Despite bishops urging them to do otherwise, devout Filipino Catholics re-enacted the final hours of Jesus Christ, in excruciatingly painful and bloody reality, on the occasion of Good Friday. The re-enactment included volunteers whipping and nailing themselves to crosses during a gruesome Easter ritual.

The city of San Fernando, a 90-minute drive from the capital of Manila, played host to tourists and pilgrims from around the world. People flocked to see and participate in a ritual the Church has disapproved.

Bloody Rituals

The annual Christian "passion play" saw nails being drilled through the palms of four men, who took turns hanging on a cross situated in a vacant plot of land in the San Juan district. The volunteers say they undergo a mock crucifixion in order to please God and persuade him to grant their wishes.

"I am used to it already," Alex Laranang, a 58-year-old baker, said, "It is just like a needle going through my hand. After two days, I am ready to go back to work again."

This is the 14th year Laranang has allowed himself to be crucified. And he told AFP he believed God had heard his prayers, for his family and he live a healthy and prosperous life.

"I am doing this for my family, so that no one will get sick and that my livelihood will continue. I am just a poor man. But I don't ask God to make me rich," he said.

Laranang rotates his crucifix duties with three other men, each of whom hangs on the cross for 10 minutes at a time. They are then taken straight to medical tents, where they are bandaged and treated.  

Meanwhile, other parts of the city saw hooded men engaged in self-flagellation, with bamboo whips; these people claimed to be doing penance for their sins.

Church's Reaction

Earlier in the week, Filipino bishops warned people against extreme forms of sacrifices on Good Friday. As many as 24 are expected to be nailed to crosses in this period but the government insists they cannot stop citizens from following their religion.

"Let us concentrate more on the prayers. These are the wonderful ways of celebrating the Holy Week," Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, president of the Philippine Bishops' Conference said, according to a report in the Catholic Herald.

"The Lord appreciates all these forms of sacrifices, but sometimes the kind of sacrifice that we impose on ourselves is not what the Lord wants us to do," Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi, chairman of the bishops' commission on youth explained.

Catholicism and the Philippines

The Philippines is believed to be the 12th largest country in the world, by population. And according to the Christian Science Monitor, the country's predominant religion is Catholicism. However, observers and critics within the country say the power of the Archdiocese has waned in recent years and continues to be eroded.

The passage of the Reproductive Health Law, which provides for free contraceptives and family planning for poor families, has been cited as an example of the Catholic Church of Philippines' weakened state.

Students playing the roles of Roman soldiers flog a man playing the role of Jesus (R) during a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuary of Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico March 28, 2013. The students are part of a youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, New Mexico which re-enacts the Stations of the Cross every year. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.
Students playing the roles of Roman soldiers flog a man playing the role of Jesus (R) during a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuary of Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico March 28, 2013. The students are part of a youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, New Mexico which re-enacts the Stations of the Cross every year. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.REUTERS/Brian Snyder
A man playing the role of Jesus is crucified, as students playing the role of Roman soldiers stand behind him, during a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuary of Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico March 28, 2013. The students are part of a youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, New Mexico which re-enacts the Stations of the Cross every year. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.
A man playing the role of Jesus is crucified, as students playing the role of Roman soldiers stand behind him, during a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuary of Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico March 28, 2013. The students are part of a youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, New Mexico which re-enacts the Stations of the Cross every year. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Students playing the roles of Roman soldiers flog a man playing the role of Jesus (L) during a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuary of Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico March 28, 2013. The students are part of a youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, New Mexico which re-enacts the Stations of the Cross every year. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.
Students playing the roles of Roman soldiers flog a man playing the role of Jesus (L) during a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuary of Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico March 28, 2013. The students are part of a youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, New Mexico which re-enacts the Stations of the Cross every year. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Students playing the role of the women of Jerusalem, the eighth Station, wait to begin a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuary of Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico March 28, 2013. The students are part of a youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, New Mexico which re-enacts the Stations of the Cross every year. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.
Students playing the role of the women of Jerusalem, the eighth Station, wait to begin a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuary of Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico March 28, 2013. The students are part of a youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, New Mexico which re-enacts the Stations of the Cross every year. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Students playing the roles of Roman soldiers place a man playing the role of Jesus (C) on a cross during a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuary of Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico March 28, 2013. The students are part of a youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, New Mexico which re-enacts the Stations of the Cross every year. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.
Students playing the roles of Roman soldiers place a man playing the role of Jesus (C) on a cross during a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuary of Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico March 28, 2013. The students are part of a youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, New Mexico which re-enacts the Stations of the Cross every year. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.REUTERS/Brian Snyder
A man playing the role of Jesus is crucified during a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuary of Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico March 28, 2013. The students are part of a youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, New Mexico which re-enacts the Stations of the Cross every year. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.
A man playing the role of Jesus is crucified during a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuary of Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico March 28, 2013. The students are part of a youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, New Mexico which re-enacts the Stations of the Cross every year. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.REUTERS/Brian Snyder
A student playing the role of Mary holds a man playing the role of her son Jesus after he was crucified during a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuary of Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico March 28, 2013. The students are part of a youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, New Mexico which re-enacts the Stations of the Cross every year. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.
A student playing the role of Mary holds a man playing the role of her son Jesus after he was crucified during a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuary of Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico March 28, 2013. The students are part of a youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, New Mexico which re-enacts the Stations of the Cross every year. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.REUTERS/Brian Snyder
DATE IMPORTED:March 29, 2013A student playing the role of Mary holds a man playing the role of her son Jesus after he was crucified during a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuary of Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico March 28, 2013. The students are part of a youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, New Mexico which re-enacts the Stations of the Cross every year. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.
DATE IMPORTED:March 29, 2013A student playing the role of Mary holds a man playing the role of her son Jesus after he was crucified during a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuary of Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico March 28, 2013. The students are part of a youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, New Mexico which re-enacts the Stations of the Cross every year. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.REUTERS/Brian Snyder
tudents playing the roles of Roman soldiers lead a man playing the role of Jesus (C) during a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuary of Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico March 28, 2013. The students are part of a youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, New Mexico which re-enacts the Stations of the Cross every year. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.
tudents playing the roles of Roman soldiers lead a man playing the role of Jesus (C) during a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuary of Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico March 28, 2013. The students are part of a youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, New Mexico which re-enacts the Stations of the Cross every year. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Renato Cunanan, 48, who portrays Jesus Christ, looks at the nail in his palm on a wooden cross during a Good Friday crucifixion re-enactment in San Juan village, Pampanga province, north of Manila March 29, 2013. The Roman Catholic church frowns on the gory spectacle held in the Philippine village of Cutud every Good Friday but that does nothing to deter the faithful from emulating the suffering of Christ and taking a painful route to penitents. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.
Renato Cunanan, 48, who portrays Jesus Christ, looks at the nail in his palm on a wooden cross during a Good Friday crucifixion re-enactment in San Juan village, Pampanga province, north of Manila March 29, 2013. The Roman Catholic church frowns on the gory spectacle held in the Philippine village of Cutud every Good Friday but that does nothing to deter the faithful from emulating the suffering of Christ and taking a painful route to penitents. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
Rolly Pantajo, 58, who portrays Jesus Christ, is being laid down after he was nailed on a wooden cross during a Good Friday crucifixion re-enactment in San Juan village, Pampanga province, north of Manila March 29, 2013. The Roman Catholic church frowns on the gory spectacle held in the Philippine village of Cutud every Good Friday but that does nothing to deter the faithful from emulating the suffering of Christ and taking a painful route to penitents. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.
Rolly Pantajo, 58, who portrays Jesus Christ, is being laid down after he was nailed on a wooden cross during a Good Friday crucifixion re-enactment in San Juan village, Pampanga province, north of Manila March 29, 2013. The Roman Catholic church frowns on the gory spectacle held in the Philippine village of Cutud every Good Friday but that does nothing to deter the faithful from emulating the suffering of Christ and taking a painful route to penitents. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
Renato Cunanan, 48, who portrays Jesus Christ, is nailed on a wooden cross during a Good Friday crucifixion re-enactment in San Juan village, Pampanga province, north of Manila March 29, 2013. The Roman Catholic church frowns on the gory spectacle held in the Philippine village of Cutud every Good Friday but that does nothing to deter the faithful from emulating the suffering of Christ and taking a painful route to penitents. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.
Renato Cunanan, 48, who portrays Jesus Christ, is nailed on a wooden cross during a Good Friday crucifixion re-enactment in San Juan village, Pampanga province, north of Manila March 29, 2013. The Roman Catholic church frowns on the gory spectacle held in the Philippine village of Cutud every Good Friday but that does nothing to deter the faithful from emulating the suffering of Christ and taking a painful route to penitents. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
Ruben Enaje, 52, who will portray Jesus Christ for the 27th time, tests a three-inch nail on his feet which he will use on a Good Friday crucifixion re-enactment in San Pedro Cutud town, Pampanga province, north of Manila March 29, 2013. The Roman Catholic church frowns on the gory spectacle held in the Philippine village of Cutud every Good Friday but that does nothing to deter the faithful from emulating the suffering of Christ and taking a painful route to penitence. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.
Ruben Enaje, 52, who will portray Jesus Christ for the 27th time, tests a three-inch nail on his feet which he will use on a Good Friday crucifixion re-enactment in San Pedro Cutud town, Pampanga province, north of Manila March 29, 2013. The Roman Catholic church frowns on the gory spectacle held in the Philippine village of Cutud every Good Friday but that does nothing to deter the faithful from emulating the suffering of Christ and taking a painful route to penitence. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
Ruben Enaje, 52, who will portray as Jesus Christ for the 27th time, shows three-inch nail which he will use on a Good Friday crucifixion re-enactment in San Pedro Cutud town, Pampanga province, north of Manila March 29, 2013. The Roman Catholic church frowns on the gory spectacle held in the Philippine village of Cutud every Good Friday but that does nothing to deter the faithful from emulating the suffering of Christ and taking a painful route to penitence. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.
Ruben Enaje, 52, who will portray as Jesus Christ for the 27th time, shows three-inch nail which he will use on a Good Friday crucifixion re-enactment in San Pedro Cutud town, Pampanga province, north of Manila March 29, 2013. The Roman Catholic church frowns on the gory spectacle held in the Philippine village of Cutud every Good Friday but that does nothing to deter the faithful from emulating the suffering of Christ and taking a painful route to penitence. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco