From the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, Spanish missionaries collected, studied, and made records of Philippine medicinal plants and herbs that Filipino traditional medical practitioners or herbolarios had been prescribing since the precolonial period. Because the herbolarios left no writings about their practices, the missionaries’ works are our primary sources for studying Filipino traditional medicine.
Based on these works, Traditional Medicine in the Colonial Philippines, 16th to the 19th Century by Ma. Mercedes G. Planta gives us an intimate and dense portrait of a defined medical tradition, and so, documents an important component of ways of life and epistemologies that Filipinos can recuperate and benefit from. Today, when access to health and medical care remains beyond the reach of most Filipinos, Planta’s lively and scholarly invitation to reflect on a particular aspect of Philippine culture and harness its potential is a triumph of history as “usable past.”
This book received the Best Book in Science Award in the 37th National Book Awards by the National Book Development Board in 2018.