Defying the Church: The Philippines’ Shocking “Good Friday” Crucifixions

In the Philippines, the tradition of bloody crucifixions on Good Friday is a spectacle like no other. Despite the Catholic church’s objections, devotees continue to participate in these reenactments of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.

Recently in San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga, eight people were nailed to wooden crosses wearing crowns of thorns, marking the first display of this religious devotion after a three-year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Before being crucified, devotees carried heavy crosses on their backs for over half a mile, while hundreds more walked barefoot and whipped their bare backs with sharp bamboo sticks.

The eight men, their palms and feet pierced by 4-inch stainless steel nails, were left on the cross under the scorching sun for about 10 minutes. Among them was 62-year-old sign painter Ruben Enaje, who has participated in these crucifixions a total of 34 times. While on the cross, Enaje prayed for the end of the COVID-19 virus and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

These crucifixions attract thousands of devotees and tourists to the Philippines, with this year’s event drawing in more than 15,000 Filipino and foreign tourists. Some, like British tour organizer Johnson Gareth, argue that the ritual is done in a respectful way, inspiring genuine awe in visitors.

However, Catholic church leaders in the Philippines have objected to this practice, suggesting that devotees can express their devotion by doing charity work instead. The health department has also warned participants of potential infections from being whipped and nailed.

Catholic priest and human rights activist Robert Reyes suggests that the church should engage in regular conversations with the villagers and immerse themselves in these communities to address the issue. As the tradition continues to capture global attention, the conversation surrounding its cultural significance and the role of the church in the Philippines remains ongoing.

Written by Robert D