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Penitents nailed to crosses, whipped in Philippines religious spectacle

Annual event draws thousands of tourists but is discouraged by the Catholic Church.

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Children play on wooden crosses as they mimic the crucifixion in the village of Cutud, in San Fernando, Pampanga province, north of Manila, on April 21, 2011, ahead of the traditional Good Friday Easter celebratations where penintents are nailed to the cross. (Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images)

More than a dozen people have been nailed to crosses in the Philippines in front of thousands of tourists in a controversial annual event to mark Good Friday.

Hundreds more people had their backs whipped until they bled during the grisly religious spectacle re-enacting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the town of Cutud, north of Manila.

The event, held annually despite the disapproval of church leaders in Asia's largest Catholic outpost, saw participants flagellated as they marched to a series of crucifixion sites, AFP said.

Some participants said they wanted to prove their faith by taking part in the event. Others hoped for success in the jueteng, a popular illegal lottery in the Philippines.

"I hope the Lord will grant my wish to make me win big in jueteng this year," food vendor Alex Laranang, 55, told Reuters as two 5-inch nails were driven into his hands.

Construction worker Roli Pantoja, performing his sixth crucifixion, told the news agency: "I feel very fresh, like a new-born baby. I can't feel any pain."

Rolando Tirona, the bishop of Manila, criticized the event, saying it has lost touch with the Church and "verges towards fundamentalism."

"It's become commercialized and priests in the area have been helpless to stop the crucifixions," he told the Jakarta Globe.

Those taking part were unapologetic.

"If they only respected our panata (sacred vows). This comes from the depths of our heart. We are not showing these off, we have our own beliefs," Ruben Enaje told AFP before being nailed to the cross for the 25th year in a row.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/philippines/110422/philippines-crucifixions-catholic-church