Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Palawan's secret: Tabon Cave

Tita Flor and Roca 
Over Sunday lunch on July 8, my sister Roca who will soon be migrating abroad, declared that she wants to explore the Philippines before she goes. Top on her list was Palawan.  I told her that I've been to St. Paul's Underground River several times before and would love to join if Tabon Cave is included in her itinerary. So lo and behold, the very next day, she made plans and that following weekend, we were off to Puerto Princesa - my aunt (Tita Flor), Roca and niece flew a day earlier to visit the Underground River.

I have never been to Tabon Cave and learned about it in history class in grade school. The site is where the skull of the earliest man in the Philippines was discovered in May 1962 by an american anthropologist Dr. Robert Fox.  The fossils date back between 22,000 and 20,000 B.C. Actually, the site is a cave complex in a 138-hectare island in Lipuun Point in Quezon municipality about 145 kilometers southwest of Puerto Princesa.

It is not easy to get to Tabon. My sister found only one travel agent that services the site. And it is a whole-day trip, a three-hour ride from Puerto Princesa to Quezon and mind you, some portions are quite bumpy. Then, another  30-min ride by banca (outrigger boat).

The ride is quite scenic going through vast rice fields  including that of the Iwahig Penal Colony or prison without walls. It was built by the Americans in 1904 to serve as a source of food supply for prisoners and now, it is known as a source for finely made handcrafted bags and souvenirs.

At the National Museum in Quezon
The first stop in Quezon was the National Museum. Here we registered, toured the museum featuring some of the excavated artefacts and watched the required educational video about the island.  Since it was past noon, we decided to abort the planned picnic on the island and eat in the museum.

After lunch, it was a short drive to the pier to get on the banca. Note: wear trekking sandals! We had to walk through rocks in the pier and upon reaching the island,  we had to carefully tread our way through urchin-laden water to shore.

Entrance to the cave
According to our guide, the Tabon Cave complex has 218 caves, only 22 have been explored and only seven are accessible to the public. Unfortunately, 'accessible' doesn't mean you can enter the caves. We were allowed up to the mouth of each cave. If you want to enter the caves, you must ask permission from the National Museum before going.

The place is not a popular tourist destination at all. We were the only ones on the island. The last tourists who came, logged in two weeks before us. So you can imagine how pristine the place is. It was so quiet that we could hear the birds chirping, the wind rustling the leaves and hear our heart beat from climbing steep steps and that's a total of 1,054 steps! Our guide said that often times, he would spot snakes, wild boars and even bear cats.

White sand beach of Tabon Cave
The tour is a good trek - an hour or two depending on your stamina. The path will cut through rainforest. If your knees are weak, I would suggest to climb the steps slowly - - or go for a swim, walk the white sand beach or tan.

For those who wish to visit Tabon Cave, you can do it yourself - hire a van, bring packed lunch and drinks and text Jay of the National Museum in Quezon at (0948) 159-0955 to inform him of your date of arrival and number of tourists. This is much cheaper than the P4,500 per person we were charged by the Tour operator. The cost though included everything - the van and driver, a licensed tour guide,  entrance fees, packed lunch and drinks.

Tabon Cave

Some of the caves as seen from the shore
Low tide
Site where Dr. Fox found the skull

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

You might have TMJ (Temporo-mandibular Joint Disorder)?

Are you experiencing headaches, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, pain in your neck or shoulders, or sometimes back or leg pain? Or maybe you grind your teeth at night?  Chances are you are suffering from TMJ or Temporo-Mandibular Joint disorder.

The joint is where the upper temporal bone (skull) is hinged to the lower bone (mandible) and is responsible for jaw movement such as chewing, talking, yawning, etc. So, what is the connection between this joint and all bodily pain or symptoms I just described earlier?

Well, according to statistics, nine out of ten people have at least one sign or symptom of TMJ and mostly high stress women are prone to it. My osteopath Dr. JP Prado who was treating me for my back pain, was the one who spotted the problem and recommended that I consult with his mom, Dr. Dorothy.

I did go for an x-ray and to my surprise,  the x-ray confirmed that I was suffering from TMJ. As you can see from the image below, my left jaw joint (right side of the image) was not firmly in place and would've popped out of the socket in a matter of time.

Panoramic x-ray shows the misaligned joint 

TMJ is known as the Great Impostor because it not only mimics the conditions I mentioned earlier but believe it or not -  is the root cause of all other problems. I'm referring to these problems I've experienced throughout the years -  balance problems, nausea, cervical pain, lower back pain, restriction of neck motion, constant throat infection, sinus congestion, ear infection and even asthma.

Note that for each of the problem, I would see a specific doctor such as EENT, pulmonary, orthopedic, physical therapist, chiropractor, etc. You can just imagine the cost of my medical bills.

If you have any of the following, you may be a TMJ candidate:  history of trauma or dental work like braces, orthodontics;  jaw clicks; limited or painful range of jaw movement; teeth fail to meet properly; grinding or clenching at night; recurrent symptoms in head, neck, shoulders, back, knees; including headache or migraines; biting of tongue, cheeks or lips.

the Splint
By the way, when I saw Dr. Dorothy, my lower teeth was half its original size from all the grinding, my jaw was already receding, my face was a bit lopsided to the right and my left shoulder was higher than my right. Dr. Dorothy recommended a splint (which looks like a mouth guard) that I wear 24x7 to correct the misalignment. While she's correcting my jaw (upper body), I still see her son the osteopath to address my spinal problem.

P.S.,  Do you know the saying that there is no such thing as a coincidence?  Well, I met Dr. JP in one of Yoga Plus's weekend wellness talks. He was giving a lecture on Yoga and how to address spinal alignment problems. It was right after that lecture that I booked a session with Dr. JP and the rest is history. All I can say is, I am so happy that I discovered the source for all my seemingly unrelated medical problems. And in closing, I do agree with Albert Einstein,  "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous."

Monday, 2 July 2012

Stipple art using SnapDot app

Stipple portrait
"That's cool" I kept cooing as my sister showed me how to make a stipple portrait using an iPhone app called SnapDot. In less than two minutes, she created a stipple portrait of the two us (right photo).

Stipple is a method of drawing using dots or in the art world, the technique is referred to as  pointilism.

The creator Jim Collier was inspired by the pen and drawing headcut portraits in The Wall Street Journal. He said in an interview with Gigaom's Erica Ogg  "In the 1980s as a student at Harvard Business School, Collier said he’d often be distracted and reading the paper in class. 'I would see the stipple drawings in The Wall Street Journal and think, I wish I was doing that instead of sitting here'.’” Fast forward to 22 years later, he is now sharing his passion and created this app together with Adrian Secord of Dotwwerx.

The itunes description says "SnapDot gives your iPhone the ability to draw professionally with the ideal fine art format: dots! SnapDot applies your creativity to your favorite photos with intuitive controls..... each setting turns your photo into a unique work of art to share with friends and hang on your wall." 

How to use the app:

M-Maybe by Roy Lichtenstein (1965)

The stipple drawing instantly reminded me of Roy Lichtenstein's artworks where he uses dots in various sizes and colors.  I was lucky that I caught his retrospective exhibit recently at the Art Institute of Chicago, the largest so far mounted with 160 works from 1960s to 1990s.

Jim says though that there is no comparison. His app is not pop art but stipple. Well, they're both dots to me <LOL!>.

I do like the SanpDot app since its easy and fast to use, there is an option to convert to black and white and also choose the background paper (I chose sepia). The android version is yet to be made.

The app was released on June 22  is already highly rated. The introductory price of $0.99 is only up to July 15. If you want to create dot art like Lichtenstein or as Jim insist on calling 'stipple' portraits of yourself or your friends and family, check this app out.