Siquijor has healers of all kinds. Herbolarios like Ann, who you read about in my previous post. Then, there are bolo-bolo healers. There are also the darker mambabarang – the ones who will cast a curse with their potions. But the ones I want to find are the bolo-bolo healers. Bolo-bolo healers use a drinking glass, water, a stone, and straw as part of their healing ritual. I had read stories online that claim that clear water turns murky and then back to clear again after the healing. Almost every road in San Antonio has a faith healer. All I have to do is just ask. “Where can I find a faith healer?” And usually, there is one in front of you. I meet Loretta. All of 80, she laughs and invites me inside. They seem to do that easily here. To laugh. Loretta doesn’t know English. And I don’t know Tagalog. But I am getting the hang of this. We laugh together. That’s a shared language. “How do you heal?” I ask in English. Laughter follows my question. Her daughter translates. “I know,” she stares, eyes twinkling. “I just know.” I look around her house. It’s sparse. Barely furnished. But I see an old woman with a generous laugh. And I think to myself that is how I would like to be if I am 80. Someone who can laugh easily. Come to think of it, this is how I would like to be now. Loretta doesn’t diagnose me. And I don’t ask. I leave with that answer. Sometimes, we know to heal. How perhaps doesn’t matter.
I meet Chryssanta, my next healer, in a ramshackle house with a squealing piglet that doesn’t know that the harvest festival is coming up.
Chryssanta is the youngest of the healers I have seen so far. “Stress,” she says, giving me by now my very familiar diagnosis. And a problem with my back, she says. She follows the same routine as Ann. A prayer. A massage. I am beginning to think the world can be healed with a prayer and a massage. But Chryssanta is not a bolo-bolo healer. Three healers and I still haven’t found what I am looking for, as the old song goes. Hesitantly, I ask Chryssanta if she knows a bolo-bolo healer. There are no bolo-bolo healers here in San Antonio, she says. Go to Cantabon. “Ask for Tumale.”
The barangay or village of Cantabon is a few more miles down some more beautiful hillside. It’s easy to find houses here. Just ask for the people, not the house number or the street. Tumale’s is another typical Philippine house. Gently made from nipa bamboo. Tumale doesn’t speak English and his niece offers to translate. But wait. She isn’t sure if her uncle will offer any healing sessions today. I should wait. I wait. I am not good at waiting. I am not good at sitting. I am forced to do both. Tumale himself sits on a stool in the house and observes me. It unnerves me. I try to answer his niece’s questions but I am distracted. It starts to rain. Rays of sun dance with the rain. I look around Tumale’s house. Like Loretta’s, it is plain. Certificates adorn the walls, while shrines to Jesus watch me from a corner. I wait. An hour passes but Tumale is quiet. I am getting impatient. What is he waiting for, I think. I wonder if I should go. But as if sensing my impatience, Tumale gets up, walks over to the altar, and comes back with a bottle. “Are you ready for the healing,?” he asks. I am, indeed. He breathes over my neck. I brace myself for the “stress” word. Not quite. “You think too much. Always your head whirrs round and round,” the niece translates, holding her head in a mock stranglehold. I wince. Accurate. True. My head indeed is a whirlwind. A tornado. Thoughts that never rest. Memories that never fade. How do you not think too much? What is too much? I wish I can ask Tumale all these questions. He doesn’t look like he thinks too much. He had sat for an hour and just watched me while I fidgeted and thought about the rain, the sun, the search for a healer, the time – everything that I couldn’t control. He smiles at me. There is a measured calm to him that is in contrast to my fidgeting. Hesitantly, I ask about the bolo-bolo healing. Go to Nanay’s house, he says. This journey. I am losing faith trying to find it. I shrug. So be it. I will find Nanay.