Long time ago when living was not as fast-paced today, Filipinos ate mostly camote, rice, vegetable, nuts, fruits and everything that grew on plants. Land was so fertile that a single corn plant can bear as much as 15 fruits to the amazement of the Spanish friars who chronicled that it even surpassed that of Mexico corn that had only been bearing five to six fruits at the most.
Filipinos did not eat carabeef as carabaos roamed wildly in the mountains four hundred years ago; beef was only introduced with the introduction of vaca (cow) pairs from Southern America; and chickens were only domesticated for eggs.
With the advent of colonization and influence of the colonizers’ culture, the Filipino eating habits have been transformed slowly from vegetable to being meat-based. Communication technology and bombarded advertisements have been made the best tools for forcing Filipinos to drink imported milk and eat corned beef and sardines from the GI’s food supply. Now accustomed to drinking milk despite being lactose-intolerant, as mostly Asians do- and used to eating meat everyday as modeled by the status quo –eating habits have dramatically changed.
With fast-paced modern life in the 20th century came easy-to-cook meat-based products, a far cry from the fresh root crops, vegetables and fruits that Filipinos ate long time ago. Mention the words hamburgers, fried chicken and meat-loaded pizza and the kids will yell Jollibee, Mcdonald’s, or Shakey’s.
This changed eating habit has shortened the Filipino life span from living a healthy, heart-attack free old age of 90 to agonizingly painful and arthritic 60 years old if one does not die of heart attack at 50 or earlier. With many years of eating meat come accumulated toxins in the body that cause various diseases too many to mention.
Dr. Maan Canlas, a geriatrics doctor, says elderly people have poor metabolism and circulation because of poor eating habits and accumulated meat toxins in the body. She explains in the SAGE press launch that returning or turning to a vegetarian lifestyle will bring about healthy and happy disposition as body enzymes digest vegetable-based food easily and fibers in vegetables help in the bowel movement.
Olympics Taekwondo referee Ricardo Santiago, a vegetarian for 13 years testifies he has an active lifestyle, his body functions well and has not lost anything in becoming a vegetarian. Besides,“I look young,” he jokes.
His youngest sister Tuesday Santiago, also a vegetarian, confides becoming a vegetarian is “tough” with the young generation exposed to KFC, Macdonald’s and Jollibee nowadays. “But young people are waking up to the realities of the ‘vegetarian wave,’” she attests.
Nonie Fernando, SAGE representative who is a vegetarian for 38 years, says product availability is not a problem anymore because vegetarian items are now being sold in SM Makati and Megamall supermarkets. Besides, fresh vegetables are everywhere in the Philippines.
Returning to the Filipino original eating habits has now become a battle. While it has become a battle in business, it is a big battle of the self. Vegetarians in the Philippines, however, are a living testimony of winning in this battlefield collectively called life.