Monday, May 24, 2010

The Healer Guy

"There is a man outside who has a little book that tells fortunes..." one of the nurses told me. I looked up from my reading, my curiosity piqued. I grinned, and asked "Really now, where is he?"

"He's outside, Doc, even JR (one of the male aides) is thee, reading from his little book too."

My curiosity got the better of me and I went outside to the ER entrance where I saw that quite a number of people had gathered. Not enough to crowd, but just enough to for me to realize that a health discussion was ongoing. In this sleepy town's hospital on a slow night, conversations were struck quite easily.

As it turned out, the father of a teenage patient was a Mananambal (which means "traditional/native" healer in my dialect.). He had brought along his "Karaang Napta" , his baggie of "healing" oils, one of which was the size of a bottle of liniment with rolled-up strips of crimson japanese paper and matchsticks. The rolled-up paper supposedly contained "powerful" Latin phrases/prayers, according to him (where the oil was from, or how it was prepared, I never got to ask or find out.)

So anyway, I saw him place some of this oil in a glass vial and hand it to one of the patients, who received it in his left hand (which ironically enough, had a saline lock (a.k.a. a "heplock") in it.). Before he did this, though, I  noticed that he had uncapped the vial and whispered something into it. I tried to take a picture with my phone's camera, but I didn't quite catch it because he got self-conscious.)

Whispers. May 15,2010.

The healer was a guy in his early forties, slight, small, and had a slightly effeminate air about him. I remember his son because earlier that night, i had to reassure him that when we inserted the IV into the young man, we took the needle out, and what was left was a plastic catheter through which the fluids passed through. He had been scared and had earlier thought his hand was swollen because it wouldn't move, he was actually scared of "moving" the needle. He wanted to have his IV line discontinued because of that, thank you very much.
I smiled at the thought, sometimes it is just hard to convince people to believe in certain things when they have had their own perceptions in mind (which, in these parts, is usually "old wives' tales" and folklore.).
Alternative medicine, from my point of view is alright, as long as the other advocate can tell me why and answer "how so?", and not insist that it is way better than western medicine...and would totally forego with the medicines prescribed to him by his doctor (who, in this case, is myself. :-)) Western Medicine is not perfect, that granted, yet studies have been done about it, and before it gets into the mainstream, innumerable hours of research have been spent testing it beforehand. In my opinion, that is more sound than just relying on testimonials of famous people when judging how effective something is. The print on the label, which goes, " No approved therapeutic claims" is a turn-off, really. Anyway, that's my two cents' worth, on with story...
At that little "gathering", I was merely a listener, an observer, eager to listen to what the manghihilot had to say. I had no intentions of lambasting, or being combative or any of that sort. I was simply interested.
I was sitting across him, watching how he would occasionally look into his baggie and check (or was it "consult"?) his bottles of oil. Someone started saying that he told fortunes as well, by reading palms. The guy said that he could both read palms, and interpret fortunes...and what he gleaned from a person's palm patterns would most surely correspond to what his "karaang napta" would say about the person's character.
"Read Doctora's palm", suggested one of the persons present there.
I hesitated a bit because I didn't want what he had to say to be suggestive and be a subtle subconscious "guide" later on how I decided things. I am not a believer that a person's destiny is in his palms alone, but in psychology, as we all know, the power of suggestion is indeed a force to reckon with. 

Well, what the heck, it was just in fun anyway.

Getting my palm read. May 15, 2010

He took my hand, and looked at the lines carefully. He pored over the lines and the cracks and gave a deep "Hmm...." I smiled, and asked, "Why, what do you see?" In the dialect, he said that I was going to have trouble with my first baby...but I'm eventually going to have three to four babies in the future anyway. I might need to get extra special care when I'm pregnant with my first baby, and to avoid any further complications of this, I would need to have a line manually drawn into my hand. And by manually, I took it that he meant that someone had to manually scratch a new line into my palm using a sharp object, like, I don't know, a KNIFE maybe? :-p

Hell no.  (He took out his bottle of oil with the paper strips at this point.)

He also said that I was a hardworking person, and that given the chance (and resources), I could accomplish a lot, and possibly whatever it is I set my mind to.
Feeling that it was a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, I smilingly asked him to tell me "juicy" stuff. I jokingly asked, "Hey, don't forget to tell me about my love life, sir...what do my lines have to say about that?" (The young nurses laughed, they knew I was single.)
He then flips my hand over and looks around, then finally pauses to feel the creases and folds of my right thumb.

"Men are attracted to you, they find you approachable, and you make friends easily...Sometimes they even claim that you were their girlfriend, even if that wasn't the case.." he said.(At this I laughed a little, and wondered where it could have all been coming from.)

"You go for personality rather than looks..." he said. To this, I just smiled. This was a general idea, i presumed. Women were supposed to just be interested in personality, but I've always been interested in guys who had both. *grin*

I was wishing he'd tell me more about what he'd seen in my hands lines, but i didn't get anything more out of him, except for the little tidbit about how, when I loved, I loved truly and deeply...and that I had a good future ahead in the romance department. 


And that he liked the "configuration" on my thumb.


While he was reading one of the nurses' hands, I perused his "Karaang Napta", a ratty booklet roughly about the size of a short bond paper folded in half. It was worn from being folded and stuck (and taken out repeatedly) in the back pocket of somene's denim jeans.
It was a lot like astrology, and had a horoscope/personality quiz-type format, where, initially, you locate which astrological sign you represented by looking at which your birthdate corresponded with. I did a double-take when i found out that I was an "Aquarius." :-p

The stuff listed about my "identity as an Aquarian Child" was pretty general. However, what tickled me pink was the fact that it even had an entry about pasmo (Tagalog: Pasma). The general idea was that if you didn't eat at the right time, or, if you took a shower right away after doing heavy work (or after not getting enough sleep), you're likely to end up with aches and pains, and tremors.

Mine said, "Be mindful of getting enough rest, and washing yourself at appropriate times." I don't believe in pasmo, generally, and my mother has always been on my case about this. She admonishes this to me from time to time. I just laugh it off mostly, and say that I'll worry about it later. She says that I'll laugh all I want now that I'm young and healthy, but then I'll only feel the effects when I'm old.

(Ouch, Ma.)


After a while, I excused myself to go on evening rounds and had to smile as I mused on how the people here were quite ambivalent at medical care. Yes, they do come to the hospital to consult and get admitted, but before coming, they DO still turn to their "friendly neighborhood traditional healer" for initial care. And even when they are admitted, some mananambal or other always comes in for a visit.

It's hard to undo, of course, so I have come to the compromise that I do my thing, but explain to them that since they are in the hospital, they have to follow what we say here. Patient education is key, of course, but with years and years of the subculture of the Mananambal well-ingrained into their daily lives, I seriously am going to have to work with it. It is important to be open to alternative forms, and besides, there are things in life that Modern Medicine just can't explain.
Bottomline is, I say, take in everything with a pinch of salt. :-)

have a nice day.

. ~ S

P.S. Later that night, on late rounds, I saw the same mananambal guy giving one of the patients a massage, the room smelled of coconut oil. I guess some things will never change...  


  1. "You go for personality rather than looks..." he said.

    buti na lang he didn't say "You go for guys with nice shoes". hehe.

    have a great week doc! i'll see you in 3 weeks. hopefully. :D

  2. I think the only traditional remedy I've tried was a "mustard plaster" my grandmother made for me when I had bronchitis. It went on my chest to draw out...something, not sure what. And it stunk!

    I'm like you, taking things like that with a pinch of salt. It can be fun and you certainly got a fun palm reading. Of course, I think I might have come up with some of the same comments. =)

    I had my palm read once. The lady told me I had a long life ahead of me (rare for my family) and that I would be married twice--one would be short (nothing serious) and the other would go on for years. She wouldn't tell me which would come first! LOL

  3. @marley: he sounded like Zenaida Seva, if you know what I mean...very non-committal. ok, give me a call, what is this vacay for? oh, and about the shoes...haha. if he said that, bilib na ko sa iya powers.

  4. @Rick: yep, I'm not a big fan of traditional medicine, but i've had some experience with it. One time, my mother took me to this old guy who was supposed to be really good. I remember being in a room (i was maybe 4 or 5) and then this bald guy would blow bubbles through a tube into a glass with some water and a round piece of rock...or was it a pebble or a seed? Anyway, because of that, i was almost never sick, nor landed in the hospital when i was a kid. just once., maybe there is something to it.

  5. interesting account. well, bravo to you for being brave enough to risk the subconscious suggestive forces of palmistry. It is very true. The very first time i had my palms read i had experienced its subconscious suggestive nature for a while. and then i guess when i did get my palm read a few more times with almost contradictory reviews among a few of them i lost that suggestive prick in my mind. Being a hard core skeptic i usually would discount or totally ignore most of these claims. But it always fascinated me. I dunno whether you do this. When i travel i like talking to the locals. try to understand about their local gods, spirits and native medics. I think these things gives and insight to their mindset. and as you keep moving from village to village you'd notice these small ideas being morphed, and recreated as something new again.
    but i like old school remedies. most of them have this feel good factor attached to it, as long as i am not allergic to it or it isn't toxic. i would give it a shot. My grandmother had a couple of such things. coffee with salt, pepper and the petals of some flower i don't know. and with something else too. and you have to drink it in one shot. it suppose to have been good for a soar throat and cold. it was something i had tried as a child. interested in the formulae to make one for yourself?

  6. It's amazing how rich our folklore can be when it comes to this, no? :)

    We also have a "manghihilot" in the neighborhood and people consult her with their ailments first before going to the hospital. Or sometimes, if doctors cannot seem to find anything wrong with them, the manghihilot massages them and the afflictions go away o.0

    I have never had my palm read before as I'm scared. Must be interesting, though :)

    PS: Please don't hate me when I say I do believe in fairies :D

  7. @rick: how long a life were you talking about? what usually happens?

  8. @Nitin: That's cool, i like talking to the locals as well. I like the local color. :-) My English teacher used to call it the Bucolic color.

  9. @Krissy: Yeah, people go to the manghihilot a lot...i wrote a little something about that before. We used to be brought to a Manghililot when we were younger. He lived in the hills, a good walk away.We used to call him Lolo Blas and always, always, he'd rub us down with coconut oil. worked like a charm most of the time.

    Maybe we need the comfortable placebo effect of it all, di ba?

    oh, and, go fairies! :-)

  10. thanks for the comment over at my place -" the songs are in a couple of languages, telegu, kannada, malayalam, and then i guess telegu again :P... hehe.."

  11. doc, it's my niece's birthday. i'll be in town for a week. :D

  12. well... they say that the history of medicine is really just the history of the placebo effect. ofcourse double blind studies belie this statement. it's still catchy though.

  13. @doc TK: yeah, it IS catchy, but it does make us sound like quacks, anyway. :-)



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