Filipino Catholics nail themselves on crosses and carry out gruesome acts of self-inflicted pain to mark Holy Week

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WARNING DISTRESSING CONTENT: One man who has been nailed to a cross every Easter for the past 32 years says he no longer feels any pain from his wounds

Filipino Catholics have nailed themselves on crosses and carried out gruesome acts of self-inflicted pain to mark Holy Week.

A Philippine man who has been nailed to a cross every Easter for the past 32 years in a Good Friday re enactment of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion says he no longer feels any pain from his wounds.

Ruben Enaje, 58, again portrayed Christ on Friday in the traditional religious rite in Cutud village, about 76 km (47 miles) from the capital Manila.

“In the past, I went home injured and limping, but this year I feel so great,” Ruben said after the ritual held under a sweltering sun.

He said he believed his strong Catholic faith helped him avoid pain.

“I feel like he is telling me ‘go ahead, keep it up’,” he said, referring to God.

Ruben Enaje, 58, who is portraying Jesus Christ for the 32nd time, is nailed on a wooden cross (Image: REUTERS)
Ruben during a Good Friday crucifixion re-enactment in Cutud village (Image: REUTERS)

Easter is a festival marking the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. About 80 percent of the 105 million people in the Philippines, a former Spanish colony, are Catholic.

Ruben said he felt strong enough to perform in two or three more crucifixions, until he turns 60.

He was among three devotees nailed to wooden crosses in the village on Friday, including a woman taking part for the seventh time.

Actors wearing Roman soldier costumes attached the devotees to crosses by hammering two-inch nails soaked in alcohol through their hands and feet and hoisted them up in a field packed with domestic and foreign tourists.

The Catholic Church in the Philippines tolerates the ritual but says it does not support such gory displays of devotion, describing them as a “misinterpretation of faith”.

Some were nailed to crosses (Image: REUTERS)
Mary Jane Sazon, 39, is carried on a stretcher after she was nailed on a wooden cross (Image: REUTERS)
Three devotees were nailed to wooden crosses, including a woman taking part for the seventh time (Image: REUTERS)

Many Catholics in the Philippines perform religious acts of penance during the Holy Week at Easter as a form of worship and supplication.

Some believe penance cleanses sins, cures illnesses and even leads to wishes coming true.

Filipino Catholics marched the streets whipping themselves and lacerating their backs with razorblades in a bloody Easter ritual to atone for their sins in the otherwise peaceful town of Pakil, in Laguna province.

Masked religious devotees performed the acts of self-inflicted pain to mark the Holy Week.

The shocking scenes of self-flagellation are traditional in small towns of the primarily Catholic nation before Easter as a form of worship believed to cleanse sins, cure illness and grant wishes.

Despite condemnation from the Catholic Church, the group drew large crowds including children to line the sweltering streets and behold the extreme show of faith.

Ruben Enaje, 58, who is portraying Jesus Christ for the 32nd time, is carried by residents dressed as Centurions (Image: REUTERS)

Filmmaker Nikon Celis, who was sprayed with blood capturing the ritual, said: “It’s always fascinated me why people would go these sorts of religious extremes.

“It’s fascinating to believe you have to hurt yourself to show your devotion. The flagellants believe it grants them and their families good health and good luck.

“While I was filming you could smell the blood in the air, there was even a metallic taste. After I finished my shirt was covered with blood.”

Nikon, 32, said the group, known as Hugas Dugo, lash and slash themselves every day from Holy Monday to Good Friday in search of salvation.

Mary Jane Sazon, 39, grimaces in pain after she was nailed on a wooden cross for the 7th time (Image: REUTERS)

The barefoot penitents begin by gathering under a bridge in Barangay Rizal, before parading to a Church at Town Plaza to continue self-flagellating with chains and wooden whips.

They wear a skirt made of dried banana leaves to soak the blood that pours from their backs, and children follow the procession to pour water onto the wounds.

Nikon said the origins of the group are shrouded in mystery, but they are understood to have formed about 40 years ago.

Ruben said he felt strong enough to perform in two or three more crucifixions, until he turns 60 (Image: REUTERS)

And while the Catholic Church says such practices can lessen the meaning of Lent , Hugas stand defiant in the belief they are preserving their legacy.

Some devotees even had razor blades drawn over their scarred backs.

The 32-year-old said: “Pakil is almost exclusively Catholic. The people were very welcoming to me, I never felt unsafe but it was an extreme thing to witness.

“They gave themselves 20 slits of the razor, then lay flat on the ground for their slashed backs to be whipped again.

“The flagellants were definitely feeling the pain, they were not in a trance. But they are used to it and they know what they’re doing.

“Although the practice is opposed by the Catholic Church , the Hugas Dugo are still staying true to their legacy.”

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