At least 24 penitents were nailed to crosses in the Philippines on Friday in an annual re-enactment of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.
Hundreds more whipped their backs bloody as penance or thanksgiving throughout the predominantly Catholic country on Good Friday, which marks the day Jesus died on the cross.
Thousands of devotees and tourists flocked to San Fernando city in Pampanga province, 60 kilometres north of Manila, to witness the highlight of Easter celebrations in the Philippines, where more than80 per cent of the estimated 94 million people are Roman Catholic.
Wilfredo Salvador, a 57-year-old fishpond worker, said he began tojoin the crucifixions seven years ago as thanksgiving "for all the miracles" in his life.
"I also want to atone for my sins," he said after 7.5-centimetrenails were hammered to his palms in the village of San Juan. "God has been good to me and I want to thank him." Salvador said he would have himself crucified every year for as long as he can: "I will accept whatever the Lord gives me and I will sacrifice as long as my strength allows me." Three other men were nailed to crosses before Salvador in San Juan. In the adjacent villages of San Jose and Santa Lucia, a total of six men joined the ritual.
In San Pedro Cutud village, the main venue for the crucifixions,14 men were nailed to the crosses one after another on a hill in a vacant lot.
Ruben Enaje, a 52-year-old painter, led the crucifixions for the26th time since first joining in 1986 as thanksgiving for surviving a dangerous fall at work.
"I was grateful for not suffering at all after the fall that I had decided to be nailed on cross," he said.
The Roman Catholic Church frowns on the bloody rituals and has urged devotees to instead participate in masses, vigils and other official celebrations in their parishes.
Archbishop Jose Palma, head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, urged devotees to focus on meditation and prayer during the Holy Week instead of doing extreme forms of penance.
"We hope that little by little, all devotees will follow the real spirit of Holy Week, which is our repentance and the celebration that God's son saved us from sin," he said.