Dr Cuanang invited us to the opening of the Complementary Medicine Service at St Luke’s in Bonifacio Global City. According to the US National Institute of Health website, “Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is the term for medical products and practices that are not part of standard care.” Examples: acupuncture, yoga therapy and ventosa, all of which are now on offer at St. Luke’s.
St Luke’s medical director Dr Joven Cuanang at the Complementary Medicine center. Those extraordinary floral arrangements are lotus flowers, Buddhist symbols for purity. These beautiful flowers only grow in dirty water.
The guest of honor at the launch was our walking Rizal app, historian Ambeth Ocampo. According to Ambeth, our national hero Jose Rizal did research on traditional Filipino medical practices, including herbal treatments and bewitchment. As in mangkukulam.
“To the Tagalogs, bewitchment varies in intensity according to whether it is caused by a mangkukulam or a manggagaway. The bewitchment that befalls children when a stranger becomes too fond of them, and is called uhiya, does not deserve to be included in this chapter, for it can be caused by anybody in the most innocent manner.
“The bewitchment that comes from a mangkukulam is the most mysterious and hence the most terrible, though fortunately rare. In general, a mangkukulam is a man who is born with this power, though some believe that it is a sickness which is acquired, endowing the patient with terrible and fabulous powers. They say that during the frigid period of the fit, the mangkukulam sheds tears of real fire and his gaze has such potency that it paralyzes small animals, even flying birds. It is believed that the sickness which a mangkukulam can cause has no cure; and on account of the terror that it inspires and its oddity very little is known about the nature of this bewitchment. The mangkukulam turns out to be a terrible hypnotizer or charmer, a kind of very unfortunate and involuntarily malevolent fakir. He must not be confused with the magol of whom we shall speak elsewhere…”
Read a summary of Jose Rizal’s The Treatment of the Bewitched here.
After Ambeth’s speech one of the guests recounted a story told by one of Rizal’s students during his Dapitan exile. Every day after lunch they were required to take siesta. During siesta hour they would sneak under their teacher’s hut and spy on Jose Rizal doing it with Josephine Bracken. “That’s not likely,” Ambeth said, “as Josephine Bracken had (a social disease).”
I asked Dr Cuanang, whose field is neurology, whether zombies can exist. “Of course,” he said. “I’ve seen patients whose prefrontal lobes had been removed, and they behaved in a zombie-like fashion.” Perhaps the pain receptors in zombie brains are not functioning (they are undead), which is why they keep on going until they are decapitated or burned.
Zombies and mangkukulam, another typical day at work.