Friday I dropped by the CD Video store to return my pirated copy
of "The Thin Red Line." Some of the scenery in that movie reminds
me of the countryside here. (Note: I have since found that there
have been a lot of war movies filmed in the Philippines, including
"Apocalypse Now".) The CD store assured me they would be open,
and of course they weren't. I walked to the MegaCenter but it
was closed too. I grabbed a tricycle and headed for lunch. We
were near the market (Palange), so the driver took me through
there as a shortcut. The market was open and alive.
the streets were blocked for some reason. I saw a large group
heading my way. The guys in front were dressed like Roman soldiers.
A couple of guys dragging brown wooden crosses followed them.
But the real point of interest was next. About a dozen shirtless
men were walking behind the crosses. They were beating themselves
with whips. They were walking along slowly, swinging this whip
thing back and forth from one side of their back to the other.
Their backs were all bloody with large butterfly-shaped bruises.
Little bits of blood and skin were flying everywhere. Everything
had little splatters of blood on it. The men had cloths wrapped
around their heads so they remained unidentified. Their white
pants were covered with splotches of blood -- like in a butcher-shop.
They were "flagellants" and they were doing this as a religious
rite. Then they stopped walking to lie down in the street. Other
men with tight bundles of tall reeds started beating the men on
the ground. The flagellants were facedown in the road while other
men stood over them, beating their bodies. It was a nasty, unbelievable
sight. They slowly stood up and started walking again, swinging
their whip from side to side. No words were spoken. No cries or
noises were made. I only heard the shuffle of feet as they deliberately
In a nearby town, a group of religious men actually had themselves
nailed to a cross! One guy had done it seven times before. It's
attempted by only the most fervent. I was hoping that no one here
would suggest testing the character of the new missionary in the