We decide to spend a few days on the island of Siquijor, also known as ‘Withcraft Island’ because of it’s traditional healing methods. The main reason I want to visit here is to try one of these methods known as bolo-bolo healing. This form of healing is done to cleanse away bad spirits and ailments for those whom which it is performed.
There isn’t much info online regarding how to find one of these healers, because there aren’t many who still practice it today. I decide to ask the owner of our hostel, who is a native on the island. She says she thinks she knows the general area where a healer lives and will send a guide with us to try and find him first thing in the morning.
SEARCHING FOR THE HEALER
The next day, our guide meets us as we finish up breakfast. We all hop on motorbikes and off we go in search of the bolo-bolo healer. We make our way directly through the middle of the island toward the exact opposite end. We ride up and down hills lined on both sides with the most vibrant green landscape. I look to the right and happen to catch a glimpse of a waterfall, not a soul in sight. Just the water flowing down, somehow making it more beautiful that it continues to fall although there is no one there to witness it.
Once we arrive to the other side of the island, we turn off the main road onto a smaller gravel road where locals live. There is a man working outside in his front yard. Our guide slows to a stop to ask him if he knows where the healer lives. The man looks up, thinks for a moment, and then points behind us. We turn around and head back down the main road where we came from. This time we turn off and head down an even smaller side street. We find a place to park, take off our helmets, and look around. Our guide points to an orange house with a large, white front porch. “There is his house.” It doesn’t look like anyone is home.
We follow behind him as he walks towards the porch. He tells us to wait here as he continues to walk around the side of the house toward the backyard. About five minutes later our guide reappears and stands next to us. “He will be out in a minute.” All three of us look at each other, exchanging silent glances of anticipation. Unsure of what is about to happen. An older gentleman then appears from around the side of the house carrying some supplies. A one liter plastic Fanta bottle filled with what looks to be water. A single water glass. A smooth, black stone. And a long, plastic straw.
THE CLEANSING BEGINS
He walks past us, while motioning to the empty chair in the corner of the porch. I suppose I will go first since I got us into this. I sit down in the chair. He pours water from the Fanta bottle into the empty glass. When the glass is about half full, he gently drops the stone inside. It sinks to the bottom. With the other hand, he takes a chug of water from the Fanta bottle, swishes it around his mouth, and spits it out on the ground in front of him. As if to cleanse his pallet.
He puts the straw into the glass and holds it near the top of my head. Here we go. After taking a deep breath, he places his lips around the top of the straw. He moves the glass from the top of my head, around my back, down my chest, stomach, down each leg, and finally to my feet. As he does this, he continuously blows air bubbles through the straw, into the water.
When he gets to my feet, he lifts his head up and holds the glass in the air for us to see. The water is now murky and filled with small, floating particles. He nods in approval and then pours it out to begin the entire process again. This is repeated until finally the water remains clear, holding it up, smiling in satisfaction. Maddie goes next.
During her first round, we watch as the water immediately turns murky. The glass fills with particles of all sizes. We have no idea what is happening but it is interesting to watch. When he gets to her feet, he lifts the glass and places his hand over the top as he pours the water out between his fingers. Making sure not to let any of the contents inside slip out through his fingers.
Once the water is drained, he empties the remaining contents onto the ledge of the porch. There we can see a pile of sand. And seashells. Seashells well larger than the size of the straw hole. No idea how they could have possibly gotten into the glass since we were watching him the entire time. We look around at each other stunned but amazed.
The healer says something and we ask our guide to translate. He tells us that he asked if she as been eating sand? Huh?? Ummm not that she is aware of. What does the sand mean? And the seashells? Our guide asks him and then laughs at his answer. “He says he has no idea.” The healer picks up two of the bigger shells and hands them to her to keep. He finishes this process with Georgie as well and when he is done we ask him how much we owe him. He says no charge. We give him a small donation and head back to our hostel.
IF YOU WANT TO BELIEVE SOMETHING, THEN BELIEVE IT
As we ride back, I try to figure out what just happened. We know there is no way the shells could have been in his mouth and fit through that straw. So how did they get in the glass? My brain starts working hard to solve this mystery. How exactly did this trick work?
Did I feel refreshed afterwards? Like I was cleansed? Not really. But that doesn’t mean the impurities weren’t removed from my body. As my brain continues to try and make sense of it all, the line between faith and understanding quickly becomes apparent.
We are so quick to doubt things if we can’t explain them even if we see them happen with our own eyes yet we are willing to accept things we have never seen just because they make us feel good. So why is it so hard to believe that what just happened was really the rock working to suck out our impurities?
I think this is because when we actually see something, it crosses that line from imaginary to real. When we witness something happening with our own eyes, our brain starts working to explain it to us. Because that is the brain’s job. To create meaning and provide us with understanding.
After reviewing the facts, I ask myself, “Why do you even need to know?” Why do we always have to understand something before accepting it as truth. I am a big believer in that there are plenty of things happening around us that our brains are not yet able to comprehend. But that doesn’t make them any less real. We can try to figure it out but at the same time, the human brain is limited in that it can only use all it has learned up until this point in order to reach a conclusion.
With this realization, I simply choose to accept whatever just happened. It wouldn’t make my life better to know this was a magic trick. But It does make me happier and feel physically better to think that it was a legit healing experience. So this is what I choose to believe. A great thing about the brain is that we can choose any perspective we want at any given moment. I think this is a skill that we should utilize more often. Because, why not. 🙂