Gayuma, often translated as love potions, holds a significant place in Filipino folklore and cultural practices. This exploration delves into the historical context, evolving interpretations, and the continued relevance of gayuma in both traditional and modern Filipino settings.

Gayuma in Prehispanic Philippines

Exploring the prehispanic roots of the Philippines, Scott (1992) illustrates how the islands harbored a deep belief in the mystical powers of gayuma. Sorcerers, revered for their secret knowledge, harnessed spells and charms they believed were imparted by supernatural forces. Among these was "Jumaya," a love potion crafted to influence romantic feelings. [1]

The Lingering Scent of Lumay

Turning to Visayan superstitions, Millington and Maxfield (1906) speak of "lumay," a drug sold by Negritos, believed to summon the love of women. Its aromatic smoke, clinging to the garments, was thought to carry the power of attraction, a testimony to the deep-seated belief in the effectiveness of such magical substances. [2]

Legendary Practices and Forbidden Rituals

Dichoso (1967) recounts a particularly haunting practice involving gayuma. In a ritual as dangerous as it is romantic, a man might capture a pearl-like essence, the agimat, from a unique banana fruit at midnight, braving the company of malevolent spirits. This agimat, once obtained, not only draws the desired woman's love but also endows the man with irresistible charm and vigor. [3]

Tambalans' Knowledge on Love Potions

In the Leyte region, as documented by Galleon (1976), Tambalans are primarily recognized for their healing abilities, yet they also possess the knowledge to craft gayuma, or love potions. Ingko Jose, a tambalan with a rich family heritage of healers, whispers fragments of Latin verse during the potion's creation, invoking the romantic successes of Solomon and David, to capture the essence of attraction. [4]

Antidotes to Love Potion

In a study by Demetillo et al. (2019), traditional healers in Claver, Surigao del Norte, have been known to use the leaves of Dischidia sp. and seeds of Pandanus sp. as antidotes to love potions. This suggests not only a belief in the efficacy of gayuma but also an acknowledgment of its potential to require countermeasures. [5]

The Animistic Core of Gayuma

Tan (2008) delves deeper, associating gayuma with animatism — the belief that objects, imbued with their own spirit, wield a power that can be transferred to a person. Once primarily a love potion, today the term has evolved to reflect the alluring "appeal" of a person, whether influenced by an object or not. Despite modern adaptations, the roots of gayuma in animistic traditions remain evident in places like Quiapo, where vendors sell items ranging from religious medallions to talismans believed to captivate affection. [6]

This exploration delves into the historical roots and evolving interpretations of gayuma, from prehispanic beliefs in mystical powers to modern practices in places like Quiapo. The research highlights both legendary rituals and contemporary uses, revealing how gayuma continues to captivate and influence. Additionally, the study touches on the knowledge of traditional healers and the use of antidotes, emphasizing the deep-seated belief in the potency and complexity of these love spells.


[1] Scott, W. H. (1992). Looking for the prehispanic Filipino (p. 124). New Day Publishers.

[2] Millington, W. H., & Maxfield, B. L. (1906). Philippine (Visayan) superstitions. The Journal of American Folklore, 19(74), 205-211.

[3] Dichoso, F. (1967). Some superstitious beliefs and practices in Laguna, Philippines. Anthropos, 62(1/2), 65.

[4] Galleon, W. K. (1976). MEDICINE MEN (TAMBALANS) IN MAASIN SO. LEYTE, PHILIPPINES: THEIR BELIEFS AND PRACTICES. Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society, 4(2), 86-88.

[5] Demetillo, M. T., Betco, G. L., & Goloran, A. B. (2019). Assessment of native medicinal plants in selected mining area of claver Surigao Del Norte, Philippines. Journal of Medicinal Plants Studies, 7(2), 171-174.

[6] Tan, M. L. (2008). Revisiting Usog, Pasma, Kulam (p. 32). UP Press.