The Cutud, San Fernando City , Pampanga Crucifixion
Same thing with the rest of the churches, we said short prayer before we moved to the next one. The third church was in the nearby town of Guagua. An NHI marker said it was Father Jose Duque who constructed the Church made of stone and bricks in 1620. We proceeded to the town of Sta. Rita, passing the town center of Guagua where we saw for ourselves the on-going construction of the drainage system which was published in a national paper. It became a subject of complaint by the residents because the concrete drainage canals were constructed above the level of their business establishments!
The church of Sta. Rita was closed when we reached there at 10.30 am. The church was the location of the wedding scene of Marimar where I appeared as the father of the groom (played by Marvin Agustin). We moved to the church of Bacolor. This time, two months after the last taping day of the popular “May Bukas Pa”, the parking area was filled with cars. Inside the church, it was like a fiesta, people were busy taking pictures with the several parts of the church like the corridor, the priests room, Santino's room, the altar used as background. I went to residence of the the parish priest – Father Jess Manabat and greeted him. Father Jess gave me an Ube jam (halaya) in a microwavable plastic container. This is his regular “pabaon” to us during our May Bukas Pa taping days.
We next went to the Betis church, but we stopped along the way when we saw a small church which we later learned was Our Lady of Lourdes Church. It was a our sixth church which is recently constructed.
Finally, we visited Betis church, our seventh church. It is very impressive with its wooden floors and a huge main door with carvings. Betis is known for its carved wooden furniture.
It was already a few minutes before 12 noon when we motored to Cutud inSan Fernando City. We arrived at the crucifixion site at 12:10 pm. The place was already crowded with people noticeably, a lot of foreigners were around. The crucifixion hill is elevated, about two meters high. On its left side, a huge tent with markings bearing the name of a local politician on it was already full of local VIPs, on stand by medics, and policemen. On the right side, an elevated scaffolding was set up where cameramen, mostly foreigners had set up their cameras ready to record the crucifixion.
We were positioned at the back side of the crucifixion hill. There were fewer people there. We stayed inside our cars because the heat of the sun and the dust from the ground which is basically lahar sand were very difficult to bear. We waited for two hours. From time to time, there were groups of penitents bloodied from the wounds in their backs who would finally get near the cross as their final point. They would remove the cover of their faces and place it at the foot of the cross. The police would them get near them and convince them to leave the hill and get treatment from the medics at the tent. There was one case where the police had to bring a stretcher to bring the weak penitent to the tent.
The time was 2 pm when men clad in roman soldiers uniform, some on horse back arrived on the crucifixion hill. The man to be nailed positioned himself on the cross. A nail was hammered into his left hand in one strike. Another nail on the right hand, this time in two strikes of the hammer. The Cross was raised, time for the feet to be nailed. One hammer strike each foot. At 2:08 pm the crucifixion was done. We immediately left the place as my family were already very hungry. We drove back to the San Fernando City proper to have our lunch. Unfortunately, the Fisherman's Grill was closed and same with the other restaurants, only Mc Donald and Jollibee were opened. We had our quick lunch at Jollibee.
As we were on our way home, I recalled the question of a free-lance writer who interviewed me while we were in the crucifixion hill in Cutud. He asked me if the reenactment was relevant in the present time. I tried to recall what my answer was: I said, “as a way of reminding us today of how Jesus gave up his life for our sins, for me, the reenactment was relevant. But, of course, we should not wait to see a reenactment for us to realize how Jesus love us”.
As a final note, rather than going to the beach or spending the holy week in Baguio, visita iglesia had become our family practice of observing its holiness. However, it should not in any way be viewed as the only way of becoming good Christians which should be a daily lifestyle rather than a seasonal activity.