By Ben Cal
MANILA — For the 33rd time since 1986, well-known Filipino penitent, Ruben Enaje, 58, will be nailed on the cross on Good Friday.
In a phone interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Monday, four days prior to his “crucifixion”, Enaje said that he was up and ready to be “crucified” for the 33rd in a row to fulfill the vow he made more than three decades ago “as my expression of self-sacrifice thanking our Lord Jesus Christ for saving my life when I fell to the ground from a three-story building in 1985 unscathed.”
“I slipped from the bamboo I was standing and while I was falling I uttered the words ‘Dios ko!’ (‘My God!’), and the next thing I knew I was on the ground, but fully conscious,” Enaje, now known as the only Filipino penitent being nailed to the cross for the longest time, said.
“It was a miracle I survived the fall without a bone broken. In fact, when I was on the ground, I did not stand up immediately thinking I broke my legs and body, but after a few moments I found out I was okay,” he recalled.
“The near-fatal accident happened while I was painting a signage on the building,” Enaje added.
“I owe my life to Jesus that’s why every Good Friday I have to undergo the crucifixion ritual,” he said.
Enaje said it was only a year after the accident or in 1986 that it entered his mind that he wanted to be nailed on the cross as his self-sacrifice every Good Friday.
“In fact, the first year of my being nailed on the cross, I did not tell my wife and children what I was about to do. They cried when they saw me all bloodied, my head, hands and feet,” Enaje, now 58, said.
“I explained to them and after that they understood,” he said.
The site of the crucifixion is in Burol, a man-made elevated place in Barangay San Pedro Cutud, some three kilometers from the city proper of San Fernando in Pampanga province.
Four nails and the crown of thorns made of steel will be used by a “centurion” during his crucifixion, referred to as “passion play”, where thousands of pilgrims are expected to watch.
“The wooden cross I will carry measures 16 feet long and weighs 37 kilos, and I will walk 1.7 kilometers up to Burol,” he said.
During the walk while carrying the cross, “centurions” in full regalia and holding whips, will hit Enaje and other penitents on the way to “Calvary.”
Enaje recalled that during one of his crucifixions, he was kicked and “I tumbled down the road. The pain was excruciating, but I bore it out.”
He also recalled that in 1991, when Mount Pinatubo in Pampanga erupted, which is now known as the second biggest volcanic eruption in the world in the 20th century, and spewed tons of ashes that circled around the globe, he was unfazed, and continued his annual ritual of being nailed on the cross.
Enaje also said that some four other penitents are expected to be nailed with him on the cross on Good Friday.
The Catholic Church has discouraged penitents from being nailed on the cross on Good Friday.
“We are discouraging that practice because it was only Jesus Christ that made that great sacrifice only once to save mankind from sin,” Rev. Fr. Kit Ramirez, SVD, of St. Jude Parish in Malacañang said when contacted for comment.
Fr. Ramirez said that there is no such kind of a “copycat” being done by humans other than the crucifixion of Christ on Mt. Calvary more than 2,000 years ago.
But despite the Church’s objection to crucifixion performed by some Filipino penitents on Good Friday, quite a handful of them still practice the ritual that has attracted people, not only Filipinos but also foreigners who come to the Philippines to witness penitents being nailed on the cross.
But what is intriguing and even Enaje could not explain is that there are no scars on his palms and feet from the nails that pierced him.
Enaje recalled that when he was four years old, he accompanied his father whipping himself as a flagellant every Good Friday. (PNA)