Paranormal activity
SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) - November 1, 2019 - 12:00am

Like most children, I was terrified of ghosts and death in my youth. I’ve noticed, however, that as I grow older, such fears have progressively diminished.

Is it because I am inching closer to the inevitable, and gradually acclimatizing to the spirit world? Or is it because of stories about death heralding not the end, but a new beginning – whether in a new dimension in the afterlife, or into the next phase in the cycle of reincarnation?

Jaime Licauco, whose business card describes him as a “paranormal consultant,” believes in such things.

He believes in a soul and reincarnation – what is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, he says, but a form of rebirth into the next life? But Licauco calls himself spiritual rather than religious.

He’s amused by the fact that he becomes highly in demand in the talk show circuit mainly around Halloween time, when even avowed non-believers are willing to discuss stories about ghosts and communicating with the dead.

It can be comforting, especially for the newly bereaved, to be reassured that death is not the end, and that we may one day be reunited with our dearly departed.

Skeptics scoff at stories of paranormal activities and may consider Licauco a kook or even a fraud.

Licauco, our guest for Undas on Cignal TV/One News’ “The Chiefs” last Wednesday, told us that he doesn’t waste his time trying to change the mind of non-believers who demand scientific evidence for the paranormal.

“I like skeptics,” he told us as he pointed out that he himself used to be one.

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Licauco, now 79, majored in Philosophy and English and has a masters in business management from the Asian Institute of Management where he was a scholar.

One day, friends initiated him into the paranormal, during which he vows that he experienced astral projection. This is when the soul, still connected through an astral umbilical cord to the living body, leaves its physical host for R&R in another dimension or plane of existence.

It is believed that this is what happens when we dream – except in astral projection, the person has a full recollection of the out-of-body experience.

High priests or lamas of pre-China Tibet are said to be able to do this at will. The native Tibetans are also supposed to be able to trace the previous lives not only of themselves but also of others. This is the reason why pre-China Tibet has a long tradition of designating a team that conducts a search and identifies the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama in early childhood. They do not recognize the current Panchen Lama, who is second to the Dalai Lama in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy, and who was picked and anointed by Beijing as its favored spiritual leader of Tibet.

If you believe in reincarnation, you may also believe that people can trace their previous incarnations, through a process called regression.

Licauco, whose services include “post life regression counseling” and hypnotherapy, claims that the earliest incarnation of himself that he has traced dates back to the time of Pharaoh Ramses II (1303-1213 B.C.), when he says he was an Egyptian monk.

Combine this with his claim that he can connect with the departed (although he stresses that he doesn’t see dead people a la The Sixth Sense, you will understand why media may take Licauco seriously (OK… just a tad seriously) only around Halloween.

*      *      *

In certain countries, governments have taken paranormal activities seriously enough to set up top-secret units that conducted research on the occult.

Licauco said that in the Philippines, he organized such a body with some government support in the 1970s, but the state funding dried up.

He shrugs off all the skepticism that greets paranormal pursuits. Licauco points out that regardless of the open skepticism, stories abound all over the globe of paranormal phenomena, many with similar threads. All the stories, he points out, can’t be attributed simply to some form of mass hallucination or hysteria.

Beliefs in a soul and spirits, he notes, predate Christianity and the other great religions of the world.

This holiday weekend when we observe the days of the saints and the dead, we allow ourselves to suspend disbelief and open our minds to any explanation of things beyond the realm of science.

*      *      *

Licauco, the only Filipino I know who is referred to as a paranormal expert, has tips about haunting experiences. He says there’s a difference between souls and spirits. The second one can be malevolent and, yes, may possess people.

Before you shake your heads and wonder what he’s been smoking, note that even the Roman Catholic Church still has exorcists in the clergy, who perform rituals to drive away evil spirits from the possessed.

Catholic Church belief in demonic possession is likely among the factors behind the great fear of paranormal activities in our predominantly Catholic country.

Souls can also be restive but are largely harmless if you don’t succumb to your fear of the unknown, says Licauco. Tell them to get lost and they likely will, he advises people.

He says that if the presence of the departed does not linger, it’s no cause for concern. But if it’s a persistent presence, the ghost may be trying to tell you something, he says. He then advises you to overcome your fear, communicate with the ghost and find out what the departed wants.

Skeptics are surely rolling up their eyes, but I’m sure there are a lot of people who believe in such stories of the paranormal.

Licauco does not lack for clients in his Prince Plaza office in Makati. His business card quotes Danish existential philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard: “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t so. The other is to refuse to believe what is so.”

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