ABS-CBN news program Bandila alarmed many Filipinos Monday night when it reported that a girl from Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan is suffering from what it described as a “mysterious flesh-eating disease.” It created so much buzz among netizens that several hours after the report aired, the hashtag #PrayForPangasinan became a trending topic in microblogging site Twitter.
The report also featured a bizarre angle to this story: is the “disease” a fulfillment of what a certain Indian prophet supposedly predicted early last year? According to some websites, a self-proclaimed prophet named Sadhu Sundar Selvaraj predicted last year that the aforementioned Northern Luzon province will be the epicenter of a deadly plague. Below are excerpts of what Selvarajav said (credits to www.PangasinanBlog.com):
“The Lord says there is a place called PANGASINAN.” The Lord says it is in the northernmost part in your land. From there, a grievous disease will spread all over the world that will consume the flesh of men; all their upper (outer) skin will begin to decay, it will pierce through the bones. The fear of this disease will spread all over the world. The Lord said that this disease will begin from the Philippines.
ABS-CBN’s report swiftly fell apart the following day. Interviewed by Philippine Daily Inquirer, Pangasinan provincial health officer Dr. Anna De Guzman flatly described the story as not true. She said that the two patients who were assumed to be suffering from the flesh-eating disease were in fact undergoing treatment for leprosy and psoriasis.
“Sometimes, the media attempts to exaggerate to make the news sensational. They just want to connect it to the prophecy,” De Guzman was quoted to have said. Instead of being able to stir attention because of their attention-grabbing report, the folks behind Bandila are now embroiled in embarrassment. As of early Wednesday morning, ABS-CBN has already taken down the article from its website.
(Note: Late last year, krokodil, a powerful sedative, gained attention especially in the United States and Russia because of the drug’s corrosive effect on the skin of its users. Time Magazine in fact described it as “the world’s deadliest drug“.)