Samples of filipino old folk remedies and traditions

Here are some of the rituals performed by the elders
and folks in different provinces in the Philippines.


Beliefs and practices govern almost all aspects of
agriculture. The tamblan is often called to perform
the practice of bayang or buhat before lands are
cultivated. A dish of white chicken or white pork is
offered to the unseen owner. Before planting, a table
with cooked rice, chicken, wine or buyo is set in the
open and offered to the spirits who are asked to grant
a good harvest. If planting is to be done during a new
moon in May or June, rice is toasted and then ground
with sugar in a mixture called paduya. The paduya is
then baked, divided into 24 parts, and wrapped in
banana leaves and offered the night before planting to
the aswang who protects the field. For harvest
blessings pangas may also be prepared in a basket from
a mixture of rice, medicinal herbs, palm fruit and a
wooden comb.

There are specific practices depending upon the crop
being planted. During the planting of rice, one must
not hurt or kill the taga-taga, an insect with
protruding antennae believed to be soul of the palay,
or else this cause a bad harvest. A good harvest is
likely when its tail points upwards.

In planting corn, the first three rows should be
planted at sundown. This is the time when chicken and
other fowl are in their roosts and if they do not see
where the seeds are planted; they will not dig up the
seeds. If it rains while the farmer is planting, it is
a sure sign that the seeds will not germinate. Persons
with few of broken teeth should not plant corn to
prevent the corn from bearing sparse and inferior

In coconut planting, so that the nut will grow big and
full, seedlings must be placed on open ground during a
full moon. They should be planted at noontime when the
sun is directly overhead and shadows are at their
shortest. This is so the coconut trees will bear fruit
soon, even if they are not yet very tall. While
planting coconuts, it would help if one is carrying a
child so that the tree will yield twice as many nuts.
Bananas should be planted in the morning or at sunrise
with young plants carried on the farmer's back so the
branches will have compact and large clusters.

Sticks should not be used when planting cassava lest
the tubers develop fibers that are not good to eat.
Ubi, on the other hand, is a sacred root crop. If it
is dropped on the ground, it has to be kissed to avoid
divine fury called gaba. Planters must lay clustered
fruits on three hills for an abundant harvest of
camote or sweet potato.

It is believed that planters must remove their shirts,
lie on the ground and roll over several times during a
full moon. Crops planted near the diwata's place or
during thunderstorms will become rat infested.

During harvesting, if the crops are poor, the farmers
prepare biku, budbud, ubas, tuba, guhang, 12 chickens,
pure rice, tobacco and tilad. These they place under a
dalakit tree in the fields as offering to the spirits.

Rice harvesting entails more intricate rituals. A
mixture called pilipig is prepared from seven gantas
of young palay added to ubas (grapes),
bayi-bayi(ground rice), grated coconut and sugar. This
mixture is pounded in a mortar and brought out at
midnight. At midnight, the farmers call the babaylan
to chant prayers while they surround him/her with

Fisherfolk have their own ways of soliciting the
favors of the other world. During a full moon, a
mananapit is asked to pray for a good catch and to
bless the fishing nets and traps with herbs and
incense. To cast off evil spirits, fisherfolk at sea
mutter tabi meaning "please allow small yellow copper
key under their belts to protect themselves from being
devoured by a big fish. Divers eat the flesh of the
cooked turtle for greater stamina underwater.
Fisherfolk avoid bad luck by neither sitting nor
standing in front of their fishing gear and by
returning home by way of the route used when setting
out the sea. To avail of future bounty, fisherfolk
using new traps must throw back half of their first


In building houses, spirits believed to roam the world
of the living must be considered. Spirits like
dwelling in caves and ought not to be disturbed by the
construction of a house nearby. A good site for a
house is determined by burying 3 g of rice wrapped in
black cloth at the center of the lot. If a grain is
missing when they are unearthed three days after, the
site is not suitable for it will cause illness.
February, April, and September are the months to build
houses. To bring prosperity and peace to the owners,
coins are placed in each posthole before the posts are
raised. The ladder of the house should face east to
ensure good health. A full moon symbolizes a happy
homelife when moving to a new house. For the moving
family to be blessed, they should boil water in a big
pot and invite visitors to stay overnight in their new
house. A ritual is also performed against evil spirits
during the inauguration of the public buildings,
bridges, and other structures.


Gaddang anitu rites are rendered to cure the sick and
ensure their longevity and to avoid misfortune or
illness due to breach or a taboo. Presided by the
medium and usually involving the sacrifice of a pig,
these rituals could also serve to indicate status
and/or the occasions for kindred socialization.


To relieve the person of the malaise, an older
relative plucks a twig from a tree, for instance,
malunggay and gently brushes it on the victim's head
and body while muttering to the unseen spirit to let
go. If the victim's condition persists, the relatives
offer atang, a ritual food to appease the
supernaturals of the wilderness. Since the Ilocano
traditional universe links the natural and the
supernatural realms, rites of appeasement and
thanksgiving are done periodically of the spirits
dwelling in the loam, river and woodland. This
traditional world view, which has persisted in a
modified and casual manner, may incorporate traces of
ecclesiastical rites. For instance, upon opening a
bottle of liquor on the ground, like a priest
sprinkling holy water. The intent is to offer the
kadkadua (unseen partners) their share of the repast
and merriment.


Many rituals are connected with the agricultural
cycle: the daily life on the swidden, which includes
clearing, planting and harvesting. Nature provides
signs and portents that signal the start of specific
activities. These are rituals related to life in the
swidden, to rice and to community as a whole.

Three signs indicate the clearing work on the swidden
can begin-the red bakakaw herb comes out, the tablan
(coral tree) is in bloom and the leaves of the
basinalan tree fall to the ground. This is around
February to March. Then, the lumba tree begins to bear
fruit, and it is a sign that the dry days have begun,
time for burning the swidden. A good harvest is
portended by the rising of a little whirlwind from the
burning field. This, it is said, is the spirit
Alpugpug. This wind fans the fire that moves across
the burning field which never goes out of control,
"because swidden culture has its own ecological
wisdom." Before burning, the Isneg clear the swidden
very carefully, taking care no to harm certain plants,
such as the amital vine, which must not be killed,
lest a death befall the offender's family. The
clearing burned, a few seeds are cast into the wind
and a prayer is offered to the spirits. The farmer and
his family gather charred woods which has not been
completely burned. This will be used for fuel, to be
used during the harvest. Three days before rice is
planted, the agpaabay ceremony is observed. A man and
a woman scatter rice grains across the field to warn
the rats not to eat them. The woman returns in the
afternoon to make an offering to the spirits of the
field. She bores a hole into the ground and drops a
few seeds into it. Then she covers the hole with
taxalitaw vine leaves and the sapitan herb. This is to
ensure that the crops will be healthy. For the whole
night and all throughout the next day, she cannot hand
out anything to anyone, and no one is allowed to enter
her house. On the third day, other women take up the
chore of planting. They carry double sticks with which
they bore holes in the ground. Coconut shells full of
seed are tied to their waists. It is taboo for
children to make noises, because they would likely
disturb the spirits: the paxananay, who watches over
the planting and the bibiritan which kills people when
roused to anger. In September, the rice is ready for
harvesting. It is then cooked with the fire of the
stored charred wood from the burned clearing: thus,
the cooking of the rice completes the ritual cycle of
the swidden.

There are several rituals performed in connection with
the harvest of rice. These actually begin with the
killing of a pig as an object of sacrifice,
accompanied by communications with the spirits,
performed in the form of prayers by the dororakit or
the shaman maganito. Rice pudding if offered to Pilay,
the spirit of the rice, who resides on the paga, a
shelf above the Isneg hearth. This is the pisi, the
ritual offering of food to the spirits. The old woman
who performs this utters the following prayer: "Ne
uwamo ilay ta ubatbattugammo ya an-ana-a, umaammo ka
mabtugda peyan" (Here, this is yours, Pilay, so that
you feed my children fully, and make sure thet they
are always satisfied.)

Another ritual is performed right in the fields where
the harvest is going on.

The amulets inapugan, takkag(a kind of fern), and
herbs are tied to a stalk of palay, which later will
be placed in the granary before the other palay.

Again, these are reserved for Pilay. In case a new
granary is built, and the contents of the old granary
were transferred, the spirit's special share is also
transferred to the new place. It is never consumed. An
illness in the family during the time of harvest
occasions a ritual called pupug. The shaman catches a
chicken and kills it inside the house of the affected
family. The usual prayers to the guardian spirits of
the fields are recited, after which the household
members partake of the meat of the sacrificial animal.


There is a great variety of rites and ceremonies
practiced by the Kankanay. Several types of economic
activities such as planting, harvesting, house
building, or digging irrigation ditches call for the
performance of these rites. A whole village, or a
family financially capable of throwing a feast, takes
responsibility for the holding of big and elaborate
rites. For determining the cause of illness or
divination of events, simpler rites are performed by
an individual or by a family group.

One of the ritual ceremonies already mentioned is the
bayas. This canao or feast is the most important
festival in northern Kankanay society, which is hosted
by the kadangyan, and involves the slaughter of many
animals. Only a person of means can afford the amount
of food consumed. During the bayas, the kadangyan
calls upon his ancestral spirits, and appeals for
their continued support for his prosperity. Relatives,
villagers, and visitors from other places are all
invited to the bayas ritual. During times of plenty,
the bayas would be celebrated at least every three or
four years, but in recent years the interval has
become longer. The rites observed in connection with
the agricultural cycle are deemed indispensable
because the whole success of planting and harvesting,
i.e., survival itself, may depend entirely on such

Legleg is performed to improve the growth of the
plants. This is done whenever the bonabon seedlings
show telltale signs of withering. A chicken is killed,
and is offered to the spirits of the field, trees,
rocks, and other things in the surroundings believed
to have been angered or displeased. Four or five long
feathers of the chicken are pulled out and stuck into
the site where the bonabon are planted. If the
seedlings do not show any sign of improvement, the
ritual is repeated, this time with more sacrificial

The an-anito is similar to the legleg, except that it
is performed to seek intercession for an ailing

Harvest entails a different set of rituals. On the
fist day, the rice fields are declared off limits to
strangers. Along trails, crossed bamboo sticks called
puwat are laid out as a warning to passersby against
intruding. The owner of the field cuts a handful of
rice stalks and recites a prayer asking for a
bountiful crop. Then, the other reapers proceed to cut
the rest of the harvest. Nobody is allowed to leave at
anytime throughout the day, to prevent "loss of luck."

The opening of a baegl (granary) by a family for rice
pounding is an event with its own ritual. The head of
the household declares an abayas (holiday) which lasts
two days. The father opens the granary and takes out
as many bundles as required for the period of

The largest and most important of community
celebrations among the Kankanay is the pakde or
begnas. This is observed for a variety of purpose.
When called to ensure an abundant rice harvest, it
takes place sometime during May, a month before the
actual harvest. It may also be bserved when a person
dies to ask for the protection and favors of the
benevolent deities. The village elders may decide to
hold the rites, after the observance of a bagat or big
feast by a family to regain luck for the community. Or
the occasion might be to celebrate a strange event,
such as lightning, striking a tree near a house or
near a spot where people have assembled, which is
interpreted as Kabunian himself speaking. A pakde or
begnas serves to appease him. This usually takes place
during the rainy season, when lightning is most
frequent. The celebration is held for one day and one
night with preparations of food and water, and tapuy
(rice wine). On the day of the feast, men with bolo
and spears come out of their houses and proceed to the
village borders to put up barricades across all
entrances. Others take up their spears accompany the
mambunong to a sacred spot where there is a wooden
structure called pakedlan. On this a pig is butchered
and offered to the guardian deities of the village.
The pakedlan is usually built by the mambunong at one
end of the village. It consists of a solitary wooden
post about 1.3 m in height, with large white stones
laid on the ground surrounding it.


When a diwata wishes to convey a message, it sends a
spirit messenger to possess the baylan and speak
through him/her. While in ebpintezan or state of
possession, the baylan performs the healing ritual.
However, a baylan may also be possessed by a timbusew,
a bloodthirsty evil spirit. So, instead of treating
the sick, the baylan kills the sick person so that the
demon could devour the sick person.

There are three levels of leadership in the religious
community: the baylan, terewtawan, and sangka. The
baylan appoints a terewtawan, a male assistant who
travels from village to village to spread the baylan's
teachings. About 10 sangka, male and female , assist
the terewtawan in preaching and healing the sick.

Anyone of any gender can become a baylan. One may ask
to become apprenticed to a baylan by offering the
tendan he idtendan, a gift consisting of the
following: mirror, comb, turban, pair of trousers,
shirt, a bolo, seven pieces of cloth of varying
patterns, white and black handkerchief for betel chew
offerings, and seven chickens.

Xavier university