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Holy Week in The Philippines

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Travel Notes: Travel-Write: Asia Travel Articles: Holy Week in The Philippines

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While there are many religious festivals around the world on Good Friday, the crucifixions in The Philippines have to be seen to be believed.

Easter in The Philippines

Jeepnies, by Michel Guntern
Jeepnies in The Philippines

Americans from the military base in Angeles chartered jeepneys to bring their cameras and video recording equipment to San Fernando.

The Good Friday event even attracted photographers from international wire agencies and an independent electronic news gathering team.

As I followed the proceedings with my camera, I was also taken to be an American:

"Hey Joe, just one shot," the local children would mimic.

Being the only Catholic nation in Asia, Filipinos take their belief seriously.

Flagellants, by Michel Guntern
© Travel Notes

As the youths, with covered faces and crowns of thorns, marched bare-chested and in single-file on either side of the road, curious drivers would pull over to let them pass and witness, for themselves the self-inflicted cuts on the backs of the flagellants.

The man to be crucified, like Jesus, carried his cross behind two Roman soldiers on horseback.

Carrying the cross, by Michel Guntern
© Travel Notes

Other Centurians, in red gowns and shiny headgear, marched alongside to keep the crowds away.

The procession stoped occasionally:

Jesus knelt down with his cross, while Mary and two other girls ran up to him, wept at his feet, and begged his captors to free him.

Photographers speckled with blood, from trying to get close-ups of the flagellants' backs, struggled with the Romans and modern-day, t-shirt-and-jeans security staff to get a better shot.

Then the procession would continue.

Cutting the back with glass, by Michel Guntern
Cutting the back with glass - © Travel Notes

Refreshment-stalls lined the roadside and whole families crowded at their windows to watch the avidly focused foreigners avoid the little children and drainage ditches, as much as observe the ritual itself.

One man tried to take some pictures walking backwards, and almost came to grief at the hindquarters of a horse; children wanted their pictures taken too, and film reserves of some ran out completely.

The crowd cut across fields to where the crucifixion would take place.

Three large black crosses were set out on top of a small mound; fenced off with barbed wire.

If there was a push from the back, I feared for those at the front; some of whom had claimed their positions four hours earlier.

A man displayed the 5-inch sterilized nails to the waiting crowd; the photographers saw a photo-opportunity and called for another showing.

5 inch nails, by Michel Guntern
© Travel Notes

Mary stood on the mound as Jesus arrived. Then his arms were strapped to the cross before one of the guards hammered a nail into his palm.

Photographers shouted at other guards to move out of the way so that they could focus on the man's face as he experienced the first initial shock of the nail piercing his open hand.

Crucified, by Michel Guntern
On The Cross - © Michel: Travel Notes

Ten other men were nailed to the cross along with Chito Sangalang. They said that they were suffering for the people's sins, and for their own repentance; in order that we could all be right with God.

George said it was more likely for social reasons:

"Everybody in the town will know them and speak their name, but then they are just the same. They go to church and are looking at the women in the other row. Huh," he scoffed.

The show was over the crowd had sweated profusely in the heat and close proximity to each other and now sellers of cold drinks were the target of attention.

By Michel.

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See also: Easter in Antigua.

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