The Way of the Cross: Suffering Selfhoods in the Roman Catholic Philippines
Julius Bautista (Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Author)
Publisher: University of Hawaii Press
Every year during Holy Week in the Philippine province of Pampanga, hundreds of men and women undergo acts of self-inflicted pain in ways that evoke the Way of the Cross: the torment and crucifixion that Christ endured in the last days of his earthly existence. This book is an in-depth ethnographic analysis of three of these “Passion rituals.” These are (1) the pabasa, a days-long communal chanting of Christ’s Passion story; (2) the pagdarame, a public self-flagellation of hundreds of devotees; and (3) the pamamaku king krus, in which steel nails are driven through the palms and feet of ritual practitioners as part of a street play performed in front of tens of thousands of spectators. The book demonstrates how such ritual acts facilitate the expression of heartfelt sentiments of pity, empathy, trust, and bereavement among ritual practitioners. Because these Passion rituals are officially disavowed by the Filipino Roman Catholic Church, most observers and scholars view them as an irrational and extremist mimicry of Christ’s painful ordeal.Instead, this study demonstrates that Passion rituals are reinterpretations of the very idea and experience of pain, hardship, and suffering, and are premised on an appeal for a certain kind of empowerment and divine intimacy. The book draws upon on a decade of in-depth and often exclusive interviews with a host of local stakeholders—including ritual practitioners, clerics, scholars, and government officials—as well as the author’s own participation in a Passion play. A host of primary and secondary archival sources, including unpublished, locally produced oral historical accounts and a survey of relevant media coverage, are also considered. The Way of the Cross contributes to the anthropology of religion by examining the unique ontological contexts in which ritual agents experience God’s involvement in their lives.