One of the Philippines’ most renowned doctors, Dr. Farrah Agustin-Bunch, M.D., was featured in a U.S. newspaper today, the Press-News Journal. Farrah talked about her life working as natural doctor; of her husband Jack’s roots in LaGrange and Canton, Lewis County, Missouri; and the construction of a 200-bed hospital – the first in the world dedicated exclusively to natural medicine — in Tarlac, Philippines!

From Canton to Manila: Jack and Farrah Bunch

December 20, 2017
by Kevin Wang – kevin.wang@yale.edu
 https://twitter.com/kevinkwang2

“I truly believe I was led, to be exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. Once I met my wife, the world changed.”

Jack Bunch, a native of LaGrange and Canton, moved to the Philippines in 2012, where he helps his wife Farrah Agustin-Bunch run a major natural medical center in Victoria, Tarlac. Farrah, or Dr. Farrah, as her patients know her, is a practicing medical doctor who uses the power of plants to cure cancer, prescribing herbal and holistic treatment plans for cancer patients. Her clinic sees upwards of 200 patients a day and has led scores into full remission – even some with stage four cancer. The cost per visit? Zilch.

The Dr. Farrah Natural Medical Center has become the most famous clinic for natural medicine in the Philippines, and Dr. Farrah has become one of the most well-known doctors across the country’s 7000 islands. Jack employs around 300 people, and the pair is starting the construction of a 200-bed hospital in January, the first in the world dedicated exclusively to natural medicine. The clinic was recently featured on the Philippines’ equivalent of Nightline.

So what is Jack Bunch, a kid who grew up sprinting down the streets of Canton and attending pre-school in the building that now houses the Press-News Journal, doing in the Philippines, not to mention co-running what may be the world’s largest natural medical center?

Jack was first introduced to the Philippines when he joined the military in 1990. Subic Bay, a U.S. military base on the west coast of the country’s Luzon Island, was a checkpoint for soldiers heading to fight in The Gulf War. Throughout his military career, Jack stopped at Subic many times and grew to love the culture and people of the Philippines. He knew he had to come back. So in 2012, after years of successful marketing jobs from California to Michigan and down to Texas, Jack decided to retire, pack his bags, and book a flight to Manila.

It wasn’t long before Jack met Farrah. He saw her the moment he stepped out of the airport in Manila, waiting in a car for her friend. It was love at first sight.

“My life before meeting my wife, was like an old black and white movie,” said Jack. “I was just a ‘thank God it’s Friday’ kind of guy. But the moment I met my wife, my whole world changed. In that instant, my life became Technicolor.”

Over the next five years, Jack helped Farrah, who had by then been practicing herbal medicine with her father for about a decade, establish a brand new medical facility whose grounds span a 7.5-acre plot of land known as Bunch Farm. Apparently, Jack didn’t leave his rural American roots back in Missouri.

In fact, even though Jack’s life has taken an unexpected and welcome turn in the past five years – marrying the woman of his dreams as his retirement turned into a full-time job managing one of the world’s largest natural medical centers – he still misses Lewis County and Canton. The old Canton, that is.

Jack misses playing baseball, wiffle ball, and all the outdoor childhood pastimes that cell phones and video game consoles have since replaced. His favorite place to spend time as a kid, Jack said, was the Golden Eagle Riverboat Dinner Theater in Canton, where he worked as a steward waiting tables and acting in the musical melodramas that followed the restaurant’s hefty dinners. The job helped him “build confidence” – but also gave him the added perk of bragging about rubbing shoulders with “celebrities” like Mary Ann from the 1960s sitcom Gilligan’s Island.

Canton has changed a lot since those days. For one, large mega-stores like Walmart have supplanted small local-run businesses that, as Jack described, had the “old wooden floors and cereal boxes expired for two years and the nice old man standing up front with a white apron on.” The trend is by no means unique to Canton. It’s happening all across America.

In the Philippines, meanwhile, Jack has noticed that the trend is a bit more complicated. Superchain all-purpose stores like Walmart and Dollar General have yet to spring up, and people still go to small hardware stores to buy what they need. Nevertheless, western capitalism has certainly left its mark in other ways, particularly through technology and supermalls. 3 of the 6 largest malls in the world are located in the Philippines, and Filipinos lead the world in time spent on social media, averaging 4 hours and 17 minutes a day. Many people have 3 or 4 Facebook accounts, and many kids own a “phone ring,” a phone attachment that allows them to keep screens in their hands more easily.

“They call it progress,” Jack said, “but is it really progress?”

Jack’s dual immersion in American and Filipino culture has put him in a unique position to see not only similarities between the two countries, but also the differences. Farrah has also spent time in LaGrange and Canton, and they both shared their insight into some key differences between the U.S. and the country they now live in.

From a medical perspective, Farrah thinks the Filipino and American healthcare systems are much more similar than people might imagine. In the Philippines, western medicine is accepted as the “legitimate” medicine, and natural remedies struggle to receive the same degree of trust and acceptance. And along with western healthcare came western health – including all its pre-packaged unexpirables and sugar-loaded goodies and obesity epidemics. One difference, though, is that the vast majority of people in the Philippines, unlike Americans, live without health insurance.

“If you get sick,” Farrah said, “you’re on your own.”

Beyond medicine, Jack and Farrah have both noticed many broader cultural differences.

“Americans are quite straightforward,” Farrah said. “With Filipinos, if they don’t like something, they will not say they don’t like it. But Jack enjoys confrontation.”

“Filipinos are also known as very hospitable,” Farrah added as a second difference. “It’s the best quality that a Filipino has and I’m very proud of it.”

For Jack, the biggest difference is in family life. “There are much greater family ties in the Philippines. In America, it’s nothing to move thousands of miles away and call your parents once a month.”

He noted, however, that families in small rural towns like LaGrange and Canton retain much stronger bonds than families in the big cities of America, observing that technology, which was designed to connect us, has done more to disconnect us from each other. It’s called “social media,” but it has turned us all into antisocials.

Despite the differences between the two countries, the rural Canton boy in Jack never seemed to have left him. The Bunches live out in the country, away from the bustle of the big cities, in what Jack describes as “more of a simple life.” Moreover, Jack recently started growing some roses cut directly from the prized rose bushes of retired Canton doctor and full-time rose aficionado Dr. Michael Dykstra, whom he remembered patching up his wounds as a kid. For Jack, it’s a small way to stay connected to the people he loves and the town that raised him.

“A little piece of Canton is now growing in the Philippines,” he said with an easy smile. “Well, besides me and my kids, that is.”
Jack and Farrah invite our readers to visit them in the Philippines at any time.

From Canton to Manila: Jack and Farrah Bunch