Trigger warning: Graphic descriptions of torture.
In this article:
- Cult exorcisms are the stuff of horror films but they happen in real life, too, particularly among low-income individuals who have no one else to turn to.
- 13-year-old Randy Luntayao had a history of suffering from nervous breakdowns that his parents were led to believe were supernatural in nature.
- Mother Perpetuala, a well-known local faith healer, told Randy’s parents that he was possessed by a “bad spirit” and convinced them to let her exorcise him.
- Randy’s “exorcism” consisted of tying him to a bench, keeping his head under a drum of water, water curing him, brutally beating him, and finally, stabbing him with a knife.
Honey Fe Abella and her friend Frances Rivera were playing outside the house of a neighbor at around 2:00 in the afternoon on January 27, 1997, when they heard a young boy shouting “Mom, help me!“
The two girls, only 10 and 7 years old, respectively, decided to investigate.
The crying was coming from the house of another neighbor, Euituqia Carmen. Carmen was something of a local celebrity because of the reputation of her group, a sort of Catholic off-shoot that could only be described as a cult.
Like many of the other locals, the girls knew Carmen as “Mother Perpetuala,” a helpful woman of faith who presumptively presented herself as if she were the Mother of Perpetual Help or, for the non-Catholics out there, the Virgin Mary.
But what the girls saw was anything but benevolent. Honey Fe became a key witness to the murder of Randy Luntayao who Carmen tortured to his death.
Randy Luntayao Was Brought to a “Faith Healer” to Cure His Nervous Breakdowns
Randy Luntayao was only 13 years old when he died. He had a history of undiagnosed mental illness that, at the time, seemed almost supernatural in nature.
As far as Randy’s parents knew, he was an otherwise healthy boy. He was physically healthy and didn’t have any recent illnesses so when their son started having “nervous breakdowns,” it seemed almost supernaturally caused.
Eddie Luntayao, Randy’s father, testified that his son had a nervous breakdown on November 20, 1996, which he initially thought was due to Randy having to skip meals whenever they went to work at a farm.
This wouldn’t have troubled him if not for Randy later developing a habit of laughing for no reason and talking to himself.
Before we go further, keep in mind that this case happened in the Philippines during the 1990s. Mental health services were just starting to be more commonplace in developed countries at the time and even then, seeing a “shrink” still held a lot of social stigma.
To make things worse, Randy’s parents were poor farmers living in the countryside.
Even if they were well-informed and reasonable, desperation likely would have convinced them to get “help” from Mother Perpetuala.
Word got around that Eddie Luntayao’s child is either sick or possessed, a common “diagnosis” for anyone suffering from mental health problems in the country, even to this day.
Reynario Nuñez caught wind of Randy’s illness and suggested to Eddie that he should go see Mother Perpetuala. Nuñez was a follower of hers and promised that the “faith-healer” could cure his son.
Seeing no other way to help Randy, Eddie and his wife packed their bags and took their entire family, including four other children, to Cebu City where they stayed at Nuñez’s place. The following morning, they went to Carmen’s house.
Mother Perptuala Exorcises Randy By Waterboarding Him
Eddie told Mother Perpetuala about Randy’s mysterious illness which she believed was due to a “bad spirit” that had possessed the child. She told Eddie and the rest of his family to stay away during the exorcism or the spirit might transfer to them.
Eddie, his wife, and their daughters agreed to stay in a room inside the house.
Meanwhile, Carmen and her followers brought the boy to her backyard where they performed a “healing prayer.”
Sometime during the supposed prayer, Eddie heard his son shouting “Help me, mom!” twice. He tried to leave the room to see what was going on only to find that the door had been locked.
He and his family were trapped inside. All while his son was crying for help.
Eddie and his wife couldn’t find a way out but the shouting had stopped so they assumed Randy had calmed down. It was only when one of Carmen’s followers came to fetch them and transfer them to the cult’s prayer room that they realized what had happened to their son during the prayer.
Eddie saw the other followers place Randy on the altar. His face was blue, a sign of asphyxiation, and his tongue was sticking out of his mouth. It was clear to Eddie that his son was dead.
Distressed, the father tried to reach his son only to be held back by Mother Perpetuala who claimed that his son would be resurrected at 7:00 that night.
Randy never woke up.
Instead, what happened at 7:00 was that Carmen ordered a member of the cult to call a funeral parlor and to tell them to “bring a coffin.” Not even the divine Mother Perpetuala could save Eddie’s son from death.
The boy was brought back to Nuñez’s house in his coffin. The entire time, Eddie was reeling from the sudden turn of events. His son died, wasn’t brought back to life, and was staying dead.
The shock of it made it harder for him to think straight which gave Nuñez the chance to convince him to stay quiet about the incident.
The next morning, instead of going to the police to report his son’s murder, Eddie followed Nuñez to the local municipal health office to report Randy’s death and get papers for the burial.
Eddie might have considered spilling the beans then, but Nuñez told him that if he said anything about what happened yesterday, the officers wouldn’t give them the papers and they wouldn’t be able to bury his son.
Afraid that his son would not be laid to rest, Eddie agreed to sign the death certificate that Nuñez procured for him.
Later that day, the family tried to bring Randy back home to their island but Carmen forbade them from taking their son, saying that if they did, Nuñez and the other members of the cult would be arrested.
Randy Luntayao was buried in the same town where he died during a cult exorcism.
Eddie Luntayao Speaks Out
Losing his son twice was the last straw for Eddie Luntayao. When he got home to Negros Occidental, he went straight to Bacolod City to look for the only other place he knew to get help: the Bombo Radio station.
You’re probably thinking this is the part where he goes on air to talk about how a cult murdered his son, but it isn’t.
Bombo Radio, likely afraid of getting tangled up in a murder investigation, refers him to National Bureau of Investigation’s office in the city. However, since the crime took place in Cebu, the officers told him to go back to Cebu to file make his report there.
Despite the frustrating bit of red tape at the start, you got to give it to NBI Cebu because they acted fast.
Modesto Cajita, the head of NBI Cebu, immediately took on the investigation himself. Cajita had Randy’s body exhumed and autopsied and personally saw to supervising the entire process.
This was a man on a mission. He also personally went to Carmen’s house to ask her about what happened on January 27, 1997. Carmen admitted that they performed a “pray-over healing” session on Randy but wouldn’t say anything about the exact details of what happened that night.
But Carmen didn’t have to say anything because her incompetence did it for her. Cajita noticed a wooden bench in the kitchen and gambled on it being the same bench that one of the neighborhood children, Honey Fe Abella, mentioned she saw in the backyard that day.
Cajita asks if he can take the bench and Carmen says yes.
So far, all the investigators have is a bench, a 10-year-old girl who claims she saw the murder, and Randy’s decomposing body.
The Autopsy Showed That Randy’s Skull Was “Almost Empty”
Since Carmen rushed the process and refused to give Randy a funeral, his body was found in an advanced stage of decomposition
The investigators found the following:
- Contusion, 3.0 x 4.0 cms. chest, anterior, left side.
- Fracture, third rib, left, mid-clavicular line.
- Fracture, linear, occipital bone right side extending to the bases of middle cranial fossae right to left down to the occipital bone, left side.
- Fracture, diastatic, lamboidal suture, bilateral.
- Internal organs in advanced stage of decomposition.
- Cranial vault almost empty.
The autopsy lined up near-perfectly with Honey Fe’s testimony.
Honey Fe said she had seen Mother Perpetuala and two other female cult members hold Randy’s head under a drum filled with water and kept him there despite him thrashing to get free.
Like Eddie Luntayao, Honey Fe had heard Randy cry out for his mother.
She then watched as they dragged him to a wooden bench, the same one Cajita found in the kitchen, and tied him to it with a length of green nylon rope. Carmen then grabbed a plastic container of water and poured it into Randy’s mouth while her followers held it open.
This was a torture method known as a water cure, a remnant of the country’s colonial past. During the American occupation, U.S. soldiers tortured resistance fighters by forcing them to drink water, throw it up, and drink water again.
It sounds harmless but this form of torture caused brain damage and could even result in death.
Carmen and her followers were doing this to a child.
While the women tortured Randy, another male member would slam his head against the wooden bench. Honey Fe testified that she heard about five loud banging sounds on the bench as Randy’s skull smashed against it again and again.
Carmen and her cult members, seemingly not satisfied, then pounded on Randy’s chest with their fists while Nuñez held him down. Another woman would forcefully slam herself on Randy’s body, buttocks first, to hit him with her full body weight.
After a while, Carmen ordered one of the women to get a knife from the kitchen which she used to stab the left side of Randy’s torso.
Carmen caught the blood in a plastic container as it dripped.
Honey Fe Abella was left to stare in horror as Randy made his final death throes. She listened to his groaning until his groaning stopped. Still frozen in her spot, Honey Fe watched the cult members bring Randy back into the house.
Aside from your typical fingerpointing, the trial for this case was pretty straightforward. It was clear who killed Randy Luntayao. However, Carmen claimed that she wanted to back out when Randy first resisted but was told by his parents to proceed with the “healing.”
Eutiquia Carmen ,a.k.a. Mother Perpetuala and her followers were found guilty of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide. Under Philippine law, the sentence for that conviction is a maximum of four years and two months.