Faith healing

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Faith healing is the practice of using prayer and gestures to cure an illness. This has traditionally been practiced in the Philippines, especially before the advent of medical science. It was the domain of the babaylan (“BA-BY-lun”), or priestess, and later the herb doctor.

Modernization did not eliminate faith healing. Filipinos who cannot afford to go to a hospital or clinic still turn to faith healers, who normally do not charge for their service for fear of losing their gift. Some faith healers claim to be guided by Catholic saints and may even have medical knowledge.

One form of faith healing is done through prayer, in which healers exorcise spirits of disease. Healers may also cure by touch, simply laying their hands on the sick person or using herbal concoctions and oils. Most faith healers cure while in a trance. The most dramatic, most controversial form of faith healing is psychic surgery. The healer, using just the hands, “opens up” the body of the sick person and extracts what is claimed to be a tumor or any diseased part. No anesthesia is used because apparently no pain is felt.

Reports of supposedly successful operations have raised intense debate. Medical doctors who remain unconvinced claim it is all a sham, that the psychic surgeons conceal in their hands a bloodied cotton ball and the extracted tissues are actually the liver of a chicken or pig. On the other hand, there are the patients who testify to the power of psychic healing, lending credence to the practice.


[1] 2005 filipinoheritage "Faith Healing" (accessed on August 30,2007)



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