Friday, July 23, 2010

The Catholic Curse of the Philippines - The Origin

A popular object of religious ridicule for a lot of us atheist bloggers is the annual Good Friday ritual in the Philippines wherein a number of extremely devout Filipino Catholics have themselves crucified in imitation of what they believe to be the sufferings of Jesus Christ.

I did a post last year on this topic, when Australian television personality Jonathan Safran participated in the crucifixion ritual in the Philippine village of Kapitangan and then found himself in trouble when the villagers learned that Safran had himself filmed undergoing the ordeal for a television comedy.

As I have remarked in previous posts, a lot of Filipinos are hard core in their Catholicism. It is quite common to see a small area of the house set aside for displaying all kinds of religious paraphernalia such as pictures of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, as well as candles and other such items. When Filipinos buy a new home, they have a priest perform a house blessing ceremony. In my wife's hometown of Tagbilaran on the island of Bohol, nearly all the jeepneys and tricycles have religious themed stickers or signs on their backs.

So, how did things end up this way?

Recently, I read a book about the voyage of the Portuguese navigator Magellan, who in the service of King Charles of Spain, attempted to sail west to reach the Spice Islands. The book, Over The Edge Of The World by Lawrence Bergreen, is well written and worth a read. When I read the following passage on page 43, describing the Spanish city of Seville, from whence so many of Spain's expeditions departed, I immediately thought of the Filipino crucifixion rituals:

[Seville] was also a city of faith, the home of the third largest church in the world, after Saint Peter's in Rome and Saint Paul's in London...The flame of the Catholic faith burned most brightly in Seville during Semana Santa, Holy Week, lasting from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, when solemn, almost frightening processions of religious penitents coursed through the city's narrow, winding streets and capacious squares. The penitents walked barefoot over the sharp stones and splinters embedded in the streets, bearing a wooden cross, their feet bleeding, displaying their wounds in emulation.

So, it seems, one can draw a line through time and space, from the village of Kapitangan in the Philippines to the 16th century city of Seville in Spain.


Anonymous said...

Arrgh! "From whence"?! I don't care if dictionaries allow it! It's redundant! "Whence" means "from which"! For some reason this bothers me whenever I see it in print. Almost as much as people using "wherefore" as "where" -- "wherefore art thou Romeo" is not "where are you, Romeo", as you can see if you look at the line in context; she's soliloquizing about how the stranger she loves can't possibly be one of the Montagues with whom her family is feuding, and so she apostrophizes "what about you makes you Romeo Montague [instead of some random stranger about whom nobody in my family would think twice]".

Sorry, just had to let that out. Carry on.

Homar said...

i've seen a hilarious episode of "madaventures" in natgeo channel featuring the crucifixion that you mentioned. although the catholic church is supposedly not officially sanctioning this annual ritual, it is also not overtly discouraged. church leaders here are more interested condemning birth control and the reproductive health bill.

tina FCD said...

I'm happy not to live in the Philippines.

Tommykey said...

Hey Homar! How ya been?

Tina, it's actually a nice place to visit, though it helps if you have family there like I do so you don't feel like a stranger.