MANILA – Philippine priests celebrated the Good Friday liturgy through unusual processions without devotees, using megaphones mounted on trucks and accompanied by images of Christ on the cross to comply with the quarantine decreed to contain the novel coronavirus.
With more than 90 million faithful in the Philippines, Easter is the most important feast on the liturgical calendar and is celebrated with fervor in the country with the most Catholics in Asia – more than 80 percent of its population – and third in the world, behind Brazil and Mexico.
Faced with the strict rules of confinement and social distance that govern the country, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Philippines recommended its faithful this year to celebrate Easter rites from their homes and follow the masses through Internet.
This atypical Good Friday, priests from various parishes took to the streets of Manila to celebrate processions without devotees and commemorate the date on which Christ was crucified, as COVID-19 cases reached 4,076, of which 203 have ended in deaths.
The Philippines is known for the extreme and bloody Good Friday rites, when thousands of penitents take to the streets to scourge themselves on long barefoot walks and some even crucify themselves for a few minutes.
Although these popular rites – which do not have the conference’s approval – have been suspended this year, a small group of penitents circumvented the ban on going outside and marched while flogging their backs with whips made of bamboo in Pasay, city south of the metropolitan area of Manila.
According to an EFE-EPA photographer, the police found the procession of penitents, who already had blood on their backs, and took them into a police van.
The city of San Fernando de Pampanga, some 80 kilometers north of Manila, did not commemorate its famous Good Friday, in which Philippine Ruben Enaje has spent 33 years – this year would have been the thirty-fourth time – emulating Christ bearing the cross on which he is later thought to have been crucified.
Enaje, baptized the “Jesus Christ of Pampanga,” was crucified for the first time in 1986, as a sacrifice before God after having survived a fall from a third floor a year earlier without a scratch, something he attributed to a miracle.
Those crucifixions, which have become a tourist attraction, began in the 1950s in the province of Pampanga, but are already being replicated in other Philippine provinces, such as Bulacan, Cebu or Manila.