• The Philippines;
  • malaria;
  • local knowledge;
  • health seeking behaviour;
  • reduce transmission

This paper describes local understandings of illness and documents treatment-seeking behaviour in Tayabas, Quezon, The Philippines. Data were collected using focus group discussions and narrative interviews with adults, and with mothers of children, who had had confirmed malaria during a two-month surveillance period. Signs and symptoms of malaria are important in directing individual diagnosis, treatment-seeking and therapy. Household therapy with antimalarials, and more commonly antipyretics and herbs, as used before seeking care from either the formal or informal sector. Care outside the home was sought where symptoms continued and/or worsened, with an average period of time from onset of symptoms to presentation to a clinic of six days. Accessibility to clinics is not a problem in the study area and hence the primary reason for delay was propensity to self-treat first and to discontinue medication when feeling better. These factors affect the control of malaria and the potential to reduce transmission. Better advice to the community regarding the importance of diagnosis and compliance with antimalarial therapy is indicated.