Healing Arts of the Philippines
by Stephen Gallup
Stories of Philippine healers are becoming more and more common. Awaiting our trans-Pacific flight at Los Angeles International Airport, we heard yet another report. The lady with whom my wife was chatting said her sister had been on a bus somewhere in the Philippines, suffering from a toothache, when a fellow passenger offered to help. It seems he reached into her mouth, plucked out the offending molar with his hand, cleaned it—or did something with it, and put it back. And the pain was gone!
How can we account for such fantastic claims?
I had first heard about Philippine healers in a workshop at my church about two years earlier. They were described as simple people who have been blessed with some mysterious ability to perform what is called "psychic surgery" — to operate on patients without benefit of knives or other tools — and in some cases to heal them outright. The whole idea sounded pretty far-fetched. Still, I filed it away for further reference, and when the opportunity arose to investigate matters for myself, I seized it.
With frequent natural disasters, widespread poverty, and rumors of guerrilla activity, the Philippines may not head your list of holiday destinations. On the positive side, the country does offer plenty of attractions. I could talk about lush tropical scenery, outstanding food, and a population that seems gentle and well-disposed toward Americans. I went there somewhat nervously but came away deeply impressed with all of the above, and more than willing to go again.
The remote area of Pangastinan, west of Baguio, is especially famous for its healers, but one needn’t journey that far. When we went, some of the best had been brought together by an organization in Manila known as the Christian Travel Center. For 19 years, visitors coming from as far away as America and Europe had been met at the airport by representatives of the CTC, checked into a first-class waterfront hotel, and treated twice a day in the same building.
My family was the first to arrive in 1992. (Oscar, one of their coordinators, described us as their "spark plug" for the year.) A large party of Alaskans appeared shortly thereafter, led by a lady who said she’d been coming annually since 1978.
Visitors are advised to stay two weeks. During that time, in addition to receiving the treatments, they were free to enjoy guided tours of Manila and outlying attractions. In the hotel, one's every need was anticipated. This kind of resort is truly a place to come if you want to feel pampered. Rest and enjoyment is felt to be vitally important to the healing process that is going on.
Naturally, the healers themselves are the main attraction. When we went, there were three Marcelo, Rosita, and Pepito aided by several associates. A treatment series begins with a group prayer, and typically includes the painless removal of diseased tissue and other ghastly-looking matter from one’s body, without so much as a scar remaining.
Is it legitimate?
Well, at the time, I certainly thought so. I watched the procedures carefully and saw no reason to suspect sleight of hand or other hocus-pocus. The healer seems guided to one spot on the patient’s anatomy. He presses his fingers into the flesh there, and foreign matter literally rises to the surface. The skin parts, a small amount of blood is shed as the material is pulled out, and then, incredibly, the wound heals itself.
OK, but does it work?
Sometimes, even the most unlikely approaches yield unaccountable results. Several days before arriving in Manila, my wife suffered a bad fall on a slick marble staircase. She’d been in pain since then. Marcelo took a bone fragment from her ankle, and the next morning she felt considerably better. On the other hand, we got no relief from some of the other complaints we took to them.
The Filipino healers have been ridiculed by many Western doctors. They attempt no rebuttal to the charges. They did not seek the gift and responsibility that has been laid upon them, nor do they explain it. But anyone who is dissatisfied with Western medicine can take comfort in knowing that this alternative is available. If nothing else, it provides an excuse to go catch a glimpse of a very beautiful corner of the world.
For further information on Filipino healers in general, read Insight Guides: Philippines, available through Amazon.com. For information about the Christian Travel Center in particular, contact Mrs. Doris Almeda, Director, P.O. Box 2887, in Manila. Ask about their book, Mecca for Holistic Healing, by Virginia Tiburcio.
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