SIQUIJOR (PIA) — “This is primarily our purpose of establishing Healing Huts in the island province of Siquijor,” says Travel Aunthentic Philippines (TAP) General Manager Vianney S. Tumala as she presented the “Balay Pahauli” and “Batong Hakut” healing huts during the inauguration of the projects recently.
TAP, in partnership with the Reisen Mit Sinnen (RMS), a German tour operator, and the Deutsche Investitions-Undentwicklungsgesellschaft (KFW DEG), a development finance institution in Germany, through the public private partnership (PPP) included Siquijor in their tourism products under the project entitled, “Sustainable Tourism in the Context of Ethnic Groups Philippines.”
The project aims to promote and integrate indigenous and marginalized communities to community-based tourism as it aims to provide livelihood assistance to the traditional healers and preserve the island’s culture and traditional healing, Tumala said.
It is also supported by the Siquijor Provincial Tourism Office, Siquijor Provincial Tourism Council, and the Department of Tourism in Central Visayas (DOT-7).
A component of the project is the establishment of the two healing huts in barangays Cantabon and Canghunog-hunog in Siquijor town in a bid to preserve the tradition and culture of Siquijor for both locals and tourists to have a special experience of the island.
“We included Siquijor Island because apart from it being less touristic yet loved by many, we want to offer something different and special to the tourists. We want the healing tradition and the culture of Siquijor to continue for our children and grandchildren to appreciate and be proud of,” she said.
“We want them to see that Siquijor traditional healing is still alive,” she added, as she relates her first hand experience of the healing and relaxing effect of the tuob (fumigation) and hilot (massage) at Juanita Torremocha’s Balay Pahauli and the bolo-bolo, another healing ritual using a glass of water with a black stone and a straw at Rogelio Lugatiman’s Batong Hakut healing hut.
Juanita Torremocha is a long-time practitioner of tuob ug hilot, an ancient Filipino art of healing that combines fumigation and massage. Balay is a Visayan term for house and Pahauli means to recover. It also refers to a native medicinal plant with different varieties commonly used by locals to relieve several ailments.
As the name suggests, Balay Pahauli is aimed to be a rejuvenation haven that offers healing from ailments and restores health by warding off negative energy. Batong Hakut, on the other hand, is made for Rogelio Lugatiman, one of the known bolo-bolo healers in the island.
Batong Hakut is coined from bato, a Visayan term for stone and hakut, which means “to gather.”
The beneficiary, Rogelio, is said to be gifted with the Batung Hakut, a magical stone used as a component to draw ailments or negative energies.
Bolo-bolo as the healing practice he offers, is said to afford relief and cleansing experience to anyone who seek refuge in this hut.
The healing experience that the healers have to offer caught the attention of TAP and its partners, which led to the establishment of the healing huts.
As TAP’s German partner, RMS representative Stefan Bartsch said they have committed themselves to sustainability in tourism and they see it as their mission to develop the fairest, most environmentally friendly, and socially responsible tours “with a high quality of travel experience.”
“RMS focuses on intensive and active travel experience in small groups or on individually arranged trips with encounters with the local population — always combined with as much sustainability and environmental protection as possible,” said Bartsch.
He said, “the aim of RMS is to initiate planned meeting at eye on eye level in addition to spontaneous encounter, so to speak, modern encounters that are not just photo spectacle, but much more experience that can give both sides something.”
“In other words, real exchange between peoples and cultures,” Bartsch said, as he stressed the idea behind the program. “On our trips, you are not travelled, you experience yourself.”
The inauguration of the healing huts showcases not only the diversity, strength, and variety that Siquijor can offer but also the camaraderie present among community and stakeholders, said DOT-7 Regional Director Shalimar Hofer Tamano in his message relayed by Judy Gabato, DOT-7 Chief Tourism Operation Officer.
“What we are most excited about is for the rest of the world to discover the warm, passionate and resilient spirit of Siquijor. These make Siquijor a place to discover — the distinctive charm exuded by every Siquijodnon you will meet,” Tamano said.
Meanwhile, TAP Board of Director and Provincial Tourism Council (PTC) Chairperson Joy Dominie Uy Chan calls on all tourism stakeholders to promote Siquijor not only for its beautiful beaches but for its traditional healing.
“It is so sad that in the Philippines, most traditions have been dying, it has become a shame for us. We don’t want to expose our poverty to the tourists, we want to join them in the modernization so that signs of commercialization even in traditional healing have been apparent already,” Chan said.
She said it is already difficult to tell authentic medicines or souvenir items of the island because people tend to take advantage of the healers’ expertise and make them part of the commercialization and promotion strategy. This makes tourists believe that is easy to tour the whole island in a day.
“One day should not be enough if we want them to experience the healing Siquijor,” she said as she appealed for the local government units and other partners to help promote Siquijor not only as another “getaway” place but as the Healing Island. (rac/PIA-Siquijor)