Devotees nailed to crosses in Philippines

The Catholic Church frowns upon the re-enactment, instead calling on the faithful to pray at Lent.
The Catholic Church frowns upon the re-enactment, instead calling on the faithful to pray at Lent.

Several Roman Catholic devotees have been nailed to wooden crosses in a gory Good Friday ritual in the Philippines, and others flogged themselves or took part in religious plays to re-enact Jesus Christ's suffering.

Four men and a woman, some wearing crowns of twigs, were escorted by villagers dressed as Roman centurions and nailed to crosses on a dusty hill in San Pedro Cutud village.

Similar re-enactments played out in nearby farming towns in the northern Philippines.

Thousands, including many tourists, watch the annual spectacle. The Catholic Church frowns upon it, instead calling on the faithful to mark Lent with prayers and acts of charity.

Prior to the re-enacted crucifixions, dozens of barefoot penitents beat their bare backs with sharp bamboo sticks and wood. Some had their backs with razors cut to keep them bloody.

Sterilised nails are used in the rituals, and after they are lowered from the crosses, the devotees are checked by medical workers to make sure they are no complications from their injuries.

Painter Ruben Enaje, 59, was nailed to the cross for the 33rd time as part of giving thanks after surviving a fall from a building.

"Next year, I'm going to be a senior. Our bones are a bit different, you start to get hurt. I'll just pass down (this tradition) to someone younger than me," he said.

Another regular, Mary Jane Sazon, marked her 16th time on the cross.

"When I do this devotion, my prayers come true. Then I stopped. I started having health problems again, so I joined the crucifixion again. I felt that through my devotion, whatever illness I feel goes away," said Sazon.

The Philippines is Asia's largest Catholic nation.

Other Lent traditions include street plays with devotees re-enacting the Way of the Cross and a marathon chanting of the Pasyon, a Philippine narrative of the suffering of Christ.

Australian Associated Press