“Jesus was just a man,” said Brother Carlos Dy. “I pray directly to God the Father because all power comes from Him.”
I let these words from the healer, who sat on the sofa of our rented Quezon City apartment, sink in. He continued to explain to me and to members of my family why he insisted we all pray the “Our Father” before he began his session with my grandmother. He believed prayers should only be directed towards the Creator for results, or miracles, to be granted. “Even then,” he adds, “healing only happens when it is truly God’s will.”
Ah, blame your failures on the Big Guy, I thought as secret resentment about my unanswered prayers and father’s death threatened to resurface. I listened to Dy continue to explain that Jesus did not heal people with his own power. The man who is worshiped and glorified at the center of all Christiandom received his ability to heal the sick from God, the same way Dy received his own gift of healing. However, the modern-day healer, who had been featured on Magandang Gabi Bayan, was quick to point out that because he was just a vessel of God’s work, he did not deserve praise. Our gratitude, should Mama heal completely, must be to God in Heaven.
“I think I understand you on that point” I told him. I thought of my experience with a Charismatic Group my in-laws attended weekly. Though I have worshiped with them on more than several occasions, I always felt a level of discomfort glorifying Jesus Christ too much. I felt that if Jesus were around today, he would probably feel all the praising about his shining robes and golden throne was totally unnecessary. Being humble, he’d probably remind us to not focus on him, but on his message. I’d imagine that he’d probably say, don’t spend your precious time together singing about me. I’d rather see you unite to help the less fortunate or plant some trees. But that’s probably more difficult and less enjoyable than singing.
“Sis, I don’t go to church” said Dy, who likes to address everyone as “sister” or “brother.” He also likes being called Brother Charles.
“Ay, tuod?” Oh really, asked my uncle Tee. I sensed his doubts upon the revelation. How could a true vessel of God, who healed in His name, not be a church goer? At this point, however, Tee didn’t really care. He wanted to try everything that promised some hope.
The ordinary man with an extraordinary gift came to our attention earlier in the week while watching Halloween programs on TV. As was typical for an entire country about to celebrate All Saint’s Day, local channels showed back-to-back movies, news and documentary features of ghostly encounters, exorcisms, and aswangs. I had just told my uncle I was sleeping next to him that night when famous news anchor Noli DeCastro introduced the next segment about a man with the ability to heal cancer and other maladies.
The story triggered a Google search and soon after, a phone number was stored to my uncle’s mobile phone. Tee called the number the next day and happily reported that not only was the healer willing to come and see my grandmother, he happened to share our home town. He was Ilonggo too.
The healer said he needed a photograph of my grandmother before he’d come to see her. I took a picture of her on the day she was discharged from the hospital. In the picture she looked frail but happy, almost radiant. I brought my iPhone to a store that processed photos across the street from our building and got a nice print-out my uncle took to Dy that evening.
“Sometimes I think we should just help her go peacefully,” I told my younger brother Roi. “But Manong Tee doesn’t want to give up.”
“Why, who’s this guy coming tonight? What’s he going to do to Mama?” My brother was picking up the pace on his treadmill while I settled for a leisurely stroll on mine. It was Friday afternoon and we decided to hit the building’s gym.
“He’s a healer, kuno. I guess we’ll see.” I was skeptical but didn’t want to admit it. Afterall, faith was a prerequisite for miracles and God knew we really wanted one.
Religion and superstition were woven tightly into the fabric of Filipino culture. I was raised to believe in fairies and other elementals as much as saints and angels. When hiking wooded areas, I was taught to whisper “tabi-tabi” to politely ask fairy folk to grant safe passage. For similar reasons, I always made the sign of the cross before starting my car. The logic behind this was simple: what did you have to lose from magical thinking?
Brother Charles’ arrival at our apartment was a bit of a let down. Before meeting him, I envisioned a man with long hair or facial hair; perhaps even wearing long robes. Dy was clean shaven, wearing jeans and a polo shirt. He looked like a very regular guy. His entourage included his sister, who later would assist with the healing session, and his wife and daughter. They were also accompanied by a couple of guys, who might have been his disciples.
“Pungko anay. Kaon ta,” Have a seat. Let’s eat, my uncle invited them after introductions were made.
“No thank you,” Dy cheerily said. “We already ate.” Later, my uncle would offer to pay him for his time, but he would refuse to accept the money — even when Tee tried to insist he take it as reimbursement for gas.
Conversation flowed easily, as Dy was a very warm and chatty fellow. He revealed that he wasn’t raised Christian at all, much to our surprise. As a roomful of my family members listened, he described how he grew up in a Chinese temple in Iloilo. As a child, his job was to help his parents clean the temple.
“One day I was wiping a picture of the Sacred Heart,” Dy said.
“The Sacred Heart?” I interrupted, “I thought it was a Chinese temple.”
“Oh, the temple had images from a variety of religious schools to cater to the many faiths of local Chinese families.” He explained. “So one day, when I was wiping the picture of Jesus, the cloth I was holding slipped from my hand. As my hand touched the glass, something amazing happened. My hand was suddenly stuck. I couldn’t move. I was overcome by a bright light and filled with an understanding I couldn’t explain at that time.”
Dy continued, “I cried and cried. And somehow I knew God had touched me. I started to study and learn about Jesus and very soon after, I realized I had a gift.”
By his own account, Dy told us about people who came back to tell him they were cancer free after visiting with him. He also told of driving out demons from possessed individuals.
“Demons are afraid of me,” he chuckled. “They are very afraid of God and they know who I work for.” He once had to convince a group of demons to leave a young man by asking them to inhabit a nearby dog instead. The poor dog was quickly euthanized after the transfer.
“So Mommy,” Dy turned to my grandmother. “Ready ka na?”
“Yes, I’m ready.” Mama answered.
Dy had my grandmother sit in the middle of the living area. After everyone in the room prayed the “Our Father,” Dy and his sister got to work on Mama. Without touching her, they moved their hands over her body, waving them gently like metal detectors. On occasion, Dy would turn to his sister and ask her, “do you feel that?”
They focused on an area of her abdomen, presumably where the large tumor in her liver resided. They pulled out things from Mama’s stomach that were invisible to most of the people in the room. They cupped their hands and picked on these invisible masses. Quite often, they would blow into their cupped hands or shake or dust off their hands to get rid of these things.
“You should move.” Dy’s wife told my mother, who was standing on the other side of the room near my grandmother. “You don’t want those things they’re throwing to hit you.”
My mom moved to the other side of the room to avoid the unwanted energy. From then on a dance began to avoid the unseen extractions. People just moved around the tight room, taking their cues from the healers on what corners to vacate.
“How do you feel, mommy?” Dy asked.
“Amo man guihapon.” The same, Mama replied. “Pero, I feel heat coming from your hands.”
“Roi,” I whispered to my brother, “let’s try this.” I hung my hand above a random spot on his back, without touching him. I directed all the energy I could pull from the universe through my body and out my palm.
“Yeah, I think I feel that,” Roi said.
Later on, Mama’s legs seemed less swollen after they “uncorked” the bottom of her feet and let all the unwanted energy flow out. I was instructed not to stand by her feet so as not to disrupt the unseen river’s path towards the window.
“What does that look like?” I asked the healer.
“It’s green,” said Dy.
When everything was over, Mama said she felt the same way she did before the healing session. Dy seemed very optimistic. “She’ll be fine,” he said confidently, patting Mama’s hand.
After the healers left, Tee stood in front of Mama and awkwardly mimicked the healing movements made earlier. This made everyone in the room laugh. “Teh, Mom, you’re healed,” Tee said half seriously while gently caressing the belly that carried him over 40 years ago. Underneath that, I sensed he was desperately trying to believe that was true.
“Do you have faith, Mommy?” Tee asked in his best impression of Dy asking the same question earlier. Most of room chuckled again.
This time, instead of nodding obediently, Mama waved Tee away. She was already tired. And it was time to stop the childish games and grow up.
Next: Day Twelve