Traditional Health Practices


The Filipino heritage is diversified. Filipino traditions have been influenced by Indian, Chinese, Arabian, Spanish, Mexican, and American belief systems.

There are many folk beliefs about the causes of illnesses. Certain illnesses are believed to have a natural origin such as overeating, poor diet, excessive drinking, infections, and accidents.

Some, illness is felt to be caused by spiritual and moral imbalances. Evil spirits caused by thoughts against the dead are believed to be the origin of some diseases. Certain persons with extraordinary powers are thought to be able to cast spells which cause illness. These persons are the Manga-ga-mud (witch sorcerers). Additionally, a person may become ill if someone casts "the evil eye" upon them.

Persons suffering from afflictions caused by a Manga-ga-mud or "the evil eye" can be cured by one of two traditional healers - the Man-ga-gas, the spiritual healer, or the Hilot, the massage healer. The Hilot uses three forms of treatment: faith healing through prayer, herbal medicines, and massage and body manipulation. Bisayan Filipinos would seek treatment from an local shaman or priest for illnesses of a supernatural origin. Religion and prayer play an important role in Filipino health practices, and that miraculous cures are believed to be possible.

Many Filipinos believe that wearing an amulet provides protection and counteracts witchery. Traditional Filipino healing practices are still popular in Hawaii today.


The Philippine Islands are divided into three geographic regions; Luzon, Viyasas, and Mindanao. Each region has their own traditional foods. The traditional foods for all the Islands are rice, pork, chicken adobo, pancit (rice noodles), panakbet (mixed vegetables), fish, and lumpia (similar to Chinese egg roll)

Adobo is a method of preparing certain meats such as pork or chicken that have been marinated in vinegar, garlic, soy sauce, bay leaf and ground pepper. Pancit is a pasta made of rice or wheat noodles and is cooked with chicken, shrimp or pork in soy sauce and garlic. Pancit resembles a Chinese chow-mein dish.

Rice is eaten everyday by Filipinos because it is believed to give a person energy. Bagoong (fermented fish) and patis (fish extract) are used as spices daily in food.

Garlic and onions are also used daily because it is believed they thin the blood and lower blood pressure. To treat diarrhea, chewing on guava shoots is recommended.

The Filipino diet is traditionally healthy because their basic staples are vegetables, fruits, and fish.

E-mail Sharon Moran, RN, CS, MPH

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Last Updated on Wednesday March 24, 1999