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On Good Friday each year, in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga, particularly in Brgy. San Pedro, Cutud, thousands of people flock to witness the world-renowned crucifixion that is re-enacted on a man-made hill.
Originated in 1955, the staging of "Via Crucis" (Way of the Cross), is the only Kapampangan piece on the Passion of Christ written by an amateur, Ricardo Navarro.
It was first performed during the Holy Week 57 years ago by volunteer artists of Brgy. San Pedro Cutud who, like the rest of the Filipinos during that period, had time on their hands because work or exertion on those 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 full-fledge religious leader. 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 by many as a "panata" or vow of sacrifice.
In 1965, the role players and the penitents were invited to perform outside the barangay, this time in Betis, Guagua. The event caught national interest and subsequently became an international tourist attraction.
Through the years, Ricardo Navarro passed on the family tradition he began to his son, Rolando; and then to his grandson, Allan Navarro, who is the present director of the street play.
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.
All VRs taken on April 22, 2011. Text obtained from the official leaflet. The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org