Yup, I know the title is corny, but hear me out first.
For days now, I have been doing field in informal settlements in the Metro. Doing baseline survey in different houses with random sampling 5 as a basis of identifying the household to interview. The survey is relatively easy it is a bit short even.
I came across this household, they were very nice people. They have their own mini sari-sari store and the household head was working part-time in “kontraksyon” (construction). Despite this, their mom still stays with them. This is where I admire Filipino culture of family. Despite having an invalid old person, they still keep them and give that person what s/he as long as they could afford it, just to make the person comfortable. Forgive the comparison, but this is what other countries lack – taking care of their old.
What I found peculiar with this particular respondent, is that they have lived in Manila for more than a decade. The old woman, who lives with them is an “albularyo” (traditional healers). The old woman is bedridden. She lays inside the house, on a bed made of plywood, beside the bathroom with a shower curtain to separate her bed and the toilet bowl. Her atrophic extremities is a sign of her lack in muscle use or movement.
I asked my respondent what has happened to her. According to her, her mother-in-law used to be an albularyo in her younger years. There came a time when she started refusing to heal and release people from the evil that has surrounded a patient. This is then started to take a toll on her body. They believe that she has upset a person and cursed her for it or all the evil spirits and other people’s sickness she has ridden them off of is a talking a toll on her. They had brought her to the mental institution and had her there confined for quite some time; this means that she is diagnosed to be mentally ill. According to my respondent every time her mother-in-law had attacks they would just give her medicine and she would be back to normal, but the medicines would not take effect for very long. The longer she takes it, the shorter the effectivity of the medicine has on her. This actually made them believe that it would be better not to let her take the medicines since it worsens her condition.
Working with one of the best neurologist in the country made think that her condition is dementia, correct me if I am wrong. The old woman was having memory loss, losing a sense of reality and could not stand on her own. I know there could be other diseases that could have these symptoms, but it was the only diagnosis I had in a short period of time – bear in mind I wasn’t there to make a diagnosis, I was there to do a baseline survey.
The dichotomy of beliefs, both modern and traditional is very much alive.
Honestly, I myself am lost on what to believe in. Should I stick to unravelling the mysteries magico-religious, super-natural tradition as a medical anthropologist or should I leave it and just study society and the modern allopathic medicine? How hard could the first be and how plausible can I find answers to my questions?