CEBU and Pampanga have one thing in common. On Holy Week, they have been known for real-life crucifixions that have attracted onlookers, tourists and international media.
In Pampanga, painter Ruben Enaje has been at it for three decades. Cebu’s Gilbert Bargayo did it again, for the 27th time, last Good Friday.
According to SunStar Pampanga, Enaje has been faithfully performing his vow to be nailed to the cross every Good Friday. He has been playing the role of “Kristo” in the annual local re-enactment of the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) held at Barangay San Pedro Cutud, the report said.
He started with this practice after he survived a fall from a building that he was working on as a construction worker. Since then, he has been doing this yearly penance.
“More than penance, this is solace for me. I feel relieved and happy after every crucifixion because I know that I said my prayers in the best way I can,” Enaje said.
His ritual of carrying a heavy wooden cross and being nailed to it, he said, is his way of thanking God for letting him survive for another year with his family.
“As I carry the cross and be nailed on it, all I do is keep praying. (I) ask for forgiveness and give thanks for all the blessings I have received for the whole year, and ask for another bountiful year,” he said.
At 58, Enaje said he wants to stop his annual public penance before he turns 60. If he were to stop, local officials would have to choose his replacement as Pampanga has been known for, among others, his actual crucifixion.
In Cebu, Bargayo last year had to go to a hospital after he bled profusely from his wounds. He usually ended his crucifixion by going to the sea to wash his hands. But last year, he went to a hospital instead.
Last Good Friday, 59-year-old Bargayo had himself nailed to the cross again in Tuburan. It was his 27th crucifixion. This time, he went to the sea to wash his wounds after the event. His feet bled profusely but he said he was fine.
Bargayo does this every year as a promise and a way to give thanks for his health. He said he would do it again next year if his health would allow.
Enaje and Bargayo have been featured in local, national and international news reports of their crucifixion. They are what Cebu and Pampanga have in common. They show the public Christ’s passion and they issue calls for sinners to repent and seek forgiveness.
The Catholic Church does not encourage real-life crucifixions and sees them as distortions of God’s teachings. But Church leaders have admitted they cannot stop the practice that has attracted local folk and tourists.
That means Enaje and Bargayo, or whoever will take their place when their bodies could no longer bear the crucifixion, will continue to dramatize to the people God’s passion.