The Mystery and Magic of Siquijor
Siquijor has long been touted as the mysterious island of sorcerers, shamans and witches. Many rituals have been rumored to take place within the deep caverns of its mountains -- ceremonials that were either for healing or for inflicting harm, or even for causing death to a person by means of black magic. Others say the old folks brew their own healing oils and love potions in the dark and eerie caves or in under century old balete trees, wooing the spirits of the dead to furnish them with inhuman strength and powers.
In the year 2000, a documentary film was made on the shamans of Siquijor. This film featured the profile of three healers who claimed to cure almost every ailment known to man with the use of herbs and plants to make magic potions, an odd prayer wheel, and an even odder plethora of incantations and rituals. Could it be just traditional practice, mistaken by many to be a form of sorcery? But then again could it be a true and effective form of healing – one coming from a bizarre kind of magic in the surreal world of witches?
There are two kinds of witches that can be found in the island of Siquijor: one is the Shaman and the other, a Sorcerer. The folk healer or shaman is called mananambal while the sorcerer is called a mambabarang in the local dialect. Their so called healing prowess is derived from an external supernatural source, in this case a saint, an enchanted being or a spirit (of a dead person). The sorcerer is commissioned to cause death or inflict serious illness to an enemy of the client. For these they charge 6,000 to 30,000 pesos. Frequently, these sorcerers are called on to retaliate to adultery, to land grabbing or unsettled land disputes, and theft. Clients from the neighboring islands of Cebu, Dumaguete and Bohol have been said to cross the seas to avail of their services.
Some of the most well known sorcery rituals are the barang and paktol. Barang happens when the sorcerer, through his magic, uses insects like cockroaches and beetles, to invade the stomach of the victim causing them to swell out of proportion and eventually, to explode. On the other hand, paktol is when the sorcerer implores the help of the spirit of the skull in causing death to an enemy. Typically this is done in enchanted places like the balete tree or deserted caves where evil spirits are believed to dwell.