BY PET MELLIZA/ THE BEEKEEPER
It is hereby declared the policy of the State to improve the quality and delivery of health care services to the Filipino people through the development of traditional and alternative health care and its integration into the national health care delivery system.It shall also be the policy of the State to seek a legally workable basis by which indigenous societies would own their knowledge of traditional medicine. When such knowledge is used by outsiders, the indigenous societies can require the permitted users to acknowledge its source and can demand a share of any financial return that may come from its authorized commercial use.” (Section 2, RA 8423 or The Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act of 1997).
Columnist Michael Tan has valid reasons to rile against government for neglecting traditional medicines. As specialist at the Philippine General Hospital and having worked considerably as consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO), he knows what he is talking about.
He was one of those behind the enactment of TAMA (Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act) that Pres. Fidel Ramos signed in December 9, 1997.
Two years ago, he dared the government to put its foot where its mouth is by funding research on traditional medicines starting with a P200 million initial budget.
Government ignored him. That incensed him as the P200 million he proposed was a pittance, a mere “tongpats” in the botched NBN-ZTE deal.
Fourteen years since TAMA took effect, nothing much changed in a country that is blessed with abundant flora and fauna of medical potentials, but on the other hand, cursed with leaders whose love for kickbacks is equaled only by their slavishness to kow-tow to multi-national drug companies, their real masters, whose interest is to suppress traditional medical practices.
We lag behind in herbal medicine industry. Surf the internet on traditional medicines and you will stumble into sites offering discoveries on certain herbs. You will also be impressed that the cyberspace is replete with ads on herbs in tablets, capsules, ointment and liquids for sale, well, in US dollars, euros or pound sterling.
The manufacturing companies are mostly Americans and Europeans.
Foreign manufacturers are cashing in from the bonanza of the emerging traditional medicine industry world wide, which more often than not, is the outcome of the initiatives of their own governments which invested in research.
As I surfed the net, I stumbled into one plant: “muntingia calabura” or Jamaican cherry. We Ilonggos call that “cereza”, “batiles” or “aratiles”.
We have fond memories of cereza in our childhood in Igbaras, Iloilo. We formed friendship as we flocked together to cereza groves along the riverbank to feast on their sweet berry. Its green berries served as “missiles” in our war games using slingshots mounted on wood that we carved into “rifles”.
Cereza thrives everywhere and grows fast even in poor, dry soil. It bears berries year round. The tree nourishes animals, birds and bats especially.
We may wonder why chickens that feed on fallen cereza fruits are healthy. The berry is rich in Vitamin C, protein and energy.
Its leaves, bark and berries are anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic (particularly stomach cramps), anti-pyretic (lowers fever), antioxidant and anti-cancer. It is also an analgesic or pain reliever.
It is rich in cytotoxic flavonoids: chrysin, 2′,4′-dihydroxychalcone and galangin 3, 7-dimethyl ether, which in the main protect normal cell by eliminating tumor cells.
As an emollient, muntingia calabura keeps our skin moist. It is a natural beauty product that the likes of our good friend, Virginia Palanca-Santiago, a director of the Office of the Ombudsman in Cebu, badly needs to prevent dry and chafing skin, and dandruff.
Cereza trees don’t reach 10 years but the old and dying one are still useful though. Their barks are materials to fabricate ropes. Its wood is good fuel as well.
Let’s help spread the good news that the Philippine government, notwithstanding its half-hearted implementation, finally enacted TAMA fourteen years ago.
Let’s also help spread the good news that cereza, a plant just right in our neighborhood is a super tree that can help save the likes of Virginia Palanca-Santiago from their present looks, and make all of us, healthier and more resistant to cancer.