Materially, we were wanting. We lived in a poorly maintained two-story house made of wood and Nipa. When it would rain, some parts of our house would also be drenched that we had to gather pails and basins to prevent our floor from being flooded. During typhoons, waters inside the house sometimes rose knee-deep that we had to huddle in a big wooden bed together with our two pet dogs.
My parents, who lived frugally, inculcated in us the importance of education. My mother’s mantra was, “Mag-aral kayong mabuti para pag makatapos na kayo at makapagtrabaho, mabibili niyo na anuman ang gustuhin niyo.” (Study hard so that once you have finished your studies and found a job, you could buy anything you desire.) For us children, education was the only route to escape poverty.
From the moment I entered pre-school up to high school, I was always on top of the class. I became so accustomed to being number one that there was a time I envied my classmates who ranked second to me. Whatever it was I participated in – Science Quiz, Oration, Talumpati, Essay-writing, Talent competitions, even campus beauty tilts, I would emerge as the runaway winner. Being on stage most of the time and receiving accolades–trophies, medals–in whatever I pursued as a student made me mighty proud of my capabilities.
The more I excelled, the greater the pressure and expectations I placed on myself. Not once did I acknowledge that there must have been somebody up there who enabled me to shine. It was all about my own efforts.
To cloak my pride, I attended religious activities. But even in these, I showed I excelled because I would often volunteer to do the readings right before the priest would perform his homily. The passages in the Scriptures that I used to read in front of an audience never sank into my heart because I was more concerned with my pronunciation, stress, accent and voice quality than the wisdom behind the passages.
As days went by I felt emptier and more fearful. I became a worrywart. I devoured books of different genres to distract my inner restlessness—romance, fantasies, mysteries and even horror novels. But none proved to be a balm to my agitations.
Instead, my imagination got so fertile that I spent hours everyday fantasizing who I would be in the future – a famous, rich beauty queen and movie star with a dashing prince charming in tow. I would do this before I went to bed and after waking up in the morning. I also developed an overwhelming fear of dying. Whenever I heard news of death, be it of a person I knew or not, fear would grip me as I thought I could be next. I also felt a deep void in my life my efforts were not capable of filling.
My whole family was alarmed of my condition. I was initially brought to different doctors but medical examinations showed there was nothing wrong with me, physically. A psychiatrist also checked my condition and recommended that I be brought to Manila to avail of modern medical tests. To calm my nerves, I was given prescription tablets like Valium just so I could go to sleep.
Finally I told my mother that my condition was not physical, but spiritual. Because I felt at that time I was under the hands of an unseen evil force, I told her that in case I die, they could just burn my body as I was sure I would go to hell any way. My mother cried and so did my father but they encouraged me not to give up as they would do what they could to have me cured of whatever condition I was in.
When medical science failed to cure me of my mysterious illness, my parents brought me to different faith healers in Bicol in response to my assertion that what was happening to me was “spiritual.” No less than five healers in different locations performed various rituals to free me of my spiritual oppression. One even had me swallow ashes of a burnt paper after he had written some Latin words and performed chants. Another demanded that a young goat be sacrificed on my behalf. Another was allegedly possessed by the spirit of Sto Nino and performed rituals using candles and a basin of water. The more these different healers touched me, the worse I felt about my condition. It was at this point that I asked my mother to buy me an image of a small Sto Nino and another one of virgin Mary to “guard” me from the spirits hovering around me.
From Bicol, I was brought to Liliw, Laguna when my parents learned that there was an allegedly powerful healer in that area. I could no longer remember what transpired during the healing session but what I remember was that I was gripped by a very powerful force and I was no longer in control of myself.
When we returned to my brother’s place in Calamba City where we were temporarily staying, I felt an intense warfare between two opposing forces raging over my soul. I remember waking up in the dead of the night and seeing the image of the “virgin Mary” I kept holding on to, staring at me fiercely. I would also notice as I would gaze at the window of our room a silhouette of a man in black robe holding what appeared to be a scythe —like the image of the grim reaper. Not far beyond this figure, however, I would also see a place (like a miniature city) of sparkling gold. I would also hear strange sounds and chuckles from unseen sources. I felt “watched upon” by a horde of spirits. I would, however, also hear melodious voices singing songs I had never heard of in my entire life, as though comforting and encouraging me. I thought at that time, a group of angels were singing to me to divert my attention from the sinister chuckles and buzzing I would hear. Once I even heard while I was lying down as though a negotiation from two male voices was ensuing over my fate. At this point, I was keenly aware I was experiencing things in a different dimension.
There was an also occasion when I was in the company of some family members inside a restaurant going to Batangas, when I noticed a group of men on the other table beside ours. When I looked at them, I did not see faces of normal features but ones with very thick brows and elongated ears, like those of elves. Worse, they were all staring at me, as though, keeping a tight watch over me. I never told any one of what I had been experiencing and seeing because I felt I had been “silenced” and when I tried to talk, my words were no longer coherent. Everything I experienced, I just registered in my thoughts.
I was also told much later that there was a time I became so strong and spoke with a male voice. I also allegedly spat upon and uttered cuss words against a family member. I would experience possession of a “religious” spirit as I would, beyond my control, perform, worship movements (i.e. bowing down with my two hands forming a triangle—just like the gesture of Charice in her “Pyramid” song). I would become sweaty performing this act of bowing down over and over again. Looking back, I no longer remember doing the normal things I used to do during this time of “illness.” Though physically present, I lost normal contact with my family. I was in a world of my own – a target of intense warfare in the spiritual realm. All efforts though for healing seemed futile. The faith healers and the graven images I held on to proved useless. In my desperation, I even walked on my knees inside Sto Domingo Church in Quezon City asking a seemingly far-out God to deliver me from my condition.
The Healing Process
About the fourth week of my deteriorating condition in May 1990, I was brought to a healing crusade of a Catholic priest by the name of Corsey Legaspi somewhere in Quezon City. I remember seeing throngs of people in the venue, but I was too weak at that time. I remember being carried right in front of the priest. As he touched my forehead, I felt a cold sensation and an unseen force made me move my head upward until my eyes caught these words emblazoned on a white background:
JESUS LOVES YOU
When I was taken back to the place we were staying in Calamba, I started to feel a little better. The strange sensations, eerie voices and visions slowly faded until my thoughts cleared up and “sanity” returned. I also began to talk coherently and recognized my family members. It was a progressive healing, as I felt the heaviness and “harassing” spirits leave me one by one until I regained control again of both my mental and physical faculties. My appetite also returned.
All in all, it took almost two months before I recovered from my spiritual experience. I learned later it was a case of harassment/oppression and possession. But I truly believe I had witnessed and experienced the reality of opposing forces battling out for my soul.
In June of 1990, I was completely healed. When I returned to Bicol, I was met by the Pastor and wife who I wanted initially to meet and have a Bible study with prior to my “sickness.” I also learned later that during the time I was in Laguna and in the thick of my out-of-this-world experiences, they fasted and prayed for me.
In October of that same year, I enrolled at UP Los Banos as a transfer student. My acceptance at UPLB signaled a new beginning for me. Having experienced miraculous healing, I was eager to start my student life with a new perspective. Where I used to consider academic work to showcase my competitive spirit and outcompete others, I regarded my new environment as a divine orchestration and blessing. I was humbled by my “harrowing” experience, as I came to realize that pride, conceit and spiritual independence open a wide door for the enemy to harm us and even snatch our souls.
On my second semester of my freshman year, my hunger to know the Lord grew when I attended an evangelistic crusade of a campus ministry entitled “Hell’s Bells.” I kept crying while watching the video presentation featuring Christ’s crucifixion while the song “We Are The Reason” was being played. It was July of 1991. I was so convicted with the lyrics of the song that I vowed I would seek Him until I know Him. After the event, I surrendered myself to the Lordship of Christ while I was alone inside my dorm room. During this period, I was led to a fellowship and discipleship ministry — the UPLB Navigators — where I was nurtured in my spiritual walk, studied God’s word and learned spiritual disciplines. I came to know Christ for who he claimed to be – Mighty God and Savior who came to demonstrate God’s unconditional love to mankind.
AFTER KNOWING CHRIST
As I started spending quiet time with the Lord and fellowshipping with fellow believers ,I began to experience significant changes in my life.
First, I experienced inner peace which was one thing I never had prior to coming to Him. I was an agitated, restless soul gripped by so many fears— fear of failure, rejection of people, and death. One particular passage in the Scripture that ministered to me was Hebrews 12:14-15.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
Secondly, As the Lord has shown his loving-kindness by healing me, he removed from my heart any trace of self-pride and pretense. I learned from my experience that when faced with a life and death situation and when you are literally and physically under the grip of the enemy, all earthly pursuits such as desire for success, beauty, excellence and wealth, dissolve like smoke. Not once did I desire going back to school, getting a career or being wealthy or famous during my ordeal.
There was only one thing that mattered and that was freedom from my situation and total healing. Indeed no earthly concern could match my need for spiritual freedom and restoration.
Lastly, I was freed from my compulsion to compare myself and compete with others. The Lord granted me the grace to embrace myself just I am with all my imperfections. He freed me from the old habit of looking over the fence and desiring somebody else’s life. From being discontented and dissatisfied with life which manifested in my regular fantasizing sprees, I became content and thankful for the grace of life each day.
It has been 24 years since my deliverance. I acknowledge since then that life has been far from perfect. Over the years, I have experienced a roller-coaster Christian life in a fallen world. There was even a time when my passion for the Lord lost its steam as the demands of marriage, raising a young family and the lure of economic freedom became my priority.
But God is faithful. He woke me and my husband up from our spiritual stagnation when in 2009 we fell victim to an unsolved crime in our former place of residence in Canlubang, Laguna, prompting us to move out and settle elsewhere for our safety.
When we moved to Metro Manila , the first thing my husband looked for was a church where we would attend Sunday services as a family. In the midst of our struggles and safety concerns, we started attending CCF.
Having realized the importance of fellowship with fellow believers, we decided to commit ourselves to a discipleship group so we could grow together in our spiritual walk. Personally, my involvement to the body of Christ rekindled my passion for the Lord.
On October 20, 2012, I recommitted myself to the Lordship of Christ. I have since experienced how the Lord redirected our paths, changed our priorities and led us to the joy-filled family life we are leading now. Even our two kids, now aged 14 and nine, are pictures of happy kids as they now look forward to attending their respective groups and growing in love, fellowship and knowledge of God.
He has been patient with me, watching over me all along. And while I may have slipped momentarily into the world and its concerns, I have come to realize that only in abiding in him can I find true freedom, peace and fullness of life.
From darkness, Christ brought me into the light of His love. Paul’s words in Romans 14:7-8 are real for me.