Usog - Real? ... or Myth?

Is Usog real or just a myth?

We have finished discussing all about Bangungot and Pasma - their causes and effects, and the reality and fiction sides of those said folk diseases. Now, let's have another one. For me this is the second most mysterious, well after Lihi. My first impression on this, when this was introduced to me when I was still a kid, is GROSS. Puting saliva of a stranger in your stomach? No thanks. And how if you're the person causing usog to somebody else? Well, some people would insist you lick their stomach. Hahaha . . .


I don't know if usog still exist to Filipinos. Well maybe to old-fashioned Filipinos, but to modern youngsters, they ignore and don't believe on it any more. I am not saying all of the kids today, but definitely most of them including me. My parents still talk about this, but only at this time that I have interest on it.

I asked my grandmother about it and she told me she still believe in usog. I asked her why people insist to be licked in their stomach. She answered me, Not always. You don't need to be licked, you just need their saliva. Just let them wet your stomach with it. Then I asked her again, what's about saliva? Well, the only thing she respond to me is, Ewan ko ... Sabi nila eh. (I don't know ... That's what others said.)

I'm still wondering who are those nila she was talking about. I think she was referring to those people who first told her about it.

Well, anyway, what is actually Usog?

Usog (others call it Balis and Hinsuokan) is an affliction that causes the affected person a headache, stomach pain, fever, convulsion and some more severe pains or disease. This is often discussed in Filipino Psychology. Usually, the victims of this are kids, but in some occasion adults. If an adult is still experiencing usog, it means that he or she is still a weak person (Usogin). The person who causes usog are said to be overpowering. Not all people can cause usog to somebody. Actually, there are only few people who (I think) has a power to do this, like an evil eye.

In folkloric explanation, there might be some mangkukulam (witch), who are looking badly at you, as if cursing you.

Usog may had been influenced by the Spanish mal de ojo.


When you ask somebody how to counteract usog, most of them would answer the use of saliva. Usually, they will tell you to Dilaan mo ako. (Lick me.) and/or Lawayan mo ako. (Put saliva on me.) to avoid usog to the child you greeted. While doing so, he/she should say Pwera usog ... or Pwera barang ....

If the person tells you to lick him, it doesn't mean to lick him in other parts of his body, but to his abdomen. The same place where you need to put the saliva. You just need to wet your finger with it, then rub it to him. In some cases, especially to babies, the finger is rubbed to his heel or sometimes in the forehead. In these two ways, rubbing finger wet with saliva is more used and preferrable.

Other ways on healing or preventing usog is by means of placing the clothing of the afflicted kid or adult in a hot water and then boiling it.

Scientific Explanation

One theory, explains usog in terms of child distress that leads to greater susceptibility to illness and diseases. There are observations that a stranger (or a newcomer or even a visiting relative) especially someone with a strong personality (physically big, boisterous, has strong smell, domineering, etc.) may easily distress a child. Thus, the child is said to be "overpowered" or nauusog and thus may feel afraid, develop fever, get sick, etc.[a]

In usog, the child's distress is the consequence of the child's failure to adapt to change. It is, in medical terms, the consequence of the disruption of homeostasis through physical or psychological stimuli brought about by the stranger. Technically, the condition results from the child-environment interaction that leads the child to perceive a painful discrepancy, real or imagined, between the demands of a situation on the one hand and their social, biological, or psychological resources on the other. The stressful stimuli to the child may be mental (stranger is perceived as a threat, malevolent or demanding), physiological (loud and/or high-pitched voice of the stranger that is hurting to the child's eardrum; strong smell of the stranger that irritates the child's nasal nerves), or physical (stranger has heavy hands or is taking up too much space).[a]

The stranger's act of gently placing his finger with his saliva to the child's arm, foot, or any particular part of the child's body, could make him more familiar to the child, and thus, reduce if not remove the stress. As the stranger keeps gently saying, "Pwera usog... pwera usog...," the child is made to feel and assured that he means no harm. The usog is said to be counteracted because the child is prevented from succumbing to an illness since the child is no longer in distress. Children or even adults who are shy or have weak personalities are more susceptible to usog in accordance with observations and theory. Some have observed that at times even praising a shy child by a visiting relative caused an usog.[a]