Tap ‘Philippines’ and ‘Crucifixion’ into your computer and you will have no difficulty finding gruesome and disturbing images of men nailed to crosses, surrounding by rubber-necking tourists and locals determined to party.
Passion Plays and pageants are common throughout the Christian world in the week before Easter. In the Philippines, these bloody re-enactments of the passion of Jesus Christ have become notorious because they are so literal.
During Holy Week, hooded penitents walk the barrios, scourging themselves with whips until their blood runs into the dust.
On Holy Friday, dozens carry heavy wooden crosses through the streets. A chosen few are part of well-rehearsed pageants, which follow the 14 Stations of the Cross to a makeshift Calvary where three crosses are erected. The ‘nailings’ then begin.
For Westerners, sneering at a ritual they see as a mixture of religious kitsch, Big-Brother voyeurism and medieval mortification rites, conducted by the poor and ignorant, is the easy option.
Scott Wurth’s revealing documentary ‘PANATA’ (The Pledge) resolutely goes behind the clichés. Over five years, the Australian film-maker visited Pampanga province during Holy Week. By filming widely and speaking to everyone, from bishops and priests to the inmates of a local prison, a more complex and thought-provoking view of the practices emerges.
They will not easily give it up.25 min