My deceased grandmother Apung Ines has this simple and inexpensive way of overcoming a seemingly incurable skin disease. God knows where she knew about the procedure, but good thing, she was able to pass the knowledge on to my parents. She must have learned it from my great grandparents, whose time didn’t rely much on chemically-produced medicines to cure local sicknesses.
For several months now, I’ve been stuffing myself with these medicinal pills called Virlix every two days. This I do to tame my urticaria, or hives in layman’s terms. In Kapampangan, we call it talagube. Tagalogs call it pagpapantal.
It’s in the family, as my mother and big brother have it too. I seem to be the most cursed though.
My hives manifest when my skin is exposed to anything cold. The low temperature of the early hours of the morning is enough to trigger irritation. Even cold leather will do.
At first, I would experience hard breathing (probably because even my insides are swollen), causing me to cough as if attacked by asthma. Then, parts of my body—usually the neck, back of the knees, belly, and forearms—would start to itch. The so-called hives then become visible.
If it’s an unfortunate day, my lips would swell, too, making me look funny. I can’t bear being seen ugly with distorted lips, so I usually isolate myself from judgmental society by locking myself inside my room whenever in such situation. If I scratch the hives in my belly too hard, my skin would resemble an archipelago of irritated flesh. Not really an appealing sight when I look at it in the mirror.
If I get exposed to warm temperature, they subside. But if I enter an air-conditioned room, they would start sprouting again, like attention-hungry children, making me wish I were someone else. So I then resort to Virlix, which costs about forty pesos each pill.
Virlix doesn’t cure the disease, but one intake is enough to make you normal for two to three days. I would know when the pill had lost its effect; I would start breathing hardly and my skin would begin to mutate again.
Just two days ago, “That’s it!” I told my Mom. “I’ve had enough of itching every now and then, of being financially drained due to my frequent purchase of medicine.”
Ima answered, “Mag-ásap ka. (Do the ásap.)"
It's not advanced knowledge, but everytime Ima speaks of it, she shines with confidence in the effectiveness of her proposed solution to my dermatological complaint. She would often say that at first, she too was skeptical of the process, but ever since she heeded Apung Ines' way of shutting out hives, she became an advocate.
Ásap is done this way, as taught by Apung Ines: You collect fresh coconut shells. Yes, that's minus the juice and the edible part. Expose them to sunlight for three days, until their color turns brownish green (not too dried). Get a metal basin or any container, where you can burn the shells until they seem like charcoal used for grilling. They must smoke a great deal.
Then bare your skin. Be in the nude if you’re alone, but if not, wearing skimpy shorts such as cycling shorts would do. Allow your body, especially the irritable spots, to catch the smoke emitted from the shells. If you’re in a confined area, you wouldn’t have problems in catching the therapeutic smoke. However, if you’re in an open area, ask assistance from friends or relatives to confine you in walls of blanket to keep the smoke from escaping.
Do this for fifteen to twenty minutes. Be careful. Don’t end up suffocating. After being smoked, you are strictly prohibited from taking any form of water bath for twenty four hours. Never mind that you smell like moist firewood. Doing so would wash away the medicine.
It's ancient knowledge. People passing by our house in our subdivision gave us enstranged looks when we were executing ásap in the garden of our residence. They must have thought we were doing infernal rituals involving me as the human sacrifice.
If done correctly and if right ingredients were used, hives would gradually subside after. Still expect irritation for a few days after the process, but, as proven through experience in our family, your hives won’t bug you for about five to six years. You’ll be able to save money from all the every-two-days pills you’re taking and you’ll be able to have fewer problems in facing the skin-conscious society.
Don’t ask me about the science behind ásap. We just inherited this knowledge from Apung Ines, my grandma, and so far, we have proven it effective. Nothing really beats nature in healing.
Too bad. If only Apung Ines were still alive, I would ask her if she knew more nature-based cures on common diseases.