My 1 week visit to the Green Warrior Permaculture site in Mablad turned into a 1-month love affair with the local community (which will be transitioning into a long held relationship of love and respect). The people, the place, and the potential is inspiring, and my heart smiles when I think about it. But it is a paradise on the edge of its own peril- the ecological and human health of this rural mountain town is struggling.
My heart was warmed by the genuinely sweet smiles I received during my stay, but as a nutrition nut, I’m appalled by the sweet diet. I’ll be chronicling here some of my observations and experiences of Philippines and Mablad, and the beginnings of how I see it possible to bring about community dietary change to reduce diabetes, high blood pressure, and other diet-induced ailments.
It all started in the airport…
“So, can you suggest some Filipino vegetarian dishes?” The woman I was talking to in the visa line looked at me like I was an alien.
“Vegetarian dishes?!” She looked incredulous. “I… I don’t know, I don’t eat vegetables.”
Now it was my turn to raise my eyebrows.
“Not any? Then…. What do you eat?!”
She listed chicken and rice, pork and rice, and sometimes beef and rice. Maybe a few potatoes. End stop.
I’m not writing this to promote veganism or vegetarianism (though I would be more than happy to), but I do know as a burgeoning nutritionist human beings need a variety of foods to get the full range of nutrients necessary to nourish our bodies (PS you don’t need to be a health nut or nutrition consultant to figure this out).
This conversation happened in Cebu City, one of the biggest cities in the Philippines. I was hoping it was an isolated case, or rather the unfortunate result of affluence in urban settings-the access to processed food and more expensive meat. I quickly discovered this was not the case. From the big city to the tiny towns, meat is the master, white rice rules, and vegetables are a vague afterthought. Mablad has the same hunger for high glycemic foods and processed meats of all kinds, despite its incredibly low income. That is not to say there are no vegetables-if you are lucky you might get a piece of lettuce with your lechon (bbq pork), but there are really very few dishes that favor vegetables in this tropical country ripe for greater green production. To expand on this, in my next post I will outline my basic breakdown or outline of the diet of the Philippines (as I observed it), and include some thoughts on minor ways to tweak the diet and improve food diversity.