MANILA, Philippines ? Walking toward the squat bungalow on a narrow street in Mandaluyong City, the priest wondered why his friend had requested ?a lot of holy water? for the blessing.
?I thought I was going to bless a big house. It was only a bungalow surrounded by tall trees,? Fr. Armand Tangi said, remembering that rainy afternoon in 1984.
Tangi, then a freshman priest of the Society of St. Paul, saw nothing strange about the house that was inhabited only by his friend?s uncle.
But as soon as his friend (let?s call him Rey) opened the front door, ?it was so cold even with all the windows closed,? Tangi said. ?The hair on my arms stood on end.?
Tangi, Rey and their companions?two women, both office subordinates of the latter?walked in.
Looking around, the priest noted that there were no religious statues or objects to be seen?something he found odd in a house owned by a Catholic family.
Rey introduced him to the elderly uncle seated on a rocking chair. But the latter?s ?thoughts seemed somewhere else,? the priest said.
Having arranged the holy water and the prayer cards brought by Rey, Tangi put on his stole and opened his book of prayers at the appropriate page.
?I started the prayer and I could hear moaning, a male voice, as though in pain. It wouldn?t stop,? Tangi said.
He and the women exchanged glances anxiously.
Praying aloud, they walked around the house, with the moaning growing louder each time they entered a room.
Recalled Tangi: ?It was loudest when we reached the kitchen. I realized it was coming from the refrigerator.
?I didn?t know whether to open the ref door or not. What if whatever was moaning leapt out? What if it were a spirit and entered me or one of my companions??
Eyes closed but still praying, Tangi grasped the vial of holy water, swung the refrigerator door open, and wildly squirted the vial?s contents inside.
He opened his eyes and saw only food and bottles of drinking water.
?I could still hear moaning inside the ref but it was getting faint. When I posted a card bearing a prayer to the Holy Name of Jesus on the door, it stopped,? the priest said.
Rey then asked Tangi to pray over his uncle, who appeared indifferent to what had just transpired.
?I stood behind him and put my hands on his head. I blessed him but I felt that something was very wrong,? Tangi said.
No one spoke as he and the others left the house.
With horns and tail
Only after they had gone a considerable distance did Rey disclose why he wanted the house blessed, Tangi said.
Not one of the housemaids hired to look after his uncle stayed for more than a few days. The girls complained that the chairs, even slippers, moved by themselves.
The most disturbing detail came from the neighborhood kids who claimed to see ?a man with horns and a tail? standing behind his uncle, as if watching TV with him.
Rey also said that as a younger man, his uncle used the house for occult sessions involving the use of an Ouija board.
The guests at these gatherings were well-off people, many of whom later suffered bankruptcy or tragic deaths, Rey said.
He said one of them was a well-known socialite whose mysterious murder made headlines in the mid-1980s.
In one session, the group called on the spirit of a peer who had committed suicide.
?They asked the spirit, ?Where are you?? And it answered, ?Why are you mocking me??? Tangi quoted Rey as saying.
Witnesses said the glass on the board suddenly flew and smashed into a nearby wall. The furniture moved, as if being shoved around.
Causes of haunting
In his book ?Exorcism: Encounters with the Paranormal and the Occult,? Fr. Jose Francisco C. Syquia mentioned the ?preternatural demonic causes? of a ?haunted? house.
?Occult and sinful activities? may lead ?evil spirits? to find ?a spiritual opening,? said Syquia, the director of the Office of Exorcism of the Archdiocese of Manila.
Listed among the ?magic sessions? that, according to Syquia, lead to the demonic possession of a place are ?Ouija board, tarot cards, spell casting and the like.?
?Unless these activities are stopped, repeated sin and dealings with the occult can allow these spirits to have even more dominion within the home, as well as attract more evil spirits,? he warned.
Syquia said simple house blessings ?do not suffice to drive ? away? spirits who had attached themselves to houses used for occult activities.
He said a haunting could also have a spiritual cause: ?Someone died, was killed, or committed suicide in the house and now needs prayers, sacrifices and Masses.?
In this case, family and friends can help by frequently offering prayers and Masses for the deceased, he said.
Protocol for exorcism
There is a protocol for the exorcism or deliverance of a house.
Tangi said a priest ?has to fast, go to confession, and by the grace of God, try his best not to sin before the exorcism.?
Fr. Jude Rebaldo of the Diocese of Kalibo said that for an exorcism to succeed, the house owners must also be active participants.
?They need to exhibit the desire to put an end to the haunting. The initiative to clean the house must come from them,? he said.
Rebaldo said the house owners must also go to confession before the exorcism.
Vulnerable to retaliation
?The Holy Rosary is an effective protection. They must implore the help of Mama Mary and recite deliverance prayers addressed to the archangels, particularly St. Michael and St. Gabriel for protection,? he said, adding:
?This is because the owners who want to get rid of unholy spirits become vulnerable to retaliation.?
In the case of the Mandaluyong house, Tangi said he was not told beforehand. ?I did not fast because I was thinking it was a simple house blessing.?
Asked what he thought saved him despite his unpreparedness, Tangi said: ?I was newly ordained then, so perhaps I was very confident and still full of grace. Remember that I was armed only with a prayer book, my stole, holy water and the prayer cards brought by [Rey].?
In 2008, Tangi was better prepared for another exorcism, this time of a house built on a scenic mountain ridge that also served as a venue for Ouija sessions.
?When the host-owner died, he was buried in the property. That?s a no-no because Catholics are supposed to be buried in a sacred place,? Tangi said.
The heirs wanted the property converted into a retreat house.
?And for good reason,? Tangi said. ?It is a beautiful, three-level property, with good architecture, overlooking the ridge, with a lawn and trees.?
An aunt of the heirs asked Tangi to bless the house.
?She admitted that there were spirits causing disturbances. The house was uninhabited for the longest time. Nobody wanted to stay. The caretakers felt that something unseen was always keeping watch, especially when they sleep,? Tangi said.
?Even visitors appreciated the house?s beauty and architectural design, but they felt ill at ease,? he said.
To prepare, the priest went to confession, fasted, and recited prayers of protection, particularly to St. Michael and Padre Pio, the Capuchin monk who also suffered demonic oppression.
3 p.m. prayers
Tangi chose to begin at 3 p.m., deemed the Hour of Great Mercy.
Everyone gathered around the dining table that stood at the center of the main floor.
?When I started with the prayers, we heard the sound of a door opening and closing,? he said.
Everything went well until Tangi reached the part of Pope Leo?s exorcism prayer to St. Michael that commands ?unclean spirits, all satanic powers, all infernal invaders, all wicked legions, assemblies and sects? out of the house ?in the Name and by the Power of Our Lord Jesus Christ.?
Suddenly, a dinner plate on the table shattered.
?The shards went flying!? Tangi said. ?Nobody got hurt so I continued praying, but I was worried that another plate might explode and hurt someone. The atmosphere was ominous. I was scared.?
But Tangi went on to finish the prayers and the eerie feeling soon disappeared.
Invitation to the devil
He led everyone in a walk around the house, sprinkling holy water and urging them to sing prayers to boost their spirits.
Tangi made a follow-up visit after a week. The caretakers said they no longer felt uneasy.
But a priest who came with him advised the heirs to remove an abstract painting displayed in the living room.
?It was predominantly black and red. The other priest said the painting was actually an invitation to the devil,? Tangi said. The heirs immediately complied.
Syquia warned against calling on ?agents of superstition??such as arbularyo, magtatawas, spiritista?to exorcise a home.
Quoting the Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, he said: ?[I]f the [occupants of the home] should happen to make use of superstitious means condemned by the Church to rid themselves of the curse, they enter, though without knowing it perhaps, into communication with the powers of darkness, which then acquire fresh strength.?
Syquia prescribed ?blessed objects, like crucifixes on the door of every room, and the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary at the front part of the house.?
?This manifests that the house belongs to God,? he said, adding that the family?s daily praying of the rosary would also keep an atmosphere of peace.