BALAYAN, Batangas- Hilot was one of the traditional practices highlighted during the visit of Ateneo de Manila University’s Cultural Laboratory to this town on April 30, 2014. Thirteen students, uniformly clad in blue shirts, gathered together to listen and take notes as longtime manghihilot and albularyo Dr. Bibiano “Boy” Fajardo explained the ancient Hilot healing tradition of the Philippines.
Within the historic interiors of Casa Grande (the Lopez family’s ancestral home which has been turned into a museum) Dr. Fajardo gave the students a concise backgrounder on Hilot, explained how it is different from massage, and described the roles of the healers who traditionally performed it. Further, Dr. Fajardo introduced the students to the science behind Hilot healing and revealed what Filipino folkloric creatures such as the duwende (dwarves), diwata (fairies), impernales (imps), and sirena (mermaids) have to do with the ailments suffered by the patients going to the albularyo for relief. During the session, Dr. Fajardo also shared stories of respected traditional healers in Batangas whom he learned from. The students, most of whom had experienced Hilot while growing up, asked a lot of questions during the open forum that followed.
When the allotted time for Hilot was up, the group trooped to another part of the museum for another interesting part of Batangas culture—the thick, rich, “Tsokolate Eh” made from locally grown and roasted cacao beans. As the students sat around in a circle, savouring the experience of sipping delectable Batangas hot chocolate, Mr. Renato Martinez unravelled the story of Batangas chocolate and shared how he is doing his part to preserve this tradition through his company, Cacao Filipina. Afterwards, another treat awaited the students courtesy of the Local Government of Balayan—they were each given a bottle of bagoong balayan to take home.
Prior to the above briefing sessions, the students had already looked around to appreciate the architecture of Casa Grande and dutifully studied the exhibit entitled War and Dissent, which chronicled the Spanish-American War and the role of the Lopez family in it.
The Ateneo Cultural Laboratory is a summer course devoted to studying, conserving, and promoting the cultural heritage of specific Philippine districts, towns, or cities. The program is under the direction of Dr. Fernando Zialcita of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and Co-Director Ms. Nota Magno.
Ms. Vicky Lopez of The Lopez of Balayan, Batangas Foundation, who hosted the event and personally oversaw the preparations for the morning’s activities, expressed her joy at how the morning turned out to be such an exciting, culture-filled, and productive one for the students, who were able to take in so much of what her beloved ancestral home and hometown had to offer in a short span of time.