The Philippines Needs More Exorcists

by SIMONE ORENDAIN
National Public Radio
Alvin Bailon and his wife were at their wits’ end last September. Their 12-year-old son, an honors student, had begun having anxiety attacks, mostly about school. “And then all of a sudden he would slowly lose consciousness,” Bailon recalls. “We term it as doze off. He would doze off and he would fall down slowly.”

They brought him to three doctors, had his brain scanned (no irregularities were found), tried all sorts of anxiety pills prescribed by doctors.

Then they tried a beach retreat that the healers had recommended. Their son did well, but Bailon says on the car ride home the child “dozed off” and whispered in a totally unfamiliar voice, “Shhh, you might wake him up.”

That’s when the Bailons did what many in the overwhelmingly Catholic country do when facing a family crisis: They turned to the church — and its Office of Exorcism, opened in 2006 to address a growing number of cases and run by Father Jose Francisco Syquia.

Dressed in a short-sleeve button-down shirt, the Rome-trained exorcist says he has been driving demonic spirits out of people and houses for more than a dozen years. He has seen a steady increase in cases in the past decade, with 200 so far this year.

“At any given time we have at the minimum 30 cases,” says the 48-year-old. “And we’re only five exorcists.”

Father Syquia leads a team of four priests who get additional assistance from volunteers: psychiatrists, doctors, lawyers and laypeople.

Given the number of cases he’s juggling, Syquia recently sent a letter to the Philippine bishops conference asking that it send one resident exorcist to each of the country’s 86 dioceses. Read the rest of this story at National Public Radio

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