An interesting little facet of my religious mission to the Philippines was seeing intense displays of religious devotion, from the readings held in tents of the many verses of the Tagalog translation of the Passion, to religious parades in the streets honoring Catholic saints.
I have also heard stories of ritual Good Friday crucifixions, a practice gently ribbed by the people, who find a humorous exasperation at the tradition. A small group of people sport permanent scar tissue on their hands in preparation for the yearly practice - mainly older men. The Daily Mail article puts some perspective on the issue that I hadn't caught:
In the small village of Cutud, about 80 km (50 miles) north of Manila, men cried out as nails the size of pencils were driven into their hands and feet before they were hoisted up in the scorching heat. Nineteen were to go through the process.
But government health and safety officials were keeping their eye on proceedings, after health minister Francisco Duque told those planning to be crucified to ensure they have a tetanus jab and use sterilised nails.
Never mind the clear dangers to your health of crucifixion, so long as the danger of infection is safely reduced.
Thousands watched the spectacle in Cutud, which has grown from a village production started in 1962 to a media and tourist attraction copied in other parts of the country.
For hours before the crucifixions lines of men, hooded and half naked, flayed their backs with bamboo whips and paddles tipped with broken glass. Blood splattered over the road.
The atmosphere was festive, with hawkers selling beer, ice-cream and souvenir whips. VIPs watched from a specially elevated "viewing platform".The country's dominant Catholic Church disapproves of the crucifixions and flagellations as a misrepresentation of the faith.
"The spiritual dimension is totally lost, and it's entered into only because of some shows, some manifestations for other people to be satisfied with or to see," said Bishop Deogracias Iniguez.
"Many of these penitents, those who are practicing these physical afflictions have a meagre, have a shallow understanding of these practices."
Some foreigners have previously been crucified including a Belgian nun and a Japanese man, who later allowed footage of his ordeal to be used in a pornographic film. No one has ever died during the rituals.
Over 80 per cent of the Philippines' estimated 90 million population are Catholic and across the archipelago this weekend will be a time for church ritual, family and the beach.
Filipinos infuse their Catholic faith with local superstitions and some people avoid taking a shower or doing laundry after 3 p.m. (0700 GMT) on Good Friday - the time Chrst was believed to have died - for fear of bad luck.