Five star raw

Originally published February 9th, 2012

Bahay Kalipay

I had a weekend ‘off’ 10 days ago; Simone had to leave to Malaysia. And so I contacted the person that she and Ramke had been raving about since I got here: Pi Villaraza at Bahay Kalipay. On the paradise island of Palawan.

Pi Villaraza says of himself that he found, not founded, ‘inner dance’.

Inner Dance is the dance we dance within, the dance of our thoughts, our feelings.

The dance of the higher being inside us, the dance we dance with the universe. And when we talk about the universe, we talk about mother earth. The part of ourselves that we call earth, because in effect, we are all an inseparable part of each other, the earth, the universe. It is quite spectacular and hard to put into words.

hammocks and breezes at Bahay Kalipay

Needless to say that going to Pi’s retreat called Bahay Kalipay (House of Happy), you are going to live with earth, connect with nature.

 

 

The place is paradise. Off a dust road outside Puerto Princesa you enter a lush garden of green. Banana trees, coconut trees, strings of ‘angel’s hair’, huts interspersed throughout and interconnected with each other, straw roofs, open sides, beads and dream catchers swaying in the breeze, mosaic of broken tiles arranged on the ground into harmonious shapes…

 

five star raw

At Bahay Kalipay one eats raw. Only raw. I had been on raw food for two weeks, so easy-peasy for me; I wouldn’t even call it a ‘detox’ anymore, like the other attendees of the course did. And the raw food served here is five-star compared to what Simone and I had been mixing up. It turns out there is a vast host of ingredients one can use to spice it up, like curries, mueslis, nuts… Smoothies were green, made of green leaves (the most nutritious vegetable, second to coconut on the whole) and herbs. I ate like a goddess! One of the days we even went on a buko fast. Only coconut juice and meat for breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner. And it, too, was OK.

In this environment, I continued reading in my book, ‘nature’s first law’. I don’t feel I need to read anymore because it all makes sense, and yet it still provides snippets of information that reinforce the authors statements on all levels of life, health, illness, pollution, evolution…

Eating raw food is not about ‘going on a diet to lose weight’

(I am freely quoting the authors in this post.) The raw food diet is not even a diet in the sense of the way we use the term. Humans are raw food eaters, by nature. So eating raw is basically just… eating. At the very base of their exposé, the authors of the book say ‘cooked food is poison’. It is the last sentence of every chapter. Cooked food is poison. Quite dramatic. …

‘No natural creature ever tampers with its food’, yet we humans cook and process virtually everything we eat. Nature provided us with all we need, and we go change it. By changing it and this is the thing, by cooking, burning, processing and adding chemicals to it, we deprive our system from all the nutrients that would feed it and what’s more, we turn it into something that the human body was not intended to digest. Because the body can’t handle it, it takes days to digest it. Because the body doesn’t know what to do with it, it stores it. What we call fat are leftovers… leftovers of the mush we feed our body that it can’t process the way it is supposed to.

The authors say that every illness the human being has comes from his diet; from the body being weakened by not receiving enough nutrients and from being forced to process mush that doesn’t actually give it anything. The leftovers clog our arteries. The leftovers turn into vicious cells.

They talk about doctors who have successfully cured patients with natural nutrition. They quote Hippocrates with ‘Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.’

It makes me sad. And angry. ‘Why has our entire system of everyday reality been built up in a way that it is so very bad for us? And why does it have to taste so good? Why is a breakfast with yoghurt and cheese-toasts and coffee harming me?’ And what’s more, the industries around the way we eat harm our world so badly, factories, pharmaceuticals (to ‘mend’ what we have done wrong but, in effect, just inserting another indigestible element to our system), transport, electronic devices, waste… so many things are part of our everyday life now that were not supposed to be here in the first place.

I don’t like it! I don’t like that my reality is now suddenly wrong, I don’t like that our reality seems to be a big mistake. I don’t like that my reliable comforts harm me. When I walk through a supermarket all I can see is how processed, packed and fake everything is. The book was written in the nineties, and they claim that 80% of our waste landfills were filled with packaging and things related to cooked and processed foods. 80%… I hope that today it is less; I hope that some of our efforts to live sensibly and ecologically have had an impact.

And I don’t like how nobody seems to know this. Why was this such news to me? A big part of me doesn’t like that this knowledge has been shared with me. Because now I can’t ignore it! Now I will need to take it from here, and now I will also be, and have been, telling other people about it – and will I be upsetting or annoying because of it?

The question I have been asking myself is precisely that: HOW will I take it from here? I don’t know how this post sounds to you, because now I am sharing it with you just like it has been shared with me. Am I leaving you with a sense of frustration? Or amusement? I know you’ll all be thinking and feeling what I do. ‘But if it makes me feel good, surely it can’t be bad?!’ and ‘No way I’ll give up my pasta!’

Here’s the thing: I feel great!

I really, truly do. Four weeks into it now. Apparently I have lost more weight, though that was not the intention. My body feels fit and energized. My hair feels good. I don’t feel like my skin needs to be moisturized at all anymore. I sleep better.

And I feel the difference when I ‘cheat’. Because I do have the odd cup of coffee and cheeky muffin; the day I returned from Palawan I actually had a beer and deep-fried cheese… When others are eating cooked, I’ll add rice or bread to my salad. But I try to always have as many raw elements as cooked ones in my balance; ideally slightly more raw than cooked. I feel good. I feel I am doing my body good. And want that to stay.

So I want to give it a go. My goal is to have two raw meals a day, and add raw to whatever cooked food I eat. I will get a fancy recipe book and the tools I need. Because some of the stuff we ate in Bahay Kalipay was out of this world and I would have downed it even without knowing the beneficial effects it has. I will go to market. I will find out about it all.

I am expecting it to be a challenge, starting with the winter when less fresh is available and when we feel we need to ‘warm up’ with food, and especially when it will be just me…

Let’s see 🙂

Day 16 and drunk on chocolate

Today I know it was a massive kick-off for my awareness on what I feed my body with, and how I treat my environment in the process.
My transformation into an organic vegan all pretty much began by going raw in 2012; I was in the Philippines, working with Nomadic Hands, and I decided to join my host on her raw food diet for a month – I called it an ‘experiment’, I did it for no other reason than for fun and convenience, and I took some notes. It was a rollercoaster ride, both mentally and physically, and for a while it seemed like I had no character for such ‘radical’, even ‘hippie’, behaviour…

Originally published January 30, 2012 – Who would have known the effect that cooked and poisonous food has on a system that has been abstinent for a while? On Day 16 of the raw food ‘experiment’, I was drunk on chocolate brownies.

Simone and I had a girly day out on the town last Thursday – she needed a decent t-shirt for when she goes back to Sydney, so we shopped after a meeting with her partner organization.

We went to the mall and on the way out… We bought a box of brownies. Yes four, chocolate-coated chocolate brownies!
And what do you know, we got drunk on them! We giggled all the way back home, said ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank-you for choosing our jeepney’ as people got off, and laughed a lot…

What a rush;-) Drunk on chocolate.

My hosts, travel companions and new friends

Originally published January 18, 2012 – I happen to have stumbled across the two quite colourful and spiritual characters as my hosts.

Simone Francis

simone francis, always a buzz

simone francis, always a buzz

So there is Simone, director of Nomadic Hands.
She is this energetic 27-year-old Australian who, when you listen to her speak, must have lived more lives than her age gives away. She has travelled and worked around the world, has taught numerous skills, including snorkelling and tumbling (youtube it), and is learning about all sorts of spiritual healing at this time – a project on her horizon is setting up a singing bowl meditation in Sydney.

She has been successfully running a social enterprise for over four years. Nomadic Hands travels around the world lending their hands to communities who need them, raising awareness for humanitarian and environmental issues.
And all the while she is working on her ongoing documentary, in which she documents her own journey as she ‘leaves the consumerist system’. From the material I have seen, its an amazing life-change, courageous and full of passion. And at the same time quite disturbing as she reveals facts most of us know about but chose to ignore. One of the first things she does is she goes ‘dumpster-diving’ in Sydney – she goes looking for perfectly alright food thrown away to prepare her own meals, and finds loads!
She is an amazing ‘go-doer’, she bubbles with energy and drive, she thinks up ideas and solutions and does them the same minute. Quite impressive, really, and so the opposite to me – I hope some of her entrepreneur spirit colours off on me during this trip.

Ramke

2012 philippines ramke flute

Ramke. I’ve been waking up to the soft sound of his flute playing in the distance.

So, being this adventure-seeker, Simone has recently taken to music and singing. And this is where her Philippine friend and co-host, Ramke, comes in. We are staying at his sister’s house in Talisay, near Bacolod and at his parents’ cottage when we’re in the mountains.
Ramke is an earthbound artist and currently reading into all kinds of healing, from reiki to numerology  – you name it, he’ll tell you about it. He reads a lot.
On my first evening he asked me what day my birthday was and I said March 18. He said ‘so you’re a 9’. Later on he explained that nines are very diverse creatures, they like to know and experiment everything, they like the challenge of the unknown. ‘And as soon as something is no longer unknown or an ability has been acquired, the nines look for what’s next.’ That explains a few things.

As a musician he plays the guitar, the flute, the didgeridoo, the harmonica and the drums… There may be more, but the sounds of these instruments have been accompanying us so far.

Simone and Ramke are both welcoming and generous in their own ways, and I am excited at the thought that by just being with them I may be getting more out of my time here than just the internship as such.

Day 9, raw food, and how it’s going down…

Originally published January 18, 2012 – So I think my big adjustment phase is now over. I used my experience with the raw food to mirror my arriving in the Philippines. The ups, the downs. It wasn’t all about the food… though we know it is always linked to food.

my own rhythm

On my diet I have now found my own rhythm. I have a smoothie at breakfast when one is handed to me, and it often is 😉 Today I even got two different ones. And I also toast a processed breadroll which I enjoy with a mug of nescafé. All other meals are mostly raw when I eat with Simone, which is always. If we are out, I may add something else just because I feel like it. I had a coffee and a cookie the other day, succulent.

But I am also finding this more raw than not diet to feel, in effect, quite good. My body feels good. I feel like I am exercising. And I expect that as soon as I am no longer with someone who is on the diet, I won’t be able to keep it up. There is no way I will mix up a big salad if I can also have pasta. Also, the market here is full of fruit and veggies, I know I won’t find much choice back home at this time of year. But spring and summer are upcoming, I wonder if I will naturally tend towards eating more raw… à voir.

to market, to market, to buy a fat mango

2012 Philippines market booth

So this is how it goes when Simone and I go to the market it Talisay. It is big –  but not really. Many tiny stores are jagged in one next to the other, all offerering more or less the same goods.
Simone asks prices, checks quality and chooses. I let her do it, because a-I don’t know half the ingredients she buys, and b-I take forever choosing the ‘good’ tomatoes. Generally we get tomatoes, little green or red ones, cucumbers, spring onionscabbage, some root I don’t know exactly what it is, some herbs I don’t know either, pumpkin, calamansi (a tiny lime-kind of citrus we put on everything)… and fruit. Bananas, the little fat ones, papaya, fresh coconut for her (which they smash open and grind on the spot), orange watermelon (she introduced it to me today, a new favourite), mango (so ripe the fruit slips off the stone) and whatever else inspires.

Presenting: the Raw Roll

Simone also generally prepares the food, she enjoys it and is good at it, though today I helped when we made ‘sushi’.

Amazing what all can be done without cooking (we had to blanche the aubergine before wrapping it around our stuffing).

 

I’ll be back on this page when and if I reach another groundbreaking or worth-sharing step, and for now: keep eating 😉

Day 7 – 3 days of raw, then a little warm nibble and life IS good

Today I know it was a massive kick-off for my awareness on what I feed my body with and how I treat my environment in the process.
My transformation into an organic vegan all pretty much began by going raw in 2012; I was in the Philippines, working with Nomadic Hands, and I decided to join my host on her raw food diet for a month – I called it an ‘experiment’, I did it for no other reason than for fun and convenience, and I took some notes. It was a rollercoaster ride, both mentally and physically, and for a while it seemed like I had no character for such ‘radical’, even ‘hippie’, behaviour..

Originally published January 16, 2012 – YAY, Day 7! We rolled back down the mountain very early this morning, and I ate two bananas in the sunshine on the top of the jeepney.

I was now totally owning it, and in just a few hours I’d have wifi and be connected to you all again – I felt good. Life is good.

changing perspectives - ride on the top of a bus

life is good – ride on the top of a bus

On the programme today was one of many rehearsals with Ramke’s local earth band who are playing at an environment fundraising concert in 3 weeks time, Simone is part of it.

I dropped out of the diet for lunch. We went to the frigging MALL! A MALL, people. Just back from the end of civilization and then I get taken to a food court! I pigged out. All the band had lunch at the vegetarian place, and so did I. Rice. A peanut butter aubergine stew. And, ohhh, some kind of noodles with some kind of veggies on top. Luuush. Simone had a smoothie and some fruit. She’s been on it straight for three weeks now. I’ve decided that cold turkey might not get me anywhere.

New rhythm: When Simone and I have home-prepared meals, I eat raw. We had a gaspacho tonight. When out, I may just choose cooked.

Works for me.

I read a bit more in the book… people, it ain’t looking good for our fave foods. I may quote some more for you later on.

Day 6 – the inevitable day things got dirty

Raw Food at the market

A Philippines market in 2012

I never used to be a ‘special eater’, though, I remember proudly declaring I was not one of them, actually – I loved my meat… UNTIL I actually let some of all the information that is available to us settle in, and one day it just clicked, and I changed my daily habits.
My transformation into an organic vegan all pretty much began by going raw in 2012; I was in the Philippines, working with Nomadic Hands, and I decided to join my host on her raw food diet for a month – I called it an ‘experiment’, I did it for no other reason than for fun and convenience, and I took some notes. I had no idea it would be a #lifechanger.

Originally published January 16 2012 – I woke up feeling awful. My back and bottom were sore. The mattress I slept on on the mezzanine of the cottage in the mountains appears to be less bouncy and, in effect, only a separation between me and the ground. Also, I had not been online in a while and was feeling lonely.

But more urgently, my tummy was making the threatening rumbles of indigestion, which had me flinging the kitten off me into the mosquito net (she had been sleeping on the my belly all night) and charging down the stairs in a hurry. I got to where I needed to get in time.

Now, I reckon what we are doing here in the mountains is somewhere between slumming it and glamping. On this particular matter I refer to the fact that there is a loo in the cottage, however, there is no toilet seat, you flush by pouring in water from the bucket next to it, and most importantly, it is separated from the rest of the cottage by a  door that is only half the size of the doorframe. Not unusual for Asia, as I now know, but still, no privacy in my books – luckily, at that moment as I was alone.

My condition and these many little elements all triggered a sense of utter discomfort, frustration and homesickness in me.

Here I was, 10,000 physical miles – and light years in my habits and heart – from home,

I was still adjusting to slumming it, to basically sleeping on the floor, to sharing the outside kitchen with all sorts of creepy crawlers (we had found a dead gecko in one of our empty, but not yet washed, smoothie glasses) to not having a bathroom like I was used to, and to the general state of dirt that comes with living indoor/outdoor in a tropical showery climate, i.e. muddy outdoors and boots (me) and bare feet (Simone and Ramke) brining it all inside..

WHY ON EARTH would I also subject my system to a drastic dietary change?

This was not conducive to the whole experience; I did not like my state at 8am this morning. I rummaged in my luggage for the two last squishy croissants that I had brought up from Bacolod and that I had been sure I’d be binning when we left, and stomped up to the ‘big house’ on the property that we used during the day, to get warm water for my Nescafé.

As I was warming the croissants in the toaster and after another purging visit to the loo (the one in the big house complies perfectly to my ‘standards’, and it has a door), Simone came in.

I didn’t loose a minute to declare that I needed to stop the diet. It wasn’t doing me any good, I was having too many other elements to digest (and not just the food-kinds) at this time. I just ranted away at her, like an upset child, really!

She was very good and said: ‘OK, I think it is time we talk about how you are experiencing this time, let’s do it now.’

We had a good exchange. I told her that I felt quite a bit out of my comfort zone, which is something I had been expecting and even seeking, but that settling into the simplicity of Philippine mountain life was a task I needed to concentrate on at this time, and that possibly this diet was one too many element in the ‘new’ of it all. Especially when I needed a toilet and really in those situations, like to be able to

  • a) sit on a loo; and
  • b) be in private.

She was understanding and encouraging, I think she may have forgotten what ‘luxuries’ active Westerners consider basic these days, and I felt much better having her know about my feelings – it is truly amazing how plain naming a feeling can make everything better. After our conversation I realised the extent of my drama, because, bottom line, I had absolutely nothing to complain or be grumpy about – and henceforth referred to this behaviour of mine as having ‘Princess Moments’. They come, we name them, maybe have a laugh, and move on.

Strengthened by my obligatory cup of coffee, I left the croissants on the side for the time being.

Maybe I’ll follow through with the raw diet after all.

Over the lunchtime salad of tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, sesame seeds and a fruit we got at the market but didn’t know what it was, of which I managed to eat about 5 mouthfuls, I mentioned my state to Ramke and he said,

‘This is good, you are de-toxing. You are experiencing withdrawal, in a few days you’ll feel so much better, you’ll be more creative, less tired, more enlightened over all.’

We’ll see about that, affaire à suivre.

Day 5 – ‘read this’, learning about raw

Natures First Law: Raw Food

Nature’s First Law: The Raw-Food Diet (available on Amazon)

My transformation into an organic vegan all pretty much began by going raw in 2012; I was in the Philippines, working with Nomadic Hands, and I decided to join my host on her raw food diet for a month – I called it an ‘experiment’, I did it for no other reason than fun and convenience, and I took some notes. I had no idea it would be a #lifechanger.

Originally published January 16, 2012 – In the cottage Ramke handed me a book calledNature’s First Law: The Raw-Food Diet and said ‘read this!’
Which I now am doing.
Because why bother going raw, and depriving yourself of pasta and bread and afternoon cakes and barbecued meat, if you don’t know what that’s good for?

** At this point I’d like to make it clear that I am merely reporting what I am reading in the only book I had available to me on raw food, and I insist that these are in no way my own statements. **

So, basically, and they repeat it after every chapter:

‘cooked food is poison.’

(O-M-G!)

APPARENTLY, mankind was not designed to eat cooked food, and by cooking (and processing) food in any way it loses all its nutrients, and thereby becomes an indigestible poison for our bodies.

(erm… W-H-A-T?)

‘Diseases, obesity, depression, pollution, etc. are all caused by the consumption of cooked food. If you are ill, consume exclusively raw plant food and your illness will wither. If you are under/overweight, eating raw will restore your body to its natural weight. If you suffer from depression, eating raw will restore your happiness and vitality. If you are an environmentalist, start by cleaning up your own body.’

The authors compare humans with animals and point out that humans are more prone to a diversity of illnesses than animals and this due to our unnatural way of feeding ourselves.

The discovery of fire 500,000 years ago (as opposed to the 1,500,000,000 years of life before) has brought with it an abundance of palette-stimulating tastes that are perverted for the human digestive system. But mankind has adapted to cooked food, and even become addicted to its tastes and the impression of ‘fullness’ it creates. As an example used, someone who eats bananas regularly but then stops for a week will be fine. A bread-eater who is deprived of bread for a week feels a sensation of withdrawal… Note to self: make the banana-test. Can confirm already about the carbs (refer to my ‘squishy croissant binge’).

I am reading through the book and their exposé appears very plausible to me. We know that many of our problems, be they physical or mental, are linked to our diet. The nutrients we think to come from protein and carbs are, so they say, all present in raw food, so that’s covered.

But if they are right, what an utterly frustrating piece of knowledge has just been handed to me!

It is telling us that we all have been living wrongly all this time, and it claims, that what we have been enjoying is, in effect without exception, poison for our body. The authors compare cooked food to all other drugs, including cigarettes – claiming that smoking is the most absurd form of ‘cooking’, ‘cooking’ the air that we breathe.

For the time being I am continuing the diet. I am also drinking a cup of nescafé every day because it gives me pleasure.

How I feel? At this precise moment at 6pm after a smoothie for breakfast and a papaya salad for lunch, my tummy has been rumbling for three hours. I don’t feel like eating, though. Ramke says this is a natural reaction to the change in my diet, that I am de-toxing and that I will notice it my bowel movements, too. (I said I’d share).

He also told me that I had lost weight. While losing weight is not anything I have ever aspired to do, and while I also find that hard to believe after only two days, it does give me some sense of satisfaction.

I let myself visualise a through-and-through healthy and toned version of myself leaving the Philippines in one month.

Day 4 – giving the raw food diet another go

raw food

The raw food diet – and giving it another try

My transformation into an organic vegan all pretty much began by going raw in 2012; I was in the Philippines, working with Nomadic Hands, and I decided to join my host on her raw food diet for a month. I called it an ‘experiment‘, I did it for no other reason than fun and convenience, but I kept a diary of what went on. I had no idea it would be a life changer, both in terms of how I eat and how I think. But it was. This is from my diary.

Originally published January 16, 2012 – In the Philippines and on day 4, Simone, Ramke and I headed up to the ‘mountains’ for a few days.

The cottage in the mountains is a two-hour bus ride on bumpy dirt roads through nature to the back of beyond. One goes shopping before heading up, so we dropped by the market on our way out. Ramke had declared he was starting up the raw food diet, and once again, I had no inclination to go out and purchase my own meals. I had no way of knowing which equipment was going to be waiting for us at the cottage, so, as well as being the obviously convenient option, it is much more sociable to ‘cook’ and dine together.

So I am back on the raw food diet!

And after the smoothie breakfast (and 2 more squishy croissants at home before leaving), a tomato, cucumber and unidentified lettuce salad spruced up with apple cider vinegar and raw sesame seeds for lunch, and a dinner of the same but different because cabbage had been added to the mix, I actually felt quite good about myself.

The jetlag was gone, my skin was clearing up, even my hair felt less limp than the previous days. And most of all, I wasn’t feeling hungry – at all! Even before meals, I felt no appetite nor need for food.

I was getting back to being excited about how much good I was going to have done to myself after a month of this.

Day 3 – maybe I won’t do this raw food diet after all

a journey

take the journey

My transformation into an organic vegan all pretty much began by going raw in 2012; I was in the Philippines, working with Nomadic Hands, and I decided to join my host on her raw food diet for a month – I called it an ‘experiment’, I did it for no other reason than fun and convenience, and I kept a diary of what went on. I had no idea it would be a lifechanger, both in how I eat and how I think. But it was. This is from my diary.

Originally published January 16, 2012 – Day 3 of my raw food diet was good. Good all over. I got up and showered first. Washed off the heat and grease. Then I brewed myself a cup of Starbucks instant coffee; in some wise moment I bought a pack of three when I was in LA, ‘for emergencies’ I’d thought. Good thinking! Then I sat down and ate two of my squishy croissants that had been toasted up by Victor, the house help.

THIS is how I start my day. I was back to owning my routine, and complimented myself on it. I can do raw, but if I want to add carbs, I will.

Then Ramke told us that his mother had invited us for lunch. Simone said she was taking her food with her, I said if I’m invited to a local’s home cooking, I’ll taste it! Imagine coming home from a month in the Philippines and not having tasted any of their, apparently, heavenly food!? Nah, not me. And what can I say, the fishcakes, the chicken, the lemongrass and ginger soup – yummy.

The evening meal was even better! Ramke’s sister, Chyd, whose house we are staying at in Talisay, invited us all out to a meal at a local restaurant to celebrate an award she had gotten at work! She ordered dishes of chicken, deep fried shrimp and squid that came with vinegar dips and more ginger broth. Absolute bliss!

Yeah, maybe I won’t do this raw food diet thing after all.