Sunday, November 26, 2023



 Open for Interpretation: A Doctor's Journey into Astrology by Alicia Blando, M.D.

(She Writes Press, 2023)





Healing wisdom and traditions expand outside the confines of scientific knowledge. With her training in Western medicine, Alicia Blando, M.D., shares her journey in exploring the divination arts to find meaning in her personal life and service to her patients. The physician was a young trainee in New York during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. Blando, who emigrated as a child with her family from the Philippines, discusses her Catholic upbringing and singular focus on academic success in telling the story of using astrology to make sense of one’s past and predicting life circumstances. 


Blando’s style of writing is straightforward, relatable, and engaging, as she shared her reflections on preserving cultural legacy and identity as a U.S.-trained physician. Life transitions led her to question the limitations of her medical training and go deeper into the self. She chronicles her journey of discovery through learning and traveling to Peru, Belize, and Bolivia to solidify her understanding of the spiritual path. In addition to astrology, Blando also explored the practices of shamanism, numerology, psychic reading, tarot reading, channeling psychic energies, palmistry, and more. As she broadened her understanding of esoteric traditions, she also expanded her understanding of multiple healing modalities. While she primarily treated her patients with Western medicine, she nurtured a curiosity about Indigenous healing practices. With intentionality, she began integrating complementary medicine into her healing practices.


I read Blando’s memoir from the lens of my Protestant upbringing in a Roman Catholic country. I fully understand the limiting beliefs that come from a Christian point of view. In my experience, the all-embracing spiritual practices of our people involve casual astrology, faith healing, plant medicine, the use of oils and concoctions, spells and prayers, and other Indigenous modalities. This memoir is enlightening for anyone curious about a medical doctor’s inquiry about divination practices. Blando relays her triumphs and challenges in clinical care, meaningful serendipitous interactions, and life-changing friendships. In investigating different types of knowledge, Blando applies a rational approach to understanding the psychic or medium’s intuitive skills and offers tangible concepts and rules related to astrology. As a fellow Filipino-American, I appreciated Blando’s candid musings about our shared cultural backgrounds, particularly her discussion about unyielding gender expectations. Her story proves that one can cultivate varied interests while maintaining the integrity of one’s life purpose. She extends a challenge and invitation to find what speaks to our hearts and minds and pursue our curiosity.




Maileen Hamto was raised in a close-knit, insular Protestant church in Catholic Philippines. For more than 16 years, Maileen attended Thursday and Sunday services in a church where one has to note attendance by turning over a name card and where women sat separately from the men. Choir members wore white robes. The pastor recited prayers tearfully, with eyes closed. Spending a lot of time in her Lola’s (Mommy) house, she relished the scent of sampaguita garlands adorning the Santo Niños. She found it remarkable that Mommy also kept a statue of a fat, happy Buddha in her kitchen. The experience of being uprooted from the homeland inspired Maileen to embark on a lifelong journey of decolonization, to unlearn her colonial mindset. Through friends and lovers, she is grateful to learn about Sufism, Hinduism, and Ordo Templi Orientis. She is a longtime student of Buddhism, primarily in the Theravada tradition. As she expands her understanding of how Buddhism spread across Asia, the magical practices of Vajrayana offer a curious string. 



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