It probably seemed a good idea when he punted it to television chiefs. But faced with a cross, a set of 4in nails and a man with a hammer, and surrounded by bleeding self-flagellants, Dominik Diamond’s plans to be crucified during one of Easter’s most brutal religious ceremonies literally ended in tears yesterday.
The Scottish DJ, presenter and tabloid columnist, who had travelled with a television crew in tow to the Philippines village of San Pedro Cutud to take part in the bloody annual re-enactment of Christ’s crucifixion, took fright and fled when it came to his turn to be nailed to his cross in front of a 10,000-strong crowd.
Diamond, 37, knelt and prayed before dissolving into tears, then was hastily driven away by ambulance to jeers from spectators.
Nine Filipinos had already undergone the ritual to atone for sins, or give thanks for good fortune, by trooping up a hill in searing sun carrying huge crosses. They were flanked by frenzied penitents who whipped their backs with bamboo and rope flails. Each was briefly nailed, with only one subsequently requiring medical treatment.
Diamond, a lapsed Catholic, was apparently on a spiritual quest to see if he could “rediscover” God, and also to make a documentary, Crucify Me, for Channel Five about this profound personal journey.
The mock crucifixion of penitents on Good Friday in the devoutly Catholic country has taken place since the Spanish colonial days of the 17th century, though participants were usually tied to the cross with cloth.
That was the case in San Pedro Cutud, a village in San Fernando, Pampanga, until 1961. Then the man selected to play the part of Jesus decided to inject a bit more realism into his performance and demanded real nails. He went on to be crucified 18 years in a row.
Each year more “Kristos” – men playing Christ – joined in and news of the tradition spread. Tourists flocked to the village, and souvenir-sellers peddling imitation flails now make the real killing.
Diamond is the latest of a number of foreigners who have approached the village in recent years and asked to participate. These have included the British artist Sebastian Horsley.
He got as far as having the nails banged in, but then fell off his cross as his foot rest gave way. He went on to stage a controversial exhibition of photographs, footage and paintings associated with his experience, and has been quoted as saying: “Christ was crucified to save mankind, I was crucified to save my career. Both of us failed in our objectives.”
A temporary ban on foreigners was imposed in 1996 after a Japanese volunteer, Shinichiro Kaneko, used footage of his crucifixion to make a sado-masochistic pornographic video.
So it is unsurprising that there were suspicions over Diamond’s motives. “He is just after publicity,” proclaimed Conrado Diamse, a local villager who has been crucified before.
But, according to Ruben Enaje, 45, who in 2002 became chief “Kristos”, Diamond was genuinely afraid.
He said the DJ had apologised to him, after spending 10 minutes kneeling at the foot of his cross and praying. “He grew scared when he saw the others being crucified.”
Mr Enaje, who is on his 20th crucifixion, rather enjoys playing Christ. He has vowed to undergo the ritual every year.
The role of Judas Iscariot, however, remained unfilled this year. “Those who have played Judas claimed they were cursed and jeered as traitors for life,” said the village chairman Zoilo Castro. “So we have revised our script.”
Diamond said before setting off on his quest: “I’m in my mid-30s, I’ve got three kids and it’s about time I did something that didn’t involve cheap gags.”
After his experience, however, he was less forthcoming. “He is doing it as a spiritual journey,” said a Channel Five spokesman. “He doesn’t want to talk to the press until closer to the transmission date.”