WATCH: ‘Clarita’ director shares research about world-renowned Bilibid demonic possession

Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo - Philstar.com
WATCH: âClaritaâ director shares research about world-renowned Bilibid demonic possession
Scene from Black Sheep's new horror film "Clarita"
Instagram / Jodi Sta. Maria

MANILA, Philippines — A new horror movie by local production outfit Black Sheep revisits what has been considered as among the world’s worst cases of demonic possession — so much so that it hooked international media and then Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson reportedly wrote about it in his diary.

And it happened not in America, the land of Annabelle, Chucky and Amityville, but in Manila and to a Filipina named Clarita Villanueva.

As seen in Protestant minister Lester Sumrall's sermon posted on YouTube and as written in his book “The True Story of Clarita Villanueva,” Clarita never knew her father and was orphaned at 12 years old when her mother, a spiritist, died. 

In May 1953, when she was 17 years old, she was locked up in the Old Bilibid Prison in Manila, now known as Manila City Jail.

The Old Bilibid was built in 1865 by the Spanish and served as an internment camp for the Japanese’s Prisoners of War during World War II.

Days after being imprisoned, Clarita reportedly began experiencing being bitten by two invisible creatures. She was taken to the jail’s hospital for treatment, but doctors could not find any explanation or cure for her bites. She also allegedly cursed at least two doctors and a jail warden to die, while several others were injured whenever she was in a possessed state.

Mayor Lacson had Clarita brought to his office at least twice to be examined by at least 100 psychologists, journalists and other doctors and experts from all over the globe. While some doctors were able to come up with prognoses about Clarita’s situation, they cannot seem to find a cure for the girl’s condition.

The mayor also attested to have seen Clarita being bitten by invisible creatures. He said he saw her index finger getting a bite even when he was holding it.

Whenever Lacson would ask the girl to draw her attackers, the pencil would reportedly fly off. There was also a time when she chewed the paper and tried eating the pencil.

Lacson was reportedly desperate to get Clarita exorcized as the international attention she was getting seemed to paint a picture of Manila citizens and Filipinos as backward or insane.

Sumrall, who was in Manila at that time to build a church, said in his YouTube video that he felt a calling to help Clarita. He said he prayed hard for days and tried to ignore the “calling,” but realized that a good deed that one would not do is “God’s work undone.”

So, for three days, Sumrall prayed and exorcized Clarita in Bilibid. After the exorcism, he saw the girl’s transformation from resembling a wild animal, into someone with a light on her face as she began “to embrace God’s love,” Sumrall said.

Sumrall said since his exorcism of Villanueva, she had no attacks and was even married to a rice farmer and had two children.

Lacson, who was happy of Sumrall’s success in exorcizing Clarita, offered to give the pastor any reward. The pastor then took the opportunity to hasten the signing of the building permits for the church he was building and also asked to borrow an open field near Manila City Hall to be able to preach to thousands of Filipinos for free.

The pastor’s accounts were allegedly responsible for the conversion of about 150,000 Filipinos into Catholicism. Sumrall then pointed out how the transformation of even just one person could ripple to reach the entire nation.

Several films and documentaries have been made about what happened. The latest is Black Sheep’s “Clarita,” now showing in cinemas and stars Jodi Sta. Maria in the titular role, with Ricky Davao, Alyssa Muhlach, Romnick Sarmienta, Yayo Aguila and Aaron Villaflor as co-stars.

In an exclusive interview with Philstar.com, Jodi and Alyssa shared their experience making the movie and offered answers to the questions of faith raised in the movie that they asked in real life.

Jodi, who admitted that the role was her most challenging yet, also tossed some trivia on how she made the levitating scenes and dealt with hours of makeup and prosthetics.

Jodi will be celebrating her 36th birthday on June 16. She said that apart from learning how to speak Latin, she prepared for the role spiritually by consulting her pastor, who then told her that although she uttered curses and did blasphemous things in the film, the focus of her character is the message of God’s work of redemption. 

Although the latest “Clarita” film is a fictionalized version based on true events, director Derick Cabrido shared some trivia from the research they did for the movie.

1. Clarita was one of the first cases, if not the first, of demonic possession in the Philippines.

2. The BBC has footage of the possession in its archives.

Cabrido said they tried approaching the British Broadcasting Corp. several times to ask permission to get the video clips so these can be included in the film, but the BBC declined.

3. There was still no broadcast media in the Philippines at that time.

The Philippines was still recovering from the Second World War then, so there were no television and radio stations in the country yet, only tabloids and newspapers, so the only available materials for Cabrido and his team to study on were newspaper clippings with barely recognizable black and white photos.

4. Clarita has no known heirs or descendants that can be interviewed.

Cabrido shared that the news clippings they gathered ended with Clarita going back to her province, Bacolod, where she reportedly married a rice farmer and to whom she had two kids.

5. Interest in Clarita faded due to Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

Cabrido said that even the National Library no longer had clippings that could tell about what happened to Clarita because her story has been shrouded by news of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation that happened in Britain on June 2 of the same year.

“Clarita” is still showing in about 190 cinemas nationwide and has reportedly replaced the flop “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” in some cinemas. Black Sheep is working on the film’s international release, with Jodi in the running for a Best Actress award, according to most reviews. — Videos by Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo



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