CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga — Local and foreign visitors flocked to the crucifixion sites here on Good Friday to witness the reenactment of the passion and death of Jesus Christ.
The spectators, unmindful of the scorching heat, trooped to a man-made calvary hill in Barangay San Pedro Cutud and in the villages of San Juan and Sta. Lucia to watch the “magdarame” (flagellants) whipping themselves and penitents getting nailed to wooden crosses — an annual tradition that has been observed more than six decades in this province with the Via Crucis that began on 1955, followed by an actual crucifixion in 1962.
This time, nine penitents were nailed to crosses in the crucifixion sites while throngs of flagellants walked several kilometers through village streets, beating their bare backs with sharp bamboo sticks called “burilyos” and pieces of wood.
The most number of crucifixions was staged in Barangay San Pedro Cutud with five penitents, including a woman.
The 58-year old Ruben Enaje, who played the role of Jesus Christ in the Kapampangan version, led other penitents who were crucified in Barangay San Pedro Cutud.
This is the 33rd time that Enaje was nailed to a cross which is his religious vow of thanking God for surviving a fall from a scaffolding during work.
Aside from Enaje, the others who volunteered to be crucified in Barangay San Pedro Cutud were Edison Francisco, Angelito Las Pinas, Ronald Aquino and Mary Jane Sazon.
The other penitents were crucified in two other sites in Barangays Sta. Lucia and San Juan.
In Barangay Sta Lucia, those crucified were Melchor Montaya, Danilo Ramos, Fernando Mamangun while the penitent nailed to cross in Barangay San Juan was Wilfredo Salvador.
Although many of these penitents have gone through this ordeal a number of times, they still screamed in pain as villagers dressed as Roman centurions hammered four-inch stainless steel nails through their palms and set them aloft on the cross under a blistering heat for a few minutes.
After crucifixion, each of the penitent was taken to a medical tent to have his wounds bandaged.
Critics say the event was barbaric. But to the people involved in it and to the spectators, the annual observance was sacred.
“That’s some kind of extreme sacrifice,” said 43-year-old Eugene Sto. Tomas, who witnessed the crucifixion rites for the first time.
To some foreigners, they described the reenactment of Jesus Christ’s sufferings as a unique spectacle of religious devotion.
Smith Flecker said it was his first time to watch the crucifixion rites in this city.
Flecker traveled all the way from Minnesota, USA, along with her friends to witness the Kapampangan’s way of observing the Holy Week.
“I’ve experienced Holy Week in other parts of the world. But this kind of crucifixion and flaggelation is unique compared to others,” he said.
Ching Pangilinan, city tourism officer, said the number of spectators who witnessed the annual event was estimated at 15,000. Marna Dagumboy Del Rosario /PNA – northboundasia.com