Filipino Prays for End of Ukraine War While Nailed to a Cross

by Gabriel Martinez
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In the Philippines, eight people acted out the suffering of Jesus Christ by nailing themselves to wooden crosses on Good Friday. One of them was a carpenter and this was his 34th time doing it – he said a special prayer that asked for the war in Ukraine to stop because it made life harder for local people like him.

The crucifixions that happen in the village of San Pedro Cutud in Pampanga province near Manila started up again after three years of halt due to the coronavirus. About twelve people had signed up, but only eight ended up being part of it, such as one sixty-two-year-old carpenter and sign painter called Ruben Enaje who screamed when he was nailed onto a wooden cross with lots of people watching him in hot summer heat.

At a news conference after his crucifixion, Enaje said he prayed for the virus COVID-19 to go away and also for the Russia-Ukraine war to stop. As the two countries were in conflict, food and gas prices went up all over the world.

Enaje explained why this was happening: “Although only these two countries are fighting, everyone has to pay more for oil as a result of it.”

Enaje, a person who does carpentry and sign making for a living, told Big Big News that because Russia invaded Ukraine the prices for oil and food increased. This made it difficult for him to afford things since his income was not very high.

Thousands of people including tourists from other countries came to watch the annual religious event in San Pedro Cutud as well as two other villages.

Kitty Ennett, a vet from Ireland, said that the crucifixions she saw were really special. She had to travel all the way from her home in the United Kingdom to see them.

She also told The AP that it was emotional to watch a man flogging himself and then climbing up a cross. She could see how much these people were sacrificing for their beliefs, something she believed was similar to what Jesus went through.

In 1985, Enaje fell from a three-story building but he survived with barely any injuries. He did this annual ordeal to show his gratitude for the miracle that he experienced. After that, his family members started getting better from their serious illnesses and Enaje became famous in his village as he “acted” like Jesus in reenacting the Way of the Cross during Lent every year.

Before their crucifixion at a dry hill, Enaje and the other devotees wore crowns made of twigs and carried heavy wooden crosses on their backs for about half a mile under scorching hot weather. Village actors dressed as Roman centurions then nailed stainless steel nails into their hands and feet which were 4 inches long. Lastly, they were put on top of the cross in the bright sunlight for 10 minutes.

People doing penance would walk through the streets without shoes and hit their backs with bamboo sticks or pieces of wood. Others even used broken glass to make sure that the ritual was painful.

This scene is part of Philippines’ Catholicism, which mixes religious traditions and beliefs from people in the community.

Lots of poor people in the Philippines get on their knees and whip themselves to show how sorry they are for their wrong doings. They also do this to beg for health or a better life, and to thank God if he helps them out.

However church leaders say that Filipinos don’t need to hurt themselves, but can still show how devoted they are to God by helping each other; like donating blood.

A famous Catholic priest and defender of human rights, Robert Reyes, said that not teaching Filipinos about the church’s beliefs has caused them to look for other ways to get help from God. This has led to some violent rituals being used.

Every year in January, millions of people gather together in Manila to take part in a majestic procession where they carry around a wooden statue of Jesus Christ. Many believe that this statue has magical powers and can heal illnesses, bring good fortune and make their lives better. People also bring towels so they can wipe the statue, hoping it will give them the luck they are looking for!

“Why weren’t we church people paying more attention to what was happening?” Reyes said, meaning that clergy members need to communicate better with the people in their communities and not judge them. This long-running tradition of crucifixion has made San Pedro Cutud – one of the 500 villages in Pampanga province which grows rice – famous!

Organizers said more than 15,000 people from both outside and inside the Philippines had come to visit Cutud, as well as two other nearby villages. The atmosphere was really exciting, with village people selling water bottles, hats, snacks and stuff related to religion. Police were also there to make sure everything happens safely and without any trouble.

Johnson Gareth, an organizer from England, took 15 travellers from 8 foreign countries to watch crucifixions. He said has nothing like this on the planet. Even though it may seem awful and ghastly, it is done respectfully and nicely. Aaron Favila and Cecilia Forbes helped The Associated Press report this news.

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