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Meet the men who are crucified on Good Friday
During Holy Week in the Philippines, Christian devotees allow themselves to be nailed to a cross. Here's why
On Good Friday in the Philippines, men will whip their backs until they're bloody and allow themselves to be crucified.
It's a decades-old practice that takes place predominantly in Pampanga province by devout Catholics as a penance or to give thanks to God.
I went there to meet the people who take part in this intense experience.
Rolando Ocampo, 56, has been crucified every year since 1990 as a sign of his gratitude to God. He says God miraculously saved his wife from a difficult child birth in that year.
Ocampo prepares for his crucifixion for days in advance. He spends time alone and engages in deep meditation before the day on which he will share in Christ's suffering.
The event is a busy and chaotic affair. In the heat, smells of dust, sweat and blood mix uncomfortably. It all ends at 3 p.m., the time Jesus Christ is believed to have died on the cross.
Ruben Enage, 53, has been crucified 24 times since he survived a near-fatal fall from a three-story advertising billboard in 1986. Here, he rests after falling during the annual Cenaculo on the passion of Jesus Christ.
Though nails are sanitized and medical personnel are on hand to tend to the participants after their ordeal, there are concerns about the risk of infection.
Nevertheless, dozens of men and some women take part in this annual event.
Participants often pray during their ordeal, which they say helps them overcome the pain. After a few minutes, they're lowered again and given medical treatment.
The wounds can take two weeks to heal, but the penitents consider the suffering a small price to give thanks to God.
Many also flagellate themselves while walking barefoot on baking hot roads in processions lasting hours, in another demonstration of connection to Jesus Christ.
After several hours of whipping his own back, and now bloodied and scarred, a man stops to pray.
Some have described the act of self-flagellation and crucifixion as crazy. But I learned that local beliefs are strongly anchored in personal relationships with God. No amount of persuasion can break the resolve.
Ocampo says that after his crucifixion, "Life goes on."
From Ninoy Aquino International Airport, head to the Araneta-Cubao bus terminal in Quezon City. Take any bus heading to San Fernando-Dau junction (PHP 100 per person (US$2.30).
San Fernando City, Pampanga is 75 kilometers north of the capital Manila through the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX). At the San Fernando junction, take a jeepney to the poblacion (PHP 8 (US$0.20), then take a pedicab or foot-pedaled tricycle to San Pedro Cutud.
Drivers will haggle for a fare, but one should not pay more than PHP20 (US$0.47) per person.
Story originally published April 2011. Updated April 5, 2012 and again March 2013.