In Pampanga, Holy Week is a much-awaited event that attracts thousands of pilgrims and tourists to witness the Via Crusis (Way of the Cross) in San Fernando. The re-enactment of Christ's Passion and Death takes place in Barangay San Pedro Cutud in San Fernando, Pampanga which culminates with the actual nailing of the penitents on a wooden cross atop a makeshift calvary. "Maleldo" is the Kapampangan word for Holy Week. This Lenten rites started in the 1950's and was passed on from generations to generations.
Since the Via Crusis will not start until 12:00 noon in San Pedro Cutud, we decided to go to Brgy. Sta Lucia first. On our way to the crucifixion site, we saw several flagellants (also called "Magdarame") walking barefoot on baking hot roads. They whip themselves with bamboo sticks tied to a rope that draw blood from their back. For them, this is a fulfillment of their vows or "panata", or a way to ask for forgiveness of their sins or to show their gratitude for the blessings they have received.
WARNING: Next photos may be too graphic
There are different kinds of flagellants, there's what they call "mamusan krus", flagellants who carry crosses, then there's "mamalaspas", flagellants who bleed and whip themselves, the "magsalibatbat", flagellants who crawl on hot pavement and dirt roads, and lastly, the "kristos", flagellants who are nailed on a cross.
Right then, I could not help but be amazed at how Lenten traditions and practices remained intact in Pampanga.
We arrived in Brgy. Sta Lucia just before the passion play starts. The arrival of the horse-drawn characters signaled that the play is near the crucifixion site. It was a heart-pounding dramatization with characters in full costumes re-enacting the scenes and events of the Via Crusis.
Before the play ended, we made our way to San Pedro Cutud. I was shocked by the huge crowd already at the site. It was just past 12:00 noon and the crucifixion was already started.
The fence that should separate the spectators and the hill was already torn down. It was a total chaos at the makeshift hill. We had a hard time looking for a good spot to take photos. So we just settled at one side of the hill and using a 300mm zoom lens, I was able to take decent photos.
I heard from one of the organizers that there are about 8 penitents that will be nailed this year. I only saw 6 since we already left even before the Lenten rites ended. The scorching summer sun and the dust in San Pedro Cutud is really unbearable, so we decided to leave early.
Although, the Catholic Church is strongly against these violent Lenten rituals (crucifixion and hitting yourself), the tradition stays alive in San Fernando, Pampanga. It is supported by their city tourism office as it is part of their culture and tradition, a testament of the Kapampangans' firm grip to their old Lenten rituals and practices.
TIPS, REMINDERS AND BASIC INFO
- If you're afraid of blood, this is not for you.
- Be early in San Fernando, Pampanga to avoid the heavy traffic near the crucifixion sites.
- There are 3 crucifixion sites: San Juan, Sta Lucia and San Pedro Cutud.
- The passion play and crucifixion starts at 7:30 AM in San Juan, 10:00 AM in Sta Lucia and 12:00 Noon in San Pedro Cutud.
- Protect yourself from the heat. Bring a hat or umbrella and apply sun block.
- Although there are food stalls in the crucifixion sites, it is advisable to bring drinking water and snacks.
- Bring extra clothes just in case your clothes get stained with blood.
- Take care of your personal belongings.
- For bloggers and photographers, if you want to cover Maleldo 2015 (Cutud Lenten Rites), it is recommended that you secure a media ID from San Fernando City tourism office.
HOW TO GET TO SAN PEDRO CUTUD, SAN FERNANDO PAMPANGAFrom Manila, take a bus bound for Olongapo or any bus heading to San Fernando-Dau junction and alight at Robinsons Starmills Pampanga (PHP 112.00). Be sure to ask the bus attendant if they will stop at Robinson's Pampanga or SM Pampanga. From there, take a jeepney that goes or passes by San Fernando City downtown or Poblacion (PHP 8.00). Then, take a tricycle or pedicab to San Pedro Cutud or to your desired crucifixion site (PHP 20.00/pax).
More photos on Pinoy AdvenTurista's Facebook Page, click here.
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