Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Philippine Holidays 2011 - - goodbye to long weekends

Say goodbye to holiday economics of P-Noy's predecessor PGMA who made it a policy to move holiday observances except those which are religious, to a weekend Friday or Monday, if it falls on a weekday. 

I am one of those who agree with Mrs. Arroyo's holiday economics  policy. She ratified RepublicAct 9492 in 2007 "to reduce disruption to business and production schedules, encourage domestic tourism and give employees long weekends."  Robert Lim Joseph, chairman emeritus of the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies (Naitas) recognized the strong relationship between tourism and economic growth. He said last year that "domestic tourism offers the biggest hope for the country to keep not just the industry but the economy alive.” 

Alas, Proclamation No. 84 was signed yesterday, December 20, 2010. Most of the dates fall on a weekend, specifically eight weekends. Here's the the regular and special holiday for the year 2011:

January 1 (Sat) - New Year's Day

February 25 (Fri) - EDSA Revolution Anniversary (note: holiday only for all schools)

April 9 (Sat) - Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valour)
April 21 - (Thu) -  Maundy Thursday
April 22 (Fri) - Good Friday

May 1 (Sun) - Labor Day

June 12 (Sun) - Independence Day

August 21 (Sun) - Ninoy Aquino Day
August 29 (Mon) - National Heroes Day
November 1 (Tue) - All Saints Day
November 30 (Wed) - Bonifacio Day
December 25 (Sun) - Christmas Day
December 30 (Fri) - Rizal Day
December 31 - (Sat) - Last day of the Year

For the observance of Islamic Holidays' Eid'l Fitr (to observe the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting) and Eid al-Adha (or the Feast of Sacrifice which occurs at the conlucsion of the annual Haij or pilgrimage to Mecca), Section 2 of the Proclamation states that [it] "shall heareafter be issued after the approximate dates of the Islamic holidays have been determined in accordance with the islamic calendar (Hijra) or the lunar calendar, or upon Islamic astronomical calculations, whichever is possible or convenient. To this end, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) shall inform the Office of the President on which day the holiday shall fall."

No need to wait for NCMF's advise.  Thanks to google, I found the dates! The dates specified in the year  of  Hijra for Eid al-Fitr is on August 30, 2011 (Tue) and for Eid al-Adha, November 6, 2011 (Sunday).

Monday, 18 October 2010

Here comes the rain again

As early as 3pm last Friday, I've been battered by warnings of super typhoon codename "Megi" entering the Philippines area of responsibility. After experiencing Ondoy last year, I must admit that I joined the bandwagon and forwarded the warning to my office e-group, posted on FB (right) and texted my loved ones to prepare. 

Well, it's Monday and the weekend was bright and sunny. Alas, I heeded the warning and cancelled diving in Anilao thinking that the waves will be choppy. 

PAGASA short for the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration has forever been criticized for errors in storm predictions. In fact, this prompted PNoy last Augsut to dismiss then-PAGASA administrator Dr. Prisco Nilo, for failure to warn residents of Typhoon Basyang (international codename "Conson") on July 14. The typhoon claimed 8 lives, left more than 3,000 stranded at ports nationwide and found Luzon with no electricity .

I know that its better to be safe than sorry but I must say that PAGASA over did it. At 3pm last Friday, I received this warning: "Megi is expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility around midnight or early Saturday morning.  International weather models indicate that it will continue to gain strength as it remains over water and may possibly reach "super typhoon" strength within 24 to 48 hours. PAGASA advised the general public and local disaster risk reduction managers to prepare and take precautionary measures."

Sad to say that Gai was right for commenting on my FB post that ""if PAGASA predicted it, chances of wreaking that kind of havoc... are next to nil." Even Kane tweeted yesterday "Told you tweeps. Pag OA ang PAG-ASA sa warnings at forecast, hindi darating ang ulan, bagyo, at baha."

For weather warnings and advisories, I will now be referring to more reliable weather sites like the Japan Metropolitan Agency. The storm's path is detailed day-by-day including it's intensity, center position, direction, wind speed and gustiness. As of 6pm tonight, the site says that the storm's intensity is indeed 'very strong' and is heading west southwest at 25 kph towards South China Sea and will be outside the Philippines by tomorrow.

As I type the wind is now howling scarily and the rain pounding. "Megi" dubbed locally as super typhoon Juan has weakened and slowed down and is now in Manila. It has unfortunately left Isabela, a province north of Manila, under a state of calamity. Yesterday, it was declared storm signal number "four" in the area, the ultimate public storm signal warning issued by PAGASA. I do hope that the provinces were well prepared for super typhoon Juan because of the early warnings.  I, on the other hand, must be cautious in heeding warnings lest I want to cancel another weekend or make my 81-year old mom worry unnecessarily.


Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Are you OA?

Guilty! Yes, I am OA.  I was recently diagnosed with joint effusion which is really osteoarthritis or OA. The x-ray confirmed the diagnosis. The report says "impression: beginning degenerative changes."

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease which is one of the leading causes of disability amongst elderly men and women.

At the World Arthritis Day forum today though, I found out that this disease is not age specific. Women are more prone to OA and tend to start developing symptoms in their 30s and 40s and worsen as they age. 70% of all OA is knee-related.  The risk increases to 57% in those with a past knee injury.

I must confess that my threshold for pain is quite high. I have ignored the aches and pain that come with my running regimen - drills, intervals and distance. It was only last month in Victoria, BC (Canada) when the weather dropped to a chilly 10 degrees Centigrade that I paid attention to my knee. I guess the cold weather affected my knee joint. I was experiencing constant pain, stiffness swelling and limited range of motion.  I found it difficult to walk, bend and even, climb up and down the stairs.  So, when I arrived home, I immediately headed straight to the hospital to see an orthopedic.

At the clinic, the orthopedic doctor overhead me discussing my ailment to my running coach over the phone. He corrected me and said "you have joint E-ffusion and not I-ffusion. . water on the knee which is actually a symptom of osteoarthritis." He said the cause is repetitive stress or overuse of the knee. He prescribed the following medications: anti-inflmatory (arcoxia), topical cream (V-Gel) and to wrap my knee for 20-minutes with a warm towel twice a day. He also advised to avoid anything strenuous and to specifically stop running. If the swelling does not subside, he recommended to aspirate the knee to remove the excess fluid which he said is better than knee replacement.

Well, I don't like anything invasive so I went to see an alternative, holistic sports doctor, an acupuncturist (Dr. Kit Navaro) who recommended to limit leg exercises to  3x a week and to go back to 'basics'. This means, correct my form and strengthen the leg muscles - knee, calf and hamstrings. He stressed the need to rest in between; meaning, do absolutely nothing.  Tomorrow I am seeing a sports rehab doctor, Dr. Bate, who hopefully, will recommend physical therapy.

If all things fail, I found out at the forum that another option is viscosupplementation. This is a procedure that involves the injection of gel-like substance into the knee. The first step is similar to aspirate to remove the diseased joint fluid and then, introduce the gel-like substance. The substance will simulate the synovial fluid to protect the joint by absorbing shocks and lubricating the moving surfaces. The product available in Manila is called Synvisc-One, a USFDA approved  injection regimen that provides up to 6 months of knee pain relief.  Of course, the procedure requires a prescription from either a rheumatologist or orthopedic.

The upside of this treatment is fast relief lasting from 6 to 12 months. The downside is, it's another botox treatment where you need a shot every six months.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

My Green Morning Blend

I am sharing my breakfast green smoothie recipe as requested by Janette since I tweet my blends each morning. A green smoothie is actually nothing more than veggies mixed with fruits. All you need is a blender, a small sieve, a salad spinner, and a ceramic knife.

First, throw in a handful of almonds and water in the blender. I prefer using fresh buko juice (coconut water).  Since I got into raw food, almond is my source of protein. It is rich in fiber, vitamin E, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, calcium, magnesium and zinc. However, it has an enzyme-inhibiting substance in the brown coating which is difficult to digest. The best way to remove this toxic inhibitor is by  soaking almonds overnight. By the way, eating 4-6 soaked almonds every morning helps enhance your memory.

Next, strain the blended mix in a small sieve. What will come out is a white mixture that looks like milk.  I've never tried dehydrating the strained almonds. But you can try and mix it in bread or make it into flour. Pour the almond milk back into the blender and start washing the greens and removing the stems.

The greens are leafy vegetables. As you know vegetables are nutritious and packed with amino acids, minerals, vitamins, fiber and chlorophyll.  I am amazed at how chlorophyll is touted today through wheat grass. Shots of wheat grass are now served in restaurants  and health stores sell packaged wheat grass powder mixes. According to Brighthub,  chlorophyll elevates our hemoglobin count "and as a result, circulation improves and we have more energy... helps increase heart function, improves the vascular system, cleanses the liver of heavy metals and chemical toxins, cleanses and improves the health of the intestines, uterus, and lungs. It is also a natural breath freshener and body deodorizer."

In the salad spinner (left photo), I have romaine, arugula and spinach. Take note of the Variety Rule - "don’t eat today what you ate yesterday"- because vegetables contain minute amounts of alkaloids. If consumed regularly, the alkaloids will accumulate in the body and may cause harmful poisonous reaction. 

I usually buy organic greens and rotate every two days.  I like  pechay, kale, cabbage and lettuce. There are three organic markets in Manila - Salcedo on Saturdays,  Legaspi on Sundays and Isip in Palm Village on Tuesdays or order fresh produce flow-in by Renee all the way from Bukidnon.

Next are the fruits. Unlike the greens, you don't have to rotate the fruits. My staple is the saba, our local plantain. One saba is apparently equal to six cavendish bananas. My rule is to keep it simple and mix up to three kinds of fruits. What I like to mix with saba is either mango or avocado. Both are best sources of live fat which we need to lubricate our eyes, our skin, hair and joints.

I also add a dash of flaxseeds which are high in Omega 3 oils. The benefits include constipation relief,  smooth skin, building muscle and burning fat.  Also,  depending on my condition - for instance, if I have colds or sore throat, I throw in ginger which is a natural decongestant and antihistamine; and if I have fever, I add half a red chili pepper.

Blend all greens and fruits together with the almond milk for 30-45 seconds. The proportion of greens and fruits depends on how green you want your smoothie to be.  Victoria Boutenko says "I recommend starting with more fruity green smoothies and slowly using more and more greens. As the body finds out the many benefits of greens, it becomes very excited and starts craving greener smoothies. Experiment with what amount of greens you find palatable and gradually add more greens so that you work up to the equivalent of one average-sized bunch of greens per day." 

There you have it, my green blends each morning. By the way, I don't chug my drink. I actually sip and chew my smoothie. Hope you try it and like me, get an energy boost each day! Cheers!


Thursday, 2 September 2010

Mountain Climbing in Mariveles Bataan

"It's not difficult, its very VERY difficult" said Lester Susi, our Group Leader during the briefing on mountain climbing in Mariveles Bataan. I was having serious doubts of going last Friday, August 27 especially since I had a flu relapse two days prior and was only on my 2nd day of the 3-day zithromax. Kuya Kim's twit didn't help, he said "trop depression Florita 330k W of Dagupan 55 kph to move Northwest, rains in luzon..."

Despite the internal grumblings, I took off with 81 AMCI trainees and members at 11:30pm from Makati to Alas-asin, Mariveles in Bataan. The 81 was divided into smaller groups. I belonged to Group 5- with my twentysomething climbmates Ging Valencia (left in photo), Mot Maramot (with hand waving), Mike Ella, Mai Pudol (in red bandana) and Ian Villar, led by veteran climber Lester (on top of the boulder).

We arrived an hour early at the jump-off point at 2:30am. After a quick breakfast, we started trekking at 3am and arrived at the DENR oupost (370m in elevation) to register and luckily, coffee, hot steaming saba and some sticky rice delicacy were served.

With our head lamps on and gloves in place, we left the outpost at 3:30am. "The Gate" (590m) gave us a preview of the trail condition which was muddy, slippery and with the downpour, almost eroded. Papaya River (515m, right photo), our first water source gave a preview of the upcoming river treks which was wet, cold, slimy with rocks of varying heights. My new Columbia storm surge pants didn't help. It was difficult for me to balance 40-45 pounds load on my back and watch each step. I kept slipping and falling waist deep.

'Gilbert's Ascent' (805m), our first deep gully was a preview of the wall climbing condition which was almost vertical where we had to climb on all fours - meaning using both hands and feet and jokingly, even using the chin.

There was a bottleneck at "Nat's Landing" (715m, left photo), a steep climb down. We had to wait two hours for our turn on the ropes. Lester taught us how to triangulate using a compass to while away the time. We had time to eat our pack lunch and chatted with the group of Ail, Weng and Kurt. When it was our turn on the slope, we slowly inched down, and hanged on to whatever we can grasp - vines, rocks or branch - in between yelling, bato, bato, bato as loose rocks were falling down. Poor Mot. He got hit on the face and knee with one of the rocks.

At SCAJJ waterfalls, our last water source, we crossed our second river and made our way up the steep trail to Tarak Ridge (1004m, right photo). It was extremely windy and foggy.  I was bending all the time to duck the wind and clutching the tall cogon grass covering the side of the mountain. Mai kept groaning with each step since she was afraid that she'd fall off the cliff.  I felt like the trek was an eco-challenge of some sort because when we got to the summit "Bintana" (1121m), lo and behold, the other side was an entirely different terrain. This time, we were staring at boulders.

The trail was aptly called the "Japanese Garden" (900m, left photo) because of the sculpture-like rock formations. We had to make our way down the slimy stones under the pouring rain, with the aid of the ropes in place. Thank god the lead pack (Sky Biscocho who by the way, created the trail for us) placed orange reflector stickers on some boulders as trail signs. After the rocky area, it took us over an hour to negotiate the almost impassable, muddy "Magellan Ridge" to the campsite. We arrived exhausted at 7pm and the next task at hand was to find a suitable place to set camp.

Most of the area was already taken and my tent-mate, Mai found a relatively flat but slightly sloping area to pitch tent. It took us some time to figure out how to set-up the three tent poles. By the time the tent was up, water seeped in my leaky flysheet and left a pool of water inside the tent. I was too pooped to eat dinner and more anxious to rainproof our tent with spare tarps and our raincoats. Around 830pm, we settled in and made used of our kermantle as a clothesline to hang our wet clothes to dry. By 9pm, I was already tucked in my sleeping bag and could hear late climbers trickling in, looking for their groupmates.

When my alarm went off at 4am,   I found my whole body on the side of the tent with Mai leaning on my left side. I guess since it rained all night, the ground eroded, creating a 40-45 degree slope. After donning our damp clothes from the day before, we headed to the cooking area where Mot with the help of Lester was already preparing our breakfast. I don't normally eat rice in the morning; but surprisingly, I wolfed two platefuls down including the pink-colored corned beef.  After breakfast, we prepared our pack lunch and started to break camp. 

The trek down got going an hour late at 8am. There was a bottleneck at "Magellan Trailhead" (886m) where climbers, like Nat's held on to ropes to descend.  It was very slippery in fact, Mike tore his shirt sleeve when he extended his arm to save me from slipping down the gully. 

We got to Loree-Jen Stream (886m, right photo) at 9:30am or 1.5 hours behind the scheduled itinterary. Before noon, we were at SLAJJ waterfalls (792m)- named after Sky, Lester and ...sorry I don't remember the last three founders. The waterfall was amazing and we took our time here to enjoy our lunch, chatted with fellow climbers and went swimming. Actually, it was more like dunking  to remove the mud and dirt from our face, body and clothes. I also took the time to attend to the pesky teka teka bites on my legs by peeling it off using duct tape.

After monkeying around and taking pictures, we started our trek along Paniqui River (658m, me on the left photo).

I was hoping that the trail would lead us to flatter terrain. Alas, at the end of the river, Lester paused and asked if we wanted to take a rest. He described the next trail, as pretty 'intense'.

"Lasbal Trail", I'm sure it's another acronym for Lester, A..Sky..., was a steep, muddy vertical ascent.  I will never forget this day as I almost tasted the kiss of death. Somewhere in the middle, as I was trying to reach for the vine with my left hand, I slipped and lost both my foothold and the rock I was hanging onto with my right hand came off the wall. I started sliding down the ravine with my left side grazing the rocks, vines, twigs, you name it.  Instead of thinking of dying, I was more hassled with the thought of scaling the trail back up again so I quickly grabbed on to whatever I can grasp and made my way up. This was my second major slip  and decided to be more vigilant and mindful of footholds and handholds.

"Loggers Trail" was fairly even and easy on the legs but a long, long way down, almost three hours trek. We were joking around with Ian scoring each of our fall "Mountain 0: Group 5, 9" was the last tally.  It was 6pm when we reached Mariveles River and based on the itinerary, it will take us at least another two hours to get to the pick-up point. It was getting dark and we could hear the river roaring.  The current was picking up as we crossed the first point. We caught up with Bosing and Bert, who were sweeping Kathleen Almonte and warned us at the second crossing that the river was dangerous and to look for another path. At the last river crossing, all ten of us formed a human line by holding on to each other to make it to the other side. The trail to the pick up point was again muddy and slippery.  At this point, I was already praying to guide the rest of the climbers behind us and to keep them safe.

At 8pm, we arrived at Crusher, Barangay Kamaya, Santa Monica where we were met by the team leader Jepay and Francis. We washed up in the stream. The ice cold water was good for our tired, aching body. At 9pm, we boarded the jeepney to take us to Seashore Resort for dinner. At 12 midnight, we boarded the first bus back to Manila.

Fortunately, our Group was always intact, no one went ahead or was left behind. We moved as one unit. It took us a total of 15 hours up and 12 hours down to traverse the mountains of Mariveles. We survived three assaults, four rivers and countless gullies. The trek was indeed very difficult and required physical and mental preparation. I am deeply grateful that everyone came back in one piece.

Here's something to ponder on from mountaineering author A. Alvarez:  Climbing in particular, is a parodoxically intellectual pastime, but with this difference: you have to think with your body. Every move has to be worked out in terms of playing chess with you body. If I make a mistake the consequences are immediate, obvious, embarrassing, and possibly painful. For a brief period I am directly responsible for my actions. In that beautiful, silent, world of mountains, it seems to me worth a little risk.
And five tips I learned from the legendary Lester:
1. Don't just look for one trail sign. Like chess, anticipate the next move. Look also for the second and third trail sign all the time. Also check the path for footsteps.
2. Don't over take the lead. Let him/her lead and decide which path to take.
3. Don't slide. Be courteous and mindful of other climbers all the time. Keep the trail intact by standing, using quick baby steps and walking sideways.
4. Do face the current in crossing rivers and walk sideways.
5. Do keep the group intact all the time. Compress by pulling the group (lead) and pushing (sweeper).

The last tip reminds me of a Confucius  saying "It does not matter how slow you go, as long as you don't stop" which encapsulates our Group's trek song...  I like to move it move it, I like to move it move it... MOVE IT!

Photo credit: action shots c/o Lester Susi's Bring it on TC2 album.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Going Raw, raw food that is..

Since I got into raw food, I've been besieged with questions why. I'm not asking to go completely 100% raw, but at least take more greens and fruits. Sharing top three reasons why:

First, did you know that cooking destroys nutrients found in food? Well, this depends on how you cook your food - you lose 25% if you steam and 100% if you microwave, fry or bake. According to Dr. Bernarr of God Healing, Inc and the Natural Hygiene Society of California, cooking food above 118 degrees F kills all the nutrients and enzymes in food. Natural Hygienist Dr. Virginia Vetrano affirms this and says that “heating any food, destroys much of its vitamin, mineral, and protein content, AND poisonous inorganic acids are formed.” So, what the two good doctors are essentially saying is when you eat cooked food, you are actually ingesting “dead” food, no nutrients and taking in instead toxins.

This leads to my second reason, do you know how our body adjusts to cooked food? According to raw food advocate and author of "12 Steps to Raw Food" Victoria Butenko, the body creates mucus. Mucus is actually good, it is a thick, viscous, gel-like material that functions to moisten and protect the body from toxins. The average human body produces about a liter of mucus per day.

Butenko however postulates that the more cooked food we consume, the more toxins we ingest and thus, the more mucus the body produces.  We accumulate so much mucus in our body that problems prop up. Headache is caused by the mucus stored in the forehead close to the brain and if you absolutely don't have mucus coming out of your nose after running, well, you have clean lungs.

To check for mucus in your intestines, stick out your tongue and check the color. If its color white, this means thick mucus is coating your intestines. Naturopaths call this mucoid plaque. It looks like a green rubbery hose that can extend to about 20 feet long. The trouble is once the mucoid plaque is created, it lodges in the numerous folds and crevices of the intestines and over time, it grows longer and thicker. Ironically, while mucus protects our body from absorbing toxins, it also prevents the body from absorbing nutrients. So, the thicker the mucoid plaque is, the more our body craves for more nutrients, the more we become hungry and consequently, the more we eat.

The third and last reason is for super health. Longevity and nutrition expert David Wolfe, says that “raw food returns to you lost power and abilities. It gives super human abilities – especially in physical endurance, clarity of thought and sixth sense perception.”  This means, no ailments, no acne, no asthma, no body odors, skin becomes soft and smooth, hair grows thick and wild and good news for women - - PMS will be a thing of the past and monthly periods will dwindle down to one day. Women have reported experiencing no menopausal symptoms and only discover having gone through menopause, only after undergoing blood tests to check their hormone levels. And here in the Philippines, the wife of inner dance Pi Villaraza, Daniw who was (and still is) on 100% raw food gave birth in less than ten minutes. She said that it was painless and effortless.

In the three months I was on 100% raw (yes Pinky, cheated on coffee and occasional wine), I experienced super health. My eyesight and hearing improved, my skin smooth, my hair thick, I’ve lost 10 pounds and stopped popping vitamins, supplements or medications. I must admit that going raw is quite daunting and requires commitment. Again, you don't have to go 100%. Start by eating more salads, adding raw vegetables in your meals like more tomato and lettuce in your sandwiches, drinking fresh juices especially my fav coconut juice, and snacking on nuts and seeds. If you want recipes, email me. :-)

Thursday, 29 July 2010

GPRS users beware

I'm just sharing my plight here since Boo wrote about it in his column on July 26. This serves as a warning to unfortunate smart phone users who are not enrolled in an unlimited data plan. I am a heavy blackberry user for texts, emails, FB and twitter. I wrote this letter to Ms. Grace Plata of Smart on July 5:

I’ve been a loyal infinity client since 2008 and my average bill would be PhP 5-6,000 a month. Last year, I was traveling frequently twice to Europe and once to the United States and my bill would only cost P7-8,000 or at the most, P9,000 only with roaming, data charges and even voice calls.

I was upset last month when I received my phone bill amounting to PhP 27, 958.72 which is an increase by 386% from last month’s bill. 53% was data charges and 31% roaming charges. I was in Beijing for four (4) days and I assumed that the charges were becaue of China. However, I received this month’s bill and shocked that my bill is PhP 21,166.69. this time 78% was due to data charges amounting to PhP 16,493.61.

This is absolutely absurd since I haven’t changed my data activity and I wasn’t even abroad. My average data charges would only be PhP 4-5,000 monthly so this is a 286% hike from my regular usage.

There may either be something wrong with your system or my phone has been compromised. I would appreciate if you can reverse the data charges because I did not accumulate and rack up that amount. This is for BOTH last month’s bill of PhP 27,958.72 and also this month’s PhP 21,166.69. Otherwise, I would appreciate if you can terminate my account immediately.

I followed up twice through email and repeteadly sent follow-up texts to my assigned account officer Jeffrey. I guess it was only after meeting the Smart Public Affairs head on July 20 that my account was attended to because the next day, within 24 hours, I was informed that the data charges will be reversed.

I found out that the erroneous billing started when Smart issued a replacement unit for my broken unit (repair of my Storm's touchscreen). My colleague Carla also experienced erroneous data charges after her broken phone was replaced with a new unit, the Nokia E72.

The problem may be on the new smart phones. Tony A. whose staff racked in a total of PHp 125,000 worth of GPRS data says "The problem is that Blackberry’s are always attached to the network. Hence if you are connected using time based billing, you will definitely be charged such a huge sum. Blackberry devices should be billed separately – this is normally via the amount of packets the Blackberry device downloads."

What's the solution to this faulty GPRS charges? Unfortunately, unlike the iphones, I can't turn off the network on my blackberry unit. If I turn off the 3G or EDGE, I won't be able to send a text or even email. I can't even put a cap on my credit limit because Smart doesn't provide the courtesy of informing clients (mind you - I am an Infinity client) once they reach and/or exceed their credit limit. I'm now experimenting with Smart's unlimited data plan which is an additional P300 per week.

I am glad though that my GPRS problem is being resolved (and hopefully resolved soon). I found out that a certain Nikki G has yet to be attended to. She wrote : "When I got my bill for March, April, and May, my bill was at it's highest. In May it reached a total of P365,513.84. I asked Smart to provide me a copy of the breakdown of the data charges, but they never replied to my request. They only gave me a summary. Last week, I reviewed all my statements of account and saw that my bill did get higher and higher as the months went by. I exceeded my limit 7 times in 7 months. Not a single warning was received by me." Oh wow!

Monday, 28 June 2010

on my 27th day on Raw Food

Since my creatinine level indicated beyond normal in my recent annual physical exam, I've been advised to refrain from eating meat. I've decided to go back to being vegetarian and in fact, I've taken it a notch higher by going raw. This means, not eating cooked, processed foods. So far so good, I'm on my 27th day and surviving.

It wasn't easy at first since there was hardly anything to eat at most restaurants and all I know how to prepare is salads. My first attempt in making a vegetable smoothie ended tasting like wasabi juice. I blended pechay (local spinach) with pineapple and banana.

Also since I didn't stop running or doing workouts, my strength and endurance suffered. I started panting at 6-km or would be out of breath which I seldom experienced. I guess my body was relying on my stored fats for energy and the last few days, I had no stored fat left.

Its not easy to go raw. This even includes boiling water which means no soups, teas and coffee. Apparently, cooking destroys 25% to 100% of the nutrients depending on the how its cooked - steaming 25% and up to 100% for microwave, frying and baking. In fact, cooked food produces carcinogens such as acrilamide.

According to Dr. Bernarr, "When food is cooked above 118 degrees F for three minutes or longer, its protein has become coagulated, its sugar has become caramelized, its natural fibers have been broken down, which means it will take longer to move through the intestinal tract, 30% to 50% of its vitamins and minerals have been destroyed and 100% of its enzymes have been destroyed. Cooked food depletes our body's enzyme potential and drains the energy we need to maintain and repair our tissues and organ systems and shortens our lifespan."

The good news is aside from Alive! restaurant in The Farm in San Benito, I found a raw food restaurant in Manila called Rawvolution in Kamuning, Quezon City. The owner and chef, Cheloy Ignacio, who was previously sickly turned to raw food in 2006 and since then never got sick. In fact, she lost 20 lbs in ten days. Check her website here. I joined her 'healing' class which consisted of a lecture by naturopathist Dr. Samuel Dizon and raw food preparation by Cheloy where she shared two recipes - green smoothie and asian salad. I learned how to make almond milk in her class - 1/4 cup of raw almonds soak overnight and 1 cup water, blended which i use for my daily morning smoothie.

I also joined the live food preparation of another raw food chef Aileen de Guzman who learned from Michelin award-winning Chef Felix Schoener at The Farm at San Benito years ago. Aileen taught us how to prepare - a breakfast smoothie, asparagus bundles, thai pomelo salad, vegan sushi and tiramisu.

Well, so far i can see the benefits - literally my eyesight has improved, my hearing good, skin better and alas, I've yet to lose weight. I've invested in a vitamin blender, food processor, ceramic knife (food won't oxide when sliced) and will have to save for an ozonator and pasta maker. Being a food lover and gourmand, going raw is quite a challenge. The recommendation is actually 30% cooked and 70% raw. If I keep this up longer, I may just join the ranks of raw food advocates - -the likes of actor Woody Harrelson, author Anthony Robbins , Tri-athlete Brendan Brazier and even Apple CEO Steve Job.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Venus-Crescent Moon celestial event

Last night's alignment of the planet venus and the crescent moon was dubbed a rare occurence by astronomers worldwide. Well, I can't believe that I missed this sublime event and to think that six months ago, we planned the meteor shower gazing. I should have asked Z during lunch what to expect this week instead of talking about the election results.
I guess Emma hosting the barbeque was serendipitous (left photo was taken from her backyward) because she changed the date from Friday to Sunday.
Astronomy Magazine had the date posted in their website with the following description "The 7% illuminated waxing crescent Moon will occult the magnitude +4.0 and 85% illuminated waning gibbous planet Venus for Asian observers during the afternoon and evening of 2010 MAY 16...Southeast Asia and Indonesia will be especially favored with an evening event...."
Here's another posting from a stargazer in India: "After sunset at 7pm one should look towards west direction to find Bright thin Crescent Moon. Just above it one can find Bright Non-twinkling object which is Planet Venus. Occultation of Venus on 16th May: On 16th May beginning 3.30pm. to 5.30 p.m. depending on location, people in India can notice called Lunar Occultation of Planet Venus in the skies. In which view of Planet Venus is obscured by Moon during its course of journey around earth"
Neverthelss, I am glad that Jenny pulled me out and pointed to the sky last night. The first thing that came to my mind though was the configuration resembled the Islamic flag's crescent moon and star. The origin of the flag dates back to the year 1453 when Ottoman Empire founder, Osman I, dreamt of a crescent moon stretched from one end of the earth to the other. "Taking this as a good omen, he chose to keep the crescent and make it the symbol of his dynasty."
Well I hope that this is also a good omen for us in the Phlippines. The election results are now being disputed by losing candidates. Since Venus is the planet of 'love', maybe this is a sign for all of us to accept the results and move on?

Survived the Great Wall marathon

Woohoo! I finished 21-km of the Great Wall. It was definitely a challenging course and I should have worn my trail shoes instead.
average height is 738 meters

all eleven of us before the race
Eleven of us from the Philippines had flown to Beijing to join about 2,000 runners from all over the world to run the Great Wall Marathon on May 15 - Dennis and Jenifer Quepe, Australian expats Chad and Natasha Davis, Iloilo-based Arthur and Angela Chu, Bads Tan, Charita Agana, Candy Lee, Nino Fajardo, Marge Buot, Guam-based Ronaldo Navalta and myself. We were the first batch of Filipinos to do the run since 2006.

We were up and about at 2:30 am on the day of the race (a Saturday) and in the bus at 3:30 to take us to Huangyaguan in Tianjin province, about two hours away from Beijing. Huangyaguan Wall is not as popular as Badaling, the portion closest to Beijing, but it is the best restored section and the most scenic. Huangyaguan (Yellow Cliff Pass) lies on a steep mountain ridge and got its name from the surrounding yellowish hills and rocks. Its average altitude is over 700 m and it stretches 42 km long with 66 watchtowers. The wall was built during the Nothern Qi Dynasty (550-557 AD) and repaired with bricks during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

It was cold at 9 degrees Centigrade when we arrived at 6ish—and foggy! We could only see a faint outline of the wall against the mountains. We walked down to Bagua Castle to the square to assemble. There were booths set up to collect bags and personal belongings; and onstage, perky aerobics instructors warmed up the crowd. Around 7am, Chinese officials in suits gave opening remarks (in Chinese - duh) and immediately after that was the gun start and we were off!

Qi Jiguang at the entrance 
The course was divided into two sections—9 km along the wall and 12 km through the villages. The first part was a gradual uphill climb from Bagua Castle, to the main road, crossing Juhe River and the mountains. I wasn’t used to the altitude and started peeling away from the group. Approaching the entrance of the wall was an imposing 8.5-m statue of Qi Jiguang (1528-1588), a Chinese military general and national hero during the Ming dynasty. There was a slight gridlock at the entrance as runners waited in line to climb up the steps. There should have been a sign up that says “Warning: Expect treacherous climb or endless steps.”

This is the famous Taipingzhai section. The path felt like a roller coaster with the steps getting steeper and steeper as it wound up through the mountains. At this point I was climbing up the steps, whose height varied from the normal step up to thigh height and the width varied from wide to narrow. There was a portion of the wall where the path changed from bricks to narrow gravel lanes, the gridlock was because we had to slow down and hang on to ropes. That or fall down the crag. In hindsight, I should have brought my trail shoes instead of runners—it could have helped make up for the fact that I wasn’t prepared for such a grueling course.

narrow portion of the Taipingzhai section 
After climbing up and down for one hour and six minutes, I had covered only 6.46 km and reached the highest point at 502 m. I wondered about the Chinese of yore where watchmen were supposed to have memorized the steps to go from one watch tower to another in the dark.

rocky terrain in the village
The next part of the course was through the picturesque villages.
The path changed from asphalt on the main road and then gravel and dust. Again it was an up and down path, making me long for my trail shoes. The farmers would stop and watch and the villagers would cheer on.

I finished the 21 km before the 8-hour cut-off at 3:39. I didn't expect to break any record since I had been forewarned that given the conditions of the route, I would finish 50% longer than my normal time. The website wasn't lying as it described the marathon as "a tough, beautiful and definitely extraordinary experience. The 5164 steps of the Great Wall will put your physique to the test, and the breathtaking surroundings of Tianjin Province will compete with your tired muscles for attention". True, I was armed with my blackberry and camera shooting away.
very very steep descent

all taped up running with Tze Yann Tan from Singapore

I must congratulate the organizers for a well run event - well-placed visible distance markers for the different races (black for 42 km, red for 21 and green for 10); water stations every 5 km including up the mountain top; sports drinks, bananas and sponges every 10 km; gigantic baguette sandwiches with bananas, dessert and drinks at the end of the race. And, to top it all off, a free 20-minute massage before boarding the bus back to the hotel. Another warning - there are no portalets in China. I may just go back to do the full marathon or maybe opt for an equally challenging course, Athens in 2011?

great viw of Bnlagang Mountain, the race area covers 18 watch towers
Here's the route using my garmin forerunner 310xt:

Monday, 10 May 2010

Voted in the first Philippine automated polls

Thank God I went early today to my precinct to exercise my right to vote. I guess everyone was eager too because at 8:00am this morning, the place was already packed! There were long lines and people were going around a bit looking confused.
This is the first ever automated national elections in the Philippines which has been riddled with controversy from its inception until the last few days with computer glitches and last minute replacement of more than 76,000 faulty compact flash cards.
I waited in line for 1.5-hours to get my ballot which took me only 4-minutes to fill out and cast my vote.
In my cluster, there were three Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) and one person manning the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine. The delay was caused by (1) the BEI who had to go through the master list manually to look for the voter's name, precinct and sequence number before handing out the ballot and (2) majority of the voters took longer than the estimated 8-min time frame to fill out the ballot. In some precincts, the delay was due to the malfunction of the PCOS and ballot feeding jams.
Despite the initial setbacks and the summer heat, I'm glad that about 75% of the 50 million registered voters participated in this year's election and the whole process was peaceful except for the usual hotspot areas.
Right now the results are trickling in with Aquino leading the presidential race with 5.8M vote (vs Estrada's 3.7M) and Binay leading the vice president with 5.8M votes (vs Roxas' 5.3M). I'm surprised that Erap Estrada, the ousted President in 2001 and convicted in 2007 is still popular.
By tomorrow, hopefully we will know who will seat in Malacanan. Noynoy Aquino insinuated earlier that he would call for People Power 3 if he does not win the elections or if the winners are not proclaimed.
Hope not! Apolinario Mabini said "Thou shalt not recognize in thy country the authority of any person who has not been elected by thee and thy countrymen; for authority emanates from God, and as God speaks in the conscience of every man, the person designated and proclaimed by the conscience of a whole people is the only one who can use true authority."

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Voters Ed: Salingpusa artists interpret Mabini's Decalogue

Kudos to Gigo Alampay of the Center for Art, New Ventures & Sustainable Development (Canvas) for mounting Dekalogo before elections to remind us of our national hero Apolinario Mabini's ten precepts which reads more like commandments called The True Decalogue .

The exhibit features ten Salingpusa artists to represent one commandment - Elmer Borlogan, Manny Garibay, Anthony Palomo, Karen Flores, Jose Santos III, Cris Villanueva, Jim Orencio, Tammy Tan, Neil Manalo, and Ferdie Montemayor.

The choice of Salingpusa is quite apt, the origin of the group quoting from Ronald Hilario: "Easel painting, in the form of large-scale canvases and the social-realist mode of commentary made a comeback in the early 90's with the popularity of Grupong Salingpusa. A collective of young and student artists, the group's initial objective was to break into the field of art discourse which was dominated by a constellation of individual senior artists. They succeeded in getting the art world's attention by introducing the novel method of interactive mural painting. Salingpusa members are known to create large murals in minutes a kind of performance in its own right. Their works are characterized by the representation of negative social emotions such as dread, isolation and disconnectedness in highly surreal urban environments."

Here's Mabini's 10 commandments for Filipinos which was originally written in Spanish and written to accompany his greatest work, the first Philippine Republic Constitution.

by Apolinario Mabini

by Neil Manalo. First. Thou shalt love God and thy honor above all things: God as the fountain of all truth, of all justice and of all activity; and thy honor, the only power which will oblige thee to be faithful, just and industrious.

[by Anthony Palomo] Second. Thou shalt worship God in the form which thy conscience may deem most righteous and worthy: for in thy conscience, which condemns thy evil deeds and praises thy good ones, speaks thy God.

[by Tammy Tan] Third. Thou shalt cultivate the special gifts which God has granted thee, working and studying according to thy ability, never leaving the path of righteousness and justice, in order to attain thy own perfection, by means whereof thou shalt contribute to the progress of humanity; thus; thou shalt fulfill the mission to which God has appointed thee in this life and by so doing, thou shalt be honored, and being honored, thou shalt glorify thy God.

by Manny Garibay. Fourth. Thou shalt love thy country after God and thy honor and more than thyself: for she is the only Paradise which God has given thee in this life, the only patrimony of thy race, the only inheritance of thy ancestors and the only hope of thy posterity; because of her, thou hast life, love and interests, happiness, honor and God.

by Ferdie Montemayor. Fifth. Thou shalt strive for the happiness of thy country before thy own, making of her the kingdom of reason, of justice and of labor: for if she be happy, thou, together with thy family, shalt likewise be happy.

[by Cris Villanueva, Jr.] Sixth. Thou shalt strive for the independence of thy country: for only thou canst have any real interest in her advancement and exaltation, because her independence constitutes thy own liberty; her advancement, thy perfection; and her exaltation, thy own glory and immortality.

Eclipse by Karen Flores. Seventh. Thou shalt not recognize in thy country the authority of any person who has not been elected by thee and thy countrymen; for authority emanates from God, and as God speaks in the conscience of every man, the person designated and proclaimed by the conscience of a whole people is the only one who can use true authority.

Sulong sa isip at gawa by Jim Orencio. Eighth. Thou shalt strive for a Republic and never for a monarchy in thy country: for the latter exalts one or several families and founds a dynasty; the former makes a people noble and worthy through reason, great through liberty, and prosperous and brilliant through labor.

No Tresspassing by John Santos. Ninth. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: for God has imposed upon him, as well as upon thee, the obligation to help thee and not to do unto thee what he would not have thee do unto him; but if thy neighbor, failing in this sacred duty, attempt against thy life, thy liberty and thy interests, then thou shalt destroy and annihilate him for the supreme law of self-preservation prevails.

Kapit Bisig by Emong Borlongan. Tenth. Thou shalt consider thy countryman more than thy neighbor; thou shalt see him thy friend, thy brother or at least thy comrade, with whom thou art bound by one fate, by the same joys and sorrows and by common aspirations and interests.

Therefore, as long as national frontiers subsist, raised and maintained by the selfishness of race and of family, with thy countryman alone shalt thou unite in a perfect solidarity of purpose and interest, in order to have force, not only to resist the common enemy but also to attain all the aims of human life.

The adjacent exhibit Everyday Filipino Heroes present works of emerging and senior artists "send a collective message about the role of the electorate in free elections, one that is critical and discerning and therefore heroic, never needing to be taken by saviors and messiahs of change." Both exhibits are ongoing at the Vargas Museum in University of the Philippines, Diliman campus until May 31, 2010.

What makes this event unique are the collaterals meant to engage the public. The campus oval is lined with banners representing each Everyday Hero artist while ten 'vote wisely' posters representing the ten dekalogo and artists available online for free. For more info, call Vargas Museum at 928-19-27 or Canvas' Gigo Alampay at (0917) 890-6160.

Tears for Fears: one giant karaoke in the Big Dome!

That's how it was last Saturday despite the Noynoy rally and traffic, everyone trekked to watch Tears for Fears at the Araneta Coliseum.
This is the first time my pop rock group of my teenage years (1980s) was here L-I-V-E in Manila. Lead singer Roland Orzabal said that they've been all over the world including Siberia and "it has taken so long to get to Manila."
I'm sure they were blown away by the audience participation. Everyone was singing and dancing. Its like one big giant karaoeke without the words flashing on the screen. The Ninf called it a "big high school reunion."
I love that the kids were there too and enjoyed. Lit's 15-year old son said it was better than what he expected including Emma's 8-year old son who said he had fun.
My tweet playlist, yup, I was tweeting : Curt Smith opened with Head over heels, Everybody wants to rule the world, Mad world, some new songs like Floating down the river, Orzabal's slow version of MJ's Billy Jean, audience got riled with Break it down.. and ended with my two fav songs it's a world gone crazy Woman in Chains and Shout!
At 10:30 before the encore, Korina was booed not once but twice when she was shown onscreen. I guess no one wanted to be reminded of the upcoming circus, I mean elections. As of today, the Commission on Elections recalled 76,000 compact flashcards nationwide. With five days to go before elections,all this computer glitch news is causing a lot of jitters... say that you'll never never never need it, one headline why believe it? everybody wants to rule the world.. all for freedom and for pleasure, nothing ever lasts forever...

Monday, 12 April 2010

do's and don'ts in renewing your visa

Here are my top five do's and don'ts if you have to wait especially at popular places like the Embassy of the United States.
1. Don't bring electronic equipment inside and this means telephone, calculator, camera including any spray items like perfume, cologne, alcogel, throat spray. In case you have no driver to call to pick up the prohibited items and you parked far far away, don't fret. There is a coop business thriving where some kind of hawker peddles their time to guard your items for P200.
2. Don't assume. Read instructions properly. The required photo is against a white background. I guess I got confused because recently, the Department of Foreign Affairs changed the required passport shots to be against a blue background. In case you missed this, don't panic, there is a photo booth inside the pavilion which costs P70 for six mug shots. Well, you get what you pay for!
3. Do fill out all the items in the application form - both the DCS176 and the bank form. Don't leave any item blank. Just put 'none' if there is none. I discovered that this was the cause of the long wait at the queue. Applicants who did not fill out the form properly were asked to go to the side counter and complete the missing items. They would then go back where they left off, right at the top of the line. Duh!
4. Dress for hot conditions. The crowded pavilion was stewing at 30 degrees. I completely forgot about my visa appointment and was wearing of all things a knit top!
5. Do expect to wait 3-4 hours and even longer. Since this is Manila, I was not surprised when the brownout occurred. I was shocked though that it took the Embassy some minutes to get the power back on and appalled that the finger scan machine conked out! Bring a good book as a distraction to all these unpleasant conditions.
When I left at 4pm, the number being called out was 3,800 so i guess they must be processing at least 2-3,000 applications per day? At 100 dollars visa fee, hmmmm... do the math.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Dive in Maldives now.. before it vanishes

our dive boat behind
I don't want to sound like an alarmist but experts warn that climate change and rising sea levels are of great concern to this group of 1200 islands which according to nationenclycopedia.com is slightly more than 1.5 times the size of Washington, D.C.

Maldives is only 8 feet above sea level at its highest point and as the North Pole's icebergs melt and sea levels rise, it's entire existence is in danger. In fact, the disputed Bengal Bay island (by India and Pakistan) which is 6 feet above sea level has already vanished and displaced its population.

I'm glad that i got pulled by Marge, Esq. and piqued by Atom's query to dive in Maldives this Easter holiday.

Somehow Maldives was never in my diving radar and regard it more as a luxe honeymoon destination. It never got to my must-dive bucket list lke Cocos Island for hammerheads, Palau for grey reefs, Bali for sunfish, Sardine run and great whites in South Africa, etc.

Ricky and Marge enjoying the view on the deck
I was surprised to discover that Maldives has reasonable rates and the diving excellent. The initial quotes that we got for resort-based diving went as high as USD4,000 per person excluding the dives which was another USD50 to 100 per dive for a week's stay. So I'm happy that we found the dive safari run by Bas van der Mee.

Bas' mantra during our trip was safety first. He would wake us up at 5:30 and yell "coffee, tea, dive briefing." He conducted detailed dive briefings with maps and all before each dive and made sure that everyone had a dive computer, mirror, safety balloon since the currents can be pretty strong and "its 2400 km to Africa" as he always said at the end. He was fairly strict and limited the dives to one hour underwater and three per day (total of 17 dives) since most dives were rather deep and we would sometimes go on deco mode.

Bas briefing us on our next dive
We saw everything - grey reefs, white tips, schools of dog tooth tunas and jacks, squadron of eagle rays and even dolphins underwater-- you name it we saw it, except sadly, the mantas and whale sharks that Maldives is famous for. We went to the usual haunts in South Male' and South Ari. Alas, nada! The construction of the new airport must've scared them away which prompted Bas to change the route of the group after us and headed to North Ari to Rashdoo where they spotted lots! Note that Atom who stayed in the W with his family said he saw seven mantas in one dive.

Heading back
Oh well, there will definitely be a next time. Bas runs two seasons Spring (March & April) and Autumn (October & November). Ricky SB is already planning a diving trip for this Autumn. Hmm… maybe plan a reunion dive with all the Belge/Dutch/Dane on the boat?

Monday, 22 March 2010

Tour of Hope - Clark to Luisita leg

Woohoo! I survived the 107-km from Angeles City to Cory-hometown in Luisita, Tarlac. I joined the second leg of the annual GSK Tour of Hope which is a five-day 500-km ride to raise awareness and to support the prevention of cervical cancer in the Philippines. This year, the ride kicked off in Makati and ended in Baguio City.

Did you know that every eight-min a woman dies of cervical cancer ? said a representative from the Cervical Cancer Prevention Network Alliance (CECAP) during the dinner before the Tarlac leg. The program included lectures on cancer prevention and vaccination conducted by CECAP doctors.

The ride was very organized thanks to Joyette Jopson and GSK's Vernon. The problem was the sweltering H-E-A-T. We had three pit stops every 30-km. The purpose of the stop was to re-group the bikers as well as to rest and re-charge. I am so glad that David Charlton, his wife and his Team David Salon bikers were there. There were two support vans following and his wife was in a van with a gigantic cooler filled with ice, gatorade, water, sponges plus muffins, bananas and sandwiches. I drenched myself with ice cold sponges in each stop. It was so hot that at the last lap (around noon) I was pouring water from my plastic water bottle on my head, nape, and legs.

Good thing we brought coach Ernan Ajena (previously with the national team and now teaches Physical Education to special children in Cupertino) who helped us along the ride. I was left cruising with my now favorite bike crew - the CLARK boys! The boys were teaching me how to draft and taught me how to speed at one point to 40-42kph.

Downside of the trip: Pia Cayetano campaigning. I could still hear the Pia-Pia-Ca-ye-tano rap jingle blaring in my head.

Upside: burned 4,788 calories!!! Here's the map of our ride:

Sunday, 28 February 2010

World Champ Nonito Donaire

"Oh my! That's ano, ano... Nonito Donaire!!" exclaimed a fan infront of me during lunch at Fiji Restaurant in Plantation Bay in Mactan, Cebu. When I turned to look, he didn't resemble the mean fighter last February who knocked out his opponent Manuel Vargas in the third round. In fact, he looked more like the boy next door, wholesome, pleasant and always smiling. One fan who shook his hand exclaimed that his hand was softer and smoother than hers!

27-year old Nonito a.k.a. The Filipino Flash is currently the World Boxing Association (WBA) interim World Super Flyweight champion and is rated by The Ring magazine, as the #6 pound-for-pound best boxer in the world (Note: fellow pinoy boxer Manny Pacquiao is rated #1). His boxing record is impressive - 23 wins out of 24, 15 of which are KOs.

Taking a weekend break from his training under the Penalosa brothers, he was with his wife Rachel Marcial and her father Gerry and his Cebu-based cousins. Without any posse, he was surprisingly easy going and was taking time out to pose, talk to fans and even sing! Yup, he sings! After the Brazilian night dinner show, he was called onstage and I was actually rolling my eyes. Well, after the Jimmy Kimmel bout last November, I was not too sure. Surprise, surprises! He sang My Girl by Temptations well and his rendition of his wife's favorite song I'm Yours by Jason Marz was quite good. I found out later that he performed a shadow boxing dance in the lobby that afternoon while the pianist played Eye of the Tiger.

I asked him about the next fight of Pacquaio against Clottey. He said that in boxing you'll never know what will happen and added that he and Rachel will fly to Dallas to watch the fight but will be back in Manila to train. His next fight is this May against Mexico's Fernando Montiel for the WBO bantamweight crown.

When asked if Filipino boxers are respected abroad. He said "not until boxers reach a certain level. Boxing is still considered a poor man's sport in this country and fortunately, not quite so in the States." He is happy that he is representing the country of his birth, the Philippines.

Unfortunately, according to his father-in-law, this is not true for his daughter who is a USA National Collegiate and Military Taekwondo champion. He said "She has not been considered by the Philippine Sport Association to represent the Philippines despite beating USA's taekwondo Olympic contender." As a side note, funny that Jofer Velez is experiencing the same problem with his 19-year old daughter, Karyn Velez's status in badminton. She is now training in Florida and doing well in the international circuit. He said "this is the first time for a pinay (well now, american) to score olympic points in BWF/IBF international competition."

After meeting and talking to Nonito and Rachel, I must say I am a certified fan of both. I can't wait to watch his next fight and I do wish that Rachel gets to represent the Philippines in taekwondo! I am now pondering on the politiking involved and the poor state of the athletes in this country that I may just give, despite the hullabaloo on the Party-List representation, "Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta" my vote!

Nonito onstage: