IF you just happen to be around Manila around Good Friday and have a stomach for a very realistic reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ you should definitely consider the short 65 KM trip up to the San Fernando, Pampanga and experience this very unusual Filipino spiritual journey.
Named cristos about a dozen each year volunteer to be nailed to the cross by their hands and feet as a form of atonement and sacrifice (some for the 15th consecutive year) while about one thousand others called mamalaspas come to take part in self flagellation ritual. The Catholic church typically frowns upon such practices but cannot forbid them as many of those participating do it to thank God for a son or relative cured from a life threatening disease.
Arriving in San Fernando for the Good Friday celebrations 2008 dubbed as Maleldo ’08
Here a group of penitents stripped to the waist performing self flagellation
After a while of whipping themselves they start the 4 KM long procession to the cross
The sharpened bamboo whips are often tipped with sharp objects to facilitate the cut and bloodying of their backs.
More penitents passing in by a Sari-Sari store with a crowd waching
Get used to the idea that it will be impossible for you to keep your clothes free of blood since those blood soaked bamboo sticks are swinging left and right from the hundreds of mamalaspas participants.
There seems to be a never ending stream of processions passing by…
To give another aspect of the self flagellation ritual here is a short video of the procession we took that day.
Eventually the mamalaspas make it to the Holy Cross Crucifixion site
Paying their respects
Some people among the crowd preaching to Gospel
First volunteer to be crucified
The reenactment of the Vin Crucis includes Filipino Roman soldiers on horses
The start of the most realistic passion play where the participants are willing to be nailed to the cross.
Filipino Roman centurions arrive to prepare the cross for the penitent
The first Cristos approaches
While The media zoo watches…
He first is tied onto the cross
Then one approaches with a six inch nail in his hand
Once both hands are nailed the holy cross is raised from the ground
Then firmly fixated
Here is a close up of The hand nailed to the cross
After the hands of course comes the feet. Here The Roman soldier is looking for the right spot where to nail his feet to the cross while sustaining to the devotee as minimal damage as possible.
A hammer is used for this delicate “operation”
You can see here both feet are nailed to the cross (more clearly if you click to see in full sized mode)
Frontal view of the now fully crucified penitent completing his true test of his faith to God. The festival is now at its climax.. The same ritual awaits about a dozen more to come.
The way back was anything but easy with the thousands of people all trying to leaving a the same time. On this small little street we were cramped like sardines and the boiling heat didn’t do anything to help.
It became very quickly impossible to move at all forwards and since we had a few kilometers to walk to get back to the car we changed plans and decided to take a little break from the heat.
PLAN B: Finding ourselves a calm side street and a cold beer
Leif & me having a toast
Quickly some residents offered us some taste of true Filipino hospitality where a bench and food arrived.
Our guests kept arriving with more food and were eager to talk about our experience
We eventually made it out alive but the scorching sun had left its mark on us all
Finally back in the car processions were everywhere to be seen in Pampanga
A closer look at what what they are hauling
Back at the hotel looking myself in the mirror I noticed that four hours in the boiling Filipino summer heat and especially that scorching sun had indeed left me with a mark to bear for the next few days…
Here is a list of my recommendations for hotels in San Fernando, Philippines
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