No successor: Crucifixion man must do it for 29th time
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines—Still without a successor, signboard maker Ruben Enaje has been obliged to extend his real-life crucifixion act for another year, making the Good Friday reenactment in Barangay San Pedro Cutud in this Pampanga capital on April 3 his 29th year so far.
He said he believed he was fulfilling a community responsibility by playing the part of Christ in the street play. “Playing Christ meant I have to live a life that does not disappoint God. You can’t play Christ and at the same time steal, hurt people, do drugs,” he said, referring to the difficulty of the village council in finding a replacement.
“If the council followed the seniority rule, the next in line would have already taken my place. But the council has prioritized character over succession rules,” he said.
Village chief Zoilo Castro and Allan Navarro, who directs the “Via Crucis” (Way of the Cross) that his grandfather, Ricardo, staged on the streets of Cutud 61 years ago, said they had asked Enaje, 54, to continue his panata (vow).
It should have ended in 2013 when Enaje completed three cycles of nine years each.
Beyond personal intentions
The first nine years of being nailed to the cross starting 1986 were his form of thanksgiving, having survived a fall from the third floor of a building he was painting in Tarlac City.
He took to the cross for nine more years, this time seeking a cure for the asthma of his daughter, Ejay. Never doubting the power of reenacting the excruciating sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Enaje made a third vow, hoping it would cure a painful lump on the jaw of his wife, Juanita.
With his loved ones cured and his entire family, including five grandchildren not missing any meals, Enaje found himself doing the crucifixion more beyond personal intentions.
SAF 44’s eternal peace
“I’m offering it this time for our village chief who is undergoing dialysis,” he said.
Enaje said the eternal peace of the souls of the 44 Special Action Force commandos, who were killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in January, would be in his prayers when he is hoisted on the cross for 10 minutes.
“Like I do in previous years, I will also pray for our country, that those in government would really uplift the lives of very poor Filipinos,” he added.
The Archdiocese of San Fernando is not involved in the selection of men who use crucifixion to atone for sins and seek mercy or favors. It has, in fact, discouraged the practice that is believed to have begun in Cutud 55 years ago through itinerant healer Artemio Anoza.
The village council does not screen penitents either. Navarro’s group chooses cast members who are known to be respected in the community.
Enaje said he was hoping that the council finds an appropriate replacement for him soon because his aging body can not bear further pain.
“The spots on my hands and feet that are pierced yearly get healed in six months but the pain on my right shoulder where I carry a big wooden cross persists year round,” he said.
Health workers in the city who came to check on his condition on March 25 found no broken bones on his hands and feet. He has no hypertension or other ailments either.
To spectators, he repeated this appeal: “I hope they don’t leave at once after the ‘crucifixion.’ I hope they reflect and feel the sufferings of Christ. I hope they join me in praying.”
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