Cutud's Ritual of Nailing on the Cross: Performance of Pain and Suffering

By Tiatco, Anril Pineda; Bonifacio-Ramolete, Amihan | Asian Theatre Journal, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Cutud's Ritual of Nailing on the Cross: Performance of Pain and Suffering


Tiatco, Anril Pineda, Bonifacio-Ramolete, Amihan, Asian Theatre Journal


This research investigates the ritual nailing on the cross every Good Friday in Cutud, Pampanga, in the Philippines as a local religiocultural performance. It highlights the ritual's evolution and historicity of suffering in the context of panata (religious pledge/ vow), as a characteristic central to the Filipino people since precolonial times. The roots of the ritual can be traced from pamagdarame (flagellation) and the sinakulo (passion play) written by Ricardo Navarro in 1955. Devotees (participants) of pamagdarame and the sinakulo are participating with intentions of panata. The ritual, manifested through a performance of pain and suffering, allows the devotee's inner core (kalooban) via his sacrifice to be one with the Supreme Being. The ritual, which has developed into a multifaceted tradition, is not only a religious occasion (an experience of a personal sacrifice or panata for the individual) but also a social drama (an expression of pain and suffering through the performance of Via Crucis o Pasion Y Muerte [Way of the Cross or Passion and Death] and the nailing on the cross performed for the good of others).

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In precolonial Philippines, people were engrossed in a deep relationship with supernatural powers. Like other premodern communities, Filipinos ritually reenacted supernatural figures with a primary ob ective of strengthening relationships with their anitos and diwatas (local gods and goddesses). More often than not, these ritualistic activities were forms of thanksgiving and offerings of intentions and petitions (e.g., to gain victory in a tribal war). Nowadays, this engagement with supernatural powers remains as a manifestation of Filipino life.

According to F. Landajocano, "Central to the lifeways of the Filipinos is the belief that any man, to be successful must square accounts with the spirits or saints performing the necessary rites and ceremonies" (Matienzo 1988: 12). With the introduction of a foreign god, Filipinos accommodated this image of a universal, Christian god and blended its elements with Filipino animism as stated by Covar (in Matienzo 1988). The result was folk Catholicism wherein, according to Elwood and Magdamo, "Beliefs and practices derived from popular or folk culture which, though not officially approved are nevertheless supported and encouraged by tradition in the community" (Matienzo 1988: 13).

Faith and religion are important aspects of Filipino sensibility and are a way for Filipinos to have a stronger sense of self and live productively. Faith has a huge impact on Filipino cultural life. Lived principles such as ipagpasa-Diyos na lamang natin yan (leave everything to the Lord) and bahala na (the Lord will provide) are common and suggestive

of how Filipinos offer their everyday lives to supernatural powers. For Catholics, this powerful being is God. Also, these expressions suggest that answers to particular dilemmas can be addressed to a supernatural entity (God), advocating paghihintay ng biyaya mula sa langit (waiting for grace from the heavens) (Jocano 1997: 110). Social and cultural analysts even suggest that Filipinos value spiritual aid more than mere actions for addressing specific crises (Zulueta 2005).

In Cutud, Pampanga, seventy miles north of Manila, a popular expression of faith and religiosity is panata (a religious vow whereby the devotee promises to do a sacrifice for his faith) in carrying out of a vow through the ritual of nailing on the cross every Good Friday. (1) Panata is a religious vow whereby the devotee promises to do a sacrifice for his faith in hopes of being rewarded by divine response to his prayers. Though based on the doctrines of the Catholic Church, the ritual has been modified to suit specific communal needs of the ordinary Filipinos, therefore indigenizing Catholicism. Though the Catholic Church has criticized the ritual, ordinary people have been persistent in their devotion. For the people, these rituals (thus their panata) are their way and perhaps, the best way to get closer to God.

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