From Iskomunidad

M.A. Anthropology (October 2012)
Jimmy D. Sales


This study is an anthropological inquiry on the Adgawan-Manobo concept of sakit as a cause of illness in relation to social control. It is a qualitative study focused on the folk medical sector of the Adgawan-Manobo community of Tagbayangbayang in the municipality of Bunawan Agusan del Sur.

Tan (2008) and Helman (2007) quoted Kleinman (1980) in his proposition of the explanatory model of illness. This study follows Kleinmanm's explanatory model of health care. It probes the circumstances surrounding the illness of the person: its signs and symptoms, the gravity of the illness, the medical intervention which the caregivers administer to the ill, and the cause of the illness. It is consistent with the interpretive anthropologists whose concept of culture posits that “Man is suspended in the webs of significance he himself has spun” (Geertz, 1973: 5). This concept of culture puts all the social discourses into an interconnected world of meanings that continuously shape and reshape each other. I present here the aspects of the medical discourse which overlap with the political discourse particularly in the context of social control. The general objective of this research is to establish the connection between the concept of sakit as a cause of illness and the concept of social control.

To achieve this general objective, I define the concept of sakit in the particular context of the Adgawan-Manobo society by delineating the other concepts which are closely related to but are different from it. These are the concepts of pilit, haboy, ba 'yu, yabha and lay-gay. In diagnosing illness related to sakit, the diwatahans, who are folk medical experts in this sector of health care, rely on the two ways of diagnosing the illness: one is called gud-gud and the other one is the examination of the physical manifestation of the illness such as: changes in the skin tone, changes the body shape, and body sensation.

The general attitude of the family members of the ill person and the community in general, shows how illness becomes a mechanism of social control. Their words of exhortations and their act of isolating the ill show that illness is made to tool for making the members of the society adhere to the established moral standard. The key words and the symbolic actions and objects in the healing rituals were picked out and analyzed using the semantic and symbolic analysis. The said connections between these two concepts were then established.

Because the punitive nature of sakit, the healing rituals focus on the ill person's remorse and supplication for forgiveness. The words spoken during the ritual of the healing and the symbols used point to towards forgiveness of the person’s transgressions whatever these transgressions may be. These rituals are directed towards the spirits who may have been offended by the offended person. These spirits are the powers behind the control of society. The Adgawan-Manobos of Bunawan believe that these spirits are the ones who inflict sakit on those who are disrespectful and disobedient. Since they are the ones who inflict sakit in the first place they are the same ones who are capable of taking the sakit away by their act of forgiving the offender.