What is Hilot?

Dr. Bibiano Fajardo performs Hilot diagnosis on a child.
Dr. Bibiano Fajardo checks for thermal changes along the baby’s back, a traditional way of determining imbalances.

Though it is an integral part of Philippine culture, the mention of Hilot evokes different reactions, depending on the person’s background and experience. There are people who swear by the healing benefits of Hilot, while others view Hilot  with skepticism. Still others view Hilot as just another way to relax at the spa.

But what is Hilot, really?

Dr. Bibiano Fajardo, who has been practicing Hilot for the past 40 years, explains that Hilot is aprocess that brings changes to the body through physical manipulation, energy manipulation, food, and herbs.”  

Contrary to the prevailing concept of Hilot as just another massage technique, Hilot is actually so much more than  massage–it is an entire system for healing. The hilot strokes that most people think are all there is to Hilot, actually just form just one part of it.  Apart from the physical manipulation of muscles and bones, Hilot also has an energy healing component, and goes hand-in-hand with food and herbs to restore the individual back to health.

Hilot healing encompasses the whole person. Hilot does not only deal with physical ailments, but also looks into the patient’s mental, emotional, social, and spiritual aspects. The main goal of Hilot is not just to eradicate disease; its purpose is for the patient to be in constant equilibrium within himself.

According to the Hilot tradition, a healthy person is one who is in good physical condition,  has a clear mind and calm emotions, and lives in peaceful co-existence with all of creation.

As the Philippines’ own indigenous system of healing, Hilot has its own principles, as well as health and healing concepts, that “is far more comprehensive, and encompassing than other ancient, and new healing modalities.”

With the dominance of western form of medicine, Hilot has been pushed to the sidelines, especially in urban areas where there are state-of-the-art facilities, and people are willing and able to pay a premium for conventional treatment.  But especially in far-flung areas where doctors are hard to come by, Filipinos continue to depend on Hilot for various health needs, and Filipino traditional healers–albularyos and manghihilots–continue to perform the roles they have done for their communities since time immemorial.

However, as interest in holistic healing grows, Hilot is also regaining popularity–a very positive development, given the wealth of wisdom and wellness that Hilot can impart to today’s highly stressed-out individuals, some of whom have come to the realization that conventional medicine is no panacea for all of their ills.   

For more information on Hilot, please refer to the book Hilot: The Science of the Ancient Filipino Healing Arts,  authored by Bibiano S. Fajardo, Ph.D. and Ma. Aleli V. Pansacola, published by Anvil Publishing, Inc.

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