Friday, April 1, 2011

ESTER ROXAS BRAVA THE FILIPINO FAITH HEALER

BRAVO ESTER!

To her believers, Ester Bravo Roxas is God-sent as she operates using bare hands and removes whatever ails her patients. Based in Urdaneta, four hours drive from Manila, Philippines, her clinic cum chapel attracts the sick all over the world.

Against my will but for the sake of my blog so I can say I did it and be able to write from experience, I nervously underwent her treatment and lived to tell this tale.

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This is Ester Brava the famous faith healer! I thought her fingers seemed rather rough and tough as if they had seen some hard work and not smooth, refined and unlined as I assumed but still, they performed what seemed like miracles to her patients.

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Ester Brava at her chapel. The girl at her right is her assistant who took down notes when she was in a trance.

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The compound next to her small chapel at right is always full of patients, including some who came from Europe and USA.

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Princess Becky Leogardo from Philippines, her husband Michael Mantz from Holland and Ester Brava. She has known Ester for over 20 years and is a believer.


Call them quakes, charlatans, con men and shameless exploiters of the desperately ill. Or marvel at their miraculous powers they claim are derived direct from God and the Holy Spirit. Whatever you opinion, faith healers or psychic surgeons are a familiar aspect of Philippines’ Christian culture though there are as many nay sayers as adherents. For the poor or those on their last legs, faith healing is a last resort. Many survivors insist their cures were due to divine intervention through such mediums who modestly insist they are merely carrying out God’s work.

Ester Roxas nee Brava is unique on two scores. First she refused to be a faith healer for 20 years and secondly, she does not charge a fee! Most practitioners charge either a flat fee which could be a hundred to few thousand ringgit depending on length of time, Ester Brava does for free. Since presumably she does not live on fresh air and love, there is a donation box on the stage where she performs her work but you can deposit ten pesos (RM 1) or as much as you like or even a cheque.

Considering most Christian faith healers are decked with crucifixes, rosaries, special rings, religious icons or garbed in robes festooned with mystical symbols, Ester does not look the part. Mind you, this 46 year old is rather pretty with pleasant features and looks a decade younger. She is reassuringly normal with unkempt hair and crumpled blouse though she hastily put on a white, clinical tunic, making her look somewhat like a physician

As my friends Becky Leogardo and hubby Michael Mantz know her personally and as our trip was unannounced, we descended upon her in her small, heaty kitchen. Becky asked her to enter a trance and we were taken to an adjoining, airconditioned room which was a great relief as I cannot stand the heat. The room happened to be rented to a dental surgeon who was away since it was Sunday.

I stared at the gleaming new equipment and instruments and wondered surely these were unnecessary since Ester could presumably extract rotting teeth using bare fingers without anesthesia. However, this thought I politely kept to myself.

Ester Brava begun reciting from the Bible but in local dialect which even fellow Filipina could not understand. After chantings, Ester lapsed into a trance and stood with eyes closed as Becky asked questions. Some was answered directly but others were to be found in the Bible! She would recite specific chapters and verses which were jotted down by her assistant who hurriedly flipped through a Bible to read the passage. How appropriate to locate answers to life’s vexing questions via the Holy Book!

Out of curiosity, Becky asked which spirit had entered Ester’s body and the reply was ‘Ezekiel’ the Hebrew prophet who wrote Book of Ezekiel regarding Jerusalem’s destruction and Millenia Temple visions. I was expecting the Holy Ghost or even Jesus himself no less but perhaps that was being too ambitious.

As Ester emerged from the trance, she promptly fell backwards and was caught by her scribe. Like most prophetess she had no idea what she said.

A DEAL WITH HOLY SPIRIT

To be a faith healer can be a double edged sword as Ester avowed. Some bestowed with the gift to perform seemingly miraculous cures at the behest of the Holy Spirit accept it as a rare gift from God. Ester Brava Roxas fought tooth and nail to avoid becoming one!

“I knew from aged 5 I had this gift to cure or help sick people. The Holy Spirit told me I was chosen to be God’s ‘agent’ on earth to help people. But I was not interested though at first I was a little scared,” explained this renowned faith healer. “I was not interested at all. My aim was to work in a factory like normal girls.”

Er, how did one communicate with the divine?

“I was told by the Holy Spirit directly. It was not a normal conversation as it occurred in my mind but I understood what the Holy Spirit wanted me to do,” replied Ester nonchalantly. “But I paid a price for the refusal.”

A malevolent god punishing a kid for refusing to be a faith healer seemed outrageous. Again I kept this opinion to myself for fear of offending not only the Holy Spirit’s representative but the Almighty.

The hefty price? Her mother suffered from a weird illness. “My mother refused to bath and change her clothes for 20 years!” said Ester.

This time I could not help asking if her mum might be malodorous.

“She stayed indoors and did not go out to work so she did not sweat much. So she did not smell. She also hardly ate and stayed upstairs on the second floor all the time. It was not easy looking after her.” shrugged Ester.

Finally after two decades of looking after her mother and declining the Holy Spirit’s beseechment, she made a deal. Cure her mother and she would take up the vocation.

As expected, her mother made an instant recovery and was back to normal. “So I kept my promise and became a faith healer. Whatever I do now is guided by the Holy Spirit. It is not me speaking when I am in a trance but the Holy Spirit who enters my body.”

In a rather cruel twist, Ester’s mother passed away six months later but she continued what she called her ‘work for God’. “I do not heal. God is the one who heals. The Holy Spirit possesses me and does the healing.”

Even today, she did not seem overwhelmed with joy at her job. Spiritually healing the flock did not obstruct marriage as she is mother of six.

“My husband does not like what I am doing also and always tell em to stop and do a normal job. I am now committed and we have many quarrels over this. I told him he can leave me and my family. On a few occasions I even packed his suitcases for him and asked to go but he always stayed.”

The signs on her small chapel state she only heals on Saturday and Sunday and “ Strictly Not during Weekdays”. I remarked this seemed a walkover as she had plenty of time to work ‘normally’ Monday to Friday.

“I do my faith healing nonstop throughout the week! This is the problem! People ignore my requests. When they come see me, I cannot say ‘No, I am busy or have no time, please come back on weekends’”. So this is a fulltime job,” said the mother of six. None of her children is blessed with this gift.

Nevertheless this gift was not allowed to be recorded, filmed or photographed. I asked to photograph her during the healing sessions but she explained the Holy Spirit said no. I asked why. Her answer came fast and pat. “The Holy Spirit does not want publicity.”

Considering many of her patients fly in from overseas from word of mouth, personal recommendations and propaganda from the Spiritualist Churches of the Philippines of which she is a member, she does enjoy a modicum of fame. But who am I to quibble so I put my Canon back into my bag.

She asked if I would like to be healed spiritually. I shook my head and declined as I feared treading into unknown territory and gave the excuse I was Buddhist.



FAITH HEALING

Opposite the dental surgery in her compound stands her chapel which could accommodate a hundred, with some spilling out into the courtyard.

I was amazed to see more than a third were foreigners from Germany, Russia, UK, USA and Holland. Said one, “Ester came highly recommended. Some psychic healers take your money in advance and if you did not recover, conveniently gave the excuse that the Holy Spirit did not deem you worthy! Of course how can one argue with God? One friend donated just US$10 per day and his Majoha hotel on MacArthur Highway cost US$25. So I really feel Ester is genuinely helping ill people in the purest sense as you just put whatever money into the box or just walk away.”

I sat in the front row to get a good view but Ester performed her healing at the back of the stage so all I saw was her pressing cotton wool swabs onto the patients’ stomachs and removing what looked like bits and pieces amid bloodied cotton wads. This is known as ‘spiritual injection’. It took less than ten minutes. Most patients are given a head massage or on the area she had worked which is supposed to close the aura or energy field. The more serious cases are required to come daily for up to a fortnight. So it is not always an instant cure. As one attendee remarked, “God works in mysterious ways His miracles to perform’.

After a cadaverous German suffering from cancer left the stage, an assistant who also appeared to be in a trance pointed dramatically at me. I squeaked “No thank you.” Princess Dr Becky Leogardo also indicated I was not interested. The man next to me shouted “I will take his place”. I nodded vigorously in relief but she was adamant and kept pointing at me. Everyone stared curiously and Princess Becky whispered conspiratorially, “You better go as you wouldn’t want to offend the Holy Spirit would you?”

The horror of being barred at Pearly Gates sealed the deal. I know I deserve to enter Heaven and to be left out because I did not follow this instruction was too painful to bear so I walked up meekly to the stage.

I unbuttoned my shirt and ordered Michael Mantz to stand next to the bed so we could compare notes.

Using bare hands (her fingers were more robust and hardy than slim and elegant), she pressed below my chest and took out what seemed like a whitish, transparent trio of connected tube. For a moment I thought she was removing my intestines but it seemed too plasticky.

Then she pressed cotton wads into my abdomen which turned red, supposedly due to my blood. “This is for your spleen.” More pressure was applied, again using cotton wool. “This is for your liver.” I was aghast at the sight of the swathes turning bloody though there was no pain. All I was aware was that my stomach was too embarrassingly flabby and wobbly so her fingers could disappear deep inside the folds.

Then she said something that made me jumped almost out of my skin. “Don’t eat crab, chicken or egg or your itchiness will return.”

I was suffering from minor itchiness on my thigh and legs for the last few days! I had no telltale rashes or scratch marks so it was impossible for her to guess and anyway I was wearing jeans. How did she know that? She could have mentioned ‘migraine’, ‘lethargy’, ‘diarrhoea’, ‘cramps’ or any of the myriad ailments we are heir to!

It was over in less than 10 minutes. As I buttoned my shirt, I contemplated whether to dive into the dustbin and retrieve the tube-like appendage or ascertain if my blood was responsible for staining the cotton swabs. But I did not wish to be struck by lightning for being a Doubting Thomas so I meekly returned to my seat. I was not given a massage either, perhaps for harbouring such philistine thoughts.

Mantz was convinced the cotton wools looked suspiciously pinkish and contained hidden liquid or fake blood which splurted when pressed deep inside my flabby abdomen. I wished I had six-pack abs which would force surface pressure, making sleight of hand harder.

But I refrained from crab, chicken and egg and voila, my itchiness vanished like a ghost at cock’s crow.

ESTER BRAVO ROXAS, 388 NANCAYASAN SUR, PUROK 5, URDANETA CITY, PANGASINAN, PHILIPPINES.

+63 919 603 44 37





4 comments:

sanjay jain said...

Would come for treatment from India pls advise if available on 20th nov . Pls also advise if any hotel to stay .
chrome@cal.vsnl.net.in

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Suresh Sai said...


A "person who sees clearly the future" is a Clairvoyant having the ability to run through the mind other than the known human senses or extra-sensory perception. Sai S. Suresh she is a Gifted, natural healer.
Spiritual Healer in India

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