10 April 2009

Good Friday Bombing and Crucifixions in the Philippines

Every year at this time both the local media here and the international media have stories about crucifixions in the Philippines on Good Friday.

Typical of these is an Agence France-Press (AFP) story on MSN News today, Flagellants Kick off Easter in the Philippines. Those who take part do so as a penance, but not with the blessing of the Catholic Church.

The AFP story is basically accurate in locating this kind of activity in the province of Pampanga, north of Manila. But one sentence is highly inaccurate: Across this South East Asian archipelago nation of some 90 million of which 85 percent are Catholic the same ritual will be played out in many towns and villages culminating in crucifixions on Good Friday.

That is simply not true. I've been here in the Philippines most of the time since 1971 and have never seen flagellants or people being crucified - none of these die, by the way. Crucifixions are pretty much confined to just one province, as far as I am aware. Some officials try to make them tourist attractions.

Good Friday and All Saints' Day are the only two days in the Philippines when practically every place closes down, though I saw our local McDonalds and Dunkin' Donuts open this morning when I was on my way to and from a funeral. Both of these days are connected with death, as Filipinos anticipate All Souls' Day by going to the cemetery on All Saints' Day.

AFP also has a story this evening on MSN News about a bomb going off early this morning, Good Friday, in Kalamansig, a town in the province of Sultan Kudarat in Mindanao. Mindanao is larger than Ireland, about the size of Iceland. Most Filipinos are islanders in the sense that most mainland British and Irish people are, not in the sense that the people of the Aran Islands in Ireland or the people of the Outer Hebrides in Scotland are considered 'islanders' in that part of the world. I visited Kalamansig about 20 years ago when the parish was run by the Marist Fathers. Thank God that nobody was hurt in this attack.

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