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Cebu News

Church to evaluate alleged demonic possession in Barili

Robhe Jane C. Yara - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  The Archdiocese of Cebu has urged the faithful to strengthen their faith in God and avoid engaging in occult practices following the recent report of alleged demonic possession in Barili town in southwest Cebu.

Monsignor Joseph Tan, the focal person for media, told The Freeman Thursday that possessions usually occur when people engage in occult practices such as using “habak” (powerful amulets) and believing in astrology, among others, that invite evil spirits to manifest one’s life.

He also mentioned committing large-scale sins as another portal for evil possessions. Tan reminded people to strengthen their relationship with God to spare these situations.

On Tuesday, March 14, at least 15 high school students, all females, from Patupat National High School, at around 8:30 a.m. suddenly went hysterical while in class.

Their teachers, accompanied by the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) personnel, brought 12 students to Sta. Ana Church with their parents and underwent a deliverance by Fr. Reynaldo Cui, an exorcist from Argao, Cebu. Three to Barili Infirmary and one was confirmed to have decreased her oxygen level by the MDRRMO.

On his Facebook page, Barili Mayor Pablo John “John-John” Garcia IV said Tuesday the students were already sent home and safe. He also asked for prayers for the girls’ immediate recovery from the event.

He said the faculty members would render a complete report of the incident to the Department of Education-Central Visayas (DepEd-7).

Patupat barangay captain Angelito Nemeño said the students had already shown exhaustion and were not feeling well before what happened based on initial reports.

Nemeño narrated that the possession could have started from a campfire the students attended last year, stressing the girls then showed strange and aggressive behaviors, such as speaking in manly voices in other languages. Their teachers were puzzled since their school is in open ground, not woodland.

“There are more students now. It’s different because they shout, ‘Leave, or I’m going to kill you all.’ If you come closer, they will tell you to leave,” Nemeño explained in Cebuano.

Nemeño agreed with the school officials to hold a school Holy Mass once a month.

Meanwhile, for Cui, he described the phenomenon as “mass hysteria,” or an outbreak of unusual and uncharacteristic behaviors, thoughts and feelings, or health symptoms shared among a group of people triggered by stress, social pressure, among others.

He said the students confessed to seeing a shadow of a man. But it cannot be considered possession but more of demonic oppression, with the students experiencing auditory hauntings, visions, and apparitions.

In the study of exorcism, demonic oppression is when the demon does not directly attack the person but influences his behavior and the person’s entire life. The person under demonic oppression might exhibit abnormal personality changes, attitudes, and manners.

A possessed person can change his voice. But their voices are still the same but strong, said Cui.

He also pointed out the students may have been dealing with stress being congested in one room as most of their classrooms struck by then super typhoon Odette (Rai) in 2021 remain unrepaired.

Tan said they had not received reports from the incident yet. Once they do, he said a team from their deliverance ministry would carefully evaluate and study what happened before confirming that it is an actual exorcism. — GMR (FREEMAN)

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