Tuesday, November 16, 2010

black magic and the black virgin of Siquijor

Curious travelers come to Siquijor for a variety of reasons. Black magic is one. The island's quiet and laid-back charm (and beautiful beaches) is another. But two days each year, only during Good Friday and Black Saturday, people from around the globe who have special interest in the occult flock to Siquijor to see first-hand how concoctions are made deep in the mountains of San Antonio.

black magic virgin?
For decades, Siquijor has been known as the island of sorcerers and black magic. Stories abound how the island is divided into the good and evil sorcerers. The good being the faith healers or herbolarios in Visayan parlance while the evil being the mangkukulam.

In a town about 25 kilometers from the capital town of Siquijor, Siquijor, folklore has it that there is a virgin who wears black and prowls the streets of the town at night. She carries an inverted crucifix on one hand and a skull on the other. To complete the eerie image, she drags a chain as she walks in the dead of the night.

I was instantly drawn to this bizarre, albeit haunting story. But the big road block I had to deal with are the locals themselves. In the first place, no one would ever admit that sorcery and witchcraft exist in the island.

One section at Silliman University Museum back in Dumaguete City is actually devoted to ethno-medicine which would lead the guide to point her lips to the island across--Siquijor.

moonlight over Siquijor
Words like barang, hilo and la-ga are just some of the many techniques that exist. The guide would show drawings on how these techniques are done.

Ever heard of "pawikan and sex that doesn't seem to disengage" in the same sentence?
One of the techniques (but was nowhere in the display) that I've heard a few times before hugged, ironically, the urban legend headlines is antiwal. According to Sociologist Richard Lieban, antiwal....
"...consists of a herbal concoction containing the joined genitals of two turtles killed while engaged in the sex act. If the victims wear clothing on which the substance has been applied, the adulterous couple will not be able to disengage from their sexual intercourse.”
Bolo-bolo is another. I've seen this ritual performed several times on a friend and a lot on my students. As a part of the cultural immersion module, I involve my foreign students in this ritual and leave them to decide whether to believe it or not. In the end, as this kids grow up with the advances of science, they consider the ritual as a trick therefore doesn't involve sorcery of any kind.

"Bolo-bolo is performed with the use of a drinking glass, water, stone and straw. The healer first puts a black stone into the glass, then he half fills the glass with water. He then blows air into the water through a straw as he passes the glass around the patient’s body. When the water becomes cloudy, murky, or if some objects appear in the water, that means something is wrong with the patient."--Jaime Licauco

The last of the practitioners in this technique is an 85-year-old lady who lives in the outskirts of San Juan town, in the village of Tag-ibo. Her name is Lola Conching. For the independent and/or solo traveler renting a motorbike, the landmark to her place is the Tag-ibo Barangay Hall. If you are coming from San Juan town the building is on your left. Turn left and take the small asphalt road next to the barangay hall and drive up (about a kilometer) the scenic and winding side road. Her house round the bend (right side of the road) with a mansanitas tree is hard to miss.  

Two towns from Lola Conching's, on a centuries-old stone church with an abandoned building (and crumbling away) beside it, is where the black virgin is said to live.  

During my first quest to see the image, I was led by a stern, old lady (the church caretaker) to the storage room behind the retablo. The honeyed light of the late afternoon sun bathe the different spooky shapes covered in sheets. The cramped room, dust and all could be a perfect setting for a horror film. The eyes of the many statues seem to follow my every move, or at least they seem to look at me. In one corner of the room, there, on a pedestal stood the black virgin. What caught my attention was her sad eyes. The artisan made her eyes the image of pain and sadness. Her whole body was garbed in black with gold trimmings. Her hands, as word-of-mouth had it, were indeed holding the inverted crucifix and a skull.

a photo taken during my second visit. the image was on display in a chapel far from town.

Saint Rita of Cascia
Dispelling the Myth

No one really knows how some myths originate. It has been said, “myths and legends are born out of foolishness”. Personally I believe that the origin of a lot of myths are strictly due to misconceptions or ignorance of the truth.

When I first learned about the statue’s existence and the stories surrounding it, I was determined to find Sta. Rita. After a considerable amount of time and effort, I did eventually find the statue of Sta. Rita. I remember being captivated by the eyes. Also I can recall being surprised by its petite size. Much to my disappointment the few photos that I took to memorize the occasion were lacking the quality that I had hoped for. 
The following year I returned to Maria in an attempt to photograph the statue of Sta. Rita again. During that trip I met Rev. Fr. Henry B. Hisona. I was informed that the bishop had removed most of the church’s artifacts. Due to numerous instances of vandalism and theft, the removal was necessary to protect the artifacts.

During our conversation, the father expressed how displeased he was with the falsehoods being told about Sta. Rita especially in Tourist Guide books. He said that she was a Saint and that someone should debunk the erroneous evil stories. The Father insisted that I hear the truth and told me the story of Sta. Rita. I promised him that I would print the truth.--lifted from the article  Island of Faith and Mystique by Lawrence D. Casiraya , BusinessWorld 

More than the patron saint of those who are broken-hearted, with lost cause and battered wives, St. Rita de Cascia is the patron saint of baseball players (she is even portrayed holding a baseball bat).

Next: cheap food, motorbike rental and madventures in Siquijor >>>


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What's your two-cents about this travel adventure and/or misadventure? Do leave a comment here. Thank you.