BEHIND FEEL WELL

The two legs on which FEEL WELL stands are Margarita "Candy" Roces Jalbuena and Medilen Araneta Singh. The two friends are exponents of the healthy lifestyle. It wasn't always so. 

 

Candy (left), and Medi (right)

 

Candy's early career was in education, teaching at the Assumption Convent high school in Herran, Manila. Later having moved to Barcelona, Spain with her husband, she worked in property management and was entrepreneur behind a flourishing high-end furniture restoration shop. She was ever on the move, poster girl for the hyperactive work-and-play lifestyle. Work, family, swimming, horseback riding, golfing, skiing, travelling. But more than anything, Candy was both Pied Piper and go-to to friends and family in Barcelona. She was catalyst of activities that left a mark on the city's socio-cultural landscape. Through it all, she continued to support low-income communities in the Philippines. 

Medi on the other hand, thrived for years on a daily diet of 3 packs of cigarettes, 42 cups of coffee, and vodka after six to fuel her entrepreneurial pursuits. In the '70s and '80s, she with her family pioneered in the manufacture of wooden toys and juvenile furniture under the BOBI Toys brand designed by Bobby Mañosa. The family company, Rajmar, then moved on to exports, sending hundreds of thousands of miniature toys to Ferrero-Rocher. Such huge export volumes required the innovative design of machinery and production processes appropriate to high-volume production runs. Using the same technology, she designed and produced Christmas hangings for Kurt Adler and Silvestri.

Following a government ban on logging, highlighting the industry's lack of resources, and having learned the ABCs of production and productivity, Medi shifted to the pioneering manufacture of bamboo wall boards. From the late '80s to the '90s, bamboo was processed in Abra into "Plyboo" panels which she devised as a component of her development concept, Industrialized Handicraft by INHand Abra under the leadership of Carmelita "Mely" Bersalona. INHand engaged upland and lowland communities, applying efficiency techniques of industrial production and holistic development. 

As a consequence of the 7.7 magnitude 1990 earthquake which devastated Abra's infrastructure and bamboo groves, Medi was tasked with the herculean job of restructuring the project. The immense effort led to Medi's massive heart attack in the mountains of Abra in 1993. Though she had not yet fully recovered from that attack, Medi moved on to her next role as development project consultant with the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan in the Philippines, India and Africa, as well as Waste Management in prime villages in Metro Manila.

Medilen’s Journey To Wellness

Medi's medical odyssey is an integral part of the FEEL WELL story. 

1993: The Uphill Trek

Her first heart attack happened in the mountains of Abra in 1993 at the age of 44 - twenty years after both her ovaries were removed because of dermoid cyst. The attack came after the earthquake of 1990 in the midst of her checking on the extent of bamboo losses due to flowering. Bamboos die after flowering, a trait of the monocarpic grass family.

 

 In the throes of promoting countryside development

Medi never really recovered from that attack despite her transition to a healthy diet. She however, continued to do her development work in the Philippines, India and Africa where she suffered four more attacks mostly while in the mountains. The cardiac episodes culminated in an angiogram in 1996 and a heart bypass in 2002. Fortuitously, in April 2002, Medi's friend Anabel Johnston opened her lovely home in Makati to Medi as her shelter for recuperation. With her Wonder Woman domestic staff Rose whom Anabel trained to do juicing and healthy food preparation which included raw food, Medi embarked on an uplevelling of her wellness journey.

 

Medi delivering a speech at the 7th World Bamboo Congress in New Delhi, India, in 2004. 

In the intervening years, 2003-06, she continued to work while seeking solutions to her health problems, including alternative modalities. This meant sessions with the well-known acupuncturist Dr. Eddie Concepcion in his Maginhawa St., QC clinic. She likewise consulted noted naturopath Dr. Christine Gonzalez.  

2007:  Natural Farming

Prompted by the need to change her lifestyle altogether, in 2007 Medi embraced natural farming as her new way of life.

This sustainable agricultural technology of Korean origin seeks to optimize livestock growth and fertilize soil through the use of natural food enriched with microorganisms. Medi attended a seminar conducted by perhaps the country's foremost advocates of natural farming, the couple Andry Lim and Jojie Gamboa. From them, Medi learned among other things, to prepare the 3C's tonic concocted by fermenting vegetables. She also trained anyone who would listen, including Candy, in the preparation of this excellent immune system booster. It was just what Candy needed when she returned to live in the Philippines after her husband's passing. Candy developed chronic colds; her body had to adjust to the humid tropical climate. The 3C's rid Candy of her chronic colds. She and Medi pursued making the 3C's and training others in its preparation. That was their first joint foray in the production of functional foods.

 

2008 natural farming program (MAMA) in the orphanage – SOS Childrens Village inside Ayala Alabang funded by Zonta Club of Alabang 

At the height of her interest in natural farming, Medi stumbled on Dr. Campbell-McBride's book Gut and Psychology Syndrome. Dr. McBride is a neurologist who learned about nutrition to help her son who suffered from ADHD. According to Dr. McBride, children with ADHD showed marked improvement and even symptom reversal with food-healing protocols that serve to increase healthy gut microbes. The importance of food to heal was driven home to her.

Not satisfied with the quality of meat locally available then, in 2009 Medi went to Abra with Mely Bersolana, her erstwhile bamboo farming partner. Their aim was to put up a poultry farm producing probiotic chickens and eggs, and growing mangoes using natural farming methods.  Mely developed the protocol for poultry production using bamboo leaves as feed for the chickens to strengthen and enlarge their gut. This method remains unique and successful to this day.

 

 

 Free range chickens thriving under Mely's care

2010: Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy and Stem Cell Therapy

By 2010, walking just a few steps exhausted Medi. Medical tests indicated only 30% of her heart was functioning, and that small part which functioned was compromised. When an eminent cardiologist deemed her a hopeless case, Medi's good friend Annie Tanco brought Dr. Rex Gloria to her. He was then an up and coming practitioner of regenerative medicine. First, Dr. Rex put Medi through a hormone rebalancing protocol to correct an underlying hormonal imbalance until she could travel. If Medi survived the 6-month treatment and observation period, he would send her to Germany for autologous stem cell treatment. For good measure, clinical psychologist and craniosacral therapist Tom Batalla came every other day during that critical 6-month period to give Medi energy-enhancing treatment sessions.

In September 2010, Candy took Medi to Heidelberg, Germany for stem cell treatment at TICEBA GmbH. Ticeba is a biotech company engaged in stem cell research and regenerative medicine. Dr. Christoph Ganss treated Medi with stem cells harvested from her own skin. The results were miraculous. A treatment protocol that involved administering a combination of bioidentical hormones and growth hormones by Dr. Rex Gloria, coupled with stem cell shots every six months, produced a new Medi. 

  


 Dr. Christoph Ganss (left), Dr. Rex Gloria (right)

 

Candy and Medi in Heidelberg prior to Stem Cell Therapy, September 2010

And there was Candy. Medi says she would not be around today without Candy who, be it in Barcelona or Manila, put her through a regimen of regular exercise (miles of walking) and a healthy diet that featured soups, juices, and much laughter.

                 

A revitalized Medi, responding splendidly to treatment in February 2011 and September 2011

 

Concluding stem cell therapy in Heidelberg, Germany, 2013

 

Along with other alternative modalities that she believes also helped, her heart was now functioning normally according to tests and required no medication except for the bioidentical hormones from Dr. Rex Gloria.  

2014: High Blood Pressure and Food for the Gut

In 2014 however, she unexpectedly had a bout with high blood pressure. Because tests conducted by Dr. Fabio Posas had indicated her heart was generally in good condition, Medi did not know where the high BP was coming from. Refusing to go back to medication, she resorted to her first mentor, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who focused on food to heal the gut. Our gut is 60-80% of the immune system, yet few know that its balance is disrupted by ingesting processed food with additives, chemicals, and medication.

There is an intimate connection between the gut and the immune system, the gut and the brain, and pretty much all of the body's systems. So when in 2014, her blood pressure continued to be unstable, Medi turned to Dr. McBride's GAPs diet. Foremost in the list of foods to heal the gut were broth, soups, clean healthy animal fats (from pastured animals not given hormones), and fermented food-yogurt. For six months Medi subsisted on a diet of broth/chicken soup with animal fat, organic free-range eggs, and yogurt supplied by the social enterprises she had invested time and funds in. 

Medi's BP stabilized. By 2015, high BP and sugar levels were a thing of the past.

Medi recovered from high BP and sugar levels, ready to dive into action once more

 

Medi was now ready to take leave of the much needed life of rest, education and healing. She looked forward to sharing her experiences with the world along with Candy, who was witness to her journey.

2015: Creating the Feel Well Brand

In 2012, Medi invested in a company that acquired a herd of buffalo and facilities which had the capability to produce first-rate Italian-type cheeses and yogurt. 

She promoted these products but knew they were not suited to the Filipino palate. Candy,  gifted in cooking and with an intuitive understanding of food, tested various formulations to tease out some natural sweetness in the product. Her attempts met with unsatisfactory results, for lack of proper production facilities and resources.

In mid-2018, Candy serendipitously crossed paths with Jan and Karmi Seraspi, who produced organic yacon in Nueva Vizcaya under the business name Kajuayan. In turn, Medi met Jean Philippe of Solfruits, Inc. in the Clark Freeport Zone, who processed fruits into puree using an advanced technology. These were just the raw materials they needed to implement their product concept. It was time to turn their plant into the nucleus of FEEL WELL Synbiotic Food.