Culture

A SERIOUS LOOK AT PAMPANGA CRUCIFIXION RITES

2 Comments 30 March 2010

A SERIOUS LOOK AT PAMPANGA CRUCIFIXION RITES

By Tonette T. Orejas

City of San Fernando — The ritual of real-life crucifixion in Barangay San Pedro Cutud in this Pampanga city — entering its 48th year on Good Friday, April 1, and practiced by the likes of Ruben Enaje, who holds the longest-record of being nailed on the cross for 23 years — has earned its first academic scrutiny.

The research — Ang Ritwal ng Pagpapako sa Krus: Panata at Dulaan sa Bawat Turok ng Pako (The Ritual of Nailing on the Cross: Faith and Theater in Every Piercing of the Nail) — by Sir Anril Pineda Tiatco earned recognition as the best research in the College of Arts and Letters’ graduate program at the University of the Philippines-Diliman in April 2006.

College dean and National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario and Jimmuel Naval, associate dean for research and publications, cited Tiatco for his “contribution in theater and performance research.”

“(It is) considered to be the first research on the ritual of the nailing on the cross in Cutud (and it is) cited not only in its anthropological merit but also in its in-depth analysis on the important nature and aspects of theater and performance,” Almario and Naval said.

They added: “This research is also a significant instrument in understanding local cultural expression and other central discourses on related fields. Because of its comprehensive and rich analysis of the ritual through the descriptive and narratives of theater and performance, it is recognized as the best research of the year.”

Tiatco, a former seminarian and now an educator and theater artist, said he undertook the two-year study because “I am a Kapampangan.”

“I wanted to understand my own culture. I wanted to understand what we Kapampangan are so proud of in terms of performance and religiosity. I was convinced that more than spectacle and entertainment, something substantial was present in the ritual,” he explained.

Tiatco started with this view and ended up sticking to it: “In a sense, the historicity (of the Cutud crucifixion) isn’t about tourism, politics and media sensation as most people claim. These, among other (reasons), paved the way for me to undergo the ethnography.”

He believed that anthropologist Nicolas Barker “misrepresented” the ritual by “implicitly proclaiming the fatalistic attributes of lowland Christians in Central Luzon.”

“I wasn’t convinced with his arguments especially (because) I am part of the region,” Tiatco pointed out.

Using formal research methods as well as immersion in the village and interactions with those who keep the practice, Tiatco looked from within.

As folks told him, the root of the crucifixion ritual evolved from the rituals of pamagdarame (flagellation) and the street play on Via Crucis (Pasion Y Muerte or The Way of the Cross).

No one could exactly say when flagellation actually started. It is largely practiced by men, who wound their backs and violently whip these to bleed the blood out. The usual reply of old penitents was, “Akagisnan mi namu ini (This was already in practice when we were growing up).”

The late Ricardo Navarro, more popularly known as Tata Legring, wrote the play in 1955, staging it yearly since then with residents as cast of actors in the last hours of Jesus Christ on earth. The play has seen no interruption, continued by his son Ricardo and now by his grandson Allan.

Even a calamitous event like Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991 failed to stop the penitents’ conviction. Tiatco said they performed the crucifixion in October 1991 and did it again in April 1992 as Cutud was all covered with volcanic ash and sand, and inundated by mudflows (lahar) in 1995.

“Both the flagellation and the staging of the Via Crucis have pamamanata (a religious pledge leading to redemptive sacrifice) as an objective,” he said, noting that the same objective continued with the crucifixion.

According to him, the pamamanata aim was present in all its elements: actor, audience, place and text.

Further, the pamamanata was a pact between God and those who keep the pledge.

Mortals hold the vow for the following reasons: To seek petitions and intentions, to pay utang na loob (debt of gratitude) and unburden themselves of bigat ng loob (guilt or remorse).

Tiatco noted that while the ritual was an expression of Catholicism and a literal reenactment of the death of Christ, it is not among the Catholic rites. In fact, it is strongly discouraged by the local Roman Catholic Church.

“This is a ritual by those in Cutud, a modification of Catholicism,” he said.

Their collective expression of their faith gives those in Cutud a faith identity of their own. “Ang pantayong identidad ng pananampalatayang Cutud ay ang sama-samang pagpupugay sa pagkamatay ni Hesus na simbolo ng pagtubos sa sanlibutan na siyang pinakabuod ng pagdiriwang ng Biyernes Santo sa komunidad Katoliko,” Tiatco said.

But the ritual has undergone changes in recent years.

Basically, it has ceased being an exclusive affair by those in Cutud. The Department of Tourism, local government units and travel companies have cashed in on the event, bringing in spectators and devotees from around the country and abroad. Crowd estimates range from 20,000 to 30,000.

The crucifixion has assumed a dual character — a holy ritual and at the same time a show. Because this is so, Tiatco said the Cutud community takes on an identity as a keeper of an old tradition in the context of faith and one that is a modified form of Catholicism.

Photo by Nicholas Barrowclough

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2 Comments so far

  1. louie sison says:

    Hi tonnete!

    thanks for publishing this kind of issue in pampanga. if your want to promote anything in pampanga for free, you can join pampangadirectory.net

    regards and more power!

  2. liberty says:

    i love my own town. sana lalo png mging masanting ing lugar tamu. i miz buro heheh.


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