Recreating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is an annual Good Friday sin-atoning ritual in some villages in the Philippines as part of the Holy Week observance.
Good Friday is the day most Catholics mark Jesus' march to the cross and his crucifixion by the Romans before the Easter Sunday resurrection.
The Philippines has the largest Roman Catholic population (80 million) in Asia, and the reenactments attract huge crowds, including tourists, to towns outside of Manilla and elsewhere in the country. Holy Week in the Philippines last year drew 60,000 visitors according to a local mayor who pronounced the event good for local businesses.
Catholic Church officials have discouraged the bloody and painful ceremony, which also includes self-flagellation, in which villagers whip their own backs with bamboo sticks or chains as a symbolic tribute to Christ's ordeal. The Church has previously deemed the practice "a corruption of the message of Christ's suffering for others," Reuters reported last year at this time.
Said one local archbishop according to AFP, "Our acts should be geared toward good works. Christian life is not something that is done overnight."
Six men in the village of San Pedro Cutud in northern Pampanga province -- where the crucifixion festival is said to have originated about 60 years ago -- voluntarily participated in the traditional ritual today. Their "hands and feet were rubbed with alcohol before locals dressed as Roman soldiers hammered sterilized nails into his flesh," AP reported. For one of the Filipino penitents in the village, today marks his 29th consecutive crucifixion.
Outsiders have been banned this year, however, from being nailed to a cross to prevent the event from "becoming a circus," in the words of local official Harvey Quiwa. In the prior years, any Roman Catholic could participate in the Filipino religious tribute.
Quiwa, who chairs the committee in charge of 2015 Holy Week rites, added that "including non-Filipinos in the annual ritual has trivialized the event and Christ's suffering." The International Business Times further explained that "Quiwa emphasized that the ban on foreigners was being enforced to prevent people from interpreting that the realistic Passion Play was all about bravado and had nothing to do with spiritualism."
"Devotees undergo the crucifixions in the belief that such extreme sacrifices are a way to atone for their sins, attain miracle cures for illnesses, or give thanks to God," AP added about the Good Friday ritual.
[Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images News]