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Arbularyo (Tagalog pronunciation: [ärbuˈlɐɾjo̞]), also spelled as albularyo, is a Filipino term for a witch doctor, folk healer or medicine men.



The word arbularyo derives from herbolario, a Spanish word meaning herbalist.

Alternative Filipino names include Hilot (/hee-lot/), which literally means massage in Filipino and Manggagámot (trans. - "person who heals").

Manggagaway (/mang-gâ-gâ-wây/)(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).

"Albularyo" is the common pronunciation and spelling used in Tagalog, and is usually translated to English as a "witch doctor".

Role and Functions[edit]

An Albularyo is a "witch doctor" commonly found in the more rural areas of the Philippines who heals people using herbs and traditional practices such as hilot or massage. Their patients are usually common folk who have trouble affording legitimate medical services, or those who are very traditional and/or superstitious.


During the pre-historic period, the function of an arbularyo was fulfilled by the Babaylan, a shamanic spiritual leader of the community.

At the beginning of the Spanish Era in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the suppression of the Babaylans and native Filipino animist beliefs gave rise to the albularyo. By exchanging the native pagan prayers and spells with Catholic oraciones and prayers, the arbularyo was able to syncretise the ancient mode of healing with the new religion.

As time progressed, the arbularyo became a more prominent figure in most rural areas in the Philippines. Lacking access to scientific medical practices, rural Filipinos trusted the arbularyos to rid them of common (and sometimes believed to be supernatural) sicknesses and diseases.

However, the arbularyo'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 arbularyos with the newer technologies offered by the medical field.

Still, arbularyos flourish in many rural areas in the Philippines where medical facilities are still expensive and sometimes inaccessible.


Most arbularyos use herbs, alum, coconut oil, and other substances in their healing practices. In many cases, arbularyos will also employ various prayers, chants and "supernatural" cures—especially for cases involving supernatural causes.

See also[edit]