Witnessing the crucifixion: A Fil-Am's Good Friday
PAMPANGA, Philippines — As a Filipino American born and raised under a Catholic household, I thought I had a fair understanding of what occurs during Good Friday. I understood this was the day that represents Jesus’ crucifixion and that it was a time for penance.
To celebrate Good Friday, the standard ritual for my family was Mass, the Stations of the Cross, and then dinner. It was a mild and typical “Catholic American” experience compared to my first Good Friday in the Philippines.
On Good Friday, we arrived in the early morning hours to follow up on one of the individuals who would be playing Jesus Christ in the reenactment of the Passion of Christ.
Wilfredo Salvador, 58, has participated in 9 crucifixions in San Juan, Pampanga. We followed him through the morning as he prepared for the play-along with a cast of high school actors.
As we walked along with Wilfredo, the heat began to rise. By the end of the day and 12 bottles of water later, the temperature would reach a high of 100 degrees fahrenheit .
From here my past experience and knowledge of Good Friday rituals become irrelevant. As the reenactment commences, devotees begin to flock along the prepared route around the town. These men engage in self-flagellation as their penance for their sins by consistently beating their backs with a whip with tips made of bamboo.
The continuous action mortifies the flesh and the wood tips, now covered in blood, launch small droplets across anything near them. By the end of the day, dry blood covers clothing, buildings and even cars.
The reenactment was as intense was you would expect it to be. From the acting to the music, these factors help to amplify the apex of the play. People would cringe when the nails were driven into the palms of the actor and then crucified. Fortunately, those crucified were not left on the cross for long and received medical treatment immediately after they were taken down.
These rituals would never pass in the United States. One can understand why they are so intense. They are to remind us, those who are Catholic, the pain and sorrow Christ endured as he sacrificed his life. The experience helped open to me how extensive celebrating Good Friday could be. It came to life.
For those who think they may want to experience this, I applaud you for thinking so. It is a unique experience that should be done at least once, especially if you hold religion close to your heart. You may find it very moving. My only advice to you is to bring plenty of water and perhaps a spare set of clothes.
Joseph Albano is currently an intern at Rappler. Graduating from the University at Albany, he pursued a dual major in documentary studies and communications. During his time at Albany, he devoted much of his time doing photography and became the editor-in-chief of the school's yearbook. Joseph is currently in the Philippines expanding his boundaries in his photography as well as connecting to his Filipino heritage.