Friday, November 2, 2012

Filipino Culture and Mount Banahaw

We all have heard of stories from our lolos and lolas of how valiant and courageous our ancestors were. We know from history books that the immense bravery of Katipuneros during the uprising, the First Philippine Republic soldiers in the Fil-Am war, and the Hukbalahap at the Japanese Occupation. Their blood, sweat and tears for freedom and patriotism inspired many, and those who survived the turmoils knew they were heroes in their own right. Little did we know that behind these brave Filipinos, forces unknown to many were at work to help. The seat of these unknown forces can be found in the mystical mountain of Banahaw.

Situated in the borders of Laguna and Quezon, Mount Banahaw is an inactive volcano of the country. Believed to be sacred by the residents and the thousands of devotees who flock to the mountain during Semana Santa, it is regarded as the center of Philippine Mysticism. Here is where the Anting-anting of the Katipuneros come from, where the Mystics learn to do extraordinary things and where the Albularyos of old come to train and improve their selves.

According to locals in Banahaw, the mountain is holy ground. Centuries ago, devotees have to walk barefoot upon approaching. No one is allowed to pee or poop, and everyone has to bring a stout, hollowed bamboo so they can urinate and dump the contents away from the mountain after they left. Nowadays, things have changed already.

During the uprising against the Spaniards, the Filipino mystics in Mt. Banahaw played an important role in the revolution. Common among the Katipuneros are amulets, talismans and other objects that serve as their protection against enemies. It was a great time to test its efficacy, while in battle. These anting-antings, the knowledge of its use and know-hows on taking care of them come from the Maestros who frequent Mt. Banahaw. But its not only about the anting-atings, because our ancestors were very good in herbals and treating injuries. Stories of Katipuneros being fixed or cured are extremely rare, but common sense dictates the thought of who else will treat them when doctors are uncommon.

The same thing is true during the Philippine-American War. But the Americans brought modernization in the country, as well as an effective campaign to make Filipinos embrace them fully. It was a campaign called "education" and Westernization. Our countrymen embraced the new colonizers with open arms and so began a new era with the Philippines becoming Westernized and industrialized.

The HUKBALAHAP Movement gave rise to a lot of unsung heroes in its guerilla warfare days. These include the men and women taking care of any physical damages, sickness to the members during the Japanese occupation. Although an MD is taking care of several cases, he cannot provide what the resistance needs because Western medication is hard to come by in the mountains and the jungles. What's common are the herbs and the trees which has been the source of our medicines since time immemorial, and doctors aren't equipped to deal with these. The real situation, the medical doctor becomes the student of a Filipino traditional healer from South Luzon who used varied modalities to treat. The roots of this traditional healer's skills? Mt. Banahaw.

The Filipino Culture is bound by many traditions, beliefs and superstitions. The richness of our history and culture is our inheritance from our ancestors in the past, yet the heirs seem to pursue other things. We have forgotten a lot, and many are in danger of getting forever lost to modernization and globalization. Our traditional healing, although "native," is very effective and systematic. Unfortunately, it is misunderstood and taken advantage of, thus the bad reputation. Even what is being taught presently as "Hilot" in many training centers is a sad attempt to replicate traditional and historical modalities, according to our informant.