Growing up as a Filipino American, I'm immersed in my family's Catholic background. I am not religious; however, surprisingly enough, I often reflect how my Catholic upbringing has shaped how I now see the world as a Queer Artist of Color.
My family has often recounted a story of how my aunt, my dad's cousin, was once possessed by a demon that was only thrown out of her body through multiple exorcisms in the town's parish. Supposedly family members were visited by the child Saint Bernadette, who confirmed of the cleansing of my aunt.
There is a long documented history of people who have been thought of suffering of possession as simply misunderstood and undiagnosed mentally or emotionally unstable individuals. Family members continue to speak of this story of my aunt, and whenever I listen to them, I listen closely to their deep religious fervor and devotion layered in their words. As someone who openly speaks about his own challenges with mental health, I often think how my aunt most likely was just suffering from mental and/or emotional turmoil. On top of that, she was pushed to endure the physical and emotional torture of exorcisms.
I have never met her, but I think about her. Or maybe I have, but she was never pointed out to me to have been the one. I don't know if I have ever seen a photo of her. My family still speaks about it, reliving the story every time it is told. Whenever I think of the story, I always imagine a small ten-year-old girl in a small village who was deeply scared and confused by the world, which was made even more complicated by the prayers to angels and spirits for guidance and redemption.