Leonda George

Deep Darkness

The other day I learned about Danilo, a brother of Lisiya, the girl who, when she was sick in the clinic years ago, was almost strangled by her stepmother. Danilo had recently carried the river rocks needed for one of our building projects, allowing us to learn Danilo’s side of the story.

Danilo remembers some of what happened that night since he had accompanied his father. Though he was quite small then, he clearly remembers that the evil spirit harassing and possessing his sister also went into him. Seeing evil spirits, Danilo was, of course, very frightened. Nonetheless, it didn’t seem unusual to him at the time, or even now that he’s much older and explaining it to an outsider. It also didn’t seem horrific to him that his stepmother almost killed his sister; it simply was what one had to do under the circumstances. To a Palawano, if someone has an evil spirit or acts unexplainably, killing them before they turn on you and eat you is acting out of self-protection and only common sense. He said it frequently happens throughout their region and not only in his village.

Through the years, some of these killings have been averted when it was discovered that the suffering one had typhoid, which sometimes exhibits itself with crazy behavior. Those are the miracles — when there is a medical basis for the unusual behavior and the family risks bringing him for medical intervention. By treating the underlying cause, lives have been saved, and people returned to sanity.

But there are many dark villages, like one called Ememkungan (the Place of the Fruit Bats), where this superstition still controls people’s responses. The government has tried to control the killing by imprisoning murderers, but only if the incidents are reported. But because most Palawano don’t see this as an evil thing to do, these executions go unpunished and only diminish where the light of God has shone brightly.

One day, Ining-ining went to the clinic and requested help. He told the nurses that his brother wanted to marry his niece, but because it wasn’t allowed, he had gone crazy. Would the nurses come help? Since this was outside the scope of the nurses’ abilities, two missionary teachers, Napthali and Raly, went across the river and up the steep mountainside to reach Ining-ining’s village. Finding the young man, they saw that he was constantly talking to himself. Other than that, he wasn’t exhibiting bizarre behavior, like chasing after people, gnashing his teeth, biting or screaming, which is frequently seen in situations like this. During a conversation with the young man, Napthali ascertained that he wasn’t crazy, just sad and perhaps distraught. After praying with him, the two intrepid missionaries returned home.

Nevertheless, the people of Ining-Ining’s village were still unconvinced and afraid. In their fright, many fled, staying for several months in the lowlands, hoping that something would happen to the brother in the meantime.

But upon returning to their village, they found that the brother was still very much alive and in similar condition, so they arranged to take him to an uncle’s place far away. It is presumed that because they had told the missionaries about this young man’s situation, they couldn’t overtly kill him, so they took him far away where it wouldn’t be known what happened to him. To this day, we still do not know.

So many still live in deep darkness, fearing people that may eat them.

On another occasion, Tunis, the son of Lewangan, a powerful witch doctor, went out of his mind. People were so afraid of him that they ran here and there screaming in fright. After several sleepless nights, Tunis ran away, and people were relieved that perhaps he had jumped off a cliff or something. But when after many days, Tunis returned, and still not in his right mind, they plotted how to do the deed.

Several months later, upon questioning them about the situation in their faraway village, one of Tunis’s sisters related unapologetically and unemotionally, “We put him in a sack and took him somewhere and buried him.” To them, that is the end of the story.

To us, it says that our work has barely begun.

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