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Randy Ian F. Gallego

Jalanie C. Abubacar

Maternal health has turned out to be a fairly commonplace theme in socio-medical studies throughout the ages. Health advocates have always underscored the critical importance of pursuing initiatives and programs directed at understanding women’s health and its pivotal role in contemporary times. In as much as medical maternal practice have been taking gigantic leap forward in recent years in terms of technical and methodological advancement, there remains to be a steadfast, continuous patronage to a number of indigenous maternal methods and customs, especially in childbirth and the ensuing post-partum phase.

This study is an ethnographic exploration to understand and document the predominant socio-cultural beliefs and practices relating to puerperium (the immediate six-week period after childbirth when the womb is returning to its normal size) among one of the earliest tribes to settle the South Philippine Peninsula, the Subanen. The objective of this research is to contribute to the development of new knowledge and increase cultural facts for improved understanding about this ethnic group utilizing a qualitative-descriptive analysis of data gathered through direct observation, formal and informal interviews, and focus group discussion. The “Benal M’tobos Sug M’gbata” is Subanen terms that pertains about the dynamics of childbirth of Midsalip-Subanen tribe.

The major findings revolved around a complex and rich set of Subanen beliefs which, by their frame of reference, are believed to promote favorable puerperal health outcome for both the mother and the newborn. These unique, indigenous practices are described in the study according to their perceived general purpose and effects during the puerperium period categorized as prevention of post-partum complications, recovery and regaining of maternal energy and strength, and developing positive child’s health condition. Puerperal practices include: the paligo, which is a special and customary postpartum bathing in a basin filled with indigenous plants expressly prepared by the Mananabang (traditional midwife); standing on a metal bolo; eating a dead derby cock; placing placental remnants in a bamboo vessel to be buried under the family house; uprooting of backyard shrubs by the post-partum woman to regain vigor; umbilical stumps tied to rooftops to drive fear of height for the child while growing, and significant other practices.

The puerperal practices that the Subanen followed are solely based on the unique beliefs that originated from their early ancestors and have been preserved for a long time. Hence, the researchers would like to recommend for more pertinent cultural researches regarding the Subanens. 

Keywords: Maternal Health, Puerperium/Puerperal Period, Post-partum phase, Post-partum Complications, Subanen, Mananabang (Subanen Traditional Midwife), Indigenous beliefs and Indigenous Practices