CNN: Filipinos mark Easter with crucifixions

"Flagellation is performed as a vow of faith or a desperate plea for divine intervention"
Web posted at: 6:38 AM EDT (1038 GMT)
April 13, 2001

CUTUD, Philippines -- The audience looks on as blood sprays, nails bite into flesh, and the water and fan salesmen do a roaring trade. This is Easter, Philippines style.

The small town of Cutud, about 80 km (50 miles) north of Manila, comes alive every Good Friday in a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in this devoutly Roman Catholic country.

Despite the orthodox Church frowning on the ritual, participants whip themselves and a number are nailed to wooden crosses for several minutes all over the country to atone for sins and seek cures for sick relatives.

This year, 11 men and one woman underwent the crucifixion ordeal while more than 20 young men chose to be flagellants -- whipping their backs into a bloody smear after being cut with a glass embedded instrument.

Extreme faith
"I am the actress of Jesus on Good Friday," said faith healer Amparo Santos of Bulacan, shortly before she had three-inch (7.5 cm) nails driven through her right and left hands and onto a large wooden cross.

Why does she do it? "Because Jesus is the one that has called me for this kind of position."

Grimacing as the nails went in, the spritely 60-year-old was soon composed, chatting and laughing, and even answering questions from the assembled audience.

Santos said she was being crucified for the 14th time and intended to go through it again next Easter.

Flagellants whip themselves with bamboo shingles or ropes studded with glass Chito Sangalang, 45, who played the role of Christ in a re-enactment of the original crucifixion, was back on his 15th year, having earlier vowed that this would be his last.

Over 1,000 people, many of them foreign tourists, gathered to witness the bloody spectacle with spectators jostling for the best camera positions.

Water and fan salesmen were kept busy in the searing heat.

Evelyn Leyson, a Filipina nurse now living in Santa Barbara, California, said she had come to witness first-hand the fervor displayed by some Catholics.

"When I first saw people walking around with blood on their backs, I felt weird," she said, adding that while the participants' actions were extreme they were a powerful expression of faith.

One flagellant, 24-year-old Dan Fernando, said he was unfazed about the potential health risk of having his back cut by the same instrument used by many others.

"God will protect me," he said.