You Shall Be As Gods: Anting-anting and the Filipino Quest for Mystical Power
Authored by Dennis Santos Villegas
To many Filipinos, the anting-anting is more than simply a protective talisman or good luck charm. It is part of an elaborate system of belief that has evolved over centuries, synthesizing the animist spirituality of ancient precolonial Filipinos with the Catholic doctrines brought by Spanish colonizers. In times of colonial rule, fervent belief in the anting-anting’s mystical properties was a way for the oppressed to rise up and stand equal to their oppressors. Over time, it became a way for ordinary Filipinos—particularly the poor and downtrodden—to assert power over their own destinies. Today, this belief system continues to manifest itself in daily life with its complex hierarchies, manifold trials and rituals, dense symbolism, and flights into mysticism and the unknown.
You Shall Be As Gods, the inaugural book of the Voyager series, explores the many variations of belief in the anting-anting and its role in Philippine history, culture, and psychology. The author Dennis Villegas won the confidence of dozens of the most important anting-anting users and spiritual leaders to delve deep into the origins of various faith communities in the country. He also underwent harrowing tests of physical and spiritual fortitude, all in order to understand the power that the anting-anting continues to hold over the Filipino psyche. This book is the triumphant result of in-depth research coupled with the derring-do of first-person gonzo journalism.
Dennis Villegas’ book, You Shall Be As Gods, documents one foundation that constitutes the inner geography of the Philippines. He combines his personal encounters with the story of the anting-anting, participating in complex rituals as well as joining the various millenarian groups in the country, in his quest to understand its true and authentic nature. Although scholarly in tone, his presentation remains eminently popular and is highly attractive to young and old readers alike.
—Jaime B. Veneracion, PhD
Just as the folk Catholic elements of anting-anting belief can be considered not quite Christian and not quite pagan, in a way, this book can be considered as a syncretic merging of scholarly and mystical texts. While the author presents his subject from within the profoundly hybridized world of indigenous and Christian folk religion, he also balances his narrative with a deep reading of serious literature on the subject, providing the reader with a finely wrought and balanced account.
— From the Preface