PAOMBONG, Bulacan — Under the scorching heat of the noon-day sun, male actors playing the role of Roman centurions brutally whipped a faith healer who fell into the ground face-down before he was dragged up to carry a wooden cross towards a man-made Golgotha besides a Catholic chapel in Barangay Kapitangan here as the old bloody Lenten tradition continues in this province.
The faith healer, Michael Katigbak, is among the most popular penitents being awaited by thousands of spectators in his reenactment of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This was also the sixth consecutive time that Katigbak was nailed to a wooden cross.
Two other faith healers were also nailed to crosses in the farming village of Kapitangan where thousands of devotees, local and foreign tourists, flocked every Holy Week to witness the centuries old bloody Lenten ritual.
After Katigbak, female faith healer Precy Valencia was equally dragged by “Roman centurions” to the crucifixion site where she stayed nailed on the cross for at least five minutes.
Before fulfilling her Holy Week vow, Valencia told local newsmen that she always received messages from heaven instructing her to follow the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When asked what is the Lord’s message this Good Friday, Valencia said it is only for herself and the people who would seek her help to cure their sickness.
Another faith healer JonJon Tanael, was also “crucified” for the third consecutive time to fulfill his Holy Week vow.
Retired centurion Wilfredo Caparas, recalled that he started playing the role of a Roman centurion when he was 18 years old.
Now 80 years old, Caparas still joined the Lenten ritual in their villages by taking part in the praying for the faith healers who will be nailed to the cross.
“We have nailed to the cross more penitents and three of them were “crucified” for 15 times,” Caparas said.
He was referring to faith healers Lucy Reyes, Amparo “Mother Amparing” Santos and Buboy Dionisio who completed their vows by getting nailed to the cross for 15 consecutive years.
Amid the multitude of crowds, the observance of Holy Week in Barangay Kapitangan was very peaceful and orderly, according to Chief Inspector Leo Estorque, the town police chief.
Estorque said the crowd began arriving Wednesday night to witness the bathing in oil of the centuries old and venerated wooden cross (also known as Sta. Cruz) and the image of the crucified Christ.
Old folks believes that the blessed oil can heal ailments.
Estorque said that the bloody Lenten rites began late Thursday afternoon where scores of bare-back flagellants whipped their bloodied backs with stringed bamboo sticks.
He said that this continues as early as 7 a.m. on Good Friday as the bloodied flagellants made their way to the Catholic chapel and made the station of the cross by lying spread-eagle while being brutally whipped.
He said that the provincial government headed by Governor Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado has deployed ambulances with paramedics while his son Jose Antonio “Kuya Jonathan” Sy-Alvarado set up a first aid station to assist the crowds as well as the penitents.
Liz Mungcal, head of the provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office said public assistance centers were also set up in other crowd drawing areas like the Grotto in San Jose del Monte City, the Divine Mercy Shrine in Marilao and the Banal na Bundok in San Miguel.
She said emergency response teams were also deployed in strategic areas to assists motorists and tourists. Emil Gamos/PNA/northboundasia.com