The Philippines: Culture and Views on Health


The contemporary nursing care practices are oriented primarily at the provision of patient-centered and holistic care that is based on cultural competence and inclusion. In this regard, each culture represents a complex set of concepts, ideas, identities, and beliefs that determine the patients’ attitudes to and perceptions of health (Abad et al., 2014). Also, discussing this issue, it is important to note that the concept of health is wide and involves not only the physical state but also mental and emotional wellbeing.

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Philippine culture as a collection of mixed practices

The Philippines is an archipelago that is comprised of over 7000 islands and is home to a diverse population consisting of over 170 ethnic groups speaking several different languages (Abad et al., 2014). Naturally, each of these cultures can have their perspectives on health and healing practices. Overall, the Filipino culture represents a set of mixed practices that drive from both the indigenous components and the ones borrowed from the Western culture (Abad et al., 2014). The Filipino communities dwelling in the rural areas tend to gravitate to the natural remedies, alternative medicine, and supernatural practices; however, the population of the urban districts is more likely to rely on the Western medicine; also, in many cases, both types of treatments can be used simultaneously (“Health beliefs and behaviors,” 2017).

The Filipino understanding of health and wellness revolves around the concept of balance – a very important indigenous health view that is based on the interactions “hot” and “cold” in one’s environment (McBride, n.d.). For instance, the rapid switches from hot to cold or vice versa are recognized as the causes of illnesses while warm temperatures are associated with balance. In physical, as well as mental health, the illnesses can be viewed based on three different explanatory theories (mystical, naturalistic, and personalistic) focused on the model of equilibrium. Mystical causes are known as the ones of the supernatural character and are linked with the influence of the ancestral spirits, retributions from the relatives, or negative impacts on one’s soul. Naturalistic causes derive from nature and its forces such as lightning, rain, drafts, or thunder. Finally, personalistic causes may include punishments administered by spirits or sorcerers for one’s deeds (McBride, n.d.). Healing is seen as the cleansing of the body from the impurities and negative influences and restoration of the equilibrium.


Modesty and shame are some of the common traits of Filipino individuals. In their culture, illnesses can be viewed as signs of weakness and tend to be ignored or disguised up to the time when they become severe and can no longer be overlooked. Physical ailments are more likely to be reported to medical professionals than mental and behavioral issues that may not be acknowledged unless a practitioner begins to ask about them directly. Attempting to cope with fatigue, many Filipinos would take naps during the day and treat their behavioral problems using natural and alternative remedies such as the use of herbs and oils viewed as the remedies helping gain balance or the application of objects and materials expected to protect one from negative influences of the individuals who possess supernatural powers (or mangkukulam) (Tuliao, 2014). This belief is rather common among Filipino groups and people with different levels of education. Community plays a significant role in the Filipino understanding of balance as social support is seen as a vital factor helping an individual to maintain a healthy balance of physical and mental health.


Abad, P. J., Tan, M. L., Baluyot, M. M., Villa, A. Q., Talapian, G. L., Reyes, M. E.,… Laurino, M. Y. (2014). Cultural beliefs on disease causation in the Philippines: Challenge and implications in genetic counseling. Journal of Community Genetics, 5(4), 399-407.

Health beliefs and behaviors. (2017). Web.

McBride, M. (n.d.). Health and health care of Filipino American elders. Web.

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Tuliao, A. P. (2014). Mental health help seeking among Filipinos: A review of the literature. Web.

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