I cannot remember the first time I met Dr. Romy Paredes. It was sometime between in 2011. My memory banks are filled more with countless meetings held in many places, sometimes alone, often surrounded by audiences local and global, rural and urban.
I co-authored a book with Dr. Romy entitled Transformation Medicine, republished in Malaysia in 2015 based on its simple yet clear message.
Over the years, Transformation Medicine served not just as a book or a medical praxis. It was more of an open dialogue that deconstructs hierarchical differentiation, which separates healer and healee, doctor, and patient.
Dr. Romy and I came from worlds apart, yet we were open to exploring the vast spaces surrounding one question: “In a world where people must eventually become their own healer, what are the conditions by which healing happens on its own?”
As I read all manner of opinion on the news and as I am constantly asked many questions regarding my take on COVID-19, I am brought back to my days spent in close communion with “Dr. P,” parsing out possible avenues that create healing conditions in the indigenous and the modern sense.
On COVID-19 questions, I suspend opinions. I am not a virologist. I am generally more interested to witness the range of debates asked throughout pop media.
As I wonder in awe of the scale of today’s health crisis, Dr. Romy’s voice echoes in my head, whose medical-style shifted long ago from that of a medical pathologist who diagnoses the symptoms of sickness, towards that of a good listener whose mind naturally navigates big picture medicine.
Many doctors took part in Transformation Medicine dialogues, unraveling stories of what it meant to bring internal strengthening to people concerned with debilitating illness and depression both. Doctors, patients, relatives, and friends alike were chiefly interested in how individuals and communities find natural ways to break from states of paralysis, and onto the slow and organic stages of empowerment.
After typhoon Yolanda, I and others helped Dr. Romy initiate an NGO called SHEM, the Self-Health Empowerment Movement. SHEM envisioned what it might be like to present consciousness and deep awareness as the new medicine. Educating people on the roots of diseases, Dr. Romy and so many other practitioners traveled across the Philippines conducting free talks in schools, governments, churches, and corporations.
In light of COVID-19, Transformation Medicine may yet play roles in integrating the many branches of a whole hospital system not bound by physical walls or economic boundaries. Such a coming together begins with exploring the roots of the Life Tree if roots are synonymous to foundations, source, origin, beginnings, core, cause, and seed.
The Greek physician Hippocrates is known to be the father of modern medicine. He founded a system of healing focused on patient care and preventive prognosis, rather than on diagnostic problem-solving. Hippocratic medicine’s therapy was delivered foremost on a deep trust that nature ultimately has the power to heal. He also believed that certain foods can either cause or cure.
If Hippocrates lives today, how would he perceive COVID-19? From what we know now, viruses are aplenty as they are old. By current estimates, there are a quadrillion individual viruses existing on earth. Inside any individual human ranges 380 trillion viruses, a staggering image. Viruses make up the largest microbe population in the body. Abundant as they are, viruses are also ancient. Research notes that viruses have been present in the first animals in existence. They have ever played an integral part in our Deep History.
When I participated as one of six speakers during the 2nd Southeast Asian Bioregional Permaculture Convergence that happened in Isabela province in 2015, my talk focused that we must bring doctors and farmers together, as the former realizes how plant-based nutrition serves as integral medicine.
Over the years, I watched Dr. Romy veer patients away from pathological mindsets; his institute’s hospital-as-school model enables people to self-organize themselves around natural diets and lifestyles that prevent toxicity and encourage nourishment. Schools in the Philippines are similarly learning to bring greater care to body and mind.
During a convergence in Palawan in 2016, Dr. Romy and other doctors sat with school teachers and education officials in deep discussions. As they did so, they realized: Doctors are learning to become teachers. What happens in schools is now happening in hospitals. On the other hand, teachers are learning to heal. What healing happens in integrative clinics begin to take shape in DepEd programs.
In our small village in Barangay Bacungan, medicine abounds in the forests, still familiar to old women indigenous to Palawan or migrated from tribal areas in Mindanao. As we speak to Nanay Ellen or Nanay Conching, it is obvious to us how excited they get whenever anyone bears a rare interest in the intuitive wisdom that was passed onto them by those who had no drugstores to turn to, whenever a physical ailment did its work on a human body that is ever in a dynamic evolutionary flux.
Transformation Medicine isn’t so much about medicine that transforms people. It’s about how Medicine itself is in a state of transformation.
The news ubiquitously treats COVID-19 through the narrow lens of pathology, discouraging authentic discourses on health and fitness. Very little space is afforded to large objective views regarding the human body’s adaptive capacities that allowed us to evolve through the millions of years we dealt with microbes.
To regard vaccines as one solution to a very complex problem is to isolate and oversimplify the role microbes play in our ecosystem. The essential problem is probably not COVID-19.
Perceiving the pandemic either as a cause or effect determines our extensive future responses in wellness, education, economics and governance wisely.
Dr. Romy’s contribution to Philippine medicine is that we all are empowered to take the investigative stance to illness, from cancer to the common cold. He offers a handy shovel to dig deeper into the root causes of our many issues.