Two schools on the island of Cebu were forced to close after outbreaks of mass hysteria among pupils struck within hours of one another.
The phenomenon was first reported at Ronda National High School this morning (Friday, June 22) when 20 students became hysterical.
The Grade 9 and 10 students told teachers that they had seen the ghost of a child in the school.
Edmond Obiso, desk officer at Ronda Police Station, said police officers were sent to the school and the children were taken to a local church.
Then, just hours after the outbreak in Ronda, 19 pupils of Colawin National High School in Argao town also succumbed to a similar outbreak of hysteria.
The Argao Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office deployed a team to the school at 1pm to respond to the situation.
Some of the affected students were sent to Isidro Kintanar Memorial Hospital, while others were taken to a nearby church.
According to a report on dyAB TeleRadyo Cebu, school officials said the outbreak of hysterical behaviour was somehow related to a decision to “replace an axed mango tree”.
While unusual, such outbreaks of mass hysteria have been seen before in the Philippines.
In February we reported how a school in Palawan was forced to cancel lessons after 15 students were supposedly possessed by evil spirits.
According to a report on GMA News, the affected students were “rushed” to a Catholic church after the supernatural outbreak.
The school’s principal, Vicente Tamanyo, told the broadcaster that the incident occurred after two students claimed to see the spirit of a woman, covered in blood.
The hysteria then spread to other pupils, including Mr Tamanyo’s own son, who is a student at his school.
According to eyewitnesses, the possessed students were heard to speak a “strange language” and were said to display “freakish strength”.
The 15 affected youngsters were then taken to a nearby church for prayers before being sent home. Lessons were cancelled for the remainder of the day.
Belief in demonic possession remains widespread across the Philippines.
Father Ambrosio Nonato Legaspi made the claim on Novaliches’ Radio Veritas show Hello Father 911. A report on the show was carried on the news site of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
He said: “Listeners, be careful as the rosaries you might be using could actually be infested or cursed!”
The priest claimed that the rosaries were being given away by satanists, acting as part of a shadowy group called the Illuminati.
Then, shortly before Halloween, another Filipino exorcist warned that dressing up in spooky costumes could also lead to demonic possession.
Father Marius Roque, exorcist for the Archdiocese of San Fernando, said he had performed exorcism rites involving two young people who had dressed up for Halloween parties.
“One was the case of a teenage girl who wore a black lady costume for a Halloween party. After a few weeks, it became obvious she was possessed by evil spirits,” he said.
The priest claimed that when the girl was taken to see him, he found her mouth and belly button “emitting froth”.