Is Hilot just a type of massage?

Karisse Alzola of ATHAG demonstrates Hilot at the Philippine Trade Training Center.
Karisse Alzola of ATHAG demonstrates Hilot at the Philippine Trade Training Center.

People who are not familiar with Hilot often think that Hilot is just another type of massage. After all, that is basically what Hilot looks like. On the surface, the manghihilot manipulates muscles–very similar, it seems, to what they do at the spa.

However, people who have grown up with, or have encountered authentic Hilot, know that this is not the case.

Traditionally, Hilot is known for its therapeutic benefits–Hilot is used to heal. Anybody who has experienced Hilot, or who lives within the vicinity where there is a well-known manghihilot knows that the people who seek out Hilot are not there for relaxation. People who go to the manghihilot are seeking relief from pain, illness, or other discomforts.

The major difference between Hilot and massage, especially as it is understood in the Philippine context, is that massage is mainly for relaxation purposes. Massage emphasizes the use of a sequence of pre-determined strokes, which is applied to all clients. Hilot, on the other hand, follows basic natural principles and tailors the healing session to each individual’s unique healing needs.

The actual experience of Hilot, (even the more modern Hilot for Wellness) can also be worlds away from your soothing massage at the spa. Authentic Hilot can in fact, be painful, because the manghihilot often works directly on the problematic parts of the body. But with a good manghihilot, you can be assured that afterwards, you will feel relief. Depending on the problem, a few more sessions might be needed, but Hilot is very effective, surprising even skeptics with its speed and efficacy.

Hilot has been around for a long, long time. It had been practised by our ancestors long before the Spaniards came.Before there were even doctors in the Philippines, there were albularyos and manghihilots ministering to early Filipinos’ sprains and broken bones, attending to childbirth, and preparing herbs to treat imbalances in the body.

Hilot is not just massage–it is our ancestor’s system of healing.

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

14 thoughts on “Is Hilot just a type of massage?

  1. Very interesting! I’d love to find a genuine Hilot practitioner here in South Florida to experience the healing art myself- Lord knows I can use it!

    1. Hi! Thank you for your interest in Hilot. If ever we find ourselves (or if someone we know is there) in South Florida, we’ll be sure to let you know. 🙂

      Have a great day!

  2. Very helpful article. I am interested if there are written techniques to perform Hilot, as this is already offered as a short term course here in the Philippines. For research and for those who wanted to learn the technique.

    1. Hi Apple,

      Thank you for visiting our website.
      We have not posted written instructions on Hilot techniques because learning Hilot requires face-to-face instruction and actual experience by the student. Unlike massage which is just focused on the strokes, there is so much to learn in traditional Hilot, because it is a system of healing. Written instructions also pose the risk of being interpreted differently by different people; and we want to avoid any misinterpretations.

      We also want to stimulate interest in Hilot and support traditional Hilot practitioners. For those who want to do research on Hilot, or want to learn, we encourage them to approach traditional Hilot practitioners in the area. The best way to appreciate Hilot and learn it is through a highly-skilled and experienced practitioner. 🙂

    1. Hi Ben,

      Thank you for your interest in traditional Hilot.

      At the moment, our office is only in Pasig City, and it is where our skilled manghihilot are. If you are interested in traditional Hilot, you may want to visit our office—we are just in Brgy. Kapitolyo, about 10 minutes from EDSA-Shaw crossing. Please call and set an appointment first before you come.

      Thank you.

  3. Can u recommend auntie authentic manghihilot for my mom. Y rec is 619 209-9430 in Ventura county. Than in advance

    1. Hi Pamelle,

      Thank you for your interest in Hilot.
      We are sorry however, our office is just here in the Philippines and as yet we have no affiliates in your area.

      Maybe you could try asking Filipino communities there, someone might know a practitioner there. Thank you and good luck!

  4. To the Administrator permission to share comment about Hilot in the Philippines:…..Hilot in the Philippines is an old traditional medicine talent of Filipinos without proper education or training taken in school but only inherited from parent or grandparent who is previously practicing hilot during his lifetime. Hilot or Manghihilot in our place in Western Visayas, Region VI, is not a Midwife. A Hilot or Manghihilot is a person who has a talent in Alternative Medicine including the used of medicinal herbs in curing or healing illnesses. Hilot covers a very wide or different method of helping the body to repair for healing or curing sickness or illnesses due to physical injuries or deformities in the skeletal system, nervous system or even in the circulatory system of the human body, such as (newly) bone dislocation, fractured, stroke victim, paralysis, cough, headache, bells palsy, lockjaw, dizziness, migraine, vertigo, fever, etc. Hilot helps locate or fixing the dislocated and fractured to its proper places, and help the nerves and blood vessels to repair the body. For those who are newly suffering or experiencing these kind of illnesses we invite you to come to our place to try our way of helping people in the field of traditional medicine. Thank you, God Bless and more power! Admin.

  5. I want to have an hilot done in my residence here in Lardizabal St., Sampaloc, Manila. Can you recomrmend one?

    1. Hi Albert,

      Thank you for your interest in Hilot.
      At the moment, we only do Hilot in our office in Pasig. If you would like to try Hilot at our office, you may call us for an appointment at (0933) 810 0014; (0905) 415 7087. Otherwise, you can also try asking around if there is a traditional manghihilot near you. Just make sure that he or she is practicing traditional Hilot, not the Hilot at the spa, which is different. Thank you!

  6. Hi admin do you have any office in Laguna area? I personally patronage traditional hilot, long before we have some realiable and well-versed manghihilot in our province in Bicol and very skillful in curing body pains in any form. when I was here in manila until I moved in laguna I never heard of a reliable manghihilot. I even tried a lot of massage in various spa’s but it didn’t met the comfort I was looking to cure muscle and body pains brought by the so called “lamig sa katawan” and it really felt bad to the extent that early in the morning it is hard for me to rise from bed due to body pains. hope you you can recommend some hilot in the nearby area.

    1. Hi Edwin,

      Thank you for supporting traditional Hilot. We are sorry however, we do not have an office in Laguna.

      Have you tried asking the people in your community if they know a traditional Hilot there? We hope you can find one near you soon. Hilot is still the best for body pains.

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