DOLORES, Quezon – For some people, leaving their comfortable life to take the road to Mount Banahaw is God’s “calling.” A renewal in the mystic mountain, they say, is a product of their greatest challenges.
Banahaw remains a haven for people in search of spirituality. “Whether it’s Catholic, Born Again or whatever group, these are just branches of only one tree that leads to Him,” said Bernard Forbile, 50.
Forbile is a missionary of the Kapatiran ng Sampung Utos, a “brotherhood” of Ten Commandments devotees founded in the 1980s. The other groups are the Tatlong Persona sa Kinabuhayan, Rosa Mystica and the Rizalistas.
“You will not be saved by your group, but by your faith,” Forbile says.
During the Lenten season, over a thousand devotees from Manila, Laguna, Batangas and Quezon flock to Banahaw as early as Biyernes de Dolores (Friday before Palm Sunday).
Many caves or stations have become shrines or dalanginan based on the local belief that these natural rock formations are sacred because of “unexplainable” markings.
For instance, a shrine called Jerusalem has a child’s footprint, believed to be that of the Sto. Niño. In the “Presentahan” (Presentation), an apparent open book resembling a bible is found.
A footprint of Mary is said to be seen at the De la Paz Shrine, that of Jesus in the Kinabuhayan Shrine, and a Marian image in the cave ceiling of what is now called the Ina ng Awa (Mother of Mercy) shrine.
Popular destinations are the Durungawan, Tres Marias and Labindalawang Sakit, and streams called the Santo Jacob, Sta. Lucia and Tatlong Klaseng Tubig, which are all said to heal people of illnesses.
The belief in the markings, the devotees say, originated from the Katipuneros in the 1890s, who hid from the Spaniards in Banahaw and became hermits.
Similarly, amulets, locally called “kabal,” such as medallions are emblems of faith in Banahaw.
According to Forbile, elders believe that the kabal is “given its soul” by burying it under the roots of citric trees, such as “kamias” or “sampaloc,” in May.
Elders offer prayers to it for one whole year before they dig up the medallion.
Bernard was a wealthy businessman in Baguio City before his vegetable delivery business flopped in 1994 and criminal charges of estafa were filed against him.
His adopted son also fell sick and no doctor could cure him.
“I lost hope. But I was told that whatever was taken away from me would come back double,” he says.
Desperate, he joined different religions until he read about Banahaw. He decided to visit the place one Holy Wednesday.
“One station called Sta. Lucia is similar to my wife’s name and beside it is San Bernardo, similar to mine,” he relates his bewilderment.
After the visit, a friend informed him by phone that their business was revived.
In 1997, Forbile moved his family to Banahaw where they put up a small sari-sari store. He manned the Kapatiran chapel where devotees hold their functions.
Forbile remembers seeing a ray of bright horizontal light passing through a wooden cross while he was on a nine-day mission up the mountain.
On another occasion, he saw bright lights in the sky changing into multiple colors.
His son, who was cured when they took him to Banahaw, would speak in different languages they could not understand.
Miracles and apparitions, Forbile says, are hard to prove as “you usually experience them when you are alone. There are no witnesses.”
“If you really believe, you will see,” he says.
For Forbile, his faith is not restricted to the Kapatiran.
“I am still searching for the truth. Ang kabal ko ay si Ama (The Father is my amulet),” he says, adding that the only mission he has is “to do what is right, without expecting anything in return.”
Forbile’s transformation was nearly similar to those of other missionaries. One, who refused to identify himself, said his calling was to “discover Banahaw’s mysteries.”
He had a “prophetic dream” of the mountain, he said, when he was young boy. He proved that the dream was real only years later, he said, when he actually came to the mountain.
He says he had been dreaming of silhouettes in very bright light, which he believes to be God, and hearing voices telling him “someday you will live in Banahaw.”
“It was a painful transition,” he says of the collapse of his automotive business and his shift to rural life, farming and growing chickens for a living.
He began his “spiritual penetration” in Banahaw in 1999.
“My life changed. I disobeyed before, I would not dare disobey Him again,” he says.
Through 10 years of studying religious tenets in Banahaw, he rediscovered the prophecy of the “divine government.”
The prophecy – that the country’s economy would crumble under the government of a female leader – was heard way back in the ‘70s, he says.
Moreover, he says, a war between Filipinos would ensue and following that would come the divine government.
“Mula sa labong na kawayan, sisibol ang gintong watawat na matatanaw sa buong daigdig (at) magiging hangganan ng lahat ng pananampalataya (From the bamboo shoot will rise a gold flag that can be seen all over the world and eternally to believers),” he recites the prophecy.
He says it alluded to the Apocalypse written in the Book of Revelations.
“It would begin here in the Philippines, here in Banahaw,” says 70-year-old Avelina Responde, a devotee of Ina ng Awa. “It is not written on paper. We need no lawyers or senators.”
She says the divine government “is the consciousness of the people with divine hearts. When the Ten Commandments govern us all, only then can we have unity and let God live in our hearts.”
By Maricar Cinco
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 01:29:00 04/16/2009, accessed 4/24/2009
Contributed by Mary Ann Ubaldo