Filipino Concept of Health and Illness

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Filipino Concept of Health and Illness


HEALTHKalusugan = “able-bodied” LUSOGFull development, progressiveness (in terms of vigorous physical development) -PanganibanMalusog vs. Payat (not necessarily meaning ill) * HEALTH – a combination of maturative processes or development in correspondence to the ability to function properly, to be active. * Being either PAYAT or TABA are not considered as healthy, but not necessarily ill.


Kamusta ka na?Mabuti naman.Eto, buhay pa.The tone of the response may insinuate that there may be underlying physical, psychological,or emotional problems* Therefore, HEALTH cannot be translated as a mere absence of fever, pain or even generalized feelings of malaise. It is also loaded with notions of social interactions.


Illness vs. DiseaseFRAKE Illness – a single instance of “being sick” Disease – a diagnostic category, a conceptual entity which classifies particular illnesses, symptoms or pathological components of illnesses or stages of illnesses IDLER Disease – an abstract biological-medical conception of pathological abnormalities in people’s bodies Illness – the human experiencing of disease


sakitIn Philippine society, only one word exists to describe such phenomena – SAKIT The term sakit is closer to the meaning of illness than to disease In many cases, ailments or illnesses are culture-specific. Ex. Usug, Bangungot (Western: nightmare death syndrome)Although recent studies try to increase knowledge on these illnesses, it cannot be denied that there is still a void due to the inadequate attention given to such illnesses.


SAKIT = PainWestern medicine – pain as a symptom Filipino medicine – sakit = pain in several contexts (ex. sakit ng ulo, sakit ng tiyan) Sakit also has different degrees (ex. hapdi for a stinging type; kirot for a sharp, recurrent type; antak for internal, continuous stinging type) Sakit = illness Diagnosis involves the culmination of a process of observing signs and eliciting symptoms that are graded in terms of seriousness (often associated with level of physical activity one can still exert)


MAY SAKITA normally strong person who suddenly feels weak is said to be have the beginnings of an illness. This weakness is close to the English term lethargic Persistence of lethargy, accompanied by other symptoms are monitored by family and friends but the term MAY SAKIT will only be used when the person is unable to perform physical tasks (common criterion: bed-ridden)


Filipinos on addressing illnessesNo matter what ailment, it is considered as mild/slight at first notice. Patient is rarely given treatment during this stage. The gravity of the sickness will only be taken into notice when patient starts to suffer more and more. If one complains of pain or great itching, this is the first stage of malaise. If symptom continues over a considerable period of time accompanied by the intensifying of the symptom, the patient and the family sees the sickness as serious.


4. If patient starts to stay in bed than continuing with his daily routine, this is considered as another stage of severity. 5. Filipinos consider CRYING as the surest indicator of severityThis framework exhibits a common problem in the Philippines which is most exemplified by a mother who is shocked to find her child dead barely after a day she has recognized that her child was ill. This also shows the perception of Filipinos on illness. Illness, as exemplified by SAKIT, has many social dimensions – mainly in terms of using pre-defined “normal” social activity as a reference for diagnosis of illnesses


Attribution of illnesses by the SubanonPathogenic Prodromal Etiological Symptomatic – the most effective and important


Medicalization by Western countriesSome illnesses are more than just physical More health professionals are starting to recognize the important role of social relationships in determining health and disease “Syndrome” – slowly becoming a popular term in medical literature but still reflects the need to delimit the qualifiers used by the western-oriented medical system Some illnesses/ailments cannot and should not be immediately appropriated into biomedical or psychiatric pathology


Some physicians quickly label some problems as medical, when some are actually more philosophical in nature. Ex. A person pondering on the meaning of his/her life = depressive order = need for anti-depressants Few health professionals have the ability to see that some “problems” may actually be part of a healthy process of an individual’s mental, emotional, and social development Therefore, immediately attaching medical labels and treatment on such conditions may be detrimental as it medicalizes life’s processes


Theories of illness causationMystical Theories Contagion/Pollution Mystical Retribution Fate Soul Loss Personalistic Theories Animate Ghosts Supernatural Entities Magical Sorcerers WitchesIII. Naturalistic theories a. Natural Phenomena b. Humoral Pathology c. Diet d. Infections e. Natural Processes f. Stress


MYSTICAL THEORIESAttribute illness to the automatic consequence of the victim’s acts and behavior


Mystical theories: Life-Stuff and SoulsEmbodies the concept of basic forces as being operational in illness and health, if not life itself Health and illness as natural consequences of good and evil behavior


1. Contagion “Contact with some purportedly polluting object, substance, or person” (Murdock) Animatism – belief in a metaphysical life force Some Phil. ethnic groups distinguish between a “life force” and the “soul.” This “life force” is considered an attribute of health and also a potential cause of illness A human being with a strong or potent life force would be perceived as a potential cause of illness, regardless of he/she has intentions of causing illness. Those with weak life forces are more susceptible to illnesses


2. Mystical retributionFilipinos believe that a violation of a taboo results in “punishment” by a supernatural being in the form of illness or other misfortune. Research has shown that most acts that violate a taboo and result to misfortunes may not necessarily have been caused by a “supernatural being.” Some believe that it is a natural consequence and is more closely related to social propriety than mystical retribution Best captured by karma


3. Fate Illness as ascribed to astrological influences, individual predestination, or personified ill luck Filipino = PALAD (palm of the hand) Palmistry (mostly in Mindanao) -> predicts one’s fate in life Sintas (the midline extending from the umbilicus to the chestbone) -> predicts one’s susceptibility to illnesses “Bahala na” attitude – manifestation of Filipinos’ passivity and resistance to change by leaving everything to the “will of God”


4. Soul loss Belief that a soul is capable of leaving the body temporarily and its prolonged absence may cause illness to the owner with death, as the permanent separation from the body. Different from “possessions” by spirits Ex. Ilongots – beteng (heart) may leave the body during sleep and may get used to the company of the dead – this leads to death Saving grace is knowledge, thus making infants more susceptible to this illness because they lack this knowledge Some believe that souls are companions (ex. belief that children have companion animals in Panay) Some believe that some souls feel compelled to free itself from the body (compulsive soul) – ex. bangungot


PERSONALISTIC THEORIESAttribute illnesses to the active intervention of sensate agents such as supernatural entities or malevolent human beings


Animate: Ghosts and other supernatural entitiesAncestral spirits – most frequently cited illness-causing ghosts Illness is perceived as retribution from ancestral spirits for non-fulfillment of ritual obligations or violation of social norms Deceased traditional healers – may cause illness when calling on a descendant to take up his/her vocation Souls of unborn children – aborted children, unbaptized children Parents are punished with illnesses due to negligence


*Even “casual” encounters with ghosts, as in being greeted (nabati) can be a cause of illness Discontented souls- potential malevolence of ghosts may be determined by the character of the individual at the time of death - ghosts of suicide victims are believed to be the most dangerous. Supreme deity- is generally conceptualized as remote and detached from the human world, only occasionally inflicting illness as punishment for “sins”.


-Among Catholics, saints are believed to inflict illness as punishment for social transgressions, including non-fulfillment of ritual obligations. Environmental Spirits- They are generally perceived as benevolent and/or guardians for shamans and other traditional healers. -generally perceived as benevolent but others inflict harm only when provoked particularly by intrusions into their “territory.”


“nabati, napaglaruan, nakatuwaan ng laman lupa ”– used to describe relationship bet humans and supernaturals, which results in illness - Once “enchanted”, illness can only be cured by the mananambal or the local shaman.


MAGICAL BELIEFS: SORCERERS and WITCHESMagical theories are those “which ascribe illness to the covert action of an envious, affronted or malicious human being who employs magical means to injure his victims”. (Murdock) SORCERER- uses the technique of magic and derives his power from medicine WITCH- acts without rites and spells and uses hereditary psycho-psychical powers


SorceryKulam- most popular term Among tribal groups, sorcery is usually reported as the effort of the community to inflict illness on a common enemy Among Christians and Muslims, sorcery is often an individual affair usually spurred by revenge motives

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Last Updated: 8th March 2018

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