‘Barang’ and ‘Mananambal’ in Siquijor Island

By Jaime T. Licauco
As seen on October 2019 issue of The Philippine Sentinel

It is not correct for me to have said that the Catholic Church does not believe in sorcery and black magic, because it does! In fact, the Catholic clergy tortured, executed and burned at the stake hundreds of thousands, if not millions of (mostly) innocent women who were falsely accused of being witches during the Middle Ages, with the approval of the Pope himself.

Fr. Julito Cortez gave proof of this in his highly informative anthropological booklet with the subtitle, “A Case Study on Sorcery and Healing Practices in Siquijor.”

“In 1484,” according to Father Cortez, “Pope Innocent VIII issued a Papal Bull which put a seal of approval on witch hunting.” Pope Leo X, in 1521, ordered the Inquisitors to punish not only those who practiced witchcraft and black magic, but also those who merely read books on such subjects.

Siquijor has rightly been called the Island of Sorcerers, and it is believed the sorcerers there are more powerful than any other practitioners in the country.
According to the informants of Father Cortez, there are as many as a hundred types of sorcery being practiced in Siquijor. The average number known to a sorcerer, however, is less than 30.

Elaborate and extensive

The preparation of ingredients for sorcery is very elaborate and extensive, and the sorcerer himself undergoes a lot of training. These are enumerated in detail in Father Cortez’s booklet.

Barang is considered the most powerful and effective method of sorcery practiced in Siquijor. “Barang are different biting insects, like bees, centipedes, beetles and worms kept in a covered bamboo tube. The sorcerer tames these insects by feeding them with violet ginger, violet rice and violet gabi, and other plants and fruits with a violet shade.

“The sorcerer chooses which insect to use. If a bee, he ties a white thread to its body and commands it, saying, ‘Go enter the body of (say, Kulas). Harm him because he is my enemy.’

“The sorcerer then frees the insect, to fly to the intended victim’s house and waits until he is asleep, and enters his body through its orifices. There it lays eggs, after which it bites the victim’s entrails and returns to its master.”

The sorcerer knows if the insect has accomplished its mission by the blood-stained thread. If it fails, he sends another, until the sorcerer is sure the victim has been harmed.

Correct diagnosis

Just as there are sorcerers, there are healers who specialize in treating victims of sorcery. These are called mananambal.

Treatment consists of first making a correct diagnosis. The mananambal feels the victim’s pulse. If it’s normal, but the victim is outwardly or physically ill, he is a victim of witchcraft or has been harmed by evil enchanted beings.

If the pulse is abnormal and he has external manifestation of malady, then his sickness is attributed to natural causes. He is then referred to a regular doctor, or prescribed medicinal herbs.

“To secure supernatural guidance,” according to Father Cortez, “the mananambal recites the Apostles’ Creed and implores the aid of San Antonio de Padua, Maria Santisima and other Catholic saints.”

“A misunderstanding with a neighbour led to threats of sorcery attacks and subsequent experiences of illness in the family. My aunt’s family has been dislocated ever since,” said Fr. Cortez.

So, is kulam and sorcery true or not? It is a social reality in Siquijor Island.Ω

Updated: 2020-01-28 — 23:56:44