April 18, 2011
“Children of the Light”
In her first I-Witness documentary, news anchor and journalist Mariz Umali observes and documents the rites and rituals of the members of the Samahan ng mga Tunay na Anak ng Liwanag at Katotohan (STALK).
In the outskirts of Indang, Cavite , a small community of 300 members live a life of religious observance. From morning till night the members take turns in communal responsibilities like scheduled prayers and worship for personal intentions. They appeal for exclusion from calamities and world peace. The calmness of the mountain retreat is punctuated by songs of praise to the creator, whom members believe take possession of their leader in the embodiment of the Virgin Mother of Good Fortune.
On first impression, the group seems gentle and relaxed. People in the compound are forever smiling and friendly. They anchor their belief in the similarities of different religions and merge them into a seemingly progressive spiritual outlook. They preach tolerance among religions and respect for gender and sexuality.
But the serenity of the community is sporadically broken by shrieks and shouts from a small hut inside the compound. On Saturdays, the members conduct what they call healing rituals.
Upon closer inspection, Mariz Umali discovers a darker side. What members claim as routine healing sometimes end up as an exorcism rite similar to that of local shamans’. In one of her visits, Mariz happens upon an exorcism of five angry spirits from a patient using a live chicken, boiling oil, strips of paper, water and walis-tingting.
As Mariz probes further, she encounters more mysteries in this group that claims to be the children of the light.