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Albularyo: Spirit and Diagnostic Ritual

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If one is born and raised in a Filipino family and community, they will definitely recognize the term ‘albularyo’ (or ‘arbularyo’ which is a common mistake in spelling due to mispronunciation). Usually, Filipinos seek these ‘albularyos’ as an alternative for going to the hospital. By tradition and because of chronic economic constraints particularly in the rural areas, the albularyos are the general practitioners – the primary dispensers of health care. The word ‘albularyo’ came from the Spanish word ‘herbolario,’ meaning herbalist.

An albularyo is a traditional faith healer, an herbalist, and practitioner of white magic in the Philippines.

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Albularyos can be thought of as guides or liaisons between the natural and spiritual worlds. In harmony with nature, they know how to harvest the cures that nature provides, being able to concoct various remedies or potions to cure all sorts of maladies, whether caused by natural or supernatural origins. They are practitioners of magic, and can protect one from unknown or unseen paranormal forces.

A History. During the Pre-Hispanic periods, the function of an albularyo was part of the functions of a Babaylan, a shamanic spiritual leader of the community. On the onset of the Colonial era, the suppression of the Babaylans and the native Filipino pagan religion gave rise to the albularyo. By exchanging the native pagan prayers and spells with Catholic oraciones and Christian prayers, the albularyo was able to syncretize the ancient mode of healing with the new religion. As time progressed, the albularyo became a more prominent figure in most rural areas in the Philippines.

Lacking access to scientific medical practices, rural Filipinos trusted the albularyos to rid them of common (and sometimes believed to be supernatural) sicknesses and diseases. A spiritist group named Union Espiritista Christiana de Filipinas teaches the art of healing in the Philippines. They started in the 20th century and were influenced by Allan Kardec’s Book of Mediums. There are approximately 10 thousand members from different parts of Northern and Central Luzon, particularly in Ilocos, Pangasinan, Baguio, and Manila.

They teach different mediums for healing and the examples are: foretelling the future, speaking with spirits, and exorcisms. However, the albularyo’s role was slowly shadowed with the rise of modern medical facilities. Urbanization gave the masses access to more scientific treatments, exchanging the chants and herbs of the albularyos with the newer technologies offered by the medical field. Still, albularyos flourish in many rural areas in the Philippines where medical facilities are still expensive and sometimes inaccessible. How Albularyos Become What They Are How does one become an albularyo?

There are no schools per se. The knowledge is passed down through the generations orally and conveyed through an informal apprenticeship. As with the other healers, there is usually a history of a healer in the family-line and their healing considered a “calling,” a power or ability bestowed by a supernatural being, often, attributed to the Holy Spirit. Often lacking in formal education, his skills are based on and honed from hand-me-down practices and lore, with a long period of understudy or apprenticeship with a local healer. One becomes an albularyo because it is ther lot in life.

It takes years of experience to know what works and what does not. A misidentification of a plant or leaf could have lethal consequences. The skills are a combination of botany, pharmacology, and spirituality. Due to their association with magic, albularyos are always respected, and sometimes feared. The true albularyo is, however, regarded much like a physician: you visit them when you have a problem and they try to help. Different Ways of Healing The term albularyo is commonly the general terminology referring to someone who practices traditional healing from diagnosis of ailments up to treating them.

The Hilot or Manghihilot which refers to both who acts as a midwife and chiropractic practitioner, assist in giving birth and aligns fractured bones and gives massage to the patient. They are called in English as ‘bone-setters. ’ Numerous techniques exist, varying by region and folkloric esoteria. Common in the practice of hilot in the rural areas is the practitioner’s’ attribution of the healing effect to God, that it is through His guidance that they are able to manipulate the spiritual and energy channels, hoping to expel evil spirits that may have invaded the patient’s etheric space and may have caused the physical ailments.

One ancient technique of massage utilizes symbolic patterns of the cross, crown of thorns, the rosary, and the nailed hands and feet. A few practitioners achieve an expertise in this healing modality, incorporating it with elements of “science” (meridians, trigger points, reflexology, basic anatomy and physiology), gaining knowledge through self-study, membership in a local group with shared interests or barangay workshops. The magpapaanak are more popularly referred to as “hilot,” a designation confusingly shared with the ‘chiropractic’ manghihilot.

Not uncommonly, the calling comes from a family-line of hilots, and the training usually gotten from a trained practitioner who was a relative, friend or neighbor. Some become a “hilot” because of a spiritual calling, or a message from a supernatural being that grants the hilot the needed power and skills. The Medico, an albularyo furthers his training, assimilates and adopts new skills and “expertise,” merging folkloric therapies with mainstream medicine, incorporating allopathic treatment modalities like acupuncture, injection medications and prescription pharmaceuticals into his practice.

Usually, there is a period of understudy or assistantship with a traditional healer from who is gleaned the traditional elements that are eventually merged with the alternative. The mangluluop is a specialist that determines the cause of an illness through the ritual of luop. The ritual paraphernalia consists of the kalanghuga (a kind of freshwater or saltwater shell), salt (to weaken the supernatural spirits), benditang palaspas (piece of blessed palm leaves from Palm Sunday), charcoal made from a coconut shell, a coconut midrib and a tin plate.

After sequenced fiery concoction of these elements is made on a tin plate, in consonance with prayers and invocations and performing the sign-of-the-cross thrice over the patient, the kalanghuga is examined. The diagnosis is suggested by its appearance: Roughness, a slight affliction; stickiness, a sprain; a figure or form (hugis-hugis), a displeased environmental spirit; brittleness, a really angered spirit. The treatment is then suggested and the necessary alternative referral made.

After the diagnostic ritual, the shell is powdered, and with this, while praying, a sign-of-the-cross is performed on the patient’s forehead, both palms and plantar arches of both feet. Then, the ritual paraphernalia are thrown under the entrance stairs to prevent the evil spirits from reentering the house. Herb doctors o “herbolarios” ay ang mga karaniwang albularyong matatagpuan sa mga probinsya. Gumagamit sila ng mga halamang nakatutulong sa pagpapagaling. Other procedures used by the albularyos are the following:

Panghihila is a diagnostic procedure oft used by the manghihilot. The paraphernalia vary: plain strips of paper, strips of cigarette cellophane covers, mirrors and strips of banana leaves. Prior to the diagnosing procedure, the material may be impregnated or smoothed with coconut oil that might have been empowered with prayers (bulong). Coconut oil is also gently massaged over the affected area. The material is lightly placed on the surface of the area or complaint and pulled some distance, lifted, and replaced again on the adjoining area.

If the strip of material sticks to the surface, resisting the pull, this area is assumed to be an area of affliction, usually a pulled muscle or sprain. Tawas or Santiguar is a popular diagnostic ritual performed by most alternative healers that serves in providing clues as to the nature and cause of the illness. Pagtatawas originally derived its name from to its chemical nature – alum, an astringent, crystalline double sulfate of aluminum and potassium – and early on, was used exclusively in the diagnostic ritual.

Today, tawas refers to a diagnostic ritual or procedure, utilizing a variety of materials: candles, eggs, mirrors, plain paper, cigarette rolling-paper, plate and water. In a country with numerous and diverse ethnic communities, the dissimilarities in healing practices come as no surprise. The albularyos minister to rural communities with animistic and mythological ethos, profoundly differing from region to region. In the southern Tagalog areas, the mythological landscape is populated by dwarfs, nunos, lamang lupas, tikbalangs and kapres – creatures that often complicate the conundrum of pathophysiology.

Consequently, many of the albularyo’s diagnostic rituals (tawas, luop) and treatment modalities (tapal, lunas, kudlit, pang-kontra, bulong, orasyon) are affected by the belief in these creatures and to the maladies they cause: na-nuno, na-dwende, na-lamang-lupa. Although most are available for daily consultations, some practice their craft only on Tuesdays and Fridays, days of the week coinciding with the feast of the Sto. Nino and the feast of the Black Nazarene when they believe their healing powers to be at their optimum.

Cite this Albularyo: Spirit and Diagnostic Ritual

Albularyo: Spirit and Diagnostic Ritual. (2017, Mar 16). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/albularyo-spirit-and-diagnostic-ritual/

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