When hope clings by a feeble thread & when science declares what it couldn’t stand a chance, many people turn to the realm of magical thinking. It is a complex universe where only man’s faith & the ministrations of the healer rule.
Such is the dominion of faith healing in Manaoag, a sleepy town in Pangasinan---reigned by a Virgin & the salvific orations of the “chosen ones”.
The tales of apparitions & miracles of the Virgin Mother of Manaoag embrace an
immense flock of devotees. They pray for gratitude, blessings, deliverance & healing mercy.
But Manaoag isn’t only known for the Virgin Mother. It is also famous for its “managtambal” or healers who provide miraculous cures for the sick & the afflicted. They come in different personas, using various techniques & mediums.
From traditional “albularyo” or herb doctors to “espiritista” or spiritualists, Manaoag is has a wealth of it. And from local herbs & magical potions to spittle & bare hands, their instruments are beyond imagination.
However diverse this kind of world is, one thing remains common among them-----they are all versed in native medical lore & they use faith in a supreme being to heal.
Felita Llanillo or commonly known as Sister Perlita is one of the most sought-after faith healers in town. She reads palms, goes in trance & invokes divine interventions in making diagnosis & healing.
Sister Perlita is a mediumistic healer. And like many other, they claim that their bodies are used as mediums of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary or the Santo Nino. When in this state, they are able to communicate with the unseen, cure sickness, intercede with spirits or exorcise demons.
Other faith healers declare to have supernatural abilities like Abe Tanes whose power is to teleport the disease from the patient’s body into his own & pukes it out in a grisly ritual climax.
This extraordinary degree of healing is believed to be a special gift not all faith healers possess. Some even claim to have the power to perform astral surgeries with just the use of bare hands.
Kulam or a dark spell inflicted on someone by a witch is another specialized healing & Mang Ador Fernandez is one of those sought for this kind of service. He claims that he had already treated countless cases of kulam through his supernatural prayers & saliva.
The enigma of the Lady of Manaoag is strong that many claim to have witnessed her apparitions. Among them was Cirilo Casabar, who in the Spanish times have so-called seen the Virgin Mother by a spring of water.
This place known today as the Virgin’s Well in Barangay Pugaro attracts so many people for its water that never runs dry even in drought season. They come to offer prayers, fetch water from the well, drink from it & even bathe.
The faithful believe that the water is sacred & is used by the Holy Mother as an instrument to heal illnesses.
Healing through divine grace is common in all religions. People pray for it whether personal or intercessory. And from ancient times to the modern world faith healers exist---through many faces & in a myriad of methods.
In Manaoag, faith healing by these so-called mediums, spiritualists & psychic surgeons are practices based on folk Catholicism. It is a belief system that syncretizes indigenous rituals & the doctrines of the church.
But these faith healers have never escaped criticisms. Skeptics assert that these are nothing but quack practices of illusions to obtain money from the gullible.
Could it be just a placebo effect or the power of the mind to heal? Or is it just coincidental recovery & not really through the rituals of the healer?
We all have different ways of healing, from medical to homeopathic & from spiritual to supernatural. And whether it is scriptural or indigenous in manifestation man goes through all lengths just to be healed.
For the faith healers of Manaoag, they believe that it is God who heals & they are just used as instruments. Even in bouts of doubts & mockery, they will continue to serve the lame, ill & distressed. And send them out whole, free from the sickness of the soil.