The Lenten ritual is opposed by religious leaders in the Philippines - Southeast Asia's largest predominantly Roman Catholic nation - but it has persisted to become one of the country's most-awaited summer attractions in San Pedro Cutud village, in San Fernando city about 70km north of Manila.

The Roman Catholic devotees were crucified in batches, their palms and feet attached to wooden crosses with 10-cm nails soaked in alcohol to prevent infection, to repent for sins, pray for a sick relative or fulfil a vow, organisers said.

Not Christian

But a spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines cautioned that the traditions of flagellation and crucifixion during Holy Week trace their roots to animism and are not approved by the church.

Nails 10-cm long are driven
through devotees' palms and feet

Monsignor Pedro Quitorio said: "They think that when they do that they will receive blessings for the coming year. That is not a Christian idea.

"If you have Christ in you, that's enough blessing. You don't need to duplicate what he did on the cross," he added.

Oscar Rodriguez, mayor of San Fernando, said: "I also do not encourage it, but what can I do? It is part of their deep religious conviction, part of their penance."

Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday.

Spectators

Nine devotees underwent the ritual in San Pedro Cutud, including Ruben Enaje, a 45-year-old commercial sign maker, who was nailed to the cross for the 20th time.

"If you have Christ in you, that's enough blessing. You don't need to duplicate what he did on the cross"

Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines

Enaje has said it is his way of thanking God after he miraculously survived a fall from a building when he was a construction worker.

In the farming village of Kapitangan, 45km north of Manila, two men wearing long curly wigs and tin crowns were nailed to the cross near the village chapel.

About 1,000 local and foreign devotees and spectators watched.

Rodriguez said more than 400 police and volunteer guards were deployed around San Pedro Cutud, where spectators and devotees gather yearly for the event.

An estimated 15,000 people turned out on Friday.