Filipinos nail themselves to crosses on Good Friday


Ruben Enaje is untied and lowered down by a volunteer dressed as a Centurion after he was nailed to a wooden cross during a reenactment during Good Friday rituals on Friday, March 25, 2016 at Cutud, Pampanga province, northern Philippines. (AP /Linus Escandor II)

Ruben Enaje is untied and lowered down by a volunteer dressed as a Centurion after he was nailed to a wooden cross during a reenactment during Good Friday rituals on Friday, March 25, 2016 at Cutud, Pampanga province, northern Philippines. (AP /Linus Escandor II)

Gory ritual survives

In one of the most enduring rituals during Lent, the re-enactment of Christ’s death on the Cross on Good Friday has persisted to this day despite being frowned upon by church leaders – drawing crowds of tourists and locals to the gory spectacle.

The annual ritual happens in San Pedro Cutud village, about 70 kilometres (45 miles) north of Manila although similar rituals on a smaller scale happens in a couple of other places in the country.

This year’s Good Friday ritual saw Ruben Enaje, nailed to the cross for the 30th time. He dedicates this year’s suffering “to peace in Belgium and other countries targeted countries by Islamic extremists”, according to a report by The Associated Press.

Enaje, a 55-year-old sign painter, began the annual ordeal after he fell from a three-storey building in 1985 and survived nearly unscathed.

The gory spectacle reflects the Philippines’ unique brand of Catholicism, which merges church traditions with folk superstitions. Many of the mostly impoverished penitents undergo the ritual to atone for sins, pray for the sick or for a better life, and to give thanks for what they believe were God-given miracles.

After 30 years, Enaje said he has thought of ending his involvement in the crucifixions in the next few years, although he remains physically fit to endure the experience, which has deepened his faith.

The intensity of the pain, he said, has never changed in each of the year that the four-inch stainless steel nails were hammered through the same spot in his palm and feet. When the cross is hoisted up, the movement adds to the suffering, he said.

“The only thing in my mind is that God went through worse,” Enaje said.