Devotees in northern Philippine villages re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to mark Good Friday

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Catholics in the Philippines Re-Enact Christ's Crucifixion


SAN PEDRO CUTUD, Philippines (AP) - Devotees in northern Philippine villages had themselves nailed to wooded crosses to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as thousands of local and foreign spectators watched the bloody annual rites to mark Good Friday in Asia's largest Roman Catholic nation.

Church leaders and health officials have spoken against the practice, which mixes Roman Catholic devotion with folk belief, but the annual rites continue to draw participants and huge crowds, particularly in northern Pampanga province.

Sign painter Ruben Enaje, 53, had himself nailed to a cross at a dusty mound in Pampanga's San Pedro Cutud village for the 28th year. He began his yearly rite after surviving a fall from a building. Men dressed as Roman soldiers hammered stainless steel nails into his palms and feet, as a crowd of onlookers stood with cameras ready to capture his and other penitents' agony.

Lasse Spang Olsen, a 48-year-old filmmaker from Denmark, also had himself nailed to a cross, joining Enaje and eight other Filipino devotees. He grimaced in pain as nails pierced his hands and feet.

CORRECTION Philippines Crucifixions

Olsen said he made a film two years ago about Enaje's yearly crucifixion and decided to have himself crucified after falling sick twice. He had a small camera attached to his cross while a colleague filmed his experience.

"It's a personal matter between me and (God)," he said, with his finger pointing up. After being helped down from the cross, he said of his experience: "Fantastic, you should try it."

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, discouraged the crucifixions.

"If what you do makes you love others more, then it is pleasing to God," he said. "But if you do it for photographs, just to be famous, that is spiritual vanity."

The health department also discouraged the practice because of health risks. Health Undersecretary Eric Tayag urged devotees to get anti-tetanus shots.

Devotees undergo the crucifixions in the belief that such extreme sacrifices are a way to atone for their sins, attain miracle cures for illnesses or give thanks to God.

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Devotees in northern Philippine villages re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to mark Good Friday
A Filipino devotee grimaces as he is nailed to a cross to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in Santa Lucia village, Pampanga province, northern Philippines on Friday, April 18, 2014. Church leaders and health officials have spoken against the practice which mixes Roman Catholic devotion with folk belief, but the annual rites continue to draw participants and huge crowds. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
A Filipino devotee is nailed to a cross to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in Santa Lucia village, Pampanga province, northern Philippines on Friday, April 18, 2014. Church leaders and health officials have spoken against the practice which mixes Roman Catholic devotion with folk belief, but the annual rites continue to draw participants and huge crowds. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Filipino devotee Ruben Enaje goes down from the cross after being nailed to it to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in San Pedro Cutud village, Pampanga province, northern Philippines on Friday, April 18, 2014. Church leaders and health officials have spoken against the practice which mixes Roman Catholic devotion with folk belief, but the annual rites continue to draw participants and huge crowds. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Filipino devotee Ruben Enaje shouts in pain as he is nailed to a cross to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in San Pedro Cutud village, Pampanga province, northern Philippines on Friday, April 18, 2014. Church leaders and health officials have spoken against the practice which mixes Roman Catholic devotion with folk belief, but the annual rites continue to draw participants and huge crowds. Enaje participates in this annual ritual for the past 28 years. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
A Filipino devotee that is nailed to a cross reacts as actors dressed as Roman soldiers lift him as they re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in San Pedro Cutud village, Pampanga province, northern Philippines on Friday, April 18, 2014. Church leaders and health officials have spoken against the practice which mixes Roman Catholic devotion with folk belief, but the annual rites continue to draw participants and huge crowds. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Spectators take pictures of a devotee as he is nailed to a cross during the re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in San Juan village, Pampanga province, northern Philippines on Friday, April 18, 2014. Church leaders and health officials have spoken against the practice which mixes Roman Catholic devotion with folk belief, but the annual rites continue to draw participants and huge crowds. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
A Filipino devotee with his feet nailed to the cross is lifted as they try to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in San Juan village, Pampanga province, northern Philippines on Friday, April 18, 2014. Church leaders and health officials have spoken against the practice which mixes Roman Catholic devotion with folk belief, but the annual rites continue to draw participants and huge crowds. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Danish national Lasse Spang Olsen, a 48-year-old filmmaker, stays nailed to a cross to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in San Pedro Cutud village, Pampanga province, northern Philippines on Friday, April 18, 2014. Church leaders and health officials have spoken against the practice which mixes Roman Catholic devotion with folk belief, but the annual rites continue to draw participants and huge crowds. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
A Filipino devotee who was nailed to a cross is lifted as they try to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in San Juan village, Pampanga province, northern Philippines on Friday, April 18, 2014. Church leaders and health officials have spoken against the practice which mixes Roman Catholic devotion with folk belief, but the annual rites continue to draw participants and huge crowds. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Filipino devotee Ruben Enaje, center, stays nailed to a cross with two actors during a play to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in San Pedro Cutud village, Pampanga province, northern Philippines on Friday, April 18, 2014. Church leaders and health officials have spoken against the practice which mixes Roman Catholic devotion with folk belief, but the annual rites continue to draw participants and huge crowds. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Filipino devotee, Precy Valencia, gets herself nailed to the cross during the reenactment of Jesus Christ crucifixion on Good Friday, April 18, 2014 at Kapitangan village, Bulacan province north of Manila, Philippines. Several Filipinos were nailed to the cross on Good Friday as their vow mostly to atone for their sins and for personal petitions. (AP Photo/Alecs Ongcal)
A Filipino Catholic devotee, Evangeline Mendoza, goes down from the cross after being nailed to it to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, April 18, 2014 at Kapitangan village, Bulacan province north of Manila, Philippines. Several Filipinos were nailed to the cross on Good Friday as their vow mostly to atone for their sins and for personal petitions. (AP Photo/Alecs Ongcal)
A Filipino devotee reacts as he is nailed to a cross to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in Santa Lucia village, Pampanga province, northern Philippines on Friday, April 18, 2014. Church leaders and health officials have spoken against the practice which mixes Roman Catholic devotion with folk belief, but the annual rites continue to draw participants and huge crowds. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Filipino devotee Ruben Enaje shouts in pain as he stays nailed to a cross to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in San Pedro Cutud village, Pampanga province, northern Philippines on Friday, April 18, 2014. Church leaders and health officials have spoken against the practice which mixes Roman Catholic devotion with folk belief, but the annual rites continue to draw participants and huge crowds. Enaje participates in this annual ritual for the past 28 years. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Danish national Lasse Spang Olsen, a 48-year-old filmmaker, is carried on a stretcher by medical personnel after nailed to a cross to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in San Pedro Cutud village, Pampanga province, northern Philippines on Friday, April 18, 2014. Church leaders and health officials have spoken against the practice which mixes Roman Catholic devotion with folk belief, but the annual rites continue to draw participants and huge crowds. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Hooded penitents flagellate themselves along a narrow road in a reenactment of the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, April 6, 2012 at San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga province, north of Manila, Philippines. More than two dozen Catholic devotees have themselves nailed on the cross on Good Friday, a practice rejected by the Catholic Church but becomes a tourist attraction. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Medics carry an unidentified Catholic devotee for medical check up after staying nailed to the cross for several minutes in a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, April 6, 2012 at San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga province, north of Manila, Philippines. More than two dozen Catholic devotees have themselves nailed on the cross on Good Friday, a practice rejected by the Catholic Church but becomes a tourist attraction. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Volunteers dressed as Roman Centurions, drive nails through the palms of an unidentified Catholic devotee in a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday at San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga province, north of Manila, Philippines Friday, April 6, 2012. More than two dozen Catholic devotees have themselves nailed on the cross on Good Friday, a practice rejected by the Catholic Church but has become a tourist attraction.(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Volunteers drive nails through the palms of a unidentified Catholic devotee in a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday at San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga province, north of Manila, Philippines Friday, April 6, 2012. More than two dozen Catholic devotees have themselves nailed on the cross on Good Friday, a practice rejected by the Catholic Church but has become a tourist attraction.(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Volunteers, dressed as Roman Centurions, hoist an unidentified Catholic devotees after nails were driven through their palms in a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday at San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga province, north of Manila, Philippines Friday, April 6, 2012. More than two dozen Catholic devotees have themselves nailed on the cross on Good Friday, a practice rejected by the Catholic Church but has become a tourist attraction.(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Ruben Enaje reacts as nails are driven to his palms in a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday at San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga province, north of Manila, Philippines Friday, April 6, 2012. More than two dozen Catholic devotees have themselves nailed on the cross on Good Friday, a practice rejected by the Catholic Church but has become a tourist attraction.(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Victor Caparas, stays nailed to the cross for several minutes in a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday at San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga province, north of Manila, Philippines Friday, April 6, 2012. More than two dozen Catholic devotees have themselves nailed on the cross on Good Friday, a practice rejected by the Catholic Church but has become a tourist attraction.(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
A crowd, including police officers on a crane, watches as a devotee takes part in a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday at Cutud village, San Fernando city, Pampanga province, northern Philippines, Friday, April 22, 2011. Several Filipinos were nailed to wooden crosses Friday to reenact Jesus Christ's suffering in an annual rite that has been rejected by Catholic church leaders but draws thousands of tourists on Good Friday. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
A crowd watches as an unidentified devotee takes part in a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday at Cutud village, San Fernando city, Pampanga province, northern Philippines, Friday, April 22, 2011. Several Filipinos were nailed to wooden crosses Friday to reenact Jesus Christ's suffering in an annual rite that has been rejected by Catholic church leaders but draws thousands of tourists on Good Friday. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Three devotees take part in a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday at Cutud village, San Fernando city, Pampanga province, northern Philippines, Friday, April 22, 2011. Several Filipinos were nailed to wooden crosses Friday to reenact Jesus Christ's suffering in an annual rite that has been rejected by Catholic church leaders but draws thousands of tourists on Good Friday. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
An unidentified Catholic devotee is lowered by volunteers after staying nailed on the cross for several minutes in a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, April 6, 2012 at San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga province, north of Manila, Philippines. More than two dozen Catholic devotees have themselves nailed on the cross on Good Friday, a practice rejected by the Catholic Church but becomes a tourist attraction. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Filipinos watch a devotee as he stays nailed to a cross during rituals to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in San Juan village, Pampanga province, northern Philippines on Friday, April 18, 2014. Church leaders and health officials have spoken against the practice which mixes Roman Catholic devotion with folk belief, but the annual rites continue to draw participants and huge crowds. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Filipino self-taught artist Ronald Bautista works on his version of the Passion of Jesus Christ Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at the financial district of Makati city, east of Manila, Philippines in his neighborhood's observance of Holy Week. The giant art installation, made of recyclable materials, has attracted a number of local and foreign devotees. The Holy Week, which is marked by the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday and his resurrection on Sunday known as Easter, is the most important holiday-of-obligation among Catholics other than Christmas. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
A crowd watches as Rollie Pantoja takes part in a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday at San Juan village, San Fernando city, Pampanga province, northern Philippines, Friday, April 22, 2011. Several Filipinos were nailed to wooden crosses Friday to reenact Jesus Christ's suffering in an annual rite that has been rejected by Catholic church leaders but draws thousands of tourists on Good Friday. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Hooded penitents pray in front of a Catholic chapel as they make the rounds of at least fourteen chapels while flagellating themselves in observance of Holy Week which culminates in the death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday at Mandaluyong city, east of Manila, Philippines Thursday April 21, 2011. Hundreds of male penitents all over the country flagellate themselves on Holy Week to reenact the sufferings of Jesus Christ and to atone for their sins. More than a dozen penitents will have themselves nailed on the cross across the country to reenact the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
A nail penetrates the palm of Gwendelyn Pedrosa as she reenacts the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, March 21, 2008, in the village of Kapitangan in the town of Paombong in Bulacan province north of Manila, Philippines. Filipino devotees have themselves nailed to the cross in the belief that it will atone their sins, or fulfill vows for an answered prayer. The Lenten rituals are opposed by religious leaders in the Philippines-Southeast Asia's largest predominantly Roman Catholic nation. (AP Photo/Pat Roque)
Gerardo Galvez Jr. portraying Jesus Christ, takes a break in carrying the cross as he and others reenact the last few days of the life of Jesus Christ in observance of the Lenten season on Holy Thursday, March 20, 2008, in Mandaluyong City east of Manila, Philipines. Catholic Archbishop Ponciano Aniceto urged Filipinos not to turn Holy Week into a "circus" calling flagellation and crucifixion rites "popular piety." (AP Photo/Pat Roque)
Gerardo Galvez Jr. portraying Jesus Christ, is mounted to a wooden cross as he and others reenact the last few days of the life of Jesus Christ in observance of the Lenten season on Holy Thursday, March 20, 2008, in Mandaluyong City east of Manila, Philippines. Catholic Archbishop Ponciano Aniceto urged Filipinos not to turn Holy Week into a "circus" calling flagellation and crucifixion rites "popular piety." (AP Photo/Pat Roque)
The lifeless body of Jesus Christ portrayed by Gerardo Galvez Jr. is lowered from the cross during a reenactment in observance of the Lenten season on Holy Thursday, March 20, 2008, in Mandaluyong City east of Manila, Philippines. Catholic Archbishop Ponciano Aniceto urged Filipinos not to turn Holy Week into a "circus" calling flagellation and crucifixion rites "popular piety."(AP Photo/Pat Roque)
Brilly Liangco who is on his fourth crucifixion, grimaces in pain as the nail pierce his flesh during the religious rites on Good Friday, April 10, 2009 in the village of San Juan in the province of Pampanga north of Manila, Philippines. Being the only Catholic country in Asia, people observe Holy Week in different ways such us flagellating themselves or being nailed to the cross imitating the sacrifices of Jesus Christ for the atonemment of their sins or for asking favor. (AP Photo/ Pat Roque)
Gerardo Galvez Jr. portraying Jesus Christ, is mounted to a wooden cross as he reenacts the last few days of the life of Jesus Christ in observance of the Lenten season on Holy Thursday, March 20, 2008, in Mandaluyong City east of Manila, Philippines. Catholic Archbishop Ponciano Aniceto urged Filipinos not to turn Holy Week into a "circus" calling flagellation and crucifixion rites "popular piety." (AP Photo/Pat Roque)
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