Friday, March 29, 2013

Extraordinary Religion (Original Post Date: June 21, 2011)

Today, Yahoo News covered this annual ritual in San Petro Cutud, Philippines.  I thought I would resurrect (ha, no pun intended) a blog post I wrote two years ago about it and my thoughts about religions around the world. 

AP Photo/Aaron Favila
My mom read my piece on Kate Webb, and reminded me of another time Kate came to our house:

Re: Kate the UPI correspondent: After we had met her, through Caro and Leon, one day the doorbell rang there in Makati, Forrrr-bess Parrrrk*, and when I opened the door, there was a blood spattered Kate Webb. Her face and blouse were covered in tiny dark red splotches, and I was afraid that she had been injured. But no, she had been covering one of those super-religious events they have in the Philippines, around Easter. She had been very very very close to the person enacting the role of Jesus carrying the cross to Jerusalem, and as he was lashing himself, accompanied by more lashings from the crowds lining the street, the real blood had splashed onto her. All she wanted was to wash her face, and have a relaxing cool drink of something—maybe calamansi juice** (Scotch ?)—I don’t remember.  Just another footnote to the most interesting things that happened to an ex-pat living away from the U.S.A.

Photo: Aaron Favila/AP

I had heard about these rituals … never saw them.  In many areas in the Philippines some of the more devoted followers of the Catholic church would reenact the crucifixion.  They would walk barefoot through the streets of the village, flagellating themselves bloody, and then submit to actually being nailed to a cross.  One hardy soul promised to have himself “crucified” every year, in return for his wife’s safe delivery through a difficult childbirth.  Similar reenactments are performed in New Mexico, although there the penitents are tied, rather than nailed to the cross.

Of course, it’s hard to see pictures of this.  My first reaction was horror, naturally … but in a small way I was impressed with the depth and the strength of their devotion.  Many people do all kinds of things to find God, or to become closer to God.  Maybe this is their way of earning forgiveness for their sins.  Who are we to judge how other people practice their faith?  People fast, they handle snakes, speak in tongues.  They walk miles and miles in pilgrimages and wear special clothing.  Expressing religion is so different from culture to culture. 

When I visualize the world’s religions, I see an enormous quilt, of red, purple and gold satin, different squares of rituals and practices all interlocking and connected to each other.  I see idols and statues, stained glass windows and silver goblets.  I smell incense, smoke, wine and fruit.  I see different races of people woven together in a common purpose: worshiping their god or gods.  I sometimes sense as much or more devotion in the eyes of a Buddhist monk in his bright orange robes or those of a Shinto priest in his starched vestments than in any evangelical Christian or Orthodox Jew.  If everyone claims that he or she is right, who is the ultimate decider?  In the afterlife is there a big “I told you so” moment?  Who knows?  Having seen, heard, smelled and tasted so many other cultures, this Third Culture Kid is not capable of believing that any one religion is right or wrong with any degree of certainty.  If someone’s way to God is through being nailed to a cross, then so be it.  We all wander on a different, winding path.

*Filipino pronunciation of Forbes Park, our subdivision .. no vowel is left behind.
**A very sour lime.

1 comment:

Nancy Broussard said...

Beautifully expressed, Liz. We should all feel this way.