Crucifixions and whippings in the Philippines on Good Friday

Crucifixions and whippings in the Philippines on Good Friday
Crucifixions and whippings in the Philippines on Good Friday

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - People watch the re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday in San Fernando, Pampanga province on March 29, 2024. — AFP pic

SAN FERNANDO (Philippines), March 29 — Catholic zealots in the Philippines re-enacting the last moments of Jesus Christ were nailed to wooden crosses while others whipped themselves bloody in extreme displays of religious devotion on Good Friday.

While most Filipinos went to church or spent the holiday with family, hundreds gathered in villages around San Fernando city, north of Manila, to watch men punish themselves in a bid to atone for their sins or seek miracles from God.

Dozens of bare-chested flagellants wearing black shrouds and crowns made of vines walked barefoot through dusty, narrow streets, rhythmically flogging their backs with strips of bamboo tied to ropes, their blood soaking the top of their trousers and spattering onlookers.

“This is for my son, an epileptic,” said Joel Yutoc, who has his 13-year-old son’s name tattooed across his chest.

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Yutoc, 31, said his son had not had seizures in the eight years since he began taking part in the Good Friday floggings.

The whippings are the opening act of street plays performed by devout residents.

In San Juan village, a short, wiry man with wild, white hair playing the role of Jesus Christ and two others were dragged by neighbours dressed as Roman centurions to a raised mound where wooden crosses lay on the ground.

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As spectators filmed on their mobile phones, three-inch nails were driven into their palms, and then the crosses hoisted upright.

Several minutes later the crosses were lowered to the ground and the nails pulled out.

“I will keep doing this while I’m alive, for as long as my body is able to do it. That is my vow,” said retired fisherman Wilfredo Salvador, 67, who began playing the role of Jesus Christ in the mock crucifixions 16 years ago following a mental breakdown.

“This is nothing. Sometimes it heals after a day and I am able to wash dishes and bathe,” Salvador said of his wounds.

The extreme acts are frowned upon by the Catholic Church and health experts.

The Philippine health department this week urged the public to “avoid acts or rites that lead to physical wounds and injuries”.

“We join the pastoral guidance of our faith leaders, guiding all towards religious practices that are safe and healthy,” it said in a statement. — AFP

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