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University of the Cordilleras Research Journal

ISSN: 1908-9325, VOL:1 ISSUE: 3, 2009

HEALTH PRACTICES AND BELIEFS AMONGSOME ETHNICGROUPS IN


BENGUET
Ericson J. Yang-ed, BSPT, PTRP, MAT SPEDElizabeth S. Samaniego, BSN, RN,
MANJosephine G. Minger, BSN, RN, BSED, MAN
ABSTRACT
The main aim of the study is to determine the health practices and beliefs among
some ethnic groups in the province of Benguet; considering some aspects of health,
such as health practices, health conditions as well as health remedies, causes
of human discomforts and health needs. Descriptive-survey was the research. There
were 255 respondents of the study who belong to the Kankana-ey, Ibaloi, Ifugao,
Kalinga, and other tribes. Findings revealed that the respondents rarely consult
doctors, nurses, and other health workers concerning health practices and
conditions. They believe that the causes of human discomforts are natural and
climactic factors, spirits, and even modern scientific findings on the harmful effects
of virus and bacteria. There is a felt need for more doctors, nurses, and other health
workers in the communities inhabited by the ethnic groups.
I. INTRODUCTION
The maxim "health is wealth is popular among Filipinos. Filipinos assert that foras
long as a person is in good health, he or she can bravely overcome
seeminglyinsurmountable odds. With religious fervor, many of us believe that health
is a blessing,a grace that comes from faith in the Divine. That is why seeking
medical attention isusually interspersed with the healing power of prayer or an
invocation to a patron saint.Filipinos, especially the rural folk, have different
explanations for illness. Humans andthe environment or nature are often viewed as
being in need of equilibrium, thus the hotand cold syndrome in which an illness is
thought to be due to the imbalance between thetwo. Another belief points to the
supernatural beings or spirits as causes of illnesses. Forthese kinds of illnesses, it is
not the medical doctors that the people would approach butthe herbolarios.Health
care professionals play a major role in the treatment of individuals who arein dire
need of medical attention. In the rural areas though, traditional healers
play animportant role in the well-being of Filipinos. They offer alternative ways to
treat illnessesand to promote good health and wellness. As stated by Tan (1987), to
treat pilay sahangin or sprains, many Filipinos in the rural areas resort to
herbolarios and the hilot

pilay. This shows that presently,

many Filipinos still cling to traditional medicine ortraditional healing practices.In a


report on the consultation meeting on Traditional and Modern Medicine
lastNovember 22-26, 1999, at Beijing, China, the World Health Organization
(WHO)acknowledged that traditional medicine is an ancient and culturebound
medicalpractice which existed in human societies before the application of modern
science tohealth, it refers to health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs
incorporatingplant, animal and mineral based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual
techniques andexercises, applied singularly or in combination to treat, diagnose and
prevent illnesses ormaintain well-being. Furthermore, the WHO defined traditional
medicine as the sumtotal of knowledge, skills and practices of holistic healthcare,
which is recognized andaccepted by the community for its role in the maintenance
of health and the treatment ofdiseases. Traditional medicine, based on the theory,
beliefs and experiences indigenousto different cultures, was developed and handed
down from generation to generation.To be effective in the context of Philippine
health situation, the knowledge oftraditional medicine and medical sciences can be
utilized in combination. However,western medicine in the rural areas is not
accessible to the majority of the people; this isone reason why many Filipinos do not
go to hospitals and medical doctors as a firstresort. They self medicate first, then
go to traditional healers.The people of the Cordilleras have a vast long-standing
knowledge and beliefswith regards to rustic curative means of treating common
ailments. Fiar-od (1999),shared one Igorot practice regarding medicine, which is the
use of curative practices,through the
Mansip-ok
or the traditional doctor or nurse who can be a medium andtalented enough to tell
the cause of ones sickness. Health customs and beliefs amongthe indigenous
natives of the Cordilleras are closely related to their perception ofdiseases based on
folk beliefs and assumptions as well as the blending of westernmedicine. This
amalgamation of views can be the result of the entry of medical facilitiesand
personnel in the region, educational backgrounds of the younger generation
ofIgorots, and the deep-rooted experience and practice among the elderly
natives.The primary purpose of this study is to find out what aspects of health are
usuallyconsulted to health care practitioners by some ethnic tribes in the Cordilleras
when theyare faced with any malady or ailment. The term aspect of health in this
study refers to pilay. This shows that presently, many Filipinos still cling to
traditional medicine ortraditional healing practices.In a report on the consultation
meeting on Traditional and Modern Medicine lastNovember 22-26, 1999, at Beijing,
China, the World Health Organization (WHO)acknowledged that traditional
medicine is an ancient and culturebound medicalpractice which existed in human
societies before the application of modern science tohealth, it refers to health

practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs incorporatingplant, animal and


mineral based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques andexercises,
applied singularly or in combination to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses
ormaintain well-being. Furthermore, the WHO defined traditional medicine as the
sumtotal of knowledge, skills and practices of holistic healthcare, which is
recognized andaccepted by the community for its role in the maintenance of health
and the treatment ofdiseases. Traditional medicine, based on the theory, beliefs and
experiences indigenousto different cultures, was developed and handed down from
generation to generation.To be effective in the context of Philippine health
situation, the knowledge oftraditional medicine and medical sciences can be utilized
in combination.
natural factors such as those arising from accidents or negligence; second (2nd)
in rankis climatic changes causing cough and colds, etc; ranked 3 rd is
exposures to orcontact with virus or bacteria, indigestion, animal bites and insect
bites; followed byinfractions with ones relation with the spirits or deities which
demand for curativerituals and lastly due to spirit related afflictions brought about
by ones breach of socialrelations. These findings mean that the respondents
understand and are already awareof proven and scientific explanations of diseases
or disorders. There are however somewho still believe that illnesses are caused by
spirits. Picpican (n.d.) claimed thatproblems, poor health, and misfortunes are still
believed by some people of the tribes tobe caused by spirits. He went on to say that
successes and misfortunes in life are seenas twin experiences that can be sought or
avoided. Fair-od (1999) also said that to theIgorots, physical discomfort is caused by
a tala, kedet, or padpad-ya. These arepractices associated with sorcery- a
means to inflict pain or illness to anyone, an enemyor an innocent being through
rituals and or prayers.Table7. Factors Causing Human
DiscomfortsFactor Sum ofRanksOver-allRankNatural factors such as those arising
format accidents
ornegligence (eg. injury, bruises, fractures) 601 1Climatic changes (eg. cough and c
olds) 602 2Exposure to or contact with virus or bacteria, indigestion, animalbites,
insect bites etc.680 3Infractions with ones relation with the spirits or deities,
whichdemand for curative rituals.938 4Due to some spirit related afflictions brought
about by onesbreach of social relations (eg. sorcery, magic, or witchcraft)955 5
Health-related Needs in the Community
The health-related needs of the respondents from the different ethnic groups
arepresented in Table 8. It appears that health-care professionals such as
doctors, nurses,and barangay health workers are the priority needs of the people in
the community.

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University of the Cordilleras Research Journal


ISSN: 1908-9325, VOL:1 ISSUE: 3, 2009

83
Table 8. Health-related Needs of the RespondentsThis finding implies that there is a
lack of health-care professionals to look intothe health-related needs of the people.
They would like to have a health-worker who canimmediately respond to the needs
of a sick or injured person in times of emergency.Doctors are also needed to
diagnose diseases and prescribe medicines after thediagnosis. The lack of healthcare professionals is not only true to the communitiesunder study but to the nation
as a whole. For example, results of the 2003 PhilippineNational Demographic and
Health Survey revealed that 93% of the women- respondentsreported problems in
accessing healthcare for themselves and that 53% of them do notknow where to go
in case of pregnancy complications.
IV. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The study revealed that the various ethnic groups living in the communities
understudy rarely consult health professionals on matters relating to health
practices andhealth conditions. Moreover, the use of herbal medicines is the most
prevalent remedyresorted to by the people in the community in treating their
ailments. Ethnic backgroundsignificantly influences the extent of consultation of the
people living in the communitiesin some municipalities of Benguet on matters

related to health practices. The Kalingastend to consult a professional health


workers on matters related to health practices morethan the Ifugaos, Ibalois and the
Kankana-eys. The ethnic groups believe that naturalfactors are the primary causes
of human discomforts. Also, the presence of healthprofessionals is the most urgent
need of the people in the community.It is recommended that educational and
information campaigns should beconducted by the Department of Health (DOH) in
coordination with the different NursingSchools in Benguet and Baguio city to
increase the awareness and knowledge of peoplein far-flung communities on the
use of alternative medicines such as herbals in thetreatment of some illnesses or
disorders. This is because people in these
communitiesNeed Sum of Ranks Overall RankDoctor 607 1Nurse 782 2Barangay He
alth Worker 845 3Health Center 918 4Pharmacy 1008 5Hospital 1123 6

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University of the Cordilleras Research Journal


ISSN: 1908-9325, VOL:1 ISSUE: 3, 2009

84
rarely consult health care professionals due to their unavailability. Moreover,
nursingschools should include in their extension programs the fielding of their
doctor or nurseinstructors to communities needing health-care assistance.
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