by Brian Shilhavy
Editor, Health Impact News
20 years ago this month, in March of 2002, Tropical Traditions was born in the United States as an ecommerce company selling Virgin Coconut Oil and other products imported from the Philippines.
We were the first ones to bring a “Virgin Coconut Oil” edible oil into the U.S. market at the time, and people thought we were insane, because coconut oil had been demonized in the United States for decades, simply because it is the one edible oil that has the largest percentage of saturated fat, which until this day, the U.S. Government health agencies want you to believe is a dangerous fat that leads to heart disease.
Instead, USDA dietary recommendations for edible oils promote polyunsaturated oils, derived mainly from corn and soybeans.
I had been living in the Philippines for 4 years by that time, and living in a rural area on a mountain, I was observing first hand just how wrong this dietary oil advice was.
The older generation in our community, all consumed freshly made coconut oil from their own coconuts, and they were far healthier than the younger generations who mainly consumed store-bought commodity foods and shunned coconut oil because of the teaching in the United Sates on saturated fats.
I did my own research, and I found out that the scientific literature on the medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil was contradictory to USDA dietary advice that demonized coconut oil. So we learned how to make it by hand from the older generation living in our community, and began using it as our own main dietary oil in our diet.
The positive change in our own health was very noticeable, and as I dug deeper into the literature about dietary oils, I soon learned that U.S. dietary advice was highly political, and designed to protect the main subsidized cash crops in the United States, like corn and soybeans.
The dietary oils extracted from corn and soybeans, commonly known as “vegetable oil” today, is the #1 dietary oil consumed in the United States, and yet the technology to extract oil from these crops has only been around since World War II, and these polyunsaturated oils were not part of the human food chain prior to that.
I decided then that I would only consume dietary fats and oils that had been in the human food chain for thousands of years nourishing populations, and would stay clear of the modern edible oils that technology had produced and that were not traditionally part of the food chain.
So Tropical Traditions was born in March of 2002, and today we have expanded our product line to more than just tropical foods imported from the Philippines.
But our philosophy has not changed. We are all about “traditional” means of producing food, and today the company has been renamed to “Healthy Traditions.”
Little did I know back in 2002 that I was embarking on a journey that would lead me straight into the lion’s den, where my enemies would try to destroy me.
So as I document in this article these past 20 years, this is not only a testimony of one American company, it is also a testimony of God’s faithfulness, and an example of what he can accomplish through his children when they take him at his word, and understand that our calling in this life is a life of persecution as we stand for the Truth.
Persecution and suffering are the norm, and not the exception, for those who stand on the Truth.
A Growing Business and the Terrorists’ Attempt to Kidnap Me
We had moved to the Philippines in 1998, mainly due to the concerns I had about the frailty of the emerging technology which was creating a society highly dependent upon that technology. I was part of online Y2K groups, and I was at that time working in the lucrative field of technology, as a Certified Microsoft Trainer and Systems Engineer.
Microsoft was taking over the world of business computing at that time, as they had finally produced a true 32 bit operating system in 1995, finally catching up with Apple, and they focused on networking systems in the business world.
I gave up that career to move my family back to the Philippines, to the home area where my Filipino wife was from, and where one of my sons had been born.
I began to study natural medicine in the Philippines, seeking to break our dependence upon western pharmaceutical drugs.
We did not start out as a coconut oil company. Our first products that we produced were from Philippine herbs, and after the year 2000 started and the technology did not crash, I began to publish my research on Philippine herbs on the Internet in 2000.
As our herb business quickly grew after securing a major contract with a U.S. company, we formed a Philippine corporation to handle the production and sale of these herbs.
Coconut oil, was actually an afterthought for us, even though we were using it personally and seeing tremendous health benefits.
But I decided to publish my research on the health benefits of coconut oil, citing peer-reviewed literature on the medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil, particularly lauric acid, which is most abundantly found in nature in coconut oil. Human breast milk is a distance second for this natural, healthy fatty acid which is also a “saturated” fat.
And while the bulk of our sales in our new Philippine company were bulk herbs exported to the United States, the interest in the research I was publishing on coconut oil was so strong online, that we decided to offer our hand-made simple coconut oil online and ship it directly to consumers from the Philippines, using the Philippine postal system.
We honestly did not expect to get many sales. The availability of commodity mass-produced coconut oil was plentiful at the time in the Philippines, and it is known as RBD coconut oil: refined, bleached, and deodorized because it was mass produced and had to be “cleaned up” before exporting it.
And in the U.S. market, it was mainly only used as an ingredient in cleaning or skincare products, but not as a dietary oil.
What we were making for ourselves as a dietary coconut oil, which most rural Filipinos also made from fresh coconuts, was very different than the commodity mass-produced coconut oils, so we named it “Virgin Coconut Oil” as it was minimally processed and unrefined.
At this time, there were only two companies in the United States selling coconut oil as a dietary oil, and both companies were selling RBD coconut oil. And it most certainly was NOT their main product, due to the negative reputation of coconut oil in the U.S.
When we put our Virgin Coconut Oil online and began to sell it directly to the consumer, we were soon overwhelmed by the demand. They had access to all the scientific literature regarding the health benefits of coconut oil that I had published online. One of the two companies that were selling RBD coconut oil as a dietary oil contacted us and asked if they could purchase it in bulk.
This presented quite a quandary for us. The only way I could think of to ramp up production to supply the kind of quantities they wanted, was to invest in commercial equipment to extract the oil, similar to what the coconut oil mills were already doing in our community.
Even if I could figure out a way to produce it slightly different from the way they were producing it, to give us a competitive advantage, it would not take long for them to figure out how to do the same thing, and then easily put us out of business.
I also did not have the capital to invest in such equipment, and I started with a business principle then that I have never changed, and that was to NEVER take on debt or investors to finance the business.
So what we did instead, was to “scale” production by NOT changing the way the product was produced by hand, but to simply hire and train more people to keep making it the same way as we had been making it, using traditional methods of grating the fresh coconut, squeezing out the fresh coconut milk, and then separate the oil from the water.
It required a lot more effort, and developing a standardized training program to make sure all the small-scale family producers were producing it the same way, but it also blessed many people and created streams of income revenue in a very poor, rural agricultural community.
And it worked! Our growth was much slower than taking on debt or investors and ramping up production quickly by mass producing it, but grow we did!
We eventually had to build warehouses for repacking and shipping, purchase trucks, find drums to package it in, etc.
So in 2002 we started Tropical Traditions, a U.S. based company, to brand the Virgin Coconut Oil and handle our own distribution, leveraging the power of the Internet and becoming an ecommerce company.
Ecommerce was just getting started back then, and Amazon.com was still a company that primarily sold books, so I remember how we had to go to great lengths to convince the public at that time that it was safe to actually buy things off of the Internet, especially food.
But along with that growth came unexpected problems. Living in a poor, rural area in Quezon Province, we were eventually viewed as “rich” because of our business expansion.
Communist insurgency groups like the New People’s Army (NPA) were prevalent in our area, because we lived on a mountain. They never actually bothered us, because my Filipino wife was from that area, and many of the people we were hiring to produce the coconut oil were actually former NPA members, and they were happy that we were providing jobs for people and improving their lives.
Forced to Leave Our Home
Our children were home educated during this time, and often they would play with their Filipino cousins after they got out of school in the local elementary school down the road from us.
One day, they did not come by after school, and we asked their mother, who was working with us in the production of coconut oil, why they did not come by.
She replied that she had sent them directly home, as some men had been spotted carrying assault rifles in the area, and she didn’t think it was safe.
Being the only American and non-Filipino living on the mountain, they were always concerned about my safety. This had happened once before, where strange armed men were in the area, and they had whisked me off of the mountain for a few days to be safe.
At that time, it was actually a false alarm, because a local police academy had sent their cadets into the area to do training, but never informed the local community about it.
We were concerned about this new report, and had actually been planning on taking a family vacation at a resort the next day. We contemplated just leaving early that night instead, but we had not packed or prepared for the vacation yet.
So we decided to just play it safe and drive off of the mountain down into town and stay at a hotel for the night, and then come back the next day and pack up and start our vacation.
We had had problems with people breaking into our warehouse and stealing equipment, so we had a guard who slept in the warehouse at night to prevent that.
As we drove down the mountain, the man we had hired to guard the warehouse, which was across the street from our house, was on his way up the mountain to begin in his night shift.
We told him what we heard about strange armed men in the area, and he told me he would check it out.
We came back early the next morning, and when we entered the house, the electricity was down, and the phone was dead.
The guard came over from across the street, and he was visibly upset and shaken.
“They came for you last night,” he said to me.
I asked him to step into the house and explain what happened. He then recounted how they originally came to the house, where they cut off the electricity and phone line first.
Not finding us there, they then proceeded to go across the street where the warehouse was. He said there were at least a dozen of them all armed with assault rifles.
They began to beat on the door of the warehouse, knowing that he was in there, demanding that he come out. At first he refused, but then when they threatened to burn down the warehouse with him inside, he came out.
They forced him to the ground and took away his sidearm (he was an off-duty Manila policeman from the area), and then asked him where the American was.
He told them that we had left and went on vacation. They told him to tell me that they were members of the NPA, and that they had come to collect their revolutionary tax which I had failed to pay. They passed on a message to me that they would “be back” to collect their tax.
The guard told us we should leave immediately, and so with tears in our eyes, we packed up our belongings as quickly as we could and left.
We were never to see that house again as a family.
We gathered with my in-laws in town that morning, as the guard went to visit his contacts with the NPA to figure out just who these men were.
My in-laws told us we needed to leave the Philippines as soon as possible, because there was no way they could protect us. They were surprised we were able to live on the mountain for as long as we did. One of my in-laws was a retired policeman, and one of my brother-in-laws was ex special forces military, and they all agreed we had to leave.
We found no indications that this group was actually part of the NPA. The NPA was very organized, and their usual MO was to send one of their leaders to a business owner with a letter that explained that the NPA was protecting their business, and that it was now time to pay their “revolutionary tax.”
They would actually give the business owner time to pay it, and most businesses did.
But that never happened with us. They never approached us, and as I wrote above, many of their members were actually now employed by us producing coconut oil. They loved us.
This group was apparently a kidnap-for-ransom group that was popular in the Philippines during this time. They mostly targeted rich foreigners in Manila, often kidnapping their children going to or coming home from school, and then holding them for ransom.
Since we were a home-based business and home educated our children, we had no predictable route to plan something like that. So they had to send some “scouts” the day before to case our place, and that is when members of the community spotted them, and tipped us off.
Up until the year before, Americans were never targeted by these kidnap-for-ransom terrorists. They mostly went after rich Chinese families. The Americans had too much of a military presence in the Philippines, and these groups never bothered with Americans.
But that all changed in 2001, when American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham were kidnapped along with a bunch of others from a resort in Palawan by Muslim terrorists.
Unfortunately, Martin’s family paid a huge amount of money to secure their release, but Martin was killed in the rescue attempt anyway. You can search and find their story online.
But since Martin’s family paid a large sum of money to try and secure his release, it was now open season on Americans as well, unfortunately.
We traveled around staying in different places for about two weeks before we left the Philippines to fly back to the U.S., and during that time the group tried to extort money from us by threatening to burn down our warehouse (and anybody in it) if we did not comply.
I was under a lot of pressure from my in-laws to comply, but I refused, and they never carried out their threats.
So with a heavy heart, we left the our home in the Philippines, something we never intended to do. We loved living there, and all my closest friends lived there.
But God had other plans for us….
Back to the U.S. and Attacked by the FDA
So we went back to the United States at the end of 2002, homeless, and with most of our belongings left back in the Philippines.
But God turned it into a blessing, because sales were increasing, and lives were literally being changed by coconut oil, and I could manage the retail side of the business much better from the U.S.
Up until this point we had another family handling our distribution of the products we shipped from the Philippines. But apparently the success of the business convinced them that they no longer needed us, and they stole our customer database and started their own competing business and sourcing their coconut oil elsewhere.
Being back in the U.S., I could now take a more active role in the U.S. company.
The customer testimonials were pouring in, and in 2003 a supermarket checkout publication called “Woman’s World” ran their headline story that week as “The New Thyroid Cure” and used most of the information I had published on this topic, and then found some of our customers who they interviewed.
One of them claimed that Virgin Coconut Oil had cured her of Hashimoto’s disease, and they even published the link to our website right in the publication.
There were only a few of us selling coconut oil at the time, and we were all out of stock by the end of the week.
We were overwhelmed and totally unprepared for such traffic! We had a toll free number at the time, and I had to dedicate one person to just go in and clear our messages, because it would fill our maximum capacity for holding phone messages about every 20 minutes.
Our off-the-shelf ecommerce platform kept crashing due to the traffic.
Every single major vitamin and supplement company and health food store in America was contacting us to buy coconut oil, because of the volume of calls and requests they were getting as a result of that article.
It took us many, many months to catch up and completely revamp our website to handle the traffic. I hired a consultancy firm to design a custom ecommerce site to fit our needs.
The success was overwhelming. I had NYC publishing companies wanting to do a book deal, but ended up just self-publishing a book instead in 2004.
Then the attacks came, in 2005.
First the IRS came after us, and audited us for 8 straight years, literally trying to destroy us. We were incorporated in Wisconsin, and our company just seemingly came out of nowhere, and I guess the IRS just assumed that we must have been doing something illegal to generate all of that income.
Then the FDA issued us a warning letter (see above) for selling unapproved drugs, because I quoted peer-reviewed literature and dared to publish testimonials from our customers who were actually being healed of various sicknesses by switching to coconut oil.
They threatened to seize all of our inventory and prosecute me as a criminal. I had to hire a very expensive Washington D.C. attorney who had experience in these areas, and then take all of the research and customer testimonials off of the website where we were selling the product and put it on a separate website with no links to be able to purchase the products.
This became CoconutOil.com, and still has all of the original research we have published over the years.
Later, this kind of information that is routinely censored because it is a threat to Big Pharma and Big Food, became an entire network called Health Impact News.
Providing a Platform for Small-Scale Producers in the U.S.
As the coconut oil business grew, we branched out to work with small-scale producers in the United States to offer a wider product line, and eventually changed our name to Healthy Traditions.
In my home state of Wisconsin, I met some Amish producers in the western part of the state who took special care in the way they produced food, and began working with them to start our Grass-fed Traditions line of grass-fed meats and pastured poultry.
It took us about 2 years to do the research and development to produce our own custom poultry feed that had no soy in it. We found, for example, that many people who think they are allergic to eggs are actually allergic to the soy proteins in eggs, and so we were the first ones to produce a soy-free poultry ration for our pastured broilers, and for our layers producing eggs.
Other feed mills around the country used our formula, and today there are many of them providing a soy-free chicken ration.
We started shipping our eggs in our own custom packaging that prevented the eggs from breaking in transit, and from 2012 to about 2015, the California Department of Agriculture tried to threaten us and stop us from shipping eggs into California.
We just ignored them at first, since they had no jurisdiction over us. But in 2015 they complained to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, who visited our Amish farmers and made them stop selling our eggs.
Fortunately by then I had a pretty good audience with the public via Health Impact News, and I wrote articles exposing what they were doing and put pressure on then Governor Scott Walker and his administration, who relented and visited our farmers and worked out an arrangement for them to keep shipping eggs.
But one of the conditions was that I had to move our company out of Wisconsin to avoid getting a retail license. So even though I was shipping high quality organic products across the country from our farmers in Wisconsin, they kicked us out of my home state.
California did not relent in their pursuit to stop us, and had FedEx start using sniffer dogs in their warehouse to find our eggs and destroy them.
I am fairly confident I could have beat them in court, but it just was not worth the effort and cost, so we stopped shipping the eggs to California.
The Glyphosate Contamination Issue and a Coup in the Philippines
In 2014, we did a series of investigative reports on Health Impact News on the problems of food contamination due to the presence of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup Ready, the world’s number 1 herbicide produced by Monsanto.
We found out that most of the grains sold in the U.S. were contaminated with this very toxic and dangerous chemical. We learned that wheat crops in the northern states and Canada were frequently sprayed with glyphosate to kill the plants at a convenient time so they could be harvested before the first snow fall, and that even grain crops that are not sprayed with the herbicide are often contaminated with it.
We tested several commercial grain products to verify this research, and found it to be true.
I then decided to test our own grains that we were carrying at the time, all of which were certified organic, and supposed to be free from pesticides and herbicides.
I was shocked to learn that most of our grains were just as contaminated with glyphosate as non-organic ones, and we immediately stopped selling them.
From that day until today, we now test every single food product we sell for the presence (at least) of glyphosate, and if it tests positive, we will not sell it.
This resulted in us having to buy most of our grains from Italy, where they consistently tested clean.
Corn was by far the most difficult to find, as even the certified organic corn products we tested that were on the market, all came back positive for not only glyphosate, but for the presence of genetically modified DNA as well, even if they made a claim to be free of GMOs.
We did not sell corn for probably over 2 years, until we found a source in Central Mexico, an heirloom variety, that tested clean.
Then in 2015, after years of conflict with my in-laws in the Philippines, they forced me off of the Board of Directors in the Philippine business and tried to take it over, even though they had not been part of starting the business or running it all the previous many years. They wanted access to our bank accounts, and they wanted to control who the producers would be and would not be, but I refused to give in.
Those loyal to the original producers and not to my ex-wife’s family ended up having to form a new company, one that I declined to be a part of so that it could be a 100% owned and operated Filipino company. It was a big blow for us, because it disrupted our coconut oil production for many months.
But those producers in the Philippines who endured great persecution to maintain the standards that we put in place from the beginning, and continue producing the Virgin Coconut Oil today, are the real heroes, and you will never see their faces or know their names.
But God does.
In the meantime, because we could not link all the studies and customer testimonials we had published over the years to the products we were selling, Big Food got involved and started selling their own brands of coconut oil from RBD coconut oil.
While this greatly reduced our market share and sales, it was a win for American consumers, as today you can pretty much walk into any grocery store and buy coconut oil now, instead of the toxic polyunsatured cooking oils.
I consider that a victory! It also shows the power of the American consumer, when there can be demand for a product that the U.S. Government says is unhealthy and dangerous to your health, and yet sales are so strong that even the Globalists are now selling it.
What Does the Future Hold?
As I wrote yesterday in the article about CBDCs, we fully realize that our days of being able to sell our products over the Internet are probably numbered at this point.
Once Digital IDs are rolled out and CBDCs implemented, we will probably not be able to continue selling over the Internet without complying to the “system,” and I have no intention of complying.
So for the past two years we have been actively recruiting local distributors where we can spread our inventory out across the country and have our products available in local communities, and not just at a central warehouse.
We are investing heavily in long-term storage products, like whole grains, honey, sugar, green coffee beans, and coconut oil, which all have an indefinite shelf life.
We currently have a 2-3 year supply of grains, and are actively trying to buy more. And these are not just any grains, but grains that meet our standards and are not contaminated with glyphosate and other herbicides and pesticides, focusing on ancient and heirloom varieties, so that these grains can also be planted and grown, if necessary.
I have seen this coming (the elimination of cash and the roll out of CBDCs) since COVID started, and changed our business management to focus on purchasing and storing food that has a long shelf life, as opposed to keeping a cash reserve in the bank.
Will American consumers take the extra effort that is needed to seek out or start local distribution points to sell our products? Only time will tell…
Conclusion: God is Faithful to those who Trust in Him!
I am truly humbled that God has kept this business going for 20 years now. I don’t have a business degree, and throughout these 20 years all I wanted to do was supply healthy food for my family, and then for anyone else willing to purchase it.
Many people have made me offers over the years to purchase this business, and even last year and this year I have had multiple offers from people who want to purchase the business and scale it to the next level because ecommerce is more popular than ever, since the lockdowns over COVID.
But they don’t understand that this is not the kind of business you can just purchase, throw a bunch of money into it from venture capitalists, and then scale it.
No, not the way we produce products. To scale anything requires not financial resources, but human resources to produce food using traditional methods and not being reliant on the technology.
I consider this business God’s business, and I am simply his servant traveling down a path that he has set out for me to follow.
It’s not easy, but if there is one thing I have learned in 20 years, it is that if you step forward in faith and resist evil, God will bless you.
Ever since COVID was inflicted upon us, I have been preaching a message of resistance. And I am sorry if this article is a bit too long for most, but this is a public testimony of how God protects his own when we resist evil, and I am not simply a guy sitting behind a computer writing this.
I have lived it for over 20 years now and fought in the trenches, and this is my public testimony that God is faithful to do what he says!
Truth always wins in the end.
But know that Truth is not popular, so if you are going to stand on it and defend it, you better be prepared to do battle.
And for those who like to attack me, please understand that I have a Father who loves me very much, and you are going to have to answer to him someday.
My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long? Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.
I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.
Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping. The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer.
All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace. (Psalms 6:3-10)
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