By Nelson Groom
A controversial Filipino ‘cult’ claims to grant devotees ‘bulletproof powers’ – by hacking them with machetes but miraculously not drawing blood.
New footage shows a member of the religious sect ‘Iron King’ performing a bloodless but agonising initiation ritual, which is believed to ward off evil spirits, cure illness and bless members with superhuman protection.
The organisation, known locally as Haring Bakal, banded together to combat a Muslim insurgency in the 1970s with tales of fearless fighters charging into hand-to-hand combat with armed troops.
Now, Haring Bakal has found a foothold in the primarily Catholic nation with roughly 100 members in total including policeman and soldiers who have reportedly joined for their own safety – despite the group being labelled a cult.
Blessor Angelito ‘Rambo’ Oreta, who disputes they are a cult, said: “Aside from healing the sick, I joined for protection from anyone wanting to harm me so I never have to back down.
“It’s not about bullying or troublemaking: the goal of Iron King is serve your fellowmen, the country and the government.
“It is found in the bible, Ezekiel 21 – the sword of the lord , that you’ll have to be blessed by a machete because that’s how you’ll be granted strength and wisdom.
“The moment you’re blessed by means of hacking, you’re no longer an ordinary person. You’re a soldier of God to the time we face the enemy.
“We are not a cult, we’re a spiritual group that serves by prayer and faith in the Father who created everything in this world.”
Filmmaker Nikon Celis, who took part in the machete ritual, said local rumours of the group compelled him to delve into their world.
He described the blessing, known locally as anting-anting, as equal parts painful and petrifying – but could give no explanation for why the powerful machete blows did not draw blood.
Nikon, 32, said: “I heard about this group who claim to offer protection from bullets and knives.
“The blessor claims to put an invisible shield around the person’s body after reciting prayers in Latin. He said that only a blessor of Haring Bakal can do what he does.
“People from different Christian background accuse them of being a cult because of their strange practice that maybe a taboo to some faiths.”
Nikon said followers abstain from sex, pork meat– on Tuesday and Friday – and dog meat, and swearing – or they supposedly lose their immunity to knives and bullets.
The 32-year-old added: “Being a skeptic, of course it was scary. You never know when things can go wrong. And the hacking really hurts when the machete hits your body, it’s done with full force.
“I can’t even believe I let myself get hacked nine times. I don’t feel like superman: it’s one of the scariest thing I’ve ever done.”