Most people refer to it as anxiety. But I believe it is more than that. Our rich cultural and traditional concepts of illness should entail a more nuanced approach to understanding and dealing with the phenomena.
My clinical practice immerses me in the many colorful symptomatic variations of Kabuhi. Central to the complaints include a persistent knot in the stomach, particularly in the solar plexus, which makes the sufferer hardly breathe, dizzy, vomitous and panicky.
Comorbid diagnoses of GERD, acid reflux, or gastritis, are also common which doctors usually treat with medication. Yet, what is also palpable in the sufferer is the belief that if Kabuhi goes higher to the brain, it will ultimately make the person mentally deranged.
That is why for many people, part of the treatment is to prevent Kabuhi from reaching the head, the seat of the mind. And this is done best by a manghihilot or tambalan who makes some sort of organization or “tie” the Kabuhi in the solar plexus to keep it from escaping (kabuhi) and dwell in the brain.
To many of my clients, these sorts of remedies actually heal them, alleviate their pain, and save them a visit to the medical doctor. However, there are also those whose symptoms persist after some time and necessitates a more complete treatment of the disease.
Considering the worldview of patients is essential in the treatment of disease because belief is a powerful factor in the healing of our ailments. I read an anecdote somewhere of a westerner doctor bringing a lusty specimen of amoeba and a microscope to convince the people of Mountain Province the existence of the pathogen. After showing it to the tribal chiefs, he warned them that it is the cause of disease and can kill people. But the tribal chief retorted, “Well, it might kill a little white man like you, but wouldn’t hurt a great big Apo like me.”
Stories like this abound and has become part of our narrative in our conception of disease. Many of us believe that physical ailments are due to imbalance in energies in the body, or the misalignments of our body, mind, and spirit. And true enough, these “Eastern” theories are gainingfoothold, slowly but surely validated by “western science”.
For example, science has found out that our guts, that is our solar plexus, is actually lined with 100 million neurons, making it a brain in itself! That is why many times, we say we “feel in the gut”, meaning we get our information and many times base our judgment and actions on this feeling in the gut.
Hence, all along, our reference to our gut or solar plexus as the center of our Kabuhi is actually correct. Indeed, the source of our life energy, is in our Kabuhi, and aptly so as the name suggests. “Buhi” means life or being alive, and when this source is depleted, or blocked, or gone awry, we suffer from the illness we fondly call with the same name.
And so, how do we now treat Kabuhi? By looking at it holistically, as a culture bound illness. This may just be unique to us Boholanos or Filipinos because of our beliefs and worldviews. And the remedy to the ailment should consider these realities.
In the next issue, I will share some antidotes and tips to manage our Kabuhi. So, stay tuned.