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Saints and sinners

It’s no doubt a painful and bloody sacrifice, having oneself nailed on the cross, but perhaps for the devotees, it’s the only way to salve one’s conscience, although I don’t know for sure.

What’s clear is that in this nation of 116 million, there’s no lack of rituals during Holy Week, especially on Good Friday.

Men – young and old – would choose to have themselves nailed on the cross like Jesus himself; village folks walk hundreds of meters in processions, from the golden hour all the way to the night, to bring life-sized rebultos of Jesus, Mary and the saints to the town chapel or the church.

We are no doubt a predominantly Christian country, with Catholics comprising some 90 percent of the population.

It was the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, in the service of Spain, who first attempted to Christianize us when he landed in Cebu in 1521. Thus, in 2021, the Philippines commemorated 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines.

Indeed, Christianity is all around us. We have churches in nearly every city; a kapilya in every village or a place of worship for Christian devotees. We name our sons and daughters after saints and we are one of only two countries in the world with no divorce, along with The Vatican. The Vatican’s theocracy though makes us practically the only nation that forbids divorce.

Our schools, pharmacies and hospitals, too, are named after famous saints.

We start official functions with a prayer and we hear mass on Sundays without fail.

And yet, and yet, the contradictions are endless as they are varied. Corruption and moral degradation in our society today are appalling.

Pastors and prominent religious personalities have been tagged in jaw-dropping crimes.

There’s pastor Apollo Quiboloy and his Kingdom of Jesus Christ which claims to have a cult following of some six million Filipinos. Yet he is the same man accused of human and sex trafficking, money laundering and immigration fraud.

Before Quiboloy, there’s Joel Apolinario, a self-anointed pastor, who founded the Kapa Community Ministry International Inc. (KAPA), touted as the largest investment scam in Philippine history.

Last December, a Butuan City regional trial court found