What stings might be good for you. Really. At least it has been for this crowd that troops all the way to Cavite to have themselves stung-by bees.
Every Wednesday people come to the Ilog Maria Honeybee Farm in Silang, Cavite, lured by the hope and promise of a cure, or just sheer relief, from diseases that have afflicted them.
Stories of people leaving behind their canes or wheelchairs as they walk out the farm travel far and wide.
The bee farm in a 10-hectare sprawl houses about 200 beehives, some of their species imported. Those used for the bee sting therapy (BST) is larger than the local variety, chosen neither for their size, venom volume nor component, but simply because they are easier to pick up and use.
"I do this every Wednesday as a public service," said Ilog Maria owner/manager Joel Magsaysay.
Magsaysay, who himself administers the live bee sting, said this is his way of giving thanks to God for healing him after a stroke that left his right side paralyzed. This was in 2004.
"I couldn't talk. I couldn't walk. I make pee-pee in a bottle. I prayed, He answered, I obeyed. I don't know how I know what I know but I've been doing it for a long, long time," he said.
He has had the bee farm since the '70s. He has been administering BST for a long time now, he said, but it was not until he turned it into a public service that it piqued the curiosity of people. Soon enough, they started trickling in.
Like other complementary/alternative healing modes, BST has been practiced for centuries. BST stimulates the body to heal itself, Magsaysay said. It uses bee venom to relieve people of symptoms of their diseases.
"I've studied the components of venom, how they affect your adrenals, how they induce your body to produce cortisones… The autoimmune system was designed so that the body can heal itself. The only problem is it's suppressed because of all the junk we put into our body," he said.
Everyone must detox so that the immune system becomes responsive. The less toxins there are in your body, he said, the stronger your immune system.
Magsaysay said BST can be tried to address any affliction.
The bee is held to a person's skin until it stings him/her, on the affected area. (BST is not recommended to treat cataracts.)
This will hurt, guaranteed. The skin will become hot and swollen and itchy immediately after the treatment. To some people the process can be really painful. Others walk off the pain for 10-15 minutes, encouraging circulation in the body.
An allergy test to bee venom is the first step done on a person who wants to undergo the BST. Only one bee sting is needed in this process. (A treatment can sometimes use more than 10 bee stings, depending on the condition of the disease.)
Usually, people with strong immune system develop an allergic reaction to the venom, he said. A rare occurrence, he said, since those who seek his help usually have compromised immune system already.
So is it worth it? A man wheelchair-bound for years is likely to try anything just to be able to walk again.
Perfecto Acebuque, 86, from Muntinlupa, has been wheelchair-bound since he suffered a stroke years ago.
It was Acebuque's first visit to the farm. His feet have grown so numb over the years he didn't react during the allergy test. When he was cleared for treatment and the second bee stung his foot, he let out a cry, said his wife Leonor-a near-incredible sign that that foot could finally "feel."
Magsaysay said that Acebuque could be beginning to feel sensation in his feet. At the end of the session, Acebuque was able to take a few steps.
Such an occurrence is not uncommon in the bee farm. On one post hang canes left behind by people who no longer have use for them.
Ruth de Sagun, who has been going to the Kidney Center for treatments, had heard about the farm from a friend and thought she'd give it a shot. Today, after three years on BST, her doctors have taken her off medications (except for painkiller Celebrex).
"We are Eastern people, but why are we so in love with Western medicine? We have this mindset that if we get sick we need to drink medicines. If all else fails, go for complementary/alternative medicine," Magsaysay said.
Drugs provide the quick fix, Magsaysay said. In Eastern principles if it took you 10 years to get sick, it will take you 10 more years to get well. You have to make your journey toward healing. You need to take responsibility for your health, to study and apply the principles, he said.
In Western medicine the doctor is the dictator, he said. You do what the doctors say, and if they don't know what to do they point you to another doctor.
But not one is better or superior to the other. "Western medicine saved my life, and Eastern medicine healed me. I am not yet completely healed but I am well enough to live a normal life," he said.