The albularyo and its believers

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013


A FEW years ago, my laundrywoman fell ill and asked for assistance. She had severe stomach cramps so I was worried about her situation. She has been with me for countless years just like all the rest who are all “buma-an.” When she returned, she said to me that she had been advised to rest and of course who will not agree to that.

After about 2 weeks, she came back to me with her relatives who acted like her crutches as she could hardly walk. She did not look good at all. So immediately, I called our family doctor, and upon seeing we were told to check in immediately at the hospital. My doctor said that her case was life-threatening and she probably needed surgery but that they will try to see if a bombardment of medication could work to avoid surgery. By God’s grace, she was able to survive the illness. Her ailment elevated to sepsis.

Upon investigation, I discovered that from the onset of consultation, she did not go to a medical doctor but instead saw an albularyo. It was not until her case became hopeless that it was time to come back to Inday, be truthful and ask assistance once again. The hospital bills were whooping but her life was saved. It was a lesson learned and I was hoping that the rest of the household would likewise be educated that they cannot fool around with their lives by seeking the neighborhood quack.

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Just these past weeks again, another helper’s foot was swollen. It looked like gout. Gout has plagued both my Dad and son so the tell tale signs are familiar. So I told her to get ready and come with me to see another family doctor of that expertise.

I had some appointments to finish first so I told her to wait. Anyway, when I was ready, she and her husband decided to have their consultation elsewhere, the reason being that my doctor might be costly—as if I charged them with these medical expenses. I found out after a couple of days that she did not go to any doctor but the suki albularyo. The swelling had not subsided and she had multiple pains by then.

I was getting pissed with all these but just to satisfy their mindset, I asked who initiated the “hiwit” as this was the cause of the swelling. The husband, fiery with conviction, said that it was a former helper. In heavens name—that woman has not been with us for more than 2 years and you point her as the culprit because Tia something says that it was someone they worked with in the house!

Following their reasoning, I asked if they had done anything grave to that helper to make her waste time, energy and money to have a spell cast on her. Or if they had done anything harmful to said helper in order for her to take revenge. Definitely, their responses were all adamantly negative. So what makes you truly believe that it was a hiwit if you did nothing wrong?

I made it totally clear that if anything serious happens again, it was not going to be my obligation to rescue them from their illness as they insisted on their albularyo anyway.

Our helpers are the extension of our families. Especially for those who have stayed with us for years, we become involved in their lives, their health, the education of their children, etc. Call it feudalistic but I would prefer to call it caring and being concerned. Since they make life so much easier for us, in turn, we also take interest in their well being.

While we respect their beliefs, we must also enlighten them to reality.
I attended a seminar by Fr. Syquia, the exorcist, assigned by the Vatican here in the Philippines. According to Father Syquia, practitioners of pagan dark arts are unique to the Philippines, and Syquia listed them as follows:
Albularyo: Faith healer or traditional folk healer; Mangtatawas: An “occult practitioner” who drips molten candle wax into a basin of water and interprets the resulting form as the cause of an illness; Manghihilot: A masseuse who uses incantations to invoke the assistance of spirits to heal or relax a patient; Mananambal: An “occultist” who uses sorcery to treat natural and “supernatural” maladies; Manghuhula: An “occult practitioner” who specializes in fortune-telling through card-reading or palmistry; Mangkukulam: A witch who casts spells, uses potions and dolls to cause ailments in victims. The remedy is finding a more powerful witch to counter the spell. But this causes the victim’s deeper involvement in the occult. There is the Mambabarang: A sorcerer, in Cebuano, who specializes in the use of fungus beetles and other insects to cast spells on a victim.

While we are God-loving and God-fearing people, Syquia further likens occult practices to telling God that “His power and providence are not enough, hence we seek out other sources of power.”

The devil comes in many disguises, and the belief in these paganistic and occult practices are one of them, Fr. Syquia explains. “The devil has so much power in our society and many Filipinos become victims of extraordinary demonic attacks of obsession, oppression, and even possession”.

Seeking these paganistic rites is the doorway through which the world of spirits enter our world, was what Fr. Syquia also said. The more it is entertained, the more we give room for them to become a habitual resident in our lives.

I was so bothered by this because these believers might be hounded and I don’t want these black spirits in my home.

So I asked help from Fr. Louie Galbines how to further enlighten these people. They believe this Tia, whatever her name is, because she is a prayerful person, which is why she seems credible. Father Louie says that we must make it clear which God they are praying to. There is a God of light and there is a god of Darkness. There is a big difference between the two.

Anyway, I tried my best effort in making them understand the impossibility of the “hiwit.” And that their trips to Vito and Talisay for Friday masses are worthless if they believe in these false gods.

It is very difficult to educate a mind whose ways are set by folkloric traditions. But I really don’t know what swayed them to finally agree to have laboratory tests and to see my doctor. Was it the threat that I will not be responsible for whatever expenses if anything more serious befalls them or was it the fear that they believe in false gods for cure or heal them? Whichever way, it must have made a dent!

Well, true enough, the lab tests showed uric acid levels almost double the normal level and glucose likewise high. I thank God for giving me the perseverance to insist on what I believe is right. I wouldn’t have done so if I cared any less.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 30, 2013.

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