Updated: Sep 26, 2021
Text by PJV
Images from the stuartxchange.org website, with permission from Dr Godofredo Stuart Jr.
After practising medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, for three decades, Dr. Godofredo U. Stuart Jr. decided to spend his time between his ancestral home in Tiaong Quezon, in the Philippines, and the States. In April 1998, brimming with ideas, he started to build his hilltop house referred to by the locals as the “White House” in Pulang Lupa. In 2003 he returned for good and quickly realised that coming home presented unexpected challenges and that his vision needed to adapt to local realities and expectations.
It is sobering to learn how the benefits of the free medical consultations he gave were lost on many of his earlier patients as they could not afford the prescribed medicines and turned to traditional healers called albularyos, hilots, mangluluop or medicos who relied on colourful and cheaper treatments such as concoctions of roots, leaves and flowers, anting-antings, orasyons and bulongs.
Faced with this challenge, he vigorously pursued his research on alternative medicine and the benefits and dangers of medicinal plants, a study he had already started in Baltimore.
Wouldn’t you be intrigued by names such as monkey soap, lizard's tail, parrot’s beak, dragonfruit or fish killer tree? More common to those of us who live in Southern Europe, it is fascinating to read how both the oleanders that line the highways in Southern Italy and the poinsettia that are synonymous with Christmas are poisonous. Marjoram, the site tells us, was used in ancient Egypt to disinfect and preserve food and the properties of aloe vera were known to the Assyrians.
Twenty two years on, and with more than 1,200 entries, he posts the results in his website at stuartxchange.org with accompanying photos, detailed descriptions and in-depth reviews of their properties. His comprehensive listing has received accolades from botanists, the medical field, researchers, teachers, students, and yes, even chefs.
Dr. Stuart's site also invites you to read various articles on a number of subjects on Philippine history, art and culture and stories from his travels inside and outside of the Philippines. It does not stop there; click on the link Art Galleries and enjoy a tour of the diverse art pieces he has sculpted, painted and created over the years.
On life during this time of the covid pandemic Godofredo says, “I think covid will be around for quite a while. We have acclimatized to this new normal. I rarely venture out of Pulang Lupa; it has been 14 months of isolation, immersed in art, music and my work on plants. So much “new art” since your last visit. Music is an hour-a-day concert to my audience of one, and the plant research is four to six hours a day.”
Truly, our very own Filipino renaissance man. R&W