The Crucifixions continued all afternoon

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Introduction

In 2008 I found myself working in The Philippines for the United Nations on post disaster recovery work. I stumbled upon a religious tradition for people to pay to have themselves crucified. I wrote the article below as a result.


Video and photo

The video and photos link will also appear at the abase of the article.


Photos here.
There is also a video of the crucifixions here.

Why would people pay to be crucified?

The Crucifixions continued all afternoon. Real nails hammered through real flesh into real wooden crosses. But this is not Ancient Rome, this is modern Philippines.
Much like 2000 years ago the Crucifixions did not take place on a lonely hill top, rather a crowd gathered in a carnival like atmosphere, with street vendors, helium balloons, ice cream, and a mass media gaggle. Unlike Ancient Rome though, these Crucifixions did not end in death, although pain was clearly evident.
Each Good Friday the town of San Fernando, an hour and a half drive north of the capital Manila, hosts the Maleldo festival in which the last day of Christ is re-enacted. Volunteers drag heavy wooden crosses to a hill on the outskirts of town, where they consent to being nailed to a wooded cross and raised in front of a crowd, hoping for absolution of their sins. Nails are driven through the palm, as Christ is often depicted, even though Romans drove the nails through wrists, as only the wrists are strong enough to hold people for long periods of time.
In a nod to modernity, volunteers have the hands washed in alcohol and nails sterilised before they are driven into their hands by a man dressed as a roman soldier.
Those seeking redemption hang in front of the gleeful crowd for half a dozen minutes, before the cross is lowered, nails removed, and the next volunteers await the hammer. Medical attention is given to those victims recently removed.
Others flagellate and beat themselves with whips made up of 25 wooden fingers, swinging back and forth around their bodies, click-clacking in a rhythmic beat as the wood eats away, skin shredded leaving blood and muscle on display.
Much like the Ashura celebrated in the Islamic world, mass flagellation and self inflicted bloodshed are seen as a self sacrifice that is believed to absolve sin.
Sin however is not unknown in this region of The Philippines. A little over 15km up the road, the town of Angeles exists on the back of the sex trade established outside the gates of the former US military base at Clarke Field. The Lonely Planet says Angeles is the home of child sex tourism. Whilst most stores and businesses are closed on Good Friday, Angeles’ sex trade was up and running as normal – mainly serving western tourists.
One cannot fail to see the irony of the juxtaposition of modern day absolution of sins, down the road from modern day Sodom and Gomorrah – just one of many contradictions in this the world’s largest catholic country.
However, whilst as a secular person I may well admire the devotion to faith, I do question the good sense of both the flagellation and the voluntary submission to being nailed to a cross.
Perhaps religion has served its good purposes in giving people a moral code to strive at. Yet when one considers Jesus Christ is a teacher and a prophet recognised as the most, or at least the second most, important prophet or teacher in Islam, Judaism and Christianity – yet the three religions fight over their small differences, rather than looking at the many similarities.
After all, the Ten Commandments direct each of the three main monotheist religions in which believers are told ‘Thou shall not kill’. But kill each other they do.
So whilst the crucifixions will continue, as will the sex trade and suicide murderers mis-named suicide bombers, ironies and contradictions abound as we hope that as the world progresses, so will religion.

The above is an extract from ” A Life Half Lived” by Andrew MacLeod here.

Video and photo

The video and photos link will also appear at the abase of the article.


Photos here.
There is also a video of the crucifixions here.


More discussion like this is in: 
  

For more information about the author, see here.
To email Andrew, click here.
To see Andrew’s speaking videos on these topics, click here

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