It's Good Friday, which means it's time for the Philippines' annual bloody ritual: Devotees in northern villages had themselves nailed to wooded crosses to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as thousands of local and foreign spectators watched. Church leaders and health officials in Asia's largest Roman Catholic nation have spoken against the practice, which mixes Roman Catholic devotion with folk belief, but the annual rites continue to draw participants and huge crowds, particularly in northern Pampanga province.
Devotees undergo the crucifixions in the belief that such extreme sacrifices are a way to atone for their sins, attain miracle cures for illnesses, or give thanks to God. Sign painter Ruben Enaje, 53, had himself nailed to a cross at a dusty mound in Pampanga's San Pedro Cutud village for the 28th year. Men dressed as Roman soldiers hammered stainless steel nails into his palms and feet, as a crowd of onlookers stood with cameras ready to capture his and other penitents' agony. Lasse Spang Olsen, a 48-year-old filmmaker from Denmark, also had himself nailed to a cross, joining Enaje and eight other Filipino devotees. He grimaced in pain as nails pierced his hands and feet. After being helped down from the cross, he said of his experience: "Fantastic, you should try it." (Read more crucifiction stories.)