Are you a researcher, nonprofit fieldworker, or traveler, whose work often includes traveling to rural areas and hiking to far-flung, marginalized communities? If this is one of your first times in fieldwork and you don’t know where to start preparing or what to bring on your trip, this post is for you! Over years of regularly hiking to remote tribal settlements for fieldwork research for Batak Craft to study the vanishing Batak Tribe of Palawan, Philippines – I’ve created this go-to list for must-have items in a fieldworker’s backpack… so you can enjoy your trip as fully as you can without having to go through the bad experiences I did on my earlier excursions (sandfly bites, anyone?).
Fascinating. Was just studying the Batak’s natural healthcare system, and I’m in awe of how deeply spiritually-integrated they are with the environment. They have “humans we don’t see”, wood spirits, stone spirits, and fairies (which unfortunately, only the ancient Batak healers had direct access to). And what’s more, some of the really blessed Batak members learn the art of healing through dreams that spirits send to them at night.
I was even lucky enough to witness this magic in action. Marecel, a young Batak woman, has been plagued with regular bouts of asthma attacks. She was in so much pain that she didn’t have the appetite to eat, and we had to convince her to at least eat something to fill her stomach. I felt so helpless seeing her gasping for air, while her kids looked on – wanting to play with her, but can’t. All we could do was cook her soup and buy her meds at the nearby botica, but at some point the meds stopped working too.
Thankfully, the village healer uncle Pabling (not to be confused with albularyo), came to the rescue. One week into her natural treatment (involving massage and herbal tonics), she went from pale, dark-eyed, weak and lifeless… to bright, cheery and active. One week!
And all because some good spirits taught uncle Pabling how to diagnose and treat illnesses through his dreams.