Pestaño appeared to healing priest | Inquirer Opinion
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Pestaño appeared to healing priest

/ 12:09 AM January 19, 2012

The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Jan. 12 banner story: “Pestaño case not suicide but murder” (by Lelia B. Salaverria). The lead paragraph: “Agreeing with the parents of Navy Ensign Philip Pestaño that he did not kill himself 16 years ago, the Office of the Ombudsman reversed itself and filed murder charges against 10 Navy officers in the Sandiganbayan yesterday and ordered their dismissal for grave misconduct….

“The 24-year-old Pestaño was found dead in his cabin aboard the BRP Bacolod City on Sept. 27, 1995, shortly before the ship was to dock at the Philippine Navy headquarters in Manila. He had a bullet wound in the head.”


In 1995 I was assigned to explore the suicide angle while another reporter was to do the murder angle. I remember then Navy Capt. Alex Pama (now Navy commodore) come to the Inquirer to explain why it was suicide. After the story came out, a sister of Pestaño wrote to convince me to think otherwise even though the front page was quite balanced—two stories on two angles. I just happened to be assigned to do the suicide angle.

Fast forward 16 years later: For the Halloween issue of the Sunday Inquirer Magazine, I wrote a long feature story (“He sees dead people and they confess to him,” November 2011) about Fr. Efren “Momoy” Borromeo of the Society of Our Lady of the Trinity and who is known as a “healing priest.” This was not your usual ghost story and Father Borromeo is not so ordinary. He has the God-given gift of healing the sick and seeing souls, usually at 3 a.m. He revealed that the souls of those who perished in the 2009 Ampatuan massacre had appeared to him. In 1995 Pestaño’s spirit had also come to tell him that he was murdered.


Father Borromeo is finishing his doctorate in cosmic anthropology and ably articulates his experiences in psycho-spiritual terms. Among the papers he shared with me were a collage of his eidetic insights and the account of lawyer Felipe Pestaño on his dead son’s meeting with the priest and the family’s pursuit for justice. Excerpts from “A Crime that Cries to Heaven”:

A priest, a complete stranger out of nowhere, came to see us at Philip’s wake on the third day after his death…. Accompanied by a nun who was a distant relative, he revealed that Philip had asked him to convey a message: “Tell my parents I did not commit suicide.”

Father Borromeo explained that he never experienced anything like this before. For the first time in his life, he was commissioned by someone in the other life to convey a message. Philip appeared to him three times, and each time he was strongly urged to go and see us.

What did Father Borromeo tell us? “Philip, in full military uniform, appeared to me with this important message for you, ‘Tell my parents I did not commit suicide.’ In a flash, the scene of the crime showed three uniformed men in Philip’s room. One who appeared taller than the others had a gun. Another, a heavy-set man, had a gun, too. The third man, shorter than the rest of them, seemed to be the one in charge there.

“There was an order to shoot. Forthwith, the heavy-set man hit Philip’s head with what appeared like a gun. Philip fell unconscious, and I was given a feeling that he was dragged down to another room or toilet. The next scene showed Philip in a kneeling position. There and then, Philip was shot dead.”

It was from Father Borromeo that I heard for the first time that the gun found in Philip’s room was not the weapon that killed him. Father Borromeo even described Philip’s room correctly and said Philip insisted that his killers were his fellow-officers in the ship, although there were other passengers he knew whose reputations were equally notorious in the navy organization.

We did not know how to take this information coming from a stranger—and a priest at that! It was difficult enough to believe that Philip’s emissary, Father Borromeo, could describe accurately Philip’s cabin. Still more difficult to take in was the death scene and the roles played by the uniformed men in the room.


It was only when Father Borromeo gave an accurate description of Philip’s character and personality that I began to believe his every word as coming from my son. Thereupon, Father Borromeo continued, “Philip specifically asked me to tell you to look for a certain ‘pari’ who can shed light on his death.”

Enter the mysterious man. That night, I arrived late at Della Strada Chapel for a whole night’s wake. My wife was talking to a person in a polo barong who soon got up. I immediately got upset—it was as though my wife was talking to a devil incarnate. I asked a relative to take my wife away from that person. I simply could not control my strong feelings then.

I approached my wife and asked whom she was talking to.  She said, “That was Philip’s shipmate, senior officer….  He was trying to comfort me, telling me how good Philip was.”

Two days afterwards, one of Philip’s classmates described (the officer) as a born-again fanatic, who was wont to carry the bible around and exhort everyone to be good and upright.  Shipmates called him “pari” although no one really believed him. In height and physical build, (he) matched Father Borromeo’s description of the “pistol-whipping” man.

As a deeply troubled father, I no longer remember when I asked Philip if he had really sent Father Borromeo to us. It seemed to me that his answer was: “Yes, someone, a spirit too, like me, knew Father Borromeo and helped me find him. Papa, it is not always possible to find someone who could be sent with this kind of message.” That was in 1995…

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