Devil statue spooks Malabon cemetery visitors

Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star
Devil statue spooks Malabon cemetery visitors
The statue of a devil stepping on archangel Michael sits atop the tomb of Simeon Bernardo (inset) at the public cemetery in Tugatog, Malabon.
Marc Jayson Cayabyab

MANILA, Philippines — In Malabon, the statue of a devil trampling on the archangel Michael sits atop a tomb at a public cemetery in Barangay Tugatog – that of landowner Don Simeon Bernardo (1869-1934).

It is said that the demon comes alive and walks around at night. A rosary was put around the devil’s arms, as if to dispel the evil in it.

Longtime Malabon resident Rosario Tiongson, 70, said she first saw the statue when she was a teenager. She claimed that the statue seemed to have become bigger – as if it was growing.

This statue was built in 1926 by Bernardo, a wealthy landowner in Malabon who was arrested during the outbreak of the 1896 Revolution for being part of the revolt, an accusation he would later deny in a written account of his life, according to Bernardo’s great-grandson Martin Pison.

Don Bernardo was arrested along with 300 other accused “filibusteros,” and friars ordered him tortured by having scalding oil poured on his legs, he said.

A guardia civil put a gun in his mouth to force him to confess. He was forced to defecate in the same pail used for drinking during their exile.

Pison, a lawyer, told The STAR in an interview that his great-grandfather had the statue built as a reminder that evil prevailed over the good.

“He built it due to his theological musings. He was using Catholic reasoning to argue against it,” Pison said.

Bernardo’s revulsion toward the friars compelled him to read the Bible from cover to cover and question it because the friars at the time appeared not to be guided by its tenets, Pison said.

His anti-friar stance compelled Bernardo to convince three of his daughters – Luningning, Hypatia and Sumilang -– to reject Christianity and not get married.

It was Sumilang, a lawyer who once served at the Office of the Solicitor General, who was the most vocal about their father’s teachings.

“They’re atheists, but they’re the kindest people I know. We have been taught to do good, to conduct ourselves well. That you do not need a God to behave,” Pison said.

Pison denied the rumors that  the prominent Bernardos of Malabon are Satanists, because Bernardo did not even believe in Satan.

The family has no plans of removing the statue because it remains relevant today, he said.

Pison recalled his Lola Sumilang as saying the statues of the devil and the angel would only change places if good has finally prevailed over evil.

Another relative, Lubi Bernardo, put the stories about the statue’s growth to rest – the original statue had been replaced sometime in the 1970s.

He remembered painting its eyes yellow to make it more frightening. The statue was put inside a cage to protect it from stones being thrown at it, and also from junkies using the tomb for drug sessions. 

Placed beside the statue is a plaque printed on which is an exchange between the devil and the angel, written by renowned Tagalog novelist Lope Santos.

In the exchange, Lucifer declared himself as the “king” on earth who taught the human race the vices they enjoy.

For Lola Rosario, the statue represents the evil ways the people allowed to rule over their lives. She remains confident that there will always be good in their hearts.

“We can let the good rule over us through prayer. So we can allow ourselves to battle the devil,” the longtime Malabon resident said.

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