For Christians, Holy Week — the seven days before Easter — commemorates the ultimate triumph of Christ over mortality.
In the Philippines, they take that lesson personally.
On Holy Thursday and Good Friday, 28 Catholic Pilipinos throughout the island country reenacted Christ’s suffering on the cross, literally submitting to the ancient Roman punishment of crucifixion, the Manila Bulletin reported.
Men dressed as Roman legionnaires hammered nails through the so-called ‘penitents’ palms and raised wooden crosses aloft with the nailed penitent standing on a small ledge, rather than hanging from his or her palms. An AP video showed one penitent groaning in agony as crowds watched, with some onlookers snapping photos.
Here’s the video. Before viewing, please note: it’s not for the faint of heart.
Pain and understanding
The penitents remain on the cross only for short periods of time, so, strictly speaking, they are not truly being crucified. But they believe that by imitating the Passion they might at least briefly, if only slightly, comprehend it. That seems to include transcending the suffering they experience.
“I hardly feel any pain. The nerves have been deadened,” said penitent Alex Laranang, 57, in the Manila Bulletin. “After this, I go home, eat and go to sleep. After two days I go back to work.”
The Catholic Church frowns on the crucifixions as well as the self-flagellating that also occurs in the Philippines during Holy Week, saying good acts were more in the spirit of Holy Week than pain and suffering, the newspaper reported. Others have raised concerns about the commercialization of the reenactments, which have developed a following that sometimes involves spectators who pay to witness the ritual.
Other Christians, like those in southern Spain or the Kerala region of India, less violently reenact episodes from Holy Week, including the Way of the Cross, or Christ’s journey carrying the cross through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgotha, the site where the Bible says he was crucified.
Guy Fawkes, Caribbean-style
In Trinidad, Good Friday has a violent dimension, too, but the only things that hang and suffer are ‘bobolees,’ or effigies of Judas Iscariot, who in the Bible betrays Christ for a payment of 30 pieces of silver, the Trinidad Express reports.
Trinidadians hang the effigies — usually scarecrow-like creations, with old clothes stuffed with rags —on trees and light poles. People beat and kick them, symbolically exacting revenge on Judas. In a sign of the tradition’s popularity, and presumably to guard against potential dangerous accidents, the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission has warned citizens not to hang the effigies on electricity poles.
Junior Bisnath, who has been making bobolee effigies for 30 years, shared a few other Trinidadian Holy Week customs with the newspaper:
“Apart from the Judas story, several folk stories surrounding Good Friday celebrations were told to me by my parents. We were not allowed to bathe in the sea on Good Friday after noon, because we would turn into a fish” He also spoke about images of Jesus lying in a coffin. “We use (sic) to open a common fowl egg just before midnight on Good Friday and in the white of the egg we use to see Jesus in a coffin.”
Not quite how Americans think of eggs around Easter.