Philippines celebrates Easter with crucifixions

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Brilly Liangco, 39, is nailed to a wooden cross in an re-enactment of Christ's crucifixion. Agencies photo 

By Agencies

Posted  Friday, March 25  2016 at  11:03

Christian devotees were nailed to crosses in the Philippines on Friday as Asia's Catholic heartland marked Easter with an extreme display of faith.

The gory crucifixions played out in dusty fields throughout the day with thousands of spectators looking on, and as other penitents flogged themselves bloody with whips.

Men dressed as soldiers of the Roman Empire hammered large metal spikes through the hands and feet of Willy Salvador, who grimaced in silence as he lay with his arms spread atop a wooden cross.

"This is my personal way of thanking Him (God) for healing me," the 59-year-old fisherman told AFP, moments before being dragged barefoot through the streets of San Juan village.

"I know you would not believe me, but God helped me recover from a nervous breakdown," said Salvador, who added he had been doing it every year since 2006.

Ritual crucifixions are among the Catholic world's most extreme forms of worship and are done as part of Good Friday celebrations in some small villages in the Philippines, home to 80 million-plus Catholics.

They are held to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, whom Christians believe was put to death so humanity could be cleansed of its sins.

The nails go through both hands and both feet, but do not bear the weight of the penitents, who spend only a few minutes on the cross before being taken down and having their bloody wounds treated.

- Souvenir shirts -After Salvador, it was the turn of street vendor Alex Daranang, whose 20th crucifixion fell on the eve of his 60th birthday.

"The wounds heal fast," the gap-toothed grandfather told AFP. "In two days they are practically healed."

The act is frowned upon by the church, but has become a major tourist attraction.

Several thousand sightseers, including more than a dozen Western tourists, descended on the nearby village of San Pedro to witness the mock crucifixions and other extreme forms of piety.

Motivational speaker Benjie Pazcoguin said "there is a symbolic meaning to these crucifixions. Definitely, it reinforces my faith."

"I will come to see it again next year," he said, despite the gore.

Around a knoll where three tall wooden crosses awaited the San Pedro devotees, vendors did brisk business selling souvenir shirts, hats, soft drinks and food.

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