A total of eight Filipinos were nailed to crosses to reenact the Passion of the Christ and indeed his suffering in the strange jamboree that is the Cutud Lenten Rites Festival of the Philippines.
The real-time crucifixions occur in the small village of Cutud, San Fernando in Pampanga province – a place usually more famous for the slightly darker nightlife of Angeles City, rather than religious piety and suffering.
Who got crucified?
In total twelve people registered to be crucified, with eight being granted permission in the first event held since 2019, when the first woman was allowed to get nailed. Alas no women were to take part this year in what can only be seen as a step back for wokeness in the Catholic Church.
The 2023 Cutud Lenten Rites festival saw the return of the most famous devotee Ruben Enaje, a 62 year old who has been nailed to the cross a record 34 times. Rumors have persisted that he’s paid to do this, something he denied to The News of The World stating “I do this for devotion only”.
In a news conference after this he added that he was also praying for an end to Covid-19, as well as the war in Ukraine. Whether his nailing helps or not is yet to be seen.
The 2023 Cutud Lenten Rites Festival
And while some media outlets describe the whole affair as gruesome, to macabre, which to an extent it is, that really does not tell the whole story. The day starts for most around 5 am, with the streets around San Fernando full of people whipping and self flagellating themselves in their own act of penitence, as well as small plays reenacting the passion.
And this all leads into the main event arena, which has a VIP section, a media area, medical facilities and the kind of things you would find at a fete, or festival. Yes there is blood and gore, but there is also t-shirts for sale, street food, drinks and the overall feeling of family friendly joy.
The whole affair in general reflects the rather unique paradox that is the Filippino brand of Catholicism. Filipinos in general tend to be extremely superstitious, with the festival often being taken part in by those of a lower social stature in order to not only atone for sin, but also gain good grace with the big fella
Church leaders in the country have of course frowned upon the practice, saying there are better ways to show their faith, such as abstinence from sex, or charity work, but the event goes on regardless.
Human rights activists have stated that it is more evidence of the Catholic Church being out of touch and not educating Filipinos, but for a wider context they are also still advising abstinence and are against contraception. The Philippines has the highest percentage of one parent families in South-East Asia.
To read about religion in the Philippines click here.
The event though is now a real thing, with the government having to issue a yearly health advisory for a “safe crucifixion”, with the Cutud event merely being the biggest, rather than only one happening in the country.
And the 2023 Cutud Lenten Rites Festival brought in the tourists…
Organizers estimated that there were over 15,000 people at the event and while the majority were locals, there were also a large contingent of not only foreign press, but also foreign tourists.
Speaking to the News of the World, Ravi Mistry of Young Pioneer Tours, an operator that has been organizing tours to the event for 10 years stated “People come because it is so unique. There are festivals around the world, like the Mass Games, the Rio Carnival, The Mount Hagen Festival, or indeed the Cutud Lenten Rites festival, where you can only know what it is truly about by going yourself”.
To read about the Mount Hagen Festival click here
One of the 15 tourists from 8 countries that he brought was Simpsons writer Michael Reiss who also has a travel Podcast who stated he wanted “To see it for real and in person”.
So, while the Catholic Church might not like it, as it continues to draw more tourists and media year on year, people getting nailed to crosses in the Philippines is not going anywhere soon…
To read about a tour to the Cutud Lenten Rites festival click here.