Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Aswang Phenomenon - A documentary


In my opinion, this is by far the most incisive and cerebral approach to the question of the Aswang's origin. Unlike other Aswang documentaries or movies before that propagate the myth by obscuring it, this feature offers a 21st century view that represents the most rational approach sans judgements and bias characteristic of some filmmakers nowadays. Far from coming up with an anthology of spook tales, Film Maker Jordan Clark placed the concept of the aswang inside a multi-faceted prism to be viewed from all possible angles - from the downright ridiculous to the utterly scientific. I'm glad to have contributed a small part in the making of this one-of-a-kind film.

So where do I stand in all these? In the middle of course :)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Exorcist’s tales: ‘Hair on my arms stood on end’

Just in time for All Souls', I'll be reposting this interesting article I found in the Inquirer earlier today. This story reminds me of the "possessed" house we rented in Mandaluyong way back 1986. We stayed there barely a year and left. I'll discuss more about that on a future post. In the mean time enjoy this interesting read:

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Exorcist’s tales: ‘Hair on my arms stood on end’
By Cathy C. Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:29:00 10/30/2009

Filed Under: Belief (Faith), Mysteries

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MANILA, Philippines — Walking toward the squat bungalow on a narrow street in Mandaluyong City, the priest wondered why his friend had requested “a lot of holy water” for the blessing.
“I thought I was going to bless a big house. It was only a bungalow surrounded by tall trees,” Fr. Armand Tangi said, remembering that rainy afternoon in 1984.
Tangi, then a freshman priest of the Society of St. Paul, saw nothing strange about the house that was inhabited only by his friend’s uncle.
But as soon as his friend (let’s call him Rey) opened the front door, “it was so cold even with all the windows closed,” Tangi said. “The hair on my arms stood on end.”
Tangi, Rey and their companions—two women, both office subordinates of the latter—walked in.
Looking around, the priest noted that there were no religious statues or objects to be seen—something he found odd in a house owned by a Catholic family.
Rey introduced him to the elderly uncle seated on a rocking chair. But the latter’s “thoughts seemed somewhere else,” the priest said.
Having arranged the holy water and the prayer cards brought by Rey, Tangi put on his stole and opened his book of prayers at the appropriate page.
Moaning
“I started the prayer and I could hear moaning, a male voice, as though in pain. It wouldn’t stop,” Tangi said.
He and the women exchanged glances anxiously.
Praying aloud, they walked around the house, with the moaning growing louder each time they entered a room.
Recalled Tangi: “It was loudest when we reached the kitchen. I realized it was coming from the refrigerator.
“I didn’t know whether to open the ref door or not. What if whatever was moaning leapt out? What if it were a spirit and entered me or one of my companions?”
Eyes closed but still praying, Tangi grasped the vial of holy water, swung the refrigerator door open, and wildly squirted the vial’s contents inside.
He opened his eyes and saw only food and bottles of drinking water.
“I could still hear moaning inside the ref but it was getting faint. When I posted a card bearing a prayer to the Holy Name of Jesus on the door, it stopped,” the priest said.
Rey then asked Tangi to pray over his uncle, who appeared indifferent to what had just transpired.
“I stood behind him and put my hands on his head. I blessed him but I felt that something was very wrong,” Tangi said.
No one spoke as he and the others left the house.
With horns and tail
Only after they had gone a considerable distance did Rey disclose why he wanted the house blessed, Tangi said.
Not one of the housemaids hired to look after his uncle stayed for more than a few days. The girls complained that the chairs, even slippers, moved by themselves.
The most disturbing detail came from the neighborhood kids who claimed to see “a man with horns and a tail” standing behind his uncle, as if watching TV with him.
Rey also said that as a younger man, his uncle used the house for occult sessions involving the use of an Ouija board.
The guests at these gatherings were well-off people, many of whom later suffered bankruptcy or tragic deaths, Rey said.
He said one of them was a well-known socialite whose mysterious murder made headlines in the mid-1980s.
In one session, the group called on the spirit of a peer who had committed suicide.
“They asked the spirit, ‘Where are you?’ And it answered, ‘Why are you mocking me?’” Tangi quoted Rey as saying.
Witnesses said the glass on the board suddenly flew and smashed into a nearby wall. The furniture moved, as if being shoved around.
Causes of haunting
In his book “Exorcism: Encounters with the Paranormal and the Occult,” Fr. Jose Francisco C. Syquia mentioned the “preternatural demonic causes” of a “haunted” house.
“Occult and sinful activities” may lead “evil spirits” to find “a spiritual opening,” said Syquia, the director of the Office of Exorcism of the Archdiocese of Manila.
Listed among the “magic sessions” that, according to Syquia, lead to the demonic possession of a place are “Ouija board, tarot cards, spell casting and the like.”
“Unless these activities are stopped, repeated sin and dealings with the occult can allow these spirits to have even more dominion within the home, as well as attract more evil spirits,” he warned.
Syquia said simple house blessings “do not suffice to drive … away” spirits who had attached themselves to houses used for occult activities.
He said a haunting could also have a spiritual cause: “Someone died, was killed, or committed suicide in the house and now needs prayers, sacrifices and Masses.”
In this case, family and friends can help by frequently offering prayers and Masses for the deceased, he said.
Protocol for exorcism
There is a protocol for the exorcism or deliverance of a house.
Tangi said a priest “has to fast, go to confession, and by the grace of God, try his best not to sin before the exorcism.”
Fr. Jude Rebaldo of the Diocese of Kalibo said that for an exorcism to succeed, the house owners must also be active participants.
“They need to exhibit the desire to put an end to the haunting. The initiative to clean the house must come from them,” he said.
Rebaldo said the house owners must also go to confession before the exorcism.
Vulnerable to retaliation
“The Holy Rosary is an effective protection. They must implore the help of Mama Mary and recite deliverance prayers addressed to the archangels, particularly St. Michael and St. Gabriel for protection,” he said, adding:
“This is because the owners who want to get rid of unholy spirits become vulnerable to retaliation.”
In the case of the Mandaluyong house, Tangi said he was not told beforehand. “I did not fast because I was thinking it was a simple house blessing.”
Asked what he thought saved him despite his unpreparedness, Tangi said: “I was newly ordained then, so perhaps I was very confident and still full of grace. Remember that I was armed only with a prayer book, my stole, holy water and the prayer cards brought by [Rey].”
Better prepared
In 2008, Tangi was better prepared for another exorcism, this time of a house built on a scenic mountain ridge that also served as a venue for Ouija sessions.
“When the host-owner died, he was buried in the property. That’s a no-no because Catholics are supposed to be buried in a sacred place,” Tangi said.
The heirs wanted the property converted into a retreat house.
“And for good reason,” Tangi said. “It is a beautiful, three-level property, with good architecture, overlooking the ridge, with a lawn and trees.”
An aunt of the heirs asked Tangi to bless the house.
“She admitted that there were spirits causing disturbances. The house was uninhabited for the longest time. Nobody wanted to stay. The caretakers felt that something unseen was always keeping watch, especially when they sleep,” Tangi said.
“Even visitors appreciated the house’s beauty and architectural design, but they felt ill at ease,” he said.
To prepare, the priest went to confession, fasted, and recited prayers of protection, particularly to St. Michael and Padre Pio, the Capuchin monk who also suffered demonic oppression.
3 p.m. prayers
Tangi chose to begin at 3 p.m., deemed the Hour of Great Mercy.
Everyone gathered around the dining table that stood at the center of the main floor.
“When I started with the prayers, we heard the sound of a door opening and closing,” he said.
Everything went well until Tangi reached the part of Pope Leo’s exorcism prayer to St. Michael that commands “unclean spirits, all satanic powers, all infernal invaders, all wicked legions, assemblies and sects” out of the house “in the Name and by the Power of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Suddenly, a dinner plate on the table shattered.
“The shards went flying!” Tangi said. “Nobody got hurt so I continued praying, but I was worried that another plate might explode and hurt someone. The atmosphere was ominous. I was scared.”
But Tangi went on to finish the prayers and the eerie feeling soon disappeared.
Invitation to the devil
He led everyone in a walk around the house, sprinkling holy water and urging them to sing prayers to boost their spirits.
Tangi made a follow-up visit after a week. The caretakers said they no longer felt uneasy.
But a priest who came with him advised the heirs to remove an abstract painting displayed in the living room.
“It was predominantly black and red. The other priest said the painting was actually an invitation to the devil,” Tangi said. The heirs immediately complied.
Blessed objects
Syquia warned against calling on “agents of superstition”—such as arbularyo, magtatawas, spiritista—to exorcise a home.
Quoting the Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, he said: “[I]f the [occupants of the home] should happen to make use of superstitious means condemned by the Church to rid themselves of the curse, they enter, though without knowing it perhaps, into communication with the powers of darkness, which then acquire fresh strength.”
Syquia prescribed “blessed objects, like crucifixes on the door of every room, and the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary at the front part of the house.”
“This manifests that the house belongs to God,” he said, adding that the family’s daily praying of the rosary would also keep an atmosphere of peace.




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Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Maranhig

If the West has zombies, here in the Philippines, there is what some locals from the Visayas call the Maranhig (also Amalanhig or Amaranhig), our native version of the undead.

According to Wikipedia, the Amaranhig is an aswang who has "failed to transfer their monstrosity causing them to rise from their graves to kill humans by biting their necks." The description was based on a list of mythical creatures as depicted in "Pedro Penduko," a popular Philippines comic book superhero which had been portrayed many times in TV and cinema.

Usual stories about Maranhig sightings usually fall under the "my-uncle's-cousin's-grandpa saw it" category and are rarely reliable and informative. My father described hearing about it as a child growing up in his home province but he never mentioned seeing anything that remotely fits the description above and otherwise. He says based on accounts of people who allegedly "saw" it. They are more zombie than aswang - undead corpses whose presence is announced by the overpowering stench of decaying flesh.

I don't know much about the Amaranhig and honestly, this is by far one of the most far-fetched mythical beings I've heard about.

Well up until recently, at least.

It so happened that we were doing "free speech" exercises as part of refresher training in the office and this one guy stood out by stating quite matter-of-factly that he has seen a lot of weird things in Mindanao that he doesn't want to see again. By weird, the first thing that came to my mind was senseless violence and killings or irregularities within the ranks, the guy is, after all, an ex-soldier before he joined our call center.

Well I was wrong.

This guy, let's just call him Max, told me that during one of their tense nights camping out in the jungle hunting for rebels, they noticed that his buddy went missing. They combed the perimeter of the camp for hours and finally found his buddy's body, torn to pieces, literally, with most of the organs missing. The first thing that came to their mind was wild animals. You see, even though illegal loggers are making short work of our forests, there are still patches of barely touched greens in certain places like Mindanao, which can harbor animals of all shapes and sizes.

Upon establishing the location of the remains, his comrades tried to pick up what's left of his buddy in order to bring them back to camp but for some strange reason, they can't lift the pieces. In fact, several members of his unit tried to do it but they all failed. Finally, one of his more superstitious comrades approached Bax and told him to talk to the corpse so that they may put his remains to rest. Distraught as he was, Max spoke to the remains as if they were alive, and lo and behold - the rest of the unit was able to pick them up and put them were they belong.

When I asked him what he said to the remains. He said he simply ask for his buddy's permission to allow them to put his remains to rest, as per his comrades advise.

I know hearing is the last sense to go when one dies but that incident pushes the envelope just a bit too far.

Max said he never believed in the supernatural until that incident. That was quite understandable given the fact that this guy has a college degree which is not common among enlisted personnel. Only his build and bullet scars will tell you this guy used to prowl the jungles of mindanao wielding M16 rifles in search of Moro rebels. Everything else about Max tells me he's either a businessman or just a well-bred, well-schooled yuppy with his American accent and modulated voice.

He also related seeings huge, glowing pairs of eyes in the darkness surrounding one of their riverside camp in the dead of night. This would be usually followed by the rustling of leaves and a scurrying noise from nearby foliage, as if a big animal is hiding among the trees. They never had a clear picture of the thing that visited them but they say its profile was about as big as a man, was arboreal and it had lots of body hair.

I don't know if primates have "reflectorized" eyes like cats do but I'm almost certain what they saw was a monkey, a Crab Eating Macaque (Macaca fascicularis) to be exact. This species of monkey is native to Mindanao and I'm under the impression its diet is one of the reasons it lives near the river.

But the one incident that made me include Max in this post is his assertion that they saw a group of Maranhigs on one of their Mindanao sorties. He said the way these things walk were somehow similar to the way zombies are portrayed in the movies. It was a bright full moon, he says, that allowed them to make out these beings from across a narrow clearing. they were approximately a hundred yards away. with a few trees between them and the strange beings. Based on his description, the Maranhigs were walking quietly in a line. They were naked but rotting flesh and skin hung from their bones like old curtains. The stench was unbearable, he says and to exude a nauseating smell from a hundred yards, one has to be extra lazy in skipping showers, extra dead-advanced in terms of decomposition or extra creative in slathering his skin with all the evilest-smelling substances known to man.

True or not. It was the first time that I met someone who claims first hand accounts of seeing a Maranhig.

By the way, if you're asking yourself why Max retired from active service, it's the same typical answer as what most miltary servicemen will give you: post-traumatic stress disorder.

It's not war, or hardship, however that stressed him to the point of quitting.



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