Friday April 5 4:42 AM EST
Philippine Crucifixions Mark Good Friday
CUTUD, Philippines (Reuter) - Fourteen people were crucified in the Philippines on Good Friday and dozens whipped their own backs into bloody pulp as the country commemorated the death of Jesus Christ nearly 2,000 years ago. [Some people know how to party.]
One Japanese and 13 Filipinos were nailed to wooden crosses [What? No Southerners?] under a broiling noon sun while thousands of tourists from the United States, Japan and Europe gawked at the spectacle in Asia's only majority Catholic country.
The Catholic Church however frowns on the bloody rites which combine Catholic fervour with traditional primitive beliefs.
Schinichiro Kaneko, a 28-year-old Japanese Catholic from Tokyo, screamed in pain as gleaming five-inch nails were hammered into his palms and feet by Filipinos dressed as Roman centurions. [I know what you're thinking: Where did they get their uniforms? Jarnaginicus Maximus?]
``I take responsibility for all these troubles,'' Kaneko said in a statement absolving local officials from any charges in case he died while impaled on the cross.
He was taken down 10 minutes later and wept while scores of Filipinos laughed. [The impression obviously went sour. Tough crowd. Some people are hard to please.]
No one has ever died during the annual spectacle. [Which is more than one can say of American Civil War reenacting...]
A late addition in Cutud increased to 12 the number of people crucified in the district. A couple was nailed to crosses in the nearby town of Santo Tomas.
Kaneko was the second foreigner crucified in Cutid and his assistants said he had undertaken the crucifixion to ask for God's help to cure an ailing younger brother.
One of the men who flagellated himself with a bamboo whip encrusted with glass shards said the rite was part of a vow he took to implore God to stop the flow of volcanic mud called lahar from nearby Mount Pinatubo.
``I am doing this to ask God to remove the lahar from my village,'' said Ernesto Castro, a 54-year-old farmer. [As for me, I'd be content with never seeing Madonna again.]
Mudflows from Pinatubo, which erupted in 1991, have devastated the region's farms and buried towns in its wake. [Not to mention messed up the participant parking at crucifixion events...]
Reaction by tourists to the crucifixions ranged from revulsion to admiration. [The hardcore reenactors present were suitably impressed, but suggested the Roman reenactors needed a better coat of patina on their armor, and offered methods as to how this could be accomplished.]
``It's nice to see, but it's crazy,'' said Frank Demeyere, a 27-year-old native of Brussels who works in Hong Kong for a trading company. [A farb.]
``Religion drives people too far,'' said Antoinette Bruin, a 25-year-old secretary from Rotterdam. [Another farb.]
``I think it's really amazing, especially that guy who came from Japan just to make a testimony to the people here,'' said Joshua Stanbro, a 24-year-old student from Los Angeles.
George Morgan, a 41-year-old businessman from London, was horrified about the risk of contracting AIDS. [His later comment was, "And people call British cows 'mad?' Ha!"]
``It's very interesting to understand a bit of the local culture. [Any plans to introduce this charming bit of multiculturalism to London? No, I thought not.] I wasn't disappointed but these people should be more careful about the HIV virus,'' he said.
Local officials assured participants only clean nails were used. [Well, that's good. When I was growing up, my Mom always warned me about tetanus from dirty nails. I never realized it could become a recreational hazard, however.]
The 14 individuals were nailed to the cross for about 15 minutes before being brought down and given herbs to close their wounds. [Civil War era medical care!]
Roland Ocampo, who has been nailed to the cross every Good Friday for the past seven years, defended the practice and said he would continue being crucified as part of a vow to God.
``I am doing this because the birth of my wife went well,'' he said as he winced in pain after his ordeal. [I think he means his wife successfully gave birth to their child. I wouldn't expect him to be especially clear given the circumstances...]
Hawkers in Cutud did a brisk business selling soft drinks, fried fish balls [Hawaiian shave ice, steaks-in-a-sack, funnel cakes and commemorative ribbons, etc.] and wide-brimmed hats along the narrow two-lane road leading to the crucifixion site. [Which was choked with cars after the event was finished.]
["Hey, Roland Ocampo! You've just been crucified and suffered unendurable pain! What do you plan to do next?" Pause. "Why, attend the Wilderness event in May, of course!"]