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Flagellation: Lent in the Philippines
The art of mortification has become a bit of a show
Diana Rueda (diane89)     Print Article 
Published 2008-03-23 06:41 (KST)   
©2008 Diana Rueda

On Wednesday, a day before the four-day Easter holiday began in the Philippines, a Roman Catholic bishop in Pampanga province exhorted Filipinos not to turn Holy Week into a circus with displays of flagellation -- seemingly to no avail.

Lent is the commemoration of the suffering, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a 40-day-ling observance (excluding Sundays) that begins on Ash Wednesday, which was on Feb. 6 this year, and ends with Easter Sunday. As Catholics see this season as a time for personal conversion and atonement, various acts redemption are committed by the faithful.

Around the world the devout and non-devout alike flock to churches for confessions and prayers like novenas and the Way of the Cross. Penance and sacrifices such as abstaining from eating meat and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also observed.

A penitent rests from whipping as he kneels inside St. Joseph Cathedral, Balanga City, Bataan.
©2008 Diana Rueda

In the Philippines, penitents have enacted a much greater mortification on Good Friday since the Spanish era -- flagellation.

Flagellation (penitensya in Filipino) is an extreme act of mortification in which the penitent scourges himself by whipping his own flesh. This art of mortifying was popular in the Catholic Church during the 13th and 14th centuries but was later condemned.

Despite the condemnation of flagellation by the Catholic church, many of its devout still practice this extreme form of self mortification every Good Friday in various countries with a dominant Catholic population. As in the Philippines, flagellants first cut their backs with a blade or knife then begin whipping their backs with bamboo-tipped burillos as the blood flows out of their wounds.

©2008 Diana Rueda

Practiced since the Spanish era, flagellation has become a part of the Philippine's culture and tradition. But that does not mean that the goal of flagellation is being achieved.

As the years passed flagellation has become an entertainment. Today, it is a must-see show every Good Friday. People flock to the streets waiting for the penitents to pass by as they mimic the struggle and piety of Christ.

For the past few years, in recognition of the show flagellation has become, the church has urged Catholics to focus on self-atonement and conversion.
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Diana Rueda

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