Thursday, August 14, 2008

Native Medicine Symposium

I had the honor of attending the Inetnon Amot Natibu/Ammwelil Safeyal Faluwasch also known as the Native Medicine Symposium held at the Man'amko Center on August 9, 2008. I've always wanted to learn more about traditional healing methods of the Chamorros and Carolinians. I was glad that this event was put together for free by passionate people who understand the value of passing traditional knowledge on to the current generation (even if they are not local) so that the healing arts do not disappear in time.

The student volunteers at the registration table who are hopefully going to retain this part of their culture.

Some medicinal plants brought as examples courtesy of the CNMI Forestry Division.

Cousins, Laurina Flores Boyer and Manny Flores Borja. Laurina is a Registered Nurse and Señot Borja is the ANA Project Director who helped put the symposium together.

Piper guahamense or Wild piper is often added to medicinal mixtures. It is aromatic and fleshy. It's funny because my sister, brother and I used to make play medicine with this same piper many years ago in the Philippines when we were kids. The Chamorros call this Papulun aniti or the "pepper leaf of the supernatural spirit." Some may argue with me and say that aniti means the devil but I believe this to be a word change that the Catholic clergy made many years ago.

A sample of Lulujut (Maytenus thompsonii) an important ingredient in many local medicines. The young leaves have an attractive pink tinge.

Some samples of seeds, stems, roots and leaves that are used as local medicine.

At first, there was a panel discussion with Chief Lino Olopai, Señora Manglona, Señot Donald Flores, si Señot Kapileo yan Senadot Maria T. Pangelinan.
Si Señot Rafael Rangamar, Dr. Daniel C. Lamar, yan si Señora Manglona. It was an interesting panel especially since it included Dr. Lamar, a Western educated and licensed physician who before going into medical school studied herbology. He was emotional at one point talking about plants being alive and part of our spiritual world and how it was his mother that introduced him to herbal medicine. National treasures: Our traditional healers; suruhanus yan suruhanas of Saipan, Tinian and Rota.
Dr. Lamar brought some Centella asiatica which he said is used for the promotion of healthy skin, anti-wrinkle, for enhancing mental acuity and staving off memory deterioration as well as improving blood flow by strengthening blood vessels and controlling varicose veins.

This is a relative of the sunflower and daisy that Dr. Lamar brought along from his house. The leaves are velvety and had a pleasant odor when crushed. Known as Sambong (Blumea balsamifera) in the Philippines and it is a antiurolithiasis (against kidney and gallbladderstones) and a diuretic used to aid the treatment of kidney disorders. The Sambong leaves can also be used to treat colds and mild hypertension.
Si Señora Liz Rechebei, Uncles Ben Borja and Donald Flores sharing plant lore and a merriment.

My good friend and father figure, Refaluwasch chief and traditional navigator, si Señot Lino Olopai. Laurina Boyer is smiling beautifully at the back.

Si Señot Rafael Rangamar, Lino's cousin and a Refaluwasch (Carolinian) medicine man. He spoke in his native tongue and he kept laughing as he recounted stories of midwifery and pointed at a few family members (like his wife and daughter) in the audience who were delivered traditionally. I enjoyed his jolly demeanor.

Si Señora Manglona, a suruhana from Rota explaining the use and efficacy of Åmot Sågue’ .

Åmot Sågue’ or medicine for post surgical pain presentation board.

This is the presentation board for Åmot Tabatdiyo or medicine for headaches and nosebleeds.

This is the presentation board for Åmot Makpong Patgon or medicine for children with urinary problems. Our Rotanese suruhana said that this mixture can even get rid of the strong ammonia-like smell of the urine.
My very first local medicinal brew and the programme. The brew is a concoction for general good health and for cleansing the insides. It tasted like warm Oolong tea.

Hey, there's Ellen's mom, Jeanne (third from the left). She was selling some of her artworks at the fair.
The captive audience listening about planting and conservation.

A presentation by Señora Calvo on Åmot Mahulat and showing some of the ingredients .
Here's Señora Toves preparing medicine for congestion. She said that the traditional herbs worked better than over the counter expectorants and decongestants.

The table was shaking too much so the pounding had to be moved to the floor. She used a stone mortar and a pestle made from an Ifit (Intsia bijuga) stump. Ifit is the State Tree of Guahan and is a very dense local hardwood. Dr. Lamar was the brave volunteer that took a few drops of the concoction up the nostrils.

It looks like a few people had to hold him down in this picture but they were actually just helping him from slipping off the chair since he needed to almost lie down for the mixture to go down his nasopharynx cavity.
Of course, Dr. Lamar had to get a phone call from the hospital in the middle of the whole demonstration.
The crowd laughed all the way through the demonstration. Doc said that it did not sting as much as he thought it would and that it felt good. They gave a few small bags of the decongestant mix and it smelled so strong that I almost felt dizzy from the aroma.
Too bad my camera didn't get a good after picture of Dr. Lamar. As you can see he was doing all right after the experience.
This is the presentation board for Åmot Mahulat or medicine for sore mouth/tongue/throat.

Si Señot Kapileo reminded us that there is a lot of secrecy when it comes to traditional healing since in the past, enemies could render medicines useless, ineffective or can even manipulate them to be harmful. This is one of the reasons why healers prefer not to plant herbs near their houses and just keep the knowledge of where to find the necessary plants in the jungles. A book of traditional medicine was passed on to him from Chuuk and he says that his successor has to not only be able to read Chuukese but also be able to prove their worth as a useful member of the community.
Our traditional healers from Tinian. The speaker here, "Dr. Gurak" told us that he heals with energy/spirituality and not herbs.

Si Señot Joe "Dr. Gurak" Cruz. He told the men he had real good medicine for us specifically and to speak to him in private after the presentations if we wanted to learn more.

Many thanks to the organizers and presenters for sharing your knowledge with me. I will continue to promote the natural heritage of the Commonwealth in order to uphold the local traditions and knowledge.

Ti napu.
The Beachcomber


Forgotten said...

Hey! You know my mom? You know, I really do enjoy reading your blog - but to tell you the truth, I still don't know who you are!! Maybe you prefer the anonymity (hmmm, did I spell that correctly?). BTW - in Chuuk, the use of native medicine is sometimes associated with the use of "Black Magic" and because many people look down on that (thanks to the Church), such knowledge is usually kept a secret although people usually know of at least one person that heals or dabs in the dark arts. As a matter of fact, I just met up with an old lady in Chuuk this summer that is said to know both although she prefers healing. She did a lot of work caring for people throughout her life - including a physically and mentally challenged child that people thought was going to die because he was unable to eat and there just wasn't any services available for him. His parents gave the child to her when he was just an infant and she took care of him for nearly eighteen years. I was able to talk to her about a few things while I was there and she gave me a "protective" oil that is meant to ward away bad spirits and bad intentions. Wonderful lady, but some people attach that stigma to her, you know? Anyway - I'm glad there's a move to share that knowledge and demystify this part of our culture. I wish it was so back home...

Forgotten said...


Mai said...

Super cool! You're just stocking up on the lore! Miss ya!

Island Boy Sailor said...

Brada Beachcomber, Was there any books, media recordings as a result of the Symposium? I am curious to gain information and also make contact with Mr. Manny Borja for a future assignment. Do you have email contact with Mr. Manny Borja? If possible please email him my address: chelu(at)bigfoot(dot)com and let him know I am interested in making contact with him about putting together cultural related photo projects. Excuse if I am imposing or intruding. I greatly appreciate what you can do to assist getting me in contact with Mr. Manny Borja.

The Beachcomber said...

Hafa adai, IBS. Thank you for your interest in local herbal medicine. I believe you can get a hold of Mr. Flores and get information on any of the suruhanu/a through the CNMI Humanities Council-

As for delurking, I guess I am doing it now yeah? But really, lurking or reading someone's material in a website without posting a comment is something all bloggers have to deal with. Sometimes there are just no comments to be made...Hehehe. Take care, brother and visit us soon.