1. What is Luntiang Aghama’s purpose and goal in the Philippines?
Luntiang Aghama Natural Divine Arts Shrine of Healing Inc is a Duly Registered Religious Corporation Sole that aims to preserve Philippine Traditional and Indigenous Spiritual Beliefs and practices and one of it which is still known is the Practice of Hilot. Though Hilot is not a Religion or Spiritual Belief, but as we dig deeper on its practice, it is undeniable that its healing principle is based on the inseparable relationship of the Physical Body to the Spirit, thus we enshrine these principles to be protected, promote in order for the present and future Generation may still enjoy the Gift of Live from our ancestors.
2. Who are the members and their roles
Luntiang Aghama as a Religious Organization does not have Members. We do not encourage people to become members with our Shrine and be enslaved by certain rules and regulations being implemented like other churches and religious Organizations. Our Founder and Co-workers only help people to ReMember themselves back to the Path of our Race and we do not forcely convert people just for us to have members in the Shrine.
The people who are with us are the ones that have been awakened and remember their role in building our society in the past, so as the newly awakened one must remember their roles in building up the New Society that was destined for us.
Apu Adman Aghama or Rev. Rolando Gomez Comon being the Chief Priest who first heeded the call of awakening became our visionary in calling the people whom the Diwata and Anito have chosen in doing this task to the world. Followed by Lakay Magbaya Aghama or Rev. Alvin L. Sentin our Deputy Chief Priest.
Every person who has heeded the call has the duty of Creation, Co-Creation and Recreation as we are to be known the Vessel of the Diwata and Representatives of the Anito towards Humanity.
3. What is the current state of the indigenous people practicing Hilot in the Philippines? Is there support for them to do this?
There is a National Commission on Indigenous People which protects the Ancestral Domains of the Indigenous People. It means the Government only support them in protecting their land and properties. But unfortunately, their culture and tradition has been lost because of Christianization. Such as in 2019, I received a report that a Group of Aeta young people that need Desktop computer for their education, they need first to go to Church before they can access it. Christians are good but my heart breaks to know that before this people can access to the new Technology, they must leave first their religious belief before accessing the new technology. This is also true to the Indigenous People of northern Philippines the Kankanaey Tribe, they still know the name of their indigenous God but their understanding of Kabunian is God the Father or YahWeh that been taught to them by Christian Missionaries. And some of the rituals performed by our Igorot brothers are just considered Cultural Presentation and not as Religious and Spiritual Ritual.
Regarding the practice of Hilot, it is still prevalent here especially in the Indigenous Community, that they receive only a small amount of money in exchange for the gift of life they provided for their patient. There is an Agency that regulates the practice of Hilot but people who receive it tend to abuse the practitioners. mostly authentic practitioners practice Donation Based healing.
4. What is Luntiang Aghama’s vision for the Hilot in Philippines?
Hilot is the Pride of the Filipino People. It is a Gift of our Anito to the Common People. Thus Luntiang Aghama aims to lift up the practice of hilot and bestow the practitioners a Doctorate Title. Just like the Chinese Traditional Medicine practitioners who started their healing arts based on Animism just like Hilot, but TCM was not hindered and was allowed to be developed that is why the TCM practitioners obtained Doctorate Degree.
5. A Hilot School in London is being established, will this be beneficial to the Filipinos? Why?
I will be Honest in answering this Question. It is something like when the Spaniards introduced Modern Medicine in our Country, the role of our Ancient Babaylan in being responsible towards the Health of the People has declined. Some of our Babaylan have been converted into Christianity but some have hidden themselves and distribute their practices to only what the Spaniards understand. That is the reason why modern Filipino and some Historians understand Hilot as Massage and the use of herbs as Albularyo. Because that was the only thing that was approved by our Colonizer but when a Traditional Healer performs a ritual calling our Diwata, that healer will be persecuted under the law implemented by the Governor General under the recommendation of the Spanish Friars.
But our Ancestors are very intelligent, they manage to synchretize the modern faith into our ancient practice that is why there are healers now-a-days who use Christian Prayers in their work of Healing. These practices have been brought along even at the time that we were being sold by Spain to Great Britain then later on to the Americans. When the American came, Traditional Massage has been taken over by those who practice Massage Therapy (Swedish Massage) which later on become a channel of prostitution. When the Philippine Department of Health was established some of the practice of hilot was stripped off from us such as on the practice of delivering live birth. So as the practice of Bone Setting has been known through Chiropractic instead of Hilot. During the early 2000’s there are war between the practitioners of Hilot and Massage Therapy which still prevails upto now as the Licensed Massage Therapist claims that Hilot are stealing their Jobs from them (which is not but instead the modern methods is eliminating us who still practice the traditional method.)
So regarding to your Question if a Hilot School is being established in London, will the Filipino People benefit from it?
Well, this situation might be seen again by our fellow manghihilot of stripping off their Authority in Teaching Hilot so as the Philippine Government may react by passing their authority over our Cultural Heritage. Preservation and promotion of our Culture for me is important. Aside from making Hilot popular in London, Great Britain and the whole of the United KIngdom- these will give Hilot a New Look and Value-but the act of establishing hilot in London must secure to create an opportunity for our local Filipino Manghihilot to still have their Job as Manghihilot.
Schools here through Tesda teach Hilot Massage as a skill that those who learn may be employed locally or abroad. And there are already many of them who have brought their certificate that makes them earn from it. But during the time of Pandemic, many Hilot Schools from Tesda closed down due to social distancing policy. Hilot is very touchy method that requires your hands to touch the skin of the patient as well as the practice of massage.
But what we are teaching in Hilot Academy of Binabaylan, is not limited to just caring for the Physical Body, that is why we are very thankful to our Diwata, Engkanto and Anito for guiding us through and making us survive these Global Challenges.
For me personally, I pray that the Hilot School in London will bring an employment opportunity to Hilot Trainers/Teachers and also to employ Filipino Hilot Providers that will initially provide Hilot to the local people in LOndon. Or either, according to what we do, there are Filipino who become unemployed and take refuge to the Philippine Embassy in the country where they are, and waiting to have a new job or deported back to the Philippines. I am hoping that the HIlot School in London becomes a Bridge to our Filipino Kababayan that they may extend their work life and have a better income that they may bring home to the Philippines.