Health And Family

History Month: Philippines gaining attention 'from killing to healing' – expert

Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo - Philstar.com
History Month: Philippines gaining attention 'from killing to healing' â expert
From its tourist spots such as the Banaue Rice Terraces in Batad (left) to its people such as the Ifugao (top, right) and its signature massages such as the Dagdagay Foot Spa (bottom, right), the Philippines has many things to offer when it comes to natural healing and wellness.
Philstar.com/Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is now allegedly building a new reputation — as a haven for healing, a Harvard-trained wellness expert recently told Philstar.com.

In an interview in Nurture Wellness Village, Tagaytay City, Harvard Medical School-trained wellness expert Cathy Brillantes-Turvill said that the foreign press has shifted focus on the Philippines as a haven for healing, which is why the Department of Tourism (DOT) has made wellness and medical tourism a priority in the country.

Related: Philippines seen as 'attractive' medical tourism destination

“When we first opened (Nurture Wellness Village), everybody wants to be Balinese or Thai. Sabi namin, ‘wag! Pinoy tayo eh!” shared Turvill, explaining why their wellness village carries a Filipino theme — from its linens and curtains made of local fabrics such as Inabel from Ilocos and Sarong from La Union, to its homemade essential oils using local ingredients and with Filipino monikers such as Aruga, Sigla and Payapa.

“Ang Pinoy, we’ve had our healing methods all the time," enthused Turvill, dismissing the need for Filipinos to borrow from other countries when it comes to wellness.

As founding president of the Spa Association of the Philippines, Turvill collaborates with the DOT in coming up with a unique branding of Filipino means to heal. Based on their research, the following is the country’s edge in the international wellness market:

  • Hilot – or Filipino massage, which originally included “bulong” or whispering of chants. According to Turvill, hilot has been practiced across the archipelago even before the Spaniards came. 

“For the international market, hilot has to be packaged to be a beautiful experience. While it traditionally included amulets and whispering, for the international market, it has been repackaged to be made more scientific — using science-based herbs, and the strokes were also modified,” Turvill explained.

Related: Living to 100: Secrets to Apo Whang-Od’s long life

  • Dagdagay Foot Massage – This Filipino reflexology using bamboo, according to DOT’s research, originated from the Cordilleras. The elderly climb the Banaue Rice Terraces on bare feet, and what makes them so healthy is Dagdagay — the youth would stroke their elders’ feet with bamboo sticks, stimulating the nerve endings to encourage better blood circulation. This service is available in Nurture Wellness Village and is performed in an outdoor gazebo called Kawayanan or amid a backdrop of bamboo trees because “just being surrounded by trees lowers your blood pressure” and relaxes your body, said Turvill.
The Philippines has been blessed with many verdant landscapes — such as the Banaue Rice Terraces in Batad — and looking at something green is already healing, said Turvill. Locals said Batad is being frequented by famous Filipino actor Piolo Pascual for its healing massages, refreshing greenery and waterfalls, and remote but relaxing atmosphere away from the public eye.
Philstar.com/Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo
The Ifugao of Batad performing a ceremonial dance for visitors.
Philstar.com/Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo
The Dagdagay Foot Massage, according to Department of Tourism research, originated from the Cordilleras and was used to relieve the feet of the elderly climbing up and down the Banaue Rice Terraces on bare feet. It is called as such for its unique use of Dagdagay wooden sticks to stimulate nerve endings..
Philstar.com/Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo
  • Labatiba – usually done early in the morning, the Philippines’ own enema or colon-cleanse dates back to Filipinos’ ancestors, said Turvill. But instead of colonics that can stress the heart, our grandparents’ colon cleanse uses very minimal ingredients like water. In Nurture Wellness Village, a charcoal and water mixture is passed through the colon through a tube for 20 to 30 minutes to detoxify the body, promote better digestion and encourage weight loss.
Nurture Wellness Village's setup for a traditional Labatiba colon clease
Philstar.com/Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo
  • Filipino herbs – The village has its own Botika ni Lola containing Filipinos’ traditional medicinal herbs.

“Long before the Americans and the Spaniards came, we were using herbs… If you look at medicines’ ingredients today, many have extracts of these herbs – but in Nurture, these herbs are taken as fresh teas,” Turvill said.

@philstarshowbiz Botika ni Lola tour - #nurturewellnessvillage ? original sound - Philstar.com Life & Ent


Replicas of Filipino medicinal herbs stored by Agustinian friars in jars, as found in San Agustin Museum in Manila.
Philstar.com/Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo
Filipino flora and fauna, including medicinal plants, as catalogued by 16th century Agustinian friars, depicted on a painting (left).
Philstar.com/Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

For Turvill, from beaches to food and brand of wellness and hospitality, it’s not surprising that the global community is “rediscovering” the best of what the Philippines has to offer. That is why in seeking for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, she believes Filipinos don’t need to look any further.

“We firmly believe that we should be proud of our country. Bakit natin ikakahiya ang sariling atin? Napakaganda ng bansa natin!”

RELATED: LIST: 5 ways to find healing




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