With no acceptable substitute in sight, signboard maker Ruben Enaje will continue to play the part of Jesus Christ in a 52-year-old street play and have himself nailed on the cross in Barangay San Pedro Cutud for the 27th straight year.
Enaje, 51, has been asked to extend his panata (religious vow) “for as long as his body can endure,” the Cutud village chief, Remigio de la Cruz, told the Inquirer at the weekend.
De la Cruz said one man had signified his willingness to take Enaje’s place but the man “has habits that are not pleasing to God.”
“The devout Catholics among our village mates are offended by this man,” De la Cruz said, declining to identify him or elaborate on his habits to avoid any quarrel with the man or his family.
No romantic escapades
Aside from Enaje, there are four men who perform real-life crucifixions here.
The rite in Cutud, begun in 1961 and carried out at noon on Good Friday, accepts penitents regardless of their religion, gender, education or social status, according to De la Cruz.
However, the local “Christ” coming from among residents should lead a good Christian life “to be a good example to the children and the youth,” he said.
Enaje does not gamble, use illegal drugs or have any extramarital affairs, De la Cruz said. “He’s a family man. He takes care of his family well. He helps his neighbors, too,” he added.
For daughter and wife
Enaje said he agreed to take the role of Christ for one more year. “I don’t know if my hands and feet can endure more nailing,” he said.
He believes he is the only Filipino who has taken the vow this long.
Enaje’s first nine crucifixions, beginning in 1986, were acts of gratitude after he fell from a three-story building he was painting in Tarlac City in 1985 and came through without any wounds, fracture or internal bleeding.
He stretched the devotion for another nine years to seek good health for his eldest daughter. He devoted the next nine for his wife’s healing.
“Every time he plans to end his vow he gets sick,” said Enaje’s wife, Juanita.
De la Cruz said about 15 men were expected to be nailed on three wooden crosses in Cutud’s Purok Cuatro. The crosses have been mounted on a hill made out of volcanic sediments spewed out by Mt. Pinatubo.
All mandarame (flagellants) gather below this hill before the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) ends with the arrival of Enaje and an entire cast that includes those playing the parts of the Apostle John, the Virgin Mary and the centurions.
Enaje and two penitents are the first to be nailed. Sets of three men are “crucified” in batches.
Crowds watching the ritual can reach up to 50,000 or more—a security nightmare for the police and village guards.
Expression of faith
The Archdiocese of San Fernando has prohibited crucifixions, flagellations and other painful acts of penance.
Still, people persist in performing the rituals because these are considered forms of devotion, sacrifices or an expression of faith, Anril Tiatco said in his research work entitled “Ang Ritwal ng Pagpapako sa Krus: Panata at Dulaan sa Bawat Turok ng Pako (The Ritual of Nailing on the Cross: Faith and Theater in Every Piercing of the Nail).”
Tiatco’s study was cited as the best research work in the College of Arts and Letters’ graduate program in 2006 at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.