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IN PHOTOS: The Bloody, Beautiful Philippine Penitensya

Veteran photojournalist Luis Liwanag captures the essence of this gruesome, spiritual spectacle in bloody images
by Luis Liwanag | Mar 23, 2016
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What started out as a militant pilgrimage in the 13th and 14th centuries, flagellantism was later condemned by the Catholic Church as a heretical practice. But for patrons, it is a form of penance in the church for sinners to atone for their sins.

Here in the Philippines, religious rituals revolve around processions, hymns, distinct gestures, uniforms, and discipline. No wonder during annual observations of the Lenten season, a number of men and women get crucified in some areas of the country, none more popular than demonstrations in the barrio of Cutud, San Fernando, Pampanga.

The annual celebration of gore and obscurant ritual embellished in blood, crucifixions, and whipping is witnessed by an international media circus and influx of tourist reaching 50 to 70 thousand each year, coming from all parts of the world.

It is an inescapable grotesque phenomenon in the celebration of Christ's suffering and detain the Philippines.

One of the best the country has ever had, veteran photojournalist Luis Liwanag captures the blood and beauty of this painful yet utterly satisfying religious tradition in the photos below.

A piece of wood with broken glass attached to it called "panabad" is used to wound the backs of participants before the actual flogging.

One can just imagine how these men had to mentally prepare themselves for the impending torture.

It was said that when singing a hymn and upon reaching the part about the passion of the Christ, devotees must drop to the ground, no matter how dirty or painful doing so may seem.

The Lenten season is an automatic tourism boost for these parts.

It doesn't matter if the crucifixion is done out in the sun or in a crowded covered court; the level of pain is unenviable.


Folk from Angeles City and the Makati City Jail also observe this gruesome, spiritual spectacle.

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Even the nastiest of tattoos easily get erased with a pool of blood.

Masks are a symbol of unrelenting focus under the crowd's watchful eye.

We have nothing but great respect for the physical and mental fortitude of these people.

Additional captions by John Paulo Aguilera

Photography Luis Liwanag

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