In God We Trust

In Asia, a continent dominated by Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, the Philippines is one of only two Christian majority countries.  More than ninety percent of Filippinos are Christian.The Chtistianization of the Philippines began in 1521, with the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer sailing for the Spanish Crown.While Christianity's importance has declined in the West, most Filippinos remain devout and fervent Catholics.On Sundays and religious holidays capacity crowds fill cathedrals and churches in the PhilippinesA man with a pendant of Jesus' face.A woman walks past the Metropolitan Cathedral in the northern city of San Fernando.In many places one can see proclamations of faith. Here, the word "Christ" decorates a Manila jeepney — a kind of shared taxi. A faith healer waits for patients outside a Manila church.  Phillippine Christianity incorporates elements of the islands' pre-Christian pagan and pantheistic traditions.Faith and fashion.Street kids in Manila play with a homeless dog.  In the background a jeepney is decorated with the words A man, barefoot and hooded, drags a heavy wooden cross through the streets of San Fernando.  Among the most extreme expressions of the Filippinos' faith and devotion are the events that take place during Holy Week, when Filippinos remember the events leading up to Jesus'  crucifixion and martyrdom.The town of San Fernando Pampanga, a place particularly known for extreme Lenten rituals.In an act of penance for his own sins and transgressions a man lies beneath a heavy cross in front of San Fernando's cathedral.Throughout Holy Week, processions of hooded, barefoot penitents move through the town's streets flagellating themselves.A woman bearing the standard of the sacred heart prepares for a procession.Their backs bloodied by hours of self-flagellation, penitents arrive at San Fernando's Cathedral to pray.Whips for sale in the streets of San Fernando.A bloodied penitent sets down his cross and approaches the cathedral to pray.Spectators watch the Good Friday processions in San Fernando.Penitents prostrate themselves in a gesture of submission on the pavement in front of San Fernando's cathedral.A woman carries a candle in a procession in San Fernando.Carrying a large cross people march to commemorate the Via Crucis, the stages leading up to Jesus' execution.A Good Friday procession in San Fernando.In a Good Friday procession people carry large illuminated decorations commemorating Jesus, Mary and various saints.Children play crucifixion.The most extreme acts of devotion are the real crucifixions that take place on Good Friday in San Fernando Pampanga, where penitents are nailed to wooden crosses with four inch steel nails.A man waits for his crucifixion.Alfredo, a house painter, shares a meal, a drink and a cigarette with some friends before he is nailed to a cross.The last supper.Every year dozens of people in San Fernando volunteer to be crucified. They do it as an act of penance or to gain favour with God, or to give thanks for what they believe were miraculous grants.  One man, Ruben Enaje, made a vow to be crucified after he survived a fall from a three storey building. He has been nailed to a cross every Good Friday for nearly thirty years.A crucifixion in San Fernando — a ritual immitation of the suffering of Jesus Christ.Penitents in San Fernando are not left to die on the cross.  Most spend no more than five or ten minutes crucified and then are brough down.Descent from the cross.Children play, immitating penitents brough down from the cross.A penitent bearing a heavy cross pauses to rest.