Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A visit with a quackdoctor in Siquijor

It was December & I was staying with a friend in San Juan, Siquijor. My friend's two younger siblings-one boy and one girl-were enrolled in the Catholic High school in Siquijor town & it was the final school day before Christmas vacation.

My friend operated a small cafe in San Juan and I was there one afternoon......taking up space. When the younger sister arrived from school on the jeepney,it was obvious that she upset. I didn't immediately understand the nature of her problem as she spoke in Visayan. Of course, the younger sister could speak English well enough, but for such a personal, family matter, she was more comfortable speaking to her sister in their native language.

My friend explained the situation to me. The younger sister was complaining of a stomach ailment. A friend from school told her stomach ache was due to a spell having been put on her by an enemy. It was further explained to me that as soon as a quackdoctor was located, my friend would take her younger sister to have the curse removed.

My friends were originally from another island and although they had lived on Siquijor island for a few years, they needed the assistance of a local to find the shaman. With this local man driving my friend's jeep, I joined the two sisters on their journey. We drove to an area between Siquijor town and Larena.I wasn't familiar with this part of the island and it's unlikely that I'd be able to find this place again on my own.

The quackdoctor's house looked rather nice from the outside. It was a brick house of a style more common to California of the 1960's and not like any other I'd seen in Philippines. We did not enter the house;the old, grey-haired woman came outside. She lead us to an old shack behind the main house. The shack was slightly elevated with a pig sty underneath. The old woman and the younger sister climbed the stairs and went inside.I wanted to go inside as well, but was told that the floor of the elevated shack would not support my weight. So, the older sister and I sat outside on a wooden bench while our frightened driver kept his distance beside the jeep.

By the time the ritual had be performed and the curse removed, the sun had gone down and it had grown dark in that way it only does in rural Philippines.
We had not driven far from the quackdoctor's home when the jeep stopped.

Our driver had the hood up and in no time he was joined by the men who lived in the neighboring houses. I am useless as an auto mechanic and I sat patiently in the front passenger seat as the men worked on the problem. From what I gathered, a cable that attaches to the accelerator pedal had broken. The fact that there was not garage or auto parts store was not a problem for our rescuers. It would simply be a matter of getting enough shoe string to reach from the carburetor to the driver's seat. Our driver would be able to drive the jeep by pulling the string- rather than push the pedal- when he needed to "give it the gas". Soon, we were on our way back to San Juan, none the worse for wear.

1 comment:

Dominique said...

Hi, Robert,

Very engaging narrative! You should turn this into a short story. So...what happened to the girl's stomachache?