Call of the wild

By: Radel Paredes December 16,2017 - 09:27 PM


Now that the controversy over Dengvaxia has resurrected the debate about the side effects of vaccination, this issue reminds me of Bughaw, an artist and young mother who gave birth aided only by a tribal hilot to six children, all of whom were breastfed and raised without schooling and vaccination.

I met Bughaw during a sculpture workshop in the University of the Philippines in Diliman when I had a monthlong art residency in Manila in the summer of 2009. She came to see one of the fellows, who was her classmate when they were still students in the UP fine arts program.

Bughaw, which means blue in Tagalog, is not her original name. She had adopted it when she and her filmmaker husband had decided to stay for good in an indigenous people’s community in Bukidnon after they went there to make a documentary film about lumad culture.

The young couple, who was then childless, had fallen in love immediately with the way of life of the mountain folk. They decided to stay as the lumad community also embraced them as one of their own. In doing so, they left behind their comfortable middle-class suburban lifestyle in Manila to live off the land in the mountains of Bukidnon, just as everyone in the tribe has been doing since they settled there.

I can’t recall the name of this indigenous community in Bukidnon, but Bughaw was very proud of it as she narrated to us how they adopted their difficult yet fulfilling way of life. They had to learn to subsist on what nature provides, which is their main source for food, fuel, herbal medicine, clothing, and other basic necessities.

To survive, they had to learn basic skills in hunting, foraging, organic farming, cooking, weaving, and healing arts using herbs, hilot (native massage), and other natural methods. The people in the tribe believe that everything their body needs in terms of health and nourishment has been generously provided by nature, which is also believed to be divine.

Bughaw and her husband were impressed at how the mountain folk were able to maintain good health and longevity in spite of their rugged conditions. The lumads attribute it to their diet, their daily life of physical yet creative labor, and the serenity that nature provides. Their natural immunity is strong as they were all born naturally, breastfed, and raised on a diet of mainly organic vegetables, free-range livestock and meat from wild animals.

After they were officially adopted, Bughaw and her husband decided to have kids and try natural childbirth, the native way. It was so successful that they ended up having six children, all breastfed and raised without vaccination. The couple believed that the mother’s milk and constant exposure to dirt in the jungle are enough to boost their children’s immunity. They saw no need for artificial immunization, which they fear might only have side effects.

All their children grew up to be strong and healthy, according to Bughaw. They also decided to take the responsibility of teaching their kids in their own version of tribal homeschooling. Being products of good schools in Manila, both Bughaw and her husband are very intelligent artists, and they were highly capable of teaching their own kids.

They cultivated in them the love for reading, writing and the arts. As far as science is concerned, the whole forest became their laboratory. Yet, alongside books, the kids also learned basic survival skills. They all grew up to be smart and skilled in so many ways. In fact, when a government evaluator gave the kids a test after a concerned neighbor reported them to the Department of Education during a vacation in Manila, they all passed it with very high marks.

The story of Bughaw exemplifies the increasing desperation of today’s generation of parents over how the stress and toxicity of living in the big city is actually making us prone to sickness and even death at a much younger age. Our exposure to harmful chemicals masquerading as medicines begins the moment we are born at the hospital. It continues with formula milk and all the processed baby food that we had to consume before we are weaned into our daily diet of even more toxic food.

Already infirmed by lack of natural immunization coming from mother’s milk and natural organic food, we grew up relying on all sorts of vitamin supplements and vaccines, some of which may actually do more harm than good.

On the other hand, there is the wisdom of the ancients, which permeate in the cultures of the mountain people. They may hold the secret to true health and longevity having lived through it all in the rugged conditions of the forest. Only the strong could possibly survive such harsh conditions and the human body has learned to adapt to it.

It is no surprise that more and more city folks like Bughaw would be drawn to the call of the wild.

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