Pampanga is a hotbed for Holy Week flagellation and Lenten penitents. In Magalang, Pampanga, the barangay of San Agustin is where a lot of these Lenten penitents appear every Holy Thursday and especially Good Friday.
On the way to San Agustin, we chanced upon a group of flagellants preparing for their annual panata. There are actually four basic kinds of penitents or magdarame in Pampanga. The first would be the flagellants or the mamalaspas, those who flog themselves. The second would be the mamusan krus or those who carry crosses. Then there are the magsalibatbat or penitents who crawl on the ground. While the kristos are those who have themselves nailed to the cross every Good Friday.
There are also rituals in preparation for the Lenten penance. They first dress up and are tied up in ropes. Then the flagellants whip themselves or are whipped by a companion until their back muscles swell. This is to numb the pain and speed up the bleeding when incisions are made on his back with a razor blade or broken glass embedded on a small wooden paddle.
Then they walk around town whipping themselves, passing by "holy" places such as churches and the puni (makeshift tents where the pabasa is read). We saw the entire preparation of the group, including the mandatory shots of Red Horse.
Until now, why they do it is a mystery. I was quite surprised to see that the group was actually composed of middle-class Kapampangans. One of the mamusan krus even had braces and was wearing Havaianas! It's something the Center for Kapampangan Studies will try to study in the next few months.
In San Agustin, the mamusan krus carry large banana trunks shaped into a cross. And you could see the penitents collapse from sheer exhaustion since the banana stalks are obviously very heavy. I remember seeing magsalibatbat here before but since it was already sunset, I figured they were already back home resting for Good Friday.