BOOK REVIEW: WAY OF THE ANCIENT HEALER: Sacred Teachings from the Philippine Ancestral Traditions
by Rose Churma
In the book’s cover, Deepak Chopra writes that the author “brilliantly blends the art and science of the sacred teachings of Filipino traditional healing to help people find their path toward health and happiness.”
The author, who is a descendant of a long line of Filipino healers, blends historical research with detailed descriptions of the spiritual belief system that forms the foundation of the Filipino healing tradition.
The author writes about traditional healing as it is practiced based on the author’s ancestral lineage and the shared experiences and knowledge of other respected practitioners known to him, but also interspersed with legends and myths.
Since the practices are based on the author’s experience and lineage, the terms and methods described are common in the amianan or northernmost part of the Philippines—specifically the Ilocanos and their neighboring communities.
The book has a lengthy introduction that describes his early years and the influences from his ancestors who were healers themselves. It also describes the Philippines before its western colonization and the impact of neighboring cultures.
The first chapter describes the origins of Filipino ancestral healing while the second chapter expands on the shamanic and spiritual practices and beliefs such as the significance of the anito to the messages received through dreams, and others. The third chapter is on amulets and other symbols of power including spiritual paraphernalia such as stone amulets, metal ornaments such as the linglingo, and textiles.
In the segment on textiles as used in rituals, he describes the various regional traditional textile weaving called inabel in the amianan region. These woven textiles had a variety of usage from clothing, boat sails—including those used for the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade.
The textiles are also used as blankets or ules, used as a covering while awake or asleep —and also used to cover the body in death, or for the deceased to sit on it, or hung overhead “causing malevolent spirits to become powerless.” Some of the blanket designs have the optical illusions of the alipugpog or kusikos (whirlwind and whirlpool optical illusions) that give the effect of swirling circles that “causes dizziness to malevolent spirits who are then incapable of attack.”
This was also the design used for the boat sails since this design was believed to summon or appease the winds and water spirits for sailing.
The author’s approach is very anecdotal, sharing stories from his observations and experience as well as others who share his beliefs.
A healing arts therapist and certified holistic health practitioner, he is descended from both maternal and paternal bloodlines of Filipino healers. He runs a private clinical practice specializing in Filipino Ablon (a hands-on healing modality) and Indian Ayurvedic therapies.
In essence, the author wrote this book “to help heal the aftermath of a colonial mentality and to bring Filipinos, wherever they are, back to their roots so that the nation can pick up where it left off and develop from its original path.”
ROSE CRUZ CHURMA is a retired architect who now has the time to do the things she always wanted to do: read books, write about them and encourage others to write. Her online bookstore, Kalamansi Books and Things (facebook.com/kalamansibooks), promotes Filipiniana books and publications by Filipino-Americans. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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