I saw this video today and I was instantly taken back to, and flooded with memories of, the first week of my mission. Nine years ago this week I got off the plane in the Philippines and began my service as a missionary there. This is one of the first things I saw when I arrived. This is a ritual that reenacts Christ's suffering. Many of the participants believe that by experiencing the same pain that Christ suffered they lessen the pain that he had to feel. By suffering his pain they take upon themselves a portion of his burden. When you see it this way the ritual is quite beautiful, though strange to us foreigners.
[Warning the video is "news graphic," not any more gory than what is normally shown on the news but a little disturbing nonetheless.]
This ritual is one of many aspects of Catholicism that have been combined with the indigenous beliefs of the islanders. The patron saints now hold the places of the "heathen" gods in countless other festivals and ceremonies. The nearly seamless graft of these two belief systems is a sociological marvel. My favorite such celebration is John the Baptist Day. On this day a bunch of teenagers, mostly, run through the streets with buckets of water dowsing everyone they can. Their favorite targets are the crowded, windowless busses and jeepneys where the hapless passengers have no chance of escape.
The little branch I served in also also engaged in their own culturural grafting. They had an Easter egg hunt for the kids (something that is not widely practiced there) but used hard-boiled quail eggs instead of candy filled plastic ones.
I can't believe it has been nine years since then.