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Complementary & Alternative Medicine

The Age-Old Healing Art of Hilot

Complementary & Alternative Medicine

Whether they are Filipinos, who are returning home from work overseas or are migrants coming home for much-awaited family reunions and tropical vacations, they continue to look for the healing touch of the “hilot.”

And while it is common among many Filipinos to seek the Western mode of medical treatment for ailments, the “hilot”, as a remedy, still retains its esteemed and recognized place in the hierarchy of non-invasive, traditional healing methods.

“Hilot” is a word from the Tagalog dialect meaning massage-rubbing or touch with soothing strokes. Touch is the modality of “hilot.”  Initially, one might think it is simply a massage, but “hilot” is more. It is energy manipulation.

While many popular massages had predetermined sequences of strokes,”hilot” manipulates the electrical charges of the body that creates a biochemical reaction where it is needed.  It harnesses bio-energies for balance, harmony, health and wellness.   When this is done properly, the biochemical reaction brings balance once again to the body.


Hilot is the age-old indigenous Filipino healing practice associated with elderly healers.  It is relatively complex way of healing methodology complete with philosophy, health concept, healing concept and healing methodologies. The “Hilot” Master or “manghihilot” could identify body illnesses or areas of energy imbalance in the body through many unconventional methods like pulse reading, hot and cold analysis, phrenology, stool/urine/perspiration analysis.

It is the oldest and the most secret arts in the Philippines. Due to the secrecy of the art, very rarely do “manghihilot” teach this art to the general public. Most Hilot in the Philippines are either learned from relatives, through hands on practice, or inherited from their forefathers, passing the art from one generation to the next.


The practice of Hilot is a part of the Filipino way of life. Traditionally, prior to the popularity of modern medical doctors, the ‘manghihilot’ was the health care giver of the community. Like all traditions, it has seen its share of being pushed to the background at the arrival of new methods, new medicines and new technology.

Lately, in the worldwide resurgence of alternative forms of medicine and the research and study of the “old” ways of healing, Hilot is re-established as the Filipino Healing Art based on scientific- universal and natural laws.


Man is considered healthy or “at-ease” if his faculties (mind, emotion and body) are in harmony with the Universal Law. This harmony sets the phase for the balance and precise combination of the Elements of the body (earth, water, fire and air). The unique combination of the four Elements varies according to man’s existing patterns and programs that are called genes. Furthermore, the unique combinations are also dependent on man’s lifestyle, culture and environment. This combination has its own individual limitations, and once limitations are violated, imbalances happen. The imbalance is called “dis-ease.”

Imbalances of elements of the body could be corrected by the introduction of changes through; biochemical, neuro-electrical, electro-magnetic and bio mechanical means.


The training of Hilot Practitioners or the “manghihilot” involves learning the concepts and philosophy of traditional healing, instilling an individual valuing process and its relevance to Hilot Healing and understanding the body functions. The education of the “manghihilot” is holistic, – holistic involving the biological, social, behavioral and psychological aspects of life and living.

A good hilot practitioner would know the type of ailment his client is suffering from just by looking at him and sensing his energy.  A good healer can tell if the elements in one’s body—fire, water, earth and air—are in harmony. Fire refers to the body’s electric impulses; water, the blood; the earth, bone and flesh; while air corresponds to the air that one breathes.

To correct the imbalance in the patient’s energy that leads to a distorted metabolism, a healer would have to give the patient a massage to create the desired biochemical reactions that helps the body heal itself.

Spotting a fake “hilot” should be easy. Anything that did not conform to the natural law would cause pain, so if one felt sore after a “hilot” massage then something was not right.


The Association of Traditional Health Aid Givers Inc. (ATHAG) is at the forefront of the campaign to put the centuries-old Filipino version of healing under a systematized program, under the banner of medical tourism. Headed by its president, Bibiano “Boy” Fajardo, this group of Filipino healers, herbalists and hilot practitioners have banded together to take the age-old “treatment” out of the shadows of local folklore and into the 21st century.

A chemical engineer by profession, Fajardo said a bout with progressive muscle dystrophy 34 years ago led him to the “manghihilot.”  Bedridden for eight months, he tried every possible treatment offered by modern medicine. He said he only got back on his feet and resumed his work after three months of hilot sessions. Since then, he added, he made it his personal quest to learn the science behind hilot.

ATHAG has been going around the country to teach not just potential healers but local health workers about the benefits of a “hilot” regimen.  They are deploying more and more healers to the different parts of the globe as spas abroad are now incorporating the “hilot” into their spa treatments.

“Hilot” recently received international recognition and made it to the roster of Spa Finder’s Hot and Getting Hotter List of 2006 trends. In 2005, it was nominated for Spa Treatment of the Year during the 2005 Baccarat Inaugural Awards in Hong Kong.

Now, “hilot” is gaining in popularity as this age-old tradition is re-discovered to help us all live a healthy and balanced life.

Dr. Bibiano Fajardo is an “albularyo” and a general practitioner of Hilot.  Dr. Fajardo has a vast experience in the practice of “hilot” spanning 40 years.  The ATHAG  is located at the 2nd floor Jacinta bldg., EDSA Guadalupe Nuevo, Makati City, Philippines.

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