Crucifixion ‘fiesta’ draws crowds to Bulacan, Pampanga

Ramon Efren Lazaro (The Philippine Star) - April 4, 2015 - 10:00am

MALOLOS, Bulacan, Philippines  – Thousands of tourists flocked to crucifixion sites in Bulacan province on Good Friday to witness penitents whipping themselves and getting crucified before high noon.

The crucifixions were held in Barangay Kapitangan in Paombong town and in Santissima Trinidad in Malolos City, as well as in the pilgrimage sites in the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Marilao town, the Grotto shrine in San Jose del Monte and Banal na Bundok in the municipality of San Miguel.

The Catholic Church has discouraged self-flagellation and crucifixion, saying there are other ways to show one’s faith.

But the penitents in Bulacan endure mortification of the flesh multiple times in fulfillment of the promises they made to God in exchange for personal favors.

Nicanor dela Cruz, for instance, was crucified in the last three years because that was his way of expressing his gratitude to God for healing his wife who fell severely ill years ago.

This year, Dela Cruz opted to be crucified in front of the Santissima Trinidad Chapel in Malolos City on Good Friday.

‘Retired penitents’ now faith healers

Bulacan folk also observed that “retired penitents” who had been crucified multiple times have become faith healers.

One of them is Amparo Santos, popularly known as “Mother Paring” of Barangay Tabe in Guiguinto town. She is the first woman to be nailed to the cross on Good Friday in Barangay Cutud in San Fernando City, Pampanga.

Santos’ only daughter Maricel, information officer of the provincial government of Bulacan, recounted to The STAR how her now 74-year-old mother began her panata or devotion of crucifixion in the Holy Week of 1986.

Her mother was in a trance for five days and five nights on a bed in front of their house altar. After waking up, Santos told her husband and four children that she was able to see heaven, purgatory and hell.

“It was as if I was zapped to a different world. I saw a place where everything was purely immaculate and beautiful and I know that it was Heaven. Then I was brought to a place full of thorns and emptiness, which I thought was the place called purgatory. And there was a place that was very hot and many sad voices crying and screaming which I know was the place called hell,” Maricel quoted her mother as saying.

After that experience, Santos started healing sick people in front of her house altar.

In 1987, a small chapel was built adjacent to Santos’ house to accommodate the growing number of people asking to be healed. By the early 1990s, a bigger chapel was constructed on the same site to accommodate more people and it eventually became the Chapel of Saint Joseph. And from 1996 to 2000, Santos was crucified every Good Friday.

Fiesta on Good Friday?

At least 10 men were nailed to the cross during a re-enactment of the passion of Jesus Christ in a man-made Calvary hill in Barangay San Pedro Cutud, San Fernando City, Pampanga on Good Friday.

While Barangay San Pedro Cutud has been known for flagellation and crucifixion, since the 1970s the residents observe Good Friday with a fiesta atmosphere to welcome local and foreign tourists who want to witness the mortification of the flesh.

Residents of Barangay San Pedro Cutud claimed that they have been exempted from the Catholic obligation of abstinence during the season of Lent.

But Fr. Alvin Manalang, a former parish priest of San Pedro Cutud, belied the claim of the residents. He said the Catholic Church has never issued any declaration of exemption for the residents. The fiesta of San Pedro Cutud is June 29, the feast of their patron St. Peter.

The Canon Law of the Catholic Church requires Catholics of age to practice abstinence from something, traditionally meat dishes, on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays throughout the Lenten season. The law also requires those aged between 18 and 59 to eat only one full meal on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. With Ding Cervantes, Ric Sapnu

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