Urban legends that surround Holy Week refuse to die. In fact, social media seems to have given them a new lease on life.
-Sigbin, a mythical creature that usually appears during the Holy Week. It looks like a kangaroo or a hornless goat with big ears that flap when excited or mad. Sigbins usually like to feast on charcoal. In the absence of charcoal, Sigbins target young children with fresh and clean blood. Sigbins do not physically attack their victims, they just sip their victim’s blood.
-A female vampire who was an OFW is terrorizing the Visayas area. After returning home, she started to crave for human flesh. Known as Maria Labo, she has the ability to change her appearance.
-Some children are abducted or bred for sacrifices days before the Holy Week. A white van and men in bonnets kidnap children, take out their organs and sell them to people needing organ transplants.
However, last week’s occurrence in Jagna town was so strange that experts have struggled to explain the situation.
Some stories blur the lines between science, spirituality and the supernatural.
At least 10 high school students of Jagna High School in Barangay Bunga Mar were allegedly possessed by evil spirits on Monday morning.
Justino Cesar Arban, a grade 11 teacher, said that some Grade 10 students screamed and fainted inside their classrooms. He said they spoke strange language and displayed freakish strength while being “possessed.”
A palpable chill settled over the school that the teachers and students were praying to ward off evil spirits.
Arban, who led the class praying the Holy Rosary to ward off evil spirits, said one of his students chilled and began shouting when they were reciting the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.
The students were so scared that the school decided to send the students home. However, the hysteria spread to four more students on Tuesday. Some of the students got angry when rosaries were hung around their necks.
The school decided to suspend classes on Wednesday and a Holy Mass was held at 9 a.m. at the school ground officiated by Msgr. Orencio Jubac, resident priest of St. Michael the Archangel Parish Church and Fr. Tereso Lumacang, assistant priest. It was attended by the teachers, parents, alleged victims and lay people.
During the Holy Mass, five students were reportedly fainting and having strong muscular convulsions. They were also speaking in tongues.
Speaking in tongues or glossolalia is a phenomenon in which people appear to speak in languages unknown to them.
Lumacang said he could not conclude yet if what occurred in the school was a genuine demonic possession. He urged the parents and the community to pray for the children.
At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, the students were brought to St. Michael the Archangel Parish Church for “casting and deliverance.”
According to Jagna Councilor Anthony Aniscal, a village faith healer identified only as Lando told the teachers that the students drew the ire of spirits inhabiting an old kalachuchi tree near the school’s entrance.
The area around the tree has been used as a dump site for the school’s trash. Lando told teachers that the spirits would try to possess all of the school’s students unless the area is cleaned.
A student went to the comfort room near the kalachuchi tree and saw a child before the alleged possession occurred. The child asked her to buy a candy, but the student chilled and was shouting when the child’s face turned bloody.
Prior to the incident, senior high school students attended a two-day Youth Camp organized by Couples for Christ (CFC)-Bohol last March 10 and 11 at Jagna Central Elem. School.
School principal Christopher Aclan, who refused to talk to reporters, asked his teacher to tell Bohol reporters not to report the incident.
In 2016, 41 female students at the Japer Memorial School in Barangay Catalina in Sagbayan town went into convulsions, screamed and fainted inside their classrooms. Residents believed the hysteria started after a gmelina tree inside the school was cut down. A week after, 22 female students of the San Pascual Academy (SPA) in Barangay San Pascual, Ubay town, exhibited similar behavior believed to be possession.
When I was young, I had witnessed two demonic possessions. Two of our female neighbors were possessed by evil spirits on different occasions. As the priests began to pray, the woman slipped into a trance. She spoke in multiple voices-deep, guttural and masculine. When someone secretly sprinkled ordinary water on her, she didn’t react. But when holy water was used, she screamed in pain. It took weeks for these women to be completely delivered from evil spirits.
Doctors used to be widely skeptical and they argued that there’s no empirical evidence that proves possession is real.
Belief in possession exists in many religious traditions. Some people believe that possession is rare, but real. However, only a trained exorcist could tell if someone is possessed.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks to the importance of knowing the difference between mental illness and demonic actions. It said, “The exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.”
According to Jerome Magallen, a Bohol-based psychologist, many cultures still believe that seemingly unprovoked acts of hysteria are caused by spirit possession. He said apart from spiritual modes of therapy, those exhibiting odd behavior should seek medical help.
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