Penitencia

PhotographerCARLOS L. ESGUERRA
PrizeBronze in Deeper Perspective / Deeper Perspective
Entry Description

PENITENCIA “Penitencia”, or penance is a tradition practiced all over the Philippines during “Santa Semana”, or Holy Week. It is a carryover from the Christian traditions of Spain, its former colonizer. For one week, the whole country is in a somber mood, turning inward and reflecting on their conscience. Offices and shops are closed. Families gather together in churches to remember Christ’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection. On Good Friday, many devotees parade around town depicting the sacrifices of Christ as He carries the cross while being whipped and mocked by men dressed as Roman soldiers. By three o’clock in the afternoon, they re-enact the crucifixion of Christ. In some towns, they physically nail to a wooden cross the hands of a devotee. At night during the religious procession, devotees carry the “amba”, or the dead body of Christ, while others follow the procession flagellating themselves with metal whips until their backs are raw and bleeding. Unfortunately, the religious aspect of the tradition has become a tourist attraction. Towns and cities are competing with each other for visitors and tourists to the point where the most gory realistic nailing of penitents on a cross have become prevalent. The practice runs counter to the main doctrine of Christianity that salvation is not earned through good works or self- flagellation, but by faith in Christ who died to wash the sins of the world by the blood he shed on the cross. I am not sure if the flagellants are even aware of this Christian tenet.