Mass Hysteria JaclupanBy Jobers Bersales
Cebu Daily News
Nearly two decades ago, many Cebuanos were swept by a desire to do good, encapsulated by the slogan “Higugmaa ang Diyos, Kahadloki ang Diyos” (Love God, Fear God) which one had to put above one’s door.
It all began with a radio show, the name of which now escapes me, where a letter was read about a man meeting a dishevelled child at Plaza Independencia whom he offered some peanuts out of pity. The child reportedly told the man to ask everyone to post the aforesaid slogan above their doors or else they would not be saved in a coming flood akin to that which Noah experienced in biblical times.
Coming on the heels of the Ormoc disaster where thousands perished when floodwaters poured fast into the city from a series of tornados or waterspouts, thousands of Cebuanos were soon gripped with fear. Along with this, came different versions of the story, much like the proverbial worm ending into a huge snake as the story reached the edge of town. It was not just doors but even cars which sported the required sign, some merely handwritten on hastily cut cardboard, others as plastic signs, stickers and nameplates.
The Roman Catholic Church was all out against the purported doomsday warning, telling the faithful on pulpits that God does not announce such warnings and save people merely on the basis of a simple sign, a la Jericho in biblical times.
An equally large number of people, fortunately, did not heed the warning made by the letter-sender. Others even poked fun at the slogan, writing instead these lines: “Higugmaa ang Kabit, Kahadloki ang Asawa” (Love your mistress, Fear your wife).
Some years later, one could still see remnants of those signs on some doors in the downtown area of the city. No one really knows who the letter-sender was and what happened to him. What is known is that the deadly flood of biblical proportions never came.
Why am I bringing this up in today’s burning issue of the re-animated possession of children in the public school in Jaclupan, Talisay City? Because if intelligent Cebuanos, including perhaps a lot of doctors and other professionals, got carried away by the mere suggestion of a letter read over the radio, then those children now suffering from so-called spirit possession are nothing but victims of mass hysteria brought about by someone who has clearly suggested that the trees around them are haunted by spirits. The power of suggestion is quite overwhelming. You see it in your desire to buy things because you saw your favorite actor/actress suggesting it on TV or in a magazine!
The Jaclupan case is nothing but a psychiatric/psychological issue and not one of demonic possession. Besides, everyone who has read properly his exorcism literature knows very well that demonic possessions do not occur to groups of people. The cases that have been studied carefully by the Catholic Church and deemed worthy of exorcism always involve individuals who manifest inexplicable behaviors, smells and even languages.
The more important question to ask is this: why are these cases of so-called demonic possession happening only in public schools? Surely, private elementary schools at University of San Carlos, Saint Theresa’s College and University of San Jose-Recoletos also have had their share of ghost stories and trees far, far older than those in Jaclupan! How much more for the 80-plus hectares of trees that form part of the landscape of the USC Talamban Campus?
Perhaps it is time to see what traumas and angsts these children have and whether it is in fact nothing more than peer pressure is forcing them to act as if they are possessed, thus, toeing the line as it were. Worse, with media around, wouldn’t it be fun to play the role of the possessed once in a while to wow the audience?
More from this Column:
- Rejoinder from non-pigs in the pigsty
- Cebuanos in a pigsty
- Culture and heritage: The unfinished agenda
- Ka Bino’s diapers
- Digging San Remigio anew