the Church.

Fifty-one-year-old Ruben Enaje had his hands and feet nailed to a wooden cross in Barangay San Pedro Cutud here, leading 21 other “Kristos” in the reenactment of the crucifixion in the province.

In Paombong, Bulacan, four men and a woman were nailed to crosses one after another on Good Friday.

Crucifixions in Pampanga were also held in Barangays Sta. Lucia and San Juan, which, like in the previous years, have become a major tourist attraction.

Marni Castro, co-chairman of San Fernando’s Maleldo (Holy Week) committee, said the city government contributed P450,000 for the traditional Lenten event.

The committee again designated Enaje as main Kristo. Enaje, a house painter started his vow 26 years ago after surviving a fall from the third floor of a building he was painting.

Dr. Maricel Lapid of the city health office said the heat caused some tourists to faint, but no one needed hospitalization. The most serious case was that of a 52-year-old Kristo in San Pedro Cutud whose blood pressure shot up after he was brought down from the cross.

Enaje and the rest of the Kristos remained nailed on wooden crosses for not more than five minutes each.

The other Kristos were Angelito Mengillo, Arnold Meniego, Byron Gomez, Willy Salvador, Angelito Manansala, Jonny Manansala, Ramil Lazaro, Marben Unquico, Arnel Sanggalang, Victor Caparas, Rolando Ocampo, Orlando Valentin, Arnel Reyes, and Rolando Baking.

All the Via Crucis rites in the three barangays ended with the crucifixions, as the Seven Last Words were being read.

Traditionally, the Via Crucis reenactment, at least in San Pedro Cutud, was slated to end at 3 p.m., the hour that Jesus was believed to have died on the cross.

“As in the past, Maleldo 2012 and the reenactment of the crucifixion rites or Via Crucis is not a promotional event, but our way of preserving the tradition and culture of Kapampangans handed down to us since it first started in 1962. It is not commercial in any way and even penitents are not paid for their acts,” said Maleldo committee co-chairman Jimmy Lazatin.

The city health office headed by Dr. Eloisa Aquino, fielded 16 emergency medical teams in the three crucifixion sites. It saw to it that the nails and other instruments used by the penitents were sterilized to prevent infection.

Local Church authorities had openly discouraged the faithful from resorting to bloody penitential practices during the Holy Week, and urged them instead to choose non-bloody rituals such as the Visita Iglesia and Stations of the Cross in churches.

In San Pedro Cutud whose feast day falls on June 29, local folk celebrate fiesta on Good Friday with merriment that includes indulging on alcoholic beverages and meat dishes despite the Church’s prescription on fasting and abstinence.

Residents said they have been doing this since 1970s when tourists began flocking to their neighborhood to witness actual crucifixions. 

Lone woman penitent

In Paombong, a woman, Precy Valencia, was among those crucified. One of the penitents fainted after more than 10 minutes of being exposed to scorching heat.

Around 100 flagellants walked barefoot on the streets, some carrying wooden crosses.

Michael Katigbak, a 29-year-old tricycle driver; Joey Sacdalan, Roger Marcos, Jon-jon Tanael and Valencia were alternately nailed on a cross.

Katigbak, wearing a wig apparently to approximate the likeness of Jesus, remained nailed for more than 10 minutes, reciting the rosary with his followers.

Like other devotees, he was lowered but stayed at the foot of the cross unconscious for about two minutes before he was carried to an ambulance.

Members of the Alagad ni Kristo, a group of men tasked to guide the penitents, said Katigbak usually stayed longer on the cross than other devotees. But on Good Friday, it was his longest.

In an earlier interview, Katigbak told The STAR that joining the annual rites was his way of showing gratitude to God for granting his prayers to have a child.

He vowed to continue joining the annual rites until his six-year-old daughter turns 18. – With Dino Balabo, Ric Sapnu

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