AP, Apr. 18, 2003
SAN PEDRO CUTUD, Philippines, April 18 — At least 13 Filipino devotees were nailed to wooden crosses north of Manila in an annual Good Friday reenactment of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.
The Lenten ritual, which is opposed by religious leaders in the Philippines — Southeast Asia’s largest predominantly Roman Catholic nation, attracts droves of tourists to the farming town of San Pedro Cutud, 45 miles north of the capital.
The Catholic devotees, including at least three women, had their palms and feet nailed to the cross as a form of penance for sins, to pray for a sick relative or to fulfill a vow.
Dozens of men, with faces shrouded by scarves, also formed a procession along a dusty road leading to the hill, followed by crowds of children and oglers. The men stripped to their waists, cut their bare backs with broken bottles attached to a piece of wood and then beat themselves with woven bamboo whips.
American missionary Cecil Sullivan of Illinois said the practice was against Christian principles and ”is a proof that you can be very sincere but be sincerely wrong.”
The Rev. Victor Nicdao said he sympathizes with the devotees, who mostly come from very poor families and may have created their own rituals because they felt alienated from the church.
”This group is not what would be called church people. The very church building is alienating, the way it is constructed. Even the liturgy is something they don’t relate to,” he said.