Good Friday is a special day in the Filipino city of San Fernando. It’s a day some citizens decide to symbolically sacrifice themselves by being crucified in front of a crowd of believers and the curious alike. The reasons they do this vary and are personal. For most of us, they likely defy our understanding, leaving us prone to judge and condemn. Despite our incomprehension, those reasons are no less genuine for the participants in the crucifixions.
The friendly atmosphere in the hours before a crucifixion do not hint at the extraordinary event will occur within the square. When asked how they feel, participants pretend that everything is normal, but a nervous smile shows this is not exactly true. Rolly Bautista Pantoja’s was first crucified in 2005 and he keeps his reasons for continuing the rite each year since to himself. He is a shy, quiet man who radiates peace rather than fanaticism. As the moment of his crucifixion approaches, Rolly sneaks into the house. He prefers to stay away from the expectant masses that gather in front of the makeshift cross-planted in the middle of the square and, instead, seeks a place to be alone to concentrate.
Almost two hours behind schedule, Rolly walks through the crowd and takes his place on the cross. The multitude turns into a mob with viewers fighting to get the best position to witness how an ordinary man becomes a living icon. Rolly is quiet and concentrates during the few minutes he is suspended above the crowd, and it seems that his thoughts are elsewhere, away from the chaos down in the square. Maybe he is thinking about his reasons that drive him to re-enact this rite every year. Maybe his thoughts are concentrated on thanking someone for being alive to return to the square yet another year.
Whatever his thoughts, he keeps them to himself.
After the ceremony when his wounds have been cared for, Rolly slips back into anonymity with some of the friends who shared his torment. And while the masses outside are waiting for others to take Rolly’s place on the cross, he and his friends enjoy a summer picnic that makes the day seem as common as any other.
More by Jorge Fernández at www.enterceraclase.com