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Our folk medicine

 Our folk medicine

Saturday, September 10, 2011

WHO isn’t fascinated by local folk medicine? Even the most modern native of our island will be drawn to the ancient healing methods which combine pagan beliefs with scientifically-approved herbal medication.

Christians will chuckle at the plethora of leaves, barks, seeds, wood, minerals, shells and stones that guarantee relief from physical illness and spiritual attacks. yet, many people at the grassroots level do run to the indigenous “apothecary” instead of the doctor’s clinic and some public market vendors have a thriving business in the health industry. not only are the cures cheap but also readily available.

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On a trip to Sagay, I spared a little time in order to go over the inventory of Rosanna who owns a make-shift stall at Vito. there I was treated to a brief lecture of the uses for each pile of her stocks. There’s balukpog for stomachache. Roast the seed, break it open and extract the kernel. Pound the kernel, soak in water and wipe the solution on the stomach.

For the kidneys, boil agi-ap in water and drink the concoction. for good business, try some stems which have hand-like ends called pangamay which you put on live coals and “pa-asohan” (smoke) your establishment. The milagrosa fern is for “bughat” (relapse a new mother is prone to) cured by boiling the fern in water and drinking the water.

Buy an agnos amulet for good business. The exotic components are the following: bahay (stress on the second syllable) seed “para tumawo” (against dwarves), tagihumok, a threadlike plant,” “pahumok sa tawo kun may negosyo ka” (to encourage goodwill), amagan chips, “panagang contra sa hisa” (shield against envy), balisom (tiny shells) “lauton ka tawo indi kadulot sa imo; balik sa iya” (protection against intentional harm which will boomerang on the malefactor), and salindugo fern.

These are arranged on a kapinan (a bivalve from Mindoro with a few holes lined up in the center of the half-shell) inserted into a rectangular plastic pouch filled with lana (coconut oil) and sealed.

A smaller amulet may be found at the Bacolod Public Market. At Lourdes’ sidewalk stall in either black or red pouches, various ingredients are packed into such a small bag. The list includes punta diamante, diamante negra, tektite a.k.a. diamante tapul, odom (can be either a seed or a certain insect), sinukuan, balisom, and the lomboy-like taguliwas.

Many strange-sounding and –looking items crowd the shelves of the stalls. there are the usual tawas, kamangyan, and insenso that look like uncut and unpolished stones. there are also the agoso kaswerina, dugosay namot, chinamot, and lana sang himag that make one imagine these as products of a witch’s cauldron. there is the albutra bark that is soaked in anisado and massaged on the body (banyos). Aniseed may be boiled in water and drank to dispel air from the body (para sa hangin-hangin).

There are cellophane-wrapped pastes that are used for bughat that a patient either puts on live coals for “pa-aso”, or boils and steams her body with. The orange-wrapped paste is hardened honey from a small bee usually harvested from inside a bamboo stem. this must be washed and dried; otherwise it will smell.

The green-wrapped paste is “duga sang kahoy nga salun” or sap from the salun wood and used together with the orange-wrapped paste. there is the sungkaw, a kind of paste that is “ginagamit mag-solda”. Lourdes made me laugh heartily when she said that there is even imitation “duga”. this, she said, is probably “made in China.”

The most fascinating objects there are the bottles with wooden crucifixes assembled inside them. They reminded me of ships in bottles. How did the creators put them there?

Complete with a colorful figure of a Christ on the cross, the latter is stuck in the middle of layers of wood chips, stone chips, and shells, and the bottle is half-filled with lana. The cross is placed between two other wooden figures – one that resembles a human being and another that is not discernable. when placed where a witch or aswang is nearby, the oil supposedly bubbles and sometimes overflows.

I was tempted to bring one home- more for folk art appreciation than for a warning against witches since the manunggal vines over our fences are thick enough to entangle a supernatural visitor.

Sales is brisk for these female vendors as men and women, young and old approach them for cures that have worked like magic since our forefathers’ time. if only to preserve our folk traditions, I wish them prosperity and continued patronage from their customers. Knock on wood.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 10, 2011.

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Our folk medicine

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