Rapha Valley revisited

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By Betsy Gazo


Saturday, April 12, 2014

THE road to Rapha Valley is bumpy. The joke is that Dr. Albert Jo’s mountain haven is so named because of the rough road to there.

As one ascends the winding road up the Municipality of Don Salvador Benedicto, and nears Brgy. Kumaliskis where Rapha Valley is located, signs along the way assure you that you won’t lose your way. Just be prepared for the ride.

The literal ride to wellness is not easy but is worth the trip. When it comes to our health, everything is worth the effort. If you think the hour’s ride from Bacolod City to Don Salvador is dreadful on your derriere, then make up for sitting down too long by accompanying Dr. Jo around his mountainside herb garden. This requires sturdy legs, a notebook and a pen, and a wide-brimmed hat.


Dr. Jo’s garden is his classroom. If you are a willing student, his lecture will benefit you tremendously for life. In fact, listen well and take notes as if your life depended on it— for it will.

The moment you step down from your vehicle and enter the gazebo, a waiter hands you a chilled citronella-scented towel to cool your warm forehead and nape. It’s also to rid your hands of dust and dirt before you have your mid-morning snack of black puto (made from fermented black rice), and cashew nut butter and dinuguan without the blood. Then, to go with the food is a glass of carrot-langka juice. This flavor takes a little getting used to as with the lunch later.

There has been quite a number of visitors at Rapha since it opened and they will know that the menu is standard.

“Standard” here means Dr. Jo’s standard which might have meat-eaters disappointed and craving for a hamburger afterwards.

The good doctor is quick to say that a diet heavy with meat isn’t healthy at all. Meat is not only acidic but is also not the ideal food for humans. Nature made people with longer intestines than animals and we are meant to live as herbivores.

When an animal eats, food passes out of it quickly; a human excretes what he eats 72 hours after so that means food stays in his digestive system far longer. That’s why it is important to get a lot of fiber from fruits and vegetables to sweep out any decaying food particles.

Dr. Jo praises the qualities of oregano which he takes daily pureed into his young coconut smoothie along with power-packed plants such as sinaw-sinaw (pancit-pancitan) and alusiman. These are weeds, by the way, that we ignore but actually the latter makes a superior and free substitute for the omega-3 capsules we buy.

Oregano is antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral. It can fight dengue. Only seven leaves of this pungent herb is equivalent to the qualities of 42 apples, 12 oranges and four carrots.

Malunggay—cheap, abundant, malunggay— is a good source of calcium (goodbye milk!), potassium, vitamins A and C. All we need is 1/8 cup in a day. Pick the tiny leaves and gather in a cup, pour hot water over and sip to your health.

As babies, our bodies can digest milk since that’s our only food source. We lose the enzymes needed to digest milk as we grow older so not all the cows in the world can give us enough milk for strong bones.

Dr. Jo warns us against boiling leaves. Heat kills the leaves’ life-giving enzymes. That is why don’t complain when you’ve boiled and drank a ton of leaves and get no health improvement.

Here’s what Dr. Jo advises: Add leaves only when the fire is off.
Other pieces of advice are: (1) avoid aluminum foil because it leaches into our food and causes Alzheimer’s disease; (2) avoid hydrogenated fats in margarine (it is safer to use butter); (3) one regular-sized camote is 14% protein and is rich in vitamins and mineral so you can have this for breakfast; (4) luyang dilaw or turmeric helps prevent Alzheimer’s and depression. It’s as good as taking Prozac; (5) basil acts as a natural rat repellant; (6) to turn tap water alkaline, squeeze calamansi juice into it; and (7) to test water for alkalinity well, dip a strip of pink litmus paper. If the paper turns blue, the water is alkaline.

As a second-timer to Rapha Valley, I enjoyed the standard lunch of durum and semolina flour pasta with mushroom sauce, and tomato-olive sauce, the salad greens, baked mahi-mahi, crème brulee and carrot cake. The desserts are an acquired taste so some people used to traditional cakes might find the taste disagreeable. But be good to your bodies— these are flourless and sweetened with honey.

Unfortunately, I returned with first-timers. Second-timers will enjoy a different set of dishes. Yipee! I heard there’s rice, too.

Yet, I always learn something new when Dr. Jo lectures. And, there’s now a restaurant for walk-in guests who want to enjoy breakfast (served all day at P295) and lunch without joining a group tour.

On the menu is Guilt-Free Rapha Adobo cooked with spices, herbs and flaxseeds. At P375, it is served with red rice and pickled cucumber, radish and papaya on the side. Pasta a la Salvia (P365) is fusilli pasta in sage cream sauce with vegetarian ham.

Also now available are four bedrooms that can accommodate 4 to 8 persons with wonderful views of the mountain. It’s so romantic up there especially when the sun sets so it’s a pity to miss the colors of the sky changing. And the valley around speaks of the mountain’s powerful forces. Nature heals.

It would be exciting to sleep in the cradle of the earth and wake up to invigorating mountain air and fill our being with clean, fresh air, and our bellies with clean, fresh food.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 12, 2014.


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