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Volunteers wanted/Coconut is the most versatile natural food

Last week while the Opposition led by Liberals and their allies perennial troublemakers NDF and their armed partners NPA were trying to put down the Duterte government, a group led by neuro-psychiatrist Dr. Tan Cho Chiong visited PAGCOR to discuss the feasibility of a cooperative program of community-based rehabilitation for drug addicts.

It was a welcome visit because Dr. Tan has done extensive work to organize and train volunteers for a nationwide project. He and his companions (two girls from the Confucian Institute, a pastor and an old friend from the Chinese Volunteer Fire Brigade) came to speak about the work they do in communities. Tan talked about his program on Life and Sharing. Some of his students came from Tzu Chi Philippines’ Livelihood Training Program.

“A good health is not the only thing that matters. A good mind and spirituality matter, too,” is the lesson that Dr. Tan wants to impart on volunteers in his rehabilitation program.

The program on hands-on training for volunteers is helped by the Tzu Chi Foundation.  As he said most of those who become victims of drug lords are jobless. So the rehabilitation also includes a livelihood training program Dr. Tan Cho Chiong told us.

“Life and Sharing” is what the group seeks to impart to trainees who want to be part of a community-based program.

“Most people would say that the most important thing to have is a good or perfect health, yes this may be true, but according to Dr. Tan, a person of integrity must not only have a good body. He should also have good psychology and good spirituality – a total package in simpler terms.

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“For example, because of having a healthy body, someone was able to acquire a good education. And after having a good education, that person shares what he or she knows to everyone. That person has integrity. But when a person has a healthy body and a good education but uses it to do bad things, he or she doesn’t have integrity,” explained Dr. Tan.

People are trying to live a healthy lifestyle: eating organically grown crops, staying away from vices and exercising as much as their time would allow them. This is all favorable according to Dr. Tan, “We need to have a good nutrition, regular exercise and ample rest.”

Dr. Tan, a member of the Tzu Chi International and Medical Association (TIMA), is also a vegetarian not only for health reasons but also to save the planet from destruction.

“Nowadays people eat too much fast food, these are not good for our body as these contain too many preservatives and oils that are not good for the health,” Dr. Tan stressed.

“Adopting vegetarian diet or eating natural foods is better as this will make our body healthier and we can also help in protecting our planet,” said Dr. Tan. He also explained that drinking alcoholic beverages, smoking cigarettes, eating fatty foods, and too much sweets are not healthy. He pointed out that smoking cigarettes is also among the causes of global warming. He further stressed that when someone smokes, everybody near him is considered smoking, too. And, as studies have shown, second-hand smoke is as deadly as first-hand smoke.

“Exercise is very important as this relieves stress and those unwanted fats. This, too, can help one to have better memory.”

“Remember that in life, you cannot avoid unhappy or unwanted events to happen. It’s also normal to be sad. What you can do instead is to convert your sadness into something positive,” he said.

“Faith without good deeds is dead.”

Dr. Tan explained, “My topic is about life and sharing. Being a Tzu Chi volunteer myself, I know that this lecture will greatly help them know more about life and how to share the things they have with other people. Sharing comes in different forms. It is up to them how they will carry it out, but I believe that they can do it and that they will be successful in their lives.”

After Dr. Tan Cho Chiong’s talk on encouraging volunteerism and a vegetarian diet I visited for the first time, Coconut House in the Quezon Memorial Circle. I was surprised at what private citizens can do on their own without government help. I myself had no idea about coconuts except my daughter Veronica, has put her heart into helping the poor coconut partners asked me if I can pitch in for her while she does work with the UNFPA (UN for population affairs).  She wanted to help coconut farmers by showing the potential of the industry they have nurtured through the years with very little money it gives.

She also goes around the cities and towns on the perimeter of Laguna de Bay. “This is where my roots are. I intend to come back.”

Upon seeing Paete, Veronica told June Castillo of the Coconut House in the Quezon Memorial Circle that they should start the coconut project there to teach farmers the many products they can make from coconut trees.  We immediately called Mayor Bagabaldo of Paete to tell her about the plan. She agreed that Paete would be ideal because it is visited by tourists and visitors from other parts of the country.

My visit to Coconut House was a revelation. I too became inspired on what we can do for poor farmers with coconuts. To me it was no longer merely about the scandal about the stolen levy but something we could work on by ourselves and the farmers.

I join Veronica and her inspired energy for both her roots and coconut.   For lunch at Coconut house I had coconut pancit  made from freshly noodled buco meat with coconut soy sauce – a completely vegetarian concoction. 

The products out of virgin coconut oil aside from the usual clear VCO are also varied – from coconut butter, coconut sugar, coconut honey, coconut cider vinegar, coconut wine, cosmetics, soap and shampoo.

Emblazoned on the store’s menu board were the words – “From the Naturally Grown Produce of Filipino Coconut Farmers.” This is recognition and praise for the coconut farmers who are said to be the most impoverished of all farmers in the country.

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