Monday, 29 April 2013

Paolo Trinidad says to laugh your way out of stress!

Paolo Trinidad
Yes, that's what Paolo Martin Trinidad said during his talk at the EJAP Wellness Fair last Saturday at The Grove by Rockwell. In fact, he stressed that we only need 20-seconds of mirthful laughter to work our way out of stress. The benefit is that it is equivalent to a 3-5 minute heavy workout that can burn up to 300 calories.

Trinidad always wanted to promote laughter that he founded the Pinoy Laughter Yoga  in the Philippines after studying under Dr. Madan Kataria in Bangalore, India, the founder of Laughter Yoga International.

He cited that Dr. William Fry, the father of gelotology (the science of laughter) who has established strong laboratory evidence that mirthful laughter stimulates most of the major physiologic systems of the body. Based on his study, laughter speeds up the heart rate, improves blood circulation and works muscles all over the body. This means, it will help decrease chances of heart attacks by easing tension, stress and anger; and may even prevent strokes and lessen discomfort of people suffering from cancer.

Trinidad strongly advises to have a good belly laugh at least once a day and if you can't have one, it's better to fake it.  He said that there is no difference between real laughter and faking it anyway. The psychological effects and the health benefits are  the same.

learning how to Ha-He-Hi-Ho-Hu
Citing another expert, he said that Dr. Kataria noticed that the body cannot differentiate between real and fake happiness. If you fake it, the brain starts to produce happy chemicals or endorphins." He noted that after working personally with depressed people in jails and hospitals, their moods significantly  improved,

What he did was to teach them the scientific way to laughter. This is, to utter different sounds which corresponds to the different parts of the body - "ha" is for the heart, "he" for the throat, "hi" for the brain, ho for the solar plexus (emotions). and "hu" for intimacy.

Here's how to do it (unfortunately I only was able to video the hi' part):

He warned thought not to do  laughter therapy  "if you have hemorrhage, any kind of hernia, any persistent cough, epilepsy, heart disease, high blood pressure, urinary tract infection, loose bowel movement, severe backache, surgery within the last 3 months and conception period."

Well, I guess laughter is indeed the best medicine! 

Monday, 15 April 2013

The 2013 Binibining Pilipinas Gold Pageant

#46 Amanda
If it wasn't for renowned photographer Mandy Navasero, I wouldn't have gone to Araneta Coliseum to witness the 50th Binibining Pilipinas pageant last night.  Juris and I went to cheer for her daughter -- candidate #46, 21-year old Amanda Noelle Navasero.

Mandy was actually surprised when Amanda, who is graduating this year, announced that she wanted to join the pageant. Amanda told  her that she got inspired by 2012 Bb Pilipinas Universe  Janine Mari Tugonon who was proclaimed 1st runner-up in  the 2012 Miss Universe  beauty pageant in Las Vegas, USA on December 19, 2012.

I've known Amanda since she was a baby and I must tell you that she has bloomed from a tall, somewhat shy girl to a confident young woman.

in a Filipiniana 
It was my first time to witness a pageant and it was indeed a nerve wracking experience. 50 Binibing Pilipinas candidates were selected to mark the 50th year of the pageant. 1960 Miss International titleholder from Columbia, Stella Marquez Araneta, who is the current chairperson of the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc.said "I want to thank you especially the people who have supported our pageant for rmany years."

Proud mom Mandy
Arielle Arida (photo by Entervrexworld)
The event paid tribute to past and current titleholders. Among the beauty queens present were Gloria Diaz (Miss Universe 1969), Aurora Pijuan (Miss International 1970), Ruffa Gutierrez (Miss World 1993), Miriam Quiambao (Miss Universe 1999, 1st runner up), Precious Lara Quigaman (Miss International 2005), Venus Raj (Miss Universe, 4th runner up), Shamcey Supsup (Miss Universe 2011, 3rd runner up), Tugonon (Miss Universe 2012, 1st runner up), Nicole Schmitz (Miss International 2012 semifinalist), Katrina Jayne Dimaranan (Bb Pilipinas-Tourism), Elaine Kay Moll (Miss Suprantional 2012 3rd runner up), and Annalie Forbes (Bb Pilipinas 2nd runner up).
with the proud ninangs

Kudos to Amanda! Among the 50 candidates, she made it to the top 15!!! And congratulations to candidate #41, 24-year old  Arielle Arida from Laguna who was crowned Bb Pilipinas Universe.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Sisterhood in Traveling Pants' 5-day Myanmar itinerary

Shewdagon Pagoda, the most revered Budhist temple in the world
Alas five days is not enough to explore this golden ancient country. But to us sisterhood in traveling pants, a trip out together especially to an unexplored destination is godsend.

To those who plan to visit, below is our itinerary which covers the 'big three of Myanmar' - Yangong, Bagan, and Lake Inle. Note that we were lucky to catch the tail end of the tourist season and hence, avoid the crowds and long queues. The downside though was the start of the hot and extremely humid season. Do book accommodations, transportation (flights, car, boats, horse carts) and tour guides way in advance. Hilda was able to get a good rate from a Bangkok travel agent on Air Mandalay and had our tickets delivered to our hotel.

Shwesandaw Paya for a 360-view of Bagan
First Day - Yangon or Rangoon, the former capital of Myanmar.  The city is 2,500 years old and is a mix of the bygone era with gigantic temples and colonial eddifices. Since we arrived in the afternoon from Singapore, the plan was to head straight to Bogyoke Aung San Market (formerly known as Scott's Market), to shop for curios such as jade jewelry, longyis (long skirts), thanaka (local suncream) lacquer and whatnots. Unfortunately, we indulged in the afternoon tea in our hotel and by the time we ventured to the  market, it was already closed. Warning: the market closes early at 5pm and is not open on Mondays.

Traders Hotel where we were billeted is a good first stop. It is located within walking distance to everything - the restaurants, Scott's Market and the exchange shop right across is open until late night. Do bring crisp dollar bills to change to Kyat because they are quite obsessive about the quality of your notes and will not accept bills that are marked, stamped, signed, scribbled on, creased and even folded.

a typical horse-buggy in Bagan
Second Day - Bagan, one of the most remarkable archaeological sights of Asia, is the world's largest temple city that flourished from the 11th through 13th century. The flight took an hour and a half from Yangon to Nyanung-U.

We were actually psyched to tour the city in a horse buggy (right photo) and even planned to bike around. However, due to hot climes at 37-38°C, we ended up renting an air conditioned van.

The van turned out to be fortuitous. We were able to see as many temples as we could considering there were about a thousand or so temples, stupas and pagodas. Our guide took us to Amanda Temple,  Shwe San Daool Pagoda, Sulamuni Temple, Dhamyangyi Temple, Anamanda Temple. We were able to go too as far as Myin Ka Par Village to visit one of the oldest family run lacquerware factory and be back in time for a sunset cruise along the Irawady River. For meals, our lunch was at "The Moon Vegetarian Restaurant Be Kind to Animals" near the main gate which serves the best grilled eggplant ever and dinner was at the  "The Black Bamboo" an open garden French fusion restaurant.

Lake Inle where fishermen use their leg to paddle
Third day - Inle Lake in the cool green highlands of Shan State which is famous for it's local fishermen who row their boats using their legs (left photo), the long-neck Kayan Lahwi women and it's ancient hydroponic farming system.

It is not easy to get to though. We flew out of Heho (40-min flight), then drove to NyaungShwe (45-min by car) and then one hour by boat to the hotel.  We stopped in between to visit the 125-year old Budhist monastery called the Shwe Yan Paye, in Heho and lunch at Green Chili on Hospital Road for the best pennywort salad in NgyaungShwe.

Our hotel, Paramount Inle Resort, was located deep inside the lake in Nga Phe Chaung Village. In the afternoon, we checked out the floating agricultural fields where tomato, gourd, cauliflower, rice, corn etc grow on floating platforms made out of lake weed. We then visited the silver factory and the lotus silk factory.
traditional hydroponics system in Lake Inle 

fishermen lifted us out of the bog
Fourth day - Sagar Village which was recently opened to tourists after decades of war between tribes. The place is dotted with 700 year old ruins. It is quite isolated with no electricity or running water. This is a good place to hike or to bird watch. Warning though to check the tide, the boat ride along the Biluu Chaung took two hours and on the way, we got stuck in the bog due to low tide. We were lucky that there were fishermen in the area who literally lifted our boat (right photo).

traveling pants  Hilda and Bettina
Fifth day  - back to the golden city of Yangon. The flight from Helo was an hour and ten minutes. Our first stop was the 2,500 year old Shewdagon Pagoda, the most revered Budhist temple in the whole of Myanmar and if not, the whole world. The stupa is 90 meters tall, gilded with gold leaf and is surrounded by 64 smaller stupas. Make sure to visit the exhibit where you'll see photos of the jewelry that's installed on top of the stupa. from  We went back in the evening to catch the sunset and the lighting of the candles ceremony.

During the day, we rented a van with tour guide and went around to check out the sights: the Martyr's Mausoleum which was built to honor Aung San and six cabinet members who were assassinated, Ang Suu Yi's home (outside the gate), the 65-meter long Chauk Htat Gyi Reclining Budha  Botatung Paya, and Sule Saya. Lunch was at the colonial Strands Hotel.

Well, good luck to those going to Myanmar. I don't mind going back. My next trip though will be longer during the cool months of November to February.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

In search of the best eggplant salad in Myanmar

Hilda turns into Burmese cuisine  fan in Yangon
It was love at first sight so to speak. The first time we tasted the khyan dhi pope thote  (eggplant) salad was in "Padomar", an old Governor's mansion converted into a restaurant in Myanamar's old captial in Yangon.

The manager, who graciously offered to serve us, recommended this dish served with the soy sauce and lime soaked with fresh garlic and chopped green chilis. He stressed that their eggplant salad is unlike any other in the whole of Mynamar. Theirs is grilled over charcoal and mixed with dried shrimps, chopped nuts, garlic, fresh coriander sesame seed and topped with shallots and green onions. And so it began, our search for the best roasted eggplant salad in Myanmar.

The Moon's specials listed on a board 
It was Good Friday when we arrived in Bagan (1.5 hours flight from Yangon). Being Catholics, we decided to forego meat. For lunch, our guide Mr. Shwe brought us to his favorite vegetarian restaurant in Old Bagan called "The Moon Vegetarian Restaurant Be Kind to Animals", next to Tarabar Gate. This should not be confused with "Full Moon" located in the touristy strip in Nyang Shwe. The  place is located in an open space garden (expect  dirt floor), with hanging plants, wooden chairs and tables covered with red and white checkered table cloth.

The meals are freshly prepared and they have the special of the day listed on the board. I must say that The Moon's eggplant salad is the best! The smoky smell wafted as it was served on the table. Here the eggplant was roasted then mashed and served with warm roasted nuts,  crispy garlic, sesame seeds, onions and shallots, tomatoes, topped with sesame and pumpkin seeds.
The Moon, the best roasted eggplant salad ever!
Black Bamboo in Bagan

For dinner, we opted to try hot air balloon's pilot Lee Hooper's recommendation in Lonely Planet - "Black Bamboo", an open garden right off the main road in Nyang Shwe. The place is run by a French lady and her Burmese husband. Unfortunately, the eggplant salad and sad to note that all the other salads are so-and-so. They are more known for their steaks but they serve the best rum raisin ice cream that I've ever tasted!

In Lake Inle (flight is an hour to Heho and another hour's drive to the Lake), we stopped by Green Chili on Hospital Road. It's in a home converted into a restaurant. The dishes are similar to Thai food. Their eggplant salad had more coriander and  ginger. But their tea leaf salad was divine.
Green Chili's in Lake Inle
Off to Nga Phe Chaung in Lake Inle  (another hour by boat)
In Lake Inle we ventured down to Sagar, a two hour trip by boat down south from our hotel in Nga Phe Chaung. The place is quite remote and hardly reached by tourists. It was plagued with civil wars among the ethnic groups and opened up fairly recently. We spotted several tomato orchards in the floating garden that during lunch, we decided to try something from the lake - this is the tomato salad which is again the best I've ever tasted.

After all this food tasting in three cities in Myanmar, I am now a bonafide fan of Myanmar cuisine. I'm still looking for a restaurant here in Manila that serves Myanmar dishes. Meantime to satisfy my craving, I found this online from

2 medium eggplants
2 small shallots, thinly sliced and soaked in cold water
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tabelspoons peanut oil

1 teaspoon dried shrimps, pounded into floss
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon roasted peanuts, chopped
small handful of fresh coriander, chopped
1/2 lime, juiced
1 tabelspoon fish sauce
Eggplant, Tea Leaf, Penworth 
 at the Strand Hotel  in Yangon
*mine: add finely sliced chilies and 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds

Place the eggplants whole on a flat baking sheet lined with foil. Pierce the eggplants with a knife to stop them
from burtising during cooking. Place under a hot grill for 15-25 minutes turning them occasionally. Be sure to let the skin color and char. While the eggplants ar egrilling, make the crispy garlic and oil. heat the oil in a small scause pan and fry the garlic until golden and aromatic. Remove with a slotted spoon and cool. Drain the shallots and squeez them in your hands to remove any water. Pop them in a bowl.
When the eggplants are ready, cool a little until they can be handled. Cut them in half and scoop out the flesh into the bow. Mix in 1 tabelsppon of the frying oil and the garnishes. Taste and adjust the seasoning so there is a balance of salt and sourness. Serve while the salad is still warm.
Serves two and takes at least 25 minutes to prepare.