SAN FERNANDO, PAMPANGA, APRIL 25, 2011 (STAR) By Ric Sapnu [Photographers and tourists take pictures of Precy Valencia, one of five penitents nailed to the cross in Paombong, Bulacan on Good Friday. ERNIE PE√ĎAREDONDO]

A total of 27 penitents were nailed to the cross in Pampanga and Bulacan on Good Friday.

Twenty-two were crucified in Barangays San Juan, Sta. Lucia and San Pedro Cutud here.

Five more, including two women, were nailed to the cross in Barangay Kapitangan in Paombong, Bulacan.

Pampanga provincial tourism office chief Ching Pangilinan said the nailing began at 9 a.m. with three penitents in San Juan while three more were nailed to the cross in Sta. Lucia an hour later.

Sixteen more penitents were nailed in San Pedro Cutud in the afternoon.

The event is a reenactment of Christ's crucifixion, a tradition practiced here since 1955 with the staging of the "Via Crucis" or the Way of the Cross.

In Paombong, 22-year-old Wendelyn Pedrosa was the first woman to be crucified.

She was followed by Precy Valencia, a 50-year old mother who works as a house help and high-speed sewer in Manila.

Valencia said she has been participating in the Way of the Cross for 30 years.

Via Crucis was first performed 57 years ago by volunteer artists in San Pedro Cutud in Pampanga. But it was only in 1962 that an actual crucifixion was witnessed during the play and Artemio Anoza, a resident of Apalit town, played out the part.

Anoza was an "albularyo" who wanted to become a religious leader and full-fledged healer. He volunteered to be crucified to attain his dream.

In this year's rites 50-year-old Ruben Enaje of San Pedro Cutud played the main character of Christ to be crucified in their village. This was Enaje's 25th year to be crucified at the same site.

Enaje, the most known among the penitents to be nailed to the cross, said this is his religious vow of thanking God for surviving an accident.

Enaje said he would do this for two more years before he retires.

Another penitent was Hernando Mangun, 41, from Sta. Lucia who was crucified for the 17th time.

Manun, a jeepney barker, said he would not stop his vow until some Good Samaritan would come his way to help his ailing son.

During the crucifixion some of the penitents fainted due to the heat and had to be carried by stretcher to be taken to the hospital.

City police chief Superintendent Homer Penecilla said more than 200 policemen were deployed to provide security to some 30,000 local and foreign tourists who witnessed the crucifixions.

Every year on Good Friday penitents - mostly men - are taken to a rice field in San Pedro Cutud and nailed to a cross using two-inch stainless steel nails soaked in alcohol to disinfect them.

The penitents are taken down when they feel cleansed of their sins. Other penitents flagellate themselves using bamboo sticks tied to a rope.

The Catholic Church does not approve of the crucifixions and whippings, reiterating there is no need for corporal punishment to show one's faith.

Fr. Rolando de Leon, of the Fatima parish church in Marilao town, said there are other ways to show penance.

He said what flagellants are doing contradicts the Church's teachings.

Even as the Catholic Church condemns the practice, the crucifixions and whippings are tourist attractions.

In the nearby town of Sto. Tomas, tourists stayed on to witness the pomp and pageantry of the Easter commemoration in the town.

The event will highlight the "Salubong," the first meeting between the Virgin Mother and the Risen Christ. The event is spiced up with a "puso-puso" - a multi-layered heart-shaped funnel resembling an inverted flower - that opens up after each chanting of the "Regina Caeli Laetare."

Confetti and petals rain down on the image of the mourning Virgin Mother until a little girl dressed as an angel descends to take off the black veil. At this point, the curtain that separates the Mother and her Risen Son is opened for their joyful "Salubong" or meeting.

The procession ends in the church for a Mass. By noon, the faithful will congregate at the churchyard to burn the effigy of Judas Iscariot.

Town officials also added a special event called "Sabuaga," where flower petals and confetti rain on the processional route around the town square as revelers join in the street dancing. - With Dino Balabo, Ding Cervantes

Pope stresses Biblical account of creation in Easter Vigil homily By AP (The Philippine Star) Updated April 25, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (0)

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI marked the holiest night of the year for Christians by stressing that humanity isn't a random product of evolution.

Benedict emphasized the Biblical account of creation in his Easter Vigil homily Saturday, saying it was wrong to think at some point "in some tiny corner of the cosmos there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it."

"If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature," he said. "But no, reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine reason."

Church teaching holds that Roman Catholicism and evolutionary theory are not necessarily at odds: A Christian can, for example, accept the theory of evolution to help explain developments, but is taught to believe that God, not random chance, is the origin of the world. The Vatican, however, warns against creationism, or the overly literal interpretation of the Biblical account of creation.

Benedict's voice was hoarse and he coughed several times during the three-hour service, which ended after midnight. It was the second late night in a row for the 84-year-old pontiff following his participation in the Good Friday Way of the Cross procession at Rome's Colosseum, which commemorates Jesus' death.

On Sunday, he celebrates Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square and gives his traditional Easter greetings in dozens of languages - his last major celebration before next week's beatification of Pope John Paul II.

The Easter Vigil is the most important liturgy on the church's calendar, when the faithful mark the passage from Christ's death to his resurrection on Easter Sunday. It is rich with symbols: fire and light signifying Jesus' resurrection, and the water used to baptize people into the faith.

On Saturday night, Benedict baptized six adults from Switzerland, Albania, Russia, Peru, Singapore and China, pouring water over their heads as he prayed.

Benedict began the service by lighting a candle and walking down a darkened central aisle of St. Peter's Basilica in silence, while hundreds of faithful in the pews shared the flame from candle to candle until the entire basilica twinkled.

This year, students of the Legion of Christ, the conservative order undergoing a major Vatican-mandated overhaul, provided the liturgical service at the vigil. The Vatican took over the Legion last May 1 after confirming its founder was a pedophile.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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