Last night, at dinner, my Ate told me that they were going to see a quack doctor. When I asked her, “What do you mean by quack doctor?”, she said, “An albularyo.” (pronounced al-boo-lar-ee-o), which is a sort of spiritual healer. Else, the student who lives with us, had been having some troubles with her eyes for about a week, so they needed to see the “quack doctor” for help.
After a ten minute car ride, we pulled up to the outside of a nice house with a large, red gate. My Ate shouted “Ayo”, the Philippine-equivalent to “Anybody home?”, and we were called inside. An older white-haired man wearing a large white t-shirt and green and black shorts printed with Heiniken bottles asked us why we were there, and then disappeared through a curtain into the back room. It turns out that this was our albularyo. While we waited, my Ate discussed the wallpaper and where it had come from with two women who were eating supper.
When the albularyo came back, he sat down, told Elsie to sit in a chair perpendicular to his, and asked what the problem was. She told him about the sty-like bump that had appeared in the corner of her left eye at the beginning of the week, and then pointed to the one that could be seen in the corner of her right eye. If these were styes, it’s pretty unusual to have two form in different eyes in the same week. The albularyo grabbed a bit of cotton, dipped it into a dark brown bottle, and then dabbed it on to both of Elsie’s eyelids. He then told her to stand up, turned the chair so that it sat in front of his, and instructed her to sit back down. He stood up behind her, asked for her name, and began to say what sounded like a prayer, while placing both his hands upon her head.
The albularyo’s prayer lasted several minutes. When it was done, he instructed her to stand up again, and rotated the chair back to a perpendicular position in front of his own. Elsie sat back down, closed her eyes, and then the albularyo blew three strong bursts of air on to each of her closed eyelids, ending the session. He told Elsie not to wash her face until Sunday. We then said our ‘goodbyes’ and ‘thank yous’, and drove off into the night.