Friday, December 24, 2010


Our office Christmas Party was Thursday, ending the work week before Christmas. Everyone was supposed to bring a food contribution. It has been hard to get in the Christmas mood here, being away from family and it being so warm (it feels almost unnatural to be sweating in December) so I decided what I needed to help me feel the season was to do some holiday baking. My language teacher, Bebet, has an oven and she agreed to let me do my baking there. I decided to make sugar cookies and magic bars.

When I arrived to Bebet’s house there was another visitor already there. Her name is Waning and she is a manogluy-a, a type of local healer. There are many types of local healers, referred to as kwak-doctors (seriously that is what they are called). This particular healer uses ginger and so is therefore called a manogluy-a, “manog” meaning “one who gives a service or aid” and “luy-a” which means ginger.

Waning was there to attend to Bebet’s daughter, Sam, who has been sick with fever for some time. Modern medicine was not doing much so Bebet said she called on Waning as a last sort of effort. There were a variety of leaves wrapped on Sam’s head using a bandana, and Waning was rubbing a piece of ginger all over her and talking fast.

I told Bebet I have always wanted to meet a native healer. She asked me if there was any ailment that I would like to have Waning look at while she was there. I have a past of back problems, stemming from mild scoliosis and, what I have been told, a “bulging disc”, whatever that means. Doctors tell me I just need physical therapy. But here I was in the presence of a native healer in the Philippines; why not get a second opinion?

So Waning asked me to take the piece of ginger and hold it in my hand. After doing so, she took the ginger from me and began to rub it all over me, just as I had seen her do to Sam. Then she took the ginger and whispered to it for a while. I could not understand what she was saying, and Bebet told me she was speaking Kinaria, which is a another dialect of Hiligaynon.

Then Waning told me (through Bebet’s interpretation) that my back aches were due to “bad air being trapped” in my muscles. I asked her what causes this and she told me that it is due to imbalance, or as we know it, stress. She said I didn’t need another healer, that what I needed was meditation and a good back massage. Then she proceeded to massage my back and rub menthol oil on it. When she was through, my back felt much better!

After my great massage from the manogluy-a, it was time to get baking! Heart, Bebet’s other daughter, was my assistant baker. She was so interested in learning how to bake and had a real knack for it so I let her take over a lot of the mixing and adding and just helped her to follow the recipes. She found some cookie cutters in the back of the cupboard and we made heart and star-shaped Christmas cookies. Then we dyed red and green frosting. Heart really enjoyed decorating the cookies for Christmas. We also made magic bars, with a few substitutions since some of the ingredients were hard to find, including using Guimaras grown cashew nuts instead of peanuts, still very delicious!  

It was fun to share the tradition of holiday baking and to learn about some of the native local healers here in the Philippines. Now my back feels great and my holiday treats were a hit at the office Christmas party!

That's all for now. I wish everyone Happy Holidays and  a Happy New Year!

Malipayon nga Paskwa!

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