The usual Metro Manila Monday morning traffic remains a force to be reckoned with, especially for office-goers and students. However, there are those who battle this unending line of cars to go to a church at Loyola Heights, Quezon City, to feel the touch of Fr. Efren Borromeo, or Fr. “Momoy” as he is fondly called. They are those whose health cannot anymore make them fit for work or school.
These people come to Our Lady of Pentecost Parish to hear mass with the healing priest. With special permission from his congregation, Fr. “Momoy” devotes much of his time to the healing ministry and comes to the capital on certain Mondays.
After mass, they wait as the priest goes to a corner to see them – sometimes one by one, sometimes as a group. They fill up a form that indicates what they want. But this piece of paper is not anymore necessary, as Fr. “Momoy” can see internal organs, malignant masses or cancers with his naked eye. Without reading the form, Fr. Momoy can tell what is wrong with the persons. Assisted by two or three volunteers, the priest prays over them.
Reluctant at first in accepting his ability to heal, Fr. Momoy shares how he came to know of his gift. It was with his first priestly assignment in Cabasan, Cagraray, an island off Bacacay, Albay. He tells us, “lacking in resources, the people had to seek out their parish priest for help in just about anything, health problems included. There was no doctor or hospital in the island.”
To help the community, he with the assistance of another priest, Fr. Thom Gier of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), launched a community-based health program called Barefoot Doctors. They learned primary health care from a doctor who gave them stethoscopes, needles, syringes, and other things for a simple health kit. Fr. Borromeo brings with him a sick call kit that not only contains syringes and medicine but also holy oil, sacramentals and prayer books.
“Sick calls used to be far apart, since the presence of a priest by the bedside of the sick was associated with sure doom. Now, more a “barefoot doctor” than a priest, I found myself being called upon to heal,” he says. “My first test as a health care “healer” came when I was awakened at 2 am because a man who had been stabbed was brought to the convent. In a drunken state he had challenged anyone to a knife fight and was knifed as a result.”
Fr. “Momoy” recalls, “I gave him a piece of wood to bite on. I applied kulong-kugon, a milky white paste off the bark of a tree to stop the bleeding. His intestines were coming out of his stomach so I had to stitch him up with surgical needles from my health kit. Soon, I was able to stabilize his condition. I then instructed the men to bring him to the hospital in Tabaco – which was 3 hours away by boat. As they were about to leave, I called them again to say I had to hear the man’s confession and anoint him. I had forgotten that I was also a priest.”
Back to Life!
Another instance was a man who was at his deathbed. They called for a priest to anoint him as everyone knew that he will die soon. Fr. “Momoy” came just in time, as he had just anointed the man a few moments before his family and friends saw him pass away. The priest stayed for a while to be with the grieving. It was to his surprise when someone came running to him and said that the dead was brought back to life.
“I ran with him to see for myself. The dead man had come back to life! Maybe because he got cold during the bath, or was shocked back to life, I can’t really explain. I was so agitated and nervous and took to drinking so much coffee that I felt sick the next day. At the time, I did not make the connection that it may have been the anointing that brought him back to life,” shares the priest.
Of course, it is not only these incidents which sparked the interest for Fr. “Momoy.” There are people in his parish who says that the water which he blesses has healing powers. “Even then, I did not think much of these cures. No big deal here! I believed these incidents were as ordinary a service as any priest’s ministry. The healing comes with the anointing. And anointing the sick is a sacrament which is part of my being a priest.”
His Own Healing
He accepted his gift of healing after an accident that almost took his life. It was in 1994, when Fr. Borromeo was travelling with his family from Manila to Bicol to officiate at a nephew’s wedding.
They were on the main road travelling at the speed of about 80 kilometres per hour when someone suddenly threw a stone at their vehicle, hitting the windshield. Unfortunately for Fr. “Momoy”, he was the one seated next to the driver.
“Glass shards smashed into my right eye,” he relates. “The avalanche of pain, like a severe toothache multiplied a thousand times, made me swoon. I felt numb all over, and at the next moment, instantly and to my surprise, I felt a beautiful soothing presence engulfing me, loving me utterly, and fully accepting me, yes, embracing me! My whole being yielded to the lure of the afterlife.”
“In that enfolding moment I uttered in response to that Being, Bahala na kayo (It’s up to you”). At the time, my idea of heaven was an expanse awaiting me. I thought I was about to be transported to that place of bliss,” recalls Fr. Borromeo. “Time stood still. Then in the next instant I knew I was back. I was looking at my body when I heard my niece shout, “His pulse is getting fainter and fainter. It’s gone!”
There was a surge of life back to Fr. “Momoy.” Even as weak as he was, he told his companions to stop the jeepney. A jeepney that no one, except him, saw coming. He also sensed that there was a nearby clinic, where he told the driver to bring him. The doctor attended to him, but he still had to be rushed back to Manila to receive the best health care possible.
He underwent surgery at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center. He was also hospitalized for at least a week. “Those years of denial of the gift of healing were now confronted by the mysterious character and miraculous results of my death experience,” he reveals. “As shadows go, this personal shadow kept hounding me, and I must confess that I was afraid of owning the gift because I might make a fool of myself. I definitely would not expose myself to that degree of humiliation.”
He “Sees” the Dead
It was not only the living who Fr. Borromeo heals. There are stories of the dead coming to visit the priest. Some of them confess to him, to be granted peace in the afterlife. A group of people who died in the politically motivated Maguindanao massacre asked for prayers. A navy officer who was thought to have committed suicide told him that it was murder.
Fr. Borromeo was 35 years old when he started “seeing” the dead. “I began to see, not just sense, but “see” souls; at times seeing them more vividly when my eyes were closed,” he discloses. “I began to see auras around people; again, with the images becoming clearer whenever I closed my eyes. These paranormal apparitions and sightings were extremely disconcerting because I was then convinced that such experiences were abnormal and entirely inappropriate for someone in my position – a Roman Catholic priest.”
“I would like to resonate with many people that I am with them, that I am with those who have many questions. I am an ordinary person like the rest of you. I am grateful for ordinary processes that have become the way of my own growth. I see more clearly that the ordinary is the way of all nature,” he says. “I would like readers to say “I can be a healer myself” instead of “Fr. Efren is holy and gifted, but I am not.” The disposition to be a healer emerges in place of the usual “I will just go to Father,” as if I had a magic touch.”
Fr. Borromeo concludes, “Being a priest-healer, I start from there: that whether there is cure or not, this absolute Presence of the Healer within always heals, makes whole, and transforms.”