Photos by: Sonny Yabao
Text by: Kimmy Baraoidan
The flagellants in Kalayaan, Laguna have bright-colored bougainvillea flowers attached to their palm-leaf skirts and headdresses. Here are these muscular, manly men, ready to flog themselves until they bleed, with flowers, a symbol usually associated with the feminine, in their garments. Why on earth would they adorn themselves with flowers? Could they be praying for fertility like what other penitents in the country are doing? Could it be, although it may be quite farfetched, that they are alluding to the medieval belief that the Annunciation and later on Jesus’s crucifixion happened on the same day? Or could it simply be of tribal pagan origins incorporated into their Catholic practice?
If the flower-adorned flagellants are weird enough, even more unusual is this flagellant in a white mask, wearing a purple bra and a floral skirt. Some flagellants wear women’s clothing to add to their humiliation. Not only are they flogging themselves publicly, stripped of their identities, but they are doing so in an emasculated form. The smell of machismo is very strong in this practice, and it grates on my feminist sensibilities. Since when was it shameful for a man to dress like a woman? But even more contradictory is the way the flagellant is dressed, making a mockery of himself, but his mask is of a sad expression while around him, the mood seems quite festive, with flowers at the altar of a blond Jesus. It reminds me of a quote, “Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone.”