Pampanga ‘Kristo’ ending painful penance in 2 years
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — Ruben Enaje, who will be nailed to the cross for the 32nd time on Good Friday since 1986, has set the final day when he will cease his painful penance.
“I’m ending it on 2020. That’s two years from now,” said Enaje, 57, a billboard painter who has been undertaking what many consider one of the most significant religious events here during Holy Week.
But age, work, the heavy weight of his wooden cross and wounds on the hands and feet have taken a toll on his health.
“Susuku ne ing katauan ku (My body is beginning to give up),” he said.
The cross weighs 37 kilograms of hardwood. Enaje carries it as he reprises the role of “Kristo” (Jesus Christ) in the street theater production of Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) in Barangay San Pedro Cutud in this Pampanga capital.
The play, written by the late Ricardo Navarro, was first staged in 1955. Over 1,000 men bloody their backs by whipping, in an old rite called “mandarame” (flagellation).
“The pain on my right shoulder lasts for three months,” Enaje said, without a tinge of complaint.
The steel nails leave gaping wounds as big as a peso coin. Nails for the hands are 3 inches long. Nails for the feet span
6 inches because these are pounded onto one foot crossed over the other.
Enaje said he had completed his vow to be crucified every Holy Week on the 27th year. The first nine years beginning 1986, were his way of thanking God for surviving a fall from a three-story building.
The next nine years of gory penance were to pray for a cure for his daughter, Ejay, who suffered from asthma.
The third set of crucifixions was for the healing of Enaje’s wife, Juanita, who had a painful lump on her jaw.
Decent, honest life
Village leaders asked Enaje to continue his annual sacrifice since they said they could not find his suitable replacement.
The next man to be crucified should have lived a decent and honest life, standards that the pioneer penitent, Artemio Anoza, set when he began the real-life crucifixion in San Pedro Cutud.
“I will be 60 when I end my crucifixion. Two years will give our village leaders a chance to look for my replacement or for a fellow penitent to reform his ways,” Enaje said.
Apart from Enaje, Victor Caparas and Roland Ocampo are the last men to suffer from the cross.
“When I will be nailed to the cross on Good Friday, I shall thank God for helping me persist with [my annual] crucifixions. I shall ask God to keep showering me and my family with blessings. I shall pray for our community, that everyone who is poor shall be helped by government,” Enaje said.