The Philippines has a rich culture and heritage. In terms of traditional beliefs, there are a number of alternative healthcare practices that Filipinos believe in.
Plant-based medicine or herbal medicine has been widely practiced, even before the Spanish era, when western medicine was introduced in the country.
Alternative healing is also still widely practiced today. There’s no shortage of traditional or folk healers even in the cities. The most popular in this field are the hilot, albularyo, and faith healers. Filipinos are strongly influenced by mystics, magic, superstitious beliefs, and herbalism.
Common traditional healthcare practitioners in the Philippines:
Hilot- Act as orthopedist and midwife, they usually treat patients through massage and perform the duties of midwife before and when giving birth.
Tawas- A person who uses candles, smoke, paper, eggs, and water as a way of diagnosing what kind of illness the patient has or what supernatural element caused the sickness. The magtatawas also performs prayers for the ill.
Albularyo- A person who performs healing using herbs, prayers, special healing powers and powerful words. People who believe they are being played by witchcraft usually look for the best albularyo in their hometown.
Faith Healer- Claims to have special powers from God and the Holy Spirit that can heal the person who believes in their so-called special power.
Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act (TAMA)
The government is not totally condemning the traditional healthcare beliefs and practices of Filipinos. The Department of Health and PITAHC or Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Healthcare, through the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act (TAMA), aim to improve the production of traditional medicine and healthcare in the country. Some of the objectives of this act is to promote and advocate for the use of traditional and alternative medicines that are proven to be effective, cost effective, and consistent. They even provide skills training courses for volunteers.
There are 10 Philippine medicinal plants that are approved by FDA and DOH:
- Lagundi for cough and asthma
- Sambong for kidney Stones
- Ampalaya for diabetes
- Garlic as anti-cholesterol
- Guava as Oral/Skin Antiseptic
- Tsaang-gubat as mouthwash
- Yerba-Buena as analgesic
- Niyug-niyogan as anti-helminthic
- Acapulco as antifungal
- Ulasimang-bato as anti-hyperurisemia
A survey conducted in 2013 by the IBON Foundation found out that almost 55.4% of Filipinos still can’t pay for their medicines and medical treatment. This could be the reason why people choose to believe in and patronize traditional and alternative healthcare, which are way cheaper than the conventional treatment and synthetic medicines given by doctors.
Today many Filipinos still believe in hilot, albularyo, faith healers, etc. We can’t blame them because healthcare in the Philippines is very expensive, especialy for the poor and middle class families.
Advantages of Using Alternative Healthcare:
- Way cheaper than having a doctor’s consultation, being confined in a hospital, as well as buying medicines in chain drugstores
- No chemical components
- Real herbs
- They can heal unexplained diseases
Disadvantages of Using Alternative Healthcare:
- There is no scientific proof that mythical healers and alternative medicine can truly heal a person
- Taking herbal medicines that are not approved by the DOH and FDA can be harmful to your health
- Wrong prescription or experimental cure may even lead to death
There’s nothing wrong in believing in traditional medicine and alternative healing methods, as long as you manage your expectations and that you are aware of what might happen to you for receiving alternative healthcare. Perhaps what’s best is a treatment that combines what’s proven effective in both western medicine as well as alternative medicine.