HomeCA Research Journalvol. 4 no. 1 (2013)

Lenten Penance Practices of the Palo Penitentes and Foucault’s Care of the Self: A Critical Study for Points of Intersection

Kristoffer A. Bolaños

Discipline: Philosophy, Religion



This paper aims to explore whatever possibilities, if any, may yet allow us to interpret the collection of Lenten religious practices of the Palo Penitentes in Palo, Northern Leyte, Philippines that involve penance on the body as a form of ethical practice akin to Foucault’s notion of ethical practice termed as Care of the Self. This task will require a reading of Benjamin Bacierra’s “Religious Experience in Palo Lenten Observances” taken out of the book Filipino Religious Psychology, a collection of essays and comments on local spiritual and religious practices edited by Leonardo Mercado. Texts from the philosopher Michel Foucault will allow us to critically interrogate the local penance practice brought to light in the aforementioned, also to extract, if any, the ethical content of such practice or even the possibilities of developing a local ethical style within it. The paper does not aim to discredit the Filipino practice under study or any form of local folk spirituality at all; rather, the researcher wishes to understand ethical practice as it is generated within the limits of history, as it is, if the reader may, historically-constituted, without the often presupposed superiority of Western ethicality.