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.

Six lessons I learned at 41

One thing’s for sure, it is only through positive thinking that I was able to see good in everything

Today, I am celebrating my 41st birthday. Like everyone else, this is my second birthday on ECQ/GCQ, but I couldn’t complain. I am blessed beyond blessed today because I’m living, breathing, and surviving despite this pandemic.

Every year, I try to list down valuable lessons I learned throughout the year. So, this year, I’m doing just the same – I am listing down six lessons I learned at the age of 41. Why six? Why not? It’s my birthdate!

  1. CHERISH PEOPLE. October 10 last year, I’ve lost my father due to health complications. Although he already underwent multiple heart bypass in the United States in 2018, I was expecting (…and praying based on the medical studies) that he’ll live at least 10 more years. Little did I know, he’ll only get to live two more years after his heart bypass. Not only I lost my father, I also lost some church and work friends last year and recently. It is heartbreaking that I didn’t get to see them for the last time due to the current health protocols that only immediate family are allowed to attend the wake and burial. But because of that, I learned to cherish people more while they’re living, while they can still hear and feel the love and concern I have for them.
Missing dad.
  1. REDEFINE ‘HEALTHY’. I thought I was perfectly healthy. I’ve never felt so healthy in my entire life than at my 40s. I’ve achieved my ideal weight and I felt more confident than ever. But on May 23 of this year, I had to undergo appendectomy. Thank God I was operated before my appendix burst. But I felt so devastated thinking I was perfectly healthy and then I suffered from appendicitis. What did I do wrong? After the surgery, I felt like my life was forced to stop. I can’t move freely like I used to. I was advised not to lift heavy things or run for months. I must admit it made me depressed for a while. Up to now, I am still coping with it, but to counter it, I have started walking around the village and doing some of my regular activities, but on a much slower pace. I have also come to realize that maybe…maybe this happened to me because I needed to redefine being ‘healthy’. Being ‘healthy’ doesn’t necessary mean being physically active always. Sometimes, it’s just slowing down, taking time to stop and smell the flowers, and enjoying life.
Yellow gumamela around the village
My first walking exercise after my surgery
  1. BE KINDER. I love talking and interviewing people. I believe every person has a ‘unique’ story to tell. And many times, I will only understand the person after hearing his/her stories – why he acted this way, why he’s afraid, why he’s anxious, or why he’s always angry or agitated. I’ve heard it said so many times: “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” I wish life would be kinder to everyone, but it can’t. But we’re here to be kinder to them instead.
  1. LET GO AND LET GOD. It’s human nature to desire everything to happen in our own time and pace. But there are some things that are beyond our control. I wanted a job promotion, but God says it’s not yet time. I wanted to get married now, but God says soon. I wanted to have kids right now, but God says someday. I realized that no matter how hard I try to pitch my plans to God, He has other plans. My timeline is different with Him and so with everyone else, so I learned to let go and let Him.
  1. WAIT FOR THE GOD’S PERFECT TIMING. I remember wanting so bad to visit Sydney, Australia in 2003 but was denied of a visa. When I applied again after seven years in 2010, it was approved so I was able to attend my uncle’s 50th birthday. Why was it denied in 2003? Maybe because I just graduated from college then and had no stable job. When it was approved in 2010, I had a regular job and my cousins in Australia were already past 18 years old, so they were able to accompany me at the mall, city, or at the beach. Looking back, if I visited Sydney in 2003, it wouldn’t be so much fun like it was in 2010.
Sydney Harbour Bridge in 2010
  1. BE GRATEFUL. “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50:20). A lot has happened to me in 2020. I think everyone else was also affected by the pandemic in one way or another. However, this year, I’ve learned to be more grateful no matter what the circumstances are and appreciate my blessings instead of what’s lacking. It’s hard sometimes, but I have no choice. I may have lost my father. I may have undergone appendectomy, but I still have my mother, my sisters, my nieces, and nephew. I have a stable job. I have supportive relatives and caring friends at church and at work. I have a strong church community. I’m alive. I’m well. I’m happy. I’m in love. And many more. What’s not to be grateful for?
Celebrating mom’s 65th birthday with my sisters last month. Praise God for the gift of life.

“No matter how difficult the situation is now, count your blessings. It will help you a lot to stay positive. The continued lockdowns might have been too heavy for you to bear, but you must be grateful for little things you might have taken for granted to care.

Lucky for you if you can still read this, compared for those who could not as they are grasping for their breath because of being infected. Staying at home could be boring, but it could have been worse if you’re in a quarantine facility snoring. Never be annoyed getting up in your own bed, at least, it’s not owned by a hospital.

Thank God if you’re still wearing a face mask, it’s cheaper than having the tube from an oxygen tank. Delight in the simple food you can munch than losing your taste with the sumptuous ones. Appreciate the abode of your simple home than being lifeless buried in a cold ground alone. Be grateful to God if you can afford to pray, then letting others wish you peaceful rest in what they say. It is only through positive thinking that you can see good in everything.”

From an unknown author

This year, allow me to once again thank you for your warm greetings and for being so kind, generous, warm, loving, understanding and supportive of me and my family, especially during our difficult times and lowest points. I am so touched and humbled, I couldn’t thank you enough. 

I sincerely pray to God that He grant all my wishes this year, but if He doesn’t grant ALL, I know He will grant SOME and He will surprise me in the coming days and years. I know His plans are far more beautiful than what I have in mind and it will happen in God’s perfect time.

To God be all the glory!

*Special thanks to Engr. Elvir Santos for my Featured Image. Taken on June 2, 2021 during the 150th Founding Anniversary of the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Rodriguez, Rizal

Ramil Sumangil beats all odds with ‘Books for a Cause’

For 10 years, Ramil has been working with companies and NGOs in bringing books to children in far-flung corners of the country

It all started with an invitation to speak during the commencement exercises of his alma mater in Baloy Elementary School, Nueva Ecija on April 1, 2011. Ramil Sumangil didn’t want to go empty-handed so he asked his family what he can bring during the event.

“Books!“ They unanimously suggested. So Ramil brought his three sets of encyclopedia which he and his wife bought in the past for their oldest child. His teachers were very glad to receive the books as the school still doesn’t have a library.

Upon the request of his former teachers, Ramil encouraged his friends to share their pre-loved books when he went back to Manila and before the week ended, he received another batch of books which were immediately sent to Nueva Ecija. 

From there, a library and the Books for a Cause (BFAC) were born on April Fool’s Day.

Books for a cause

Photo courtesy of Books for a Cause Facebook

Books for a Cause  (BFAC) is an advocacy that aims to provide precious knowledge to every Filipino and increase literacy through continuous learning, especially in remote areas where the internet and technology are almost impossible.

With the help of social media, BFAC became the talk of the town. Different companies collaborated for their CSR activities, NGOs brought the initiative to communities they’re helping, and books just flowed in from in and out of the country. 

“News spread like fire that before 2011 ended, almost all the 52 barangays of my hometown received books from BFAC. A few more months, BFAC has covered not just my hometown but also different schools and communities around the country,” shared Ramil.

Humble beginnings

Photo courtesy of Ramil Sumangil Facebook

The youngest of four, Ramil was born and raised by his farmer parents in Baloy, Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija. He grew up with a fondness for books.

“I have been in love with books ever since.  I remembered owning one, a Bible storybook.  It was supposed to be for sale but my mother couldn’t pay. I was really crying for not being able to have the book at first. Finally, it was given to me for free.”

Going to school was a challenge for Ramil and his family. In high school, he had to walk 18 km as there was no decent road from their barrio to the town proper. College was even tougher that his elder sister had to work as a domestic helper in Hongkong so she could help him pursue his business course in Luzon Colleges, Dagupan City.

Despite all the hardships, Ramil’s love for books never faded even when he came to Manila for work. In fact, he bought a book by Og Mandino from his first salary, and since then, every payday, he’d buy a book until he was able to build his very own library at home.

He was lucky to have worked with some of the biggest companies in the country from banks, TV, to a publishing firm, but he had to give up his career in human resources a few years ago so he can manage BFAC full-time.

“I  just thought that this is a chance of a lifetime. I can only do this advocacy now that I am still strong. I might not be able to do it when I am already old and weak,” he explained.

That fatal accident

Ramil Sumangil in Sta Cruz Elementary School Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija

Most people don’t know that Ramil is currently struggling with a disability from a road accident in 2017. On his way to pick up a book donation in Sta Rosa, Laguna, Ramil’s car was hit by a closed delivery van. His car’s rear end was totally wrecked. But worse, the accident caused his slipped disc. 

Because of the injury, Ramil cannot carry anything beyond 3 to 5 kilos. His legs are now affected and he could hardly walk, too.  But despite this disability, he never stopped doing his advocacy.

“It is only my physical body that’s affected.  I can still think. I can communicate and use social media. I can still gather book donations!” he says.

Thankfully, Ramil learned that there are many people who want to help, but they just don’t know how and where to start. For those who want to donate, BFAC accepts all kinds of reading materials – from children’s storybooks to encyclopedias, K to 12 textbooks, magazines, references, fiction, non-fiction, etc., as long as they are in good condition. 

BFAC also accepts stuffed toys, and even music and movies, and computers and gadgets that may still be used and shared. All donations must be sent to the following address:

Books for a Cause c/o Ramil Sumangil
413 – Barcelona, Vista de Lago Villas 
Bagong Calzada, Brgy. Tuktukan, Taguig City
CP 09298082664
e-mail:  booksforacause@yahoo.com
Facebook: Books for a Cause and Munting Aklatan

Originally published in My Pope Philippines on April 6, 2021.

A year into quarantine: 6 Filipinos share their best realizations

As we officially mark a year of being in quarantine, we asked six Filipinos about their key learnings from the pandemic.

It has been a year now since the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world. Thinking it was only a simple virus, many people fell victim to the illness that changed the ways we relate to each other and navigate the world.

I was at work when President Rodrigo Duterte ordered to place Metro Manila under a lockdown or “community quarantine” to contain the novel coronavirus last year. From March 15 to April 14, 2020, all domestic land, sea, and air travel had been prohibited. 

Admittedly, the past year has been like no other. And as we officially mark a year of being in quarantine, I would like to think that maybe— just maybe— we’ve learned something from the experience that helped us evaluate our lives and focus today on what’s truly important.

Six Filipinos share their key learnings from the pandemic, as they recall where they were and what they were doing when the lockdown was declared. Read below! 

Lessons from quarantine: Build closer family ties

Photos from Two Maids Blog and courtesy of subjects (Daniel Joseph Cayetano and Lorena Palencia)

Daniel Joseph Cayetano, 30, real estate agent: “I was in Makati City doing paper works for our clients. When the lockdown was declared, we were asked to go home at once. Thank God, I got home easily. I heard many commuters were stranded. How the pandemic changed my life? My family and I got closer. We learned to clean the house regularly to avoid the virus. We learned to be more thoughtful of one another especially my mother who is already a senior citizen.” 

Lorena Palencia, 45, laundry shop owner: “I was at home getting ready to open the shop. It affected my business and social life, but I had more time with my family.”

Lessons from quarantine: Proper hygiene is a must

Photos from Castorly Stock from Pexels and courtesy of subjects (Don Carorasan and Donna Pahignalo)

Don Carorasan, 41, Nissan marketing professional: “I was at the office when the lockdown was declared. I learned how to use alcohol regularly for sanitation. I thought only classy people do that. Now I also do that, so I feel like classy now, too. But seriously, pandemic taught me to find ways to earn more.”

Donna Pahignalo, 39, art director: “I was at home doing household chores. I learned to be more cautious of my hygiene, use alcohol and wash my hands.” 

Lessons from quarantine: Spend wisely, save more

hotos from iStockphoto/Which.co.uk and courtesy of subjects (Bryan Ladion and Julie Anna Orillo)

Bryan Ladion, 31, former public utility vehicle inspector: “I was at home, but I was sad because when the lockdown was declared, that was the exact date of my supposed civil service exams. My two-month review was put to waste. So, I just prepared food, alcohol, and masks so we won’t have to go out. I learned how to be more careful in spending money, enjoy time with my family, and prioritize good health over material things.” 

Julie Anna Orillo, 39, government employee: “I was in the office when the lockdown was declared. I realized the importance of saving money and of course, having good health over material things.

Originally published at My Pope Philippines on March 16, 2021

Some days I’m okay, some days I’m not

But I don’t feel guilty, it’s okay not to be okay sometimes

When a good friend and former colleague suggested that I enter this contest, I was hesitant. Up until the last hours before the deadline, I couldn’t write anything. What could I possibly tell my readers about moving on and surviving when I’m still struggling?

Having to go through life and death situations left me out of words. I struggled to write. And this is the first time I am opening up about what I’ve been through and what I am going through.

Memories of EDSA

One time on my way home, I burst into tears while driving in EDSA. I used to dread driving that road because of heavy traffic and flooded portions. But now, every time I pass by EDSA, I can’t help but remember my father. We pass by that road almost every day. When he died, I felt like I was left alone to endure the traffics in EDSA and life, in general.

I think most people hated driving in EDSA, especially during rush hours, but I was forced to bring the car to work because there was no public transportation yet that time and the risk of contracting the virus via commute was high.

During the early days of pandemic last year, I volunteered to report onsite because my father reported for work on a weekly basis riding a taxi.

Before pandemic, my father and I would park the car at the mall and leave it there and ride the MRT train to ease our commute. But we cannot do that last year, since he’s already a senior citizen and he also had comorbidities: He underwent a heart multiple bypass in 2018. He had high blood pressure, he’s diabetic, and he had kidney problems.

Even though I wanted him to stay at home as he was also retired years ago, he insisted to continue working. So, my mom and I had no choice but to support him all the way. And since my mother retired, too, my father and I go to work constantly.

Enjoying long hours of traffic

Traversing EDSA daily was no joke, but because my father was my passenger, those drives would be less tiring, less boring, and less lonely. Our day starts with him buying me breakfast at Mc Donald’s and we’d eat at the car. After work, I’d enjoy listening whenever he talks about his days in Saudi Arabia where he worked for almost a decade until he decided to settle in the Philippines to be with us.

On some days, we don’t really talk, to be honest, especially when we’re in a bad mood or tired from work. There were days we annoyed each other. But most of the times, we’d talk about anything under the sun, laugh, or just listen to Joel Osteen’s podcasts.

I like asking him questions even though I can research the answer/s in Google. I like how my father answers them or talk about how his day went in the office without going into detail about it.

My favorite passenger, my father

You see, my father was a man of few words, but he can be chatty sometimes. And when we’re in the car and I’m driving, that’s also the only time I get to talk, ask, and remind him (sometimes scold him!) about absolutely anything (e.g. his medications, exercises, and medical checkups).

Sadly, my father died due to cardiac arrest on October 10, 2020, two weeks after I reported for work, and I was in complete shock. I think we all were – my mom and sisters, including our relatives and closest friends. Everything happened so fast.

My bout with appendicitis

So, I tried distracting myself by exercising and running in the morning. They say when we exercise, our body releases chemical called endorphins, which can trigger a positive feeling in the body. I wanted to be happy so I run. It became my comfort zone and stress reliever.

I thought I was doing great with my physical activities and healthy eating. In fact, I was at my healthiest weight ever in years. But on May 23, seven months after my father died, I underwent appendectomy – my first-ever major surgery in my entire life.

I initially felt a sharp pain in my lower right abdomen. After some blood work and CT scan, I was diagnosed with appendicitis and my doctors recommended appendectomy right away.

At first, I was in denial. I can’t believe it’s happening to me. The resident surgeon must have seen my worried face, so she told me: “Ma’m, you look really worried!”

I answered: “Yes doc, if this happened before the pandemic, I’d be okay with the surgery. But we are in the pandemic. Imagine the health protocols and tests I have to go through before the surgery.”

And I was right. Before admission, my mom and I had to undergo an antigen test – to which we tested NEGATIVE, thank God. And even after my surgery, the hospital had to confirm the negative result with a swab test.

Imagine if I/we tested positive? I will not only worry about my surgery and recovery, but also the “positive” result.

I was depressed, but I couldn’t show it. I can’t even cry or laugh because my stitched abdomen hurts. I can’t even move side to side like I used to. Plus, the reality that I can’t do my “normal” activities yet devastated me.

My life forced into halt

When my doctor told me that I can resume my normal activities minus heavy lifting during my follow-up checkup, I wanted to ask him: “Doc, do you know my ‘normal’ activities? I run 2-3x a week (as if I’m a pro athlete). I wash clothes. I clean the car. And since my father underwent heart surgery years ago, I also move a half sack of rice and gas tank inside the house. Does that look normal to you?”

But I refrained from speaking and just accepted the fact, that maybe, maybe this is God’s way of telling me to slow down. Rely on Him and only Him in everything and just see the good things He has given me instead:

  1. My appendix was removed before it busted so I was saved in a way.
  2. I have a mother who accompanied me at the hospital and took care of me.
  3. My small, cute nieces giving me constant joy.
  4. I have a stable job with a medical insurance.
  5. Good and loyal friends who comforted me during those difficult times.
  6. My church community who prayed for me.
  7. And the thought that there are people suffering worse than me, but they are still trying to stay positive and grateful in life.

Given those blessings in my life, I felt like I don’t have the right to complain. But as a human being, I know I have the right to be sad and get depressed. It’s ok not to be okay sometimes because it’s a normal human emotion. It’s part of the process and I must feel them so I can heal from the pain and losses I suffered.

I must admit there are some days I’m okay, some days when I’m not, but I know I will be okay soon. In God’s perfect time.

Just finished 3.5-km walk

P.S. It’s been more than a month since my appendectomy. But I’m happy to report that I’ve started walking 3 to 5 kms again every other day, appreciating the sunrise and nature like good old days, and slowly going back to my “normal” activities.

Appreciating the sunrise
Nature walks around the village

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This story is an entry to ComCo Southeast Asia’s “Write to Ignite Blogging Project Season 2: Dear Survivor”. The initiative continues to respond to the need of our times, as every story comes a long way during this period of crisis.  The initiative aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities to inspire the nation to rise and move forward amidst the difficult situation. The “Write to Ignite Blogging Project” Season 2 is made possible by ComCo Southeast Asia, with Eastern Communications and Jobstreet as co-presenters, with AirAsia and Xiaomi as major sponsors, and with Teleperformance as sponsor.

‘How my family coped with unexpected pregnancy amid pandemic’

She kept asking God why now when there’s a global pandemic. Her answer came in the most unusual way.

Fresh from the maternity clinic

Jiji-Anna Orillo-Pango never thought she’ll get pregnant for the second time. She’s been married for 10 years, but she and her husband had to wait three years in to their marriage to conceive their first baby, who is now seven years old.

When the pandemic caught everyone off guard in 2020, Jiji-Anna received a different surprise by discovering she was four months pregnant with her second child.

“I was turning 39 years old last year so I was afraid I could be in the menopausal stage already since my mother had an early menopausal at the age of 40. So I thought my chance of conceiving another child was not possible anymore,” she admitted.

She was constantly in denial despite people asking her if she’s pregnant because she gained weight during the lockdown. She even ignored her morning sickness, thinking she was just acidic for having too much coffee, lemon, and soda.

“I’m sure I won’t get pregnant because we’re using the rhythm method,” she said.

It’s positive!

It wasn’t until Jiji-Anna’s mother and sister noticed her growing belly during one of their video calls that she was forced to take a pregnancy test and an ultrasound to confirm their suspicions. Lo and behold, she’s four months pregnant.

“I wasn’t expecting it. While I’m happy to have another child, I kept asking God why now when there is a global pandemic and nationwide lockdown,” she admitted.

While so many women post their pregnancy journey on social media, Jiji-Anna hid hers to avoid people teasing her and telling her the do’s and don’ts of pregnancy as if it’s her first time.

“I know they were all just concerned about me, but during that time, I’m just too sensitive to read unsolicited comments and reactions. To avoid that, I didn’t post anything. I wanted my pregnancy journey to be private,” she shared.

Celebrating mommy Jiji-Anna’s birthday with Kaitlyn, her first child

‘Lockdown baby boom’

The lockdown has resulted in tales of unplanned pregnancies, which they called the “lockdown baby boom”.  Last year, BBC News reported that the projections by the University of the Philippines Population Institute and the United Nations Population Fund, it is estimated an extra 214,000 unplanned babies will be born this year.

But indeed, everything in life happens for a purpose. Two months before Jiji-Anna’s expected delivery, her 68-year-old father died due to complications and it was her family’s most stressful, saddest, and emotional time that she almost lost her baby.

“The doctor had to prescribe me a medicine to prevent my premature labor and miscarriage. Thank God, she held on,” said Jiji-Anna.

When her daughter, Kloey Jianna arrived on November 21, 2020, Jiji-Anna finally realized why she got pregnant during the time of the pandemic.

Daddy Karl, Mommy Jiji-Anna, ate Kaitlyn, and baby Kloey

“Probably to spend more time with daddy,” said Jiji-Anna who was able to spend time with his father a few months before he died.

“I missed my family in Rizal that I went home to see them when Parañaque City eased the restrictions during the early months of the lockdown. We were able to bond with him. I’m just really sad that daddy wasn’t able to see Kloey anymore. But maybe God gave us this baby to ease the pain of losing daddy,” shared Jiji-Anna, who named her second child ‘Kloey’ after her father’s nickname, ‘Joey’.