By Lori Lyn Lirio
HERBAL medicine is one of the most popular topics in the bilingual class among the middle schoolers in Saipan.
This according to Hopwood Middle School (HMS) teacher and herbalist Donald Mendiola, who was among the presenter in the recently held Pacific Island Bilingual Bicultural Association conference at the HMS campus.
About 20 participants, mostly women, who came to Mendiola’s Amot Chamorro and talked about the traditional Chamorro herbal medicine.
In an interview, Mendiola said he has been teaching for 18 years. He teaches the Chamorro and Carolinian Languages and Heritage Studies in the middle school.
As a teacher, he said, it is his duty to spark the interest of students into learning their own language, heritage and culture by incorporating related activities such as weaving and teaching them herbal medicine.
“I teach herbal medicine to my class by introducing the plants that grow on the island. They enjoy the class. A lot of them do remember about the herbal healing,” he said.
At the end of the school year, he gives recipes to his class so they can make their own medicine if they are sick.
During his presentation, Mendiola introduced the participants to different kinds of plants that contain healing properties.
“I did presentation on women and gave them recipes that they can make and take to clear their body from toxins that causes cancer and other non-communicable diseases,” he said.
Mendiola started learning about herbal medicine since he was nine years old.
“I have been doing this for 47 years. I learned from my paternal grandmother and 30 other elders who taught me about herbal healing. They saw something in me that made them want to share and pass their knowledge to me.”
According to Mendiola, he has written so many recipes and plans to pass it down to his family or grandchildren, whom he thinks showing interest in doing the traditional healing.
Mendiola expressed concern that many young people do not take interest in the herbal healing.
“You cannot pass this knowledge to people who do not have interest. Maybe, the reason for them is the drive for the present generation to make more money. Traditional healing is about genuine caring for people and about charity – you give your time to care and cure them,” he said.
Patricia Kapileo, one of the participants, said she attended Amot Chamorro, which was held on June 25 to 29, to learn about making local medicine.
“I don’t have skills in that and it is never too late to learn,” she said, adding “I learned about the different plants on our own island that I could use to make the medicine and I want to use this knowledge to help my kids or any member of my family who is sick. I don’t want to depend on the hospital. It is expensive just going to the doctor. I want to use medicine that has no side effects,” Kapileo said.