For those who are not familiar with the term, usog is:
- an old belief that certain people carry an unconscious ability to cause discomfort or illness to someone they greet
- it is said that people who are tired and hungry have the strongest power of usog
- babies are the most susceptible to usog though some adults are prone to it too
- usog can be prevented by saying "pera usog," wiping some of the person's saliva on the leg, stomach or forehead of the one he greets, or by wearing amulets

Whatever it is, I'm sure glad it was all over.

Last week, Jamaine was confined in the hospital for four days due to UTI. That's according to the pedia's diagnosis. But according to my folks' theory, she had gotten usog.

Last Tuesday, when Jamaine started vomitting all the milk she took in, I surmised she must have a stomach problem or she must have been allergic to my breastmilk. But when I gave her formula, she vomitted just the same. After the second vomit episode, I consulted her pedia who advised that if she vomits a third time, we must bring her to the ER.

I was clueless as to what may have caused the vomitting. She was completely alright and bouncy before it started. She had no fever, colds or coughs. And after each vomit, she would go back to her usual self as if nothing happened.

A voice echoed in my head, one that I knew too well: "O wag niyo muna ilalabas si Jamaine hangga't di nabibinyagan. Baka mausog yan."

My mom always warned us about that old belief that a baby should not be taken out of the house until she is baptized because she will be susceptible to usog. I simply thought, we shouldn't take Jamaine out because she might be susceptible to a lot of bacteria outside the home.

I suddenly had a flashback: Kernan took Jamaine to the office two days before to visit me during our spiels shoot. And a lot of people greeted her then. I don't remember anyone of them saying "pera usog" or wiping a little saliva on Jamaine's leg which, as the elders say, should ward off usog.

Actually, Kernan and I don't believe in that stuff. Besides, i think, wiping saliva on whatever part of the baby's limbs is so unhygienic and, well, icky. So I simply dismissed the possibility of usog and hoped Jamaine would get well.

But she vomitted a third time so we brought her to the hospital where she vomitted a fourth time. This time, she had gotten weak and her fontanel was a bit sunken signalling dehydration. I couldn't feed her anything since she needed to rest from all the vomitting episodes she had.

The nurses hooked her to an IV and told us she needed to be confined. They conducted a urinalysis and found out there were bacteria and traces of blood in her urine signalling UTI.

I asked the pedia how she could have possibly contracted UTI when she was just a baby. She said Jamaine may have gotten the bacteria from being soaked in a diaper or because of an internal infection. I didn't agree with the former because Jamaine wore cloth diapers throughout the day and disposable diapers only at night. I emphasized to my yaya the importance of cleaning Jamaine immediately and thoroughly whenever she pees or poos. But how could she have gotten an internal infection?

Anyway, Jamaine was given some antibiotics, and she seemed to be doing better. But when I tried to feed her again, she vomitted for the fifth time.

Finally, my parents told me to consider that Jamaine's vomitting may not be an entirely medical case. My mom said we should try to remember the people who greeted Jamaine and who among them possibly carried an usog.

My yaya, who hails from Bicol, believed in such stuff and mentioned that one of Kernan's officemates may have probably caused the usog. The guy, she said, actually mentioned that he did not want to greet Jamaine because he was very exhausted at that time. (It was a common belief that people who are extremely exhausted or hungry should not greet a baby because they carry a very strong usog with them.) But he couldn't resist and greeted Jamaine anyway.

I know it all sounded too ridiculous. My parents said these are things that doctors don't know and believe but they are true.

I looked at Jamaine and my heart was broken at how she would bang her IV board to her face in an attempt to remove it. I would distract her for a bit but then she would go at it again.

I decided it wouldn't hurt to follow my parents advice. I asked Kernan to request his officemate if he could please drop by the hospital and visit Jamaine. I told Kernan, I may not fully believe in that usog stuff, but at that point, I was willing to try anything for Jamaine to get better.

That guy did come a few hours later, He told me that he, in fact, believes in usog and knows he has it. He said he has kids too and he abides by certain supernatural / traditional beliefs and practices whenever one of his kids get sick. Before leaving, he said, "Okay na yan, magaling na yan."

Hours after that, Jamaine started feeding normally and didn't vomit at all. Her repeat urinalysis and urine culture test also came out negative as if the infection never happened.

I told the pedia about the possibility of usog. She said, she does not rule out such possibilities but it was also important that Jamaine's UTI was detected and it should be treated completely.

We were finally discharged from the hospital last Saturday afternoon and Jamaine has been on oral antibiotics since then.

She's doing better everyday and healthy as ever.

So, was it UTI or usog?

Some told me that usog is true and they have actually experienced it themselves. Some say it's just an old folk's belief and the possibility of it happening may just as well be a coincidence.

If there's anything I learned from this, it's to be open to all possibilities and beliefs. As long as it's not harmful or out of this world crazy, it wouldn't hurt to follow some old-fashioned advice.

After all, it's not about proving which between old beliefs and medicine work better. What's more important is to use both to ensure that my baby's happier and healthier.


Much as I don't want to believe in the "usog" theory it won't do you bad naman to follow some precautionary measures. However, I am so totally against the "laway" thing but when you're with some old folks it's hard to say no. You might offend them. And malay mo, baka may usog talaga sila. Good to know your kid is ok :)
As a doctor I see nothing wrong in trying both (traditional and alternative medicine) as long as you don't discontinue the medicines while doing the "laway" thing. Personally, I think your child really had an infection. The vomiting subsided because maybe the antibiotic has already taken affect and it coincided at the time the other procedure was done. Anyway, its good she's now ok.
GreyMom said…
It's funny because DH and I were just talking about this yesterday. Our folks believe in "usog" and are very superstitious while DH isn't. He said exactly the same things as you did: "it's unhygienic", he also added: "imagine, some of them may have not brushed their teeth!". We both shuddered at the thought.
However, I agree with you that there are some things that cannot be explained and as long as it won't harm us or our kids in any way, ok lang yon.
As long as they brush their teeth. :D
JO said…
i believe there's no harm in following the traditional belief, it will always be a part of our lives.

but i will have to agree with amelyn, it may just be a coincidence.
julie said…
It may have been really UTI which got better because med had been taken. It may have been usog which caused the vomiting (which incidentally is one of usog's "symptoms") which went away after your baby has been visited by the person who caused it (what do we call him, usogero? hehehe). It is a good thing your kid got better. I think there's nothing wrong in believing in such things as long as one doesn't compromise one's health following this belief. :)
Angel Jayme said…
Thanks for the kind words everyone. My baby's last day for antibiotics is tomorrow, yay! I'm sure she's looking forward to that.

Scroochchronicles: That's why I have wet wipes handy, para punas na lang ng punas kung may magpilit na lumaway.

Doc Amelyn: We've been keeping at the antibiotics for almost a week now kahit mukhang okay na si Jamaine. Yun lang she really dislikes it and pushes it away. Buti na lang last day na ng antibiotic bukas.

Greymom: haha...my hubby was telling me nga, one of his officemates wanted to put laway on Jamaine and he vehemently refused kasi nga alam niya na bad breath yung person na yun. Buti na lang hindi nagpumilit.

Jo: Yup, di ko na talaga matatanggal yung beliefs na yun kasi both my parents and in-laws believe in such things. Pero siyempre, kami pa rin naman ni hubby ang masusunod kung susundin namin sila o hindi.

Julie: Mas mabigat pa rin for me kung anong advice ng pedia pero mas open na ko ngayon. Ngayon, aware na ko sa mga "usugero." Hehe...

Mitchteryosa said…
Glad your baby is better now.

Re : Usog, it won't harm us naman if we follow sometimes.
Descovrir said…
I kind of believe in usog, hehe. Madalas daw ako noong bata. Feeling ko nga, nauusog pa rin ako until now, haha.

Kidding aside - yeah, it wouldn't hurt to be open with possibilities, as long as those are not really wacko. :-)

Mommy ka na talaga, jamaine is lucky to have you (and vice-versa, of course). Lucky Kernan, too (and vice-versa).

And as a precaution, I will not greet Jamaine if I'm wasted, or hungry, mahirap na :-) Looking forward to see your little angel :-)
rach said…
Ewan ko but I think totoo ung usog kasi I have seen that 'same' situation happen with my mom (hindi na baby un ah!). She has this employee na malakas ang usog. Lagi sumasakit tiyan niya kasi the employee comes over na gutom na gutom then he would say nice things to my mom.

When my mom found out about this.. what she did before the guy can speak nicely to her or what we call 'bati' she would ask him if he had dinner or snack na and if he says wala pa, immediately, papakainin ng mama ko at talagang bubusugin bago siya makapagsalita! :P
atomicgirl said…
whatever it was, just be thankful that jamaine is okay now. i am quite a skeptic when it comes to usog and all that so when my son gets sick, my mom would bring him to the doctor then to a faith healer because she says if i was the one to bring my son there, he would not be cured. someone who asks for help from a faith healer must have faith or it would not work. i dunno. there are just some things i believe in and there are some things i don't. and usog is one thing that i don't believe in. ask your yaya about 'lapo'. it's also one thing that i don't believe in. hehe.
Joel said…
Well, the important thing is the baby's okay. I remember when Cesky was just six months old. There was a time that she had been vomiting like crazy. We didn't bring her to the hospital, though. My wife (to an extent) and her relatives are firm believers of pamahiin. So the first thing we did when Cesky got sick was buy what the Visayans call "palina," a hodgepodge of leaves, herbs and paper. Well, the smoke generated by burning the concoction did the trick every time. Of course, it wouldn't have hurt (except in our pockets) if we brought Cesky to the doctor. :)
Mai said…
i'm not a believer of such myself pero tama ka there are things that we can not just explain sometimes.

Glad jamaine's feeling and doing good. :)
g_mirage said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
g_mirage said…
Hi Jayme! Gzel here...with all due respect to your parents...and others who would say there's nothing wrong with following such traditions, 'laway sa baby' when greeting and all...

Though it may seem off it actually has some relation to spiritism, like believing in a bad force that causes baby harm and in a good force which gives 'cure' through some special power. And the bible warns us against this (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)

Babies (esp girls) are prone to UTI as the doctor said because of the weewee nga, even if its cloth or disposable diapers...I remember Alexie had this in feb2005 and the doctor said that it could be caused by how one wipes off pupu...even if you clean well, small chances that bacteria remains and causes infection.

Hope she's ok now. There's nothing wrong about having a 'modern' attitude especially abt things regarding your baby, Doctors know their stuff, trust that they want your baby to always be healthy...

(still getting used to this site lol, sory abt the delted comment) =(
A. Usog, MPH said…
As medical professional, I agree with Dr. Rafael's prognosis. But you also have to consider that some undue stress from the immediate family, say from an overly-superstitious family member, could also contribute to the babies nervousness and inability to digest milk. Babies are very sensitive to their environments, and nervousness caused from a grandmother saying, "She has Usog" transfered to the rest of the family is enough to make anyone nervous and unable to keep down food. Also, did the alternative treatment alleviate the rest of the family members' fears (which helped the baby), or did it help the baby directly? In my many years of research, I've seen that it's usually a direct family member that gets everyone else upset, then an alternative therapy such as saliva on the leg alleviates that family members fears, THEN the baby feels better.
And by the way, Usog is the person who discovered a baby's inability to take in milk and the alternative method of saliva put IN THE SHAPE OF THE CROSS ON THE BABY'S FOREHEAD. Speaking as a descendent of this person, it's also been a traditional belief passed down from generation to generation, unchanged since the day it was "discovered". This is why I've researched, both medically and metaphysically, for so many years. I hope you take what I am offering as sound advice, as I have a Masters in Public Health, concentrating on International Health.

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