Victoria G. Smith
Driftless Unsolicited Novella Series • Release Date: March 21, 2016
Print ISBN: 978-1-942083-30-6 • Ebook ISBN: 978-1-942083-32-0
Brain Mill Press offers Faith Healer for direct sale in ebook and in a limited fine first edition printing of signed, numbered paperbacks. Ebook buyers receive access to MOBI (Kindle), EPUB, and PDF files, offered without DRM restrictions. Print book buyers receive a physical copy of the book and access to the ebook files in all formats.
Victoria G. Smith, named an outstanding writer by the Chicago Filipino Asian American Hall of Fame, explores the Filipino diaspora with magic, lyricism, and humor.
Ousted years ago from the Malacañang Palace in Manila, where he healed the people’s ailments with the power God sent through his hands, Victor Mariano has made a peaceful, if lonely and uncertain, life for himself as the caregiver “Tita Vee” in a California long-term care facility.
Victor is no stranger to living as neither one thing or another—not a man or a woman, not a fraud or a miracle, not black or white or Filipino. Like the sacred mountain that chose a penniless intersex bastard to receive the gift of healing, Victor lives on the very edge of where any other human could travel.
Faced with crisis and deportation, tormented by the loss of his unbelievable gifts, Victor has nothing left but memories and a remarkable story of multiple abandonments, faith and disbelief, palaces and poverty. Hair graying, with no hope even of escape, his own tale might be the only way to save the twisted heart of a cruel racist who threatens the small peace he has forged.
Faith Healer is a book of tremendous depth and tenderness, a fearless exploration of how small and ordinary tragedies twist a life into a cruelty of social injustice, loss of faith, yearning for love, and literal exile.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Philippine-born author and poet Victoria G. Smith’s first career was in law practice. After marriage to an American that led her to immigrate to the United States, she rediscovered and pursued a childhood passion: creative writing. Her early efforts won her first place in the 2004 (Fifth Annual) Ventura County Writers Club–Ventura Country Star national short story writing contest—the first time she’d entered a writing competition. Recent distinctions include the 2015 Driftless Unsolicited Novella Award for her novella, Faith Healer, and semifinalist for the 2015 Elixir Press Fiction Award for her story collection, Faith Healer and Other Stories. Her poetry and other literary work are published by, among others, Reed Magazine, The Greenwich Village Literary Review, The Earthbound Review, Elite Critiques Magazine, Ruminate Magazine, Westward Quarterly, The Earthen Lamp Journal, The Milo Review, Lyrical Iowa, and Dicta. Her essay, “Gatekeepers and Gatecrashers in Contemporary American Poetry: Reflections of a Filipino Immigrant Poet in the United States,” appears in Black Lawrence Press’s 2015 anthology, Others Will Enter the Gates: Immigrant Poets on Poetry, Influences, and Writing in America. Her first book of poems, Warrior Heart, Pilgrim Soul: An Immigrant’s Journey, was published in November 2013 to critical acclaim spearheaded by Kirkus Reviews. Later that same year, the Chicago Filipino Asian American Hall of Fame honored her with the Outstanding Writer Award. She writes a monthly poetry column for VIA Times Magazine. Smith attended the 2005 UCLA Asian American–N.V.M. Gonzales Writers Program and has been featured as an emerging writer in several print media and online articles. She is currently writing her first novel, Gabriela’s Eyes, and a second poetry collection, Mother of Exiles.
Updates on her literary work and author events may be found on her website, VictoriaGSmith.com.
AN EXCERPT from Faith Healer by Victoria G. Smith
© Victoria G. Smith, 2016
It was when they arrived at the sanctuary offered by Kweba ng Dios Ama, the Cave of God the Father, that the miracle happened. Father John offered Mass in celebration of the culmination of their journey. During the consecration of bread and wine into the sacred body and blood of the Christ, Victor heard the wind spirit sing its song of praise in crescendoing strains of Holy! Holy! Holy! echoing through the cavernous rock cathedral before he felt a fierce stream of light, heat, and energy pass through his body, seizing him completely. The majestic columns of stalagmite and stalactite spun around him in a vertiginous spell, ending in a blackness more complete than he’d ever known. His last vision was of the smiling statue of the Blessed Mother holding the God-Child in her arms, just as he’d seen her at the Sacred Heart Chapel a few years back.
Later, Father John would fill in Victor with what happened while he was unconscious. A savage storm appeared out of nowhere after Victor fell into a coma from an inexplicable fever. It prevented the group’s descent, so they all had to remain at the cave while the guide left to get help from a small village midway down the mountain. High up in those dense forests, no doctor could be found save for a local arbolario, an old man versed with the ancient healing art of herbs, potions, and incantations. Were it not for Father John’s fear of his young charge dying before the storm had passed, he said, he’d not have allowed the native healer to perform his otherwise heretical magic on Victor.
Father John recounted how the arbolario started by boiling water in a small clay pot over a pit fire. Then the old man lit a pair of candles and placed one each at Victor’s feet and head. In a bowl carved out of stone, he burned aromatic herbs that filled the cave with their tranquilizing incense. After that, he wiped Victor’s face and body—first, with a washcloth dipped in what the old man described as consecrated water from one of the mountain’s mineral springs; then, with consecrated coconut oil. He placed two smooth stones—one red and one white—over Victor’s abdomen at a spot Victor would later learn was the site of the solar plexus. The stones, the arbolario explained, were pebbles taken from two streams that flowed from a mysterious source inside the mountain: the red one, Tubig na Dugo, or Blood Water; and the white one, Tubig na Gatas, or Milk Water. He said they believed these were manifestations of the blood and water that came out of the pierced side of the Christ.
Father John continued to describe the ritual of the native healer. The arbolario blessed various parts of Victor’s body with a medallion engraved with strange symbols and characters, all the while murmuring prayers and incantations alien to the ears of the Catholic priest, although they sounded Latin. The healer would later show Victor that the circular medallion was engraved with the all-knowing, all-seeing “Eye of God,” an eye enclosed within a triangle. Each of the triangle’s angles was punctuated with symbols representing the three persons of the Holy Trinity: a fish for God the Son, a dove for God the Holy Ghost, and a burning bush with twin tongues of fire swirling around each other for God the Father-Mother. Inscribed on the other side of the medallion were the Latin words, Veritas Vos Liberabit. The truth shall set you free.
When the ritual ended, Father John said, Victor startled everyone when he suddenly sat up, eyes glazed, as though awakened by the roaring thunder. The arbolario laid him back gently on the makeshift blanket of banana leaves spread out on the bare earth. Then, dropping some herbs in a cup made from half a coconut shell, he poured boiling water over them, creating a kind of tea. He made Victor drink the liquid and laid him back on the banana leaves. After a few minutes, the old man called for Father John to come forward and feel Victor’s forehead. Father John said he was amazed to find Victor’s fever completely gone. He later admitted to Victor that, while he was perplexed by witnessing someone who was not exactly a follower of traditional Catholic—let alone Christian—doctrine and practice possessing the power to summon a miracle, he also conceded there was much in God’s universe he was still learning.
Victor rested with everyone in the cave through the night and woke up the next morning asking, “What happened?” The other boys groaned and whined. They complained about mosquito bites and ghosts, and pleaded that they be allowed to go home. The old man warned Father John that Victor was not yet strong enough to make the hike down the mountain, suggesting he leave Victor with him until the boy had fully recovered his strength. He told the priest not to worry, assuring him Victor was in good hands, and that he considered it his sacred trust to keep the boy safe and well. Father John hesitated, but seeing how Victor was indeed still weak, agreed. He promised Victor he’d be back in a couple of days with a doctor.
It took Father John not two, but forty days to get back to his young charge. Extraordinary rain and thunderstorms that persisted throughout those six weeks seemed to conspire with the mountain to keep Victor there. By the time Father John recovered Victor, the arbolario had already taught the boy what he needed to know about himself, to understand he had a special calling. Victor also learned that he had a Twin Spirit from the spirit world that was his special channel into that world—a soul mate who enabled him to access the powers latent in him.
Victor returned home with Father John but stayed only long enough to finish high school. The summer after his graduation, he bid his father-mentor good-bye. The priest was very sad to see him go. He said he didn’t want Victor to leave, but he had seen for himself how, with Victor’s simple touch, ailments such as a classmate’s stomachache, bad gash, fever, or toothache immediately disappeared. “I don’t understand this gift God has given you, my son,” Father John had said, “but it is obvious He has given you something special. I cannot presume to know how to teach you to use it in the way you are meant to, so I have no choice but to let you go. But remember that wherever you find God, my son, I am there with you also.”
Priest and protégé then hugged like father and son. It was the last time Victor saw his foster father. He later learned that when Father John became afflicted with liver cancer, the Sacred Heart Mission sent him back home to the Netherlands, where he died. Victor wished he had been able to help his mentor, but he was nowhere near ready at that time to cure the disease of the man he’d loved as a father.
For three years, Victor apprenticed with his new teacher, the arbolario at Mount Banahaw. The old man taught him how to harness the power that the Lord of the Mountain had given him. Victor watched and learned as he witnessed how the old man surgically excised, using only his fingers, all types of abnormal growths inside people’s bodies—tumors, gallstones, even fish bones lodged in people’s throats. He learned how to stop internal bleeding and straighten and mend broken bones. The arbolario often accomplished these procedures without significant loss of blood from the patient. Soon, Victor also began performing minor cures among the locals in and around the mountain under the arbolario’s tutorship.
The time came for Victor’s Purificacíon, his baptism in the waters of the mountain’s Spring of Life, the Tubig ng Buhay. As the arbolario conducted the part of the rites where he lowered Victor under the water, Victor sank in the shallow water and could not get up. The old man had to pull him up, and after having revived him, told him, “Hijo, the Lord of the Mountain accepts you fully as His son, but there is a stone in your heart that keeps you from reaching the full promise of your gifts. For this reason, prophesy shall not come easy to you until such time when you shall have rid yourself of this stone’s dark spell. Nonetheless, you will be a great healer. Your gift for healing will abide with you for many years. But a time of reckoning will come when you will have to cast this stone away or risk sinking with it. When that happens, I won’t be there to save you. You will have to save yourself—by healing yourself.”
Victor could guess what the stone in his heart was, but the arbolario did not speak of it again. “Only those ready to hear the truth hear it,” he often heard the old man say.
After Victor had learned all the arbolario could teach him, they parted ways. The old man’s last words to him were, “Be careful, hijo, to use your gifts only for good. Never throw your pearls to swine. Above all, never use them for your own glory or for evil, lest you lose them.” The arbolario gave him his own medallion with God’s sign on it, along with a set of pebbles from the Spring Waters of Blood and Milk.
“Name your Padrón, my son,” the old man asked during Victor’s confirmation rites before the secret assembly of their brethren that consisted of both male and female consecrated healers.
“I choose,” Victor solemnly replied, “El Negro Santo Niño de Jesus.” He had discovered his Twin Spirit was the spirit of the Black Child Jesus who spoke to him with the voice of a little boy, often playful, yet always wise and compassionate.
Victor went on to perform great miracles in the name of the dark-skinned Child-God.
- Victoria G. Smith honored as Woman of the Year by the Chicago Filipino Asian American Hall of Fame
- “Stepmother en Filipinas, ca. 1948,” a poem by Victoria G. Smith, for BMP’s 2016 celebration of National Poetry Month
- “Filipino Immigrant’s Prize-Winning Novella To Be Launched in LA Writers Conference,” Inquirer.net
- “Victoria Smith, An Emerging American Author is Also Filipino–and VIA Times’ Own!” VIA Times Magazine