In the course of my work in serving the tribal people of the highlands of Mindanao, we are exposed to many different situations quite uncommon to city dwellers.
Among these are what most ministry folk refer to as “power encounters” – or the kind involving the supernatural dark forces that the less educated of these people pander to, in order to gain some unusual “favors”.
I had long known that these kinds of forces existed and had read about them, but it never occurred to me that these happen to people in a different reality.
I met Pastor Edgar Aleo of the Titik, Zamboanga del Norte Tribal Gospel Fellowship in a pastor’s conference sometime in January, 2012. He attended the conference with his brother in law, Pastor Albert Tinda, of the Mount Moriah Training School in Guintolan, Zamboanga Sibugay.
We were there to enlighten them and quite a few other pastors on the projects of Remember the Poor/Village Health (www.villagehealthministry.wordpress.com) that would benefit them as colleagues in the ministry of MCN. (www.mcni.org).
It was during the course of that conference that I came to talk to them and learn of these significant encounters with the dark forces that truly exist in their areas and wield such a strong influence on the people that they are hoping to win over to the Kingdom of God.
I happen to adhere to the view that miracles still do occur in this day and age, and we who walk with our King will do “greater things” as He had said we would. We can save that discussion for another post and focus on these two that strengthened my view that we as followers of the Way, must do battle with “principalities and powers” that exist in this world and use the authority that He gave us to overcome them.
Pastor Edgar is a Subanen and comes from a family of Baylans (shamans). His father, Alake Aleo was a Baylan before him and they had both become followers of the Lord Jesus one after another.
A Baylan is a local spiritual figure among these tribesmen, who go to them for healing, through appealing to the spirits and appeasing them with sacrifices – some done on a yearly basis, to renew their spiritual “powers”. Some of them are also suspected of causing sicknesses to enemy tribal groups. Tribal villagers have been known to have given a total value of 150,000 Philippine pesos worth of offerings for sacrifices to these baylans.
After Edgar committed to follow Jesus, his father did not immediately follow, and continued in his way as a local shaman. However, after noticing that Edgar became completely different and much better, he sought to follow suit and asked his son to help him do the same.
In the Subanen setting, this is not as simple as we think it should be.
By doing so, the Subanen baylan concedes that there is a far more superior power than his own and submits to this power and has to concede this in public. And Edgar and his father did so in the Tribal Gospel Fellowship church altar sometime in 1998.
The ritual involved the public relinquishment of these powers by turning over the plates and other instruments used in making these sacrifices to the spirits and putting them before God the Father as a way of acknowledging that He is Lord and the superior power over them.
It was during the public acknowledgement and denouncing of these forces in the altar that what looked like a flame leaped out of these implements and left the church building. This was witnessed by Pastor Edgar and many in the congregation, strengthening their belief in the God of the Bible, the one referred to by the Lord Jesus as “our Father”.
The second time this occurred was with a far more prominent baylan, the uncle of Pastor Edgar and Albert Tinda – a man known to the villagers as Singkat Tinda. He had been a baylan to the tribal villagers for a much longer time and his “powers” were legend. There were many reports of bedridden people being revived and could walk again after consulting with this baylan offering sacrifices to the “spirits” in their behalf, as well as other stories of people being “healed” or recovering from other illnesses.
Pastor Edgar knew this uncle well and continually talked with him to dissuade him from continuing in his ways as he knew of the dangerous implications of what he was doing. For quite some time, his uncle did not pay attention. Sometime in September, 2011, his uncle had a change of heart and wanted to be baptized.
And in a very public manner, Pastor Edgar and many other friends of the congregation brought the baylan to a river for a public baptism. The event was witnessed by many, including a great number of followers of the baylan.
It was during this encounter, when the pastor attempted to immerse the baylan, and it was just the baylan’s head that had to be submerged under water, a strong force resisted their attempts to put him under the water and complete the process.
The pastor and other attending friends began praying and attempting to do this for at least one hour – and each time they tried to put his head under water, a great strength would arise, preventing them from doing so.
Finally, after an hour of attempting to do so, the entire process of baptism was completed and the people witnessing the event saw what appeared to be a “black shadow” arising from the water and flying away fast from the scene.
The baylan has since become a believer and attends church services, and bible studies and proclaims that the Lord Jesus is his savior. And so with the followers that saw what had happened.
Incidents such as these are few and far between in an urban setting, where most modern day “Christians” think that these are mere superstitions and are not real occurrences. I write of these incidents to give credence to the real situations that are faced by these modern day spiritual warriors in the field, in the tribal upland areas of Mindanao – where they battle poverty, lack and the delivery of basic services, yet win great battles in the invisible supernatural world, where they gain much territory in the Kingdom that the King had tasked each one of us who claim to follow Him, to proclaim and expand.