Philippine Island Times Adventures of an American expat in the Philippines

September 17, 2008

Via Crucis

Filed under: General — Donald @ 5:59 pm

Materials: nails, blood, sweat

Filipinos identify strongly with Christ crucified. When devotees in San Fernando, Pampanga commemorate the Passion on Good Friday, one of the penitents is nailed hands and feet to a cross.


Christianity was brought to the Philippines by Spain, which subjugated the islands for about 300 years. Filipino revolutionaries were jubilant when the Americans drove the Spanish out in 1898, until the American guns turned against them. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, most of them civilians, died in the Filipino-American war. Next the Japanese came, subjecting the population to cruelty that some elders here still cannot forgive. Again the people were grateful when American military power drove out their oppressors, never mind that American bombing destroyed nearly every major structure in Manila in the process. Filipinos officially gained independence in 1946. Power and wealth remain concentrated in the hands of a few dozen families, however, while for the average Filipino each day is a struggle for existence.


Natural disasters accompany the man-made ones; typhoons and the flooding and mudslides that they bring, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions like the enormous one of Mt. Pinatubo that finally drove the American Air Force from their base at Clark in 1991. The following April, in the ash and lahar, the people of San Fernando observed Good Friday in their traditional way.

[Photos from Museo ng Sining, Manila. The cleaning girl is singing very sweetly downstairs as I write this.]

1 Comment »

  1. In response to email:

    1) My understanding is that the the crucified in Pampanga say they are obeying communications from God that they received in visions. They are volunteers. The Catholic Church hierarchy here is critical of their practice.

    2) No, I haven’t had any real interaction with the wealthy elite.

    3) Yes, the wealthy are different. They have more money. (From whom did I steal that? Can’t remember.)

    Comment by Donald — October 4, 2008 @ 9:28 am

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