Millennium sect home from the hills

BBC, Sunday, 2 January, 2000

Members of a religious sect in the Philippines who constructed a warren of caverns to shelter from a rain of fire they believed would destroy the earth at the dawn of the new millennium have returned to their homes.

A report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer said many followers of the Christian sect, who were poised to take up residence in a hillside in the eastern province of Leyte, were disappointed their leader's prediction of the end of the world failed to materialise.

Tunnels of salvation

Cult leader Cerferino Quinte, 80, had predicted an "all consuming rain of fire" on 1 January after reading an article about the millennium in a magazine.

Many of Mr Quinte's followers had quit their jobs to help in the construction of the underground fortress consisting of 51 "tunnels of salvation".

The tunnels were large enough to accommodate 128 families - more than 700 people.

With them the followers took enough food, water, fuel, clothing and herbal medicine to allow them to survive underground for up to a year. A quiet supper Mr Quinte and about 100 of his flock were ready to move to the tunnels on New Year's eve, but midnight struck without a single drop of fire from the heavens.

Instead, the group, quietly ate supper and retreated to their homes, the paper said. The faith-healer said he expected to be ridiculed because the rain of fire had failed to materialise, but stressed that he wouldn't mind because "Satan is behind all the ridicule".

The Philippines is a predominantly Roman Catholic country, but, according to the BBC's correspondent in Manila, there are hundreds of religious sects with unconventional ideas.

One such sect even regards the former president Ferdinand Marcos as an object of worship.

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