IN A HOUSE sitting in a maze of shanties not too far from the heart of Imus is Francisca Solmerano, the city’s “hilot” for more than five decades.

Soon she will be among local healers to be accredited by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) of DOST has partnered with the Philippine Institute for Traditional and Alternative Health Care (Pitahc) to launch a P100-million program that will seek to certify traditional healers in 2016.

Launched last August, the program will consist of a five-year survey and a comprehensive research on traditional medicine, with details still not specified by the organization.

“Integrating albularyos in the mainstream will help the government to assure the Filipinos to receive quality health care that is backed with scientific studies and evidence,” said PCHRD Executive Director Jaime Montoya at the Global Forum 2015 in an article published by the Business Mirror.

Ladylore May Baunle from PCHRD also told the Varsitarian that although the project is a partnership, “Pitahc will be the one who will license the traditional healers, not DOST-PHCRD, which will only oversee the process.”

Pitahc envisions this program to provide an accessible health care to people with economic difficulties by accrediting traditional healers, who give a helping hand to the professional doctors and health practitioners in promoting quality health services in the country.

Solmerano was surprised to hear the proposal for accreditation but was glad that the DOST is planning to distribute licenses to local healers.

“Ay salamat naman, kasi ngayon wala na akong masyadong inaasahan,” she said.

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The 80-year-old Solmerano was taught by her mother-in-law how to use oil and other parts of medicinal plants to treat ailment, for the benefit of her children. She uses everyday plants for treatment such as tuba leaves to remedy muscle pain, lagundi leaves for cough, guava leaves for stomach cramps and sambong for other illnesses.

“Kasi ‘yun naman, turo rin. Kapag may sakit, isang tapal lang ganoon. Ilalaga mo lang ‘yang mga ‘yan,” she said.

Traditional medicine

In the Philippines, traditional healers (albularyo or maestro, and manghihilot), who are experts in making herbal medicine, are known to be significant resources of health care amid modern medicine.

There are also some Filipinos who still seek assistance from healers whose methods in treating ailments are referred to as alternative or folk medicine.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), traditional medicine is the “sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures” in maintaining health and preventing diseases. However, the authenticity of traditional medicine as a tool in medical science has also been the subject of debate in the academe.

Data from the WHO, showed that 80 percent of people around the world rely on herbal medicine for treatment. It added that “the use of herbal medicines is well-established and widely acknowledged to be safe and effective, and may be accepted by national authorities.”

Grecebio Jonathan Alejandro, director for graduate research of the UST Graduate Studies, said in a previous article that the Philippines has a very rich folkloric culture, especially when it comes to herbal medicine.

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“Filipinos do not only rely on prescriptive drugs, but also depend on herbal plants as well,” he said.

Teodora and Ashlyn Balangcod from the University of the Philippines-Baguio also said the practice of traditional medicine is prevalent among societies of developing countries such as the Philippines due to the belief that certain diseases are caused by spirits.

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