Good Friday

March 25, 2005

On March 20, I read in the Cebu SunStar that there would be a staged crucifixion the following Friday in Carcar, about 40 miles south of Cebu City.

If you know Chris Pforr like I know Chris Pforr, then you can already guess that from the moment I saw that tidbit in the newspaper, a small voice began to speak in the deepest recesses of my small brain:

March 25, Good Friday morning, I rode a minibus from Cebu, fare P25 to Carcar. The bus sound system volume dial was set at 11 and there was a big woofer right under my seat; every base beat pounded my back and penetrated every organ; and the eardrum assault was deafening. As usual, nobody else seemed to mind, just a normal bus ride in the Philippines.
I arrived in Carcar and rode a tricycle a few km. to Barangay Liburon, where a hill had been designated "Liburon's Golgotha," after the place outside Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified almost 2000 years ago.

The trike driver let me off near the base of the small hill.


As I approached, I could see two men already hanging on crosses.

two men hanging on crosses

These were George Ybañez, 53, and Loreto Nabasquez, 56, both Carcar residents. They didn't suffer nails driven through their flesh, but I did observe them both spend three hours standing on crosses in the blazing hot sun.

thief on a cross thief on a cross
thief on a cross thief on a cross


But myself and the assembled crowd hadn't just come to watch two guys hang on crosses (even though it was a very hot way to spend an afternoon.) No, we came to see BLOOD.

But we had to wait for a few more hours while the primary penitent prepared himself.
The food and beverage stands had been set up precisely to help us wait.
Yap, just another beer-drinking day in the Philippines.

crowd beer-drinking


While I was waiting, I found Gilbert Bargayo, who played the role of Jesus Christ for 14 years. As a result of an allergic reaction after eating prawns and squid earlier this year, he had to back out of the role today. He showed me his inflamed eyeballs and chest covered with a spotty rash.
Instead of mounting the cross himself, he was making way for a newcomer, Nicholas Rabilles, to take over the job. Gilbert was choreographing the show and would be the one to drive the nails into Nicholas' hands and feet.

Gilbert Bargayo

Finally, Nicholas made his appearance. He washed his feet...

Nicholas Rabilles

...then climbed up.

Nicholas Rabilles

When Gilbert brought out the nails and wooden mallet, the crowd surged forward and I wasn't aggressive enough to stay in front. Hard to get a good view.


But I got one picture....just as....YIKES!!

raising Nicholas Rabilles

Then they raised him up....

raising Nicholas Rabilles

...and pounded nails into his feet.

pounding a nail into his foot


hand of Nicholas Rabilles crown of Nicholas Rabilles

Finally...there were three men hanging on crosses.

three men hanging on crosses

After 15 minutes, they lowered Nicholas down and performed the most painful part: pulling out the nails. There was a small amount of blood here, fortunately the only blood I saw all day.

coming down from the cross

George and Loreto also came down, and the show was over.

coming down from the crosses

After that...time to play on the crosses.

play on the crosses

....And I rode the bus back to Cebu City.

From the next day's Freeman News:

"Crucifixion" in Carcar has new Christ portrayer
by Liv G. Campo
March 27, 2005

After 14 years, this year's edition of the reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ last Good Friday in barangay Liburon, Carcar town has a new man to portray the role and be nailed actually to the cross.

The new Christ portrayer was 25-year-old Nicolas Ravilles, a native of San Fernando town, who had to take over the "Christ" of 14 years, Gilbert Bargayo, now 45 years old, who was forced to call off his annual role due to allergies.

And true to the tradition of Bargayo's portrayal, Ravilles went through the excruciating pain of the nails driven through his palms and overlapped feet - in almost similar way as Jesus Christ had gone through - before a large crowd who came to witness the Carcar spectacle.

It was Bargayo who drove the four-inch nails into the hands and feet of Ravilles. In Bargayo's time, the nails used were eight-inch long. Bargayo later said he would retake the role next year when his health would improve.

Ravilles was not a neophyte to the reenactment, however. For the past few years that Bargayo has been "crucified," Ravilles was one of the two people who were tied to the crosses on each side of the "Christ" Bargayo.

This year's crucifixion, Ravilles said he had to take over Bargayo as his means of perpetuating the tradition of sacrifice, and his way of thanking Jesus Christ for helping him freed from drug-addiction.

The two on the sides of Ravilles were George Ybañez, 53, of Cogon, Carcar, and Loreto Nabasquez, 56, of Perilos, of same town.

This new twist in the event was just among the snags that hounded the organizers. Behind the scenes were the lacks of sponsors and the support of the local parish, causing a low turnout of the crowd.

Ricky Gantuangco, event's director, said a number of special presentations had to be cancelled because they failed to get the support of the local government and from private individuals, who had been the main sponsors for the past years.

The local parish had allegedly discouraged the municipal government to provide support, Gantuangco claimed, adding that part of the event's proceeds could have gone to the church.