Last year, I wrote two entries during the Holy Week,
Filipino Religiosity 1: Baclaran and Quiapo Churches, April 19, 2011, and
Filipino Religiosity 2: Iloilo Holy Week Procession, April 24, 2011.
This year's Holy Week vacation, I brought my family to Pangasinan (Thursday to Saturday). On our way to the north last Thursday, I saw some of these people flagging their back with rather sharp metals as they walk along the highway in Pampanga and Tarlac. I see these similar scenes every year actually. It's not good to come close to them because fresh blood is really dripping in their back and droplets of blood can fly to your face or shirts.
These photos below I got from the facebook album of a friend, Tina Pimentel.
These two groups of photos below I got from the facebook album of another friend, Eric Batalla. See the deep and long cut on the man's back. They cover their faces to make themselves anonymous during the procession.
One may wonder why these people would inflict such huge wounds in their body. Tetanus and other types of infection is definitely a threat as the wound is not quickly cleaned. Besides, they walk on the highway where there is huge amount of dust, smoke and other harmful and pollutive substances, the wound is further infected with these dust and other dirty matter.
Are these people getting more desperate with their lives? Or the blessings they have received in the past were so great, say a miraculous recovery from a very serious illness and disease or bad accident? Or they are asking and praying so hard to God for something and doing such penitence to show to him that they are so serious about their prayers?
There should be dozens of reasons why people do such painful penitence. Especially those who undergo actual crucifixion, their palm and feet are really nailed to the cross even for just a few minutes.
There is an implicit message to government with these types of penitence. People are looking up to God to ask for blessing, not from the government although the latter almost always force its way into the citizens' life via taxation and regulations to the productive groups and individuals, while giving various subsidies to certain groups and individuals, especially the regular political supporters of the national and local politicians. ,