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Etymology and Alternative Names
The word arbularyo derives from herbolario, a Spanish word meaning herbalist.
Alternative Tagalog names include Hilot (/hee-lot/), which literally means massage in Tagalog and Manggagamot (/mang-gâ-gâ-môt/) (trans. - "person who heals")
Manggagawa (/mang-gâ-gâ-wâ/)(trans. - "person who makes") -- a term found in both the Tagalog and Bisaya languages—is also used, particularly in regions in the Visayas (although this term has other connotations not found in the word albularyo).
Arbularyo, another variation of the word albularyo, is a misspelling often brought about by mispronunciation and is technically incorrect.
Role and Functions
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The Albularyo in History
During the Pre-Hispanic periods, the function of an albularyo was part of the functions of a Babaylan, a shamanic spiritual leader of the community.
On the onset of the Colonial era, the suppression of the Babaylans and the native Filipino pagan religion gave rise to the albularyo. By exchanging the native pagan prayers and spells with Catholic oraciones and Christian prayers, the albularyo was able to syncretize the ancient mode of healing with the new religion.
As time progressed, the albularyo became a more prominent figure in most rural areas in the Philippines. Lacking access to scientific medical practices, rural Filipinos trusted the albularyos to rid them of common (and sometimes believed to be supernatural) sicknesses and diseases.
However, the albularyo's role was slowly shadowed with the rise of modern medical facilities. Urbanization gave the masses access to more scientific treatments, exchanging the chants and herbs of the albularyos with the newer technologies offered by the medical field.
Still, albularyos flourish in many rural areas in the Philippines where medical facilities are still expensive and sometimes inaccessible.
An Albularyo's Toolkit
Most albularyos use herbs, alum, coconut oil, and other substances in their healing practices. In many cases, albularyos will also employ various prayers, chants and "supernatural" cures—especially for cases involving supernatural causes.
- Hilot, the Filipino massage therapist
- Kulam, or Filipino witchcraft
- Pagtatawas, or Filipino ritual for the diagnosis of illnesses
- Folk medicine
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