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The Mystery Behind Mt. Banahaw Edit

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Bobeep Espiritu  • Contributor
Opinions expressed by Explora.ph Contributors are their own.

Before thousands of pilgrims flocked the mystic mountain of Bahanaw, there lived a hermit on its slopes, hiding from the Guardia Civil. Named Agripino Lontok, the hermit began as a guerilla, who first went up Mt. Banahaw in 1886 to seek secret powers and amulets for his own protection. What he discovered afterwards would forever define Mt. Banahaw as a landmark in the Philippines' spiritual map.

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While on the mountains, Agripino Lontok heard a voice which would later instruct him to name various falls, caves, and rock formations at the mystical mountain. This voice would later be revered as the Santong Boses, or the Sacred Voice.

Legend has it that whenever Lontok would try to leave the mountain to return to his old life, he would go blind; thus, compelling him to lead a life of hermitage there. Further communication with the Sacred Voice would then instruct him to establish a religious group called Samahan ng Tatlong Persona, Solo Dios (STPSD). Their doctrines hold that there is one God in three personas, similarly known to Catholics as the Holy Trinity.

The members of STPSD gather twice a day in the Dasalan to offer their prayers. (Photo courtesy of Sidney Snoeck.)

The former guerilla turned preacher had just been used as the instrument in making Mt. Banahaw known as the mystifying mountain that it is today. Traditionally, the townsfolk residing at the foot of Mt. Banahaw also believe that God the Father Almighty had instructed four angels to transport Calvary into Mt. Banahaw, making it the new Jerusalem.

READ: Explore Mt. Banahaw's Pilgrimage Sites

Political Affinity

Mt. Banahaw has since been known to be the site where the spiritually-inclined political revolutionaries would seek protection and guidance. The names Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, Emilio Aguinaldo, Gregorio del Pilar, Bernardo Carpio, and the most famous, Jose Rizal were some of the revolutionary giants who used to frequent the mountain.

In his book, The Power Mountain: From Ritualism to Spirituality, Fr. Vitaliano R. Gorospe, SJ details the various rituals, religious sects, myths, and apostolic descendants of Agripino Lontok. Some religious groups and cults sprung from Lontok's preaching, such as the Watawat ng Lahi or The Flag of Race, which believes that Jose Rizal is the Holy Spirit incarnate, according to Gorospe. Still, other cults revere Rizal as the reincarnation of Jesus Christ himself. They are the fanatic Rizalistas of Quezon, stretching to Laguna and other parts of the country.

The Universal One Faith House of Prayer for All Nations and Humanity, Inc. was established in 2007 by Atty. Artemio Espiritu Ugali. The followers refer to Dr. Jose Rizal as "Bathalang UA". (Photo courtesy of Sidney Snoeck.)

Holy Waters

For the true devotee of the mystical mountain, no one may enter this land without properly cleansing one's self一the same as why a Catholic should dip one's fingers in holy water and make the sign of the cross upon entering a church.

First time visitors of Mt. Banahaw are guided to the Sta. Lucia Falls to bathe and cleanse themselves from sin. The stream is part of the Lagnas River that flows from Kinabuhayan, through Mt. Kalbaryo and then down to San Bernardo. 

Pilgrims believe that bathing in Sta. Lucia Falls will cure any illness. (Photo courtesy of Jay Ermitaño.)

Lontok's communication with the Sacred Voice identifies the Tubig ng Ama (Father's Water) and Tubig ng Ina (Mother's Water). The act of dipping into the pool of water is symbolic of physical cleansing, while the natural spring in Balon ni Santong Jacob or St. Jacob's Well is for mental and emotional cleansing.

St. Jacob's Well holds an underground stream of sulphur water, which is believed to have healing properties. At times when the odor of sulphur becomes too strong, local mystics believe that the spirit of the dead are taking a bath there. Prayers are then offered and the cave starts to smell of coffee tree blossoms and incense. 

A group of hikers trekking to St. Jacob's Well. (Photo courtesy of Jay Ermitaño.)

Some practitioners of supernatural and paranormal healing believe that bathing in the rivers and falls of Mt. Banahaw greatly revitalizes their God-given powers. Several other pilgrimage stations can be found in the area, corresponding to various spiritual purposes.

READ: Explore Mt. Banahaw's Pilgrimage Sites


Amulets or anting-anting are man-made medallions, stones, twigs, or animal parts that are either blessed by a ritual or is given by a healer. In his book, Gorospe counts three kinds of anting-anting:

1) Mutya are amulets that are gathered from nature. An example of this is langka, one of Philippines' tropical fruits. It is said that those who possess langka makes one "fragrant to people," making them very socially likeable and charming. 

2) The Solo Mata, also known as the triangle medallion. It bears the three letter As that stand for the three archangels that guided Jesus Christ, namely Aram, Akdam, and Aksadam. The bearer of this medallion can also invoke the three angels for guidance and protection. 

3) The Pabaon (to bury) or Pakain (to swallow). These amulets or talismans are either embedded in the human body (pabaon), or swallowed (pakain). These types of amulets are supposed to make one resistant to knives or bullets. Some even claim these type of amulets can make one invisible and can grant one the ability to walk on water.

Pilgrims, Practitioners, and Psychics

Since the Philippines is known to be a developing country, many seek the expertise of the traditional hilot or para-medical practitioner. The hilot, also called manggagamot, is the poor man's doctor. Various techniques, rituals, and herbs may be used to cure certain illnesses. Psychics frequent the place to revitalize their supernatural powers and foreseeing someone's future upon consultation.

A pair of pilgrims offer their prayers in one of the caves of Prisintahan. (Photo courtesy of Jay Ermitaño.)

Still, many others go to Mt. Banahaw for the geographic and eco-touristic appeal it has to offer. Although many extraordinary stories have been told, such as the story of a mountaineer couple who camped and mated in the premises. They were brought down frozen stiff and lifeless, still locked in a coital embrace. Others who got lost in the woods recall only being lost for a night, when their families have been looking for them for three days.

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Over the centuries, Mt. Banahaw have, and will always be the Philippines' version of the majestic mountains of Tibet, or the powerful pyramids of Egypt or Machu Picchu. Devotee or skeptic, it will continue to attract visitors either for the spiritual appeal, or the ecological beauty that it has to offer. This massive mystical and natural sanctuary is something that uniquely portrays the Filipinos' primordial way of communing with God and nature.

READ: Explore Mt. Banahaw's Pilgrimage Sites

Original text by Bopeep Espiritu


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