Village chief to cult group: respect Catholics

By Felipe V. Celino

ROXAS CITY, Capiz – “If you want to be respected, please respect us Catholic faithful too.”

This was the strong statement from Barangay Captain Manuel ‘Bongbong’ Aninang of Barangay Olotayan after an alleged cult group set fire to and destroyed Catholic religious statues and other items in their island village last Sunday evening, May 26.

The five members of the group streamed the burning live on Facebook.

The alleged cult leader, identified as Joshua De Vicente, came to Olotayan Island to conduct faith healing for residents who cannot afford hospital visits for financial reasons.

Aninang, who has served as Barangay Captain of Olotayan for 17 years, stated that this was the first incident of its kind involving the torching and destruction of statues of the Virgin Mary, holy rosaries, and the Bible.

“It hurts me deeply as a devoted Catholic to see live videos of how they broke the statues and torched the religious items,” he stressed.

Aninang was informed that the five individuals had arrived to attend the village fiesta on Sunday morning.

The following day, the group invited residents to join them, especially those seeking treatment for ailments. They encouraged residents to surrender any religious items in their homes for immediate healing.

The group charged patients P200 for medical treatment.

Given the village’s remote location from Roxas City, around 30 residents sought treatment, hoping to be healed by applying oil provided by the group to affected body parts.

Aninang emphasized that the group did not represent any religious sect but claimed to offer treatment as directed by a higher power.

Concerned by the residents’ involvement, Aninang invited the group to the police station to discuss their mission in Olotayan.

“It hurts me as the head of the village to see strangers come here without permission and tarnish Olotayan’s reputation,” Aninang added.

It was discovered that three of the individuals were from Isabela province, while two were natives of the island village.

Aninang urged residents to be cautious of strangers visiting Olotayan and vowed to support any complaints filed against the group.

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