Smoking and Covid-19: The smoker’s paradox

Recent studies have already confirmed that cigarette smoking can aggravate Covid-19 symptoms in patients and can lead to deaths due to health complications. But still, anti-smoking efforts and the threat of coronavirus fail to change people’s behavior. In fact, some smokers even switched to vaping thinking that it is healthier and safer.

Four patients shared their Covid journey and how they recovered successfully. While all cases are related to smoking, they differed in their post-recovery behaviors. One quit smoking entirely, the other two are still smoking, but trying to quit and have switched to vaping, while the other is not even a smoker.

The firsthand and secondhand smokers

RJ Paz, 38, is a registered nurse who suffered from severe Covid pneumonia in August 2021; while Policarpio Diaz Paz, 58, a solar power installer and consultant for a subcontracting firm of Meralco, is RJ’s father who tested positive for Covid after his exposure to him.

“My near-death experience with Covid changed my father’s life. He quit smoking entirely and started living a healthy lifestyle. He is health conscious now. He reminds us to be careful not to get infected again with the virus. My father cooks for us and takes care of us at home. He made a lot of sacrifices during my illness until my hospitalization and post-care,” says RJ.

If RJ is a non-smoker, Policarpio started smoking at the age of 17. He would usually consume one cigarette pack a day. Although he tried to quit chewing gum, it didn’t help him either. Even when the prices of cigarettes increased due to the Sin Tax Reform Law or Republic Act 10351, he can still afford to buy one cigarette stick after meals.

Policarpio is hypertensive and has high cholesterol, but the good thing is after he tested positive for Covid, he only experienced mild fever, fatigue, and difficulty in breathing, so it’s manageable for home quarantine. Unlike RJ who was rushed to the emergency room and was hospitalized for days.

“My father didn’t want to go through what I’ve been through. His 14-day isolation was life-changing. He realized how precious life was. He stopped smoking for two weeks! It was a first for him so he went on and up to this day, he’s not smoking anymore. He also avoids salty foods and eats homecooked meals instead of fast food these days,” RJ shares.

Turning to vape

Diane Marcelo (not her real name), 33, was roughly around 22 years old when she started smoking. Like Gerald, she was also influenced by some of her friends.

“I usually consume around one pack of cigarettes and I do smoke more when I feel stressed and anxious,” reveals Diane.

Diane admitted that she tried to stop smoking every time she was pregnant, but a few months after giving birth, she’d started craving it again.  “I struggled to quit because most of my friends are smokers.”

When the cigarette prices increased, she tried to hoard stocks of her brand. She would smoke in their garage, which is their designated smoking area, and a lot outdoors.

At first, Diane thought it was just normal flu because it subsided after a few days. Then came one day, her temperature spiked up. She started having severe coughs and colds, difficulty in breathing, and chest pains.

“That’s when I started reducing my cigarette intake. Then I tried my best daily to resist the craving. I actually had a hard time pooping because I am very much dependent on smoking when I poop,” she shares.

Diane recovered from Covid. However, she admitted that she’s still struggled to resist her cigarette craving. When that happens, she just remembers what she’d been through. In lieu of cigarettes, Diane switched to vaping.

The smoker trying to quit

Gerald Cruz (not his real name), 32, started smoking at the age of 14 to 15. His parents separated at that time so he started spending time with his friends and smoking five to 10 sticks a day.

When the cigarette prices increased, he tried to quit, but when he failed to do so, he only decreased his consumption and replaced his brand with a cheaper one. He also looked for discreet places to smoke undetected when the university imposed the ‘No Smoking Policy’ inside the premises.

Gerald tried to quit smoking several times by motivating himself, setting goals, replacing cigarettes with vapes or candies, coffee with other beverages, enlisting a quitting buddy (with official agreement and penalties), but all those attempts were unsuccessful due to stress, alcohol, and peer pressure.

Stress added up when Gerald started working as a Security Officer in 2016 as most of his daily activities were routine. He would wake up early in the morning, go home late, render overtime during weekends, go out with workmates and others, and the same thing happens the next day. He can’t even exercise or play basketball due to his hectic schedule.

“Smoking is the only time that I can relax and temporarily escape from the stress I get from my daily routines. I would smoke 20 sticks (or equivalent to one pack) a day,” he reveals.

After arriving home from work on May 28, 2021, Gerald felt something strange – chills all over his body, fever, dry and itchy throat, and loss of smell and taste. He was then sent to the provincial isolation facility. At that time, he thought of quitting smoking for good because he assumed there was no way he can smoke while inside the facility and 14 days is a good head start.

Unfortunately, Gerald’s isolation didn’t help either even after realizing that smoking might have contributed to his health condition. He still smoked five to 10 sticks per day during quarantine.

Gerald eventually recovered and these days, he hopes to slowly reduce his consumption or replace cigarettes with vapes or nicotine gum, and tea with coffee.

“I am starting to quit smoking again and also with my low carb diet. I also exercise every morning (push-ups, sit-ups, etc.) before going to work and play basketball for 30 minutes after work (except when it rains). I also jog every Saturday for an hour or more. Hopefully, with prayers and strong motivation, this strategy will be successful [this time],” he concluded.

Vape Bill

Senate Bill No. 2239 or the proposed Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation Act or Vape Bill seeks to regulate the importation, manufacture, sale, packaging, distribution, use, and communication of vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products.

The bill seeks to lower the access restriction from 21 to 18 years old for vaping; allows online sales and youth-appealing flavors other than plain tobacco and menthol. The bill also transfers the regulation of vaping products from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Ratified in December 2021, SB 2239 is now with Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature. While consumer advocates are backing this approved bill, the DOH, around 48 medical groups, and 60 civil society organizations under the Sin Tax Coalition objected to the recently approved bill and called for the President to veto the bill.

“The approval of SB 2239 puts the Filipino youth at risk. Vape products are harmful and not risk-free and should be regulated as health products due to their toxic substances and effects. Vape liquids and their emission contain chemicals such as nicotine, propylene glycol, carbonyls, and carbon monoxide that are either addictive, toxic, or can cause cancer,” said DOH in a statement.

The DOH cited the Global Youth Tobacco Survey, which shows that the prevalence of using electronic cigarettes is increasing among Filipino youth. Data shows that there is a 110 percent increase in vape use in just four years, from 11.7 percent in 2015 to 24.6 percent in 2019. It also showed that about 14.1 percent or one in seven students in the Philippines, aged 13 to 15 said that they are currently using e-cigarettes.

As stakeholders and health advocates, ImagineLaw likewise foresees a vaping epidemic once the Vape Bill is signed into law. It suggests that the public come together and show force against the passing of the Vape Bill.

“We must call on President [Rodrigo] Duterte to veto this anti-health measure. This bill is anti-youth, anti-health, and pro-industry,” said ImagineLaw in a statement.

Relationship between COVID and smoking

Dr. Anthony Leachon, an independent health reform advocate, past president of the Philippine College of Physicians, and chair, Kilusang Kontra Covid (KILKOVID), confirmed that there is a relationship between COVID and smoking as the former attacks the lungs whether you’re a current or former smoker.

“Being a current or former cigarette smoker can make you more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. If you currently smoke, quit,” says Dr. Leachon.

But what really motivates a person to quit is “smoking-related illness that leads to death e.g. coronary artery disease, stroke, cancers, or chronic inflammatory lung disease (COPD) that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs,” says Dr. Leachon.

Even when one is not smoking, exposure to smoking or secondhand smoke is bad as well as it can cause lung cancer in adults who have never smoked. “Non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20–30 percent,” he explains.

Switching to vaping is not a good idea as well as it only encourages the youth to smoke rather than stop. It is a gateway to other diseases.

“The difference between smoking and vaping is that smoking delivers nicotine by burning tobacco, which can cause smoking-related illnesses, and vaping can deliver nicotine by heating a liquid in a much less harmful way,” he explains.

Dr. Leachon further concluded that “the most effective way to quit smoking is cold turkey. Patients just stop when they are fully educated, motivated, and developed symptoms. Education is key. Legislation can address the other problems but without knowledge of the topic, we will never achieve anything.”

According to the World Health Organization, smoking can make you more vulnerable to Covid in two aspects: One, smokers and other tobacco users bring their hands to their mouths frequently, increasing their chances of contracting the infection; and two, smoking can also give one severe symptom as it damages the lungs and can affect other organs of the body.

“Covid 19 primarily attacks the respiratory system and lungs. A lung already compromised by smoking, therefore, has little chance of surviving a Covid 19 onslaught. The chances of severe disease symptoms and death are higher for tobacco users including e-cigarettes,” said WHO.

“This story was produced under the ‘Nagbabagang Kuwento (Cycle 5) Covering a Smoke-Free Ph Media Fellowship’ by Probe Media Foundation Inc. (PMFI) and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK). The views and opinions expressed in this piece are not necessarily those of PMFI and CTFK.”

Featured image courtesy of

Forever young

Two women in their 70s share their secrets to aging gracefully and their daily routines

Who doesn’t fear growing old? According to a survey, fear of growing old is common because along with growing old, there’s this worry about declining physical ability, losing memory, running out of money, suffering from chronic illness, and dying.

But there’s no reason to fear. Two women in their 70s share how to accept this natural phenomenon and how to age gracefully.

LITA REAL: Living life to the fullest

“If you’ve lived your life to the fullest, you serve the Lord with all your heart, and when you treat others the way God wants you to, there’s no reason to be afraid,” says 75-year-old Lita Real from San Mateo, Rizal.

Like most people her age, Lita also has maintenance meds for her blood pressure and cholesterol, but she keeps herself healthy, by dancing by herself while listening to music and walking occasionally.

“I do not exercise. I’m lazy with physical activities,” she admits.

Lita starts her day with a prayer, then drinks a glass of water and hot ginger tea (salabat) on an empty stomach. After that, she eats breakfast which usually consists of bread, fruits, or oatmeal. She eats all kinds of food, especially vegetables and fruits, except shrimp or seafood because she’s allergic to it.

“When I’m in the mood to do kitchen work, I cook lunch for my family, and whenever I don’t cook, our house helps do it for me,” she says.

Younger days

Lita got married at the age of 20, but her husband passed away 22 years ago due to a heart attack. “He was a good partner. I was so blessed because he was a good provider, so I didn’t really need to work during the time,” says Lita, who would’ve been a teacher. “When I was younger, I used to have a jewelry business I inherited from my mother who was a very good businesswoman.”

Lita in her younger days with her father
Lita’s children: Rissa at 16 and Jojo at 21

The couple was blessed with two children: A boy and a girl, but her son passed away at the age of 39 in 2007 due to kidney failure. While her 50-year-old daughter has been living in Virginia, the United States of America for almost 30 years now.

“She visits me here in the Philippines almost every year to celebrate the holidays with us. Sometimes I visit her in the US for vacation,” says Lita.

Daily routine

Pre-pandemic, Lita used to go out with her friends all the time. She also travels with her family every year and goes to church every Sunday.

Nowadays, she busies herself watching noontime shows, chatting with her friends via Facebook, and uploading photos. At 6 pm, she prays the rosary with her grandchild. After that, she watches her favorite teleseryes again.

Lita revealed that she doesn’t have a complicated beauty regimen. She just washes her face with soap. She also doesn’t wear makeup except during special occasions, and whenever she goes out, she simply uses baby powder, blush, and lipstick.


“Life is all about learning, loving, and enjoying. Don’t let mistakes stop you from loving life. Take them as your learning experiences to do better each day. Lastly, never take life too seriously. Always remember to have fun and do the things you want to because once you get old, you’ll look back and wished you’d never stopped yourself from doing those things,” she concludes.

HERMINIA REMO: Count your blessings

Hermie celebrates her 71st birthday

For 71-year-old Herminia “Hermie” Remo, her secret in life is counting her blessings, being grateful, giving more, and expecting less.

“I see many older people who are unhappy because they kept thinking the world owes them more. We think we deserve more recognition, more money, and more of everything. If we count our blessings rather than entitlement, we might find that we [instead] owe the world,” she says.

At her age, Hermie is blessed that she’s not taking any maintenance medications except vitamin C and zinc. “I stay active physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. I like walking, exercising, praying, and meditating as an antidote to stress. I also like reading, browsing the internet, ballroom dancing, and maintaining a positive attitude or letting-go feeling,” she reveals.

Daily routine

Upon waking up in the morning, Hermie prays and gives thanks, shares Bible verses on her Facebook account, do Zumba exercises from Youtube, takes brisk walking outdoors with her husband, and does household chores.

Hermie with husband, Rey

Hermie has been married to Raymundo for 43 years now, and they were blessed with six children and six grandchildren.

“Before I sleep, I turn the radio on and listen to classical music or watch movies on Netflix, chat with friends and pray,” she shares.

For food, Hermie admits her diet consists of foods rich in acid-producing food (meat and cereal grains) and low in non-acid producing foods (vegetable/fruits), which have shown to have negative effects on muscle mass.

Hermie’s father used to be a farmer. So, she would sell vegetables from their farm. When she graduated, she came to Manila and worked as a civilian employee in the Philippine Army for 39 years.

At present, she’s the vice president of their barangay’s Lupon Tagapamayapa and Senior Citizen Association where she gets to attend weekly hearings and meetings.

“Let us be grateful for what we have in life. We should give more and expect less as we age. Stay active and vibrant. Be physically fit, do a regular check-up, free your heart from hatred, free your mind from worries, live simply, and surround yourselves with every people who are going to lift us higher,” she concludes.

REVIEW: The Journalist on Netflix

I have always been a fan of the romantic-comedy genre, but this Japanese political drama-thriller series on Netflix, “The Journalist” is an exception. This has really gotten me glued to my seat these days. 

The story revolved around this fearless journalist, Ana Matsuda, and her quest for truth and justice. See how her persistence, dedication, hard work, and commitment to her job made way for justice to prevail towards the end.

Photo by

The story also captured the life of an ordinary newspaper delivery boy, Ryo Kinoshita, who initially had no cares about what was happening around him until it already affected his family, particularly his beloved uncle, Kazuya Suzuki.

Kazuya was an honest and hardworking public servant who was forced to clean up a government corruption scandal. Being the type of person that he was, he wanted to uphold his integrity until the end so he took his own life, but his death all the more fueled Ana’s interest and motivation to investigate the corruption scandal and find out the ‘real’ cause of Kazuya’s death.

See also how Kazuya’s wife, Mayumi who wanted to move on with her life after her husband’s untimely death eventually decided to find out the truth about his death.

It also featured the lives of other public servants who twist facts to cover up the truth for their own selfish motives.

My take: Honestly, I am half-hearted about the ending because it doesn’t clearly say what really happened to the case, but those are cliffhanger stories that subtly imply the ending and it’s up to the viewers to interpret it.

What I really liked about the series is that it ignited the ‘journalist’ spirit in me – to write for what I’m truly passionate about and make use of my skill to help other people know their stories and the truth. It also piqued my curiosity in suspense-thriller and investigative plots minus the zombies and monsters. Towards the end of the story, it made me ask myself again my life’s purpose — “Why do I do certain things in my life? Where will it lead me? Am I doing this for the overall good?”

Watch the six episodes on Netflix. It has an option for English audio so it is easy and convenient to watch. 

Notes: The drama series “The Journalist” shares the same Japanese title “Shinbun Kisha” as the 2019 movie “The Journalist,” which is also set at the newspaper company Toto Newspaper and is directed by the same director Michihito Fujii, but features different characters and story from the movie version.

Simbang Gabi: Will it really grant our wishes?

Two church servers share their 9-day dawn mass’ journey

It’s that time of year when Filipino Catholics are gearing up to start the nine-day dawn masses, believing, hoping, and praying that God will grant their wish. But will completing the nine-day dawn or anticipated masses really grant our wishes?

Two church servers share their Simbang Gabi wishes and journey. What they wish for? Was it granted or not? And learnings from it.

WISH: Good health for the family

Anthony “Bong” Buenaflor has been a parish server for almost three decades. Countless times, he served in dawn masses, but he admitted that never got the chance to complete it.

“I will miss one to two novena masses because of work-related schedule. I think it was only in 2018 and 2019 that I have completed Simbang Gabi,” Bong says.

Every novena mass, Bong would pray for the wellness of his family, the studies of his children, his and wife’s personal health, and just like in The Lord’s Prayer, he always leave what’s best for him and his family to the will of the Lord.

Bong and family
Bong’s eldest daughter, Shannen

“I never doubted the grace of the Lord and I would like to think my prayers and wishes are always granted. Many times I have been sick seriously and yet here I am still serving the Lord. My daughters Shannen and Bea are doing well in their studies. My wife and I still have our jobs as educators and Francis, our only boy, is having a happy childhood. I’m not asking much from the Lord. I only want a piece of daily bread for a happy and decent living,” says Bong.

Bong revealed that there may be some times when the Lord would not grant his petitions for some of his family members. Most recently, the death of his brother Carlo. But Bong believes he’s not worthy to question the Creator who knows better than all the universe combined.

“The lesson I have learned from completing Simbang Gabi is that we must give back to the graciousness and fidelity of the Lord in our lives. Simbang Gabi is a test of patience and perseverance just as God is patient, loving and all giving towards us. We must find the meaning of Christmas through the eyes of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” says Bong.

As always, Bong has plans to complete Simbang Gabi because he is heading the Music Ministry. He just hopes that unplanned and work-related activities won’t get in the way.

“As usual, my intentions for this coming Aguinaldo mass belong to my family, relatives, and friends. I would like to add a special wish to the Lord to protect me from sickness in the coming year and give an end to this pandemic,” he concludes.

WISH: Another child

Lorena Palencia-Marasigan completed Simbang Gabi in 2019. That time, she had several wishes, varying daily, but mostly about her health and her family’s.

Lorena with husband and only child

“I ceased to wish for a baby sister for our son,” Lorena admits. “Up to now, I’m still diabetic but controlled. My family is healthy. Still, no baby sister for Mac (her only son). But I’m not disappointed. I believe, God has His own plan. I will just keep on wishing and praying.”

In fact, Lorena’s faith has intensified. “I learned that determination to finish something is really important. We attended the evening (anticipated) masses, which is more realistic for me than the early morning (dawn) masses,” says Lorena, who is also serving as a member of the parish’s Lectors and Commentators’ Ministry.

On plans to complete Simbang Gabi this year. “Yes. We always try to complete the Simbang Gabi, especially when our daddy [husband] is here for Christmas. This time, my wish is for my son to finish school with flying colors. And good health again for the family. I have another wish… a clean and honest election,” says Lorena.

In an article published in 2016, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo reminded the faithful that “completing nine-day Simbang Gabi or dawn masses leading to Christmas Day is not like a genie in a bottle that will grant wishes.”

“The purpose of the novena is to commemorate the birth of Jesus and Christ and spiritually prepare Catholics for the celebration of Christmas Day. Completing the nine days of Simbang Gabi is not for their wishes to be granted. That is a wrong belief. These should be explained in masses in order to correct the people’s thinking,” he said.

Are you ready to travel?

Check out Malaysia’s “Langkawi”, an eco-adventure, island hopping, wildlife sighting, shopping – the historical and cultural experience you surely wouldn’t want to miss

When was the last time you traveled abroad? What was your favorite destination?

For some of us, it’s been nearly two years since we traveled outside the country or even locally due to the pandemic, but now that the borders are slowly opening, where would you like to go first and why?

Twelve years ago, I promised myself to celebrate my birthday every single year by going on a trip internationally and/or locally. My first destination was Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Why there? (Read: 5 reasons why I love being single, traveling)

Visiting Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur (KL) is the capital and the largest city in Malaysia. It is the cultural, financial, and economic center of Malaysia.

It so happened that one of my best female buddies was working in KL as a private nurse at that time, so I promised her I’d come to see her there. So, I did. We went on a weekend trip, which was a week after my birthday tagging along with my 55-year-old mother who also loved traveling and seeing places.

As my mom loved organized tours versus random trips or backpacking as she hates missing in a foreign country or looking for places, we paid for an organized City Tour. As we arrived, the tour guide picked us up at the airport and showed us around the city and shops.

The most memorable places for me were the Petronas Tower, Little India, Brickfields, Beryl’s Chocolate Kingdom, Masjid Negara, the National Mosque Malaysia, branded shops where we got to window shop, and of course, the train ride with my buddy.

Seeing my buddy in KL was so fun that we agreed to meet again in Thailand in 2013 to see another friend who was working as a nurse in Bangkok. But that’s another story. (Read: Discovering Bangkok)


But if you’re up for another trip to Malaysia hopefully next year and wanted to try a new destination other than KL, Tourism Malaysia Manila has recently conducted a hybrid seminar for various travel agent associations, industry friends and partners, and members of the press to talk about Langkawi.

“Langkawi” derived from the word “helang” (eagle) and “kawi” (reddish brown) is an archipelago of 104 islands distinctly different and filled with myth and legends. It is an eco-adventure, island hopping, wildlife sighting, shopping, the historical and cultural experience you surely wouldn’t want to miss.

According to a website, the 10 best attractions in Langkawi include the Langkawi Sky Bridge, Dataran Lang (Eagle Square), Langkawi Cable Car, Underwater World Langkawi, Gunung Raya, Langkawi Wildlife Park & Bird Paradise, Pulau Payar Marine Park, Langkawi Arts in Paradise 3D Museum, Taman Lagenda Langkawi, and Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls.

Langkawi Sky Bridge Photo courtesy of Langkawi

During the seminar, Yazlina Yahya, Director of Tourism Malaysia Manila, presented the Standard Operating Procedures for all tourists entering Malaysia, which includes the following:

  • A negative COVID-19 RT PCR swab tests prior departure. This is required for all countries within 72 hours before arrival in Malaysia.
  • Upon arrival in KLIA, Malaysia-bound passengers need to undergo an addition swab test.
  • Mandatory 7 to 10 days home quarantine (to apply 7010 days prior to travelling to Malaysia)
  • Quarantine in hospitals designated by the Ministry of Health (if tested positive).

The seminar was conducted online and in person at Citadines Bay City Manila on November 24, 2021. Other presenters include Socorro Del Rosario and Alyssa Tinawin of Malaysia Airlines Philippines, Sharmini Violet, Director of Sales and Marketing, Mega Water Sports; Utami Fajar Sari, Marketing Communications Manager of Bayview Hotel Langkawi; Hasniza Suid, Sales Manager, Pelangi Beach Resort & Spa.

The seminar aims to promote greater awareness of Malaysia as an ideal holiday destination, besides fostering greater cooperation between tour operators and members of the tourism fraternity. This is in line with Malaysia’s efforts to boost arrivals from the Philippines once the borders have opened and leisure travel resumes.

For more information, kindly visit the Media Centre of Tourism Malaysia’s website.

Experts offer advice on how to better manage diabetes

Revisit our lifestyle, nutrition, exercise, and way of living

Food is an important part of any celebration in all countries of the world regardless of culture and religion. For sure, trying to keep up with our healthy eating, diet, and maintaining our blood sugars will be no easy feat this Christmas. Some people will even use this season as an excuse to overeat or overindulge in sweets.

Fret not because experts are here to tell you how to better manage your diabetes.

Go for whole foods

“Sugar can be found in different package items ranging from cookies, pastries, wafers to chips, crackers, or even all these homemade or bottled sauces. Whenever it says low-fat, they make it up by making it sweeter. Or if it’s low sugar, they make it up by increasing the fat content,” says Bianca Dualan, a registered nutritionist in a media event called Sweet Talk Your Way Out of Diabetes.

“Sometimes it’s only listed ‘sugar’ or ‘syrup’. Just by being aware of these things and familiarizing what sugar can look like, you will be able to make better decisions. Go for whole foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, not canned, so you won’t have to spend time looking at the nutrition labels,” adds Dualan, who is also the founder of Sakro, a nutrition and counseling therapy service that helps people better manage diseases.

Misconceptions about diabetes

Cynthia Yu Duntz, Vice President of Philippine Diabetes Support (PDS) noticed that the Philippines is inactive in diabetes education thus the need for companies that are willing to help, give lectures, and teach their members how to manage diabetes.

“There are many misconceptions about diabetes like the old belief that ‘medicines can ruin the kidneys’ or ‘some people are killing themselves with hunger’. So people tend to get depressed because they don’t know what to eat. You can eat, just control! Choose what you eat. PDS will help explain to members the facts about diabetes,” says Duntz.

Holistic approach

In the Philippines, there are almost 4 million people who have diabetes. Half of them are not even aware they have diabetes. When they are diagnosed or treated, 50 percent of them are not at goal because “medicines are key but they are not enough.”

“We need to provide a holistic approach. We need to work to manage this disease by revisiting our lifestyle, nutrition, exercise, and way of living, eating, and exercising. We need to surround our patients with specialists and [provide them with] specific coaching and make it more accessible to patients,” says Dr. Amal Makhloufi, country leader of Sanofi Philippines.

According to Dr. Makhloufi, diabetes, like any other lifestyle disease, is manageable. It is in everyone’s reach to live a healthier life.

“Diabetes should not be a cause for fear, but to call for change. It is a shared effort between healthcare companies like Sanofi and other companies among health industries and patients to manage diabetes by simply checking blood sugar regularly, exercising, living the proper lifestyle, and choosing the right kind of diet,” she emphasizes.

Sanofi’s mission is to go beyond medicines, to look and explore holistic care and management, especially for patients with chronic conditions like diabetes.

“The goal is to make it easier for every Filipino to seek access to qualitative care. But everybody needs help in achieving this – that’s why we at Sanofi Philippines build a ‘panata’ (or vow in English) to make it a healthier Philippines with you and for you,” says Dr. Makhloufi.

Panata box

Every Panata box is curated by Bianca Dualan for diabetes management. It contains fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber and low in glycemic index.

“When you purchase P1,250 per box from the website, Gising Gising will donate another box on your behalf. We’ll share it with the Philippine Diabetes Support (PDS) to kick start their journey of living better and eating healthier,” says Tonyo Silva, founder of Gising Gising PH.

Founded in April 2020, Gising Gising is a social enterprise with a mission to help fight food insecurity and hunger in the Philippines. It sells fruits and vegetables to consumers and businesses sourced from ethically operated farms at fair prices.

For more information on Sanofi PH’s programs and campaigns on lifestyle disease management, visit the official website and verified Instagram and LinkedIn pages.

4 valuable things I learned in PMA

Thanks to military school, I learned these things that I am now applying in my life.

It’s been 21 years since I left the military school and people still ask me why I left. I left because I felt that early on, military life was not for me.

I entered in the first place to try something new and adventurous, but it was not a career I saw myself retiring into— I wanted to be a writer. But looking back, without entering the military school, I wouldn’t have learned the following things, which I am now applying in my life:

  • Conquer your fears

I never thought I had a fear of heights until I was asked to finish rappelling, rope, and several obstacle courses and jump from a 10-foot diving board into a pool. Yes, I did finish them, not as fast as my other female classmates though and with a lot of help from my classmates, senior, and tactical officers, but at least I’ve finished them.

In life, we will face a lot of obstacles and challenges, and sometimes fear will stop us. If we don’t conquer them on our own, life will have to force us to conquer them. So, we must go on and do it anyway. 

  • Maintain connections

It’s been 21 years, but I still get in touch with my former classmates— both graduates and non-graduates. Friendships don’t have to end because I didn’t graduate from the academy. Some of them I haven’t seen in 20 years, but thanks to social media, we’re now connected. 

As a fourthclass cadet

There’s nothing like talking to someone who knows something about my past, who “gets” me, and knows what I’ve been through (even in such a short period of time) in ways others may not. Who knows you may need them or vice versa? (READ: DJ Terence Khan Talks Career Challenges, Valuable Learnings, and More)

  • Focus on what you can do

I was always behind road runs when I was a cadet, but I know deep down, I won’t be able to catch up if I stayed negative. Thanks to the support and encouragement of my seniors and classmates, I was able to catch up by practicing a lot during my free time. I didn’t become the fastest runner in our squad, but I was able to pass my fitness exams.

Performing during the 100th nite show

Trust me, you’ll have many the opportunity to feel down and think negatively about yourself inside the academy. But if there’s one thing, I’ve learned was how to turn negative into positive thinking. It’s by focusing on what I can do rather than what I can’t.

  • Take one day at a time

I always like planning ahead of time. I look too far ahead. I worry about what might be or what might have been. What if I don’t graduate? What if I get injured? I tend to forget to enjoy the journey. But inside the academy, we’re taught how to be flexible and learn to adapt to transitions and changes.

My sisters attended a party with me inside the academy

As I said, I realized that military life was not for me, so I decided after two years inside to continue my life outside the academy and finished my remaining year in college. I pursued what I always wanted in life— writing.

I may not be the famous writer yet I’ve always wanted myself to be, but I know my time will surely come and I’ll be amazed at how I’ve managed to enjoy the journey. Thanks to my military training, I became the better person I am now.

This article was first published at My Pope Philippines. Credits to Katsu Modomo for the featured image.

DJ Terence Khan talks about career challenges, valuable learnings, and more

“Be confident, always put your feet on the ground, and practice, practice, practice!”

Terence Khan, or “DJ Sting” to his fans, was only 12 years old when he started having an interest in doing voice acting. He got it while watching plugs and commercials on television, specifically on channel 9.

“There was a voice-over at that time that had a really good deep-sounding voice and I got thrilled to mimic him whenever possible. Also, both of my parents were working in the media industry at that time,” Terence tells.

DJ Sting (second to left) with 89 DMZ-FM disc jocks

In December 1994, Terence got hired as a production assistant in an FM station called 89.1 DMZ (Danze music Zone). Then in July 1999, he became a radio disc jockey in the same station until it was privatized in March 2002. That was when he was offered a lateral transfer to IBC TV 13 as a cameraman. 

“It never became my passion due to the pains of carrying a heavy camera on my shoulders,” Terence says. Luckily, the job of voice-over announcer became available on IBC TV 13 after three months! 

DJ Sting inside the 89.1 DMZ DJ’s booth in December 1999

“I applied for the position and got hired as the station’s continuity voice-over announcer in June 2002 up until now,” he says.

Overcoming difficulties

When he was just starting as a continuity announcer in IBC 13, Terence had difficulty speaking fluent Filipino.

“When I was on an FM radio, we only did straight English including reading the news on-air. Eventually, I was able to get the hang of it by reading Tagalog newspapers and scripts, and through the support of my colleagues,” says Terence.

He also revealed that he had no basic voice training. But with experience and constant practice, he learned how to improve his craft.  Whenever he has gigs, he would arrive two hours early to get to know everyone on the team and review his scripts.

Live band concert at Caloocan Sports Complex

“I proofread the scripts that I am about to use for the event or project. I also do vocal and mouth exercises for a minute before I go live or record,” he says.

Lessons and advice

Having been in the broadcasting industry for 27 years and as a continuity announcer for 19 years, Terence values the importance of relationships and humility.

“Be friendly and always be courteous to everyone you meet. Always be proud of your accomplishments and always put your feet on the ground,” he says.

DJ Sting at PrimeTech’s thanksgiving event at Novotel Manila live voice-over

For those people who want to pursue a career like his, Terence’s advice is to have good oral communication skills (both English and Filipino), be updated with the news and current events, and attend seminars or training on voice acting or announcing.

“Be confident. Identify your voice quality, and practice, practice, practice!” he concludes.

This article was first published at My Pope Philippines. Credits to Katsu Modomo for the featured image.

‘Plant lola’ shares how gardening brought her joy upon retirement

With gardening, Leonida has something to look forward to every day!

Last year, many Filipinos turned to plants to cope with the new coronavirus. Even now, more and more people are still picking up the hobby. And why not? Plants not only beautified our homes and purify our air, but they also helped in maintaining our mental and physical well-being.

While some people started plant collecting as going with the trend, 64-year-old Leonida Carorasan-Orillo, a veteran “plant-lola” as she preferred to be called, revealed she’s been collecting and tending plants for 41 years now.

“I was in elementary when I started having an interest in my mother’s plant collection, but that time, I couldn’t afford it financially. I told myself, someday, when I’m able and have my own house, I’d build my own garden and collect plants,” Leonida.

True enough, when she got married and had her own house, Leonida started collecting plants and building her own small garden. However, back then, she couldn’t focus much as she had to juggle between work and taking care of her small kids. Her husband, who was an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in Saudi Arabia, only came home once a year for a one-month vacation.

Gardening tips

Like most newbies, Leonida also experienced trial and error in gardening until she learned the proper way to do it. 

“You have to be patient. Water the plants every day. Sometimes, I use rice water. I don’t use artificial fertilizers. I just use farm soil or carabao manure,” says Leonida.

Studies show that animal manure has been used for centuries as a fertilizer and a soil amendment for farming. Not only is it cheaper than artificial fertilizers, but it is also more effective as it slowly releases nutrients into the soil.

“Don’t overwater the plants. Cultivate and trim them every now and then. Sometimes, I even whisper to my plants. Every plant owner knows this,” Leonida adds.

Studies show that animal manure has been used for centuries as a fertilizer and a soil amendment for farming. Not only is it cheaper than artificial fertilizers, but it is also more effective as it slowly releases nutrients into the soil.

“Don’t overwater the plants. Cultivate and trim them every now and then. Sometimes, I even whisper to my plants. Every plant owner knows this,” Leonida adds.

Her source of happiness

Although she’d been a certified plant-lola for years now, Leonida admitted that she was only able to give her full attention to her plants when she retired from her job of 39 years.

As a matter of fact, it’s more fun nowadays because she has more options for plants and pots, especially when the plant-selling business boomed. Her favorites include Fortune plants, Five fingers, and flower-bearing plants like roses and gumamelas (hibiscus).

“Looking after my plants beats my boredom. It reduced my stress and anxiety during this lockdown and eased my sadness after losing my husband a few months ago,” says Leonida.

“There’s always something I look forward to every day. It also keeps me physically active as I treat this as a form of exercise,” she adds.

This article was first published at My Pope Philippines on April 20, 2021. Credits to Katsu Modomo for the featured image.

Herminia Mendoza shares what its like losing her parents

It’s been more than 10 years, but the pain never goes away. She misses them more

These days, it can be quite common in social media to see news of sickness or death of someone we know — friends, relatives, co-workers, acquaintances, or even a famous personality.

The pain of loss can be overwhelming, especially if that someone is very dear to you. Research shows that most people recover from loss on their own if they have social support and healthy habits, but it takes time.

For Herminia “Hermie” Mendoza, she may have lost her parents more than 10 years ago, but even today, she still cries every time she remembers them.

Hermie’s parents

“It was hard at first, but I was able to adjust easily because I have my own family compared to my two younger, but unmarried sisters. My elder sister had a hard time, too because she relied on my parents for advice and support. We felt like they got married again but this time, in death,” says Hermie, whose parents died two days apart in 2010.

A daughter’s regrets

Hermie was 42 years old, married with two kids when her parents died. Her mother, Lolita Bongalon died on August 17, 2010, due to breast cancer. Her father, Pedro, passed away on August 19 of the same year due to colon cancer. Hermie is second to four siblings. She admitted that she misses her parents the most during special occasions and on Sundays where her mom would usually cook for the whole family. Now, they don’t get together as often as before. (READ: How biking helped Nerissa Manuel cope with loss)

Looking back, Hermie wishes she was with her parents 24/7. But this was not possible as her plate was also full — she was taking care of her own family, working at the local government office, and participating in church initiatives as one of the ministry leaders.

Hermie sings during masses
Getting fit through virtual exercises

“I go to my parents when they have checkups or they were confined at the hospital, but I felt that it wasn’t enough, and I felt guilty on that part,” Hermie admits.

“It’s even harder as time passed by. Even now I still cry when I remember them. I cannot bring back the time anymore. They could have seen my life right now,” she says.

“I could have brought [my parents] to different places to relax or buy them anything they want, which I couldn’t do before. Now I’m more stable in life. I have a happy family.”

The gift of family

Hermie used the pain of losing her parents to inspire herself to put more value to the gift of family. Now, she’s learned to appreciate whatever life she has right now and spend more time on what matters most — her husband, children, relatives, friends, and churchmates.

Hermie’s husband, Ricardo (center) and children – Mark and Kenneth
Get together with Hermie’s family and children’s girlfriends

“We don’t know how short or long our time on earth, so I see to it that I do whatever I want while I’m alive, strong, and healthy, so I won’t have regrets,” says Hermie.

“I’m happy with my life right now. I got closer to God by serving the church. I have a happy family, a good husband, and children. I get to do what I want, which was hosting events, dancing, and singing,” she concludes.

This article was first published at My Pope Philippines on April 13, 2021. Credits to Katsu Modomo for the feature image.