Pampanga painter to be crucified for 33rd time
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines — Ruben Enaje is not yet throwing away his steel nails or white robe. On April 19, Good Friday, he is going to be crucified, his 33rd time to do the painful practice, as his thanksgiving offering as well as sacrifice.
The 58-year-old billboard and house painter will act the part of Jesus Christ in the play “Via Crucis” (Way of the Cross) that is staged on the streets of Barangay San Pedro Cutud in this Pampanga capital every Good Friday.
Real-life crucifixion takes place here as penitents perform their version of Calvary between the boundaries of San Fernando and Bacolor town.
More than 10,000 “mandarame” (flagellants) turn the roads of Cutud bloody as they wound and lash their back on the way to a hill in time for the death of Christ at 3 p.m.
“I will have myself nailed to the cross again. I wish I could stop next year but Allan [Navarro] has disapproved of it,” Enaje said on Sunday.
Navarro directs the play that is based on the Kapampangan script written by his grandfather, Ricardo. The play was first staged in 1955, or seven years ahead of the crucifixion in Cutud by faith healer Artemio Anoza in 1962.
“I will be nearing 60 years old and my body can only take so much pain,” said Enaje, who took to the cross for the first time in 1986 as a way of thanking God for surviving a 1985 fall from a three-story building without any scratch or internal bleeding.
Navarro said Enaje must continue being Cutud’s Kristo—for the crucifixion and play—because he and the village chief, Remegio de la Cruz, have not found a suitable replacement.
“Others are not deserving because they do it for money,” Navarro told the Inquirer.
For Enaje, what began as a nine-year rite of thanksgiving turned into offerings of sacrifice.
The next nine years were for seeking help for the cure of his daughter, Ejay, from asthma. The third round was for the healing of his wife Juanita who had a painful lump on her jaw. They had been healed.
After completing a total of 27 years, Enaje extended the sacrifice for another six years, saying it was a “welcome burden that I bear for the sake of the community.”
“I tell the Lord this is my way of joining him in pain but I know I cannot equate the torture and humiliation he underwent,” Enaje said. He also prays for political leaders.
“I hope the Lord awakens them so that they can pull many Filipinos out of poverty and hunger,” he said.
He urged visitors to come as “pilgrims,” pointing out that the Cutud crucifixion and street play are “not spectacles but expressions of faith.”
Crosses on Cutud hill
Crucifixion is also practiced in the nearby Barangay Santa Lucia but the crowd-drawer is still Cutud because of Enaje.
The black cross weighs 37 kilograms of hardwood. This is raised together with two smaller crosses at noon on Good Friday on a hill made of lahar in Purok Kuatro here.
Enaje is nailed first. A pair of nails, three inches each, pierces his palms. The spots are left with gaping wounds as big as a peso coin.
The nail on the feet is six inches long, enough length to cover when one foot is over the other.
The risks of severe bleeding, being paralyzed for life or suffering from a bone fracture are always present. Thankfully the guy who hammers the nails never loses sight of the exact spot where to drive those.
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