Who would have thought something as apolitical (so it seems) as hilot (massage) has so many layers of meaning? Who would have thought this ancient art of healing is bursting with messages for today’s generation?
Only the guys from The UP Repertory Company would.
In its virtual staging of Hilot, the theater group presented not just what happens when someone gets the services of a manghihilot. It probes deeper. It traces the journey of how a modern-day manghihilot has wound up to where he is now. It also ties this up with highlights of Philippine history.
Talk about shooting the proverbial two birds with one stone. The story not only elevates the ancient art of healing our forefathers practiced. It also presents snippets from the past that continue to affect us today.
For instance, images of former president Ferdinand Marcos and his soldiers are shown in the middle of the play, perhaps to demonstrate we haven't learned enough from that repressive, oppressive past. Look where we are now.
Images of a vaccine-loaded syringe, ready to plunge into the skin of a willing arm, are aso shown in juxtaposition with the pandemic raging today.
Modern medicine may be everywhere, but many, including young people, still believe in the ancient art of healing.
This traditional path to wellness, which relies on herbs as cures, is as Filipino as our centuries-old faith. The play drives this point home by showing an image of a brown rosary (brown being the color of our race) on the heels of manghihilot scenes.
While the play is far from religious, it strongly promotes the Christian value of retribution. Do good, and good will come to us. Do the opposite, and we’re done with.
Everything is going smoothly in the home of this government official’s family. The resident manghihilot is doing a good job of keeping everybody well until someone commits a grievous sin. All hell breaks loose. and everyone suffers, including the hapless manghihilot, who takes the blame for the ways of the sinful person.
Talk about negative vibes quashing the upbeat spirit of a happy home. Talk about sin rearing its ugly head and destroying everything in its path.
The sounds, the scenes give that creepy feeling that makes us brace for grim images one after another. Turns out we can sleep soundly after seeing the play. The scenes are not as scary as the music foretells.
As closing credits roll, going to the manghihilot for aches and pains seems less an act of sliding backward than a sensible choice despite the advances of modern medicine.
After all, going back to our Filipino roots, with emphasis on religion, seems a good thing, We just can't show deep enough appreciation of the elders who pass on the ancient art of healing to us.
In returning to the past, we understand the present. In revisiting our roots, we learn what to keep, what to discard.
This makes Hilot an eye-opener, especially for a generation steeped in modern technology so far removed from the past