Framework

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Faith healer Clifford Ada Rosales, 30, sets his hands aflame after covering them in oil to demonstrate a healing ritual in the home of a local shaman on the Philippine island of Siquijor. Rosales traveled from a neighboring island to stock up on ingredients for potions and spells.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Philip Prins

Catholics complete the last of the 14 Stations of the Cross on Good Friday outside the small town of San Antonio, home to Siquijor's most prominent faith healers. It is considered the heart of magic on the island. Many locals are Catholic but they also believe in the local shamans' supernatural powers.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Philip Prins

Ingredients gathered from the wild and purported to have special healing qualities are prepared on Black Saturday, the day before Easter, and shared by local shamans with visiting faith healers who have come to stock up for the coming year.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Philip Prins

Black Saturday, the day before Easter, is the day when "evil brew" is mixed. The potion is said to have powers such as driving away evil spirits. Although shamans often keep their full recipes secret, known ingredients include candle drippings gathered from a cemetery and holy water from a church.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Philip Prins

A float with a statue of Saint Veronica is pulled through Siquijor during a procession marking the end of Good Friday.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Philip Prins

Anesita Ponce, 45, has been a faith healer for the last 13 years, carrying on a family tradition started by her mother, a well-known faith healer. Ponce's wares include good luck charms, love potions and objects to drive away evil spirits. Much of the knowledge of shamans on the Philippine island of Siquijor has been passed through generations.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Phjil Prins

A vendor peddles potions, charms and religious trinkets during Siquijor's annual Healing Festival. In recent years, the local tourism board has begun using the island's reputation as a home for faith healing to draw in more visitors.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Philip Prins

Local Catholics carry a likeness of Christ past St. Francis de Assisi Church in Siquijor during a procession marking the end of Good Friday. Catholic beliefs have mixed with the island's mystic traditions over time to create a unique brand of faith.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Philip Prins

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Isla del Fuego: Priests and shamans

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Isla del Fuego: Priests and shamans

By Phil Prins

Filipinos know the Visayan island of Siquijor, located in the central Philippines, pretty much for one thing: sorcery.

The embodiment of the archipelago’s mystic past allegedly resides among shamans and faith healers who concoct purportedly potent potions and spells — and claim the ability to heal illness with little more than the power of human touch.

In reality, spirituality on Isla del Fuego is a rough mix of ancient mystical beliefs and the post-colonial Catholic dogma that dominates the religious landscape of the Philippines.

Every year around Easter, Siquijor becomes a veritable melting pot of spiritual conviction. Catholics honor Christ’s crucifixion, death and resurrection by celebrating Masses and processions centered around Spanish churches from the 18th century. Meantime, in the surrounding forests, mystics conduct their age-old search and harvest wild ingredients for tonics that they say can only be made potent at that time of year.

In Siquijor, saints and prophets work in mysterious ways — as do practitioners of black magic and the supernatural. The differing practices and beliefs appear at odds, but coexist, and few of the island’s inhabitants seem to pay much heed to apparent schisms.

In fact, some locals believe that highlighting spiritual variations could literally pay off.

Members of the provincial tourism board already reimagine Siquijor as a mecca for faith healers and a magnet for people seeking alternatives to traditional medical practices. Well, maybe, because no scientific evidence exists to support what appears to be a Southeast Asian version of voodoo or Santeria. There are, however, plenty of claims and numerous second-hand success stories.

Regardless of spiritual leanings or religious dogma, Siquijor’s priests and shamans alike must eventually rely on the common bond of people’s willing faith.

Before finding his passion for photography, Phil Prins served for five years in the U.S. Army, spending most of that time in Europe and the Middle East. His experiences as a soldier caused him to see the world with fresh eyes and ultimately inspired his desire to document the incredibly diverse and chaotic world around him. He is currently based in the Philippines. When not working on photography projects, he teaches writing and photography at Foundation University in Dumaguete City on the island of Negros.

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