BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Friday, December 10, 2010


Barangay Calanan, Tabuk, KALINGA - Half naked in a tattered red shirt, the woman is crying out in pain. There are no words. Just unexplained pangs of anguish. She wouldn't stop. This goes on and on. She is pointing to her swollen stomach. It is unbelievably huge, similar to the size of a woman nine months pregnant. But she is not. She is old, wrinkled and weary.

"She is a victim of witch craft," says Francis, a driver whose employer is also among the sick people here.

They call him Amang. He is the village faith healer. As with most faith healers in the Philippines, he "heals' with bare hands. Today is "healing" day. Villagers looked forward to this all week long. On this sunlit morning, there are at least a hundred people here outside a small house along the road not far from the center of town. A giant pastel colored umbrella hangs like a canopy above the throng of people -- the sick and kibitzers alike. The sick are waiting to be touched by Amang's hands.

Amang does his stuff. "Jesus is Lord" is plastered on his white shirt. He stands across the woman who is grimacing in pain. "Who are you?!" Amang shouts in the Kalinga dialect, addressing the bad spirits believed to have possessed the woman. The woman continues to scream in anguish. Amang pours water all over her body.

"Is it holy water?" I ask Francis.

"Yes it has been blessed by Amang."

Amang has healed hundreds, he says. Many others who have been touched by his hands remain sick but are not giving up.

"It's not just Amang. It's faith in God that can heal," says Francis.

I left the place wondering if the woman's pain will go ever go away with Amang's touch and buckets of blessed water. I wonder if tonight she will sleep soundly, her stomach back to normal and her weary body no longer in pain.