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Filipinos Mark Good Friday With Crucifixion Ritual : Religion: At least 16 are nailed to crosses; others flog themselves. In Jerusalem, Christ's steps retraced.

April 10, 1993|From Times Wire Services

Men dressed as Roman centurions north of Manila on Friday hammered nails into the palms and feet of a faith healer dressed in sequins to commemorate Jesus' death on the cross.

Hundreds of other Filipinos dragged six-foot crosses on their backs or flogged themselves with whips until they bled in a grisly observance of Good Friday. In Jerusalem, Christians from around the world retraced Jesus Christ's steps on the way to his crucifixion.

Amparo Santos, also known as "Mother Paring," was among at least 16 devotees who were crucified in bizarre rituals that have become a fixture of Good Friday celebrations in central Luzon Island north of Manila.

In Kapitangan, 20 miles north of Manila, thousands of other red-hooded zealots paraded through the streets, whipping their backs with clusters of bamboo sticks.

They believe that floggings and crucifixions are ways to atone for their sins, seek favors and receive healing powers.

Such practices are discouraged by the Roman Catholic hierarchy but are deeply entrenched among the rural population of the nation, which is 85% Catholic.

"They are suffering for nothing," said Pat Ellis, 42, a Protestant missionary from California. "In the Bible, Jesus paid it all. I need to believe that Jesus paid it all. So if we sin, we need only go to Jesus and tell him we sinned."

It was the seventh year for Santos to be nailed on the cross in the dusty farming village.

"I will go on with this indefinitely," said Santos, who was dressed in a red velvet sleeveless and sequined dress. "Jesus told me I perform well."

Five-inch nails, soaked in a bottle of coconut oil, were used by attendants who made sure bones and blood vessels were not pierced.

Santos forced a smile after the nails were driven into her flesh, then grimaced in pain as she sang songs and recited poems during her 20 minutes on the cross.

Northwest of Manila, an earthquake near the Mt. Pinatubo volcano panicked a religious procession and toppled objects from walls, but no casualties were reported, officials said.

Thousands of people taking part in a Good Friday procession in Olongapo ran through the streets, and others streamed out of their homes, residents said.

The tremor, which measured 5, caused blackouts in Olongapo and Subic towns, outside the former U.S. naval base at Subic Bay, about 25 miles from Pinatubo.

In Jerusalem, Christians from around the world walked the Way of Sorrow, some lugging heavy wooden crosses as they traced Jesus Christ's steps toward his crucifixion.

Thousands made their way along the narrow street to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built where Christians believe Jesus was buried after being crucified.

Israel's sealing off of the occupied territories last week to quell Arab-Israeli violence meant only a few hundred Palestinian Christians with special permits took part in Friday's procession in Jerusalem.

"I will not live my life in fear and not do things because of that," said Tonya Andrews of North Hollywood. "I'm a Christian . . . so this goes straight to the soul."

Sydney Reynolds of Orem, Utah, said she brought her children to strengthen their faith.

"We believe that Christ has died for us and will rise, and we wanted them to learn that these things are true and more important than anything else," said Reynolds, 55, while taking a rest near the Third Station, where tradition says Christ fell under the weight of the cross.

Gilbert Peru of Anaheim re-enacted the march dressed as Christ. Wearing a crown of thorns, his arms covered with fake blood, he was accompanied by two whip-carrying "Roman soldiers" as he retraced Christ's path.

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