The Practice of Hilot — Then and Now

Almost all cultures around the world, at some point, developed systems involving  medicinal and healing practices before modern medicine was accessible. In the Philippines, ‘hilot is an ancient Filipino art of healing’, and has long been considered a traditional counterpart for Western medicine. Hilot is systematic and comes from a long tradition, and the practitioners who meticulously study it are called manghihilot. Many Filipinos still turn to it to relieve discomfort and other aches and pains, and its popularity until the present day shows that local manghihilot must be doing something right.

Origins and Cultural History

Hilot is an age-old system developed by the indigenous people living in the Philippines, dating back as far as the country’s pre-colonial days. Medical Tourism Magazine refers to hilot as one of the oldest arts developed by communities in order to heal community members of their ailments. The manghihilot then became an important member of the community, able to not only heal but also identify illnesses through reading areas of energy imbalances in the body, the traditional equivalent of what would now be your modern-day medical doctor.

The Methodology 

To be a manghihilot is not a trivial matter, for the knowledge of the hilot is something that is passed down through generations. Manghihilot undergo extensive training in order to master the art of healing. A session with your manghihilot usually depends on what it is that’s making you feel uncomfortable. The manghihilot starts off by feeling your pulse, and through this then decides what needs to be done in order to alleviate your symptoms. After that, a post by Rosanna C. Rogacion on Medium notes the manghihilot feels around the body for areas where they feel energy could be trapped and massages the areas in order to decongest them.

While the specific methods of hilot tend to vary depending on what your manghihilot’s mentor taught them to do, the concept itself remains the same: hilot‘s purpose is to effectively ease areas of constricted energy flow in order to heal the body.

Contemporary Practice and Modern-Day Commercial Ventures

The World Health Organization notes that 70% of people in developing countries still rely on traditional medicine for their specific health concerns. This is also the case in the Philippines, where plenty of Filipinos still turn to a manghihilot for physical relief. Families usually have a specific manghihilot that they recommend when a family member or acquaintance complains of aches or pains. SunStar suggest that some manghihilot can even be found sitting patiently in public markets or on sidewalks with a small table displaying the traditional oils they typically use, waiting for customers who want to use their services.

Hilot has even gained commercial traction, with several spas in the country offering the traditional method as a service to their clientele. The Philippines’s entry for the upcoming Miss Universe 2019 Gazini Ganados swears by hilot as a part of her regular routine to ease muscle tension and to help her relax when she has some downtime. 

Even in today’s fast-paced world, hilot still plays a role in many Filipinos’ methods of self-care. Whether you believe in the healing power of massage or not, hilot is still worth trying out; whether for healing or relaxation, it’s something you can do for yourself and your wellbeing.