World

Ritual crucifixion draws big crowds

GOOD FRIDAY IN THE PHILIPPINES

Devotees were nailed to crosses in the Philippines yesterday as Asia's Catholic heartland marked Good Friday with an extreme display of faith.

Men dressed as soldiers of the Roman Empire hammered large metal spikes through the hands and feet of Mr Willy Salvador, who grimaced in silence as he lay with his arms spread on 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 Mr Salvador, who added he had been doing it every year since 2006.

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.

EXTREME

Ritual crucifixions are among the Roman Catholic world's most extreme forms of worship and they are done as part of Good Friday celebrations in some small villages in the Philippines.

The country is home to about 80 million Roman Catholics.

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.

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

After Mr 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 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, were at the village of San Pedro to witness the crucifixions and other extreme forms of piety.

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