‘Dios Amahan’ and religious cults

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Monday, March 31, 2014


I FIRST heard the religious cult name “Dios Amahan” in the mid ‘80s in one of Cebu City’s mountain barangays. It was the only phrase deciperable in the “habak” of a man who suddenly became sure of himself because of it. The undecipherable words were supposed to be his “oracion.” Because of it, bullets supposedly could not penetrate his skin.

I heard that the man went somewhere for a week and when he returned he already became a believer of the religious cult. On hindsight, I would say that the “somewhere” must have been Balamban town. Recent reports say the “Dios Amahan cult” originated there.

Elements of the National Bureau of Investigation (NB) 7 arrested last week Casiano Apduhan, 45, inside his house in Barangay Buanoy, Balamban. The former barangay councilor is also known as Tatay Loloy Jr., head of “Dios Amahan.” He was accused of detaining a woman for five years. In a tunnel inside his compund were found bones of a young man.

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The original Tatay Loloy and founder of the religious cult was his late grandfather Casiano Legaspino. There were no reports of abuses when his grandfather was the one running the group, so Apduhan must have strayed from the path the older Casiano laid down.

Religious cults gain sympathetic ears from farmers for several reasons, all of which can be traced to the lack of attention from both the Catholic Church and the government.

Rarely can a priest be seen in the hinterlands, The clergy, because most Filipinos are born Catholics, can be considered as “dawli” (dawat og limpyo). They wait for the mountain folk to go down to the churches for the usual KBL (kasal, bunyag, lubong).

They go to the hinterland villages only during fiestas. That means Catholicisms’ hold on farmers is weak.

We already know about government’s neglect in the countryside. Lack of facilities and low teaching quality have ensured that farmers’ scientific knowledge would be limited.

Add to that the failure to provide them with health services. By claiming to heal illnesses, a religious cult succeeds in recruiting farmers desperate for a cure.

The Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) had a sizeable number of believers in the city’s mountain barangays then. They were sometimes called “singsingan” because its members wear PBMA-given rings. They had weird practices and the late Ruben Ecleo Sr. (not the fugitive Ruben Ecleo Jr.) gained mythical status because he supposedly cured illnesses.

But the most successful religious cult at the height of the anti-insurgency campaign in the Cebu hinterlands in the ‘80s was the Sagrado Corazon Señor, also known as Tadtads. Like that “Dios Amahan” man I mentioned earlier, the Tadtads believe bullets or bolos couldn’t wound them if they believe in the power of their oracion. By making them believe that the insurgents were enemies, government forces succeeded in using them in the anti-insurgency drive.

Of course, oracions didn’t make them bullet proof. That lie was exposed in the skirmishes that they participated in, which is probably the reason why its belivers have dwindled considerably. But they were feared in those days because of their daring.

The more stable group (I don’t know if it qualifies as a religious cult) in the city’s hinterland is that one set up in Barangay Sudlon to follow the teachings of the late Hilario Moncado. Called Moncadistas, they have been based in Barangay Sudlon for decades already.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 01, 2014.

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