IN PHOTOS: Crucifixion rites in Cutud, Pampanga


CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga — Devotees in Barangay San Pedro Cutud had themselves nailed to wooden crosses to depict the passion and death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday.

Signmaker Ruben Enaje, 54, was among half a dozen men whose hands and feet were rubbed with alcohol before locals dressed as Roman soldiers hammered sterilized nails into his flesh.

Enaje has practiced this vow of sacrifice or "panata" for the last 29 years as part of giving thanks to God after surviving a fall from a building in 1985. In the past years, he also had himself crucified to seek a cure for his daughter's and wife's health condition.

Before the crucifixions, hundreds of barefoot devotees walked the streets whipping their bare backs with bamboo sticks dangling from a rope.

"I started doing this when my mother got sick, kidney problem. I vowed and prayed to God so that she could be cured," said electrician Marvin Tao, 25, who has been a flagellant for nine years.





Tourist attraction

Church leaders have spoken against the annual practice mixing Catholic devotion with folk belief, but it continues to draw big crowds.

The reenactment of Christ's crucifixion at a dusty mound in San Pedro Cutud drew at least 4,000 spectators and tourists, dozens of them foreigners. Authorities earlier expected a crowd of 60,000.

Unlike in the past, organizers this year banned foreigners from being nailed to crosses to prevent the event from "becoming a circus," said City Councilor Harvey Quiwa.

After they were lowered from the crosses, medical workers carried the devotees on a stretcher and made sure there were no complications from their injuries.

"I think it takes an incredible amount of dedication and commitment to really go through something like that," said American tourist Tracy Sengillo. "It's really fascinating."

Similar reenactments were held in other villages around Pampanga and in other provinces, but San Pedro Cutud attracts most crowds.

Treasured tradition

According to the city government's website, the yearly reenactment of Christ's crucifixion here originated in 1955 with the staging of "Via Crucis" or Way of the Cross.

It was first performed during the "Maleldo" or Holy Week 57 years ago by amateur volunteer artists of San Pedro Cutud.

The city government said it was only in 1962 that San Fernando Cutud first witnessed an actual crucifixion during the play.

The Christ was then portrayed by Artemio Anoza, a resident of nearby Apalit town and a quack doctor who dreamt that he would become a religious leader and full-fledge healer, the city government said on its website. - Joeal Calupitan, Associated Press with Louis Bacani, philstar.com. Photos by Jonathan Asuncion

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