SAN PEDRO CUTUD, Philippines – Christian devotees were nailed to crosses on a dusty mound in a northern Philippine village where Good Friday rites drew thousands of tourists and spectators.
The Lenten ritual is opposed by religious leaders in the Philippines — Southeast Asia's largest predominantly Roman Catholic nation — but it has become one of the country's most-awaited summer attractions in San Fernando City's San Pedro Cutud village, about 45 miles north of Manila.
Seven devotees were nailed to crosses in the re-enactment of Jesus Christ's final hours.
The devotees — whose palms and feet were secured to wooden crosses with four-inch nails soaked in alcohol to prevent infection — were nailed up after a 1 mile walk to the mound, each carrying a wooden cross on their backs.
Among the yearly penitents in San Pedro Cutud was Ruben Enaje, a 46-year-old commercial sign maker, who was nailed to the cross for the 21st time on Friday.
Earlier in the day, dozens of half-naked men hit their bloodied backs with bamboo sticks dangling from a rope in a flagellation rite meant to atone for sins.
"They take this religion to the extreme," observed Gomas de Miguel, a tourist from Spain. "In Spain, we say we are Catholics, but we don't do this anymore, I think."
"It's not my belief, but I know that they are sincere in what they are doing so I respect it," said American tourist Dennis Smith.
More than 100 foreign tourists flocked to this year's Good Friday rites, with many seated on a stage at the side of the dirt mound, police officer Romeo de la Pena said.