I was fortunate to watch this documentary while handling the funeral arrangements of my dad in the Philippines last week. One of the two exorcists extensively interviewed for this TV documentary show, Fr. Jojo Zerrudo, was also the priest who offered the Traditional Latin Requiem Mass on the day of my dad's burial (last October 10, 2010) at the Paz Funeraria in Manila Memorial Park, Sucat, Philippines. The parish where Fr. Zerrudo is assigned (Parish of the Lord of Divine Mercy in Sikatuna Village, Quezon City), offers the Traditional Latin Mass everyday (Mon-Sat, Low Mass: 8:30AM; Sunday: Missa Cantata: 2:00 PM). In fact, the last exorcism shown on the documentary happened on the same day when my dad was buried! It was quite a hectic day for Father Zerrudo! (who is also the official exorcist for the Diocese of Cubao). Anyway, be sure to check out his blog "Sense of the Sacred".
Documentary by Jay Taruc
(Oct. 11, 2010 Episode summary taken from GMA News TV, based in the Philippines)
Many have turned these scenes into iconic Hollywood images – a girl twisting her head in an impossible angle, speaking foreign languages and cursing at a priest who is performing an exorcism. Now, the real-life exorcists break their silence and reveal a world where they say unimaginable horrors are very real, and much stranger than fiction.
For the first time on Philippine television, the Office of Exorcism under the Archdiocese of Manila has opened its doors to a documentary team for an in-depth discussion of a subject that has long been kept behind closed doors. I-Witness has been allowed access to the official “exorcists" of the Church as well as confidential exorcism footage.
Father Jocis Syquia, head of the Office of the Exorcism, divulges what really goes on during the exorcism ritual conducted by a team of experts composed of priests, a lawyer, a doctor, and volunteers commissioned by the Archdiocese. The team is tasked to handle cases of demonic disturbances in persons, places or things.
The critically acclaimed film, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose," is based upon the tragic true story of Anneliese Michel who died after months of undergoing exorcism rituals. Anneliese’s story is controversial and raised questions about exorcism. After this incident, the Vatican revised their book of exorcism rituals and required that a doctor and lawyer be present whenever a ritual is to be performed.
Accordingly, before any exorcism ritual can occur, a psychiatric evaluation and a series of interviews have to be completed by the person, for the exorcist to determine if it is an authentic demonic attack.
Father Syquia and his fellow exorcist Father Jojo Zerrudo have been involved in numerous cases of demonic possession. They tell of moments when they had to grip onto their faith to continue what they were doing because the demon, they said, retaliated in unexpected ways. To these real-life exorcists, it is all part of a battle to bring the person back to a meaningful relationship with God.
Video compilation taken from the Pinoy Ako website. Since some portions of the video are in Tagalog, I have taken the liberty to translate them for the benefit of my non-Filipino friends below each video clip:
Fr. Jocis Syquia (Director, Office of Exorcism, Archdiocese of Manila) explains that upon the arrival of the Spanish missionaries in the Philippines, they also began expelling demons that originated from the practice of pagan rituals among the natives.
All bishops are considered exorcists, since they have the fullness of the priesthood. While priests are allowed to exorcise, they need permission or delegation from their respective bishop.
Fr. Jojo Zerrudo started as an exorcist at his parish (Parish of the Lord of Divine Mercy or PLDM). His sessions would usually start with a psychiatric evaluation, to make sure that the person has a spiritual malady and not a physical one. In each exorcism session, a doctor and lawyer are also present.
Fr. Zerrudo explains that to prepare for an exorcism, the priest goes to confession and then afterwards offer mass for the person to be exorcised. He uses the book "The Roman Ritual" along with a variety of religious items such as a stole, Holy Water, the Cross of St. Benedict. Latin, being the official language of the Church has an important value: the person being exorcised won't understand it, but the devil or evil spirit can definitely understand it! [The devil hates latin! This was attested by Fr. Gabriel Amorth, the Chief Exorcist in Rome. This is why it's a good idea to be familiar with even just the basic prayers in latin]. Relics are also important. Relics are physical remains of a saint (such as hair or bone) that are kept for veneration. The highest relic is none other than the Relics of the True Cross of Christ.
In 1999, the Exorcism Rite was revised. However, most exorcists (including Fr. Zerrudo and Fr. Syquia) still prefer the 1614 Ritual -- which they say is more powerful than the revised rite. [Another exorcist, Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer, former president of Human Life International shares the same observation]. The presence of a doctor is important to see if the person is physically able to withstand the ritual, if not, the session would then be stopped. The presence of a lawyer helps to ensure that there are no legal liabilities.
What is seen on TV and movies are usually true: pains of the possessed, inverted cross appearing on the forehead, or the head being able to rotate 360 degrees, levitation, body and feet being twisted, etc. The influence of the new age is simply a revival of paganism. The majority of cases being brought to Fr. Zerrudo usually involve possessions stemming from occult practices (oija board, sorcery, witch craft, etc.). [So stay away from them!]
A second case of exorcism is that of Mara, who comes from a devout Catholic family. Her case started on a Good Friday, after seeing what appears to be another teenager vanishing mysteriously. At 2AM, she felt her entire body ache. The pattern would usually repeat itself everyday, particularly before 12, 3, 6pm (Angelus). Being oppressed, she would then be found to be drooling, and her body would be bended by a mysterious force. Having consulted a 'spiritist' brought her temporary relief, but after a few months, she had would experience the same pains.
Once, while taking a shower, she would hear voices saying 'I am your God'. At this point, she got in touch with Fr. Syquia's Exorcism team. After evaluating her, an exorcism and blessing of her house was immediately done. Mara is convinced that she was allowed to undergo this experience so that her relationship with God would grow deeper.
Fr. Zerrudo explains that one cannot be afraid when dealing with the devil, since this would indicate a lack of trust in God. Sister Leilani Macoy (FMA), a member of Fr. Syquia's Exorcism team, recounts one time where she was holding a plastic bag while the possessed was vomiting nails. Shortly after, while she was sleeping, she felt being choked. At first, she couldn't say her prayers (not even a Hail Mary), but afterwards, she felt ok. Even Fr. Syquia wasn't spared by the devil, as he recounts getting mysterious scratches. Fr. Syquia also mentions that a lot of those who get possessed are women and children (he thinks that they are more sensitive to the spiritual world).
In the 3rd case, another woman (Rowena) was brought to Fr. Zerrudo, after being diagnosed with depression. At first, Fr. Zerrudo thought that a deliverance prayer was all that she needed. However, all that changed when he started to rub on her ears the oil of catechumens. Her reaction changed dramatically. Rowena started howling and acted strangely. Immediately, Fr. Zerrudo made a quick decision to do a full-blown exorcism. He noticed that the evil spirit on her screamed at a certain latin phase. It took Fr. Zerrudo a total of 2 and 1/2 hours before the spirit left Rowena's body. [Fr. Zerrudo later recounted to me that Rowena was offered a glass of water (that actually was Holy Water) and she refused to drink it. When offered a glass of ordinary water, she was ok with it. It goes to show that the evil spirit can distinguish what is Holy Water and what is not! Too bad it wasn't shown in TV.]
For some people, they think that the Exorcism is about the devil. No! It's actually about the Lord and his love for us, this was asserted by Fr. Jojo Zerrudo. The show ends with an update on Mara, who is back to her normal life. The other woman, Rowena, was advised to see the doctor (to deal with the depression) and to come back for one more healing session.