It was probably a bit naive to think that I had already become immune to Filipino food and insects. After spending the last 3 weeks bragging about my lack of mosquito bites, I think karma decided it was my time to suffer. I don't want to go into details but basically, something I have consumed is not agreeing with my digestive system. Pretty standard travellers' D and V. It's almost a right of passage. But it is still thoroughly unpleasant...and it is destroying my morale.

Everything is annoying me, mostly because I am missing home. It is one of those rare days where cultural difference is not exciting me, but infuriating me.

Why does the coffee come in sachets and why is it so sweet?!?

Who the hell thinks 5.30 is an acceptable time for breakfast??

Why is everyone ALWAYS staring at me??!!???

That last observation was what got to me the most in my fragile and over-sensitive state. I felt like a goldfish in a bowl. Wherever we went and whoever we met there were always people staring. So when they noticed I had lost my appetite I quickly became the centre of attention. They were convinced I had been cursed.

A teacher, a doctor and a barangay captain all diagnosed me with the curse of usog.

Usog is caused by: admiration from a total stranger. Their attention unintentionally puts a 'curse' on you. For example, Dan noticed an old lady touching me a lot when we were doing surveys and thinks she was the one who caused it. She seemed very fond of me and quite nice. But apparently she gave me usog. Bitch.

Symptoms: stomach ache, loss of appetite , headache, vomiting - all of which are worsened when hungry or tired.

Cure: You have to go to an albularyo (like a shaman or witch doctor) who will draw the sign of the cross on your stomach with their own saliva. And then they give you a head massage. Within the next couple of hours you should be cured.

The only other way to get rid of usog is to touch the person who gave it to you, or drink from then same cup as them.

Seeing as the old lady lived in another barangay, the concerned crowd decided to go with option one: they called the local albularyo.


But even my fellow Filipino volunteers were convinced I had usog. As Kim said: "I experienced it three times, tried many medicines, but only the salvia with the cross managed to cure me."

So inspite of my internal conflict between mind and magic, I gave it a go.

I guess I do feel a bit better now....

#2014blog #philippines #usog #medicine #superstition #magic #witchdoctor

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