A Lent Special Feature
Faith Healing in Cagayan
By Benjie S. De Yro
Like the rest of the country, Cagayan is awash with religiosity which can border on fanaticism. Like the rest of humanity, Cagayanos are always fascinated for the mystical and supernatural peppered with lements of religion, tribal spiritualities, and indigenous practices
Mainstream medicine and alternative medicine borders on science and mythology, dogma and folklore. Fortunately or unfortunately, Cagayan has not been influenced, so far, by myriad of new age concepts with esoteric jargons like paranormal, quantum physics, astral energies, psychokinesis, and meditational.
Caritan Sur, Tuguegarao City, 1967
The old woman lighted a white candle and dripped it into a small tin wash basin. There was silence inside the hut as all eyes are focused on the wash basin. The old woman shook the basin twice. She looked at a young boy, now sweating profusely and turned to the mother.
“Your son stepped on a sleeping dwarf in your backyard while playing,” she declared to the mother and turned on the boy. She asked for leaves of Atis and whipped the leaves into the entire body of the boy.
“Never play at mid-noon ’till 3:00 in the afternoon. It’s siesta time for dwarves. You’re lucky, you hit on a white dwarf, the playful ones,” she was lecturing the boy.
Elsewhere in the province, similar rituals are done every day for single purpose; to free the person of whatever sickness he has at the moment. Those individuals who initiate such rituals are called by many names among Ibanags; Minakkatta, Minallavun, Anirsiri or Minanningan.
No one exactly knows how they came to be that. Some of them claimed they had a dream while some said they are driven by an unseen force which they cannot resist. However, there’s a common denominator to all of them; they know they are simply media of the Holy Spirit.
Abbangkeruan, Pamplona, 1990s
Aya Macasaquit, a member of an old influential clan in Pamplona town turned to a local faith healer when medical doctors failed her. She believe in faith healers as they are the medium of the third world or the world of the spirits.
“We live in a three-dimensional world where other worlds are not seen by the naked eye,” Aya begins.
She said some people are gifted with the ability to feel the presence of these beings, talk to them and relay the message to us, mortals. Her boy was only seven years old when he contracted skin allergies. There were rashes every part of the boy’s body save for his face.
Aya brought her child to a doctor where he was given medication. The first day the anti-histamine ointment was applied to his body, the boy screamed because the ointment was burning his skin, instead. The ointment was applied the next three days despite the screaming.
The situation worsened.
“It was then that my father told us to let a faith healer see my son,” she said. The Minanningan or faith healer in Barangay Abbangkeruan was an old woman who asked Aya to stop applying the ointment to the boy. Instead, she was instructed to buy nine candles and to construct an altar.
Like the rest of mothers who are more in pain from their children’s suffering than the children themselves, Aya lighted a candle every six o’clock in the evening for nine days. The coconut oil which has been blessed under a separate ritual by the faith healer was applied to the boy while the family prayed three The Lord’s Prayer. The ritual is to be followed for nine consecutive days.
On the third day, the boy’s skin went dry and started to peel off. On the ninth day, he was totally clean of the rashes. His clothes were burned and its ashes was scattered along Pamplona River. What happened to the boy in the first place?
“Your dead relatives played with him,” the old woman told Aya. To appease the spirits of the dead relatives, a nine-day novena was held. Aya’s child grew up strong, handsome and is now a well-respected professional in his own field of expertise.
“I believe in faith healers as I do believe in mainstream medicine,” Aya concluded.
The Great Plains of Isabela
A young boy has been hearing a lot about faith healers. But the deep religiosity of his grandparents made the issue not so much discussed within the family. He was only five years old when he became a victim of anna-annung, an unexplained but an accepted phenomenon until today.
Ironically, his family did not approach a faith healer or an albularyo. They initiated on the boy the various leaves usually used in some tribal rituals, locally termed as “tapal-tapal.” Some of the leaves were burned and the smoke were allowed to envelope the boy’s body.
“Part of my skin was burned,” he said.
In his early adulthood and educated by the modern world, he now sees faith healing as a minority belief
because it’s seldom practiced now unlike before in urban and rural areas and even in his barrio. The ‘pinausukan boy’ is now a well-sought after lecturer and trainer in the field of education.
He goes by the name Amir Mateo Aquino.
For Amir, Lent is memorable for not eating meat on Friday and family outing in those clean “waig” (Iloco, streams) and rivers but not of faith healing rituals as a child.
Whether one is into mainstream or alternative healing, forgiveness is its cornerstone; in fact of Lent.