Penitential Rites In San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga During Holy Week

In the small San Pedro Cutud village, located in San Fernando City in Pampanga, the Malaldo (or Lenten) rites are the most famous penitential rites in the whole country. While Pampanga also hosts several other traditions throughout Holy Week, it is the penitential rites held in San Pedro Cutud which tops the holy activities.

A reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (called Via Crucis) draws visitors and penitents alike to this small village. Flagellants endure self pain from the whip as they march to the crucifixion hill; penitents either carry large wooden crosses, or are nailed to the cross. These religious sacrifices are done every year in San Pedro Cutud.

Five Top Reasons Why Via Crusis Is Commemorated Each Year

  1. Panata: A panata is a vow, oath, or promise which is a repayment for wishes or prayers granted in the last year. Highlighted during Holy Week, those who participate in panata willingly whip their own backs until they bleed. They may also be wearing a crown of thorns. This ritual is more than just a gory spectacle, most penitents do so as part of their own personal religious vow, or sacrifice. The panata may be the fulfilling of vows, expressing gratitude for being healed or blessed, or just to ask a personal favor.
  1. 50+ Years Of Tradition: In 1955, Ricardo Navarro wrote a passion play in Kapampangan which started the whole tradition of panata. The tradition of having a crucifixion each year did not begin until 1962. Ruben Enaje, a penitent best known for playing the role of Christ, has been doing so since 1986. Enaje said that his participation is the best way for him to say thanks after surviving a three-story fall. Some penitents make the pilgrimage only once, other penitents make it a yearly ritual where they can repent and be thankful for their life.
  1. Pain And Sacrifice: As the bloody flagellants whip their backs with bamboo sticks, they slowly make their way to the crucifixion hill just before Via Crusis begins. No spectator is allowed on the road while the flagellants make their trek; this is to allow the flagellants time and space to ask for, and receive, acceptance from God. Once they kneel at the foot of the cross, their panata is ended.
  1. Penitents Of The Cross: Most penitents will carry heavy wooden crosses as they walk to crucifixion hill. Some are actually nailed to the cross. Guidelines for who is chosen to be nailed to the cross each year are very strict. Each person must submit an application, be in excellent physical and mental condition, and have the medical papers to prove both are the truth. Even after going through all the trouble gathering this information and filling out an application, most people who apply are not selected. Men are most often chosen to be nailed to the cross; however, there are some women that get to join them each year.
  1. Magdarame: The word magdarame comes from the ancient Kapampangan word ‘dame’, and simply means one who voluntarily takes part in another person’s troubles or situation. The penitents and flagellants suffer as they do in order to be one with Christ. They are not imitating Christ’s sufferings, they are suffering as he did in thanks for being a part of Him.

Sadly, over the years this solemn celebration has become commercialized and people show up just to witness the flagellants and penitents suffer. Visitors should not only respect the occasion, but also give the participants the respect (and distance) that they deserve. They are not suffering for the amusement of the tourists, they are repaying a debt they feel they owe. Tourists, and locals as well, would be wise to show respect and support the efforts to preserve these local folk traditions so they will still be relevant for future generations.