Folk Healing Festival

Folk Healing Festival is a yearly festival on traditional medicine in the province of Siquijor, Philippines every Holy Week.

While activities occur during the entire Lenten Season and Holy Week, main events occur on Black Saturday when faith healers gather and brew their potions.

History of Folk Healing Festival

Siquijor is an island-province in Central Visayas Region of the Philippines that consists of Bohol, Cebu, and Negros Oriental.

It is popular for a fusion of animism and Catholicism; that is, Christian religiosity brought by Spanish colonization mixed with an active practice of what is considered remnants of precolonial beliefs.

Majority of its people in Siquijor identify as Catholics. They also subscribe to indigenous culture and tradition involving folk healing, magic, and belief in spirits, which is observed in the rest of the country and have survived through history.

Siquijor faith healers

In addition to the Christian faith, they believe in ancestor worship, supernatural beings or spirits that dwell in nature (caves, hills, trees, rivers), and beings that can change their appearance to look like humans or animals.

And people who are believed to possess authority or powers to engage with these entities and move back and forth between our and their realms are called by various names: mangangalap (one who forages for raw materials to be used in potions), mananambal (healers), manghihilot (practitioners of traditional massage), and mambabarang (witch or sorcerer).

They continue to provide services amidst availability of medicine and advances in medical science. Mostly, they are a recourse for those who find medical care expensive.

Their services include the making of potions, performing counter-spells, casting protection, providing healing to cure illnesses, helping in shoring up good luck, and others.

They also communicate with souls of ancestors and di ingon nato (translated roughly to ‘one who is not like us’ or supernatural beings). They can offer prayers, gifts, and rites to appease them, win their favor, or request to be bestowed with their magical powers.

Furthermore, they can give recommendations on how to ward off malevolent creatures, help in the affairs of the heart, and increase chances of success in any endeavor such as passing the licensure exams for example.

Witches Festival

Siquijor has become associated with witchcraft from which Witches Festival was inspired. Tourism Promotions Board Philippines described it as a gathering of practitioners of faith healing when the moon is full.

They congregate in Crocodile Hill in the town of Lazi. They gather ingredients and make their potions, all the while reciting invocations and performing a dance. Afterwards, they conclude with secret rites.

First Folk Healing Festival

The first Folk Healing Festival was launched within the term of Governor Orlando Fua Jr. in 2010.

According to a news article published in Philippine Information Agency, Fua said that the festival was created to invigorate local tourism and to steer the image of the province away from sorcery towards as a place where alternative medicine is practiced.

The thrust in putting Siquijor in the map of health and wellness is rooted in history too. The colonial-era St. Isidore the Worker convent in Lazi, a National Cultural Treasure in the country, was constructed by Augustinian Recollects between 1887-1891 for priests recovering from sickness.

The festival is joined by faith healers living in the island. It also attracts those from other places, drawn to the province’s expertise in gathering ingredients from nature and skills in potion-making.

Lenten season and folk healing

While its highlight happens on Black Saturday, faith healers start early in the beginning of Lent which is marked by Ash Wednesday.

The choice of Holy Week as the schedule of these folk rituals is considered auspicious, it is the time when Jesus’ death is commemorated and a period when spirits can impart their powers to those who wish to possess them.

Moreover, it is also the time when potions that are created during this time gain their potency.

Faith healers commence in observing certain taboos such as refraining from alcohol and smoking.

They look for various herbs, plants, barks, roots, leaves, vines, shells, and others from the forest and sea for seven Fridays of the Lenten season between Ash Wednesday and Holy Week.

This activity is called pangalap, that is to forage or gather, and the person who does it is called manangalap.

A mangangalap is well-versed with the type of plants, animals, sea creatures, and other objects for specific mixtures.

From these ingredients potions or amulets are produced that are believed to heal illnesses or counter any curse.

What comes after is pag-adlip which means to chop. It involves the preparation of the raw materials in the early morning hours of Good Friday.

Then they congregate in Mt. Bandilaan, the highest peak of the province rising a little over 550 feet above sea level and declared a national park that abounds with plants that are used for potions and herbal medicines.

Whatever remains of the pangalap are thrown to a cauldron over fire until charred, and from this powder different concoctions can be made when mixed with oils like the one extracted from coconut.

The timing of the cooking session also plays a part in determining the purpose of the potion.

When it is done on Good Friday, it becomes igdalaut: one that can cause harm or ill luck. When it is done the next day, on Black Friday, then it is considered suitable for cure.

How to reach Siquijor

Book a flight bound for Bohol, Cebu, or Negros Oriental. In Bohol, you can go to Tagbilaran pier and buy ticket for a ferry scheduled for Siquijor. In Cebu, you can take a bus at South Bus Terminal to Liloan port in Santander and then hop on a ferry to Siquijor.

Another alternative but longer trip is to take the overnight sea trip in Cebu City Pier 1. In Negros Oriental, you can take a ferry from Dumaguete to Siquijor.


Folk Healing Festival Summary

NameFolk Healing Festival
CelebrationCulture, Holy Week, Religion, Traditional Medicine
Contact(035) 480 9173
DateBlack Saturday
LocationMt. Bandilaan in Siquijor, Siquijor
Previous NameWitches Festival