The Penitents of Cutud

One of the oddest Holy Week tradition I have witnessed was the reenactment of the Crucifixion, in San Fernando, Pampanga. I went there to see it one Good Friday a few years ago, more out of morbid curiosity than religious duty. 

The reenactment, done in a small village called San Pedro Cutud, has become a sort of a gory sixty-year old tradition. It is not a sanctioned Roman Catholic Church rite, but more of a folk-Catholicism thing. The church actually frowns upon the practice. 

Scores of men - young and old alike, walk the streets barefooted in scorching heat, lashing themselves with whips spiked with bits of broken glass and nails. They splatter blood on themselves and to onlookers everytime the whips snap to strike their bare skin. My white shirt looked like a star map because of these splattered blood when I stood too close to them. 

The kristo carrying the cross to the hill where he will be crucified
The climax of the reenactment was the actual crucifixion of a volunteer, called a kristo, who walked to the small hill carrying the cross upon his back, with people in Roman soldier costumes milling about.

The crucifixion

The gasps from the audience - more than 80 thousand in all - were just as audible as the scream of the man when the stainless steel nails were driven into his palms and feet. 

A flagellant succumbs
How to get there:
Take a bus to San Fernando, Pampanga from Cubao (almost all buses going north pass through the city). From San Fernando, take a jeepney from the bus station to the public market  then take a calesa or tricycle to the village of San Pedro Cutud. 

The rite is only done during Good Fridays, and the crucifixion starts at about 1 pm. Bring a change of clothes, hat/umbrella and bottled water.

[Pardon the graphic images.]


  1. Ouch! That looked painful! But I wanted to see that sometime!


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