Sorano: the Indigenous Psychotherapist

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Sorano: The Indigenous Psychotherapist
In the Philippines, there is a medical practice that rooted from ancestral medical customs that could be traced back to as early as the time of the first Filipinos. It has endured time, industrialization, and even discrimination, and remains a medical practice still existent and patronized nowadays despite the emphasis on and wider acceptance of modern and scientific medicine. Filipinos call the practitioners of this medical practice albularyo, manghihilot and in Iloilo, which is the focus of this study, sorano. These medical practitioners exercise different treatment procedures and make use of a variety of indigenous materials to heal patients. Soranos often make use of the plants and other native ingredients around them to formulate medicine which they use in their rituals when healing or to make charms that are believed to ward off undesirable entities. A usual and well-known example is the pagluluy-a which is characterized by a piece of luy-a (ginger) pressed flat or crushed, which the sorano presses on the ailing part of the patient’s body. It could also be used in paghuyup wherein the sorano presses the flatten luy-a on the patient’s forehead and blows warm air at it. Some soranos even prescribe these home-formulated medicines and homemade charms or carmen to their patients. But they also prescribe medicine sold in the pharmacy like a professional physician. They also have their own “clinic”, where people could see them for consultations, or to have themselves checked up or cured of a malady. They could also have a line of supporters who assist them when they perform rituals and surgeries and help keep the “center” in order.

In Iloilo, most soranos are found in the rural communities. Faith healers in the city are rare that city folks know almost nothing about them and their methods of treatment. Soranos are widely known around their barrios and their healing capabilities are spread through words of mouth. People from outside their municipalities and even from outside Iloilo come to them to be healed despite the trouble of travelling far distances.

Soranos cure all sorts of diseases and illnesses, ranging from common colds to different kinds of cancer. Some of them also perform dental surgeries. At the whole sense of the medical profession, they are doctors. But aside from healing diseases through herbal medicine, sacred rituals, spiritual practices and hilot, soranos also act as indigenous psychotherapists.

They are indigenous in the sense that their practice was developed and practiced in the environment where it originated. The major difference of soranos from the doctors who practice mainstream or Western medicine is they embrace the spiritual, even mythological, approach of looking at human maladies, which the medical professionals chose to deviate from. This characteristic of the soranos, can be traced back to its origins which rooted from the Filipino babaylan (Wikipedia, 1999).

During the Pre-Hispanic periods, an alburyo or sorano is known as the Babaylan (Wikipidea, 1999). The Babaylan is the spiritual leader of Filipino communities who acts as the healer, shaman and miracle worker of the community they lead. According to Leny Strobel (2010), the babaylan in Filipino indigenous tradition is a person gifted with the ability to heal the spirit and the body. They serve the community through acting as the resident folk therapist, wisdom-keeper and philosopher who keeps the community’s social structure stable. The practices of both are designed based on the needs of the natives, hence, are indigenous. They are psychotherapists too, in the sense that the babaylans, the soranos’ and albularyos’ origins and from whom they inherited their treatment practices, also functioned as psychotherapists. The babaylans have access to the spirit realm and can tap on other states of consciousness. They can walk in and out of these worlds easily, an ability relevant in their healing...
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