THE ACUPUNCTURE NUN
Healing the Poor with Fingers, a True Story
 
eastwind journals
by Bernie V. Lopez, eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com
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Pitogo, Zamboanga del Sur, circa 1985. In this remote village in the deep south, there were no drugstores, no Western medicines, no hospitals, no doctors. Medical people resorted to the magic and thrift of Eastern medicine to adapt to the sheer poverty of the place. 
 
As a roving journalist, I witnessed how Sister Josephine Derequito, MMS (Medical Mission Sister), a licensed physician and a trained acupuncturist all at once, made my hair stand as she applied acupressure on a young peasant woman with a one-year-old baby in an advanced stage of malnutrition, very frail but with a big stomach.
 
CONTINUE (Dialogue is reconstructed.) 
 
SISTER JO – Your baby is frail and sick.
WOMAN – Sister, I do not have breast milk. So I feed her yam (thin soup made from over-cooked kamoteng-kahoy, a root crop).
SISTER JO – You have to eat leafy vegetables, so you will have breast milk.
WOMAN – We don’t eat vegetables, sister, because there’s plenty of fish.
SISTER JO. It is so easy to plant kamote (a vegetable vine), which has plenty of iron. From now on, eat talbos ng kamote (the shoots), otherwise your baby will die.
 
The woman nodded. Sister Jo examined the baby, then applied acupressure on the woman, placing her thumb in between her breasts. Within three minutes, while she talked to the woman, the milk flowed. My hair stood on end. The woman was in tears. In the evening, the fisherman-husband of the woman brought us fresh fish from his catch. This was the magic of poverty. The poor were capable of returning the love you give them. 
 
Next came a young man who lost his sense of hearing when he was electrocuted. During the lean dry season, men go up the electric posts to tap electricity using two cables with rods at the end. They would apply electricity on ponds dried up into mud to kill dalag (mud fish) and hito (catfish), native delicacies. This was the cheap way to ‘fish’ if one did not have a boat. This time, Sister Jo took out her acupuncture needles and placed two each on the temples, and another two each on the sides of the nose close to the eyes. I was expecting another miracle.
 
ME – Sister, will he be able to hear when you’re finished?
SISTER JO – No, Bernie. It’s not instant. I have to apply acupuncture weekly for a few weeks. I am not even sure I can heal him. It’s a chance, but there is nothing to lose. Even modern hospitals may not be able to heal him. Acupuncture has a chance to do so.
ME – Sister, where do you get funds for your program?
SISTER JO – I have no funds, just a little travel and food allowance. When the peasants find out my project is funded by World Bank or ADB, they drool for handouts. This destroys the project because you make them dependent. The key in health care for the very poor is self-reliance, making them paramedics for their communities.
ME – Where do you get money for food during your health workshop?
SISTER JO – They bring their own food. Some take three-hour hikes to the seminar, bringing their babies.
ME – How do you motivate them?
SISTER JO –  No need. They see the value of being their own doctors when a child is sick. Also, they see that, when they set up their own community herbal garden, they have free medicine from their own drug store. They set up these gardens at no expense.
 
Sister Jo distributed copies of photos showing acupressure points on the body that would heal specific ailments. For example, S26 below the knee relieved menstrual spasm. She gave them a list of what ailments herbs can cure from a Filipino herbal medicine book. The peasants easily identified the herbs. The program without funds had tremendous reach and impact, encompassing many outlying villages. 
 
The rebels, the New People’s Army (NPA) adopted the program or similar prototypes. The program of health self-reliance spread like wildfire across the poverty-stricken landscape. Sister Jo said the key was to not impose but empower. She passed away decades ago, but left an imprint of love on poor rural folks, a Filipino version of Mother Teresa.
 
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by Bernie V. Lopez, eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com
Blogger/Columnist-Journalist-Broadcaster, 35 years / Healing Ministry, 27 years
Inquirer * Business World * Manila Times * Manila Chronicle * Radio Veritas
Healing Ministry of Srs. Raquel/Gloria, RVM * for healing inquiries send email
 
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