Dedicated to my wonderful island coconut trees, the trees of life.
I am often asked, “What encouraged you to follow your inner child guides to a pristine private island paradise to live the rest of your life surrounded by coconut, the tree of life?” Here is my story.
At age 36, after traveling the globe extensively, I had a strong vision to settle down in my own pristine Shangri-la with many coconut trees. I was then on a 16 year world sojourn, traveling together with my English partner Mark. Our adventures had taken us to some of the world’s most pristine, rugged, serene, remote tropical wilderness and animal reserves, plus canyons, rivers, lakes and island paradises fringed with coconut trees. Though shy and uncomfortable with people since a little girl, I was totally relaxed in Mother Nature, particularly in the tropics near a cleansing sea and eating organic tropical food from the wild.
During my adventures, short-term travelers would often ask questions about my long unusual journeys. Amazed myself that many of my wild dreams came true, I would tell them I was blessed to have among others, Peter Pan and TinkerBell as my mystical spiritual friends. I came to believe it and live by my mystical tropical island dream.
My ‘vision to settle’ was not your typical ‘Buy a house in the country and settle down’! My dream was a pristine paradise somewhere in the tropics far away from people. It was private and had a lush tropical jungle backdrop. I could see an island surrounded by blue crystal clear water and a nearby coral reef, teaming with fish, with a long white-sand beach fringed with coconut, my trees of life.
Amazingly, I could still see mountain peaks, caves and grottos in the picture, too. I could see myself growing my organic garden, learning how to eat coconut in many varied ways, sprouting my organic seeds in my own kitchen, eating cleansing raw food and having pets to nurture and love, but I was still unsure if I would live on a pristine island beside a tropical turquoise blue sea or on some mystical mountain.
Most people would say this was an irrational fairytale fantasy; to me it was real. I knew it was out there and I had to search. And with the help of Peter Pan and TinkerBell as my mystical guides, find my pristine paradise and my coconut trees, I did!. Like a coconut washed to a far distant shore, I started from an organic tropical coconut seed on my tropical soil, and then I grew my tropical island roots. Later I would grow my sturdy trunk, my huge green leaves and fruits to share, growing strong with the trees of life surrounding me.
Finding the Soil to Plant the Coconut Seed
Mark had airline tickets back to Australia, suggesting we look for a place in tropical Cape Tribulation, Northern Queensland, another paradise we both loved. However living in the West did not fit my mystical journey and my way of life. I could feel my need of a paradise in the East, far away from what most call ‘normal’ civilization. Still Mark was my partner; we had traveled together for more than 14 years, sharing much love, joy and experience. He would often suggest I wake up to reality and I would struggle with questions like: Why did I, at 36 years of age, still believe such a fantasy fairytale about an exotic paradise with a white-sand beach and coconut trees existed? Would I be searching my whole life for an unobtainable mystical island dream? Could there really be gods, goddesses, fairies and spiritual guides and a remote island paradise I could live on?
While traveling through Malaysia on our way back to Australia, I was sharing my far-fetched private island dream with a Swiss couple while sitting at a small street-side restaurant in Penang. Immediately both said that my vision sounded like the pristine area they had just left, the spectacular bay, cliffs and white-sand beaches of El Nido Palawan, Philippines.
Immediately I heard bells in my head and felt Peter Pan beside me again saying the words “what are we waiting for?” l looked at Mark, who, though amazed with my mystical adventures, agreed to add yet another detour into our plans to get back to Australia. Weeks later after trekking off the beaten track through rice paddies and waiting days in a crocodile infested riverside village for a weekly market boat, we found our way to the unforgettable shores of Bacuit Bay, home of 21 pristine islands, with coconut fringed beaches and the main town of El Nido.
After just two weeks here, surprising even me, I was adamant that I would find my island dream in one of these exotic gems. Mark had not the heart to share my dream, yet I heard myself tell him, “I will manage it alone from here and find my pristine coconut fringed island.” We said goodbye, he thinking I would come to my senses with time and experience. I knew I was here for life. Four months later, together with Peter, I was shown the unforgettable shores of my destiny. As if my friendly spiritual guides had waved their magic wands, almost all of my wishes were in front of me on this tiny magical island of Malapacao. It was my exotic, mystical place here in Asia. It was a gem surrounded by other gems, a pearl in a pristine place. It was a tropical island surrounded by blue crystal clear water, a nearby coral reef..teaming with fish… It had a long white-sand beach fringed with my beloved tress of life.It had a lush tropical jungle backdrop… It had many rugged mountain peaks, a cave and a grotto for meditation… Turtles visited the shore often to lay their eggs and exotic tropical birds shared space with colorful butterflies, dragonflies, lacewings and my trees of life.
If all of this was not enough, it had a carved small pool just on the shore that I could use as my wishing well for future diva dreams. I was ecstatic and in love. Finding my vision had taken all of three months. Now making it my tropical paradise home and becoming self sufficient on coconut and organic food was going to be the dedicated work of my life, a challenge like moving a mountain!
It was September 1987, over 23 years ago, when I was washed to these shores with Peter Pan and TinkerBell, arriving with almost no savings left. Few westerners lived in our area, few locals had met a foreigner and fewer spoke English. Even though I was well traveled, living among people from such a simple culture was like stepping back in time 50 years or more. I was ever-so green!! I had not even thought it through, how I would survive eating my beloved coconut, what I would do for funds. My family (though not close) believed like Mark did, that one day I would return to my senses and come back to Australia; there was no way I was going to ask them for any financial help.
Growing my Delicate Coconut Roots
Home for me was here, with these coconut trees, there would never be another in this lifetime. I had made the forever, life commitment. I had to trust Peter Pan and TinkerBell as well as my new island gods, goddesses and fairies to show me the way I needed to follow. There was nothing in my head saying “NO”; that it might not or would not work. I had been born a Leo, in the year of the Rabbit, and luck was my middle name. I would mesh with the local islanders and balance this most important shift in my life. I would grow like the coconut tree and learn new skills to live closely with nature. I learnt to make young coconut jelly, coconut brittle, coconut biscuits, crunches, coconut oils, coconut cheeses, coconut champagne and coconut honey. I would adapt to this tropical island lifestyle, as I believed the answers were here with the trees, and as long as I asked, all would be revealed. Looking back, I see this as my saving grace.
Thinking rationally rarely allows someone to start a tropical island adventure such as I did! Yet in hindsight, I can not help but be surprised by just how irrational I was 23 years ago! Like others starting their ‘Robinson Crusoe lifestyle’, I planted more coconut trees in my garden for my millionaire’s salad, grew my sprouts and explored the lush natural vegetation. I found lot of ways to add coconuts to wild vines, green leaves and shoots for my cleansing raw food organic diet. I started a farm to grow and then sell things so I could survive here.
On several of my trips to Manila (a 30 hour or longer cargo boat ride) I brought back 6 imported breeding sows, 2 boars, 80 egg laying pullets and 200 just born chicks, 100 Muscovy ducklings and 100 baby Australian Silver quail. Over time the pigs bred an average of 80 piglets every six months. I would sleep with the sows at their birth; clip their umbilical cords from their mothers and their eye teeth to prevent them from hurting mums teats. My island helpers even taught me how to castrate the young male piglets.
The chickens would lay approximately 60 eggs a day creating a small income and to this menagerie I acquired a few pairs of Campbell Road Runner ducks and a pair of Bengala guinea fowl. With the help of a homemade kerosene incubator, I multiplied my animals and my eggs one hundred fold.
To add to more excitement I bought 2 mother goats with 4 baby kids and 1 Billy goat. Life was full….lots of experiences……lots of daily happenings. I fed coconut in various forms to all my animals and at one point I had over 1000 of them to care for. I made salted, century eggs and balut from my ducks, sold quail eggs and created other interesting local delicacies. To provide better health for my young animals, I raised thousands of earthworms for their Vitamin B12 vermiculture. That is another story all on its own and to this day I am grateful to my humble earthworms in my organic garden supporting my cleansing raw food meals.
I sold young healthy pigs and if ever any got sick, their new owners would return them to me to doctor. I would feed them coconut, charcoal and green leaves; let them wander along the beach and under the coconut trees, until they got their energy again. I would even sleep with them; wrapping them in woolen scarves at night so they could feel warm and secure and I would massage and shampoo them with cleansing coconut oil. As is my way, I prefer not ask a person to do anything I would not do myself! Eventually I could not bring myself to kill my animals and slowly I become a spiritual vegan. It was a wonderful learning process and another step in my organic island way of life.
During that time a few other foreigners came into the area, but they seldom stayed long, finding life too challenging. I would rarely meet them, finding little common ground with people, more at home hugging the trees and rocks, dancing with the wind, snorkeling with the fish and eating coconuts and organic food. Using local folklore tales Peter Pan would help me weave fantasies of the island shapes, acknowledging the fairy guides. Inabuyatan Island in front of me, became The Princess who had cried herself to sleep hundreds of years ago, distressed with the world for allowing the Goddesses to be destroyed. Now with the help of her seven sisters, she had woken, aware that these strong women were on the scene again. A Mammoth Elephant leaning up against her as a symbol of Yin and Yang.
I, myself became a bit of a legend too – it was not hard to do here! Alone, celibate and a mystical spiritual diva who enjoyed strange dances on the beach (often nude) and with an odd cleansing diet, loving my life in nature. Foreigners and locals alike called me ‘The Crazy Coconut Lady of Malapacao.’ To those who knew me it was said in kind fun. However, most believed that in time, I would get lonely enough and give up my organic island lifestyle. Though several visitors asked me this question, my answer was always the same, “No, never!!”
In the early days life was about survival, with huge challenges. It was not a bed of roses that is for sure! Days and dramas were real and not for the weak minded. Living here can be like being in the Wild West and I had my hands full just trying to understand a culture that is so different from our world. There were days I admit I hit some mighty bumps and did buckle and bend just like the coconut tree does – it happens to all of us! But these obstacles were heaven-sent to make me a stronger diva. I believe one makes the most of what we have….I had what most people only dream of, it was a precious magical gift…how could I NOT put my heart and soul into it?
Still after four years of trying to survive, I failed to earn enough for basic needs with my farming venture. In 1992, with few facilities, I opened my doors to regular tourism, offering stretcher beds on the beach and visitors had to help me prepare meals and hot drinks on a wood fire. I had no towels, bed linens and knew nothing about bokashi composting toilet in those days. It was a rustic beginning with lots of coconut drinks and meals on my exotic menu and budget travelers loved it. Offering a tiny haven for passing yachties, I sold the coconut fruit, coconut oil, coconut champagne and veggies, other fresh fruits, green leaves and water, as well as offering refueling, laundry and garbage disposal services.
This led to an article in the Hong Kong magazine called ‘Fragrant Harbor’ and during the months of March and April before the Hong Kong changeover of 1997, groups of eight or sometimes twelve yachts would anchor in my spectacular bay. Their owners would shout from their boats, “Leeann, is it OK to come ashore for dinner? We are 14 of us, have you got some raw organic food for us, we are tired of tinned junk.” “What about some coconut champagne too” Slowly, with better income, I created more cottages under the coconut trees, adding facilities, increasing my rates, services and sharing the benefits of cleansing raw food.
In 1996 my island view was chosen as the gem of all the 7001 Philippine islands by the author of the Lonely Planet Guide Book. Our Beautiful ‘Princess’ (Inabuyatan Island) also fringed with coconuts was on his front cover. Popularity brought more visitors and in those short-lived years, I was able to pay off many of the islanders who owned or claimed to own my part of the island.
Often I would accommodate thirty or more guests staying in-house daily. Supported by the help of the local islanders, we offered basic friendly services, raw and semi-raw food meals and unforgettable island adventure. The downside of more visitors was the difficult challenge of sharing my pristine environment with people who enjoyed things that I considered toxic and definitely not meant to be here in my mystical private island with my island guides.
To keep my delicate spiritual balance, the first to go off my island services was meat, followed by cigarettes, then alcohol and coffee and sugar. Having acquired an even deeper interest in the health benefits of coconut, making virgin oil as well as coconut flower honey and many other organic and herbal raw food, I would cringe at the amount of over cooked food I served on my table, including breads, buns and tarts, with not a hope in paradise to incorporate the benefits of food combining or not drinking with meals, plus what I had learned.
Like any business, one is obliged to serve what a customer wants or pay the price and lose business. In the face of much advice to the contrary, I chose the latter, adamantly believing money was not my driving force, love of my island and quality of life was! and I had to find a way.
Growing my Sturdy Tall Coconut Trunk
At this time I was completely cut off from the outside world in so many ways. No news, no radio, no newspaper, no TV, no Internet, no computer, it was just too much of a challenge to find the power. Magazines didn’t exist here unless someone brought them in, and there was no music. And none of that mattered to me. YES!! even music!
When you are a child of nature, eating a mostly cleansing raw diet, you are content with the whisperings of wonderful elementals and divas. The many and varied sounds of the sea, the swishing of the fronds of my enormous trees above was, is and always will be my musical pleasure. These trees asked me to hug them, the heavens guided me to build sundecks to embrace the light; the sea beckoned me to swim in it daily. For me the wind offered fine vibrations within the coconut trees that I adored. I was and still am content with simplicity and the song ‘All The Sounds Of The Earth Are Like Music’ is so true for me. Along the way I was blessed to have visitors share their Gentle Arts. I learnt to practice yoga, tai chi, sword dancing, and do tarot and angel card readings too.
Sometime in mid 1997, an English couple, listening to me voice my current island dreams, suggested I was outlining a detox cleansing spa. All I knew then of Spas were hot water pools in Germany. Fortunate enough to be managing a detox fasting center in Puerto Rico, these two people had my full attention. Another important spiritual serendipity was in the making. A little later, a kind Austrian offered to create my first website for me; an Internet Cafe worker in Puerto Princesa agreed to check emails and send them up in printed state. I replied in longhand. So many rustic beginnings! Imagine notes traveling via a difficult local bus/truck ride over 400 kilometers of steep mountains up to El Nido, then waiting for a rare island boat trip. It was the same process to get the answer back down to Puerto Princesa. Some email replies would have been 10-15 days old before the sender would receive it! I can laugh at the journey, so different from now!
Some of my guests wonder at my patience with the continual computer challenges we have here day by day now, but I know its all relative and I take nothing for granted. Though my library was minimal then, one book called “Touch For Health”, written by John Thie, stood out prominently. I had carried this book on many of my travels, even to the base camp of Everest. Once here, I had placed it in a corner, forgetting it, having no partner to learn with or practice it. On a whim I wrote to John Thie’s Foundation, hoping the 20 year old address might still exist and that my letter might reach them. My request to entice a ‘Touch For Health’ instructor to the island to teach me Kinesiology went off with a passing visitor. It was like sending a message in a bottle asking TinkerBell to deliver it. I never used the postal system.
I quickly learnt about mud/clay bakes, coconut body scrubs, seaweed wraps and various massage treatments. A Reiki Master sailing in a yacht anchored in my bay and I managed to convince her to stay longer, teaching me Reiki 1 and 2. Later I was blessed to learn about efficiency micro-organisms (EM) (AEM) and bokashi and started my organic garden under the coconut trees with these wonderful gifts of Mother Nature. I even belatedly learnt about the bokashi composting toilet, something still on my list of things to create.
My diva buds were expanding, spring was in the air and important groundwork was in progress. With the help of a few loyal visitors, I began building several rustic, comfy cottages with garden bathrooms, dreaming of my new ‘Adventure Wellness’ programs. In 1998, nature threw additional spice into my challenges. First global warming came, bringing ten months of drought with ancient tropical trees crashing down. Sea temperatures, generally only 26 -28 degrees centigrade rose to over 32, killing all the soft corals and much of our hard corals, all under my eyes with nothing I could do. It was a sad unforgettable time for our earth.
To cap off the year of 1998, on December 12th, with most of the construction of my new cottages almost completed, one of the strongest typhoons in 60 years ripped into us head-on. It was called ‘Norming’ and we were in the ‘Eye’ and in its wake as it went first one way, then the other it destroyed one third of my retreat, burying my beautiful white-sand beach under heaps of rubble, not to mention many small sea creatures. Almost all of my tall coconut trees were damaged, for one full year I would have no coconut fruits from my island trees. Where to continue, what to rebuild first…where were the funds to do it? I had $500 only in the bank, just enough to keep a US dollar account open. It had to go and more had to be found. Many visitors were booked to share my island paradise between Xmas/New Year, and would be deeply disappointed otherwise.
This was a huge challenge on its own; however on the heels of this, I had to ride out the aftermath of two political dramas during 1999 and 2000. These issues stopped tourism in its tracks for several years. My Adventure Wellness dreams went on the back burner. I had to survive with my coconuts…but how! Most Westerners involved in any commercial venture returned to their country to take on part-time work to maintain their Philippine lifestyle. I had nowhere to go and no money even if I wanted to leave, which I did not. I prayed to Peter Pan and TinkerBell for the answer, asking for change, asking for balance. My wonderful island spirits again heard my prayers and I managed to turn every difficult corner as I came to it.
Stretching my Limbs and Dancing my Huge Coconut Leaves
In 2002 a connection was made with the owner of Dharma Healing, Hillary Hitt. She graciously shared much information on fasting, detox, cleansing and self healing. I linked my web pages with those of Hillary’s, but nothing moved. I clearly saw detox fasting programs as my future and prayed to know where and how to begin, but though 52 years old, I had never fasted a day in my life and had only the vaguest idea what detox fasting meant.
True to the rhythms of my mystical life, less than ten months later, a full of life 73 year old Norwegian man, Frank Jenson arrived, loved my coconut paradise and wanted to stay for 2 months or more. I asked what he did for a living. Frank replied that the was a “Touch For Health” (kinesiology) instructor.
So here was the person I had asked Peter Pan to send me five years before, sent off in note in a bottle! Frank also owned ‘Monhos Velhos’, a detox fasting retreat in the Argyle, Portugal and serendipity was knocking again. Frank got an almost FREE stay; a great trade off, and I was over the moon! You might call this luck; I called it as usual, my destiny. Like so much in life, our paths are mapped out.
Learning Kinesiology was fun, but what I appreciated the most was Frank sitting beside me in my office for a two full months, (mostly nude!), rebuilding his detox fasting website. I was his willing pupil. I learnt about fasting and detox and I learnt of life-changing journeys. We were using cleansing products Frank had brought from Portugal and without even looking into where or how I would get similar items, I started my detox fasting retreat adding more coconut products to them, converting my website totally to detox and transformation and my life simultaneously too.
It was a huge financial risk to convert from simple tourism to offering detox, fasting, cleansing programs at higher prices in this remote area, but slowly with the help of TinkerBell and her magic wand, everything came slowly together. I was and still am blessed to have had the opportunity with my guides, to find and then create one of the most beautiful paradises on earth for cleansing detox, fasting and self healing. I could think of no better way to support myself in this lifetime than to share my paradise with caring visitors, mostly women, seeking a quiet sanctuary like mine for their own cleansing self healing work and to find their own balance. Plus the thrill that people could be sharing their holistic alternative health knowledge with families and loved ones, and contributing just that little bit more to the healing of our world is an added bonus.
Like many of us that move into the alternative health care detox field, I too came with my own personal baggage of health challenges. Up until that time, I had buried many of these in the spirit of ‘Just get on with it!’ Peter Pan had told me to be strong, to even play a very masculine role in order to set the groundwork. Now was my own time for spiritual growth and healing, to explore my feminine energy; to nurture and transform ME. To share with love and ever growing understanding, I had to first listen to my deepest inner child awareness. These are the beautiful gifts of my island, my island guides and much serendipity. There is so much more than we will ever know about our spiritual destiny, we must just trust and walk our inner child path.
Appreciating and Sharing My Flowers and Fruits
As diva life has a way of evolving so gracefully, I was destined to meet my next mentor, Farida Sharan, the owner/founder of The School of Natural Medicine, Boulder Colorado. After years of personal study, practical experience and commitment in the field of alternative natural health detox and fasting, I earned my Diploma in Naturopathy and forged ahead on my tiny coconut island. Offering colon irrigation services long before many people in my part of the world had ever heard of it, added to the legend of Leeann ‘The Crazy Coconut Lady of Malapacao’. When I began my fasting, self healing programs the flowers and fruits came into my life. As I speak they are in full strong blossom, blooming slowly more each year. Visitors now come to my pristine island from all walks of life and from every corner of the globe for guided full body detox parasite cleansing, colonics, organic raw food, coconut ology teacher training, as well as for Naturopathy, Alternative Health Care Practicum’s.
Many on my visitors become open to detox cleansing usually after they have become burnt out from stress and an unhealthy diet. Many know what to do, but forget to listen to their bodies. Sadly many get sick and take toxic medications, especially for depression, or seriously ill with cancer. Many have had no luck with regular doctors and don’t know what to do. Almost all have parasites and bacteria issues, many have sticky blood and acid pH.
Part of the process of becoming healthy is learning to love ourselves and listen to our spiritual inner child and our hearts; to learn to see our body as our temple. I feel so blessed to have my strong coconut trees and magical divas here with me every day. Ideally we should detox regularly and eat colorful living vibrant unadulterated organic food with lots of coconut, be mindful when and where we eat; spend time in nature and talk to the trees, love as many people around us as we can and enjoy and share the flowers and fruits of our labor. With this, appreciating our winding path of truth and growing inner child spirituality, becomes easier. This is my gift to the universe, to share my spectacular island with its beautiful white-sand beach with people seeking to love themselves more, to change, transform and to self heal, to find a way back to balance from a very toxic world through mother nature.
Created in love, living life in love, surrounded by love, encouraging love