A book review.
Virgil Mayor Apostol’s information packed-book covers a wide range of topics from Philippine healing to mythology, belief systems to symbolism, migration to language and much, much more. Finally! Just what I was looking for over many years now.
Way of the Ancient Healer: Sacred Teachings from the Philippine Ancestral Traditions is full of information about indigenous and traditional culture in the Philippines. Much of this information is very hard to find in one book. Much of this knowledge and these traditions are difficult to find in Philippine mainstream urbanized lifestyles and even much more difficult to find on the Internet.
This book brings to light and the global stage the healing modalities and shamanic practices of ancient and indigenous people in the Philippines.
If you are a universal seeker looking for knowledge about healing and sacred practices of different people around the world, this book may be quite a jewel for you.
If you are a Filipino and want to explore more about your Philippine heritage and the Philippines’ long-lost indigenous traditions and worldview than this most certainly can be a potent book for you too.
At first you may think this book is only about traditional healing practices of the Philippines, but when you begin to get through this book you will be delighted to discover that it is much more than that. As the full title of the book states, this book is by a contemporary healer, trained in ancient healing arts passed down through his family lineage, who is now sharing what was sacred to our ancestors and what is still sacred to today’s indigenous people in the Philippine Islands. This is a treasure trove of new knowledge about Philippine traditions and way more interesting than many a classroom teaching.
The author also shares his own insights and findings about Philippine traditions—a very good example of this is some of my favorite parts, that is, the pages he has written about the lingling-o amulet of fertility, tracing its relation to other symbols in southeast Asia and to Sanskrit culture. Another remarkable thing that Apostol does with his findings is transform the aspect of the crocodile from creature of fear to symbol of empowerment such as the Buwaya (More info below.)
As a yoga practitioner for over 14 years here in the U.S., I have always been enthralled by the many similarities between Sanskrit and Philippine words so this book fills in holes of knowledge of the relation between Sanskrit civilization and the Philippines and how the beauty of the Hindi civilization reached and influenced the people of the islands before the coming of the Spanish conquistadora. Things like these are NOT covered in the educational system of the Philippines as the focus is more on Westernization, Christianization and modernization.
I always loved Philippine indigenous percussion music and dance more so than the Spanish influenced music and dance. And when I began to go to college at Ateneo and U.P. Diliman in the 1980s, I began to awaken more and more from my colonized stupor, that is, I began to realize that my pro-European, pro-Spanish upbringing in the Philippines had trained my mind to look down upon and my heart to be shut off from Philippine indigenous people— their race, their appearance, their manner of singing.
As I began to learn more at these Manila universities I also began to become more whole as I embraced Philippine indigenous culture more. At the same time I began to take down from its pedestal the Western European race, religion and culture, no longer making it superior and above my own people’s indigenous race, spirituality and culture. So in this manner, the Way of the Ancient Healer is still part of my education and continues a process of awakening for me.
Some of the Merriam-Webster dictionary definitions of healing are “to make sound or whole,” “to restore to original purity or integrity” and “to cause (an undesirable condition) to be overcome.”
In effect, for myself and also many Filipinos, to learn about the sacredness of our Philippine traditions can be a form of healing in itself. That is, if Filipinos, as a result of colonization and Westernization, have been cut off from their ancestral traditions, their cultural identity fractured from them, taught to look down upon their own people, then the knowledge in this book can reconnect modernized Filipinos with those ancestral traditions and ancient ways and thus help their sense of being Filipino become more whole—if their mind and hearts are open and ready.
Apostol has written 21 pages about the fertility symbol and amulet called the lingling-o. I am fascinated by it’s probable relationship to the BA in the ancient writing system of the Philippines called the “baybayin.” In these pages, Apostol has taught me that the linglingo symbolizes both male and female sexuality, principles and fertility. Apostol’s work describes more meanings of the lingling-o, the different types of lingling-o shapes, and the evidence of historical and symbolic relation of the lingling-o to Sanskrit and Hindi influences.
Apostol also covers artifacts, weaving, carvings traditional clothing and the innate symbolism and meanings found in their designs. One fearsome creature whose presence is felt in ancient and indigenous symbolism is that of the crocodile. As the Buwaya, the crocodile is a Philippine symbol of protection and empowerment to many Filipinos. Thus it can be looked to as a power animal who can help Filipinos conquer their fears and find their courage, and to be all they were born to be in this world.
Reclaiming an indigenous worldview is vital to the survival of humanity in a modern world today that suffers from pollution, lingering hunger and poverty, natural resource depletion, wildlife destruction, global warming and war despite or even because of progress aka Westernization, globalization, and modernization,
The basis of Philippine ancient and indigenous people’s spirituality is the belief that all things have a soul and meaning. To believe that all things have a spirit is a source of respect and reverence for all of Life. This is part of the indigenous mind and worldview that could help humanity realize and arrest the destruction that so-called advanced civilization has been wreaking upon the world. It is the worldview that can help humanity heal and the Earth heal.
This review has been posted at amazon.com