It was my first time to witness an actual crucifixion, an unexpected experience as I didn’t know until I saw the poster in Angeles City. But like any other things, I was more curious on how it goes.
This is part of my Semana Santa series where I feature rituals and traditions observed in certain places during this solemn week in the Catholic calendar. Click on the image at the right to check the rest of the articles.
For the longest time, I’ve been skipping the crucifixions in San Pedro Cutud, San Fernando in Pampanga for the reason that it has become one spectacle with the sole reason of catering to the tourist crowd. A rather unfortunate development.
Consider me as jaded and I’ve always thought that Lent is a special time to reflect on one’s mortality as well as the unfolding of age old rituals and traditions that are better experienced, and realize how rich our culture and heritage is, something that is quite detached when you mount one for tourism.
But I was in Angeles City, where angels gyrate and bask under the neon lights, in Fields Avenue, that is, and it was also the place where there is a sizable population of flagellants in this part of the country. Contrasts, and parallels that make this place interesting.
But a crucifixion? I was told that it has been there for a number of years, unorganized, rowdy and chaotic, where drunk men take on a dare at the drop of a hat or when foreigners offer P5,000 that with three crosses, as much as 10 people will have themselves crucified.
But it got to me. Curious than ever on how it actually goes. Compared to previous years, 2011 was, at last organized. The city government, upon the request of the local barangay provided security, fenced off the perimeter of the Calvary Hill. And they had some sort of reenactment starting at the welcome arch of Lourdes Northwest.
Costumed locals playing the part of Jesus, the soldiers, some mounted on horses, apostles, Mary and the women. But it was chaotic but fun to watch as, with all their seriousness, some of their neighbors were cheering, calling out their names. All under the scorching heat of the sun. With the crowd, I left the reenactment and just proceeded to the venue of the crucifixion.
Around 1 PM, the people had already congregated, ringing around the mound of land that passed off as Calvary Hill as I was eating my second cup of dirty ice cream topped with condensed milk, actually yummy. And then, the actors arrived. The sea of people parted to form a path for them with the soldiers trying to look fierce.
One of the higlights of the afternoon was a reenactment of the Siete Palabras, the purported seven last words of Christ before he expired on the cross. But instead of following the set schedule, the actors playing the part of Jesus and the two bandits already went up the cross and, one by one, they were nailed.
There were gasps in the crowd while photographers were taking their shots when the hammer was driving the nails on the men’s hands but the ones to be crucified didn’t seem to bother. Painless? But when the event was finished and they started to manually pull the nails off that the crucified only grimaced in pain. One by one, they were led to a waiting ambulance, their palms dripping with blood.
But what was amusing was that as the event ended, and some left the venue, people were surging to where the crosses were. One by one, they went up and simulated being crucified with their hands outstretched, all for photo ops and probably something to post on Facebook.
My gratitude to Mayor Ed Pamintuan and First Lady Herminia de Guzman-Pamintuan of Angeles City, Archie Reyes, Angeles City Information Officer as well as foodies and food bloggers Christine Nunag and Wyatt Belmonte for inviting, accommodating and touring me around their city and the province of Pampanga.