NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
The calm, progressive, first-class seaside town of Talibon (of 71,000 residents) was shocked last September 15 when about 200 high school students were afflicted with nausea, fainting, distress, and anxiety while hearing Holy Mass inside a school gym.
Authorities – town, and school (led by Mayor Janette Aurestila-Garcia) – were quick to dismiss the event as “mass hysteria” in the San Jose National High School – a combination of anxiety and hyperventilation.
After all, all of those confined in the hospitals have been released and school is back to normal.
But Bishop Daniel Patrick Parcon whose official residence is in Talibon was more circumspect in (saying that he would await the investigation from the church’s perspective) before making his comment.
On the other hand, Fr. Darwin Gitgano, one of the foremost Boholano exorcist-priests and Director (of the Diocesan Committee on Social Communication) says there is a need to process the first 5-10 students who showed the illness signs in the Talibon incident.
Many people believe the hysteria could be partly both evil-induced or medically explainable, depending on the person.
Fr. Gitgano, however, said there were manifestations that the incident could be evil-directed as it happened during the course of holding a sacrament (Holy Mass). Some of those afflicted manifested “strange languages, eerie and loud voices, unusual strength” especially when the team of exorcists of the diocese led by Fr. Arsenio Felisilda used the cross, holy water, and other sacred blessed items on them. The afflicted even became more violent and agitated.
There are 4 priest-exorcists assigned in the Diocese of Talibon.
Fr. Syquia, the Chief Philippine Exorcist is the Director of the Archdiocese of Manila on Exorcism. He says they have 10 reports of evil possession or harassment per day.
Fr. Syquia says the 200-strong Philippine Association of Exorcists which he heads- “would not have created a ministry of exorcism if such was not needed.” He was also earlier sent to Rome to take advanced studies in Exorcism coupled with his Masters degree in Psychology.
Now, all referred cases to them are tackled by a team of priests trained in exorcism, counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, case officers, and lay volunteers.
In an online interview carried by UCA (Union of Catholic Asia News) two days after the Talibon incident, Fr. Syquia said that evil could have interfered during the Mass because some of the students were “already exposed to occult practices. They were psyched due to faith healers who made them vulnerable to demonic attack.”
He also disclosed that ” people experiencing spiritual, emotional, familial relational crisis are vulnerable to demonic possessions.” He also warned children of the excessive use of social media and the internet which can become tools of the evil one to influence the mind.
It was reported that some of the victims who attempted to be exorcised using the cross and holy water became” more agitated and violent”.
Some claim they saw a “black man” near the balite tree nearby and even inside the gym where the Mass was held.
In the “evil harassment” case of the 13 female Grade 8 and 8 students of Ubaldo Iway Memorial National High School in Barangay Cambanay in Danao City (July 12), they also saw the same similar “black man”.
Fr. Syquia added: ” Kids who abandon their allegiance to God due to occult practices, faith healers open their ‘third eye”. Unpleasant things then folllow.
Fr. Darwin was also the parish priest in Loon in March 2020 when 40 people were similarly affected during Mass after a spiritual recollection.
He had often made a distinction between just “oppression”” and “possession”, the latter being unaware of the circumstances during the spiritual struggle while the former could result at times in physical bruises and complete awareness of the afflicted about what was happening.
Fr. Darwin also mentioned in one of his posts that once in Zamboanga, amid thousands of people inside a gymnasium was one who was a “walking possessed” who tried to shoo him away as he shouted “these people are already my people.”.
Fr. Darwin also won in this confrontation.
In a Chronicle Interview, Fr. Gitgano said that the Diocese of Tagbilaran has 13 priest exorcists and they receive from 1 to 5 cases a day. These are being reported or attended to in their two houses in Valencia built for exorcism-related exercises and discussion.
He said that the battle can be won only if we empower the family, especially the head, to go back to the path of Christianity and the use of the sacraments. The small group of exorcists cannot do all the work on their lonesome.
He warned about certain, memes, cartoons, movies, and even online games as the entry point for the evil one to seep into the consciousness of people. Many of the producers, actors, and directors of these social media platforms have satanic inclinations.
Some of them are cunning and deceptive and can even quote the Bible to mislead people farther down the road.
Some good news, however, surfaced – in that we discovered that the former Archdiocese of Manila Cardinal Luis Tagle had earlier inaugurated a few years back in Makati (Guadalupe) the ” Saint Michael Center for Spiritual Liberation and Exorcism’. It is reputedly the only school for exorcism in the whole of Asia.
Training of exorcists from here and other countries is regularly held.