It was first performed during the Holy Week fifty four years ago by amateur volunteer artists of Barangay (barrio) San Pedro Cutud, who, like the rest of the Filipinos during that period, had time on their hands because work or exertion on those holy days was taboo.
It was only in 1962 that the barangay first witnessed an actual crucifixion during the play. The Christ was portrayed by Artemio Anoza, a resident of nearby Apalit town and a quack doctor who dreamt that he would become a religious leader and a full-fledged healer. Wanting to realize this dream, he volunteered himself to be crucified as a sacrifice.
Since then, not a year passed without an actual crucifixion taking place during the re-enactment that has now been joined in by many penitents as a “panata” or vow of sacrifice. In 1965, the role players and the penitents were invited to perform the sacrifice outside the barangays, this time in Betis Guagua. The occasion caught national interest and subsequently became an international tourist attraction.
Through the years, Rolando Navvaro passed on the family tradition he began to his son Ricardo and then to his grandson Allan Navarro who is the present director of the street play “Via Crusis’.
About the Tradition
The Philippines is Southeast Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation with a rich cultural heritage that is steeped in tradition.
One of these Filipino practices is the observance of Lent and the Holy Week that for Catholics, is a time for atonement and sacrifice.
For Filipinos in Pampanga, the observance is characterized by the “senakulo” or “pabasa” which is the chanting of the passion of the Christ as read from a book that locals call Pasyon. Other penitents called “magdarame” carry wooden crosses, crawl on rough pavements and slash their backs before whipping themselves to draw blood, to ask for forgiveness of sins committed, to fulfill religious vows (panata), or to express gratitude for favors granted.
On Good Friday each year, in the City of San Fernando, particularly in Barangay San Pedro Cutud, thousands flock to witness the world-renowned crucifixion that is re-enacted on a man-made hill after the two-hour street play, Via Crusis is performed as it has been done for the past 55 years.
Contrary to the Catholic Church’s teachings and the commercialization of the event, the fervor for the tradition stays, with the townsfolk sticking to their faith and spiritual practice, constantly remaining pure in their panata which continues to be a source of community solidarity and strength.
Schedule for April 22, 2011 (Good Friday)
Barangay San Juan – 9:00 am
Barangay Sta. Lucia – 11:00 am
Barangay San Pedro Cutud – starts at 11:00 am
For more information and a map of where the crucifixions are taking place, click here.
According to my uncle, the way to get here is by taking a Victory Liner Bus that is heading to Bataan or Olongapo. Tell them that you are getting off at the corner of MacArthur Highway and the Olongapo-Gapan road. From there, take a jeepney into the city of San Fernando.