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Psychic Surgeons of the Philippines
by Jim Martin
The patient is the author's father.

Passing through the lobby of a fancy Manilla tourist hotel one afternoon in search of restroom facilities, I was suddenly distracted by the familiar sound of a West Coast accent and the words "Salem, Oregon. It was an American tour group discussing their visits to the Reverend Marcos Orbito, a local healer. This 'chance' encounter proved to be the opportunity I had been waiting for to meet to the world famous Philippine psychic surgeons.

They related fascinating stories such as one about a small boy who had arrived in a wheel chair and who was, at that moment, running around the swimming pool after a series of healing sessions. Another man spoke of his successful treatment to quit smoking.

During my year in Tokyo at the International Association for Religion and Parapsychology (IARP), I had had the opportunity to investigate this practice. As best as I could piece it together, through talking with staff, meeting healers and reading research files, there appeared to be some very legitimate practitioners with considerable healing powers. However, their abilities were sometimes inconsistent, compelling some healers to fake results by substituting secretly introduced dyes, liquid and animal innards for diseased human tissues. On occasion, these frauds were uncovered, discrediting them as well as the entire profession. As wealthy foreigners with life threatening diseases are willing to reward healers with huge sums of money for what they believe to be cures, it is easy to see how they could be easily exploited by hustlers ready and willing to take advantage of gullible and desperate tourists.

Studies in labs such as IARP have confirmed the existence of healing energies and the ability of gifted people to transmit them. One healer tested there was found to be able to alter bio-functions in a subject at another location by sending 'psi' energy from inside an electro-magnetically insulated chamber. A teenage Japanese boy bent spoons and projected images onto camera film, and was said to be able to appear and disappear at will. My objective was to find a legitimate healer, observe him at work, receive treatment, and evaluate the experience.

A crowded bus ride across town brought me to a small, ordinary house on a quiet residential street. Entering the front door, I took a seat among a small number of local people and watched as they came forward, each in turn, for a session with the healer. Rev. Orbito was a rather slight, middle-aged man, wearing the distinctive embroidered Philippine shirt. He stood behind his treatment table, a Christian cross on the wall behind him, explaining that he could not diagnose any disease, but that he was simply manipulating an unseen force, such as the invisible wind moves leaves in the trees. He added that God had granted him this gift of healing, one of several powers given to man, according to Biblical scripture.

I was invited by Rev. Orbito to observe, tape record and photograph any treatments he performed, and I gladly took advantage of the offer. These photos are now a unique segment of my slide program - the only one where I warn squeamish viewers to look away until images of bloody hands and bellies are over.

In a typical session, Rev Orbito would offer some prayers, and then place his hands on the patient's exposed skin. Periodically he would clench a fist and press down into the body, then tug and twist as if to remove something against resistance, producing red liquid and bits of wet, red material, which were placed in shallow bowls. Assistants constantly wiped the area with cotton, creating a confusing dance of moving limbs and an ideal situation for fooling observers with slight of hand by introducing foreign materials.

From my personal observations as well as examination of my photographs I can say that it certainly appears that the surgeon's hands reached into the body and removed material, but I must admit that this is truly impossible to confirm.

In my own healing session I simply requested a generic treatment as I had no specific medical problem to address. I felt pressure and movement as one would during any abdominal massage - and no other sensations or experience of note.

On another occasion I took my father to see Rev. Orbito for work on his alcohol problem and diabetes. Years later he is completely free of alcohol and controls his diabetes with diet, and the validity of Rev Orbito as a legitimate healer remains an open question.

What I can say, in conclusion, that I have no doubt that powerful healers of many traditions are operating in the world today. The challenge is to see through the smoke and mirrors and false claims to find a real one.

Jim Martin, Lic. Ac. is an acupuncturist with offices in Hillsboro (503-640-3668) and Scappoose (503-543-7266). He presents slide and lecture programs about travels in search of strange and wonderful people and places around the world. Email: