Quack Doctors

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I certainly hope you are sitting down for this one, because I'm not sure I believe it myself, yet. Either way, here goes:


This afternoon, February 09, 2008 (5:15pm), we paid a trip to what is locally know as, a quack doctor. Now, this isn't a "quack doctor" like we may know in the west. You know, the ones we believe to be 'crazy'? Although, you may think I am after reading this page.


Anyway, a quack doctor in the Philippines is a doctor who practices... well, I will say it isn't exactly what we would call modern medicine using teeth, chanting and a skull. Wait. Let me go back a bit, because I seem to be getting ahead of myself.

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Ms. Leleng, a local quack doctor who specializes in headaches and migraines.Folks, meet Ms. Leleng. She's a 49 year old provincial quack doctor who lives in Cebu. Upon first glance of the surroundings, her "office" and her "tools of the trade", I was a bit hesitant to step inside. You see, this was my first time to visit with a quack doctor, although I had heard many interesting stories about them over the years.


For the most part, it was quite interesting to watch this woman work. After all, she didn't have an x-ray machine anywhere to be seen. But, she did have a stethoscope and sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff), as well as a few modern charts, hanging on the walls of her chapel. Yes, I said chapel.

Dr. Leleng placing her hands on Iyah's head, while chanting softly.Now, upon arrival, Iyah stepped inside the chapel, along with Dr. Leleng. Vivian and I decided to remain outside, as it was a beautiful day and I don't think, at the time, that either one of us was completely comfortable about going inside. Anyway, Iyah sat down and Leleng began her work. You see, Iyah suffers, and has suffered Migraine headaches, for years.


Leleng placed her hands on Iyah's wrist, and then began chanting. Afterward, she took a tooth off the counter (in the corner, directly behind her) and hit it against to top of something in a box, which was on the counter in the corner. (At the time, I was unable to see what it was.) Leleng then took this tooth and put it against Iyah's head, while continuing to chant. For a while after, Leleng massaged Iyah's head.


After this was completed, she was finished. That's it, nothing more. I was a bit shocked to say the least. I mean, I figured if we were going to have to pay this lady money, she should spend a bit more time with Iyah.


An after treatment consultation, letting the patient (Iyah) know what she should do to prevent future headaches.Heck, any modern medical doctor would have spent more time than that, if only to justify the bill we would have been charged! Oh well, I would wait to see how much the bill was, for this - specialized treatment.


After Leleng had completed the treatment and they both stepped outside, Leleng  took time to consult her new patient, giving Iyah advice on what to do from now on. This was to (hopefully) prevent future (severe) migraine headaches from occurring.


Although Iyah had made it a point to let me know her head still ached badly, she did pay close attention to what the doctor advised her to do, regarding her health. I was all ears at this point, of course, still waiting to see the bill. It never did come. In fact, Iyah took money out of her pocket to pay, but Leleng directly refused it. If we wanted to pay, or I should say "donate" anything, we were to only place money on the alter where a small Santo NiƱo statuette stood proudly. So, Iyah did that.


Vivian, standing in front of the Santo Nino on a small alter.To the left, you can see the alter with a small donation that Vivian had already placed there. A bit later, Iyah would put more there, as an offering and donation to Leleng for her treatment and time.


Here is where it becomes a bit odd. After Leleng had completed treating Iyah, she let Iyah know that there was a skull in the corner, inside the box I spoke about earlier. (Why, or how this came up I don't know, as I wasn't paying attention to the conversation at that point.) Either way, we had become informed. That's all that matters to me.


Of course, I began feeling a bit eerie at this point. But I decided it was another chapter in the Filipino culture that I really needed to learn, if for no other reason than to teach others what I have learned. Anyway, onward we continued, learning about Leleng's profession.


The skull of Marcos, Leleng's brother who died at the age of 18. Leleng was only 3 at that time.Okay, here is where it gets totally weird for westerners. In the photo to the right, you will see the skull of Leleng's brother, Marcos. He was a quack doctor until his death at the age of eighteen. You see, he had been a quack doctor from the age of nine.


At the time of Marcos' death, Leleng was only three years old. As she grew, Leleng resisted her "calling" to become a quack doctor. This only caused her to feel as though she were going crazy, according to what she told me today. So, she ultimately gave in and took to helping people, as a local quack doctor.


Part of her being a quack doctor is to eat the front, upper teeth from her deceased brother's skull. So, about twenty years ago, Leleng did just that. This was to secure health and strength as a quack doctor.


Leleng telling Iyah about filling out the request sheets and then placing them into the mouth of the skull, requesting health improvements.To your left, you will see Leleng informing Iyah about filling out a request slip on the table, and then placing it in the mouth of the skull, for good health to be showered upon the patient who makes the request.


Ultimately, I got past my skin crawling and the feeling that I had just stepped into the Twilight Zone, until I arrived home. You see, even when I had arrived home, I felt as though this may have been a waste of time and energy, until about 8pm, that is. Around 8pm, Iyah came upstairs to the bedroom and let me know something I never believed I would have heard. She informed me that her headache, which normally lasted at least two to three days (I have known her since 2005), as far back as I can remember.


You see, the headache that ended today was the very first headache I have ever seen Iyah have, which disappeared without having taken any medicine whatsoever, and one to two days premature. It had only begun early this afternoon!


In closing, you can say what you wish about Filipinos, their superstitions, and their... somewhat different practices of medicine. But, folks, in this case I was there. I experienced this along with Iyah and Vivian. So, if any one of us is crazy, we all are, including Doctor Leleng.


Update - February 28, 2008: Until this date, Iyah has yet to suffer another migraine. You can believe what you want, but I'm sold on the abilities of some to help heal others. I'm not saying her headaches are gone forever, but this is the single longest period of time that Iyah has gone without a migraine since I met her, in late 2005.


Photo Credits: All photos - Paul Petrea










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Revised: 09/16/13 13:32:33 +0700