by: Dino Cavestany
The culture history of Western Visayas is a story woven out of traditional lore and scientific studies. Mythology, archaeology, and history combined to dramatize the richness of the local culture. The drama begins with the marriage of the land breeze and the sea breeze, out of which union the first man and first woman were born. Then it moves on to archaeological discoveries, which revealed the presence of man in the Region some 50,000 years BC. The story returns to the legend of the Bornean datus who purchased Panay from the Negritos and established the first political confederation in the country around the 12th century AD. From hereon history takes over the narration of events: the coming of the Spaniards in the 16th century, the revolution in 1896, the fight against the Americans in 1898, the establishment of the civil government, the Second World War (1941-1945), the aborted HUK movement which followed the war years, and economic recovery of the Region during the 1960s onward.
At the time the Spaniards arrived, Western Visayas was a fully developed Region. Folk-history tells of the coming of the Bornean datus who purchased Panay from the Negritos and cultivated the plains and the coastal areas. This legendary group, as narrated in Maragtas, was headed by Datus Puti, Sumakwel, Bangkaya, Balakasusa, Paiburong, Dumangsil, Lubay, and Dumalogdog. They established not only settlements but also “confederated form of government, with a legal system known as the Kalantiao Code.” Kalantiao was believed to be the third chief of Panay.
Shortly after their arrival in Cebu in 1565, the Spaniards encountered lots of problems like shortage of food supply and threat of Portuguese invasion. Thus, in 1569, they moved over to Panay. They first settled in Capiz. From here, they explored the neighboring places, subdued local resistance, and placed the entire Region under the Spanish colonial government. But later on for administrative purposes, the other provinces were separated from it. Capiz as separated in 1716, Negros Occidental in 1734, and Antique in 1798. The economic development of the Region began systematically, especially in the area of sugar and rice production. The Hiligaynons were called upon to render services for the encomienderos, either to work in the haciendas or in the construction of churches.
This conscription of labor produced strains in the relationships between the Hiligaynons and the Spaniards. The local leaders protested against the cruelty of the encomienderos and the friars. They took arms against the newcomers. Among the famous early revolts include the Igbaong revolt of 1586 and Tapar revolt of 1663. Poorly armed, however, these early movements were easily quelled. But the Hiligaynon patriots did not give up; they continued their struggle for freedom. Thus, when the mass revolution, started by the Katipunan under Andres Bonifacio took place in 1896, the people in Western Visayas readily joined the movement. They fought and defeated the Spaniards in many bloody encounters. Their victories however were short-lived. When they were about ready to deliver the last blow against the enemy, the Americans came in 1898 to take over the Spaniards the administrative control of the Region. The Hiligaynons resisted but, weary of war and poorly armed, they were soon overwhelmed by the new and well-armed enemy. Many of the leaders surrendered and by 1901, peace was restored.
The period following 1901 was one characterized by massive efforts for economic development and social progress. The Americans rebuilt the agricultural economy and encouraged local participation in trade and commerce. Education was opened to every one. Administration of the local governments was given to Hiligaynon leaders. But this progress was again cut short when the Japanese invaded the country in 1941. The newcomers ransacked every town and city in an effort to cow the people into submission and cooperation. However, the Hiligaynon patriots were not easily impressed. Under the leadership of Governor Tomas Confessor and General Mario Peralta, they banded together and fought the enemy for four years. They did not give the Japanese tranquility; they staged a successful guerilla warfare for four years until the Americans returned in 1945. In 1946, the United States gave the Philippines its political independence. This was a glorious event for the Hiligaynons, more than other Filipinos, because one of them, Manuel Roxas, became the first president of the Philippine Republic.
The years following the declaration of Independence in 1946 were not peaceful. Insurgency, led by the Visayan chapter on the Luzon-based Hukbalahap Movement, characterized the countryside. In spite of this situation, the Hiligaynons continued with their economic efforts. Today, Panay and Negros are among the major producers of sugar and rice. Many lethargic villages have been transformed into bustling agribusiness centers.
The Hiligaynon resided in the western part of Visayas, The island group that constitute the central Philippines. It is located between 9° and 13° latitude and between 121.5° longitude east from Greenwich. It spreads over a broad geographical area of about 7300 square miles.
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The myth, recorded by Miguel Lopez de Loarca in 1573 and which is still popular, particularly in the interior villages, tells about how man and woman were created. It would perhaps be historically instructive to quote Loarca’s account.
“The people of the coast, who are called Yligueynes (Hiligaynons) believe that heaven and earth had no beginning, and that there were two gods, one called Captan and the other Maguayen. They believe that the land breeze and the sea breeze were married; and the land breeze brought forth a reed, which was planted by the god Captan. When the reed grew, it broke into two sections, which became a man and a woman. To the man they gave the name Sicalac, and that is the reason why men from that time on have been called lalad, the woman they call Sicavay, and thenceforth women have been called babayes. One day, the man asked the woman to marry him, for there were no other people on the world; but she refused, saying that they were brother and sister, born of the same reed, with only one knot between them; and that she would not marry him, since he was her brother. Finally, they agreed to ask advice from the tunnies of the sea, and from the doves of the air; they also went to the earthquake, who said that it was necessary for them to marry, so that the world might be peopled. They married, and called their first son Sibo; than a daughter was born to them and they gave her the name Samar. This brother and sister had a daughter, called Lupluban. She married Pandaguan, a son of the first pair, and had a son called Anoranor . . . “
Out of the successive marriages of these legendary men and women came the people of the Western Visayas, the Hiligaynons.
The prehistory of Western Visayas has not yet been systematically reconstructed. Most of what are known about the prehistory of the Region are based on what the late H. O. Beyer has written. Beyer had collected tremendous amounts of artifacts from different parts of the area, and on the basis of these materials, had outlined the prehistoric development of Hiligaynon society and culture from Paleolithic age (circa 25,000 BC) to the coming of the Spaniards (14th century AD).
In 1965, the National Museum anthropologists recovered in Cabatuan, Iloilo, fossil remains of extinct elephants associated with stone tools similar to those found in Cagayan Valley, also in close association with fossil elephas bones, dated about 500,000 BC. The Panay finds have not yet been subjected to scientific dating. Other archaeological explorations in the interior caves of Panay, particularly in Dingle, had also been done.
Evidences of neolitic settlements have been excavated in Negros, Panay, Guiraras and the neighboring islands of Tablas and Romblon. Beyer reported in 1953 the discovery in these places of highly polished tools associated with carnelian beads in a number of burial sites. In 1978, an open neolithic habitation site was dug up in Agsalanan, Dingle, yielding polished stone artifacts associated with broken pieces of local ceramics.
Evidences of Iron Age have also been recovered from different sites in different provinces of the Region. No systemic diggings, however, have been conducted in the area.
Considerable materials of protohistoric vintage, particularly Chinese porcelain trade items had been recovered from almost all coastal town in the Region, revealing extensive trade with other Asians, starting from the 10th and ending in the 15th centuries AD. In Oton, Alfredo Evangelista and F. Landa Jocano excavated, in the later part of the 1960s, several burial sites yielding artifacts of gold, carnelian beads, and porcelain. Among the rare items recovered were a gold leaf mask for the eyes of the dead, a cone-shaped gold leaf-covering for the nose, and a gold-facing for and ear plug. Necklaces of gold and other semi-precious stones were also recovered.
More systematic diggings are needed to clarify many of the problems concerning the nature of prehistoric cultures in the region of Western Visayas prior to the coming of the Spaniards.
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Family and Household
In spite of the varying ecological orientations of the island world of Western Visayas, the forms of social relations among the people are remarkably uniform. There are existing variation, due largely to micro-adaptations to specific geographical conditions, but these are not socially significant as to affect seriously the fundamental patterns of social relations. The Hiligaynons adhere to similar principles of social action, whether they are living in upland, lowland, coastal, and urban areas. The reason for this similarity in behavior pattern appears to come from the prevailing emphasis the people place on the role of the family and kinship in community affairs.
The family and the kinship group are two basic units of Hiligaynon social organization from whence comes the initial orientation to accepted rules of behavior. It is also within these units that statuses and roles are structurally laid out, normatively defined, and functionally made operational. In other words, it is within the confines of the family and kinship where the generalized values and specific customs of Hiligaynon society are initially learned, where the social “self” begins to develop, where personal attitudes and worldviews are originally shaped, and where the sharing of common perspective is enhanced.
The closest Hiligaynon equivalent to the English term “family” is a Spanish-derived word, pamilya. Sometimes, the word panimalay (household) is used interchangeably with pamilya. In any case, the family is considered by both rural and urban residents as an important component of community organization that provides group life with a common reservoir of social, economic, and psychological support. It functions as the link to many other types of relational arrangements in the community. Through these linkages the various social units of the community are introduced to the complex system of commonly shared values, beliefs, and practices of the larger Hiligaynon society. The family prepares the individuals to become effective members of the community by defining the role or roles each should play in the next generation.
In its elementary form, the family is composed of the father, the mother, and their unmarried child or children who are either biological offspring of the spouses or adopted by them and who are either living with them or not. Children who have jobs and reside outside of the community continue to visit their parents and help support the younger siblings. This is true even with children who have immigrated and have jobs abroad. They send regularly part of their earning to their parents for the improvement and support of the family enterprises or of siblings who are in school. These strong affective ties with the family of orientation develop from early socialization which stresses the view that assisting the family is one of the primary duties of children. The interest of the family must prevail over other interests; all personal considerations come second to family interests.
In turn, parental interests over the welfare of the children do not cease even after marriage. In many cases, the parents participate in the decision -making of their children’s family. Before marriage, the relationship between parents and children is one of authority and obedience. This relationship principle is often carried over to foster parents when either one of the parents dies and the surviving spouse remarries. Sometime minor changes take place in the relationship if the children are already adults when the widowed parent remarries. Children by previous or later marriage are considered members of the elementary family, with the remarrying parent as the point of reference.
In its extended form, the family encompasses a wider range of bilaterally structured relations. Kinsmen outside of the parent-children framework are included in the reckoning of familial composition. The recognition of kinsmen as part of the extended family structure includes the moral obligation to support them in time of need or when they are too young to support themselves at the time they are living with the family. Most adult members of the extended families are those who, because of circumstances beyond their control, cannot find employment, are unmarried, or who are not able to establish themselves independently right after marriage.
The family may be functionally described as the only “corporate unit” in Hiligaynon society. All group actions emanate from it. It is also the only property-owning unit (i.e., land, house, etc.), with authority over its members. It has the power to discipline erring members or reward obedient ones. The father, regardless of other considerations, is regarded with deference in almost all situations within the family. This rightful exercise of authority over the members is supported by normatively defined role as the puno sang pamilya (head of the family) or ulo sang pangabuhi (head of livelihood). The mother is accorded a relatively subdued authority-role outside of the conjugal home. Whatever she does outside of the home is subject to the approval of the husband, particularly when it comes to legal contracts. In many cases, however, the husband recognizes the role of the wife in decision-making and whatever he decides is often done in close consultation with the latter.
Hiligaynon family is monogamous. Concubinage or the querida system is often talked about or openly practiced by a few but it is not legally or customarily sanctioned. Majority of the people in rural communities studied avoided the practice for many reasons. One of them is economic. Informants agree that “it is difficult to support two families unless one is financially capable”. But this reason is not a strong one because the querida practice has been reported even among low-income group, particularly in the cities. The avoidance appears to be anchored more on religious belief. Many rural folks consider “having a querida as malas (bad luck) in life”. It brings misfortunes not only to the persons involved but to the entire family. Thus, many people do not endorse the practice not actualize it in real life situations.
Moreover, in rural communities the opportunities for maintaining a querida are very limited. Community life is rather intimate and highly protective. Any infidelity on the part of either spouse is immediately discovered or known before it could flower into deeply-seated affair. Public opinion is aroused through gossips and scandals and it becomes the source of social control. Of course, there are exceptions, particularly among the elite who regard having a querida a source of social prestige. The macho or pagkalalaki (being a full man) image among males is highly aspired for and is intensely sought after status. To have a querida is to be a macho. Nevertheless, Hiligaynon society normatively condemns the practice, legally and morally; deviants are tolerated unless the offended party complains.
The macho image is structurally reinforced by the patricentric focus of family identities. Upon marriage, the woman may carry her maiden name but this is hyphenated to that of the husband. For example, Maria Luisa Cruz-Gonzales or Julia Mercado-Villanueva. She is also referred to as Mrs._______________(husband’s surname). Similarly, the children take the father’s surname and the entire family is known by this referent. The laws of the Republic of the Philippines accept this practice as a requirement for legal contracts or in filling out official papers. Thus, when people talk about families, they use the surname of the male head of the family, even if he had long passed away. Should the wife remarry, the second family is known by the surname of the second husband; the children by the first marriage however remain to be identified with their deceased father.
Children born out of legal marriages may take the father’s family name if they are acknowledged by him, legally or traditionally. However, should such descent not be acknowledged, they take the surname of the mother and are identified with the grandfather. Changes in surnames require a formal court permission but only when the father acknowledges having sired the child or children.
Family residence tends to be neolocal, with matrilocality. That is, the newlyweds establish residence close to the home or within the village of either family of orientation, after residing with the woman’s parents for about a year. Sometimes, this initial residence is extended for another year or more, until the birth of a child or after the couple has saved enough money to build their own house. Many parents explain such a practice as “helping the children to establish themselves economically before they are left on their own. This parental concern partly illustrates the cohesive nature of the Hiligaynon.
A broader understanding of Hiligaynon family may be acquired through a description of the internal structure and interaction processes among the family members. There are three important reciprocal relations within a nuclear family: husband-wife, parents-children, and siblings-siblings. Within these three macro-structural categories are micro-structures which further define the range and set the limit of interactions among the members: father-mother, father-son, father-daughter, mother-son, mother-daughter, older brother-older sister, older brother-younger sister, older sister-younger brother, older sister-younger sister, younger brother,- older brother, younger brother-younger sister,
Basically, family relations revolve around the following structures: husband/wife, parents/children, siblings/siblings/, grandparents/grandchildren, uncles-aunts/nephews-nieces, cousins/cousins, parents-in-law/children-in-law, siblings-in-law/siblings-in-law, coparents-in-law.
Husband/wife. As a rule, the husband is considered the head of the family. The wife is expected to follow what her husband thinks is right for the family. All transactions outside of the conjugal home, including those with immediate kin, has to have the approval of the husband or at least his knowledge. There are exceptions to this traditional rule, particularly in large towns and urban centers where the woman is actively involved in business or in earning a living. In the latter case, the woman may decide on her own or as she pleases without consulting the husband, provided such decision concern mainly her business or profession. Should decisions affect the family, the husband’s opinion still carries weight.
Work in the field is shared by both husband and wife. During the planting season, the husband plows the filed while the wife plants the crops. In the fishing villages, the husband fishes and the wife sells the catch. Both work as partners in a team which earns a living and brings up a family. Normatively, the husband is responsible for procuring food and other basic needs and it is the wife’s job to prepare the meals and do other household chores.
Public display of emotions, like kissing in public as in other societies, are frowned upon and a peck on the cheek is even seldom done. At the husband’s return from work or his departure for some place, the reception or the sending off is always casual. The wife often asks the husband how long it will take him to be back or why it has taken him so long to come home and so forth; the husband simply mumbles a reply or hands to the wife whatever he has brought home.
Within the home, the behavior between husband and wife is different. They openly display their affection for each other. Affection is shown by hugging, caressing, and other forms of physical contacts. Teasing and joking are other forms of showing affection. Kissing on the lips appears to be limited only to young couples. Some informants express the view that even “in the privacy of the bedroom, physical contacts between husband and wives is seldom preceded by ‘lips to lips’ kissing. This “youthful practice does not form part of adult behavior, even sexual mores”. Other informants, particularly in most poblacions and urban centers, express different views on this matter. At any rate, display of affection one often observes in urban families is not perceived in many rural villages.
Some women are tolerant of their husband’s “double standard” activities. That is , husbands are freer and more mobile while the wives are generally limited to the home. The men can go with their friends to the cockfights and fiestas without much trouble. The women have to seek the consent of the husbands. Some wives protest against this practice but they also impose upon themselves a relatively more domestic role in actual practice. It is culturally regarded as “bad taste for a woman to behave s though she is single when she is married”. Moreover, community censures are directed more against wives who “misbehave” than against husbands who do the same. It is a commonly shared norm in the Region that wives should play a more subdued participation in many community affairs.
At home, however, the woman dominates the activities. She handles and has the authority over the financial management of the family income. The man turns over to the woman all his earnings and the woman gives him his allowance and other expenditures. Most Hiligaynon men admit that “money is safer with the wife”. The husband may use it to gamble or to drink, specifically when among close friends. To augment the husband’s earnings, most wives in the rural areas engage in small-scale business like selling vegetables, fish, rice-cakes, and other small items in the market. They also raise livestock and fowls for sale. Generally, the husband helps in all household chores but leaves all decisions to the wife. He attends to the farm, staying in the field most of the time – grazing the carabaos, or fixing the farm implements. The wife attends to housekeeping, including cooking of meals and laundering. Older children, particularly the daughters, assist in carrying out these domestic activities.
On the whole, the relationship between Hiligaynon husband and wife is one of equal sharing of family responsibility. Indeed, there is a tendency for women to overplay the importance of male authority insofar as matters outside the home are concerned. But within the confines of the home, the situation is different. The wife plays a more dominant role and exercises unquestioned authority. How she keeps the house is her decision. Even the schedules of coming and going out of the house of the members of the family are her concern. Many husbands, to keep at home, follow the demands of the wives even if they become the targets of local jokes as “under the saya (skirt)”. The husband’s orders may be listened to but not always followed. As one informant stated: “The man’s place is in the farm, the woman’s is in the home.” This opinion is shared throughout the Region.
Parents/children. The relationship between parents and children is characterized by intimacy, responsibility and respect. Children are always wanted and they function as the major source of social and psychological gratification to adult members of the family. Although the child is generally the center of interest and affection in the family, he is not spared the rod. He is the object of early discipline and training. The father is expected to train the boys for a man’s work. Even at the early age of seven, the boy is required to participate in farm activities like tending the carabaos, watching the seedlings, and running errands. Among the fishermen, the young child is trained to paddle a banca, clean the traps, and also run errands for the parents. Most of the father’s work is later taken over by the son as they grow older. This apprenticeship culminates in the sons’ direct responsibility over the fields or fishing equipment and in direct participation in the various affairs of the community.
Similarly, the training of the girls for feminine roles is the responsibility of the mother. The training generally starts with caring for the younger siblings when the parents are busy at home or at work and when there are visitors. The intimacy between mother and daughter becomes closer as the girl approaches puberty. She is taught feminine traits, including an awareness of her changing physiology. Personal hygiene, specifically during menstruation, is emphasized and how such phenomenon must be handled is likewise explained. The view that rural women, specially the adolescent females, are not familiar with rural culture,. Defining femininity in the context of the poblacion or urban culture is rather not fair. Grooming and personal hygiene are also traits learned by rural females from their elders.
Children on the whole, are taught to respect and obey their parents. It is considered disrespectful for a child to mention the names of his parents either when referring or speaking to them. He is always expected to use kinship terms. In speaking to his parents, a child is taught to lower his voice. Non-observance of this verbal etiquette would mean discipline. The erring child is either scolded, pinched, or whipped. To answer back a parent is a breach of respect; to disobey them is unthinkable. Any error having to do with respect and authority is always dealt with physical punishment.
As the children grow older, the intimate relation is somewhat modified. The girls are no longer allowed to sleep in the same room or close to the father; the boys also stop sleeping beside their mother. Joking and teasing, so characteristic between parents and children at an early age, stop and the relations become somewhat formal. Mutual respect emerges to define adult behavior between parents and children. It is however expected that adolescent children continue to obey and recognize parental authority over their affairs. Local norms are so ingrained in the minds of the young people that even after marriage, they continue to allow their parents to participate in important familial decision-making.
Sibling/siblings. The relationship between siblings are characterized by mutual respect and protection. Siblings are expected to help one another, even if open conflict occurs between them. Older siblings take care of the younger ones in case of the parents; death or incapacity due to accident or illness. In turn, the younger siblings are expected to respect and obey their elders. Children are always reminded by their parents to remain close, respectful and protective of each other.
In childhood, brothers and sister are day-to-day playmates. However, when they reach the age of seven or eight, they tend to play separately. Boys playing with girls are teased as agi or effeminate, while girls who associate with boys are also teased as lakin-on or tomboys. Regardless of age, brothers are always perceived as protectors of their sisters. Sisters are, in turn, expected to take care of the needs of their younger brothers, cooking their meals, laundering their clothes and doing other domestic chores related to the upbringing of the younger siblings. At other times, sisters advise their brothers on choosing the “right woman” for a wife.
The close relation between siblings is based on the notion of “blood” links or in local parlance, “kadugo” (of the same blood). Other symbolic expression supportive of the emotional undertone of sibling solidarity is “isa lang ka tina-e” (of one intestine). That is, siblings came “from one intestine” – that of the mother. The womb is perceived as pillow on “which a child rests”. That is why the traditional concept of “isa lang ka inunlan” (of one pillow is also used to explain the moral responsibility siblings should to each other. These three referents – dugo, tina-e, and inunlan – are also used to argue for resolution of conflicts among siblings, particularly in matters pertaining to issues of assistance, support, obedience and respect.
Of course, sibling solidarity is also rent apart by internal rivalry among them. Most families have a pet child, or in local dialect, “may pinalangga” (endeared one). He or she may be the eldest or the youngest as the case may be. Or, the child may be the talented, industrious, well-behaved, or good-looking. Other siblings generally gang on him or her. This rivalry is constantly the source of quarrels, bickering, and endless teasing. After marriage, this rivalry sometimes becomes intense, especially when one is favored n terms of share in the inheritance. Cases of sibling suing each other in court are many.
However, when the threats come from outside of the sibling group, the siblings tend to forget, at least momentarily, their differences and rally behind the troubled sibling. Each sibling feels a certain responsibility over the other. This is very apparent in politics. When one of the siblings run for an elected office, all siblings come and help in the political campaign. Should deep conflicts characterize the relations, the parents and the grandparents, including respected uncles and aunts, come to mediate and effect a reconciliation. If this is impossible, the adamant sibling is advised not to work at least openly for a time being, against the candidate sibling. As any of his wife’s siblings, if his wife is younger, he is treated as Whoever wins, the economic and social prestige of the family, as well as of the sibling group, remains intact and protected.
In spite of occasional quarrels, sibling relations are, on the whole, pleasant and solid. They work together for “the honor and well-being of the family”. This rallying sentiment tends to influence individuals and group behavior among siblings vis-a-vis other individuals and groups within the community. Siblings tend to be loyal to each other.
Grandparents/grandchildren. Intimacy, friendship, and love characterize the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. Even children who defied parental choice for spouses are generally tolerant of their grandchildren than parents are. They tend to spoil or pamper their grandchildren. Stern discipline and physical punishment are seldom meted out by grandparents to their grandchildren. In fact, most misunderstanding between parents and children result from the latter’s intervention in the discipline of children.
Because of the protectiveness of grandparents, grandchildren are often closer to them than they are to their parents. Secrets like adolescent love affairs of growing teen-agers are shared openly with grandparents, although these are kept from parents. Grandparents are more understanding than most parents. They never scold; they advise. Grandchildren can joke with their grandparents while they seldom, if ever, do with their parents.
Fondness of grandparents are sometimes expressed in visiting them during weekends and other special holidays. Furthermore, discipline received from grandparents is taken by children as friendly advice or as corrective measures intended for their own good. The age and experience of grandparents are enough to give credence to their judgment. With this attitude goes a feeling of mutual trust and intimacy which is seldom found between other sets of relatives, aside from the father and mother.
At home, especially in the rural areas, grandparents participate in household work. They take care of the grandchildren or do minor work, if they are advanced in age. Around the hammock or rocking chair at night, usually after supper, grandmothers tell endless stories to their grandchildren. Kinship ties with both living and deceased relatives are reviewed; heroic deeds of known local leaders are also recounted; myths and legends are told and glamorized to emphasize traditional virtues vis-à-vis rapidly changing world of the young.
Grandfathers teach their grandsons many skills such as the making of toys, the repair of farming and fishing implements, and other male activities. Grandmothers assist in the training of granddaughters for household chores. To augment family income, grandparents run or help run a small store either close to the main road or underneath the house within the neighborhood.
Of course, conflicts sometimes define the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. But these are rare occasions and may be considered deviant to the over-all pattern of reciprocal “closeness”. Such deviant behavior is sanctioned against by the local norms, with supernatural undertone of gaba or curse. If the grandparents curse any of the grandchildren, the grandchild concerned shall experience misfortunes and bad luck in life. Thus, considerable tolerance is given to grandparental shortcomings. In the process, inter-generational relations remain solid.
Uncles-aunts/nephews-nieces. Mutual respect and cooperation characterize the general relations between parents’ siblings (uncles and aunts) and sibling’s children (nephews and nieces). Uncles and aunts are considered as “second parents”; they are equated with parents and are accorded with same respect as the real parents. Uncles and nephews often form cooperative units and help each other in planting, cultivating, and harvesting crops. In the fishing villages, the same work-teams exist. Even in the more formal structure of the bureaucracy, hiring nephews and nieces is prevalent in spite of the law against nepotism.
When both the father and the mother die, the children either live with their father’s siblings or with their mother’s brother or sister. Uncles and aunts take this responsibility as part of their sibling obligation. Whenever children quarrel with the parents, they generally go to their uncles or aunts for mediation. The latter go out of their way to reconcile the children and their parents. When children disagree with their uncles or aunts, the latter normally invoke the principle of parental equivalence by saying: “If your parents did not give birth to you, I would have had. And this is how you treat me, your second parent.”
Mild joking relations exist between uncles and aunts and nephews and nieces. In many cases, uncles and aunts are responsible for marital decisions of their nephews and nieces. They go out of their way to pair them with eligible bachelors and bachelorettes whom they like for the young nephews and nieces.
Cousins/cousins, Since the aunt-niece/nephew relations is like to parent-child, the behavior that exists between cousins (parent’s siblings’ children) is similar to that of siblings. This is particularly strong if the parents and their siblings have intimate relationships or if they reside within the same locality. Cousins form play groups within the neighborhood. If they are not living in the same neighborhood, the sibling-like bond is established by visits during weekends or special holidays. The friendship continues through their lives.
Close relations among cousins tend to be clear-cut among first and second cousins. However, as structural distances move further way, say among third or fourth cousins, the intimacies diminish. Of course, there re internal squabbles, as among siblings, especially when inheritance from the same grandparents come to bear upon the economic statuses and survival of the cousins involved. On the whole, cousins share common bond of kinship loyalties and mutual protection. The sibling-type relations are strongest between first and second-degree cousins. Third and fourth cousins are recognized as kin or relatives but the relationship is one of formal rather than intimate interactions.
Parents-in-law/children-in-law. The relationship between parents-in-law and children-in-law is similar to those between parents and children. Parents-in-law, called “father” and mother” by their children-in-law, are accorded with respect and obedience. Correlatively, parents-in-law call their children-in-law by their first names. There is no in-law avoidance like other societies. Before marriage, the prospective couple is told respectively by their parents to respect and obey their in-laws as though they are real parents. There is no rigidly defined se division which determines the degree of intimate relationship between the child-in-law and parents-in-law.
Generally, the birth of a child removes whatever strain in the relationship between in-laws. In some instances, however, the birth of a child starts a conflict in that parents-in-law who re now grandparents begin to assert their rights over the way their grandchildren should be reared, attended to and disciplined.
It is the children-in-law’s responsibility to take care of their parents-in-law when the latter become old and they do not have any other children to look after them. In about the same way, there is an automatic take-over on the part of the parents-in-law of the responsibility to support their grandchildren should anything happen to either of grandchildren’s parents.
Siblings-in-law/siblings-in-law Siblings-in-law maintain a relation characterized by mutual respect. They are addressed with kinship terms meaning brother or sister, as the case may be. The relationship between a man and his wife’s siblings, or between a woman and her husband’s siblings, is largely determined by the structural position of the husband or the wife within the sibling group – that is, even if a man is older than any of his wife’s siblings, if his wife is younger, he is treated as a younger sibling; similarly, even if a woman is younger than any of the husband’s siblings if her husband is older, she is treated by them as an older sister.
The reciprocal rights and obligations obtaining among siblings, as defined by their structural positions in the kinship system by virtue of birth order, are extended to siblings-in-law. However, the extent to which these rights and obligations are carried out depends upon the kind of relations existing between siblings-in-law. If a man gets along with his siblings-in-law, he enjoys the full privileges of a sibling; if otherwise, he may be disobeyed and his opinions may be ignored by his wife’s siblings and vice-versa.
The intimacy characteristic of brother and sister seldom exist between siblings-in-law. Nevertheless, there is no sibling-in-law avoidance. Joking relations are very libeal. Two brothers-in-law sometimes work closely together. A brother may choose form among his friends and encourage his sister to marry him. This reinforces the bond between brothers-in-law. Two sisters-in-law are likewise expected to help each other. A sister generally watches over her brother’s wife and protects her interests. They frequently exchange gifts although this is not obligatory. Each sibling-in-law is a potential spouse, in case the sibling dies, although the choice is often left to the party concerned.
Coparents-in-law. Coparents-in-law refer to the parents of both spouses. They are known referentially as balayi. Friendly relations generally exist between these two sets of parents who often call each other kumare or kumpadre. Family alliance and cooperation in time of economic crises are firmly established through marriage and reinforced by the balayi relationship. The balayi share common interest: the prosperity or success of their children and grandchildren. If parents-in-law live in different communities and have little contact with each other, the relationship may not be as close as when both reside in the same neighborhood or the same community.
The household or panimalay is another important unit in Hiligaynon social organization. It is ranked second to the nuclear or elementary family in importance to the lives of the people, The term household refers to the “unit of close relatives and/ore related individuals living in the same house”. The typical household consists of two or more families, the members of which share a common kitchen, contribute to the procurement of basic domestic needs like salt, water, firewood, and similar items. They also work collectively in preparing meals and in securing the economic income of the group. Like the nuclear family, the household is a consumption and production unit under common protective roof. It is distinct from the nuclear family or the extended one in matters of size and, in some cases, its membership extends beyond d kinship ties.
Sometimes close relatives are taken into the household, specially unmarried siblings and cousins, because of love and obligation and the desire to reduce the pungaw (literally, loneliness) of a single kin. The household acts as a single unit and the members work cooperatively together. In this context, the household may be described as a working entity despite its economic independence. While work-animals are independently owned by the heads of the respective families, these can be borrowed by any one in time of need. The same is true with farm implements. In the field, the household members help each other in planting, harvesting, threshing and hauling grain into storage. Most of the members farm adjacent fields. During special occasions like fiestas or other community activities, the entire household contributes it share of responsibility either in kind or in service.
Authority in the household is vested upon the oldest member who decides on important matters and whose advice is sought by the other members before decisions are made. He represents the members of the household in community affairs and serves as mediator for the members in case anyone is in trouble. He also acts as guarantor for loans or credits which household members obtain from the government or other moneylenders. However, sibling members of the household may or may not consult each other and each family-head may plan for his own family independently.
The household does not follow a rigidly defined structure. The structure changes as new generations of kin are born and the circles of recognized relative expand or contract. The following frame of reference may be taken into consideration relative to the structuring of a Hiligaynon rural household: (a) a newly-married couple lives with the girl’s parents for about a year until the first child is born; (b) as soon as the child is born, the new parents establish themselves independently; (c) since both parents of the new unit work in the field, they take in one of two of their close kin (usually the siblings of either spouse) to take care of the baby while they are away. The length of stay in the household is not determined; they may stay as long s good relations are maintained; (d) depending upon the economic status of the new family, the unmarried first or second cousins, or both, may come to live with the couple while helping in the field or in household chores; and (e) the children, upon attainment of suitable age, marry and either leave or choose to stay with their parents-in-law.
The lack of rigid rules of residence lends support to the formation of the household units. As already indicated, there is only an initial period of matrilocal residence after which the new family may stay or move away to establish their own residence elsewhere. Neolocal residence appears to be prevalent. Moreover, additional members join the new family, either as paid househelp or supported relative.
Household routine. Most adult members of the household are awake at daybreak. In many rural areas time is kept by observing the position of the sun and the movements and behavior of animals such as pigs, cocks, birds and chickens. In areas where wrist watches or clock are available, time is reckoned by the minutes and hours. At any rate, the traditional way combines animal and celestial behavior. Rapid crowing of the cock indicates very early morning, counterchecked against the position of heavenly bodies – particularly the Southern Cross. The chirping of the birds and the clacking of chickens further indicate certainty of time.
The following appears to be the pattern of activities among rural households:
Early morning begins with certain activities. Men in their working clothes come down the house, chop the firewood, fetch water from the nearby well, untie their carabaos from underneath the house or nearby carabao corral and start off to work. Women, after a roll of tobacco or a set of maram-on, feed the chickens. Grown-up children prepare for the day’s work; the girls gather the soiled clothes and start off for the nearby river or well while the young boys follow their fathers to the fields. Mot families do not prepare breakfast early in the morning, but take this meal at about eight o’clock or nine o’clock upon returning from their work.
There are no fixed schedules for work or routine activities. Some men stay in the field to about twelve noon, others till about ten. Certain areas in the organization of the people require the division of work according to sex, and in others require the division of work according to sex, and in others no distinction is made. Plowing and initial cleaning of the field belong to the men. Dried-grass weeding and planting are done by both men and women. Gathering vegetables and preparing meals are women’s chores. Grown-up girls sometimes help pound the rice, although this is normally the men’s job. Small children only watch carabaos, the newly-planted field, the uga (rice being dried under the heat of the sun) and dig roots for meals.
Activities in the field slacken toward midday. The heat of the sun makes work impossible; the farmers return home for the shade of nearby trees, as well as for leisure and gossip. Some men weave baskets or fix the house. Women bathe in the well or river and upon returning home prepare the noonday meal.
Mealtimes are irregular; some households eat three times a day, others only twice. In the latter case, breakfast is served at about ten or eleven o’clock and supper at about four or five. Cooked rice-cakes, boiled roots or bananas are served between meals. Family members eat at their convenience although the parents normally encourage all to eat together.
Siesta time comes after lunch. Everybody takes a nap. Sometimes women pick lice from each other’s head. Resumption of work in the field is about three-thirty in the afternoon and this lasts until about five or six o’clock. Men pass by the coconut grove in the early evening to drink tuba, with the women occasionally joining in. At home, grown-up girls cook supper or boil sweet potatoes or cassava. Bedtime is at eight o’clock. A mat is spread on the floor, and each male member sleeps in a section of his choice. Some families use mosquito nets; others do not. Grown-up girls sleep inside the solod (bedroom). Small children of both sexes sleep together and the boys usually sleep near the door to protect the girls from intruders.
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The Supernatural World
Hiligaynon religious belief system revolves around two kinds of orientation: the indigenous and the Christian. Both systems do not only exist side by side, they also influence each other. Many elements identified with the indigenous or traditional system are manifestly Christian in origin as in the use of the crucifix in agricultural rituals. Similarly, many beliefs associated with Christianity (both Roman Catholic and Protestant) are traceably indigenous in character as in bathing the image of the Santo Niño for rain or good luck. In other words, both systems have borrowed from each concepts and practice but modify these elements to fit their respective teleological, as well as theological, system in order to make religious experience relevant and satisfying.
In this chapter, we shall describe how these two systems are locally perceived as a common frame of reference in understanding the relationships between the supernatural beings and man. The Hiligaynons believe that human society is part of the metaphysical world of the Spirits. It is its visible part. The spirits, hidden from human eyes, participate actively in the daily affairs of man. They reward people who are obedient and faithful to them; they punish those who are disobedient and unfaithful. Rewards are given in the form of success and good luck; punishment in terms of misfortunes and illness. Thus, the people have to square accounts with the spirits by observing the conventional norms of behavior if they are to live in security and peace. This is very explicit in the practice of folk medicine, some aspects of which are described in this Chapter.
The term for the universe or world is kalibutan. Apparently, the world is derived from the root-word libut, meaning “to surround”. Thus, kalibutan also means or is used to refer to “the material (technological and natural), natural (as in air and rain), social, cultural, and spiritual surroundings. The kalibutan is divided into three major parts; the udtohan (upper-world), the katung-anan (middleworld), and the idadalman (underworld). Each of these worlds is inhabited by the supernatural beings known as the engkanto. These non-humans are said to possess power and authority over certain features of human life, holding positions which specifically define their relationships with human beings.
The spirits of the upperworld are classified according to their places of residence. Those who live in the zenith (ibabaw) of the skyworld are called udtohanon. It is believed that God and some of his favorite angels live here. They are the most kind and virtuous of all the supernatural beings. However, they are too remote that they are seldom conceived as actively involved in the affairs of man. It is conceded nevertheless that these spirits are the most powerful. They wait in the highest realm of the skyworld and pass final judgments on everyone. The lower spirits could be commanded by the udtohanon.
The langitnon (from the term langit, meaning the part of the sky where the clouds cluster) inhabit the next level of the upperworld. Their place is immediately above the clouds and they are said to be as gentle as the angels of the udtohan. The spirits who reside in the awan-awan or the space between the clouds and the earth are the ones who have direct contacts with man. They control the wind, rain, lightning, thunder, typhoon, and the buhawi (whirlwind). They can also bring about illness and death among the people. The highest deity among the awan-awan spirits is the tagurising who lives in the bulutlakan sang adlaw (the place where the sun rises).
The katung-anan or katung-an represents the second level of the universe and is occupied by the spirits known as dutan-on. They are the earthy spirits. They are believed to be angels who used to reside with God in the upperworld. When Lusiper (Lucifer) rebelled against God, the Almighty threw him and his followers out of the udtohan. Those who fell into the bowers of the big trees in clear areas became the tumawo (fairies); those who fell into big rivers and streams became the tubignon; and those who feel into the sea became the tabuknon.
The third and lowest level of the universe is located deep in the bowels of the earth. It is called idadalman (underworld). The impierno (hell) is located in this place. Before the gate of hell, there is a hallow place, with stone framework, where the dangerous spirits (the engkanto) live. These non-humans keep such pets as snakes, lizards, crocodiles and many others. This place is linked to the other part of the world by a tunnel called bungalog. The spirits and their pets pass through this tunnel in going out to the surface of the earth. Human beings who hurt these pets, whether intentionally or not, become ill and have to be treated by the baylan. Sometimes the maligno, as the evil spirits are generally known, take the form of people’s pets and tempt humans to hurt them. Pestilence, diseases, agricultural pests, and other forms of bad luck are believed to be caused by these spirits residing in the underworld.
As stated, contacts with supernatural creatures are made during accidental trespass of sacred grounds and/or during attendance in seances performed by the baylan. Sometimes the encounter takes place on ordinary occasion when a person is doing routine work. Like human beings, these non-humans are believed to roan or play around the community. Thus, an encounter may take place even if there is no intention of meeting one. The victim is generally punished if he happens to hurt the spirits; he is also rewarded if he had shown respect by observing the proper rules of behavior. This is the case where man is said to be an insignificant part of the spirit world and of the supernatural scheme of things in the universe. Man has no control over the forces of nature but the spirits have. Only the spirits have the power to manipulate the environment and to determine the fortunes and misfortunes of the residents.
Places where the non-humans reside are called palhi or mariit. These include the cliffs, headwaters of streams and rivers, underground tunnels, deep pools, solitary bamboo groves, boulders, thickets, springs and caves. Since the spirits do no want intruders in their abodes, roaming or lingering around these places is dangerous. These are to be avoided by man. Should passing through these places be unavoidable, the person should ask permission to do so by saying aloud:
Tabi, tabi, maagi ako. Indi tanin ninyo ako pagtiawan. Daku ang akon kinahanglan diri. (Excuse me. May I pass. I have an urgent business here.)
The fear of contact with the supernatural is brought about by the consequence which follows the encounter. Illness is said to result from all contacts. The ailments may take the form of severe headache, stomachache, fever, loss of mind, and even death. The most dangerous of all the supernatural beings is the aswang because they are believed to “eat human flesh and internal organs, especially the liver”. Most villagers who said they had been attacked by an aswang refused to go out alone at night. No one can defeat the aswang’s powers except the baylan and the herbolario because of their anti-aswang charms.
Reports of contacts with supernatural beings are many and varied. These may be divided into two major categories: sensory and visual. The former includes olfactory, auditory, and tactile contacts; the latter includes visual imagery and actual physical encounters.
Sensory phenomena have been reported throughout the Hiligaynon-speaking region. It is generally shared by people in the rural areas; the urban residents have some doubts about the veracity of the stories told about these encounters.
Olfactory phenomena. – This phenomenon involves the sense of smell. The scent experienced may be sweet, depending upon the occasion and place where such experience takes place. If an individual happens to be near the bubug (a tree with a big bower), he has more chances to smell the odor of cooked food. Fried onions and garlic are the most frequently smelled food; the smell of newly harvested upland rice, as well as those used for rituals, ranks next. Should the individual happen to be near tabooed springs and headwaters, especially at noon, he is likely to smell the refreshing scent of toilet soap, as though someone is taking a bath nearby. Environmental spirits generally take a bath at noontime.
Other odors reported as frequently smelled include flowers for the dead, burning candles, incense, perfume and the odor of the human body. Sometimes, the scent passes by as a waft of air; others persist for a long time. Familiar odors may be smelled when an individual is along or when he is with companion, although the latter may not experience the sensation. Only those persons to whom the spirits would like to reveal themselves could experience olfactory phenomena. The spirits are said to very keen in observing the specific taboos associated with their being seen by the humans. They do not reveal themselves to anybody nor do they make their lifeways known to strangers because if they do, they will die.
Auditory phenomenon. – Hearing voices or strange sounds is another frequently reported phenomenon in many areas in Western Visayas. This can take place when one is along in the open field, near lonely bamboo groves, or even inside the house. Auditory experiences are classified as follows: bahoy, marukpuk, panguluskus, mirispis, wak-wak, tik-tik and wilik. A phenomenon known as panagbalay is also experienced. This comes in the form of a human voice calling the name of the houseowner, in the manner when someone is approaching the house.
The bahoy is characterized by voices of weeping and groaning human beings. The phenomenon is always associated with death, either due to an accident, murder, or drowning. Many places in Western Visayas are thus identified as sites where one would likely hear the bahoy, especially during noontime. These are places where someone had died.
The murukpuk is heard in bamboo groves. It is characterized by sounds of breaking bamboo trees as though someone is cutting them; rattling the twigs and leaves as though a strong wind is tearing them even if the atmosphere is calm, and the beating of bamboo stems as though someone is playing with a piece of stick. The sounds are often heard at noon or in mid-afternoon, especially at three o’clock. The marukpuk are spirits of the dead which haunt the bamboo groves from which the poles used for carrying the coffin to the cemetery have been cut.
The panguluskus is another auditory phenomenon that is often heard at night. It is characterized by scratching sound against the walls, as though clawed by creatures which no one has ever seen. The people who have heard the sound, however, say that this is the “sign that the aswang is near the house”.
Ugtak is the sound associated with the bawa, chicken pets of the supernatural beings. The bawa likes to play in abandoned fireplaces and to eat live embers. The ugtak is described as similar to the clucking of the hen. It can be heard during the night or at noontime. The bawa has the power to make itself invisible or to transform itself into any form it likes. An encounter with the bawa makes people sick. However, if one can overcome the bawa, he can acquire supernatural powers like the ability to run faster and to have greater strength.
The next most common sound heard at night or early evening is the mirispis. The mirispis is described as a small, blackish, cricket-like creature. It gives deep, sharp, eerie chirps. If the creature perches on rooftops and gives the sound, a ghost is said to be coming; if it chirps near the door, someone in the family will soon die; if near the window, an impending danger is in the vicinity.
Tactile phenomena. – Another supernatural experience which is wide shared among the Hiligaynons is tactile in nature. That is, a person reports being visited by an apparition during the night and experienced being touched by it. The touch is described as cold and “lifeless”. Tactile experiences are generally accompanied by olfactory phenomena like the scent of burning candles and incense. Sometimes, the even occurs in the form of a cold waft of breeze passing over an individual’s face or the nape of his neck. Other sensory phenomena combine with tactile ones in making the individual shiver with fright. Illness usually follows tactile experiences.
Tactile experiences generally occur at night, especially around midnight or shortly after twelve o’clock. Informants report not only to have been touched by actually “kissed”, “legs being pulled”, or “blankets fixed”. People believe that ghosts return to haunt the living if “the deceased has so many things to settle or he had done many wrongdoings when he was alive”. At the time of death, the spirit is not immediately released from its “cellaphenous encasement” and it hovers around to wait “until he is called by God to join him in Heaven or before he is sent to Hell. It is during this time that the dead man comes back to haunt the living.”
As in the sensory phenomena, visual encounters involve actual seeing of the supernatural beings in the form of bagat, salut, santirmu, mantiyaw, kama-kama, dwende,tamawo, multo, maranhig (amamanhig), kapri, panulay, agta and ukoy.
The most feared supernatural being is the aswang. The aswang enters the body of the human and, through him or her, harms those it does not like. Most identified aswang are females; they appear in the form of an ugly woman with long unkempt hair that stands on end, bloodshot eyes and a slippery body. She has very long nails and a long tongue which is black and pliant. The aswang has holes underneath her armpits and these contain oil. The oil, inside the bottle called lalanhan, derived from the word lana for oil, gives the aswang the power to fly and become invisible.
According to informants, when the aswang wants to fly, she takes the oil and applies the ointment along the side of her body and arms, saying: Iring santi, iring santa, iring santa marya (can not be translated). With this magic prayer, long hair grows around the body and arms of the aswang. These enable her to fly.
The aswang is believed to have enormous powers. She can transform herself into any form she likes: pigs, dogs, birds, bats and inanimate objects. Once transformed, she deceived and victimizes people. She waits hiding in secluded places and attacks those whom she likes to victimize. The aswang is feared because it is believed that she “eats her victim, particularly the liver”.
The aswang also victimizes children, pregnant women, and those who are suffering from illness. Informants agree that because of her power, the aswang can smell at a distance, her victim who, at a given moment, emits the aroma of ripe mangka or breadfruit. As soon as a victim has been overpowered, the aswang takes a bundle of sticks, a knotted talahib grass, rice stalks or banana stalks and transforms any of these into a “replica of the person”. She then sends the substitute home and takes the real one. Immediately upon reaching home, the substitute gets sick and dies. Meanwhile, the victim is kept and is not “butchered until the substitute, who has died, is not buried”.
To be suspected as an aswang is a serious matter. Hiligaynons are very sensitive over this charge. It dishonors the family. Young females who belong to families suspected as aswang are not sought in marriage. Young males are sometimes refused employment. The community while tolerating the presence of the aswang in the place, often ostracizes the aswang and his family. To detect whether a person is an aswang or not, “cuttings” from fingernails are cast into the fire in the presence of the suspect. The aswang “will immediately be stimulated to display her powers, thereby betraying herself”. Some rural folks carry bottles containing protective oil called huntura. The oil bubbles when an aswang is near, thereby warning the owner of the possible danger. Should an aswang know that someone close to her has a huntura, she would likely attack him in order to get the oil because such could add to her strength and powers.
A variant of the aswang is the bagat which takes the form of a huge dog or domestic animal haunting lonely paths and forgotten trails. They are normally harmless although they can be dangerous when hurt. The bagat is seen when there is a full moon or when it is extremely dark and there has been a drizzle earlier in the evening.
An effective weapon against the bagat is a whip made from the tail of a devil-ray fish called pagi. A sharp bolo is another weapon but it takes and expert to hit it in the dark. Although some people associate the bagat with the aswang, others distinguish one from the by stating the “the aswang can take the form of the bagat but that there are also bagat which are pets of the supernatural beings.
Closely related to the bagat is the sarut. The sarut takes the form of a queer-looking animal or insect which situates itself in places where humans frequent. It may be well to describe the sarut as a supernatural tempter. The sarut is harmless when left alone, but when it is unduly hurt, it retaliates by inflicting illness on the offender.
The santirmu appears in the form of a ball of fire. It can also appear in the form of a burning hillside or cornfield. Some farmers describe it as a “skeleton on fire appearing on the sea”. This sea spirit is known to blaze away on the beaches and scare fishermen. Associated with the santirmu are such unnatural deaths caused by murder or drowning. These unnatural deaths are known locally as hilaw nga kamatayon. It is believed that the ball of fire is carried by the souls of those who have not been allowed to enter heaven. If one were to ask for this ball of fire, he would handed with a human tibia or femur. The word santirmu seems to a corruption of the word St. Elmo. Fireballs or meteors known as St. Elmo’s fires fall into the sea and are often seen by sailors.
The tianak is the should of unbaptized children who died before received the Sacrament and are, therefore, destined to roam around the earth. Now and then the tianak loses the cloak of invisibility and human beings spot their presence.
In the category of the tianak are the kama-kama which are small, humanoid creatures with long beards and nails living in groups near thickets and anthills. Most often they are seen playing with children. They are said to actually come out of hiding just after dark. These creatures have squeaking voices are said to be very strong. They are known to keep treasures in their anthill homes. When they are harmed or angered, they pinch offenders and inflict blue, black or red spots on their bodies.
The sigbin is like a big kama-kama. During Holy Week this supernatural being comes out of hiding and goes around the community to scout for children whom he can butcher form charms. It is generally believed that “good talismans” are made from the hearts of small children. Out of apprehension, mothers see to it that they keep their children indoors during this particular season.
Little spirits who live in houses are called dwende. They keep themselves occupied by singing, making noise, and throwing stone and sand. They are amiable but when they are provoked they seek revenge by making people sick and die. At times, the dwende can be heard to drop from the ceiling to the floor and sometimes they knock over kitchen utensils.
Tamawo or fairies are believed to inhabit anthills and elevated spots in the field. They are handsome young men and beautiful women. They mingle with human beings and attend services in church but they leave before the benediction. The tamawo kidnap human beings and they transform them into their own kind. If a kidnapped person eats the tamawo’s food, he automatically becomes a tamawo. If he successfully resists the food, he is released within three or four days.
The tamawo are said to live in a house made of metal and glass invisible to mortals. Those who have seen the house of the tamawo claim that it contains handsome furniture.
A tamawo generally looks like man, but he can also assume any shape that he pleases like that of a dog or a carabao. It could be distinguished from the true animal by its huge body, its huge staring eyes, its large toes and its big claws.
The engkanto resides in the balete (lunok) trees. He is said to live there peacefully until the tree is chopped. When his abode is destroyed, the engkanto inflicts harm on whoever chops the trees. The guilty party either develops a high fever or a bloated stomach. Children are therefore warned not to come near or play close to the balete tree.
The multo is a ghost that haunts big and old houses and refuses to leave the place for some economic reasons or out of a guilty conscience. Various apparitions like the appearance of a headless priest are said to occur at certain hours in some old haunts.
A marmanhig is a living dead with the strength of ten persons. A dead man can be brought back to life by applying quicksilver or mercury to his scrotum. Once alive he becomes a marmanhig. He spends most of his time in the attic and preys upon strangers. He repeats everything the latter may say and tickles his victim to death. A marmanhig is believed to turn to dust when it gets wet and later it decomposes into worms.
The kapre is a big, black hairy creature who hangs in the dark around big houses. In some places in the region, the kapre is said to be able to move beds with their occupant on it from the house to the branches of a tree. Like other supernatural beings, the kapre also possesses such human vices as drinking, gambling and smoking.
The tikbalang is a dark, long-legged creature that usually sits on some secluded spot in the swamps. His knees are said to rise above his head, his face hardly showing.
The mantyo is another type of huge human-like supernatural being. This tall thin giant is said to roam around the community at night. He is also seen leaning on a tall kapok tree and looking sideways. Unlike the kapre that lives in big abandoned houses, the mantyo lives under tall trees. It sleeps in a standing position and is generally friendly and helpful. Sometimes, the mantyo cannot be seen but it can be heard. Those who have seen it describe it as a big, broad-shouldered muscular creature measuring more than ten feet in height. The male mantyo does not wear clothing except occasional clouts. The female is likewise scantily dressed. They both have big sexual organs similar to those of goats and carabaos, and they wear their hair long.
Evil spirits generally called panulay pass by in the evenings. Their presence is marked with the appearance of strange objects seen the following morning or in the unusual behavior of animals. A sudden halt in the howling of dogs at night is explained by the presence of evil. Dogs see these creatures in the night and they fear them. The restlessness of carabaos is also a sign that evil spirits are present in the vicinity.
The agta is a dark creature whose existence could be discovered by one who bends low enough to look backwards through his legs. The dwende could also be seen in this manner.
The ukoy is a creature inhabiting some parts of the river or sea. It looks like an octopus. It is a small creature that possesses superhuman strength. However, he loses this strength outside his habitat Sometime he is said to be responsible for the death of swimmers who come near his habitation site.
It is believed that these creatures are part of the group of fallen angels whom God punished after the abortive revolt of Lucifer. They are also used to explain mysterious ailments; but in most cases, they seem to have been conceived or inspired by a primitive belief in the dead, to fulfill the role of injunction of taboos.
The Hiligaynons generally recognize the world of man as an extension of the spiritual and saintly world. It is believed that this is an extremely influential spiritual world with an infinite number of powerful and scary inhabitants – saints, engkantu and others – who live apart from the world of human beings and yet are in close contact with it. These inhabitants of the spirit world are anthropomorphic beings and their behavior is patterned after that of human beings.
In popular belief, most of these beings are identified as spirits of the ancestors and culture-heroes, patron saints and guardian angels. Stories and legends are interwoven around these beings in order to emphasize their power, and to make effective local sanctions and values. Powerful as supernatural beings may be, they are not beyond the power of human blandishments. The supernatural beings willingly attend to the welfare of the people if rituals are performed. Hence, masses are said to appease and glorify them. Such a process requires a highly specialized body of knowledge which is possessed only by priests and mediums. It is in the power of these specialists to ascertain the methods that would betray the will of the supernatural beings.
Seen in their cultural context, both the Roman Catholic Church and the traditional religion of the barrio can be equated and placed in the same category. Folk Catholicism exists in the community, i.e., the doctrines of the Catholic Church have been modified to suit local cultural practices. The priests and the medium have similar functions because both parties mediate between the people and the unseen powers on the favors people ask for. Moreover, both priests and medium pray Latin prayers because it is believed that the spirits and saints understand both the native language and Latin. Saints and engkanto are equally powerful beings to whom one can appeal for help. It maybe observed that when mediums fail to obtain the desired goal or to cure a lingering illness, the people approach the priests, burn candles in church and pray to the saints. However, if these do not work out well, the services of the medical doctors are secured.
The baylan considers the priests’ rites more effective in that these “contain” more powerful magic. This is the reason why the baylan often supplements his own prayers with Latin prayers, and secures his ritual paraphernalia from church – the holy water, the cross, holy incense, pieces of wood from the santo entiyero (Sp. Santo entierro or “Christ in the Sepulchre”) and others.
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Medical Beliefs and Practices
The Hiligaynons view disease as one of the most unpredictable events in human life. If it is not treated at once, it can cause death; if it is left unattended to, the economic dislocation of the entire family follows. Thus, the advent of disease is always perceived as a terrifying incident. Since disease is an event which the community must control, the people have developed antidotes to combat its destructive effects. These preventive methods are devised to ascertain the efficacy of the medicine and expedite the recovery of the patient.
Diseases are categorized according to natural and supernatural causes and not by the symptoms of the illness. However, such classification is vague: ailments which are often diagnosed as “natural” at the initial stage may later be classified as “supernatural” in case the patient fail to respond immediately to the prescribed medication. The opposite is equally true. When any sickness diagnosed as caused by the environmental spirits is cured by they initial treatment intended for a natural-caused affliction, it is classified as natural. This may appear odd but as far as the people are concerned, the process is clear. It includes a shift in the method of handling the problem, and, thus, changes the diagnostic requirements.
Under the category of natural illnesses are the following: pneumonia, colds, fever, whooping cough, indigestion, and infected wounds. The rest are categorized as supernaturally-caused unless they react to natural treatment. Sometimes accidents are viewed by a number of people as caused by supernatural factors; however, others ascribe such incidents to the individual’s fate.
A “natural” malady is classified as supernaturally-induced if it is accompanied by the following characteristics: whooping cough accompanied with phlegm or blood in the sputum; neuralgic pains with sweating of the entire body and cold feet’ stomachache or headache with nausea and fever; and the appearance of strange creatures, sounds or other unusual events.
The Hiligaynon generic term for disease and pain is sakit and nagmasakit is the state of being bedridden. These terms, therefore, refer to pain or discomfort and no distinction is made as to the stage and nature of illness. Though this may be the case, no disease is diagnosed in general terms. Sometimes, the parts of the body are regarded as points of reference in describing the nature of the sakit the individual is suffering from. Therefore, discomforts are classified as sakit sang ulo (headache), sakit sang lawas for pain in the body, sakit sang busung for stomachache, and so on. Names of diseases vary, hence, there are such names are inaswang (witch’s victim), sininda (attached by evil spirits), or hiniwitan (cursed by the sorcerer.
To comprehend better why people do the things they do, one should attempt to understand what they themselves think of their actions. In medical practice, no effective cure for an illness can be made if the cause is unknown. Among the Hiligaynon farmers, illness is believed to be caused by the following: the anger or tricks of unseen supernatural beings which inhabit the surrounding world; the aswang (witch) who eats the liver of the victim; the spell of sorcerers; exposure to elements like rain and heat of the sun; the sudden exposure of uncovered shoulders to malain nga hangin (evil or bad air) which is characterized as either hot or cold, depending upon the time of the day the exposure occurred; the partaking of hot or cold food; sudden shock of fright; or wrong dietary habits such as over eating, simultaneous partaking of foods that are considered incompatible like the pairing of breadfruit and pineapple or tuba and bananas.
The germ theory of disease is vaguely comprehended. People have heard about it from other people, but its possibility cannot be perceived. People just do not get sick because they have these little “animals” in their bodies.
All diseases are either supernaturally-caused or are offshoots of an unbalanced relationship of elements inside the body due to over consumption of hot or cold food. For example, eating too much mangoes (considered hot food) will result in stomachache, eruptions on the lips and drying of the skin. The victim will have difficulty in defecating. Also, eating newly harvested green corn and rice without initially partaking of the ritual food prepared to thwart the heat produced by these foods will cause illness.
Among the illnesses mentioned, the most common is the sudden exposure to bad air. This is known as hinampak sang hangin (literally: ‘hit’ or ‘slapped’ by the wind). This exposure is believed to allow bad air to enter through the skin pores. Entry of bad air into the body disrupts its normal functioning. Another rationale of this event is that bad air carries the spell of environmental spirits. Although the actual disease may be the common cold, fever, convulsions, rheumatism or any neuralgic pain, this line of thinking is not acceptable in local parlance. For example, if an individual does not use a blanket at night, he is likely to suffer from stomachache the following morning as the air “will enter his belly by way of the rectum. This illness is known as butud nga tian (enlarged belly). Severe stomachache occurs when and individual allows himself to remain hungry for a long time. In this case, bad air enters the suluksuk (upper section of the stomach).
Because the hot-cold syndrome in food, farmers also distinguish between hot and cold air (or wind). Cold air causes pains in the muscles, in the stomach and in other parts of the body. Cold air can also penetrate the veins and cause pain all over the body. Hot air causes pain in the ear as well as mental derangement, because if it penetrates the pores of the skin, it is carried through the arteries and enters the brain cavity. This illness is locally identified as sinakaan sang init ang ulo (hot air entered the victim’s head). This is one reason why mentally-deranged persons are also hostile.
Illness can also be caused by deliberate violation of God’s commandment or of one’s religious vows. Ridiculing people with deformities may also cause an individual to suffer the same illness of deformity as the one ridiculed.
Trained doctors and midwives are rare in many rural Hiligaynon communities. Specialists in traditional medicine provide most of the medical care. There are no drugstores in the vicinity, thus medicine is mainly derived from herbs, barks and roots of plants known to be medicinal. Modern medical practitioners are found in towns but they are seldom consulted, unless the illness is serious and requires surgery or hospitalization.
Less serious ailments are treated with medication given by family members, especially by the parents. Ailments generally treated at home are ordinary headaches, slight fever, stomachache, wounds, coughs and colds. These ailments are believed to be caused by contact with either bad or cold wind. Treatment for ailments takes on this form; the patient’s body is massaged and the joints are paid particular attention to because these are the places where bad air concentrates. After the massage, pounded ginger, garlic and sometimes betel leaves are rubbed all over the patient’s body. He is covered with blankets to induce perspiration. Seven or nine fresh alibhon leaves are poulticed over his forehead after which he is made to sleep.
Sometimes, if it is known that cold air has caused the affliction, the patient is given a hot water sponge bath before he is massaged. Powdered mongo beans and garlic are made into a concoction which the patient is required to take. To make the medicine more effective, soot from above the fireplace is mixed with other ingredients. For headaches due to hot air, the treatment consists of the application on the patient’s head of vinegar mixed with a concoction derived from boiled bark of medicinal plants. This is known as paspas. The application is done four times a day because it is believed that the vinegar will cool the hot air inside the patient’s head and relieve him of pain or probable derangement.
The warmed juice of buri palms mixed with vinegar is used as a treatment for rheumatism. This concoction is rubbed over the aching parts of the body.
Illness can also be caused by drinking hot and cold water. If a person is hungry and he drinks cold water, he is likely to suffer from stomachache or severe headache. A pregnant woman is not allowed to drink cold water immediately after she has walked under the heat of the sun since this is believed to cause abortion. To illustrate some methods of treating disease, the following cases are presented.
(1) Apoy sa adlaw. This is one of the five mildest types of headache recognized in Western Visayas. This is believed to be caused by spirits of the rising sun. An individual contracts the ailments if he happens to look eastward at the exact moment when the sun appears on the horizon. Extreme headache is suffered only in the morning, that is from the time the sun rises until eleven o’clock. By two o’clock in the afternoon, the pain begins to subside.
a. Diagnosis. A person is said to be suffering from apoy sa adlaw is his pulse, when, pressed, responds with one slow beat followed by another which is deep not sharp. The next beat is heavy and sharp becoming weak and followed by hard and rapid beats. The next beat becomes deep and raid. The seventh and last beat surges up strong and hard.
b. Treatment. Leaves and tubers of ginger, bunlaw, kalawag, salin-uwak, alibhon, and lino are secured. Seven slices of ginger are cut, mixed with seven slices of kalawag, five salin-uwak leaves, four alibhon fronds and three leaves of lino. These materials are soaked for a day in clear water newly-fetched from the well or spring. In the evening, they are removed from the water and spread out in the open so that dew will fall on them. The following morning, they are returned to the water and left for some time. The concoction thus derived is used to drench the crown the patient’s head. This is done three times a day.
(2) Sininda. This ailment is caused by the diwata (enchanted being) of the spring. The frequent victims are those who bathe at midday. The diwata is an ugly creature with big eyes, big teeth, long nails and a long beard which can only be seen with impunity by mediums. It flies in the form of a bird with a flaming tail. The only way to evade the wrath of the diwata (if one chooses to bathe at midday) is to knot grass-leaves growing on the bank of the well or spring before pouring water over the head in a ritual known as tuus.
a. Diagnosis. The face of the person afflicted with the illness turns from pale to ash gray. The ailment is further characterized by profuse sweating, cold hand and feet, and blackened fingernails. The forehead is feverishly hot while the patient suffers excruciating pain in both the stomach and the hand. If the attach is severe, the victim vomits blood.
b. Treatment. A white-feathered chicken must be purchased. Since the sininda is considered a major illness, the baylan is called. Once the baylan arrives, the fowl is killed and its blood is anointed on the victim’s forehead. The still-feathers carcass of the chicken is split open, spread over the patient’s stomach and left for several hours. In the evening of the same day, the parts of the chicken are removed and wrapped in a black cloth. The head of the fowl is removed and buried deep in the ground some distance away from the house to keep them hidden from scavenging and foraging animals. It is believed that if the chicken is eaten by dogs or cats, the patient would die. As the baylan buries the fowl, he chants magic prayers to the spirits of the fields.
After the performance of the ritual, several medicinal plants are secured and pounded. The concoction is given to the patient to drink. For the next three days after recovery, the patient is not allowed t look out of the door or window.
(3) Lingin sang ulo (dizziness). This illness is believed to be caused by an imbalance in the relationship of elements inside the human body. For example, if a hungry man immediately fills his stomach with food, he will suffer from pain in the head. Among women, especially those who have just given birth, dizziness is believed to be caused by the incorrect position of the womb or by the irregularity of the menstrual cycle among the unmarried.
a. Diagnosis. The patient suffers frequent attacks of unconsciousness. Overt signs are nervousness, loss of appetite, headaches and nausea. When he undergoes attacks, the patient sweats profusely from head to foot.
b. Treatment. Glutinous red rice, known locally as pilit nga murado, and wine are secured. The rice is roasted until it is almost burnt. Wine is mixed with it. The concoction is given to the patient to drink. The tabag (material from which the brew was derived) is wrapped in a piece of cloth and the entire body of the person is rubbed with it three times a day until the patient is cured. After each treatment, the patient is wrapped in thick blankets and encouraged to sleep.
Diseases caused by the aswang and other environmental spirits involve elaborate rituals. The aswang are persons who are believed to possess supernatural powers to change themselves into any animal form and who are suspected of eating the liver of their victims. One way of becoming an aswang is by getting to married to one. The people generally avoid the company of a suspected aswang for fear of contamination. One can become an aswang by drinking from the very glass the aswang used. The saliva left on the rim of the glass is contagious.
The presence of an aswang can be detected when sounds of his pets, the tiktik and the wakwak, are heard.
Illness caused by the aswang shows the symptoms of stomachache accompanied by nausea and panlibang (diarrhea). As the victim writhes in pain, the sounds of the tiktik, wakwak, and other strange noises are usually heard. The baylan can cure the inaswang (victim). Aside from the baylan, the aswang can cure the illness he himself caused, but the problem is how to persuade him to do so.
Aside from the empirical recognition of the role of the medical practitioners in the area, a cluster of beliefs based on the assumption that man is vulnerable to the powers of supernaturally-endowed persons exists. Contact with these persons, direct or indirect, may lead to illness.
Hiwit is the local term for sorcery. Only “specialists” have the power to cast hiwit over intended victims. Most baylans and herbolarios know how to “administer the hiwit”. A manughiwit is contacted when an individual desires to cause illness to an enemy. Most specialists do not undertake the job is the desire of the client is not backed up by a strong reason like the break-up of a marriage, engagement or promise, shameful defeat by an enemy or being cheated of one’s property. If death of the enemy is desired, a higher price is paid to the manugiwit. The initiator also goes to town and pays for a special mass to be said for the soul of the intended victim.
Sorcery is practiced through barang, awog, binsol, and lumay. Specific rituals and prayers are involved in these different means of casting spells over a victim. The barang are termites which the sorcerer instructs to fly and enter the body of the victim. Strings of hair are usually tied around the thorax of the insects. If blood sticks to the hair when the barang return, the sorcerer knows that the victim will soon die.
The awog is a spell cast over parts of a house, field or any other place through which intruders are likely to come to steal or do harm to the owner. Like a magnet, the power of the awog prevents the intruder from leaving the place; in this way, he will be caught.
The binsol is accomplished through the beak of the shrimp which is utilized to pierce the footprints of the intended victim and cause enlargement of the victim’s stomach.
To win the heart of a resistant girl, the lumay is employed by a rejected suitor. He can hire a manuglumay (a specialist in the trade) to win the girl for him. A girl can also win the favor of a boy through the help of the manuglumay. One way to accomplish the lumay is to steal a lock of hair or a piece of clothing of the intended victim. The lumay is burned and a decoction is made. The brew is mixed with the food of the intended victim without his knowledge. After taking in the food, the victim gets sick and the only person who can cure her is the suitor. Another method that makes the lumay effective is to tie a stolen lock of hair (of the intended victim) around the body of an insect known as langaw-langaw which inhabits a carabao-wallow. If the victim does not see the person who performed the lumay, he will become crazy.
Some common but minor ailments that are treated are described below.
Toothache. The healer secures an iron magnet and places this on top of the aching tooth. The power of the magnet is believed to pull out the elements that caused the pain. Sometimes, bones of the manwit (a species of green frogs that abounds in the rice fields) are secured and inserted into the tooth cavity to relieve the pain.
Worms. Several fruits of talong tabolate (a certain kind of eggplant) are sliced and mashed with a clean bottle. Once the mixture is ready it is cooked in coconut oil. While still warm, it is poulticed on the patient’s stomach. The heat produced by the poultice is believed to kill the parasites inside the stomach. Another way of preparing this medicine is by boiling the fruit. The brew is then given to the patient to drink.
Bad Breath. The heat generated by the liver and blood of the person is said to cause bad breath. The treatment necessarily involves “cooling off”. The patient is required to drink plenty of cold water. Meanwhile, roots of pandanus are secured and boiled. The brew is placed in an uncovered container and left overnight in the open for the evening dew to cool. For medication, the patient is made to gargle and take the medicine three times a day.
Palamanog or swelling of the body. The palamanog is said to be caused by long exposure to water or mud. Farmers suffer from this kind of illness especially during the planting season. The best cure is body massage, specially swelling of the legs, with juice from pounded almaciga. The legs are treated in this way for three days within which time the patient is supposed to recover from the ailment.
Fever, Contingent upon the type suffered, fever is treated in several way. For ordinary fever, a mixture of powdered mongo beans and garlic is rubbed all over the patient’s body. A part of the concoction is mixed with warm water and given to the patient to drink. To induce sweating, leaves of the alibhon plant are poulticed over the patient’s forehead. It is believed that sweating relieves pain and eventually cures the sick individual.
Eyesores or timus-timus. For curing eyesores, bedbugs are pounded and mixed with oil and applied on the sore spot. Another kind of medication employs excreta of a red-feathered chicken. Foods to be avoided re shrimps, crabs, dried fish and vinegar with pepper. Drinking tuba while one is undergoing treatment is believed to cause relapse.
Menstrual pains. For menstrual pains, a concoction of boiled alibhon leaves is given to the woman to drink after every meal. In addition, pandacaque leaves are heated and while are still warm, they are applied on the patient’s buttocks. On the second day of treatment, albutra (licorice) bark is boiled and the brew is given to the patient to drink.
On the first day of menstruation, if the flow of blood is profuse the herbolario boils pomegranate peelings for a long time to strengthen the taste of the brew. The patient is made to drink the brew three times a day. If pomegranate peelings are not available, green peelings of young areca nuts are also used. A mixture of kamjunsil bark, pomegranate peelings and areca nuts are pounded, warmed and applied on the buttocks. The areca nuts are believed to stop the bleeding and the pain.
Inflammation of the testicles. The ailment is cured with the use of powdered ripe patani beans mixed with juice derived from fronds of the adgaw tree. Oil from lunga (sesame seeds) and the powdered excreta of a dove or a white dog are added to the ingredients and poulticed around the scrotum. If the malady is due to heat, alusiman leaves are gathered, mashed, and mixed with egg yoke and vinegar. A piece of cloth is soaked in the decoction and wound around the scrotum. Everytime the cloth gets dry, it is drenched with the medicine and repoulticed around the affected part.
Boils. Three stages of infection are recognized in boils. The first stage is the eruption of painful red spots. Leaves of the tomato plant are mashed and applied on them. The second stage is marked by the appearance of large inflamed spots. Leaves of alibutbut are pounded, mixed with oil and applied on the boils. The third stage is known as manugbuswang. The affected area is wide and accented at the center with a reddish pus. The sore is punctured and the pus is removed by running a piece of thread over the area. Powdered rice mixed with egg yolk and coconut oil is poulticed around the area.
Most illnesses in the community are believed by the people to be caused by environmental spirits. It is further believed that most events which happen in the place are due to the working of the spirits. Incidents of suicide, murder, accidents, quarrels and others, however, are not attributed to the workings of the supernatural beings. When the cause of a certain illness is not known and cannot be empirically proven by all available means, it is believed that the spirits are responsible for the malady. Whether the crises faced by the people are due to “natural’ or to “supernaturally controlled” circumstances, there are persons they turn to for the cure of their illness. These few individuals communicate with the spirits, foretell future events, recover lost object and divine the cases of a misfortune. These persons are important members of the group. They are specialists in traditional medical and religious problems. In fact, there seems to be no better way of understanding the dynamics of local magico-medical practices in the barrio than the study of the roles played by these persons in the community.
Manughilot. The manughilot is a specialist in sprains, bone dislocation, aching joints, and muscle strain. It takes a special skill and a “supernatural sanction” to become a manughilot. The supernatural sanction is revealed in a dream.
Partira. Local experts in childbirth and pediatric cases are called partira. There are no rules governing the sex of the partira, although almost of the active practitionners are females. As a traditional practice, the partira cannot become a baylan at the same time, although it is essential for a person to know the rudiments of herb medicine and minor medical rituals. Should a partira “encroach” upon other fields, she will lose her power and skill in child delivery.
The skill of the partira is acquired early in life either through assisting a relative who is a midwife or by being appointed by the spirits to perform the job. The requirement in becoming a partira involves a well-grounded knowledge of folk medicine and skill in hilot (massage). This knowledge is passed on from mother to daughter, grandmother to granddaughter, aunt to niece and uncle to nephew.
Baylan. The baylan is the most important person in Hiligaynon folk medicine. He is skilled both in medical practice and in magic rituals. He has knowledge concerning the engkanto and other environmental spirits. Baylan or mediums are either men or women believed to possess extra-ordinary powers to cure sickness, to exorcise evil spirits form the rice fields or out of the human body and to intercede with the good spirits concerning certain needs the people may want satisfied. Not everyone can become a baylan. To become one depends upon the supernatural being who has befriended the candidate and a sulundan (membership in the family of a baylan). The call of the supernatural being is known as rukut. The rukut comes with certain dreams that are followed by trembling fits after the person has awakened. After this experience, he begins to behave queerly and isolates himself. Two more things may happen to him. Either he becomes thin, or he develops muscles and extra-ordinary strength.
When an individual has been chosen by the spirits to become a medium, he undergoes training for “babaylanship” under a practicing baylan in the community. The practicing baylan normally charges a fee for the training including several cavans of rice, a number of bolos and a sum of money. The ritual to be performed after the training period pasts from seven months to a number of years and is known as tupad. After having learned the rudiments of herb medicine, ritual dances, esoteric chants and magic formulae, he journeys to a nearby cave on Good Friday for his charms. These charms are given by the engkanto who inhabits the caves, boulders, springs and underground tunnel.
Once the baylan has acquired powers from his charms, the same can be activated either directly for his own purposes or on behalf of his patients. When the community is faced with crises, he performs important rituals and chant local prayers. Sickness and malignant diseases are referred to him before these are brought to the attention of medical practitioners. He is likewise regarded as the only person who can communicate with the spirits. Consequently, he merits the respect of the people and any insult or injury may endanger one’s life. To mimic his work is likewise fatal.
Relationship between local specialists and modern doctors
Although most people agree that modern medicine is more effective in curing many their illnesses, the services of the modern doctors are seldom employed. The partira and baylan are preferred. Informant reveal that their partiality to local healers is guided not so much because of their lack of faith in the effectivity of modern medicines prescribed but by their trust in these people with whom they have established personal rapport. The problem is more socio-structural than traditional (or cultural), as others argue. Local specialists are viewed by the people as more accommodating than the medical practitioners.
In the community, the concept of “modesty” is very strong. An herbolario never examines a woman’s genitals. In fact, during child delivery he feels the child with his hand and never glances at the vagina. However, with a medical practitioner, the process of pre-natal or post0natal care involves the examination of the woman’s genitals and breasts. This practice is said to scandalize the people and makes the medical practitioners unpopular. It is clear that the cold impersonal treatment administered by medical health officer in the name of modernity and science is often the barrier that stands in the way of the effective implementation of health and sanitation programs, not the “superstitiousness” of the farmers as previously alleged. The herbolario is preferred by the people because he treats them like members of his own family or like human beings with specific needs and problems. To the farmers, illness is a community concern, not an individual preoccupation.
Although Hiligaynon villages have been exposed to modern medicine, they still consult folk healers when they are ill. The folk healers are consulted on matters connected with saw-id, and ailment attributed to the workings of evil spirits or spirits from the forest. To the people, there is no harm in consulting the folk healer; besides they do not want to be blamed for later consequences. However, when the ailment could not be cured, the help of a medical practitioner is sought.
As mentioned earlier, the aswang can inflict harm on the individual. A person who is sick due to the aswang is called nabugnohan sang aswang. For such an ailment, this medication is prescribed: seven pieces of manunggal vines are prepared, each piece equivalent to the distance from the thumb to the third finger. These are pounded, wrapped in banana leaves and heated. While these are heated, the items are closely watched as the aswang might change them or they might lose their curing power. After the manunggal has been heated, it is squeezed and the juice is taken. With this formula, a sign of the cross is made on the forehead, wrists, stomach, legs and soles of the patient. The wrapped manunggal is placed horizontally on the patient’s stomach. Also, seven pieces of cotton leaves are taken and these are poulticed on the patient’s forehead. Seven small pieces of ginger are rubbed on the different parts of the patient’s body and finally placed on the patient’s lubo-luboan (fontanel). After this, the folk healer blows through the seven pieces of ginger seven times and presses these once more against the lubo-luboan. This method of cure is called locally as paluy-a.
Ailments caused by the spirits of the forest are cured through a ritual called butbot. The folk healer performs this rite by removing objects which cause discomfort from the affected area without inflicting any wound. When the healer performs the butbot, she bites a buyo or ikmo and feels the patient’s pulse. Then, he examines the affected area, and when he feels a lump, he puts the ikmo over it and slowly pulls the contents of the lump which are believed to have been placed there by the fairy. The contents vary from small stones to twigs.
The kalag or patay (spirits of dead) can also inflict harm on the living. The victim feels cold or has chills, locally termed harumhom.
In many villages, people believe that a sick man should not be visited by menstruating women and those who have attended wakes for the dead. This is to avoid being inflicted by an illness called limas. Should this not be observed, the sick become seriously ill. He suffers from hard breath, feels uncomfortable and dizzy, a phenomenon locally described as naglain ang ginhawa (suffers from discomfort in breathing). The cure for such an ailment, in case it is inflicted on him by a person he meets in a funeral wake, is a rite in which the sick man is smudged with the hair of the dead man. In case the limas is caused by a menstruating woman, menstrual blood from used napkins or pad is secured and placed in the tuob. The patient is made to inhale the smoke coming from the tuob.
The tuob is also employed in homes where a member is sick with tipdas (measles). The tuob is placed at the doorsteps and everyone who enters the house is made to walk over the tuob in order to free the patient of limas.
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Landa, Jocano. “The Hiligaynon: An Ethnography of family and community life in Western Visayas Region”.