Sunday, October 30, 2016

MMK's "Anino" - Barang, Kulam and the Dark Clutches of Schizophrenia

Things are looking up for Victor (Zanjoe Marudo), Marites (Isabel Oli) and their two young children. The progressive family's bakery business is prosperous, and their perseverance is bearing fruits. In fact, this has allowed them to hire people, including creepy old hag Aling Maring who soon insinuates her sob stories to the benevolent couple's good graces. She's hired to bag bread with a daily wage of P20 a day. She even convinces reluctant Victor to hire her son who's on parole from jail time. 

One day, Maring's son abandons Victor's supplies and skedaddles with the couple's profits. This leaves Victor with no recourse but to throw Aling Maring out the door. "Binibilog nyo ang ulo ko," he reprimands her. Before she takes her final step out, Maring turns around and gazes at her enraged employer, as though casting a spell. She was never seen again. 

Victor starts hearing voices, unable to sleep. He keeps seeing the old lady's riled face. At some point, he even strangles his son. Marites decides to take him to an albularyo (folk healer) who performs a "pagtatawas" ritual on disgruntled Victor. After studying the molten wax droppings from the heated candle, the healer tells Victor that he's a victim of "barang", an affliction allegedly worse than "kulam". Four other healers say the same.

Finally, he was taken to a psychiatrist who, three months after initial confinement, diagnosed Victor with schizophrenia, a mental disorder characterized by delusions, a blunt affect, confusion, agitation, social withdrawal, psychosis, and bizarre behavior. With psychotic feature, this rightfully includes visual and auditory hallucinations; may nakikita at may naririnig kahit wala. Victor's condition is specifically signed out as "Paranoid schizophrenia" with hallmarks that include paranoid delusions, usually accompanied by auditory hallucinations, and perceptual disturbances. In this condition, an individual is incapable of sifting real events from mere products of the imagination.


A schizophrenic hears voices (auditory hallucination) telling him things, the most common of which comes from God, the devil or an "enemy" from his surroundings. These patients hear persuasive commands: like a voice from God ordering him to, hmmm, maybe stop cursing or He'd crash his plane. Moreover, their paranoia is fueled by an urgency to protect oneself from an antagonistic party: "inaaway ako", "gusto akong itumba", or just the general idea that someone wants to inflict harm on him. 

Unfortunately, these items (paranoia, auditory hallucination, delusion) are clinically entrenched in schizophrenia. These patients react to these misperceptions. If you are being attacked, you'd naturally want to retaliate and fight back. Or you retreat, flee and become depressive. When the mind fails to overcome the overwhelming odds, it shuts down and the patient becomes catatonic! At some point, the patient becomes violent. He wants to hurt others - or he hurts himself to put an end to his misery. This is where the patient satisfies the criteria for "admissibility".  


In the episode, there are concepts that deserve discourse. Despite our country's overreaching embrace of the new millennium and its new technologies, we are still a country steeped in superstition. When the psychiatrist reveals his initial diagnosis, i.e. that it is indeed a mental condition, Victor's sister is absolutely resistant - "Pero sabi ng mga albulario, na barang siya!" How in the world is a faith healer more credible than a physician who had 10-15 years to learn about these disorders? The physician was, in fact, the last person they turned to, when he should have been first to be consulted.

The more sociologically fascinating concept is that of "barang", otherwise called "haplit", "paktol", "anyaw" in the mystical island of Siquijor. Barang is a form of malignant sorcery. People get hexed, much like the voodoo practices of Haiti and Madagascar. 

The scenario used to involve beetles (bakukang) who, after incantations and prayers from a mambabarang, would be set free to invade the victim. Their entry into the body results to seemingly psychosomatic disorders like constant ear aches, hemorrhoids, and a general sensation of utter discomfort. 

These terms weren’t alien to me. As a child, I had a nanny who hailed from Naga. She told me vivid stories of spirits, monsters, witches, kapre (“agta"), and the santelmo (fire monsters shaped like men). But really, how does one reconcile the Filipino's deep religiosity and our inherently superstitious nature?

Most cultures have their own set of monsters. Even Iran has their djinn (a
 legendary middle eastern conjurer of destruction), recently on cinematic display at the recent QCinema Filmfest in Babak Anvari's spooky "Under the Shadows".

Schizophrenia, like diabetes and hypertension, doesn't have treatment. There is not a single medicine that absolutely cures this condition for good. But it can be managed. Family support is one of the most important factors in managing schizophrenia. Otherwise, if you keep leaving its prognosis to fate, the patient will eventually either inflict harm on himself - or on others! 

#MMK  #barang  #zanjoemarudo  #schizophrenia

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