History does matter. This statement must have been self-evident over the years, decades, and centuries past. It is inescapable. Far from being a ‘dull and boring’ subject, its depth excitingly connects things through time and encourages starters to take a long view of such connections for a better understanding of their chosen path.
Nursing in the Philippines has a deep and enigmatic history. This article illustrates the considerable weight and influence of nursing history while at the same time disclosing the challenges of applying the past to the present.
Early Beliefs & Practices
Two words—mysticism and superstitions. These were the early beliefs of health and illness in the Philippines. The cause of a disease was primarily believed to be due to either another person, whom which was an enemy, or a witch or evil spirits. In the early times, Filipinos were very cautious not to disturb other people or the evil spirits for the good of their health.
These evil spirits could be driven away by persons with power to banish demons.Belief in special gods of healing, with the priest -physician (called “word doctors”) as intermediary. If they used leaves or roots, they were called herb doctors (“herbolarios”) Filipinos who became sick were usually cared for by the female family members or friends in the home.
Early Care of the Sick
The early Filipinos subscribed to superstitious belief and practices in relation to health and sickness. Herb men were called “herbicheros” meaning one who practiced witchcraft. Persons suffering from diseases without any identified cause were believed bewitched by “mangkukulam” or “manggagaway”. Difficult childbirth and some diseases (called “pamao”) were attributed to “nunos”.
Midwives assisted in childbirth. During labor, the “mabuting hilot” (good midwife) was called in. If the birth became difficult, witches were supposed to be the cause. To disperse their influence, gunpowder were exploded from a bamboo cane close to the head of the sufferer.