Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association

A religious fraternity in the Philippines blending faith healing with political influence.

The Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association, Inc. (PBMA) is a significant religious and fraternal organization founded in 1965 by Ruben Edera Ecleo Sr. on the island of Dinagat, Philippines. It identifies as a non-sectarian and non-profit charitable organization, welcoming both men and women. Following Ecleo Sr.’s death in 1987, his son, Ruben B. Ecleo Jr., took over leadership until his demise in 2021. Initially registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the Philippines, the PBMA aimed to amass a membership that claimed to reach 140,000 people by 2013​​.

The group espouses a set of beliefs that position Ecleo Sr. as a Christ-like figure, purportedly endowed with the ability to heal and perform miracles akin to those of Jesus Christ. According to their teachings, Ecleo Sr. was capable of being omnipresent and had been trained from an early age by “voices” in various ancient languages and esoteric practices, including the interpretation of Akashic records and use of Mantras for healing. These beliefs underscore a unique blend of religious elements with a strong emphasis on faith healing and spiritual omnipotence​​.

Controversies have marred the PBMA’s reputation, notably involving armed confrontations and legal issues tied to Ruben Ecleo Jr. A significant incident occurred in 2002 when Ecleo Jr. was arrested following a violent raid in Dinagat, which left multiple casualties. This event highlighted the group’s readiness to defend their leader, who was at the time evading arrest for the murder of his wife. Additionally, the organization has been involved in conflicts with rival religious groups, exemplifying the tense and sometimes violent dynamics between different faith communities in the region​​.

The PBMA’s influence extends beyond religious and spiritual domains into political and social spheres, especially within the Dinagat Islands. The Ecleo family, closely tied to the PBMA, has held significant political power in the region for decades, leveraging the organization’s extensive membership for political gain. This intertwining of faith, healing, and politics has led to a complex legacy, with the PBMA and the Ecleo family maintaining a dominant presence in the local socio-political landscape. Despite facing criticisms and controversies, the organization continues to wield considerable influence, underpinned by its vast membership and the enduring legacy of its founder​​.

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