Published: Thu, April 17, 2014
Mabalacat, Pampanga (Reuters) – Catholics in Central Luzon on Thursday (April 17) flagellated themselves and carried wooden crosses in re-enacting the last hours of Jesus Christ.
Barefoot men from the rural town of Mabalacat in Pampanga, about 84 kilometers (52 miles) north of Manila, whipped their backs while marching on the streets, believing it would grant salvation from their sins.
"It's like our sins are being cleansed and gives us a feeling of peace," said Jell, a Catholic who has been practicing self-flagellation for seven years.
Some wore red robes with ornamental crowns of wreathed leaves and thorns as they carried large wooden crosses on their backs, signifying their devotion to Christ.
Participants begin the ritual by tying a rope around their arms and legs and inflicting wounds on their backs with a blade. They then walk barefoot for hours in the sweltering heat, stopping every few hundred meters at makeshift altars while local residents recite a passage narrating Christ's suffering.
Some allowed themselves to be tied on the waist, while men pulled on the ropes and flogged them.
Many Filipino Catholics often perform religious penance during the Holy Week as a form of worship and supplication. These religious rites are believed to cleanse away the sins of the devotees, cure illnesses, and even grant wishes.
The Catholic Church has expressed disapproval of these self-punishments as misinterpretations of faith, saying prayers and sincere repentance are enough to commemorate the observance of Lent. Despite the opposition from the Church, such practices still continue across the predominantly Catholic country.