Through the years, illness and diseases have been battled out by numerous practices evolving as mankind’s knowledge does. The way people treat these diseases, according to the earliest record of medicine varies from direct surgery using nails, as a form of surgery, to isolation until God forgives them for their “sins”. This was what healthcare looked like before formal medicine was discovered. In the Philippines, we have ten sorts of healthcare also known as traditional healers or folk doctors: the babaylan ('religious leader'), albularyo, the manghihilot or hilot (the traditional 'massage therapists'), the magpapaanak (the traditional 'midwife', also sometimes called a hilot), the mangluluop, the manghihila, the mangtatawas, the mediko, the faith healer, the local shaman healers.
Even before the Spaniards came to the country, natives would use medicinal plants and believe in bathala to cure their illness. For 300 years, in order to fight cholera, natives discovered by means of the efficacy of oil from monungal wood scrapings and pieces. They would also use hydrotherapy through natural hot springs, also, as a cure for appendicitis, folk doctors would intake 'water-treated fresh chicken gizzards' which can last for three consecutive Friday mornings. Payment usually comes in the form of goods or service. However, when we were colonized by the Spaniards during the 17th to 18th century, most of the medical supplies used in the Philippines were solely shipped from Mexico. The number of medical personnel, doctors, pharmacists and surgeons, who received training in Europe were relocated around Manila. And because of that, the Spanish established several hospitals which caters the common diseases of Filipinos such as diarrhea, dysentery and leprosy. According to Edward Gaylord Borne, a historian from the United States, the Philippines was, “ahead of all the European colonies in providing healthcare to ill and invalid people”.
For the fifty-year American colonialism, they educated Filipinos to the Western practice which we still use in the present. They developed a new system of public health institutions wherein Manila was divided into ten cities with a municipal physician to each. Today, the Philippines has numerous healthcare specialists such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, surgeons, physical therapists, who received education in the country itself but based on Westernize practice. However, as our education of formal healthcare improved, our ability to distribute it to people in need, did not. Unlike during the traditional or folk doctors, they just require goods or service as a payment, but now, it is only accessible to those who have money.
I firmly believe accessible public healthcare is one of the most important aspect that should be given support by the government because of the following reasons. First, before we are able to achieve our goals, make money or even provide for the family, those can be invalidated or difficult to achieve, if we get sick. Our health is our best investment. But our government doesn’t see it that way. It seems like they only think that only the rich can get sick –only those who can fend for their illness. Accessible public healthcare is a must for the country, it should top the list of where our taxes go to. Healthy children can learn better, healthy people can contribute to society and to the economy.
Second, modern diseases require modern treatments, and these modern treatments include modern technology –for tests or diagnosis, which costs an arm and a leg. As our knowledge improves, we use different technology, and this makes life easier to detect the common illness. However, it won’t be as easy for those who have to pay for each test or have surgeries, needed to treat their pain. As what Senator Sonny Angara said, most Filipinos only go to their doctors or schedule consultations when their sickness are worst, because of the lack of support from the government. Indeed, those part of the working faction can get benefits which includes discounts. But, how about for the self-employed individuals. How about our local farmer, taho vendor, who pays for them when they normally need to put first the needs of their family before themselves. Based on the 2016 Department of Health records, 54% of the country’s healthcare expenses are from their own pockets, it implies that the Filipino families have to spend on their treatment. This shouldn’t be carried by themselves alone.
Lastly, indeed, universal health care is a political concern, which is what President Rodrigo Duterte was brave to sign Universal Health Care Law or the Senate Bill No. 1896, for the Filipino people. He exclaimed that, enrolling our citizens to the National Health Insurance Program and expanding PhilHealth coverage to include free medical consultations and laboratory tests, will guarantee equitable access to quality and affordable health care services. This is a great leap for the healthcare system in the country and the first one. However, there are still possible problems arising from this like where will the fund come from; yes, everyone can now be able to go to public hospitals, but we only have few of them, and those few hospitals have few doctors and nurses.
Overall, healthcare is an important aspect in everyone’s life. We all experience getting illness and that illness shouldn’t make us worry for the possible price. Universal public healthcare is important because health must be treated as everyone’s human right. Truly, the country implemented Universal Health Care law, but the questions rise to the efficiency and to the extent of this policy covers. The country currently faces financial issues, so the funding is still doubtful, as well as the lack of healthcare facilities and scarcity of workers. That’s why the government should address the complications above first, before thrilling everyone to a dystopian free healthcare in all forms. If everyone has to access to a public healthcare, we can be healthy who can work better in all aspects.