by Margaux Salcedo
After seeing how coronary heart disease and diabetes affect the poor, Fr. Anton Pascual, Exec. Director of Caritas Manila, has started advocating a lifestyle change to a plant-based diet.
Many know Fr Anton Pascual as the Executive Director of Caritas Manila. But those who know him better know that he has another advocacy: converting people to a plant-based diet.
If Pope Francis has an advocacy to save the environment, Fr. Anton has his advocacy to save our health. He tries to convince everyone he meets to shift to a diet that is more plant-based, in order to live a longer, healthier life.
Fr. Anton’s own paradigm shift came only in 2017. He used to purchase balut (fermented duck eggs) weekly when he was a parish priest in Pateros and would also often partake of lechon (spit-roasted pig).
Later, when he was already with Caritas, he noticed that the beneficiaries of the health cards of Caritas Manila were seeking not only paracetamols and pain relievers but also maintenance medicines for hypertension and diabetes. It was a curious revelation to him because usually the poor would complain of ulcers, due to having nothing to eat, or hepatitis, due to dirty food. This time, however, it seemed the ailments they were complaining about were due to appreciating too much food.
So he tried to analyze: are the Filipino poor eating too much? He realized, after conducting research, that perhaps the problem is not that the poor are eating too much but that they are too often eating the wrong kinds of food such as processed food (burgers, hotdogs, canned goods) or commercial chicken, because these are all they can afford.
“It’s the tasty, cheap, processed food that is the number one cause of chronic diseases,” Fr. Anton concludes.
So he started looking for alternatives to the processed food diet.
Documentaries on the benefits of converting to a plant-based diet enlightened him. He recommends watching Forks Over Knives, a 2011 American documentary that advocates a low-fat, whole-food, plant-based diet as a way to avoid or reverse several chronic diseases; and What the Health, a 2017 documentary that also advocates the plant-based diet while questioning the health impact of meat and dairy products consumption. These documentarirs may convince you to convert to a plant-based diet.