Sunday, September 30, 2012

Filipino Traditional Healing

Hundreds of years ago, our forefathers relied on traditional healing methods to cure maladies, heal wounds and recover from sicknesses. In every baranggay or kingdom, there exists a group of individuals who are experts in health care and healing. These fellows are very secretive and protective of their craft, thus, not everyone could understand the way how they work. To many, it seems awesome and magical, but in fact, it stems from a deep understanding of life and a developed system of manipulating the human body.

Today, the tradition still continues, but the people who once were an essential part of our societies have been replaced largely by the Western Medicine. No longer does a modern Filipino run to the local albularyo, instead, we go to a clinic or a hospital. While it is true that western medicine has shown its efficacy in resolving health problems like the most life threatening ones to minor cuts and wounds, their philosophy and system overlooks intentionally certain aspects of how the body works.

Photo by Elmer Borlongan
Filipino Traditional Healing operates on a very different manner. Our ancient healers believed in a concept of health which states that imbalances are caused by environmental factors that affect us mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Should these imbalances remain unaddressed, deterioration of our physical selves begin to set in. Our ancestors understand that the human body is gifted with the capacity to recuperate itself but with the existence of imbalances, recovery would be an uphill climb or otherwise impossible.

The ancients identified four elements that exist within our bodies. These are Earth, Water, Air and Fire. Earth elements deal basically with digestive organs and digestion process, Water element deals with water-related organs and processes, Air element with lungs basically, and Fire element, which is the by-product or in much better words, the synergy of the functioning of Earth, Water and Air. Health is a balance or correct function of all these elements and their respective processes, sickness is the reverse.

Since centuries ago, it has been the duties of Filipino Traditional Healers to maintain the balance of these elements in the bodies of the people in their care. Technology was developed to once again align the human body function and eliminate imbalances. The "albularyos" or the "maestros" were experts in making herbal medicines that do not aggravate any organs or complex natural processes in the our bodies like acidity, alkalinity, cleansing, etc. They were also proficient in neuro-electrical properties of the human body, used in diagnostic procedures and correction of imbalances by means of physical manipulation, more commonly referred to as "hilot."

There are still other forms of Traditional Healing in the Philippines, but it is more complex and harder to grasp. These other forms are also prone to abuse and mockery so a deeper explanation on another article may be necessary to get the message right.

While not all Filipino Traditional Healers have an in-depth understanding of these details discussed here, their ways, techniques, skills and knowledge revolve along this philosophy. Sometimes the healers just focus on the skill and techniques, while ignoring the higher function of being a "manggagamot." The fact is, every one else, including their patients focus on the cure, whereas sickness can be prevented. Our healers specialize in prevention also, and according to them, it starts with the mind and the way we eat. Unfortunately, those are the most challenging things to change.