Hilot therapy – the ancient Philippine art of healing

Hilot therapy is a traditional folk medical practice. A practicing hilot (mangikhilot) treats the whole person, not just his illnesses. Hilot includes various alternative medical methods – such as herbal medicines, chiropractic and acupressure. Since ancient times, Hilot has been used as an effective treatment system.

Hilot identifies the human body as a small universe or microcosm. The doctrine considers that the Universe consists of primary elements of Fire, Water, Air, and earth. The human body also shares the same components. Each piece corresponds to certain biological parts of the body. An imbalance causes diseases in some aspects of the body. The Hilot Therapist, called Mangihilot, like any other medical practitioner, has many techniques that he can use to correct the “imbalance” of the elements in his patient’s body. This includes treating them with natural/organic medicines. It primarily comprises various herbs and fruits that are now scientifically proven to treat and cure specific ailments. Practitioners of Hilot Therapists are widely known for their extensive botanical knowledge. They use various plants to fight diseases. Some of these include lemongrass and bamboo roots to neutralize toxins and excess fat; guava leaves as an antibacterial agent; boiled sweet potatoes (Camote) to cleanse intestinal toxins; and many others currently accepted as effective natural remedies.

In addition to a deep knowledge of herbs, the art of Hilot is widely recognized for its massage technique, which relieves simple muscle pains, increases blood flow in our body, and even helps with mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system. According to the concept of Init-Lamig (hot and cold), Mangihilot can influence the flow of neuroelectric energy in the human body. This natural electrical energy within us is responsible for the mechanical functions of organs and muscles, the conversion of food into energy, and the complex communication network of our central nervous system. Healers use techniques ranging from acupressure, chiropractic, reflexology, and Benthos to distribute our nerve electricity to all relevant body areas properly. In terms of diagnosis, mangihilots rely mainly on general knowledge regarding their patients’ movements, skin color/quality, pulse readings, and sometimes through their phrenology (measurement of the human skull). Mangihilots must be careful observers for outward signs of imbalance in their patients. In addition, they use a practical but systematic way of knowing the patient’s illness from the structure, shape, color, and consistency of feces, urine, sweat, and other bodily fluids.

Mangihilots believe that, unlike modern medicine, which treats only the physical body, hilot includes an internal method that heals a person from the inside out, implementing a holistic approach and remaining true to their tradition, that they cure not only the disease but the person himself. Balancing the four elements that affect a person’s physical and spiritual aspects is vital.

Mangihilot intuitively scans the body with the touch of a hand to diagnose energetically imbalanced areas. With this information, the healer will focus on areas that need to be worked on to provide balance and relief. Each session is unique due to the focus on treating problem areas.

Hilot is not the typical massage that a person would look for as a relaxation form of sensory therapy. For this reason, you are unlikely to find this type of massage on a typical spa massage menu. Its goal is to identify problems in the body and correct them. A Hilot session can lead to stress relief and relaxation of tight muscles, but the massage itself may be less relaxing. It causes some discomfort in deep tissues. It’s about getting to the source of the pain and regaining balance.

To provide information about the imbalance of their mangihilots, scores will be given to you on questions, or there will be a checklist if the client expresses concerns or complaints in total. You may be described as passing urination or the duration/irregularity of stools. The doctor will check the pulse (strength, weakness, etc.) and will be evaluated to determine which of the four elements (air, earth, fire, or water) is missing or predominating.

Hilot Healing has a spiritual element in its roots. The Mangihilot repeats a humble ceremony or ritual before starting treatment, seeking help from their ancestors. This ritual is conceived as a reflection, as well as a tribute.

Hilot’s therapies include herbal treatments, massage, cupping, and stress management. The tools that can be included in the Chiropractic treatment are coconut oil or coconut, banana leaves, initial on body strips as a cleansing antiseptic, and various massage devices to help restore pressure in body tissues and stretch tense muscles.

A unique form of massage is stone massage. The master individually chooses the type and size of stones for massage, their shape, and temperature (stones can be either heated or cooled). The stones come into contact with particular points on the patient’s body, leading to the expansion or narrowing of blood vessels, having the desired effect on the body.

Mangihilot also includes healing the relationship between man and nature and synchronizing their minds, emotions, and actions to prevent conflicts that can cause chaos within themselves. More importantly, true healing is impossible without rethinking our values and embracing the path of goodness. Achieving a harmonious connection with both universal and natural law will not only make a person healthy. Still, it will also provide answers to understanding how we are all connected, being part of something greater.

You can experience Hilot healing treatments for yourself by visiting Siquijor Island as part of a 15-day Philippine Islands itinerary.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not replace advice, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed physician. You should seek medical attention for any health concerns and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or changing your regimen.

Source: Hilot: The Science of the Ancient Filipino Healing Arts by Bibiano S. Fajardo and Ma Aleli V. Pansacol

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