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Sunday, March 28, 2010


I have a book my mother purchased years ago titled "Healing Foods (The Ultimate Authority on the Curative Power of Nutrition" by Patricia Hausman & Judith Benn Hurley. It is an 'A to Z compendium of the foods that can save your life' as written on smaller type at the top of the front cover. I have devoured this book endlessly. Every time I feel (or imagine) I have an ailment I consult the book's index to see if there's anything that can alleviate my symptoms or ailment at that particular moment. For instance I've checked 'bleeding gums', 'gout', 'hair loss', 'weight management', etc. in the past. I will get to gout later...

My mother, as influenced by her grandmother, raised us on natural remedies and old wives' concoctions for everything from fever (a foot rub of crushed garlic and coconut oil), colds (warm, unsweetened calamansi juice) to scars (rubbing aloe vera on specified area) and thinning hair (again, rubbing aloe vera on specified area). I grew up with no dependence on drugstore medications, partly because I was also allergic to penicillin and most antibiotics as a kid. I would like to think my mother was wise in raising us the way she did. I also believe our vegetarianism during our Ananda Marga/Yoga years in the 70s helped boost our immune systems. While most of my friends would down a painkiller for the slightest of headaches, or aspirin for fever... I have through the years been virtually sick-free. I also brag that I have never been confined in the hospital in all my 42 years.

Going back to the book, it is but natural that up to today I gravitate to natural remedies. I am a great fan of Dr. Andrew Weil (I've read his books. I've subscribed to his website. I've never seen him on Oprah) and I try my darnedest to eat sensibly and healthily (no fast food, soda-free since 1997, limit meat intake to once or twice a week, veggies and fruits galore, etc.) and to walk at least 30 minutes everyday. 'Healing Foods' is a well-researched book that lists food items and explains why these are good for you -- eg. the entry on "Alfalfa Sprouts... although low in protein, vitamins and minerals, they rate the superfood label because they balance the scales with three other attributes: amazingly few calories, no fat, and virtually no sodium". Aside from extolling the virtues of a given food entry, the authors also give tips on how to prepare these food items in your kitchen. Recipes in the book are therefore provided sometimes an entire two or three weeks' worth of meals from breakfast, lunch and dinner and snacks if say, you're on a cholesterol-lowering diet or suffer from a disease like anemia. Pen and ink illustrations of each food item complement the entry. And on it goes with other entries like acerola, apricots, artichokes, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, cereals, cowpeas, figs, kiwifruit, kohlrabi, lamb, millet, oranges, parsnips, to name some. The entries are not limited to food only -- the book also tackles ailments or diseases that may be alleviated by diet like Allergy, Anemia, Angina, Appendicitis, Arthritis -- and those are only with the Letter 'A'.

My sister recently lent me five magazines (More, Real Simple, Vogue) and while reading these I have come across health/diet/exercise articles that really say what we already know: Eat less meat, eat more vegetables and fruits, exercise regularly, and manage stress properly. Here now is my conundrum: 'Healing Foods', like those other magazines, is geared to western lifestyles and while I am consciously trying to be more healthy I have also decided in the past two years to buy locally. It is indeed better for the environment and easier on the budget. Besides where in the Philippines do I find fresh acerola or apricots? What for heaven's sake are buckwheat and bulgur? You see, like Sophia Loren, I have decided to NOT eat anything that comes canned or packaged but try to eat only fresh, and if possible, organic produce. The only imported stuff in our larder is olive oil. Okay, I also have vegemite (rich in Vitamin B) in the fridge given to me by a friend based down-under. (I sometimes give in to imported cheese and chocolate -- but mostly when they're given to me -- HA! Pass on the carbon-guilt to somebody else!)

So I got to thinking, why doesn't/hasn't anyone in the Philippines come up with a book on nutrition as easily digestible as 'Healing Foods'? We have all the able nutritionists and doctors here who could research on local produce. If I were to publish said book I would call it 'The Healthy Pinoy' -- contract the leading experts on Filipino Health and Nutrition and maybe commission Laida Lim to kitchen test and whip up delicious, healthy recipes. The song 'Bahay Kubo' alone has all the backyard vegetables our grandparents told was good for us. I especially like 'malunggay' fruit not the leaves which my dad would include in his 'dinengdeng' or even 'patani' and 'sigarilyas'. I am sure these vegetables are rich in fiber and vitamins.

An aunt once told me about her coming across a study on Regional Filipino Nutrition in the mid-80s and the study found out that the Ilocos Region was the healthiest overall in the Philippines. This was attributed to their daily intake of vegetables. Yes the Ilocanos have bagnet, longganisa, pinapaitan, etc. (all fatty and cholesterol laden dishes) but I'd like to think
the Ilocano lifestyle could be our equivalent to the French Paradox. Ilocanos like their vegetables and rarely are they cooked with meat (grilled fish is the preferred sahog in dinengdeng or pakbet), they are heavy on fish, low on dairy, and typically eat their meats on special occasions. My grandmother upon migrating to California had a vegetable garden wherein she planted ampalaya, talong, kamatis, etc. just so she can have her pakbet when she desired.

Sadly, McDonald's and Jollibee are scattered in every province in the Philippines couple that with a sedentary lifestyle (due to computers and cable TV), the ordinary Pinoy today is no longer as healthy as his parents' and grandparents' generation were. Obesity especially in urban centers among children and teens is a growing epidemic.

How I wish 'The Healthy Pinoy' will become a reality (attn: Anvil Publishing). I would like to read on and try new recipes for ampalaya, alugbati, bamboo shoots, not to mention our local fruits like caimito, makopa, singuelas, or the variety of seaweeds we eat and other exotic foodstuffs only found in the Philippines or Asia. And yes, guavas are rich in Vitamin C!

Now back to gout. I had a bad case of gout attack in 2007. I remember having drank beers three nights in a row and on two of those nights I had calf's brain with pita from my favorite Persian restaurant and the succeeding night had callos (the Spanish dish of ox tripe). Not to mention that I hadn't been walking for a week prior to my beer binge. On the fourth morning my left ankle was swollen and I was in so much pain I stayed in bed for two days. I also had fever. My first impulse was to drink lots of water to flush out the uric acid. While bedridden I got a hold of 'Healing Foods' and read the entry on Gout. The following is what is written:

"Gout is actually a form of arthritis that settles in the joints of the body -- usually the big toe. For many years the pain was blamed on eating rich foods, but today we know that not all gout victims eat high on the hog. Just how much diet plays a part on the disease is a matter for debate. What is well established, however, is what causes all the pain -- a buildup of uric acid in the joint. Gout sufferers, for some reason, produce more uric acid than their body can handle. The result is the formation of needlelike crystals that get dropped around the affected joint.

"Like other forms of arthritis, gout hurts -- some say even more than other joint diseases. So when the pain strikes, the gout victim's only care is getting rid of it -- not settling academic debates about its origins.

"Obviously, keeping uric acid under control is the key to beating gout. That's where diet comes in. Experts established long ago that uric acid is a breakdown product of substances called purines that are found in certain foods. So it stands to reason that if you eliminate purine-rich foods, you'll eliminate gout.

"But it turns out that that's only part of the story. According to British nutritionist Sir Stanley Davidson, diet contributes, at most, 50 percent of the uric acid present in the blood of normal people. Apparently much of the uric acid comes not from food but from the body overproducing it on its own.

"For all that remains to be learned about gout, one thing is certain: This is not a disease that strikes indiscriminately. To the contrary, most patients share certain characteristics that no doubt have much to do with the development of the disease.

"Here are some typical characteristics of the gout patient.
  • Male. Most gout patients are male. In the United States, women account for less than 10 percent of all cases.
  • Over 30. Gout is more common among older age groups. Among males, few develop it before puberty; of those women who do succumb, the disease rarely strikes before menopause.
  • Family History. At least 25 percent of gout patients have a relative who also suffers from the disease.
  • Overweight. Many gout patients are overweight. J.T. Scott, M.D., a British authority on gout, reported that about half of patients are 15 percent or more above ideal weight.
  • Presence of certain diseases. Some patients develop gout as a result of other illnesses that compromise their ability to handle uric acid. Chronic kidney failure; high blood pressure; and the blood-related diseases of leukemia, polycythemia, and myelofibrosis are among the diseases that predispose their victims to gout. For these patients, gout is a complication of another disease, not a disease that exists on its own.
"Here's how to take a strong stand against gout.
  • Avoid both feast and famine. Meals rich in fat or high-purine foods raise the uric acid levels and can trigger gout attack. The other extreme - - fasting -- also causes a sharp increase in uric acid. Thats' why gout patients should avoid drastic approaches to weight reduction.
  • Minimize stress. Stress can precipitate an attack, so do what you can to avoid it. You can't avoid the stress of sudden illness or necessary surgery, but you can take steps to curtail stressful lifestyle.
  • Lose excess weight -- slowly. Your weight affects the amount of uric acid in your blood. As Dr. davidson and his co-workers point out, as weight creeps upward, so do uric acid levels.
  • Drink water, not alcohol. Alcohol is double trouble. It not only interferes with the body's efforts to excrete uric acid, it also encourages it to produce too much. Water, by contrast, offers benefits to gout sufferers because it helps discourage kidney stones from forming."

High purine foods listed in the book include: Anchovies, Brains, Gravies, Kidney, Liver, Meat Extracts, Sweetbreads.

I am guilty of the first three typical characteristics of a gout patient and so I have, since that first gout attack, cut back on eating internal organs. I still drink beer because God knows I'll die if I didn't. And I walk everyday. I drink lots of water (aside from beer) and have quit soda. I never drink coffee only take iced tea occasionally (brewed, not powdered instant tea).

I also googled 'natural remedies for gout' and found out that black bean soup is one of those listed and several testimonials from readers attest to this. It would seem a paradox because beans are known to cause gout but apparently black beans contain similar if not the same compounds that are found in blueberries and grapes (phenols?! am not too sure now, but I advise reader to google the same) and are good for circulation. I gave the black bean soup a try, and yes, it works.

Most Filipinos frown on beans as these may cause arthritis or gout but don't balk at the sight of dinuguan, chicharon bulaklak, or even sisig. But I love beans! Beans are a ggood source of vitamins and fiber. I love chilli. I eat munggo once a week -- it is one of my favorite comfort foods. On occasion I will cook pig's trotters with either white beans or black beans.

I've never had a gout attack since then. I have given up on dinuguan and chicharon bulaklak. Although I am really wary when I eat callos during Christmas time. But beans I take regularly. I tell my skeptic friends -- "Look, vegetarians eat beans and tofu almost everyday, show me one who has gout!"

But the real breakthrough on my health would be if I quit smoking. I have been scarce on facebook lately (due to guilt) because I had announced in February that I would quit cigarettes.

I confess: I still smoke. But I'm down to ten sticks a day. A great reduction considering I used to consume a pack and half or sometimes two packs a day.

Marlboro is like my Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain -- I just don't know how to quit it!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Ongoing at the LRI Bldg along Reposo, Makati City is Ferdinand Cacnio's latest exhibit of one-of-a-kind furniture and functional art pieces dubbed "Connecting With Greatness".

I was at the building yesterday for some official business at the third floor and on my way out I decided to drop by the second floor, and was uhm, floored by Cacnio's pieces. "Greatness" is too small a word to describe his pieces. They are intricate and delicate but not intimidating as say, fine crystal which one would normally be scared to touch or scrutinize.

The brass pieces echo greatness in their strength and the awe they elicit from viewers... to fully appreciate, one must have a look at them up close and personal.

(I grabbed these photos from Ferdinand Cacnio's multiply account as I didn't have a camera with me yesterday... )

Saturday, March 13, 2010


No they were not from Mars.

Atty. Francisco S. Reyes (1906 - 1991) and Felicidad O. Reyes (1912 - 1998), my maternal grandparents, were a big influence on my life. Lolo Ikong built the family compound in Baguio City where we all lived (my immediate family and hordes of cousins) -- growing up in the 70s to the 80s before most of my relatives migrated to the US and/or moved to Manila and elsewhere.

A typical day at the compound would start with Lolo Ikong waking up at 5am and turning on the water heater (We had a central water heating system for the left side of the compound that provided hot water for three households -- or 5 bathrooms). Lolo Ikong and Lola Felicing would share a breakfast of pan de sal, butter, fresh fruit in season, brewed coffee (from the coffee trees in the compound). While Lola Felicing would get ready to go to market by 5.30am Lolo Ikong would go down to his poultry and feed his chickens. At any given time, Lolo would have around 30 chickens at the most. They were fenced in an enclosure large enough for them to walk around, pick on worms or grubs on the earth, get their daily exercise, etc. Several coops made from wood scraps were built for them at the far end of the enclosure for them to roost and for the hens to lay eggs.

The chickens were mainly fed ground corn and/or rice along with chopped vegetables (lettuce and cabbage were most common) from Lola Felicing's vegetable and fruit store in the city market. There was also a time we had rabbits in cages near the poultry and were fed vegetables from Lola's store.

After feeding the chickens, Lolo would in turn feed the dogs. We had six German Shepherds at one given time (Bantay, Sultan, Jango, I forgot the rest), six dogs that were never leashed or caged. The dogs were free to roam around the compound often times terrorizing neighbors who would pass by the fence or occasionally the electric and water meter readers. I remember these dogs chasing one another by the perimeter of the property's fence. They also liked running on the hills and sleeping by the biggest pine tree's roots in the compound during hot days. The dogs slept in the garage or the basement during rainy season.

Our dogs weren't fed commercial dog food. My Lolo had an agreement with the owners of Star Cafe so that the kitchen staff would fill up two pails of food with refuse/leftovers from customers that would dine at the cafe each day. These pails of food scraps were picked up after Lola closed her store every evening on the way home. Lolo would sort the food scraps (bones, meat, rice, noodles, vegetables, etc.) and divide the loot -- half would be fed to the dogs and pig in the morning, the other half to be fed in the afternoon.

The food from Star Cafe would also be mixed with whatever food scraps we would accumulate at home. It was common for the households in the compound to bring to Lolo our food scraps as well for him to feed to the dogs and pig. These food scraps were served in individual tin basins -- Lolo made sure the dogs got equal amount in bones, rice, etc.

The pig that was in a wooden sty would be fed all the other scraps that weren't given to the dogs. These included overripe vegetables and fruits my Lola would bring from her store in the market. The pig was fattened from September in time for lechon during Christmas.

After Lolo would finish feeding the chickens, dogs and pig he would wash their basins with water from the tank he installed next to the basement. This tank was directly attached to the roof's gutters, Lolo made sure rainwater was well collected for watering our plants, washing the pets, washing the pets' plates, cleaning the pig's sty, etc. Ditto washing the car.

After his morning chores, around 6.30am, Lolo would knock on our doors and hand out eggs that have been laid by hens in the poultry. He would say "for your breakfast". We had a daily supply of native eggs -- yes they were smaller than the commercial ones but they looked nice in their tan color, sometimes the shell still stained with earth. Aside from eggs, sometimes Lolo would hand over a chicken, already dressed and butchered and would tell us "for your tinola". And then he would wink and go up the stairs to his unit above.

By this time all of us would be busy eating our breakfasts, taking turns in the shower, and getting ready to go to school. My cousins and I carpooled during schooldays. Sometimes if we were eager to be in school, we could hitch a ride with Lola when she was brought to the market at 5.30 in the morning. Several times I would still be waiting by the gate at SLU Laboratory Elementary School because the guards wouldn't open the gate until a few minutes past 6 am.

As soon as Lolo would get to his unit above, he would turn off the water heater that he had earlier turned on -- if anyone did not bathe by 8am, that person would have to brave a cold shower thereafter. Lolo would take his bath, shave with an old blade that he sharpened on a leather strap and splash his face with Old Spice. He would get dressed in his suit and signature bow ties and walk to Session Road where he had his Law Office at the second floor of the Lopez Building. Rain or shine. This was how he got his daily exercise. We used to tease Lolo that he looked like The Penguin in the Batman series especially when he would be carrying his umbrella.

Lolo Ikong and Lola Felicing were sticklers when it came to recycling and reusing anything and everything. Newspapers were kept to line the dog's sleeping areas. The other newspapers were used by Lola in the market when packing fruits and vegetables that she would ship twice weekly to Manila and other cities in the Visayas and Mindanao. Paper bags were reused to pack our sandwiches or lunches for school. Pieces of string my Lola would amass into one ball. Old buttons, yarn, threads, pieces of cloth from sewing projects would be kept and not thrown away. Canvas sacks from the sugar that Lola would use when making strawberry jam were washed and cut into towel-sized pieces, their edges hemmed and these were used as kitchen towels. One time my Lola fashioned an apron from these canvas (katcha) sacks that she would tie on her waist while tending her stall in the market. If we needed materials for art or science projects, my mother would tell us "Go ask your Lola, she might have kept some things up there that you could use". And inevitably, yes, we got materials for our projects from Lola. Old cardboards, crayons, colored paper, crepe paper, cellophane, etc. that she kept through the years.

Water was already rationed in Baguio as early as the mid-70s. Although we had a large tank in the compound to supply water for 5 households -- we were admonished to conserve water daily. The tap was never to be left running while brushing our teeth. A meticulous way of washing dishes was enforced to maximize the water being used and leftover rinsing water from the basin would be used to water plants. We were to shut off lights and appliances when not in use. Hogging the telephone was frowned upon. Lolo used to tell us that only important matters were to be discussed over the telephone and should be done so very briefly and clearly.

This frugal lifestyle may have been borne out of my grandparents' experience with the war. It was common for their generation to live austerely. It would be nice to follow their example.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral has recently gone under fire for her promotion and distribution of condoms as a means to curb the rising incidence of HIV in the country. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) through its President, Nereo Odchimar condemned the Secretary's stance on condom use as "unjust for government to use the money of Catholic taxpayers for purposes that are against their moral beliefs". The CBCP has also asked that the advertising of condoms on various media should be banned altogether because "condoms imperil the morality of the youth... condom advertisements desensitize the youth's delicate conscience and weaken their moral fiber as future parents".

Bravo CBCP!!! And while you're at it I say take the following hard-line measures as well to curb the decline of morals in our country. Don't single out Sec. Cabral as the church might appear to be a bully. It really is not good PR for all of you men of esteemed integrity to pick on a woman now, is it?

1. Refuse communion to all those who use condoms and other forms of contraception not allowed by the Catholic Church. No, wait, don't only refuse communion, excommunicate these infidels from the Church altogether. And most importantly deny them their last rites for not heeding the Church's teachings. Let them rot in purgatory for eternity.

2. Give an ultimatum to the owners/employees of Mercury Drug and other drugstores that sell contraceptives. They are only willing participants in the proliferation of these immoral products. Ditto 7-11, supermarkets, motels/hotels/inns that market condoms in their establishments. To these people, do as the above.

3. Make an announcement that any Catholic engaging in pre-marital sex (with or without the use of contraception) shall be treated to the same action in number 1 above.

4. The owners/manufacturers of all contraceptives including the lowliest factory workers shall be dealt the same treatment above if they do not renounce their ways and ask for forgiveness and confess their sins ASAP! Ditto the medical practitioners, nurses, health workers, patients who at one time or another engaged in the proliferation and/or use of contraceptives.

5. Demand from our law makers and local government officials to renounce the use of contraceptives and pass a bill requiring all motels/hotels to require couples to bring their marriage certificates upon check-in. Also to refuse homosexual/lesbian couples from using their facilities. In the same light, they should not allow any single person, male or female, to check-in alone -- masturbation is a sin!

6. Ban all advertisements that show models in skimpy outfits or bare skin. This will only entice fiery emotions among those who view these. Ban all movies and TV shows that allow this also. Excommunicate the entire film/TV/advertising industry for being party to these activities.

7. All students of Catholic schools shall sign a covenant that they will remain chaste before marriage. Apply a compulsory virginity test on all students. Or they face expulsion.

8. Ban all homosexual/lesbians from Catholic schools. And I mean not only the teachers, but including the employees and students. They are vile creatures!

9. Endorse Manoling Morato as the next President. he is an upright, moral man. He is also celibate even if he is not a priest -- remember, the separation of church and state.

10. Ban all the vendors along Quiapo Church selling "pamparegla", sexual toys, and pirated DVD's that are pornographic.

Bravo to the CBCP! Take the hard-line! Now is the time for change! Corruption is not the cause of our country's woes -- it is IMMORALITY!

Kudos to the church for saying mass in Malacanang during Erap's and GMA's time. They needed your support even though the majority of the populace have been swayed by infidels spreading rumors of their corruption. Forgive Erap for his womanizing and gambling at least he does not use condoms or asks his women to use contraceptives, otherwise he won't have all those children, right? Continue to bless and give GMA communion -- only if she sacks Sec. Cabral and other cabinet members who espouse the use of contraceptives!

Bravo CBCP! Ignore the scientific facts that AIDS is spreading -- these are mere rumors being propagated by the manufacturers of condoms. Ignore heretical science! Ask the Vatican to renounce their apology that the Sun is the center of the universe. Ask the Pope to decree that indeed, the Earth is the center of the universe!

Never mind if you excommunicate a lot of people, this will not have a dent on your wealth. You still have loads of income from the schools and weekly tithes of churchgoers.

Now dear reader, be a good Catholic and go to confession tomorrow. Or risk eternal damnation!