Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Tradition in the Philippines

You might have heard of this weird, gruesome Easter, specifically Good Friday tradition from the Philippines. Self flagellation. It is what it sounds like: men whipping themselves. I witnessed this in person many times, and for some reason I just recalled it now.

I'm positive that this tradition is carried out mainly in Luzon, specifically in Pampanga and its surrounding areas: the province my dad hails from and where I spent most of my childhood. On Good Friday, many half naked, hooded men begin to strike their own backs with whips that are laden with glass shards. This would start sometime in the morning, and after 20 minutes or so of whipping, their backs begin to get bloody. The chorus of whips smacking men's backs is eerie. I recall Easter of 1995, when self flagellers began their journey in a field right by our old house. I remember watching the process from the start, as I was infatuated with it. After a certain time, when their backs are adequately bloody, the hooded men would march to a meeting place, and I was not allowed to go, although many followed the procession. I remember as they were walking by, I was splattered with blood, as I got too close to the line of men...

This was a mean of repentence. These men attempt to experience the tribulations that Christ went through on that day. For some, the journey starts with self flagellation. Some continue on and bear a cross and a select few even go as far as being crucified. I don't question their motives or logic, I only want to tell about it. This is not an act that is found all over the Philippines and the government has even warned against this practice to prevent infectious outbreaks.

My cousins tell me that Pampanga is a conservative province, and I did observe that fact when I visited over the summer. Perhaps this is why this act happens every Good Friday..