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Philippines holds bloody crucifixions, whippings on Good Friday

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Catholic zealots were nailed to wooden crosses while others whipped their backs bloody and raw in gruesome displays of religious devotion on Good Friday in the Philippines.

While most people in the religious, Catholic-majority country spend the day at Mass or with their families, some go to extreme lengths to atone for sins or seek divine intervention in rituals frowned on by the Church.

In several villages north of Manila, an estimated 15,000 residents and tourists watched blood-soaked re-enactments of Jesus Christ’s last moments.

Hundreds of men wearing crowns made out of vines and cloth over their faces walked barefoot through narrow streets, flogging themselves non-stop with bamboo whips.

Blood ran down their backs, soaking the top of their trousers and splattering spectators crowded in front of shops and houses.

Some flagellants stopped to prostrate on the ground so they could be beaten with flip-flops and pieces of wood.

When blood stopped oozing from their wounds, their skin was punctured with razor blades or a wooden mallet embedded with glass shards to make them bleed.

“I do it for my family to make them healthy,” said Daren Pascual, 31, after whipping his back in a warmup for the main event in San Juan village.

“You just pray, then you cannot feel the pain.”

In the final stage of the performance, three men were escorted by costumed Roman centurions to a dirt mound where two of them were tied to wooden crosses.

Wilfredo Salvador, a small and wiry former fisherman who played the role of Jesus Christ, had nails driven into his palms and feet as drones flew overhead and tourists took photos and videos with their smartphones.

After several minutes, the nails were pulled out and Salvador was lowered to the ground. He was carted off on a stretcher to the medical tent for a check-up — before going home in a tricycle taxi.

“He (God) gives me physical strength unlike others who cannot bear it,” said Salvador, 66, who began taking part in the crucifixion 15 years ago after suffering a mental breakdown.

“I do this by choice. I thank him (God) for giving me a second life.”

The spectacle has been performed in villages around San Fernando city for decades, but the crucifixions were cancelled for the past three years due to Covid-19.

Ruben Enaje, who has been nailed to the cross more than 30 times in the past, said he would be back again next year if his body stayed healthy.

“I feel good, my worries are gone and so are my fears,” Enaje, 62, told reporters, his hands and feet bandaged after playing the role of Jesus Christ in San Pedro village.

Foreign tourists were among the onlookers standing in the dust and tropical heat.

“For me, it is an exceptional experience and chance to see such a cultural thing, which is unique in the world,” said Milan Dostal, 43, from the Czech Republic.

“I respect it, I’m very open-minded.”

The health department warned participants they risked tetanus and other infections from being nailed and whipped.

“It’s very clear that the crucifixion of Christ is more than enough to save humanity from sin,” said Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ public affairs committee.

“If you want your sins to be forgiven, go to confession.”


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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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