What has been considered as the Pinoy’s traditional choice of stress-buster is now one of the world’s famous and sought-after massage therapies to date. After its standardization, it has garnered hordes of patrons than ever.
More than a thousand years ago, Hilot has been in existence; providing first aid assistance to illness-stricken townsfolk and responding to the community’s various medical needs—even midwifery and diagnostics.
Fast forward decades later and the generically known Hilot sa Pilay has evolved into a more developed, elaborate and now standardized Filipino Hilot.
The Pinoy’s healer
Bibiano “Boy” Fajardo, president of the Association of Traditional Health Aid Givers Inc. or ATHAG, suffered from muscular dystrophy when he was 27years old and through Hilot was he cured in less than a year. And with the aid of herbal baths and herbal concoctions that cleansed his system, he eventually reached the pink of his health in no time.
“Hilot is a healing process and has been a part of my life since I was 20. I was already into it,” said Fajardo. “When I got sick of muscular dystrophy, which was incurable even at this time with the Western medicine, I was healed by albularyos (native medicine men). After that I committed to myself that I will go further into its study.”
This healing technique is not just the usual drink-the-medicine-and-get-cured process but more of the balancing of energies and the body’s four elements.
In Philwell.org, Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan, integrative healer medical doctor and Cathy Turvill, president of Philippine Wellness Association, explained that “humankind and the environment are interrelated and interconnected through energy channels in the universe and in the human body. Thus the focus of the Hilot is not just body (or muscle or tissue manipulation) by hand, but also the harnessing of bio-energies from the following: the universe (cosmic, spiritual, and ethereal), the environment (earth, wind, fire and water), botanicals (leaves, flowers, aromatic oils) and the healers themselves. The Filipino Healer or Hilot Massage Therapist becomes the medium for harnessing all these bio-energies to bring about balance, harmony, health and wellness.”
Most of the spas in and out of the metro now offer Hilot and has included it in their spa menu. In fact, its soothing effects and benefits can be experienced in the rest f the world, too. Much of the accolade goes to the combined efforts of PhilWell and the Department of Tourism to promote Hilot in the world.
Cathy Turvill said that when they first put up PhilWell, one of their key thrusts is to create a Filipino brand of massage or spa therapy that they could promote.
“Since then we saw the need to standardize Hilot because before, the techniques and styles for executing the therapy and massage are hodge-podge. We cannot sell something unless we do it properly. So we started working with the Department of Health, the Department of Tourism and TESDA to come up with the basic and standards of Hilot,” she said.
What makes Hilot truly and distinctly Filipino is the use of warm banana leaf strips with droplets of extra virgin coconut oil before and after the massage. According to Dr. Galvez Tan and Turvill, naturally ionized banana leaves “act on the molecular and bio-energy as manifested on the skin and body parts to determine which areas need an infusion of massage. Banana leaves also provide astringent and cleansing effect to the body.”
Hilot and the world
In a recent article in Malaya titled “‘Hilot’ now available in Japan’s high-end beauty clinic”, Takano Yuri related that "a specialized wellness tour triggered my interest of to visit the Philippines and experience the traditional Hilot. I discovered its benefits in enhancing health and beauty, a main reason for including this in our line of services to be offered in all Takano Yuri clinics in Japan."
Thus, its debut promotion in Takano Yuri beauty salons in Japan.
Apart from being included the salons’s exquisite roster of services, HIlot has also been registered in the International Language of Spas and was picked up by Spa Finder 2007-2008, a trend spotter based in New York, added Turvill.