ESSENCE - Liagaya Rabago-Visaya (The Freeman) - June 27, 2020 - 12:00am

Growing up as a child, I have been exposed to cultural traditions which have long been ingrained in the collective consciousness. These practices were embraced so heavily due to their demonstrated efficacy and practicality. Many of those traditional practices are aligned with well-being or medicinal purposes. Unfortunately, a lot of such rituals only ended up in history books or local literature. The traditions in the provinces may have been kept true by some, but the young generation is no longer familiar with them.

One such local practice is tuob, or steam inhalation. Though due to its peculiar applicability it is very difficult to approximate its equivalent definition or even its procedure. This peculiarity can be traced back to its roots or groups of people who practice it over time.

Tuob practice is part of our local and indigenous awareness of the understandings, skills, and philosophies established by communities with a long history of contact with their natural environment. Local awareness guides decision-making for rural and indigenous communities on essential aspects of everyday life as specifically stated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. This further describes that this knowledge is central to a cultural context that involves language, classification systems, resource management practices, social interactions, ritual, and spirituality.

These unique ways of knowing are important facets of the cultural diversity of the world, and provide a basis for sustainable development that is appropriate locally.

Historically, the healing arts began to fade in the 17th century along with other cultural traditions, and continued with the introduction of hospitals and Western medicine after the arrival of the American people. And hence, the practice of which, particularly in the medical world, is regarded as unfounded or with a poor basis on the health path of recovery. For example, tuob specifically has less regard among medical practitioners for its benefits such as detoxification, boosting the immune system, relieving comfort from asthma, allergies among others. While there are some of them who maintain a balanced use of modern medicine and local authentic practice, local medicine and its practice, as a whole, earns a cold consideration.

Because the truth is when local practices are put on the scientific table, collision occurs. After all, science comes with or from rigorous study and experimentation. However, looking at scientific journals, local practices, such as tuob, has also its credits or advantages, whether preventive or curative. And like drugs, local practices have pros and cons. Utmost caution and prudence must still be in our consciousness.

Like every other local ritual, tuob harmonizes the reciprocal relations between human and natural resources, since it involves body, mind, and spirit healing. Deeply rooted in local hearts and minds but gradually lost its prominence giving way to new discoveries. But it's also a science, since it involves processes that enable patterns to emerge. Its effectiveness has to be exercised with care, side by side with the new discoveries.

Combating the pandemic offers a point of convergence between science and tradition. On the other hand, its cultural significance can not necessarily be eliminated in the consciousness of the people. And so we have to foster among our young people a sense of pride as part of their identity.

Modern diseases continue to plague us despite the technological advances. And though indigenous healing practices aren't readily accessible to us, we find great value in knowing how our ancestors cared for themselves.

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