Engkanto and Barang

I was in my uncle’s house just a while ago to administer one of his medications, epoetin, subcutaneously. He’s suffering from enlarged prostate plus a few other minor illness such as anemia,hypertension, etc. While I was there, I also had a long chat with my older aunts and uncles. And our topic ranged from health to diseases and then to supernatural beliefs, engkanto and barang in particular

The engkanto is a part of the Filipino supernatural belief. These engkanto are equivalent to the western’s dwarves, forest spirits, fairies, druids, etc. Many Filipinos, the older generation mostly, still believe in the existence of these beings. They even believe that some diseases are caused by enraged or playful engkanto.

One of my older aunts, who grew up in the province, told us a few things about engkanto. She said that there are certain types of engkanto. There are those found in land, in air and in water, in those places rarely visited by humans, where the nature is old but pure. The engkanto can be really dangerous and humans must be cautious when they are in those certain places. She said engkanto from land and from air can be warded off through certain routines such as spitting on the ground, or saying ‘tabi tabi po’ when wanting to urinate or to pass through. She also said engkanto doesn’t like tins, or metals, so wearing a metallic object or keeping it close to you while in those places will keep you safe from being abducted or being a target of the engkanto‘s playful or angry actions.

She said among those engkanto, the engkanto from the water is the most dangerous. That’s because when you’re in a body of water, like in a lake or a river, or falls, and you angered those spirits and you’ve become a target of them, there’s no other place you can go to. Unless you’re able to bring yourself up from the waters. She told us a story from years before when a man, a relative in fact, was found dead, drowned from a lake. She said the funeral service workers were very puzzled and confused how come there’s no blood coming out from the dead body. There was only water coming out, and nothing else. Some believed its the work of the engkanto.

And then there’s the story of another uncle, who, years ago, had suffered from parasitic infection. At least that’s what the doctor has said. This uncle of mine had bloated stomach and after the doctor ran a diagnostic test, they found out that the stomach were filled with parasitic worms, and so the doctor ordered anti-helminthic medications. My uncle then had fever and he was really feeling ill. At the time when the medication (in liquid form) was already available, my uncle accidentally pushed it away and it spilled to the ground.

My uncle became worse because he wasn’t able to drink his medication. During the time when his fever was really high, one of our relatives, an old aunt, suddenly asked, “Nasan na yung panalangin mo sa Latin na lagi mong dala?” (Where is that prayer written in Latin that you always bring with you?). My uncle answered “Nasa wallet” (In my wallet). My aunt was having some thoughts that this disease may be a product of barang (witchcraft/sorcery) that’s why she asked for this prayer.

What they did then is that they took this prayer (written in a paper in the Latin language) and placed it around my uncle’s body, like a patch. And after a while, my uncle got better, little by little. The doctor visited my uncle and was surprised to see how better he looks. They ran another test and the worms weren’t seen anymore. That’s when they were sure that what happened to my uncle is, indeed, a barang.

Many more stories came afterwards during our chats. Stories on the existence of spirits in this place, that place, this time, that time, yada yada, how to ward off spirits from the house, stories of other people they knew who had an experience, dwarves, possessions by engkanto and other spirits, etc.

These supernatural stories are very interesting for me. Not everyone believes these things because not everyone gets to experience them. I find it cool how such things happen only to a few people. I’m not saying I want to experience them but the possibility that these stories are true is just so interesting.

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