Archive for Philippines

69,000 and Counting

Posted in Current Affairs, Health with tags , , , , , , on September 11, 2010 by hangingbridge

Southeast Asia which includes the Philippines has been noted to be hyperendemic of the Dengue virus.  It is more common in the urban than in the rural areas.  This is probably because of the head count and the dirty surroundings which becomes appropriate for vectors which are active during the day to live and multiply.

Currently, most hospitals are crowded with febrile patients and almost all are getting screened for Dengue infection.  In the news today, children are occupying hospital beds at least two at a time.  And hospitals cannot anymore accommodate patients.  Only the urgent cases gets to share a bed with the rest of those already confined.

The local and national government hasn’t done anything drastic to address such problems despite the number of those affected.  The Department of Health is the only institution working on a national level.  The growing number of those affected and the hospital conditions people are experiencing right now (i.e. shared beds already situated in the hospital corridors) can make someone wonder if they are doing enough.

Dengue virus has been known to exist in the country since the 1950’s brought about by the mosquito species, Aedes.  A person can get Dengue virus four times and creates immunity to each one after each infection.  Infection of any of the four types of Dengue virus may manifest as Dengue fever, Dengue shock syndrome or Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever or may not manifest any signs or symptoms at all.  The manifestations worsens as you get infected by more than one type of Dengue virus.

Fever with chills and flushing is a significant set of symptoms for Dengue virus infection.  The virus affects dendritic cells, reticuloendothelial cells and hepatocytes therefore, it is affects almost all of the systems in the body.  As the infection progresses, we may see other signs such as bleeding tendencies or leaking of fluid out of the vascular system.  This may be seen as pleural effusion (fluid in the thorax which is also seen in pneumonia), ascites (fluid in the abdominal cavity which is also seen in those with beer bellies), menorrhagia (increased menstrual flow), melena (black stools due to blood in the gastrointestinal tract), hematemesis (vomiting of blood), purpuras and petechiae (rash-like because of leaking of blood vessels in the skin) and many others. 

Since there is loss of body fluids, body circulation needs to compensate.  Heart is trying to pump more blood hence there is tachycardia.  There is fast and weak pulse.  The body organs are compromised because it is not supplied by enough body fluids.  There is hypotension in severe cases. 

Laboratory findings will include high hematocrit levels but low platelet count.  Liver problems are also reflected by the low albumin levels, high AST and ALT levels and coagulopathies (deranged PT and PTT). 

The best thing to do before someone gets infected is make the environment less susceptible to further infect individuals.  Aedes doesn’t reside in cool environment.  Unfortunately, this is a tropical country and a damp, warm climate is perfect for the mosquito species.  Mosquito spray and lotions outweigh the harsh chemicals it may contain and may affect man’s health in these scenarios.  Mosquito nets at night time may have no use at all. 

Trying to minimize the clutter in the surroundings is also helpful – less eye sore in the environment, less likely mosquitos will live in that area.  The problem with most (of my fellow) Filipinos is they don’t want to throw anything away.  As much as possible, they keep what isn’t useful to them, hence, homes are more like a storage space.  If people are not able to throw things away, they have to make sure it’s inside a closed cabinet. 

Taking in Vitamin C may (or may not) also help prevent deadly manifestations of the infection.  Since Vitamin C is good for healing connective tissues, the effects of the virus in the body may be somewhat hindered by the vitamin C stored in the body. (Note: The body cannot create vitamin C hence, it should be taken daily.)  It is good to remember that vitamin C doesn’t cure or prevent infection. 

When someone gets infected, it is important to have visited the doctor to have the specific tests done to monitor someone’s level of infection.  There is no cure for the infection.  Once infected, the person will have to undergo the progression of the illness.  Physicians can only monitor and provide ways in which the manifestations may be addressed immediately before it permanently destroys organs in the body.

Proper types of fluids are given in the hospital.  IV fluids and blood components is administered in some cases.  There will be a lot of instances hospitals need to draw blood daily to monitor a patient’s progress.

It is no excuse that this is a tropical country that is why there is hyperendemic periods during the year.  The rural areas are also more tropical than Manila.  The difference lies in the overpopulation and the clutter each citizen makes.  Local government needs to address these problems or else, funds will be spent only for this single type of infection when there are still more problems in the country that also needs spending.


Mall Spirituality

Posted in Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , on September 8, 2010 by hangingbridge

I have to confess that it was hypocritical of me for rejecting the idea of attending church in the mall.  I’ve always thought malls were not an appropriate place to hold mass, much more build a chapel, both an adoration and Eucharistic one. 

In the past, a friend has told me that the Catholic religion was all for convenience.  Catholics will bend the laws stated in the Bible and justify it accordingly for comfort and suitability.  To call upon members of the church, the Catholic church leaders has allowed some inappropriateness in the practices.  If they weren’t bending the rules, I doubt if there will be anyone interested in being Catholic at all. 

In the back of my mind, I thought that the Lord would prefer a few true followers of His word instead of a thousands who hears but does not listen at all.  Hence, I understand why other religious sects has always something against the Catholics. 

But then for the past two Sundays, I have been attending mass in the mall, particularly SM Megamall.  Yes, it was for convenience in my part.  I’ve always been going to Santa Clara Parish in Katipunan in the past years but eversince I have moved out and lived on my own, I have to find another way to attend mass without additional effort and fuel spent since I’m already destitute as it is. 

After attending the mass in the mall, I have to say that the solemnity has not lessened at all.  In fact, I noticed that the attendees of the mass were attentive than those attending in the traditional churches around the metro.  I have found that the inappropriateness of building a church in the midst of peddlers was only something you see from the outside.  But when you get involved in the “practice”, it is not so. 

Now I realize that the Lord is within us whenever and where ever we are as long as we allow Him to be.  If we are sincerely gathered in His name, there He is in our midst.  It doesn’t matter how I saw the practice of attending mass in the mall before because now, appropriateness is insignificant in comparison with the spiritual satisfaction you allow yourself to receive.

People waiting to get in for the next scheduled mass

People off somewhere else after the mass

Gushing Over St.Francis Square

Posted in Shopping with tags , , , , , , on September 6, 2010 by hangingbridge

As a first-time visitor of St.Francis Square along Julia Vargas avenue, I found a nearby version of Divisoria and Greenhills. Although there are fewer stalls, the items, both shoes and clothing, are comparable and may surpass those of the other “tiangges” (bargain market).

The price range of asian-branded clothing ranges from Php200 to Php300. Not bad at all considering the textile they used for the clothes. Almost all of the items came from Bangkok as the lady vendors claim them to be. They range from party clothes to everyday wear to office wear.

The price range for shoes are mostly Php 150 to 300. I still can’t attest how durable the shoes are in comparison to the branded ones we can get in the local malls. If you’re going for a collection of colors of the same style of shoes, you may want to get it from St.Francis Square. The one thing that caught my attention was the high-heeled shiny pumps in one of the stall. I only found a black pair. I may not have looked closer. There may be some other color available somewhere in the building.

“Tiangge”-lover should be able to go to Bangkok at least once in their lives. It was one whole “tiangge” city. There are so many clothing markets that somehow a shopper can get saturated. And when they do, it’s hard to identify which ones are a good buy and which ones aren’t. There may be times when a shopper, after rummaging their shopping bags in the hotel room after a long day of shopping spree, may wonder why a certain clothing caught their attention in the first place. Trust the “tiangge” owners in Manila who has sifted all the clothes in Bangkok and who has brought within a Filipina shopper’s reach all the fine clothing that is worth buying.

Everything was eye-candy in St.Francis Square considering that yours truly aren’t really into clothes. Magazines about clothes doesn’t even interest me. Browsing the actual items in the malls helps make me formulate a much better assessment. After frequenting department stores, Zara, Promod, Iora and, the latest, Forever 21, I can attest that the clothes in “tiangges” like that of St.Francis Square deserves a well-known brand of their own. But good for us who look for budget-worthy clothes, they aren’t branded; they don’t cost that much; and haggling is even allowed.

The only unfortunate thing was that almost nothing fits a pregnant woman like me. I wasn’t planning of shopping yesterday and was just out of the house for my weekend long cardio workout in air-conditioned places like the mall. As I walked from stall to stall in St.Francis Square, I firmly resolved to myself that I’m going to get my weight (and figure) back and will return to buy the type of clothes and shoes I missed wearing.


Cloak Of Shame

Posted in Current Affairs, Politics, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2010 by hangingbridge

Even Ms.Universe Fourth Runner-Up Venus Raj’s triumph or Charice Pempengco’s role in Glee or Pacquiao’s world title will not be able to redeem the country’s honor from what former police officer Rolando Mendoza has done to tourists visiting our country and from what our incompetent government officials has failed to do on that ill-fated 23rd day of August, 2010.

The dust of the hostage aftermath has not yet completely settled down but the bits and pieces of facts are beginning to paint a clearer picture of what transpired that day. It was all premeditated by Mendoza.

The now infamous Mendoza travelled early morning that day from Tanauan, Batangas to Manila which was around 3 hours ride. Carrying with him were weapons, blank placards and pen. The drama started 9 ‘o’ clock in the morning when the hostage-taker boarded his pre-selected ride to Libingan ng mga Bayani (but opted to hold his mission in Quirino Grandstand). He chose a tourist bus to take him where he intended to go. And as the world now knows, the tragedy ended nine lives, including that of Mendoza’s and probably also ended Filipinos’ relations with Hong Kong nationals.

The underdog has no good excuse for what he has done especially now that everyone knows it was all in his plan. Mendoza has been alluded to be someone who was honourable to his work and has been a victim of injustice in our social system when he was mistakenly charged for something that he claims he has nothing to do with. As Filipinos try to analyze what has led this upstanding citizen to commit drastic measures to gain back his lost compensation, I am still not convinced that he was that good of a citizen, much more a former man of law.

Some of those directly involved in the hostage-taking states that Mendoza was asking around a million Pesos to finally compensate his lost pension. Was it all about money? Was it his aspiration all along? I’m quite certain it wasn’t to clear up his name because to take a number of lives hostage wouldn’t do him any good on that aspect.

How many times have people, not only Filipinos, taken lives in their own hands just for money? Countless of times. In this country alone, crime rates are mostly because of financial reasons to be able to provide the needs that most of our fellowmen lacks – even the basic ones. My problem with Mendoza was that he had caused all this tragedy because of pride and probably, money. It was not because he was already dying of hunger.

If he wanted to get a message across, he could have surrendered and not taken any life at all. After surrendering, media will do its job to peel everything on its way to get to the core of things – a review of his misjudged case. I think he already sensed it when he saw the crowd and media coverage he was getting. He already knew he got our full attention. He was being interviewed until almost at the end of his shift as a hostage-taker.

Why did he chosoe a group of tourist to vent out his anger over the government? The tourists can do nothing about his problems. They probably didn’t understand even when he explained himself to them. The twenty-five passengers of that bus was looking forward to a relaxing day travelling all over Manila. It was very unfortunate for them that they were chosen to sacrifice their lives for something they don’t understand. It has been an unspoken rule throughout the world that tourists are not to be harmed in the country they are visiting. In return, they are not supposed cause mischief in the country they are visiting.

When real tourists take interest to visit the Philippines, it is a big deal. For the past decades, “tourists” are mostly military men, men who condone prostitution in the country, foreigners who have business interest in the country, international social workers and so on. It is only recently when people come here to enjoy themselves with what the country has to offer without the need to damage our self-respect.

I am personally fond of visiting Hong Kong and has been there thrice or four times now. I have enjoyed all of those trips even if the bus tours they offer go to almost the same places each time. Even if Filipinos work there as housemaids or equally undignified (for some), it is rare that citizens of Hong Kong will treat tourists badly.

After the tragedy in the Hong Thai Travel bus transpired, I’m in no disposition to travel anywhere in Asia. There is both shame and fear that once they knew I was Filipino, they would probably give me a hard time. How can a Filipino go around Hong Kong or China when we have clearly done harm in a number of their citizens? We can all sense their loathing over Filipinos after what happened. Hopefully, they would come to know that we, ourselves, are embarrassed by what happened. And even if the people directly involved in the hostage-taking last August 23, 2010 are trying not to own up to their mistakes, the nation feels truly sorry for what has happened.

How They Cook Fish

Posted in food, Health with tags , , , , , , , on August 24, 2010 by hangingbridge

It has been known that Bicolano cooks everything with coconut milk, also known as “gata” as the main ingredient.  Red hot chili peppers only follows on the list.  I’m currently living with a Bicolano and the whole time since, I’ve been eating so much rice that I’m literally bursting in my seams.

He always goes home for lunch.  First reason was I didn’t know how to cook real food and he wanted me to eat the nutritious kinds. Second, I need someone to eat with to eat a lot.  He calls me from work and asked if I wanted tuna for lunch.  I said yes thinking that he was to bring a can of tuna for us to reheat in a pan and eat.  But then, when he came home, he had fresh fish, spices and vegetables and coconut milk at hand. 

He finds happiness in the kitchen, he once told me before.  For some people, cooking makes them loose their appetite because of the countless of times they have to taste the food they’re cooking or they have already been saturated by the smell of what they are cooking.  But not for this Bicolano.  The more he cooks, the more he anticipates the meal itself. 

He finds more happiness when I get up from my chair during a meal and try to scrape off the remaining rice in the rice pot.  I found that out once when I turned to go back to my place in the dining table finding him laughing.  I thought there was something funny on TV but he confessed that he was finding it amusing when he hears me scraping the remaining rice. 

My mother grew up in Bicol but I don’t remember her cooking something that is uniquely Bicol.  Even whenever I visit her hometown, I didn’t get to appreciate their food – except, probably, patatim.  My relatives on her side practically grew in Manila and they seldom visit their hometown.  Hence, my generation in our family tree probably don’t really know how “hot” and appetizing Bicol meals are. 

Now that I’m practically married to someone who has the appetite for the real Bicol food, I have been introduced to meals that make you drool more with every serving you placed inside your mouth.  He knows how to kick a meal up another notch – as if his cooking wasn’t good enough.  He is also fond of making a variety of “sawsawan” or dipping sauces which are to complement different casseroles he cooks. 

It is always about the taste of the main ingredient.  Both the vegetables and the spices must contribute to the taste of either the fish, chicken, beef or pork.  Once, I thought that he didn’t like tomatoes much because he left it behind.  I was the one trying to eat all the slices of tomatoes in the soup before I was done.  And then he explained to me that for that particular dish, the tomatoes has already done its purpose by adding the taste in the soup and in the meat. He also said the same thing about the Pechay in another meal. 

The taste was the most important factor for him.  For someone like me who doesn’t know how to cook but loves to eat, the come-hither factor was the presentation. But ever since we have come to live together, steaming rice was the initial clue it was ready to eat, and the taste of his cooking was the signal to eat more. 

Freshness comes along with the taste.  He has this particular obsession with freshness.  For the untrained tongue like mine, I wouldn’t be able to identify if what I am eating is fresh or frozen for a long time already.  I probably would be able to note anything rotten, though.  He gushes about his market purchase when he knows the meat – may it be that of fish, chicken, beef or pork – is less than 24 hours old.  He already knows it will taste good no matter how he cooks it.  It goes the same even with the vegetables, especially the leafy greens.

So, back to the yellow fin tuna he proudly brought home.  While he cut, sliced and diced the ingredients, I noted that he was making it looked good while everything was still raw.  I took out my camera as soon as I saw all the colors he was putting in the casserole.  He made it look good unintentionally.  It’s could pass up as the main presentation already or the final product like in cooking shows on TV. 

I was afraid he might find it weird that I’m taking pictures of what he was doing but I took pictures of it anyway.

yellow fin and coconut milk topped with tomatoes and more... to come

Yellow fin and coconut milk topped with tomatoes and more... to come

Don't forget the green chili

Don't forget the green chili

All spices seeps in the fish while it boils

All spices seeps in the fish while it boils

Ready To Eat

Ready To Eat

Airport Security

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , on August 19, 2010 by hangingbridge

It is no wonder why international ports do not trust our local security.

Any traveller who comes from Philippine territory has to be thoroughly searched again and again once they reach their destination. The Philippine passport becomes a red flag in relation to the packages the traveller is bringing with him or her.

There are non-stop flights from Manila to LA and back. There are also some flights which have one or two stopovers between the two cities. I have flown to a couple of times and have familiarity with both types of flights.

When I was a teenager, I flew straight from Manila to LA. When I reached the customs department, my baggage did not just go through the x-ray machines but was opened by the personnel himself. He had his, probably filthy, rubber gloves go through my personal belongings. Finding nothing worth questioning or throwing away, he left it opened and in disarray for me to arrange and close them again. By this time, I thought that I have to brace myself every time I pass the US immigration.

Another flight proved that it didn’t happen every time. I flew once again from Manila to LA but this time, I had one stopover in Japan. As I recall, it was a two-hour stopover in Narita Airport. There, everyone has to go through tight security even if you’re not really entering that country. Everyone, including those who are just changing planes has to go through their x-ray machines and the hands of the personnel. Baggage are opened and inspected as well. Eventually, we flew to LA. And once the airport customs knew that we came from Japan airport, they didn’t bother opening our luggage.

Just recently, a Philippine government official was detained in Hong Kong for allegedly “drug trafficking”. Congressman Ronald Singson, son of the infamous Chavit Singson, was caught with 26 grams of coccaine when he entered Hong Kong airport. He left Manila bringing the package with him. Speculations on how he was able to take it out of the country and fly across to Hong Kong ended when a video was shown last night on the news. The video showed how he was treated by airport security. He was treated like a common public official, as expected with our local security. They didn’t even bother to have his luggage scanned in the x-ray machine. And he did not even pass the metal detector.

Security personnel in the country should start paying attention once again. This incident verifies the fact that they lack the sense of responsibility and initiative to do their job and to do it well. They should be the one to know that there is no special treatment despite the “badges” displayed in front of them – especially by government officials. No one is exempted by the hassles of airport security no matter how high up you are in the social ladder.

To be fair to our local security, I also have to cite that almost the same, but not as serious as this, happened in one of the U.S. airport (after the 9/11 incident). Special treatment was given to Britney Spears in one of their airports. Have you experienced having to throw your water bottle before you enter a certain part of the airport? Well, I did. And for someone like me who values clean drinking water, it is hard to see personnel throw it in the trash, along with my body creams and cologne bottle, and toothpaste and a lot more. I couldn’t complain and I can only cringe at the act. Everyone has to comply. Well, a TV show called TMZ showed that Britney Spears was able to bring with her her Big Gulp drink as she passes throught the metal detector. And no one bothered to take it out of her hands and throw it in the trash can. Of course, nobody would think that there is something explosive in her drink. But still, the remarks were not kind with the airport personnel who let her have her drink.

I wouldn’t mind discrimination practiced in airports. Although the word “discrimination” may be objectionable, it poses necessity. Security must discriminate prudently in cases when it is impossible to search every nook and cranny the traveller brings with him.

When I was to leave Philadelphia airport just recently, I went through the body metal detector and my luggage went through the x-ray machine. When I was asked to pass the body x-ray machine, I refused because I told the personnel I was pregnant. The personnel said that it was safe for pregnant women. I still told them that I don’t want to risk my baby’s health. The personnel was a little irritated pointing out the note beside me that says it was okay for pregnant women. I wanted to tell the security that the sign will still not guarantee my child’s safety. So what they did was ask a female personnel to put on her gloves and start examining my whole body – head to toe.

If they could do that to a pregnant woman in the States, why can’t they do the same thoroughness with the our government officials, celebrities and the like here in the country?

When I reached our Centennial airport first week of August this year, I was reprimanded by the customs because I was talking on my cellphone like most of the travellers were doing. Due to the early landing of the plane, travellers were calling whoever is picking them up to come earlier than expected. Well, the customs personnel was irritated at me for speaking on the phone, instead of looking at him read my disclosures on the arrival card. Of course, before I even knew he was irritated, I got off the phone to give him my full attention but it didn’t matter because he was already annoyed as I approached his desk.

After he reprimanded me, he asked what was in my luggage. I told him my laptop and clothes and some food. He gave me back my passport and let me pass. What kind of security was that? Was he really doing his job? I wouldn’t really like the hassle if he asked me to open my bags and inspect everything and leaving me alone to arrange it again. But what if I carried with me illegal items from whereever I came from? Talk about slacking and paying attention to the wrong things just so he could impose his superiority over the traveller. A big difference between the Centennial airport and the Philadelphia airport.

It takes a village to make improvements in the security standards of our country, not just our airports. And it wouldn’t take modern and expensive technology to make it happen. It would only take diligence and great prudence in the part of our government workers. But what would it take to make them work like that? I wouldn’t know.

Yes, Skin Color Still Matters

Posted in Health, Humanity with tags , , , , , on July 4, 2010 by hangingbridge

The day before I was leaving for the States, I passed by the drug store to look for (skin) firming lotion.  I looked for the aisle for skin treatments and found myself in a pile of whitening creams and lotions.  Everywhere I looked were different brands and promises of whitening the skin in the shortest possible time.  I was in a hurry at that time so the sight of all the whitening creams worried me.  I didn’t need any of them.  I needed something to save me from the impending stretch marks in the coming months.  So I took a little more time to scan the line of lotions and found me a big bottle of (Jergens) firming lotion.

This took place in Manila, Philippines – my hometown.  It is a sad fact that despite the fact that Filipinos are educated beings, they find beauty in fair skin.  And not only that, they see a status symbol through skin color.  It is very shameful but I have to admit that my people base their impression on a person based on the amount of melanin you have.  The more melanin you have, the less likely you are well-off in life.  Very stupid criteria, if you ask me.

There was a local actress years ago who got linked with a certain Fil-Am celebrity.  Critics of the showbiz world would say that the Fil-Am fell in love with a housemaid.  Housemaids in this country isn’t as dignified as it is in other parts of the world in that they earn so little for such hard housework.  They are the uneducated daughters of the poorest of the poor.  The critics derived this “housemaid” nickname due to her morena skin.  (Morena – brown/dark brown skin).  Sadly though, the couple didn’t last long.  The Fil-Am found another morena-skinned woman. 

Morena is equivalent with poor and uneducated unless proven otherwise in this country.  The morena needs to dress up in expensive clothes or ride expensive cars or should be speaking in fluent English.  This is how “silent” racism happens in this place.

Philippines is a Chinese-infested country like any other country in the world.  They are the privileged beautiful people who occupies most of the rich 5% of the population.  Somehow, if you have a two or three-letter word for a surname, you probably belong to this 5% and is likely the fair-skinned Chinese people.

The TV Ads are shameless these days.  There’s a line uttered by a fair-skinned actress regarding the Skin White product.  She says “…makes your skin whiter and stays white…”  or something like that.  If I was born black, I could have been offended.  There are tarpaulins hanging along the streets about glutathione or metathione products which makes a melanin-blessed strong-looking woman turn into a white “gentle” looking one. 

I don’t understand why the governing body don’t censor these insulting ads.  It speaks of racism.  If they are against violence then they should start with the disturbing brain-washing ads.  Once we see the color of the skin as a criteria to judge a person, impending injustice may ensue in the future.