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Getting Nailed

For 50 years, people in the tiny Philippine village of Cutud have celebrated Good Friday by driving seven-inch nails through the hands and feet of a few volunteers in a gory reenactment of Jesus's crucifixion.
December 21, 2011, 1:00am

Those who get crucified say they do it to repent, thank God, or ask Him a favor. We’ll pass.  REUTERS/Erik de Castro For 50 years, people in the tiny Philippine village of Cutud have celebrated Good Friday by driving seven-inch nails through the hands and feet of a few volunteers in a gory reenactment of Jesus’s crucifixion. The original version of the region’s annual passion play didn’t include an actual crucifixion. But in 1962, a local faith healer playing the role of Jesus decided, for the sake of realism, to have nails driven through his hands and feet. Every year since, a handful of devout actors are crucified for ten minutes while hundreds of others whip themselves. In the 80s and early 90s, foreigners were invited to participate in the ritual. Then, in 1996, Japanese S&M porno actor Shinichiro Kaneko tricked locals into crucifying him by claiming his brother was dying of cancer, filming it for one of his freaky jerk flicks. The crucifixions of Cutud have been locals-only ever since. To learn more about what it feels like to get mounted and nailed to a cross, we talked to Ruben Enaje, a 50-year-old sign painter from Cutud whose way of thanking God for allowing him to survive a three-story fall has been to get crucified 25 times (and counting) over the years, which has to be some kind of record. VICE: How does it feel to get crucified?
Ruben Enaje: After the first time, you get scars on your hands. These scars are opened the second time, and you feel the pain. Then it gets worse. What goes through your head immediately before the nails are driven into you?
I feel nervous for a whole month before, even after 25 years of doing it. I feel pain in my hands almost a month before. How do you deal with the pain?
I close my eyes and pray to Jesus that nothing will stop me. If I see the people, I cannot pray. What’s the recovery process like?
I do nothing; just heal. They have a first-aid person who cleans up the blood and stuff like that, and they give me medicine, like antibiotics. But I don’t do anything. But your livelihood depends on your hands. How long does it take you before you get back to work as a sign painter?
About five days. Maybe a week. And how long do you plan on continuing with these crucifixions?
My last year will be 2013. I must do my penitence for 27 years. Nine years for my wife, nine years for my daughter, nine years because I survived my accident. Would you recommend getting crucified?
No, because it’s against the Bible. So then why do you do it?
When I was first crucified, I didn’t know it was against the Bible. But I have to finish what I started. I have to do penitence for 27 years. If I don’t, I won’t have paid my dues. What do your friends say about it?
They say it’s very beautiful.