DASMARIṄAS CITY, Cavite — For amulet believers and keepers, Good Friday is the official testing day – a ritual to re-charge the amulets’ powers, done anytime before 3 p.m. or before Jesus Christ’s hour of death for the puti (positive) and anytime after for the itim (negative).
This is according to a known resource on the subject of amulets, Jeffrey Alfaro Lubang, who authored “Anting-anting sa Kabite” (Amulets of Cavite), in which he traces the history of this culture, from Filipino ancestor’s belief in anitos and how amulets helped win the battles of some of our known revolutionaries and heroes.
Lubang, who comes from generations of amulet keepers, said that keepers should look at the means, other than the personal gain, and – for non-believers to “just make a room for understanding the possibility of the truth in all these, and look at this (practice) not to get the affirmation of the presence of God, but more of preserving our cultural roots and practices”.
Although the “anting-anting” (amulet) culture has now evolved in terms of perception, trade and purpose, the practice lives on and still figures heavily in the daily lives of Caviteños and Filipinos, Lubang said.
An associate professor with the Social Sciences Department of the De La Salle University – Dasmariñas, Lubang shared the story of Nardong Putik, or Leonardo Manicio in real life, who was a known criminal in the 1950s – whose life story was the claim to fame of former movie actor and Caviteño, Senator Ramon Revilla, Sr.
Manicio, then public enemy no. 1, was believed to be invincible to bullets when his feet rest on mud (putik) due to his various anting-anting.
Until now, “anting-antings are mainly used for protection, prosperity, health and strength,” Lubang said, but expressed caution regarding the duality in the purpose and existence of the amulets.
“The positive (sa puti) and the negative (sa itim) powers may be used either way, depending on the purpose/intention,” he said.
Lubang said this duality is why there are anting-anting keepers who are welcome members of the neighborhood like the hilots (village midwives) and albularyos (healers).
There are those who are considered outcasts, or you would not wish to cross paths with, like the mangkukulam (witches) or mambabarang, as both may cast bad intentions.
The Herreras from Noveleta town is a family known for reproducing medallions since the 1970s. They offer a variety of shapes, sizes and uses of products that are widely sold in Quiapo, Manila.
Some examples in their collection include atador and combate espiritwal, which are intended to protect the keeper from harm and bullets; kambal tuko (twin tokay geckos) and mag asawang duwende (elf couple) for good luck; Birheng nagpapasuso (nursing virgin) and Santiago de Galicia (James of Galicia) for safety; and of course the very popular Santo Niñong Hubad.
What used to be exclusive to the marginalized sectors of society — farmers, fishermen, jeepney and tricycle drivers, soldiers, policemen, security guards and utility workers, the use of anting-antings are also practiced by medical doctors and politicians, Lubang said. In fact, one western-educated son of a famous Caviteño family uses amulets, he added.
But owning an amulet entails commitment as most anting-anting keepers need to recite Latin prayers and phrases, which would last for six straight hours, Lubang said.
Some “gift” was passed on to them through limos (bequest) and kaloob (gift) from their dying ancestors. Gladys Pino /PNA – northboundasia.com