Mystics and Miracles: 10 Stories of Filipinos With Supernatural Gifts
Sure, we all know about Spiderman and our very own Captain Barbell, but do you know that there were people in local history who were said to have had incredible powers? While many of them lived generations ago, their stories are still as fascinating.
Martin Sancho: The Child Savant Who Awed King Philip II
In 1587, a frail, 10-year-old boy named Martin Sancho was sent to Spain to have an audience with King Philip II, who was the world’s most powerful monarch at the time. It was the intent of Spanish officials to present the boy to the royal court as proof that the new colony—which the king wanted to quit—was worth keeping and that the natives could be educated like Europeans.
Sancho did not disappoint. He not only conversed with the King in Spanish, but breathlessly recited prayers, articles of faith, church rules, doctrines, and the entire Catholic catechism in perfect Spanish. The King then pried him with more test questions that the boy confidently answered before a stunned court, who gave him a thundering applause as he was ushered out.
After his successful appearance, the savant stayed in Spain as a ward of Fr. Alonso Sanchez. At 17, he was taken to Rome to join the Jesuit novitiate, then returned to finish college in Murcia. In 1601, Sancho, his body racked with tuberculosis, finally went home to the Philippines to reunite with his Kapampangan parents whom he had left when he was only 10. Sancho died one month later at age 25.
Gregorio Aglipay: The Invisible Man
Gregorio Aglipay (May 5,
Aglipay was said to have possessed the power of the "
Agapito Illustrisimo: Healer of a President
A revered mystical founder named Agapito Illustrisimo of a Banahaw religious group was born in the Lumutan mountains of Bantayan island. He was a captain of a Pulajan religious outlaw group in the early 1900s. Left for dead after a major skirmish, he survived to become a farmer.
In 1935, while settled in Kinabuhayan in Banahaw, Illustrisimo began hearing a voice which commanded him to stand between two boulders in a stream. As he did so, the boulders came together and entrapped him. Illustrisimo freed himself by stomping his foot on the ground, leaving his footprint, and causing a spring to gush out.
The same voice ordered him to put up the Samahan ng Tatlong Persona Solo Dios in 1936. He went on a recruiting tour, holding prayer healing sessions all around
Illustrisimo was arrested by guerrillas due to his association with pro-Japanese officials and was never seen again. His son, Jose Illustre, took over the “
Enchong Laway: The Spit Doctor from Parañaque
In the first decade of the 20th Century, an unusual ‘medico’ emerged from Parañaque, by the name of Lorenzo “Enchong Laway,” who healed by touching his patients with his saliva. The use of saliva in healing goes back to Biblical accounts in which Jesus restored a blind man’s vision by spitting on his eyes and putting his hands on him.
Enchong supposedly gained his healing powers when, while in the San Mateo mountains, he rested under a tree and fell asleep. A ghostly being with a flowing beard appeared to him in a dream, anointing him as a chief doctor of the country. Upon returning to Parañaque, he told his townmates of his dream and began healing by rubbing his saliva on the sick. People began seeking him in droves, believing his procedure was infallible. But his method also worried the Department of Health, as he was using his own spit at a time when tuberculosis—transmittable through infected saliva—was a major cause of death among Filipinos.
Enchong, who had become a national celebrity, was declared to be insane and committed to an asylum in 1925. In 1915, a movie called Enchong, Ang Medicong Laway came out, a slapstick comedy on the superstitious beliefs of rural people who trusted quack doctors more than men of science.
Apo Iro: Pampanga’s Miracle Man
Apo Iro, also known as “manggagamot ng walang gamot,” was just 12 years old when he formed his healing ministry. Pedro Danganan (February 15, 1907 to September 15, 1957) gained his powers when, after a pilgrimage to Antipolo, the child was found clinging to the image of the Virgen de la Paz y Buenviaje. The experience transformed the playful kid into an introspective child who talked about visions of an old, long-bearded man. His healing powers then became evident. His first patient was his mother, whom he cured of paralysis.
Now known as “Apo Iro,” he embarked on a healing mission, curing people by the thousands in the 1920s to 1930s, even restoring the eyesight of a cynical “medicocirujano.” Apo Iro also developed other supernatural powers—he could predict the coming of rain, animate religious images, and make himself invisible.
At his peak, his pictures were sold as ‘estampitas,’ and a book (Buhay at Kasaysayan ni Apo Iro at ng Kanyang Mga Milagro) was written about him. Rabid followers collected his bath water, which they believed had curative powers. In gratitude, a cured Chinese millionaire patient built him a house. His death was covered by newspapers and his funeral procession, stretched for miles and was attended by thousands from all walks of life—all bound by a common extraordinary experience, of having once been healed by Pampanga’s miracle man.
Filomena Almarinez: The Incorruptible
IMAGE: Alex Castro Collection
Incorruptibility, in Christian belief, is a sign of holiness reserved for saints whose bodies do not decompose after death. When the body of Filomena Almarinez (July 6,
Almarinez, known for her quiet, introspective ways, came from a farming family. Some say that at age 25 she died of emotional stress. When her own father died in 1947,
Binukot: Princesses of Memory
IMAGE: Screengrabs from i-Witness, GMA 7 feature on Binukot
In the Visayas, one can still find a few old women who were once isolated from the community by being kept in their homes, exempted from work, pampered and exalted by their society. Treated and treasured like princesses, these women are remnants of a pre-colonial practice called “
Since then, more
Ronald Joaquin Marcos: The Bionic Boy Wonder
Ronald Joaquin, the country’s most popular psychic whiz kid of the '70s, had the uncanny ability to connect a caller to anywhere in the world through the use of a toy plastic phone. He could read written questions without looking at the paper on which they were written and could write his answers without the pen touching the paper. Ronnie could also change the value of peso bills and materialize objects—including food. He began manifesting his powers following his troubles in the seminary where he was evicted for stealing. Media people discovered him and Ronnie became a TV celebrity where he demonstrated his psychic gifts.
In 1977, it was rumored that President Ferdinand Marcos adopted him as his
Emma de Guzman: The Filipino Mystic-Stigmatist
Widow and mother Emma de Guzman (December 8, 1949) was working in Singapore in 1984 when she had her first strange experience. A whirlwind swept past her church, carrying a piece of paper that landed on her foot, directing her to a job in Canada. She later became a nanny in Ontario. In 1991, a friend, Sol Gaviola, took her to the Fatima Shrine in New York, and that was when she allegedly saw the Virgin Mary who taught her to pray the Holy Rosary.
Since then, the Virgin has supposedly appeared to her regularly, every September 8 and December 8. During these alleged visions, she goes into a trance and her face gets mysteriously frosted with golden dust. De Guzman has also claimed to have seen Jesus Christ, angels, female saints, and souls seeking penance.
In 2006, people witnessed her write a foreign language in a perfectly straight line on a paper, later examined to be ancient Koine Greek. She has also exhibited partial stigmata on her forehead, palms, back and feet, all captured on video. De Guzman founded a lay Catholic group called La Pieta, dedicated to a Marian devotion under the title Mother of Love, Peace, and Joy.
Tablate: The Three-Year-Old Child Firestarter
In early 2011, the incredible story of a three-year-old firestarter was reported by news correspondents from GMA Iloilo. Emma “Em-Em”
When a policeman gave the girl a piece of biscuit, it caught on fire. Town mayor Rony Molina and paranormal experts were also convinced that Em-em had pyrokinetic abilities. The child insisted, however,
This story originally appeared on Spot.ph. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.