Philip­pines car­ries out bloody Good Fri­day rit­u­als

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY JOEL GUINTO

Devo­tees in the fer­vently Catholic Philip­pines marked Good Fri­day by be­ing nailed to crosses and whip­ping their backs bloody, in ex­treme acts of de­vo­tion that at­tracted thou­sands of spec­ta­tors.

The an­nual rit­ual in scorch­ing hot farm­lands just out­side of Manila is one of many col­or­ful out­pour­ings of faith in the Southeast Asian na­tion, where 80 per­cent of its 100 mil­lion peo­ple are Catholics.

“I feel no pain be­cause I know I am one with my God in suf­fer­ing,” 30-year-old con­struc­tion worker Ar­jay Rivera told AFP be­fore he slit his back with bro­ken bot­tles and ra­zors, later whip­ping him­self with bamboo flails to keep the wounds open.

As the flag­el­lants made an ex­cru­ci­at­ingly slow bare­foot march to the hill in San Juan, a ru­ral dis­trict of San Fer­nando north of Manila where the cru­ci­fix­ions were to take place, some of them stopped at times to lay face down on the hot pave­ment and let chil­dren flog them with twigs.

Five men had nails ham­mered through their palms and feet while four oth­ers, some with fake beards drawn on their faces to re­sem­ble Christ, were tied to the crosses.

They wailed in pain as at­ten­dants, cos­tumed as Ro­man cen­tu­ri­ons, pounded the nails through their palms.

“My faith got me through my ill­ness. I will con­tinue do­ing this for as long as I live,” one of the men, Wil­fredo Sal­vador told AFP af­ter he was taken down from a cross, his hands and feet wrapped in ban­dages.

“It was painful up there, but

I felt light. I can’t ex­plain it. I would say my faith is very strong,” added the 50-year-old, who said he had re­cov­ered from a ner­vous break­down sev­eral years ago.

Sev­eral of the men have un­der­gone mul­ti­ple cru­ci­fix­ions over the years.

‘I wouldn’t take a selfie here’

San Fer­nando Arch­bishop Florentino Lavarias has dis­cour­aged the bloody prac­tice, say­ing there were other ways to pro­fess one’s faith.

San Fer­nando Mayor Ed­win San­ti­ago openly con­ceded that the re­li­gious rit­ual has vast eco­nomic benefits for the com­mu­nity.

He said last year’s Holy Week events drew about 60,000 for­eign and lo­cal vis­i­tors, and he is hop­ing for more this year.

For­eign tourists who flocked to the spec­ta­cle re­acted with both shock and fas­ci­na­tion.

“It’s quite gross and bloody. I would never have a selfie taken here,” Jorene Chai, a 26-year-old tourist from Sin­ga­pore, told AFP.

She and three other friends made a side trip to the site from a food tour of Pam­panga prov­ince.

Walde­mar Traczyk, 50, a his­tory pro­fes­sor from Poland, said he saved up for seven years so he and his wife could fly to the Philip­pines to wit­ness Fri­day’s events.

“This is too much blood ... but it is in­ter­est­ing to know why a 17th cen­tury prac­tice in Europe still per­sists in the Philip­pines,” he told AFP.

The Philip­pines is known around the world for its fer­vent brand of Catholi­cism, which was in­tro­duced by Span­ish col­o­niz­ers in the 1500s.

AP

Hooded Filipino pen­i­tents flag­el­late dur­ing Good Fri­day rit­u­als to atone for sins, in Pam­panga prov­ince, north­ern Philip­pines on Fri­day, April 3.

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