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Not worth keeping

At least 10 people—including a woman—were nailed onto crosses this year, in a blood-soaked display of religious fervor over the Holy Week. Even more devotees, as part of a yearly tradition, flogged themselves with bamboo strips as they walked along roads in the sweltering heat.

Not worth keeping

Sadly, these extreme acts of penance have become a major tourist attraction, with international visitors watching in morbid fascination as believers allow themselves to be nailed to crosses in a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

The spectacles—now streamed on the Internet and social media as well—merely reinforce the country’s image as a backwater in which superstition and barbarism still hold sway.

A far less violent, but far more common and damaging “tradition” is the strewing of garbage by the thousands of worshipers and devotees who go on Lenten pilgrimages.

“Despite the repeated announcement aired over the public address system, some devotees who went to popular Lenten pilgrimage sites on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday chose to leave a trail of garbage behind,” the group EcoWaste Coalition said in a statement.

Littering, the group lamented, has become a “tradition” that tarnishes the annual journey of the faithful to favorite pilgrimage destinations in the provinces of Bulacan and Rizal.

Littering was rampant at the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto Shrine in San Jose del Monte City and the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Marilao, both in Bulacan; and at the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage Cathedral in Antipolo City, Rizal, the group said.

“Among the most littered items reported were paper and plastic materials used by visitors for picnicking, resting and sleeping, plastic bags, food packaging, food leftovers, and lots of plastic bottles,” the group said.

“It’s apparent that many devotees have yet to appreciate the connection between the expression of our faith and our responsibility to take good care of our shared environment. Environmental apathy, sad to say, is still very prevalent,” the group added.

The Catholic Church, which officially frowns upon extreme displays of devotion, says the faithful should spend Lent in quiet prayer and reflection.

"The crucifixion and death of Jesus are more than enough to redeem humanity from the effects of sins. They are once in a lifetime events that need not be repeated," Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines official Fr. Jerome Secillano said.

"Holy Week.... is not the time to showcase man's propensity for entertainment and Pharisaical tendencies," he added.

Nor, we must add, is it a time to pollute our surroundings with mountains of garbage that tarnish the solemnity of the occasion and the sites that the Catholic faithful deem sacred.

There are some traditions worth keeping. Others are clearly not.

Topics: Holy Week , Jerome Secillano , Catholic Church , Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines , EcoWaste Coalition
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