Albularyo, babaylan, and manghihilot are now considered national living treasures

Published November 2, 2020, 7:30 AM

by Jessica Pag-iwayan

The search for the next Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan is on!

This is not a drill!

Just in time for Undas (or Halloween) season, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) announced that babaylan, albularyo, and maghihilot are now considered national living treasures. And the search for them to be part of the next Gawad sa Manlilika ng Bayan (GAMABA) or The National Living Treasures Award is officially on! 

The logo of GAMABA, which is a stylized representation of the human form used in traditional cloth

Institutionalized in April 1922 by Republic Act no. 7355, the NCCA through GAMABA is in constant search for national living treasures, or Filipino artists who are involved in the creation of uniquely traditional art. 

“The Manlilikha ng Bayan, is a Filipino citizen engaged in any traditional art uniquely Filipino whose distinctive skills have reached such a highly level of technical excellence and have been passed on to and widely practiced by the present generation in his/her community with the same degree of technical and artistic competence,” the NCCA explains. 

Introducing: Ethnomedicine category

For this year, NCCA with the help of GAMABA’s executive council has introduced a new category—the Ethnomedicine (or traditional medicine or healing). This paved the way for ethnomedicine practitioners such as manghihilot, albularyo, and babaylan to be qualified for this highly coveted award. 

According to GAMABA’s executive council, a manghihilot is a skilled individual that practices the ancient science and art of Filipino healing that is grounded on the principle of the physical elements. Meanwhile, an albularyo is a person highly skilled when it comes to using herbal remedies “complementing this with mental emotional and spiritual techniques.” Lastly, a babaylan (traditional healer) is an individual who mastered psycho-spiritual practices for healing and well-being. 

“Ethnomedicine is for the benefit of everyone. Not all [illnesses] can be cured through biomedical process. Just like how hilot has psycho-spiritual process and it has been acknowledged across the globe, this not just a simple massage,” says Prof. Felipe de Leon Jr., GAMABA executive council member. “Unti-unti nating kikilalanin ang ating mga manghihilot, albularyo at mga babaylan sapagkat ito ay bahagi ng kultura natin (We will acknowledge and honor our traditional healers because they are part of our culture). Our ethnomedicine thrives up to these days and are very much alive in different communities because it works well. Sarili nating syensiya ‘yan at dapat nating ipagmalaki (It is our very own science that we should be proud of).”


Ethnomedicine is an addition to the 10 existing categories at GAMABA, namely folk architecture, maritime transport, weaving, carving, performing arts, literature, graphic and plastic arts, ornament, textile or fiber arts, and pottery. To date, there are 16 individuals who have received the National Living Treasure Award. 

All nominees for GAMABA should be practicing their craft for no less than 50 years and have been actively passing on their art to their community. Artists must be nominated by members of their community. 

GAMABA awardees will receive a stipend from the government, medical insurance, and a medallion. Deadline of submission of entries is on Feb. 12, 2021. 

For the application form and additional information, visit