(A penitent grimaces as he hangs on a cross during the reenactment of the death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday in San Fernando, Pampanga in northern Philippines April 18, 2014. REUTERS/Erik De Castro )

Nearly 20 Filipinos and a Danish filmmaker were nailed to crosses to re-enact the crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday, a practice the Roman Catholic Church frowns upon as a distortion of the Easter message.

The annual Philippine ritual draws thousands of spectators to San Fernando, 80 km (50 miles) north of Manila, to see penitents flagellate themselves and a series of crucifixions in a recreation of Christ’s death on the cross.

“It was a great experience between me and God,” 48-year-old Danish film director and stunt coordinator Lasse Spang Olsen, who stayed on the cross for more than 10 minutes, told Reuters before being treated for his wounds. “It was great. It was fun.”

But for some in the Philippines, where about 80 percent of the population are Catholics, the re-enactments of the crucifixion are an extreme display of devotion.