It was in the 1960s and the 1970s that our grandfather, Angel Agpad, was recognized as an indigenous healer.
His prowess as a healer was perhaps better appreciated in villages other than his home village in Sagada, Mountain Province, though even then many of the local folk would approach him for remedies to whatever ailments or discomfort that they might be feeling. Remedies that he prescribed were mostly concoctions from the many herbs that he had, with indigenous prayers and sometimes with the ritual slaughter of chicken.
He was also skilled in a form of reflexology and acupressure, as well as in the mending of dislocated joints or strained muscles. “Mangngilot” was a term used to refer to him to reflect this skill.
These remedies are mostly lost to us now, though we his grandchildren were beneficiaries of his skills, as the odd headache, sprained ankle, diarrhea or other complaints seemed to disappear after we ingested a bitter herb, were massaged by him, or drank chicken soup.
His remedies were primarily traditional, but he was astute enough to recognize the shortcomings of some of his prescriptions, specially in dealing with infections. For this, he also carried with him powerful antibiotics that he mixed with the traditional cures when the complaints involved dangerous infections. In other cases, he would actually recommend that the patient seek the help of medical professionals, if the malady is beyond his prowess.
Our grandfather walked with a limp, with one of his legs always askew, making it necessary for him to carry a cane wherever he went. That he walked with a limp perhaps bolstered his reputation as a healer, for to reach the many villages he ministered to, he had to walk many kilometers. His perseverance in these long treks perhaps added to people’s faith in his abilities, and thus ultimately increased the effectiveness of his cures, as “patients” were psychologically more receptive of the cures.
For one reason or other, our grandfather was referred to as “Injun Joe,” another example of how the people of Sagada bestowed names upon their brethren. The name stuck, and until now, we his grandchildren would occasionally refer to the patriarch as Injun Joe.
Injun Joe visited many villages as a healer, going to Ilocos Sur, Abra, Kalinga and wherever he was called to serve. In these places, he invariably made friends – with the people he healed, and with people in general. It was not uncommon that these friends would give him gifts when he finally left their village. Thus Injun Joe would come home to Sagada laden with goods such as tobacco, dried meat, dried beans, and whatever his “patients” gave him in appreciation of his work.
Up to now, his descendants are not surprised when the descendant of those he healed would visit Sagada and renew friendships with the family, in an enduring appreciation of Injun Joe’s healing abilities. They are manifold, and it is not uncommon that his indigenous name Agpad has become part of the roster of names of those he helped.
One of the more significant friendships that Agpad has developed is with the people of Betwagan, Sadanga, Mountain Province.
He has been to the place several times as a healer, and also as a guest to the many traditional ritual feasts of that village. His continuing interaction with the amiable people of Betwagan further bolstered Agpad’s relations with them.
Yet perhaps what makes his relationship with Betwagan so special is the story of how he performed a seeming miracle as a healer.
In one of his visits to the place, he came upon the people at a wake, watching over one of their kin, apparently dead. Agpad did not believe that the person was dead, and convinced the people that they should first try to revive the “dead” person. Agpad came up with herbal concoctions that they force-fed or otherwise ingested into the person.
The person was revived, and lived a long life.
Perhaps some other person could have noticed that the person being mourned was not yet dead and could be revived, and perhaps that person could have administered a remedy to make it happen. A medical professional most certainly would have been able to, and in the process would have gained the enduring appreciation, and friendship, of the people of Betwagan.
Serendipity however put Injun Joe in the place where he could help, and it was upon him that the people of Betwagan bestowed their generous friendship.
Since then, our extended family in Sagada became the close friends of several large families in Betwagan. Our names, both the indigenous ones and Christian baptismal names, became the names of our friends in Betwagan. Nay, they are more than friends, but brothers, sisters, family.
They come in numbers to join us in our celebrations, or to help us in our hardships. Whenever we visit their place, they treat us like royalty, so that we often are reduced to embarrassed gratitude. Whenever they visit us, they bring with them the usual token gifts of rice, and the ever-present basi or sugarcane wine.
Such relations have endured for several generations already, and we hope that it will continue forever, so long as our lines endure. We hope that eventually one of the descendants of Agpad marry into the families in Betwagan, and so seal a relationship he started by being a healer.