Who Wouldn’t Prefer To Talk To Their Local Witch

2 Nov

Admittedly, I’m on the witches’ side, but only so far.

Many witches in Siquijor use Catholic imagery in their sorcery, and almost all regularly attend church. All their potions for the year are brewed in the week leading up to Easter.

Father Larry Catubig, the senior Catholic priest on the island, said he realized the complicated nature of proselytizing to religiously devout witches.

“It’s good that the witches are going to church, and we try to steer them away from magic,” he said. “But when they go back into the mountains, we have no control over what they do.”

During Holy Week, vigilance is required at the religious processions because the witches steal parts of the relics on display for use in their potions, Catubig said.

It’s not unusual for gravestones in Siquijor to have pieces missing — stone angels without heads or perhaps a stump where a cross once stood. Often it’s the work of “black witches” looking to enhance their brew.

Supposedly, this part of The Philippines is inhabited by shamans, witches, whatever, who practice kulam. But when laypeople can no longer decide between modern medicine and magic, I have to draw the line – and not for a spell.

Richard Quezon, the mayor of Siquijor town, the capital of the province, remembers being terrified by stories of evil witches in the mountains that rise from the middle of the island.

“Before, everyone went to healers for things like liver problems or cancer,” he said. “But now, with modern medicine, only those who can’t afford to go to the hospital seek out healers.”

To some, that’s a positive development. Evelyn C. Retana, a retired surgeon at the Siquijor town hospital, has seen sick people spend months hoping to be healed by witches only to eventually seek treatment at the hospital.

But Quezon defends witchcraft. Last month he went to a witch because of a skin condition that wouldn’t go away.

“The medicine from the pharmacy didn’t work, but the herbs and spells from the healer worked right away,” he said. “Some things science can’t explain.”

Please send better doctors to Siquijor. Fast!

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