Ritual crucifixion draws big crowds


RE-ENACTMENT: (Above) Men dressed as Roman soldiers.
RE-ENACTMENT: (Above) Mr Ruben Enaje, who is portraying Jesus Christ for the 30th time, screams after being nailed on a wooden cross.
RE-ENACTMENT: (Above) Mr Enaje being taken away on a stretcher after the ritual.
RE-ENACTMENT: (Above) A 'Roman soldier' hammers a nail into Mr Enaje's foot.

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.


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.

Refugee baby boom

Up to 80 Syrian babies are born each week in Jordan refugee camp

Over the last four years, 50 to 80 children have been born each week in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, the United Nations refugee organisation UNHCR estimates.

The camp, which was established in 2012, houses 85,000 refugees from the five-year civil war in Syria, making it the fourth largest "city" in Jordan.

The camp has only two maternity facilities.

One is the Moroccan field hospital, with 60 beds, an operating room and a staff of 118 people. The other clinic, supported by the United Nations (UN), has 24 beds and is staffed by 39 Jordanian gynaecologists, paediatricians, midwives and nurses.

Baby girl Siwar was born on March 7 in a dimly-lit operating room at the Moroccan field hospital. Doctors wearing blue scrubs and white face masks delivered her by caesarean section in a tent sterilised to become fit for operations.

Her mother, Madam Um Rimas, 22, said her greatest sorrow was that her parents had not met their grandchildren.

"It's difficult here. When you're in your country, surrounded by your family, you feel different. I have no one in the camp," she said, her voice faint after the delivery.


Since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011, more than 4.2 million people have fled Syria.

Some 13.5 million need protection and help inside Syria and more than 6 million of them are children, said the UN.

Madam Um Ahmad, 26, who fled the Syrian city of Homs three years ago after her home was destroyed by bombs, is pregnant with her fourth child. This will be the second time she is giving birth in the camp.

She said it saddened her that her children, who spent their early years in Syria, had only fading memories of home.

"When we first came here, they would keep asking me, 'When will we go back?'

"But now they've forgotten, they're busy with playing and school, they don't think about it any more. If we're here for two more years, we might all forget Syria." - Reuters.

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Spain are plainly painful to watch, says Richard Buxton

Del Bosque continues to face more questions than answers as he rebuilds the squad

"Italy made more chances than us... We couldn’t have possession of the ball. We needed to risk more. I hope we’re in a better condition for Euro 2016." — Spain coach Vicente del Bosque (above, getting up after falling on the sidelines)
ON THE UP: Lorenzo Insigne can’t hide his joy after giving resurgent Italy the lead.


(Lorenzo Insigne 67)


(Aritz Aduriz 70)

Change was what was promised in the wake of Spain's pitiful World Cup defence, two summers ago.

As they prepare to defend their one remaining crown, at Euro 2016 in June, such upheaval appears no closer than it did in the Maracana Stadium.

Evidence in Udine yesterday morning (Singapore time) suggests that Vicente del Bosque continues to face far more questions than answers in his plans to usher in a new era.

Neither of these Euro 2012 finalists emerged from Brazil with much, if any credit, having both failed to make it beyond the group stage, but Spain's humiliation and soul-searching was undeniably greater as the dethroned world champions.

In the wake of national outcry, del Bosque offered his resignation. Its subsequent rejection has seen Spain's renaissance forged on the principles of Felipe Gonzalez.

Losing as much as winning, the country's most successful Prime Minister once claimed, can prove a source of both stability and strength.

That progress has been marginal at best.

Though a comfortable qualification campaign was successfully negotiated with a five-point gap to spare, dilemmas continue to exist.

The identity of del Bosque's first-choice striker ahead of this summer's finals in France remains a source for ongoing agonism.

At a time when Diego Costa remains widely condemned, Spain were far poorer for the absence of the Chelsea striker's maverick tendencies.

Their failure to register a single shot on target in the opening 45 minutes against Italy, a feat previously accomplished in late 2013 when they played Belarus in a World Cup qualifier, laid that predicament bare.

Aritz Aduriz's belated return to La Furia Roja spared their blushes but failed to offer a truly compelling case that he should lead the line in their European Championship defence in three months' time.


The Athletic Bilbao marksman is enjoying a renewed lease of life, with an impressive 31 goals in La Liga this season.

But, at 35 and with a six-year gulf between his international bow and subsequent recall, he failed to capitalise on his moment in the spotlight.

Alvaro Morata, similarly, struggled to cope with the intensity of Italy's high-pressing midfield - Juventus' front-man appearing either too well-known or, just as likely, ill equipped to combat players he faces on a weekly basis in Serie A.

An absence of quality in depth elsewhere was equally noticeable. Denied the presence of Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets in the heart of the side, their stand-ins failed to offer little in the way of alternatives to the experienced Barcelona pacesetters.

Possession proved elusive for large parts, with Cesc Fabregas and Mikel San Jose struggling to maintain Spain's often vice-like grip on proceedings.

Fabregas, in particular, fluffed his lines in a first audition before potential new Chelsea manager Antonio Conte.

Defence, however, has emerged as one area where selection headaches have been transformed into a mere formality.

As has so often proved the case for Manchester United this term, David de Gea regularly came to his country's aid.

Conceding Spain's first goal in over 692 minutes should do little to deter his coronation as Iker Casillas' successor.

The former Real Madrid stopper may continue to hold the captaincy, but lacks the authority exuded by his former understudy.

Unlike de Gea's opposite number Gianluigi Buffon, still going strong at 38, Casillas has become a largely forgotten figure since moving to Porto last year.

The changing of that particular guard has accelerated since de Gea's last international outing last October.

Others must soon follow suit to ensure that Spain's Euro 2016 defence is not another passive one.

"I got the answers I was looking for, but we have to keep our heads down and keep on working with the enthusiasm that the lads have been showing. I can promise this to all the Italian people: we will have a team, and a great group of players, who want to fight for this shirt."

— Italy coach Antonio Conte, saying Azzurri fans can expect a cohesive and patriotic Italy side at Euro 2016


Under Antonio Conte, 15 players have already scored for Italy — the last 10 Azzurri’s goals were netted by 10 different players.


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Holi smoke, they had a 'powderful' time

Some 3,000 revellers gathered at a field in Tanjong Rhu on Friday (March to dance, eat and throw handfuls of coloured powder at each other.

They were celebrating Holi, the Hindu festival of colours.

The event, which featured musical and dance performances, was organised by the Katong Community Centre management committee, in partnership with four Indian community associations.

They are Marwari Mitra Mandal (Singapore), Singapore Sindhi Association, Maharashtra Mandal (Singapore) and Singapore Gujarati Society, The Straits Times reported.

Nearly 400kg of coloured powder, which is made of corn flour, was imported from India for the event, said Marwari Mitra Mandal president Santosh Kumar Tibarewala, 64.

The powder was sold for $2.50 a packet, and some people brought along water guns to add to the fun.

Mountbatten SMC MP Lim Biow Chuan, who was at the event, gamely had his face and clothing smeared with shades of orange, pink, blue, green, red and yellow.

"The Festival of Holi... celebrates the triumph of good over bad. (It brings) together different communities and celebrates the importance of racial harmony in Singapore," he said.

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Neil Humphreys: Stop the experimenting, Roy

Three Lions boss must play his best 11 to show their Euro 2016 credentials

Roy Hodgson.


(Tomorrow, 3,45am, Olympic Stadium, Berlin)

Stereotypes can be cruel, but Roy Hodgson still comes across as an indecisive man.

The England manager gives the impression he spends an hour at the whiteboard deciding whether to pick tea or coffee for breakfast.

His two previous tournaments didn't see him err on the side of caution.

He leapt into bed with caution, turning his back on risk, invention, youth, creativity and any other bold impulses usually associated with successful managers.

But this is his last chance. There will not be another if he fails again at Euro 2016.

Hodgson, in his customary bumbling fashion, has spoken of his plans to experiment against Germany tomorrow morning (Singapore time) and Holland next week.

But it's too late now. Hodgson shouldn't play with the toolkit any more than Rory McIlroy should fiddle with a new set of clubs on the eve of a Major tournament.

With only one defeat in their last 17 games, England's time for experimenting has passed.

Hodgson must go for broke against a Germany side who typically pick their best available players in the final warm-ups.

But Hodgson is likely to procrastinate. One of world football's great ditherers, his conservatism usually eats away at his common sense, which hints at an infuriating scenario against Germany.


Common sense surely dictates a youthful line-up. Right the way through England's spine, youth must prevail.

Based on form, consistency and the current complexion of the English Premier League, the kids are all right.

But, like an uncle asking for Abba at a family wedding, Hodgson loves a golden oldie. He has already insisted that Wayne Rooney has earned his Euro 2016 selection and is a probable starter.

Why exactly? Apart from his injury, the England skipper chases the shadow of history, unable to catch his former self.

But his inevitable selection, along with the baffling inclusion of Theo Walcott, betrays a manager who's still compelled to play safe.

Hodgson's stubbornness must give way to bold pragmatism and that means picking - and sticking with - youngsters and newcomers; mostly from Tottenham and Leicester.

England's rare successes in the past were largely attributed to practical managers utilising established partnerships and relationships at club level.

Moore, Hurst and Peters at West Ham and Stiles and Charlton at Manchester United led the Boys of '66 to their solitary World Cup triumph.

The Hammers trio were telepathic in their set-piece delivery and Stiles did the fetching and carrying for his club and country ringmaster.

In England's semi-final in Italia '90, Nottingham Forest duo Des Walker and Stuart Pearce shared defensive duties, while Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne took on the attacking responsibilities they had at Tottenham.

Aside from those two tournaments, successive England managers have consistently failed to learn from Spain and Barcelona and Germany and Bayern Munich and tap into existing club duos, trios and quartets.

Liverpool and Arsenal's title winners in the 70s and late 80s were rarely offered the chance to collectively replicate their domestic success for England and Sven-Goran Eriksson never managed to fully incorporate United's Class of '92 in their prime.


But Hodgson can learn from both history and the current league standings to flood his side with Tottenham and Leicester players; five from one and two from the other.

Like Sir Alf Ramsey, he can lead a trophy charge with the banners of a couple of key clubs.

Tottenham's increasingly famous five of Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Harry Kane may lack the international experience of other contenders for their positions, but boast superior form.

Like Danny Drinkwater and Jamie Vardy at Leicester, they are secure in their consistency and will benefit further from the familiar faces around them.

The alternatives - James Milner, Adam Lallana, Walcott and Danny Welbeck - have all gained international exposure without mounting a serious case for automatic selection.

Hodgson persisted with the tried and tested and they limped, wheezing and apologising, out of one tournament after another.

Without a trace of irony, the England manager yesterday discussed how the late Johan Cruyff coached the game, with an emphasis on youth, attack and spontaneity. Well, Hodgson might as well give it a go now.

Pick the kids plus Vardy, who retains the pace of a teenage cheetah, and stick with them all the way to Paris.

Even if the selections fail, defeat will still be more entertaining than the traditional dying of England's dinosaurs.

Our columnist picks his best England 11



Age: 23

With Joe 22 Hart injured, the Stoke goalkeeper has earned the right to prove himself as an able deputy for Euro 2016




The left back has taken too long to live up to his early potential, but he’s been terrific this season and has a good understanding with the left-sided Eric Dier and Dele Alli.




The early-season speculation affected his game a little, but Stones has been less consistent in an erratic Everton side. That said, he’s more reliable compared to Gary Cahill.




If every Red Devil had been anywhere near as reliable as Smalling, then Manchester United would be challenging for the title.




This is the toughest call as Liverpool’s Nathaniel Clyne has also impressed, but the Spurs connection gives Walker the nod. He has an excellent “you stay, I go” understanding with Rose.




Practically a mirror image of Drinkwater, his defensive midfield partner, Dier’s progress this season has been remarkable. Reliable and rarely flustered, Dier wins the ball and gets it to Alli.




From second-stringer at Leicester to an England call-up, his progress has been phenomenal. He runs. He tackles. And he never stops doing either.




Playing at the head of a midfield three, Barker would get the Gazza role he covets, exploding forward to link the lines. But he needs to win games on his own, like Paul Gascoigne did.




Like a white-haired man in a penguin suit, the teenager conducts the orchestra like a veteran. He can drop back or flip places across the forward line to stretch fullbacks and separate centre backs.




At 29, he might have only one tournament in him, but England need only one. His pace, such a rarity in England players, earns him his selection. But he’d need to adapt to playing off Harry Kane’s shoulder.




Kane is rapidly becoming the most complete English centre forward since Alan Shearer. If he is sidelined in favour of Wayne Rooney at Euro 2016, it won’t just be a travesty. It’ll be unforgivable.

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