Nine Catholic devotees in the Philippines marked Good Friday by reenacting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, with real nails driven through their hands and feet as villagers dressed as Roman centurions and thousands of others looked on.
The devotees say they endure the pain to give thanks, atone for their sins and pray during Holy Week. “I feel good because my suffering has ended,” Ruben Enaje, a 51-year-old sign painter, told the Associated Press. Enaje went through his 26th crucifixion this year after recently surviving a fall from a building.
The annual event, held this year in the northern province of Pampanga, is opposed by Catholic Church leaders in the Philippines and around the world.
“The church’s position is there’s no need to go through this physical and literal pain on the body because Christ already did that for us,” the Rev. Melvin Castro of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines told the AP.
Castro suggests that people go to confession and give alms instead.
The country’s health officials also oppose the tradition, warning in years past that those taking part in the rituals should have tetanus shots and be pierced by sterilized nails.
Just before Friday’s crucifixion, scores of people who did not go up on the cross whipped themselves as a symbol of their repentance. Others marched through the streets beating their naked backs with sharp bamboo sticks and pieces of wood.
Two foreign students were allowed to film this year’s rites, but angered organizers when they tried to participate in the procession, according to the AP.
Foreigners are not allowed to participate because of two incidents in which an Australian comic was nailed to a cross using a fake name, and a Japanese man tried to be crucified for a scene in a porn film.
Watch video of the crucifixion below:
A similar event takes place in Iztapalapa outside Mexico every year.
In New Mexico, a more toned-down version of the reenactment took place for many years, in which a group of Catholic flagellants called Hermanos de Luz annually tied a penitent to a cross.