Albularyo or herbolaryo: which is which?

When we hear the word Albularyo what the common Filipino see in their mind is Mang Kepweng. Check the video trailer below.

Mang Kepweng is an Albularyo or medicine man that he gained his power to heal through his Magic Bandana worn on his head. It was given to him as a reward for his good deeds. An Alburayo is an expert on medicinal herbs as well as use of words or orasyon to affect cure. In the movie Mang Kepweng, the healer is shown to have power over the spirit world on which he communicates with spiritual beings and entities that possibly attack humanity by inflicting illness.

Now-a-days, we are seeing some resolution being drafted to call the Albularyo as Herbolaryo which the original term was derived. In this post, I will share to you our stand about the resolution of changing of the name.

Indeed it was true that the term Albularyo derives from the word Herbolaryo which means to be a person who is knowledgeable in using herbs to affect cure. But during the pre colonial times this term was not known among the common people because the name Albularyo or Herbolario are a word that been used by Spaniards to describe the person who uses plants, roots, leaves and barks with medicinal properties to affect cure to a person who has illness. And our local people doesn’t call the practitioner as Albularyo but Mananambal instead.

What is the Difference between an Albularyo/ Herbularyo to a Mananambal?

Before we talk about the difference of both terms, I want to emphasize first its similarity. Both Albularyo and Mananambal works with Herbal Medicine. The Albularyo or Herbolaryo are the Herbalist who have studied herbs and their medicinal properties and the process on which they can apply herbs to affect cure on illness of a certain individual; whereas the Mananambal are herbalist too which they learn the medicinal and magical properties of the herbs taught to them by their elders, observation to nature, and guidance by the spirits.

We can see that the name Albularyo is a name given by the Spaniards. So technically the name albularyo is unknown to our ancestors prior to the colonization of Spain to our country. The name Mananambal is older than then name Albularyo and their knowledge on herbs are most sought by our ancestors because modern medicine arrived only when the Spaniards came. The first Hospital in the Philippines was in Cebu established by the Spaniards on 1565. At that time Hospitals were called as Pamulnganan which the locals knows as house of Medicine which is derived from the local word Bulung which originally means as Medicine.

We can see here that over time, the Pamulnganan term is now unknown to us in modern time as we already have been accustomed to the words we adopt to call the house of medicine as Ospital or Hospital. And the word Bulong has changed it’s meaning which originally means as medicine but now Bulong becomes a word to describe what in English is called as Whisper. This is why we also know that Albularyo is an expert in Bulong or now they call it as Orasyon as prayer or magic words that could provide cure. Our knowledge on the Ancestral Healing Arts became complicated as the changes that been implemented during the time of colonization intentionally erase our memories so that we could embrace what they are giving to us.

But Now, this is our Mission in Luntiang Aghama through Hilot Academy of Binabaylan- we will serve as a window to bring back the memories of the past in to the present not only through information but also we make that information to animate as we can experience it today and preserve it for the future generations to come.

To make it clear, Albularyo or Herbolaryo is a Spanish name that used to describe a person who uses herbs to affect cure. They are the Herbalist who took Herbology in studying the effects of medicinal herbs. It means that in studying plants they observe academic method in accordance to the modern standards and procedures implemented by an modern educational institute. Whereas the Mananambal are a traditional herbalist who learn herbs that been passed down to them by their elders, observing the behavior of plants in nature, communicates with them and as guidance by the spirits. Mananambal are not only a herbalist but they are also a spirit medium.

So in Hilot Binabaylan, we do not just treat the body of a person but we also treat the spirit. So in using herbs- we do not just use the herbs to treat the physical body of the person but also we communicate with the herbs in order to heal also the spirit of the person.

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