Saturday, December 19, 2009

Good News for coffee lovers like me and for tea drinkers like Veronica

Photo taken from

I was checking my e-mail when I found this in my inbox. Being a coffee lover myself, I had enough reason to smile the entire day after reading it. This article, which is published in the December 14/28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, actually made my day at mid-morning.

In a gist, the article tells us that:

1. High intakes of coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and tea are associated with a reduced risk for Diabetes Mellitus Type 2. This finding is a result of a meta-analysis of 18 studies with a total of 457, 922 participants.

2. There was an inverse log-linear relationship between coffee intake and the subsequent risk for diabetes. In english, every additional cup of coffee consumed in one day was associated with a 7% decrease in the excess risk for diabetes.

3. The meta-analytic study is not without limitations like any other research but, quoting directly from the article and from the study authors, "if the beneficial effects were observed in interventional trials to be real, the implications for the millions of individuals who have diabetes mellitus, or who are at future risk of developing it, would be substantial."

4. 20% of the cohorts come from non-white population which limits the generalizability of the study to Western populations. But that limitation actually works for us.

5. The study authors add, "It could also be envisaged that we will advise our patients most at risk for diabetes mellitus to increase their consumption of tea and coffee in addition to increasing their levels of physical activity and weight loss."

So, need I say more? Let's raise our coffee and tea cups together and drink to that! :-)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Let me take you there

"I know a place where we can go to
A place where no one knows you
They won't know who we are

I know a place where we can run to
And do those things we want to
They won't know who we are

Let me take you there, I wanna take you there"

- Let Me Take You There, Plain White T's

Leticia ought to pay me for this.

My friends and I were simply dying to take a break from our fast-paced city lives. We all agreed on that fact that night while we were having dinner. The need to have a break seemed to be really urgent since we were planning our getaway right after we saw a concert which showcased a group of talents from Manila.

Sumilon Island was the first venue that popped out from inside our heads.There was not much debate about it. Another testament to the urgency of the need to take a break. We immediately came up with plans to spend one whole day there then just travel back to the city after sundown. Arrangements were waiting to be made. Then we all called it a night.

It was in the week that followed when our plans would take on a very twisted turn. One of our friends said there was a promo for a getaway in Boracay. Frances and I immediately took refuge in the internet and searched for the cheapest way to get there. Who could ever say no to Boracay, anyway? Perhaps no one could. But we did exactly that.

We realized we needed to go somewhere not really far away from the city. More importantly, we needed to take a break without really burning our pockets to ashes. Boracay and Sumilon can wait anyway. Then Frances came up with the idea of going to Costa de Leticia. It was then that she told me she has researched about the place before and even got a reservation last month but had to cancel it for some other reasons. The cost of acommodations seemed really attractive (read: very affordable) and the fact that we did not have to cross another body of sea or fly to another island made it an even better option. (A big plus point that it almost lights up a bulb inside the head of a doctor like me who almost always only has limited time to chill out and relax.) She told me all these while we were online and right after she brought it up, sparks flew. Not that the computer cables sparked or the connection went berserk (again). It's just that we knew we just hit the jackpot.

Costa de Leticia is located in Alegria Cebu, a town nestled on the southwestern part of the Island. Approximately a good two and a half hours ride away from the city, this resort boasts of an infinity pool with jacuzzi, and most of all it offers a perfect haven for relaxation where one is reoriented with the true meaning of serenity - something for which we city dwellers would be more willing to pack our bags for and to run and catch the next bus - immediately.

Now let me take you there. Of course, after you have arranged and confirmed your reservations.

First, take the Ceres Bus with the route Oslob via Barili, at the South Express Terminal. The crew at the Bus Terminal will guide you through the process of getting a ticket and boarding on the bus. You just have to tell them you're going to Alegria.

When on board your bus, just tell the conductor, the guy who issues tickets, that you are going to Alegria, particularly, the Costa de Leticia Resort and Spa. The place is easy to find because it is situated on the road where the Ceres buses pass everyday and aside from that, it is right across a public elementary school. Now how can the bus driver ever miss that?

Click here for bookings and reservations and for other ways to get there, especially for those who will be coming from the nearby Negros Island. You can either call and book the reservation on the phone or simply text the cellphone number they have on their website and the staff will promptly reply. As for us, we did call to reserve for our accomodations and paid half of the total amount at their office in Mandaue City. It was a good thing we paid half of what is due us because on the day when we arrived, there were guests who just walked in and they could have possibly taken our rooms. Although at the back of my mind, I wonder if the staff would allow that. But at least paying gave us leverage over the walk-in guests.

As soon as you step out of the bus, and get inside the gates of the resort, you will keep on reaffirming to yourself, now this is what relaxation ought to be.

Rocks rocking the beach. Taken by Shing Camps on the way to Alegria.

Breathtaking, as always. Taken by Shing Camps.

At last, we have arrived. Reception Area, Costa de Leticia Bech Resort and Spa, Alegria, Cebu.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Remembering a boy named Saturday

This is one of the very few songs I can't sing without getting my eyes welled up with tears.

For most of us who have loved ones who are presently battling cancer and whose lives were claimed by cancer, or are fighting against, and whose lives were claimed by any disease actually, this song strikes a major chord. Each word is accompanied with a tear, every line pounding on our hearts as if they were fragile but unbreakable drums.

David Cook dedicates this song to his brother Adam Cook who fought against a brain malignancy for 11 years. On that light, I start to miss and remember my Uncle John D each time I hear this song. He is currently on his fight against lung cancer. Another lung cancer patient, who was just recently diagnosed, also comes to mind, Father Bong, B's paternal uncle.

I also remember Matthew, my childhood friend, whose passing away was the first time I came to terms with the reality of life and death. Matthew, Rex, Joey, Thaddy, and I practically grew up together. We played all kinds of outdoor games together. Matthew was the patient one who would fix my matchbox car for me each time we would race our toy cars together.

I remember there was a time when Matt and I talked about what we wanted to be when we grow up. I could remember very well that he wanted to be a doctor, someone who specializes more on the body parts from the neck up. Our young minds both didn't know then exactly what type of physician that was, but now, I think he wanted to be either a neurosurgeon or an ENT specialist. My last memory of him was when he was walking home with his mother and he waved his hand in my direction as a greeting. That was the last time I saw him alive, but he did not see me then. His disease claimed and did not spare even Matt's eyesight.

Matthew passed away around 14 years ago when we were yet in high school. He succumbed to blood cancer or leukemia.

It's a pretty unusual thing to ponder upon this day, the day when I started life on this world, to celebrate life itself and at the same time to recognize the existence of death. I myself am surprised that Matt visited my thoughts today and I realized that the probable reason could be because my birthday falls on a Saturday this year and Saturday, in fact, is his second name. Thaddy, who's more popular in this nation's music industry as Jude Thaddeus Gitamondoc (He wrote and composed songs for Gary Valenciano, Ariel, Rivera, and a lot more, including KC Concepcion's Imposible) even wrote a song for Matt entitled "Saturday's Child."

But when we put more thought into it, it should not be treated as unusual at all. Because life would not be life, without death itself. They are both realities on opposite ends of the spectrum, giving distinction and meaning to each other's existence, to each other's reality. Death is a fact of life, and when it stares you in the face yet you are able to escape it's embrace, life takes on a different meaning. Death is our ultimate graduation from this life, a breakthrough that we have to move on to the next stage, to whatever is waiting on the other side.

This song serves as a reminder to us, friends and families of the sick - whether they are still on their fight or have gone on to the next life, that nothing - absolutely nothing - can create a distance between us and them. Not any dreaded disease, and not even death. Because yes, they are permanent.

By David Cook

Is this the moment where I look you in the eye?
Forgive my broken promise that you'll never see me cry
And everything, it will surely change
Even if I tell you I won't go away today

Will you think that you're all alone,
When no one's there to hold your hand?
When all you know seems so far away
And everything is temporary, rest your head
I'm permanent

I know he's living in hell every single day
And so I ask, Oh God is there a way for me to take his place?
And when you say it's all touch and go
I wish I could make it go away
But still you say

Will you think that you're all alone,
When no one's there to hold your hand?
When all you know seems so far away
And everything is temporary, rest your head
I'm permanent, I'm permanent

Is this the moment where I look you in the eye?
Forgive my broken promise that you'll never see me cry

Friday, June 19, 2009

Writer ka lang pala

By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
June 17, 2009

I remember an experience I once had with the Bureau of Internal Revenue. This was way back during Cory’s time when I was still paying my taxes. I am not paying my taxes now—not since 2005, when the “Hello, Garci” tape came to light. I was paying my taxes then, but for one reason or another failed to do so one particular year. Being a dutiful citizen, and having no problems recognizing Cory as a perfectly legitimate president, I resolved to rectify it.

I went to the BIR, waited a couple of hours for my turn, and finally got to talk with an appraiser, or whatever they call the people there that deal with these things. He took the documents I handed over to him solemnly, flexing his hands like a doctor about to perform a delicate operation. His solemnity vanished in an instant as he scanned my documents, and dismay overran his face like the hordes of Atilla. He suppressed an expletive and groaned, “Writer ka lang pala!” (You’re just a writer!)

I took it those words were a reaction to the couple of hundred pesos I owed government. I took it moreover that those words were a reaction to my entry in the box “occupation,” which was “journalist.” Whatever plans he might have had about negotiating a deal with me were dashed to pieces by that proclamation, or admission. His deflation was a thing to behold. “Writer ka lang pala,” he repeated.

He stamped my papers and dismissed me with a wave of his hand. He probably wondered what he had done to make God punish him that day by sending him someone who wasted his precious time.

That is the one phrase that has stayed with me all these years, one I wear proudly like a medal, and humbly like a reminder: “Writer ka lang pala.”

I remembered this in connection with something I’ve encountered over the years while writing a column for the Inquirer. It’s what detractors tell me when they cannot find a way to refute or get around, my argument. Which is: What you say is all very fine. But those are just words, they are not actions. When will you stop writing and act?

Sometimes, friends, and not just detractors, say this as well. Particularly those who have wondered why I do not entertain going into politics. “Why don’t you run for this or that?” they ask. “With the exposure you have in the country’s number one newspaper, you have an advantage which you can turn into votes. If you win, you can be in a position to do something for this country.”

My answer to this is not that I see no way of winning, although that’s probably true too, since the vote-friendly medium is TV. My answer to that is: “I’m already a writer, as ascertained by the BIR. Why should I want to demote myself and become a politician?”

I am not being entirely facetious when I say this. My point is simply, if a bit airily, that I cannot think of a better way to do something for the country than by writing.

Doctors will never be accused of merely saying and not doing. I do not know of another profession more resolutely associated with acting. You either cure or you do not. The patient either lives or dies. No action could be more fraught with meaning, no action could be more laden with consequence.

It is writers who routinely get to be charged with saying and not doing, of talking and not acting. It is writers who routinely get to be told: That’s all very fine, but when will you act?

It is the most astonishing thing because writing is acting. That is why we call it “the act of writing,” because it is an act. And like physically ministering to the sick, it is a vital act. It is spiritually ministering to the sick, an act that is fraught with meaning, an act that is laden with consequence. When you write, you either cure or you do not. When you write, the world either lives or dies.

What the writer does specifically, an act of awesome reverberations, is to articulate. It is to put reality into words. It is to make reality real.

We’ve all heard Socrates’ famous aphorism, “A life unexamined is a life unlived.” It is a profound insight into life. It is the difference between merely existing and living. Just drawing out the length of your days without looking at where you’ve come from and where you are going, without looking at whether you have been of service to others or only to yourself, without wondering what all this means or what all this amounts to, is not living, it is just existing. You may as well not have been there at all.

It is writers most of all that make that examination, of themselves and the reality around them. It is writers most of all who make that interrogation, of themselves and of the reality around them. It is writers most of all who articulate themselves and the reality around them.

Without that articulation, the world and ourselves are just as unreal as ghostly apparitions. Without that action, the world and ourselves are just a jumble of sense impressions.

We often speak of “grasping” things when we are able to understand them. The word “grasp” is only too apt. The action, like seizing something with the hand, is seizing something with the mind, turning it around, feeling its shape, marveling at its texture, realizing (there goes that word “real” again) that it is there.

You put things into words, you make things real.

It’s not true at all that sticks and stones may break your bones but words can’t. The opposite is true: More than sticks and stones, or indeed more than Manny Pacquiao’s fists, words crush bones. At the very least, you see that in the many knife fights that break out during drinking sprees in dingy neighborhoods because someone called another names.

At the very most you see that in what writers have done. In what a writer of no mean talent named Jose Rizal has done. (To be concluded.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hindi ako papayag

The people behind the Register and Vote Movement need at least a whooping Php. 2.0 million to air this ad on television. Let's help raise awareness by spreading this ad on the internet while they are cramming up for funds.

This video wants to convey an urgently important message to all of us Filipinos. Let us be aware of what our government leaders are up to again and let us not be distracted by issues such as sex scandals. While the sex scandal brouhaha was hot in the media, your elected leaders were working on a ploy to extend their stay in power and have more time to dip their hands into whatever is left of the country's coffers.

Certainly, I would not want to wake up to a country where it's people's confidence and nationalism are in tatters. Definitely, I do not want this country to be thrown to the dogs.

Hindi ako papayag.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Filename: Surprises

I'm sure everyone is into the downloading frenzy these days. I particularly mean those who are curious and interested to take a peek of the much talked-about sex video scandals of Hayden Kho and Katrina Halili. Those who are not computer techies may also be scouting for the DVDs in their favorite pirated DVD outlets at the bangketas. The video had probably reached blockbuster status in just one week, selling like hot pancakes, or in Pinoy streetsmart scene, selling fast like your favorite tempura, kwek-kwek, fishball, adidas, betamax, etc., and maybe selling even faster than you can say Hayden Kho.

After Aling Dionisia, Katrina Halili is all around television, crying, telling everybody that she did not have the slightest idea their sexual escapade was recorded on video by her erstwhile lover. She says she will do what she can to strip the doctor of his medical license and that she is doing all that she is doing now to protect all other women who are the doctor's victims.

Though I want to sympathize with Katrina, sadly, I could not seem to. I do not hate her. I do not pity her. I just don't feel anything for her. I am merely an apathetic onlooker. She knew what she was playing with when she entered into a liason with Hayden Kho. She was playing with fire and thought she wouldn't get burned but she is - she is burning big time. No matter how she licks her burns now, it'll keep on hurting because the fire - this time, the repercussions of all her decisions - are getting back at her.

Surprisingly, a senator comes to her rescue. Senator Bong Revilla, the most unlikely character to be Katrina's night in shining armor, made a privilege speech about the scandal, calling Kho a maniac, among all other things. Yup Stella, you're right, this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Maybe the senator should also be warned that when you are pointing your finger on somebody, dont forget that the other four fingers are pointing back at you.


Another surprise that shook the entire world is the results of this season's American Idol. Everybody was counting on Adam Lambert to win. This is the AI season that I have watched most intently and I could tell that even from the start, Lambert was a favorite and the judges were really rooting for him to win. It was almost a giveaway.

But even Kris Allen could not believe it when Ryan Seacrest announced that he is the new American Idol. It was like looking at a male Sushmita Sen minus the cupped hands covering the mouth. In front of the television, I could not be happier.

I was rooting for Allen. Yes, Lambert could sing. There is no question to that. He's got great pipes and has a undeniable commanding presence once he is on stage, as he was backed up by a lot of experience on the theater stage. However the viewing public could only love him to a certain point, I guess. I got tired of his screams and as the season was nearing to it's end, Lambert's style became more and more predictable. You will know what he'll do when he steps on the stage - scream.

Allen on the other hand grew in terms of confidence and style as the season progressed. For others, most of his performances might be forgettable but he was a breath of fresh air from a suffocation of screams and sometimes mere theatrics. I particularly loved his arrangement of Kanye West's Heartless and his acoustic rendition of Bill Wither's hit, Ain't No Sunshine.

Die-hard Lambert fans are sulking and a lot of theories are emerging which are trying to explain Kris Allen's win. There's the Gokey Factor, the Christian Vote, the votes of the liberated states versus the conservative ones, and many others. However the votes had been cast and Allen was already crowned the new Idol. Getting the crown does not really give an Idol a sure shot at a very good career and not winning it means the loser is at the pits so let's wait and see who get's a sure shot in the real world out there waiting for these two new artists and even those who made it to the Top 13. Who know's we may be in for another surprise and a lot more.

Monday, May 18, 2009

And now, it's Pac-Mom

Along with her son's rise to ultimate stardom, Aling Dionisia has recently acquired celebrity status - undeniably.

For those who are not exactly Philippine-based, yes, you read it right - Dionisia Pacquiao, Manny Pacquiao's mother, and better known as Aling Dionisia, is now a celebrity on this side of the planet. We may have seen her before, occasionally featured when Manny has an upcoming boxing event, but we all have to admit that she has never been this famous. Her star is shining as bright as ever, that it is almost a threat to her son's popularity. But of course, that is just to nail the point that the mother has become famous as the son. Behind every man's success is a woman, and in Manny's case, it's his mother. (Yes, Jinkee too, alright...and probably, hmmm...never mind.)

In case you have been living in a cave, or got a sudden bout of amnesia, Manny "PacMan" Pacquiao is currently the IBO and Ring Magazine Light Welterweight champion and is rated by the Ring Magazine as the Number 1 pound-for-pound boxer in the world. He is also the first boxer to win the lineal championship ("the man who beat the man") in four different weight classes. His professional boxing record: 49 wins (37 knock-outs, 12 decisions), 3 losses, 2 draws. He recently put Britain's pride, Rikki "The Hitman" Hatton (and his boxing career, more likely) to deep sleep on the boxing ring in Mandalay Bay, in Las Vegas, last May 3, blowing up his net worth to a whooping USD 50M, an amount of money most of us will not even get to hold in our lifetime.

Back to Aling Dionisia, during the evening of May 15, every news program in the country featured her dream birthday bash, like there's no tomorrow, almost like the way members of the media do when they air out blow-by-blow accounts of his son's fights. Her birthday bash, which was held in General Santos City, revolved on a debutante's theme, and was entitled, Sweet 60. The debutante (let's give Nanay a chance), wore no less than five expensive gowns which she brought during her shopping spree in the United States. Everybody was dying to find out whether she will wear her Php. 300,000.00 Rolex wristwatch which is a gift from equally famous daughter-in-law Jinkee, or whether she will show off her new Louis Vitton handbag worth Php. 150,000.00.

Suddenly, everyone is aching to get a look at or know the price tag of everything that Aling Dionisia owns. If money talks, popularity and power would be its official language, both of which Aling Dionisia now has in her hands. Secretly, every personality, both coming from the political arena and from the world of show business, is probably wanting to be on the list of guests who are invited to the party.

For the politically-inclined, it would be useful to be seen around Aling Dionisia. A little exposure of being seen with someone like her (who would probably be the last person they would ever think of had it not been for her son's status) would do some good, especially that the 2010 elections is just around the corner.

For those in showbiz, for whatever it's worth, going to Pac-Mom's birthday bash will give a boost to their careers or may breathe life to a showbiz career which is badly needing some resuscitation.

I read on a national daily that no less than Imelda Marcos is among those who are invited to the party. Wow - I thought - not because I was starstrucked or shocked but because I was amused with the way destiny plays its way in this game called life.

Let's travel back through time.

1970's. Imelda Marcos is a household name. Elegant, beautiful, powerful, rich. She is seen all around television, whether she is busying herself seeing her projects to completion or dancing with almost every diplomat who comes to visit the country. She waddles in money, owning precious and flawless jewelry, a number of Philippine ternos, and her famous collection of shoes, roughly 3,000+ pairs of them, some of which haven't even touched the tip of her toenails. Everybody, including the most powerful man in the country, is at her beck and call. She's everything a man/woman/child wants to be. She is a god.

Still in the 70's, from the north, let's move to the south. Meet Aling Dionisia, a poor, ordinary, prayerful street vendor in General Santos City. She sells kakanin (the Filipino term for street foods) in front of a public school here. At the end of the day, if all her goods don't get sold, Aling Dionisia walks around the neighborhood, just so she could sell all her kakanin.

She was abandoned by her husbands - there were two of them - and left her with a number of mouths to feed including that of the Pambansang Kamao (National Fist), Manny's. Probably, the word dirt-poor is Aling Dionisia personified. She's every poor man's ugly reality. Nobody wants to be her.

Fast-forward to the future, which is actually the present. Aling Dionisia is seen all over the television without the slightest hint of the kakanin vendor that she was. You would think that was her past life, literally. I imagine every cameraman would be yelled at by his anchor in case he misses to capture Aling Dionisia on video as she shows off her own boxing moves. You could tell, by the way she throws her punches in the air, "May pinagmanahan talaga 'tong si Manny" (Manny indeed got his boxing prowess from his mother.) On the other hand, you wonder and ask, and slap yourself at the same time, "Am I really looking at Aling Dionisia, or is this just Manny sporting a longer hair?"

Every cameraman would probably be scolded at if he didn't catch Aling Dionisia praying fervently like there's no tomorrow, while her son is in the boxing ring. Video clips featuring Manny Pacquiao would never be complete unless they include scenes showing his mother in deep prayer all throughout the fight. I saw one where she just collapsed without warning when in the middle of her prayers, someone approached her and whispered in her ear that the boxing fight was over and that Manny won. She was on her knees, in front of the altar, and she suddenly lost her consciousness and I quivered because to me it looked like she was about to have some kind of an episode. Good for her she has a lot of kasambahay (housemates) to catch her and cradle her head on their palms to keep it from hitting the concrete floor.

The loss of consciousness didn't last very long, probably it lasted for only a few seconds. I gave out a sigh of relief as she regained consciousness as fast as she lost it , without rolling her eyeballs and with no foamy white liquid coming out from her mouth. But the next time I looked, Aling Dionisia was already jumping because of happiness. She was jumping and shouting, jumping and shouting, shouting and jumping - both her hands held tightly by the kasambahay as if to keep her from hitting her head on the ceiling in case she jumps so high enough. By that time, I was really hoping I was not witnessing some kind of an episode.

I imagine every cameraman would get some nagging if he missed Aling Dionisia while she is applying powder on her face, or while she is applying lipstick (Hey, i saw that on national television! I'm not kidding!) or while she is showing off what she learned in her ballroom dancing classes. Truly, Aling Dionisia has become a scoop.

As for Imelda, uhmm..who? She may still be famous but probably not as famous as she was before. She is rarely in the news, and these days, everybody is not as interested with what she does, what she owns, who she's with, what she wears, and maybe even where she's at. She has become a victim of what most Filipinos are good at - forgetting. You decide whether that worked to her advantage or not but after all that she's been through -and more importantly, after what the Filipino people had been through because of her (and her husband), probably the only thing we (all want to) remember her by is the word Imeldific.

Before Nanay Dionesia's - uhmm, I mean Nanay Dionisia's party began, (she strictly clarified that she is Dionisia with an I and not Dionesia with an E) no word had been sent from the former first lady's camp whether she was going to Aling Dionisia's party or not. That was the least of Pac-Mom's worries, actually, since she had somebody to take charge of the invitations. (Ganyan ka-sosyal ang lola, mo, te!) Whether those who came were celebrities, political bigwigs - all has- beens and wannabes - or not, Aling Dionisia didn't seem to care at all. During her interviews before the party, she talked mostly about the gowns she would be wearing and her dance numbers. It was crystal clear that Aling Dionisia just wanted to enjoy her party and dance the night away with abandon. She couldn't worry less about who's coming or not, because she has done her share of worrying before. Besides, her life now is probably and relatively worry-free compared when it was a few years back. What else can one expect, she has acquired (almost-) Imeldific status. But hey, - we all know, she deserves a better word than that.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

What a pleasant surprise!

I just came home from a Sunday dinner with my friend and fellow doctor-blogger Florence, when I decided to open my blog. When I checked out my chatbox, I was surprised when I got a message that my blog has just been nominated for the Filipino Blog of the Week Awards!

Now I thought, this nomination culminated the great Sunday evening I had with Florence. Being nominated for the award is a heart-warming recognition that means so much to a blogger like me. I have only decided to write again late last year and since I have have been putting aside my love for writing on a shelf for quite a time, trying to start to write again seemed like trying to start a car engine which was never cranked up for a long time. Award-giving bodies like this one pour the right amount of oil needed to keep the engine running again as if it was never set aside in a forgotten corner at all.

I would like to extend my gratitude to The Composed Gentleman who spearheads this activity of recognizing Pinoy bloggers all over the world, and a lot of thanks also to the one who nominated my blog.

For those who want to vote for my blog, click this and you will be led to The Composed Gentleman's blog where the poll is on the right side of the page. Just scroll down the navigation bar and you'll find the Filipino Blog Awards Section where the list of nominated blogs are listed. My blog, When the pin drops, is the tenth nominee. Place a check mark beside it then click the vote button. Please keep clicking everyday this week to cast a vote for my blog. Hopefully, one click a day would help propel this doctor's blog on its way - to the top. Wow, blogging is now beginning to be even more fun!

For all your votes and continued patronage, thanks very much!

The best. Unprecedented No. 1. Irreplaceable.

Kung si Manny Pacquiao, may milyon-milyong mga tagahanga, kami ng kapatid ko, naiiba. Dahil isa lang ang aming natatanging tagahanga.

Siya na ang tumatayong miyembro at presidente ng aming fans club.

Kung may Dionesia si Manny, may Dina naman kami. At hinding-hindi namin sya ipagpapalit kahit ang buong mundo pa ang maging tagahanga namin.

Happy Mothers' Day Ma! Hindi sapat ang mga salita upang ipaabot sa iyo ang aming pagmamahal at pagpapasalamat. At Happy Mothers' Day na rin sa lahat ng mga nanay saan ma'ng sulok ng mundo.

Baclayon, Bohol 2008.

Chocolate Hills, Bohol 2008.

SM Mall of Asia, 2008.

Chocolate Hills, Bohol 2008.

Bellingrath Gardens, Theodore, Alabama. 2o08.

Gone diving

I used to see the likes of them when I reach the ports of Cebu City from my port of origin in Mindanao. Just when the sun starts to peep into the horizon, and the ship enters the city harbor, these Badjaos race their bangkas towards the passenger ship. The sense of urgency to get near the ship is so evident it almost resembles rush hours in city streets. They transform the great blue into a visible magnetic field and they are like paper clips or iron clippings which are drawn helplessly to its central source which is the passenger ship.

Now I see the likes of them each time I reach the Port of Tagbilaran City. More than twenty years had passed since I first saw their forefathers, and yet their tricks are still the same - they entice the passengers to throw their coins into the water and they then show off their diving skills as they plunge down before the coins reach the ocean floor. There is no age limit, young or old ones can do the diving as long as the "diver" knows how to hold his breath and keep his eyes open underwater so he can grab the coin before other divers do. They come in families, and mostly the mothers stay on the bangka breastfeeding the youngest child in the family (yes, breastfeeding the baby in front of an audience) while coaching the little ones who are already able to dive for a living.

Over the years though, some of them have modified their tricks - or better yet, got tired of performing them. Sometimes they just hold out a sack with its two sides sewn or tied roughly to two sticks which they then hold out to catch the coins being thrown at them. In that manner, they never have to dive into the water at all. The coin, which stands for a promise of another meal, is caught in mid-air just before it touches the water.

THE BADJAO BUNCH. They come in groups. Nobody is (and should be) left at home and so the young one had to take her morning nap directly under the scorching heat of the sun.

Each time I disembark from the vessel, I hear the ooh's and aah's of my fellow passengers, both foreign and local tourists, as they see these Badjaos flock at the pier and ask them in their dialect to throw their coins to the water. From their expressions it is hard to tell whether they express repugnance or delight.

INVISIBLE KID. As members of her family dive for their next meal, this little girl's presence is suddenly dropped to the bottom of the priority list and she is left forgotten and alone in her little boat.

PLAN B. No, I don't mean the morning-after pill. After her screams fail to catch her family's attention, the little girl grabs the paddle and tries to advance the boat to where her siblings are.

Some of the foreigners, and even the locals who have only seen the Badjaos for the first time, would throw some coins to see how these natives dive for it. They throw some coins to see how these natives dive for their meals.

I walk away asking myself, how long will it be before these Badjaos rise from the pits to end this throw-your-coins-and-we'll dive-for-it game? I walk away, asking myself, will this crazy game ever end?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Tips to a great Danao Adventure

I was not paid to do this. But I want every interested soul who's planning to experience the Danao Adventure to get the most out of it. Here are some tips to an unforgettable Danao Adventure:

1. Go there early. As always, the early bird gets the early worm too. My group arrived there by noon already, and we barely had time to try the other activities.

Ours was a different case though. We got delayed in leaving Tagbilaran City because of . . . because of . . . me. Nope, it's not because I got out of bed late. Not this time.

We were originally set to leave Tagbilaran City at 9am that Sunday but since I failed to get a chance passenger slot in the earliest fastcraft trip to leave Cebu City, I had no choice but to take the next trip which was already at 8:30am. If we were able to leave on time, we would have arrived at Danao, Bohol by mid-day and we would have enough time then to try most, if not all of the activities. I was glad and thankful that my friends never blamed me for the delay and were patient enough to wait for me to arrive from Cebu City.

2. Bring your own food. If possible, bring your own food and drinks. They have a Welcome Center there for guests. They offer some dishes there too but you may be craving for something even better or something even more delicious. So bring yourself some lunch, (you can order something for take-out at McDonald's or Jollibee, or better yet, you can ask your Manang to cook and pack your favorite dishes for you) and some snacks which would come in handy while you are going there and after you cross the zipline, or after you climb, crawl, and swim in the waters of the caves.

3. Bring enough clothes. This is important if you plan to go caving. I tell you, you will really get wet, whether you like it or not. I actually did not expect this but I was lucky that Ingrid allowed me to use one of her short shorts. It was also good that I decided to bring my cycling shorts along or else I'd be giving a free view of my underwear while climbing the cave walls. So it is important that you change your attire when you go caving, to something that you would allow to get wet. For the girls, make sure your caving attire is not so revealing. Make sure it is comfortable enough since you will be doing a lot of work inside the cave. I mean climbing, crawling, and swimming too. One may also wear knee pads to protect your knees from being scratched against the rocks.

Footwear too is very important too. It's better to wear flip-flops but I am not really sure if your Havaianas will survive the roughness of the the rocks inside the caves. I don't think they could give your feet "a good grip" of the rocky ground when they are wet. You don't want to go barefoot during most of your caving time because your slipper snapped, or worse, slip over the wet stone formations. The Welcome Center has slippers for rent at Php 20.00 per pair or you can bring your reliable flip-flops. The staff will advise you though if your shoes or slippers are safe for use inside the caves or not.

4. Bring enough batteries for your cameras and mobile phones. You would need these to document your adventure. Capture the moment and relive the adrenaline rush as you play your videos and browse through your pics over and over again. The guides have a dry bag where you can deposit your gadgets. They bring the dry bags with them during the entire caving activity so you wouldn't have to worry about your stuff.

Now you're finally set. Lastly, just a reminder: Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, waste nothing but time. Respect mother nature. During this adventure, I realized that if we do respect mother nature, it gives back so much in return. And for the part where we waste time, probably nature tripping is one of the best ways to waste your time. For me, probably a close second to sleeping, and waking up and getting out of bed late. :-) Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Danao, Bohol Caving Adventure

It was my first time to go caving. We decided to explore the Ka Mira Cave. This caving activity is still a part of the whole Danao Adventure.

The Ka Mira Cave is one of the caves where Dagohoy hid from the Spaniards who were after him. He was the last Filipino hero to give up his revolt against the colonizers. It may not have been easy at all for Dagohoy that time - not exactly an adventure for all of us at present - as he went climbing the cave walls, crawling through its floors, and wading through its murky waters. We got a little taste of what he went through that time but for us, what actually prevailed even after we got out of the cave was the fact that this caving rendezvous was a real treat for beginners like me.

Our guide was trying to orient us before we start our activity - with the emphasis on trying.

Another pose for the camera before we go caaaaaavin'!

We had to go downhill to reach the mouth of the cave.

Yes, we were going downhill but I wanted my picture taken so I had to turn around. :-)

That's the mouth of the cave right there. No, no, no, it's not just a simple pathway wherein you just walk into and get inside the cave easily. See that T-shaped twine? You cling on to that so you can climb and enter the mouth of the cave which is just beside that twine particularly on the right side. Is that beginning to sound fun?

We climbed, we crawled, and we got wet.

The curtain formation.

This was at the dead end of the cave before we head back to its mouth. At this time, the guide asked us to turn all our headlights off so we could see for ourselves how dark it was inside the cave. And guess what, it was the darkest dark I have ever seen. It was the kind of darkness that didn't quite have a hint that there was something called light.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Conquering two ziplines and a cave

April 19, 2009. After days of waiting for this Sunday, and after a total of four hours of travelling both by sea (from Cebu City to Tagbilaran City, Bohol) and then by land (Tagbilaran City to Danao, Bohol), I, together with my friends, finally got to this town nestled on the northern part of this beautiful island. We came to treat ourselves to an adventure which has recently become a major hit on this side of the country. If I could only coin a terminology which is much better and more encompassing than the word adventure, that would be the best word to use for this experience.

Chocolate Madness. I have toured Bohol last year with my mother and my sister but never did I get so close as this to one (actually two) of the world famous Chocolate Hills. That is why, I pleaded that we stop for a minute so I could have a picture with the hills on the background. I didn't care if the hills remind us of a part of the female anatomy. What's important for me then was I got this close.

Chocolate Madness

Long and winding road. The road to Danao made me think of a milder version of the zigzag road to Baguio City. Our road trip was occasionally marred by heavy downpours and there was always the threat of dark clouds ahead, ready to spill all the rain they've got. However, we all remained unfazed. Isn't that the essence of going into an adventure?

I thought I was that brave until I saw this.

The view from above.

To walk away or not to walk away. This is the view 150 meters from where I was standing. 150 meters is the distance from the river bed to the very zipline we came here for. My feet felt like they had a life of their own and they wanted to move to the reverse direction. And all the while I thought I was brave until I saw this kid, probably a six-year-old, ziplining, as if she was playing house. (Observe that on the background, someone exclaims, "Hadloka uy!" [That's scary!])

But I thought, it would be now or never. I thought I shouldn't have bothered waking up early at all for my fast craft trip to Bohol. I shouldn't have bothered running from the Pier 1 to Pier 4 of Cebu City (in a cab of course), to desperately catch the next trip to Bohol after I did not get the chance to become a "chance" passenger at the Ocean Jet Liner. I shouldn't have bothered going through all the ordeals I went through to reach Danao if it would all come to this. I shouldn't have but I did. So I took the plunge.

Bombs away! That's me on the left and that's my fellow doc, Lynor, beside me. It's a good thing they allow guests to zipline by two's. It works for scared first-timers like me. And oh I thought, I was brave. Anyway, that was a few milliseconds ago. The crew shouted, "Bombs away!" then pushed us to the wildest ride we ever had. Our companions got a good laugh when they saw me raise my left arm in mid-air, while I was shouting my heart out.

This is the first of the two ziplines in Danao and it measures 450 meters, the longest in the country today. The zipline in Davao City is a poor second at around 340 meters. In their activity guide, they call the zipline as the suislide. I cringe just looking at first syllable of the word and so I prefer to call it the zipline. The first zipline lasts for approximately 45 seconds but the video below only lasts for around 25 seconds because the rest of the line is far from where it is recorded, that you can neither see the end of the line, nor hear the "zip" of the of the metal wheels as they slide through the cable.

After the first zipline

Another helping. Thankfully, Lynor and I reached the other end alive. We were laughing - amused and nervous all at the same time. We did it! We were then ready to go spelunking. We're through with this zipline stuff or so we thought until the crew said we would walk a few meters uphill for the second zipline. Our jaws dropped then after a few seconds we laughed, this time louder. Still we were nervous, amused, but this time, we were more excited than the first time.

Going solo. Lynor and I agreed that we go through the second zipline individually. This second line is shorter but still has the same distance from the river bed (150 meters) to the cable.

Lynor went first...

...then I followed.

Come zipline with me. The Finale. This is exactly what you'll see while ziplining in Danao, Bohol.

Warning: Though the crew has a sphygmomanometer at hand in case the guests want their blood pressures taken before the slide, still this ride is not for the weak at heart. Once you have begun the ride, do NOT ever attempt to close your eyes or else you'll miss a lot. Watch the video that follows, from start to end, then tell me, do you want to give this a try? Would you even bother? Enjoy! Bombs away!

To follow: 1. Spelunking in Danao, Bohol

2. Tips to a great Danao, Bohol Adventure

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Reincarnated again

After more than a month of brooding over the mishaps that took place in my life, I am back again, reincarnated again. Hopefully for good.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

And they all leaped into my plate

Frog legs, anyone? My first attempt at food photography, if I may call it that. So what do frog legs taste like? Yummy! Definitely tastes like Chicken Joy. :-)

Monday, March 9, 2009

What's in a name?

Perhaps the next difficult task lined up for new parents after welcoming a child into this world is selecting the perfect name for the new member of the family. I haven't been a parent yet but I imagine that task would be fun.

Though most of the time confused and can't make up my mind, I always have fun deciding what name to give my pets. (When I finally had a dog which I named Andy - yes, that's him on the picture - I realized that having a pet is a form of parenting, so I was thinking I could insert this here. You adopt a pet, but actually, it's the pet that adopts you. Humans are made to believe that we are parenting the animal but it is actually the animal who's parenting us. Bottom line: Having a pet is a form of parenting, and it is up to you to decide who gets the role of parent and the role of child.)

When I was younger, I had cats named Kitty, Sir Oliver and Pringles, and for me I couldn't be proud enough then for baptizing them myself. Those names somehow gave them a sense of individuality apart from being named the usual Miming/Ming-Ming/Mingkay, names that my late grandmother would love to call all of them. Once Miming/Ming-Ming/Mingkay dies and a new cat comes along, then we have a new Miming/Ming-Ming/Mingkay. The generic name usually comes in handy specially when they are fed. Just call out Miming/Ming-Ming/Mingkay, and the whole feline family in the house - Papa Cat, Mama Cat, and the kittens - would come to you. Their names would however become different when my grandmother would catch them trying to snatch a portion of the food served on our dining table. Instantly they would be baptized, Limbarok(!), my grandmother's signature expression, one that she used when she is annoyed or mad. The name or expression just slides out of her mouth as easily as a knee jerk. I never got to ask her what it meant or where the word originated but I knew that the cats, after hearing that, would probably prefer a generic name of Miming/Ming-Ming/Mingkay running along their families for generations. That would certainly sound sweeter than Limbarok(!), never mind that it is recycled.

Now that I got you smiling, about my story of pet names, watch yourself smile even more if you were to name your own baby. Or in the case of those who are already moms and dads, perhaps the decision of choosing a name for your little angel was one of the sweet agonies you had to go through as a parent. For the mother, it may be one of those agonies in life which always made you smile each time you remember it, but perhaps only second to what you had to go through before that, which we call labor and delivery. (Or mothers, was that sweet agony, indeed? You've come as far as ten hours of labor and you're yelling at your obstetrician because the Demerol isn't helping at all and you're asking her to give you that epidural anesthesia just when your cervix is fully dilated?) The pleasure and liberty of giving a name to the offspring bears so much weight because it will be the 'mark' by which the child will be known all throughout his life.

Just last week, I read about unusual baby names. If you would think that Alka Seltzer was hilarious enough, how about having CircuncisiĆ³n (Circumcision) for a name? Last January, a father was separated from his baby, because he decided to name him Adolf Hitler. Other unusual names include Perfecta HeroĆ­na (Perfect Heroine), Usmail (as in USA Mail), Usnavy (as in USA Navy). Winter Breeze, Metallica, and 4Real would also be included in the list. Then there's Abacus, Anemone, Burr, Cadence, Canyon (whoa!), Quantico, Schwantika, Ursa, and Tamarind.

Now the Filipinos won't be left behind. I have a lot of friends with interesting names like Majal Tagumpay who has a brother named Ibon Bayani. Majal is a musician by heart and by profession so she named her daughter Nasa Huni, which in English means in tune. I have a childhood friend name Youreallylove. Yes, really! I also had schoolmates whose surnames are their first names at the same time, they were all lovely girls named Jamora Maria Jamora I, II, II and so forth. My aunt's got a nephew too who has his mother's maiden name as his first name. I thought that was really cute but I could not do that to my own son, if I had one, or else he'll be nicknamed 'nes, aside from being always the last one to finish in writing class. Now who would not forget the juniors who are (un)lucky enough to take the names of their fathers. Their names could indeed make a mark in this era where Paquito (that's my father's name), Vicente (sorry Prams!), Vicencio, Tranquilina, Candelaria, etc. are almost never an afterthought amidst an overwhelming number of choices with Adam, Joshua, Jaden, Zachary, Ava, Alexa, Isabella, on the top of the list with a lot more.

But there is this one habit of Filipino parents in giving names to their children that is unprecedented in any part of the globe. No, I am not referring to the "h" that most Pinoys love to insert in their names, wherein Jun becomes Jhun, Tata (a favorite Visayan nickname, probably because it's unisex) becomes Thata. It's the habit that somehow Filipino fathers got addicted to and that is to "feminize" their masculine name so that they could somehow achieve immortality through the names of their daughters. So you would know that Rudylin's father is Rudy, Junylyn's or Jhunilyn's father Jun or Jhun. But the rule does not apply though to Jennylyn, right? Okey, her mother is Jenny.

This attempt at achieving mortality though did not turn out that very good for a 20-year old teacher in Toril, Davao City, who was abducted last Wednesday, March 4, by unknown armed men. Her dead body was then fished out in an irrigation ditch a few days later in Carmen, Davao del Norte. She was tortured, raped, and stabbed to death. The victim's name is Rebelyn. Yes she is a rebel's daughter. She is the daughter of Leoncio Pitao a.k.a Commander Parago of the New People's Army.

Her death has recently sparked clamor and triggered anger, among Davaoenos, most especially. A ruthless and needless act against the innocent daughter of a father who has found refuge in the mountains.

Her family holds the “evil, vicious men from the military intelligence group,” accountable for the crime. A ruthless crime against a daughter who chose to stay in the lowlands and never thought of the option of also finding refuge in the mountains like what her father and her brother did. What the heck. She was going to be a regular teacher in the school where she works in in a few months time. Her life revolved in her profession. Her routine was basically home-school-home which unfortunately made her an easy target for those cowards.

Seems like the strategy here is to find your way to the father, you have to go to the son. In this case the daughter. Those who thought of this are probably scratching their heads right now. That is, if the impact of the crime they committed ever hit them hard on their faces. It was a very poor attempt at being biblical.

Politicians are promising for an investigation, an in-depth probe of her death. But that is all they can do actually - promise. The following morning you'll wake up and find that this issue is overran by issues of sky-rocketing prices of gasoline or basic goods, or by the war between a GMA-7 Executive and Annabelle Rama. De ba Roopa?

Lately, the topic on how Rebelyn came to be named that has never been brought up in the papers. But most people in their hometown believe that she was abducted because she is a rebel's baby girl. Because she was her father's daughter. She was supposed to celebrate her 21st birthday this month, but on her birthday, her body will be lying still on the casket, while her soul will be roaming around the earth. That day when she's supposed to be dreamily wondering about what took place 21 years ago, will never be seen by Rebelyn. May her soul rest in peace and may justice be served.

I am sorry that this entry had to end in a sad note but sometimes I just could not find a way to sugarcoat this reality. I just could not, and would not. It doesn't take away the joy of naming a baby or a pet though. In this girl's case, her name just simply had an obvious link to the convictions and ideals of his rebel father, which Rebelyn undoubtedly immortalized with her death.

(Photo: That's Andy, my baby, in the house of his adoptive family, the Montebons. He was three months old in that pic.)

Saturday, March 7, 2009


That was how Julia described the Eat Bulaga crowd when Francis Magalona, the Philippines' Master Rapper, performed again on the stage, on October 25, 2008, after being away for 85 days because of his battle against cancer.

There couldn't have been a more appropriate word then. It was a good five-minute production number he shared with Pupil's Ely Buendia, wherein they sang, Superproxy, one of my favorite E-head songs. He was featured in that song as the guest rapper. That was the best rendition of Superproxy.

You can feel the zest the guy had for his craft, wherever he is, whatever he does - whether he is into rap, or into blending rap with rock, or into photography, or into trying to uphold our nationalism as a Filipinos. Zest would be too mild a word, not even closer.

Francis M. will be terribly missed.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

American Idol Season 8: Second Batch of Top 12 Finalists

Last Thursday, the second batch of finalists who made it to the Top 12 was revealed.

Allison Iraheta
Age 16
Los Angeles, California

First to be picked to go through the Top 12 was this teener from LA. Simon told her that she was ahead by a clear mile from the contestants who performed before she did. Truly a powerful voice, but I agree with Simon when he said she needs more personality.

Kris Allen
Age 23
Conway, AR

Kris made a good take of Michael Jackson's Man in the Mirror. A good singing voice coupled with his boyish good looks will probably propel him to the top.

Adam Lambert
Age 26
Los Angeles, California Adam was a favorite during the California auditions and last Thursday, he swept all the judges off their feet with his gawking rendition of "Satisfaction." I believe he could be the next American Idol. Probably Randy was referring to him when he gave out his preemptive remarks. Now that makes me think twice about Allison. Adam Lambert possesses a really powerful voice. He seems to be the rockstar of our dreams turned to flesh.

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