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The healing hands of a hilot

By: Izobelle T. Pulgo April 15,2017 - 09:47 PM

  Maria Dear Faunillan, a known “hilot” from Pardo, Cebu City, shows a bottle of her cure-all potion. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

Maria Dear Faunillan, a known “hilot” from Pardo, Cebu City, shows a bottle of her cure-all potion. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

Suhi by birth.

Maria Dear Faunillan is one of them. She came out of her mother’s womb feet first, instead of the usual head first.

But her unusual entry to the world comes with the ability to heal, making her a member of a gifted group of people whom Filipinos call “hilot.”

No one taught Faunillan where to press her fingers. Her fingers obeyed the dictates of the heart. And of course, experience helped. “Because I was born breached, they knew that I would know how to do the traditional hilot,” says Faunillan, now 53.

Raised in an adoptive family, Faunillan started exploring her gift when she was just three years old. She would be interrupted from playing because she had to do a “hilot.”

At age five, she was already pressing the distressed bodies of nonrelatives.

She recalls that she was in first grade when she was asked to heal a teacher who was having stomach cramps.

“Then I knew that she was one-month pregnant,” Faunillan remembers knowing, even as she could not explain up to this time how she knew.

Faunillan performs “hilot” for a variety of reasons — from soothing simple aches to helping women get pregnant.

She also uses her own liniments — herbal plants immersed in olive oil.

Faunillan also has another gift — the ability to know if the person is suffering from an ailment he/she is not aware of.

Using her index and middle fingers, she listens to the pulse of her patient and soon after finds out what has been afflicting them.

One of her patients was Michelle Raganas, 27, who had been trying to get pregnant for six years and has been going to Faunillan since February.

Raganas is not just a believer in Faunillan’s ability. She says she is a product of her healing since her own mother was able to give birth to her with the help of Faunillan following two stillbirths.



Raganas’ cousin, three-year-old Jhonmar, was also Faunillan’s patient.

The boy had difficulty walking; he tiptoed and walked with shaky legs.

Jhonmar’s parents turned to Faunillan when they found no success with numerous physicians and therapists. And after visiting Faunillan twice a week, the boy’s condition started to improve.

But there are conditions that are beyond Faunillan’s expertise. And she tells the family of the patient if there is nothing else she can do to help them.

Potion maker

She makes her own potions.

“I don’t buy these. I usually get these from the forests, sometimes from the sea,” she says.

Her knowledge about herbal medicines cannot be explained. She just knew what to put together. Her clients also don’t mind the lack of scientific explanation because it worked.

Faunillan reveals she used to do her herbal medicines on Good Fridays. But she now makes them as the need arises, always after attending a Mass.

Faunillan is a devout Catholic who prays the rosary and attends Mass regularly.

She admits there were times when she had wanted to stop healing because it became too overwhelming. But the people who needed her help pushed her to continue. Attending Mass helps Faunillan recover her energy after tending to her clients.

She says that when she was a girl, she went through a “sumpa,” or a ritual that protected her from contacting the diseases of her clients.

As mysterious as her healing touch is, it doesn’t come much of a surprise to Faunillan that she can also see supernatural beings. Because of this ability, many have asked her to break the curse leveled on them by their enemies.

Pressing on the right pressure point brings healing, says Maria Dear Faunillan. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

Pressing on the right pressure point brings healing, says Maria Dear Faunillan. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

Cultural tradition

For provincial tourism officer Joselito “Boboi” Costas, hilot is distinctly Filipino and incomparable to any kind of contemporary massage or school-taught physical therapy.

“I think hilot is a cultural tradition,” he said.

“It’s a heritage for us Filipinos, generally. In fact, personally, I also go for hilot. It is good to develop it because hilot is a unique form of Cebuano massage. If you notice, it is different from the Thai massage or Swedish massage.”

What makes hilot stand out is that it incorporates the healing attributes of different local herbal liniments and oils, which has a unique selling proposition, notes Costas.

For Costas, hilot can in fact be packaged and promoted by the health and wellness industry for its unique healing attributes.

He says there are health and wellness centers that have hilot practitioners among their masseurs or masseuses, but they are not differentiated from the other massage service providers when they can be introduced as a kind of luxury service.

While there may be moves to commercialize the traditional healing practice, there will always be someone like Faunillan whose gift will stand the test of time and is accessible to every common man within her neighborhood.

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TAGS: Cebu, heal, massage, therapy, wellness

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