How my devotion to Mama Mary started

I was born and raised as a Catholic. We’re the type of family who’d go to church every Sunday, pray the rosary every day at 6:00 pm, especially during October, the month of the rosary; pray the Angelus, attend Black Rosary crusades in our village, and would complete 9-day novena masses for the Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Back then, I pray the rosary because I have no choice. We had to do it all together as a family. Mom somehow forced me into it. I hate praying the rosary because we were required to kneel down for almost 15-20 minutes.

Looking back, that practice made me memorize the four mysteries of the Holy Rosary and other prayers, but I thought that was all into it.

I’ve heard so many criticisms about how Catholics honor Mama Mary by saying our devotion to Mary is “not based on Sacred Scripture, that it is an offense to Christ, that no one should pray to Mary because there is only one Mediator with the Father, that Mary did not always remain a virgin, etc, and that our prayers can be directed to God without having to pass Mama Mary.”

The truth is, they almost convinced me, especially when I remembered how mom would always force us to kneel down in prayer.

What the Bible says

One Holy Week, I was asked to be one of the speakers during the 7 Last Words and while reading and reflecting, I came across the Third Word which is, “Woman, behold, your son. Behold your mother.” (John 19:26-27)

Accordingly, the Bible records many instances of Mary with Jesus Christ during his lifetime, but one instance that really struck me the most was when the wine ran out at a wedding, and Mary asked her son to turn water into wine (John 2).

For Jesus, it was not yet time to perform a miracle, but when Mary interceded, Jesus couldn’t say no. How can a son say no to his mother?

And so I thought, “Oh if I pray to Mama Mary, she can intercede for my prayers especially if it’s the will of God even if it’s not yet time?” That motivated me.

Turning point

While I know back then that Mary can intercede for us, my belief was not yet full 100%. I know! I’m like doubting Thomas who needed to see Jesus first to believe that He has risen and I’m really ashamed of that.

Until my 7-year-old niece, who was in the ICU then, was in a life and death situation. I thought she’s going to die that night. I panicked and started searching for my rosary. All I found was my hanky where a prayer of Our Lady of Penafrancia was printed.

I recited the prayer and prayed the rosary after. While the doctor needed to intubate my niece that night, I know Mama Mary interceded to save her life. My niece managed to live many more months after that incident, unfortunately, she died due to complications.

It got me heartbroken but nevertheless, I know, Mama Mary interceded for us. She heard our fervent prayers that night and that started my devotion to Mama Mary.

Since then, I try to pray the rosary every day, or when I have extra time, I pray another mystery, while I’m waiting or traveling.

Is rosary a repetitive prayer?

Many people say that the rosary is a repetitive prayer, which directly violates Matthew 6:7, “But when you pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”

I like this explanation about the rosary, which says, “The rosary is not a prayer of words, but of meditation. When a Catholic completes praying an entire rosary of 20 mysteries, he or she has meditated upon the entire gospel: the incarnation, birth, life, suffering, death, resurrection, and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. No method of prayer is more beneficial than this.”

As for the statues, these are not objects of worship, but reminders for people to help them focus their minds as they pray. I suggest you research your religion, learn more about it by attending seminars. Do not leave it or bash it when things go wrong. Nobody’s perfect. At the end of the day, it is our faith that will save us and not our religion.

My Catholic journey is not an easy one. It is a lifetime learning. As church servers, we are constantly required to attend seminars to deepen our knowledge about our faith and the Catholic church.

My intention for writing this blog is just to tell you how Mama Mary interceded for me and my family. How Mama Mary helped change my prayer life and faith.

I know whatever I say here will not be able to change your mind about her because, for me, I got to know her on a personal journey.

Lastly, I don’t usually talk or comment about politics and religion in my blogs or Facebook posts because I really hate getting into discussions or debates, trying to prove a point.

The purpose of the practice of religion is to achieve the goals of salvation for oneself or others.  Sadly, I’ve seen many relationships and friendships end because of politics and religions when it should not be the case because, at the end of the day, we are entitled to our own opinions


Why Catholics Honor the Blessed Virgin Mary

Is the rosary repetitive prayer

The truth behind getting good sleep

In research by Sun Life Financial Asia in 2014, Filipinos have among the worst health habits in Asia where half of Filipinos sleep less than six hours a day with 45 percent admitting to unhealthy eating habits. Also, over 60 percent of Filipinos also said they have not been exercising regularly, exceeding the regional average of 56 percent, and almost at the same level as Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Thailand.

Ever noticed that after a sleepless night, you are more irritable, short-tempered, and vulnerable to stress in the morning, but once you sleep well, you are suddenly in a good mood?

Medical science puts the ideal amount of sleep from six to eight hours a day. They also come to conclude that the ideal time to be asleep is between 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. However, they also learned that the quality of sleep is as important as the amount of sleep.

“Some of the factors that destroy a good night’s sleep include daytime behavior, working or sleeping in the wrong position for a long time, having a big meal and going to bed immediately after,” said Chawakit Kaoien, a 34-year-old licensed physical therapist.

Chawakit Kaoien

Kaoien has worked at one of Asia’s leading hospitals, Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, for 11 years, where he specialized in improving and maintaining respiratory systems for patients who were in critical condition or in the intensive care unit (ICU).

“To improve the condition of my patients, as well as their quality of life, I would arrange their sleeping positions for various purposes such as to reduce pressure, soreness, and to ease pain, to promote blood circulation, to allow heart failure patients to sleep better, to prevent contracture, and many more. I use many pillows to adjust my patients and put them in good positions. Not only patients need it [good and quality sleep], but everyone,” added Kaoien.

Importance of ‘deep’ sleep

Scientists have learned that the most important and restorative cycle of sleep is a deep sleep. It is the phase of sleep wherein your body and brain are truly at rest, and the human growth hormone is released to repair any wear and tear that your body and brain sustained while a person was awake. That’s why deep sleep is so vital.

Not because you’re in bed for six to eight hours means you had a good sleep, especially when all you did is to toss, turn, or wake up every now and then.

Deep sleep comes well into a sleep cycle and requires a long period of uninterrupted sleep to reach. Scientists have identified at least 20 percent of our time asleep should be a deep sleep. Anything less is insufficient.

Apart from the factors mentioned by Kaoien that influence sleep, there’s also light’s effect (like blue light emitted by electronics), jet lag, shift work, pain, anxiety, medical condition, and sleeping in a smelly or poor quality of pillows and mattresses.

Studies show that bedsheets and pillowcases could also be the reason why a person is not refreshed when he or she wakes up in the morning.

“The easiest way to promote a good night’s sleep is to have a correct size of pillows and good quality of bedding.

If the pillow doesn’t support you well, you will experience pain. If you are a side sleeper and you have the wrong pillow, you will experience pain. If you are not in a correct posture, you will experience back pain and not only pain, there’s no proper ventilation,” said Kaoien.

Poor beddings, mattresses

The inability to sleep comfortably has been linked to conclusively to numerous musculoskeletal problems, such as chronic back, neck, shoulder, and leg pain.

It has also been linked to the inability to get enough deep sleep, which in turn is a major factor in neurological conditions such as reduced cognitive function, memory lapses, and even migraines. But lack of deep sleep also contributes to countless other ailments from hyperacidity, hypertension to chronic fatigue.

“My wife asked me about the neck and back pain she had every morning. I did for her what I knew best, I adjusted her sleeping position using several pillows,” revealed Kaoien.

However, it was difficult to keep the pillows in place because unlike in the ICU where patients don’t usually move a lot, healthy people move around a lot at night.

Thus, the birth of Mr. Big, a regionally known brand of physical therapist designed pillows, mattresses, and other sleeping essentials.

“You have to know yourself—your sleeping patterns or body shape to support your preference. You have to choose to right pillow that can support your weight or height. The pillow plays the big role in the upper part [of our body], but the mattress affects our backline directly,” added Kaoien, adding that a person eventually will be needing ergonomic mattresses for a full experience.

Proper hygiene and good sleep

For now, Kaoien is not keen on introducing his products to hospitals from hygiene issues. Aside from the fact that pillows and hospital beddings need to be washed regularly to avoid infections, materials used in his products are for home use and thus expensive for hospital use.

Also, pillows need to be changed every year. Pillows are usually made of cotton and the physical structure become loose over time.

The moisture and sweat, accumulated in the pillows can have an effect on the overall well-being of a person. He also discouraged the sharing of pillows, as each pillow is specifically designed to fit a person based on his or her height or weight.

“You can share it [pillows] to your family. But if your child uses it, it may be too big for him/her. But since kids are more flexible, their muscles and bones, they might not complain about pain, but for older people who are not flexible, they might complain,” he added.

Arnold Cabildes, general manager for Mr. Big Philippines, noticed how Filipinos like to try new things just for the sake of trying or buying it.

“They buy products that they don’t really need, depending on their budget. Why save for something even if it’s expensive because it’s what you need and will satisfy you? If a person has a good sleep, he can think properly and everything will be okay. When you lack sleep, you cannot think properly. I would suggest, invest in a night of good sleep,” he said.

Mr. Big pillows and sleep essentials are exclusively imported by Newyork Home Fashions, and are available in the Philippines exclusively at SM Home stores.

For more information, visit Mr. Big or check out its Facebook page or Instagram.

Article originally published at The Manila Times on June 30, 2018

Abito Series: When God’s plan prevails

The journey to the priesthood of Rev. Fr. Rodrigo “Ric” Eguia

For many priests I know, becoming a priest has always been a childhood dream or a vision in their younger years. But not with Rev. Fr. Rodrigo “Ric” Eguia, parish priest of the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Rodriguez (Montalban), Rizal.

His becoming a priest was never a dream. In fact, he as a child wasn’t even in his mother’s plans, he had other plans as well, but God clearly had a better plan for him.

“My ‘real’ dream was to raise my own family. I didn’t expect that one day, God will call me to the priesthood. I wanted to be an engineer so I finished Electrical Engineering in college. After college, I got a job and had a girlfriend,” shared Eguia.

While he attended regular Sunday masses, that’s about it. He even studied in a Catholic School for Boys ran by priests, but was never attracted to becoming a priest himself. He wasn’t even active in his parish.

The recurring dream

It was when Eguia was 25 years old when he started having short, recurring, but interrelated dreams.

In his first dream, he saw a mysterious man dressed like a shepherd. He was alone sitting on a big, white living rock. He looked sad and in deep thoughts. In his second dream, he saw the man again, calling other men, but Eguia ignored him. In his third dream, he saw the man again, sitting on the white, living rock and talking to other men who’ve probably responded to his call.

“I became curious about what the man was saying as I can hear his loud voice even from afar. He was telling the other men that ‘the world is so sad today. Many people are lost without someone shepherding them’,” said Eguia.

In his fourth dream, Eguia was walking this time, when he saw the man again. He tried avoiding him by going the other way, but the man followed him. When he could no longer avoid him, the latter approached him, ‘Do you want to become one of my shepherds?”

“I was speechless. I thought of what he said so I asked him, ‘Why me? I’m one of the lost sheep who also needed a shepherd.’ But the man didn’t answer and just smiled at me,” said Eguia.

He never discovered who the man was. He didn’t even bother to ask who he was in his dream. All he could remember was that man was a shepherd and he was asking him if he wanted to become one of his shepherds.

After that, he never saw the man again in his dreams. Eguia didn’t believe in the meaning of dreams, but he felt something was different in them.

Avoiding the call

Eguia admitted that he tried forgetting about his dreams, but as time went by, it bothered him so much that it was already affecting him. It felt like a calling that he didn’t like to respond to.

When he can’t avoid it any longer, he decided to consult a priest to find out the meaning of his dreams. The latter told him that maybe was being called to the priesthood.

“I got scared at what he told me. I couldn’t believe it. It’s impossible! I’m a sinner. No one will believe me if I become a priest,” he said.

So he ignored the calling again and tried to disregard what the priest told him. He tried to run and hide. And worst, to show God he’s not worthy of becoming a priest, Eguia got a second girlfriend and went on doing sinful things.

“My friends and I went to see this live show called, ‘Toro’ where we would watch one couple (girl and boy) make love in front of us. But while we’re drinking beers and watching, I heard the voice of God asking me, ‘Is this the life you want?’. I felt very ashamed to God that no matter how hard I try to hide or how badly I sin, He didn’t leave me,” said Eguia.

Surrendering to God

Eguia felt more confused like he’s going out of his mind. He couldn’t focus now on his job so he decided to take a vacation and visited his province. It was Sunday so he went to church and fell in line to receive the Holy Eucharist.

“While I was in line approaching the altar, I was staring at this huge image of Christ in the crucifix. I talked to him and said, ‘Lord, I’m tired of running away. I don’t know where to hide anymore. If you’re calling me, let your will be done. Show me the way’,” he said.

He started crying to the point of wailing after receiving the holy communion. People started staring at him wondering what’s happening to him, even as he was left alone inside the church, he continued crying.

“I couldn’t believe I said, ‘yes’ to God’s call. After crying, I felt relief. I felt like a newborn baby who just came out of his mother’s womb,” said Eguia.

That unexpected phone call

When he got back to work a few days after, he received an unexpected call from a college friend with whom he hadn’t talked in years.

His friend was apparently asking him if he could accompany him to Tagaytay as he was interested to enter the seminary. He was startled because this friend knew nothing about his dreams. He then wondered if this was God’s answer to his plea to show him the way.

Eguia gladly accompanied his friend to Tagaytay and to his surprise when they arrived he couldn’t believe what he saw, the name of the seminary was ‘Tahanan ng Mabuting Pastol’ (Home of the Good Shepherd).

“I felt the shivers ran down through my spine. I heard God telling me, ‘You have to be here.’ The truth is, I didn’t want to leave the place anymore. That’s the first time I felt peace inside me,” said Eguia.

Apparently, after inquiring on how to enter the seminary, his friend decided right there and then that he wasn’t ready yet and had to think it over. Eguia thought it was such a waste if his friend won’t enter the seminary, so he told him he will enter instead.

“My friend thought I was joking. What I didn’t tell him was I actually went back to the seminary and applied. The Rector then was Fr. Chito Tagle (now Cardinal Tagle of the Archdiocese of Manila) gave me a chance and told me to report to the seminary once a month for vocation direction,” said Eguia.

After a few monthly sessions, the Rector told him to wait for a letter that will tell him if he got accepted or not. But after several months, no letter came. Wondering, Eguia went back to the seminary to personally ask for the results. When the Rector saw him, he was asked what took him so long. They’ve sent three letters already — he got accepted!

Eguia felt mixed emotions after hearing those words the Rector’s mouth. He didn’t know whether to feel happy or sad. He started having second thoughts so the Rector gave him time to think it over.

Joining the parish ministries

While discerning, Eguia was directed to join parish groups. He then joined a prayer group, choir, and lectors. He also volunteered to organize the chapel and take charge of the sound system.

Eguia felt happy serving the church that he started assessing his intentions to become a priest. He felt satisfied already serving as a layperson. But one day while praying, it’s as if God talked to him again saying: “The problem with you is you want to serve me your way and not my way.”

 “I felt ashamed again with God. He’s right, I want to serve him the way it’s convenient for me,” he admitted.

From Tagaytay, he went back home and while on his way, he began wondering why he didn’t receive any letters. Is it possible that someone hid them from him? When he reached home, he asked his mother and that’s when he discovered something.

The culprit

Apparently, his mother had been hiding the letters from him all along. Someone told her that he was visiting a seminary in Tagaytay so she’s been waiting for him to tell her personally.

“Is it true that you want to become a priest,” her mother asked him.

He couldn’t answer. He saw the anger and the feeling of being betrayed in her mother’s face.

“You wasted all our sacrifices just to let you finish college. Had I known you want to become a priest, you should’ve told us earlier. Remember this, don’t expect a single cent from us,” she said.

“My mother was heartbroken. She cried and turned her back on me. She avoided and refused to talk to me for close to a month. She didn’t even prepare breakfast before I went to work. Sadness was felt all over the house as if someone died,” said Eguia.

But he was really determined to enter the seminary. This time, no one can stop him. He’s old enough so he won’t be needing any parental consent. Fortunately, his father and sister supported his plans. But because he’s closest to his mother, he knew that she was very affected by his decision.

“My mother’s dream was for me to get married and raise a family. My mother felt I’m not fit to become a priest and I won’t be happy there. She thought I’m a very sociable person who loves attending parties and social events,” said Eguia.

Letting go

To prove that he’s serious about his decision to enter the seminary, Eguia broke up with his two girlfriends but withheld the real reason. He just said he just needed ‘space’ to think, and while they didn’t want to let him go, they didn’t have a choice.

 Eguia also resigned from his job. He submitted a resignation letter stating the reason: “Because I will enter the seminary to become a priest.”

His manager tried talking to him, even asking him if he’s out of his mind. He was even threatened that he can’t come back to his job anymore once he changed his mind. The manager went as far as posting his resignation letter at the bulletin board for everyone to read.

“Many people didn’t believe me. I looked like a joke to everyone. They even made a bet I won’t last a year inside the seminary. But I ignored everyone and left,” said Eguia.

The ‘menopause baby’

After a year in the seminary, Eguia never thought about going out. But during the first two years inside, he would always remember his mother talking him out of leaving the seminary and just serve God as a layperson, but he stayed.

After two years, when his mother saw that he’s really happy inside the seminary, she would now tell him not to go out anymore for fear of people behind their backs.

“I felt very happy and at peace inside the seminary. Looking back at my life, my happiest and peaceful years are inside the seminary,” revealed Eguia.

Young Fr. Ric

Six years have gone by so fast, Eguia finally finished his studies inside the seminary. He became a Deacon in December 1990, and the following year, Eguia was finally ordained to the priesthood at the Antipolo Cathedral on November 9, 1991.

When he became a priest, Eguia’s mother finally revealed a secret about her plan to abort him before because he was a ‘menopause baby’. Her mother was in her menopausal stage and thought of not having him as it will be very dangerous already.

Many people also advised her not to push through with it as there will be high chances of having an abnormal baby. But being a God-fearing person, his mother thought hard not to do it, because there’s already a life inside her.

“Had I aborted you, I would have killed a child who would later become a priest.  You’re not in my plan, but God has a plan for you,” Eguia fondly remembered his mother’s words.


It’s never too late to become a priest: Fr. Eldrick S. Peña

Former PMA cadet shares his journey to becoming a warrior of God: Bro. John Raven Bernarte

Road less traveled: Fr. Marvin P. Borda

Taste Australia: Adding color to your diet

Oranges are one of the most popular fruits around the world. We like them as snacks, as a recipe ingredient, and as juices, which many people associate with good health.

As we all know, oranges are famously known for their health benefits and soaring vitamin C content. They contain natural flu-fighting properties, which may help in fending off nasty colds. They are high in energy-dense properties and are also known to assist in weight control, maintaining healthy blood pressure levels and a healthy heart.

Asia’s demand for Australian oranges remains strong with Navel as the predominant orange to export for its popular eating variety. Navel oranges are usually seedless, easy to peel, skin, very sweet juicy flesh, and a small protrusion at one end that resembles a human navel (hence the name of this variety).

“Australian oranges are lovingly and carefully grown and we are proud to share Australia’s best produce with Filipinos. We encourage consumers to taste this vibrant fruit at major supermarket chains across Manila. Oranges aren’t just for snacking: their versatility means they can be added to your savory and sweet recipes,” said David Daniels, market access manager at Citrus Australia.

Head of Trade of Hort Innovation Australia, Dianne Phan (left), David Daniels, Market Access Manager at Citrus Australia (center), and Australian-Filipino Chef Dennis Leslie of Hilton Manila

Must-try recipes can be found here.

To allow consumers to take advantage of these much-loved seasonal sensations, which will be available from now until October, Hort Innovation hosted a launch event under the Taste Australia banner on July 24 at Hilton Manila to feature these Australian oranges, as well as to cement exiting trade relations and develop new and exciting partnerships.

“The Philippines is one of Australia’s top 10 export markets for Navel oranges, with over 5,000 tons exported every year. This is the second year of the Taste Australia campaign running in the Philippines. We are really pleased to share our Navel oranges with Filipino consumers,” said Dianne Phan, head of Trade of Hort Innovation.

Australian-Filipino Chef Dennis Leslie of Hilton Manila shows how to prepare simple dishes with Navel oranges
David Daniels, Market Access Manager at Citrus Australia (left) joins Australian-Filipino Chef Dennis Leslie of Hilton Manila as they display the dishes he prepared earlier
Grilled prawn Thai style herb salad with Australian orange

Did you know?

The first Australian citrus trees were planted in the late 1700s. Today, 2,000 growers annually produce 600,000 tons of high-quality citrus fruit with oranges being the most produced citrus variety.

Australia’s diverse climate and pristine natural environment provides quality conditions needed to produce high-quality oranges. Southeast Australia is the major growing region – the Murray Valley of Victoria, the Riverina of New South Wales, and the Riverland of South Australia.

An orange tree grafted onto rootstock may take three years to begin producing fruit, whilst a tree grown from seed can take up to 15 years. Initially, a navel orange tree may produce as little as 9 kilograms of fruit, however, when it is mature, this may increase to 180 kilograms per tree.

Australian navel oranges are incredibly versatile, making them the perfect anytime snack or addition to sweet or savory dishes. Oranges are a great alternative to a quick fix sugary drink or a chocolate bar as they contain carbohydrates and B vitamins.

How to select, store oranges at home

Thank you, Hort Innovation for these giveaways

Make sure to select fruit that has bright orange skin, is firm, and feels heavy for its size. Avoid dry, wrinkled, or softer-looking oranges as they do not ripen further after harvest.

Oranges can be stored for up to two weeks at room temperature, and longer when refrigerated. Store oranges unwashed as moisture on the skin can lead to mold. Either peel or wash oranges in cool water before slicing. If cutting, use a clean cutting board to prevent cross-contamination. Do not freeze oranges or store them below 3 degrees Celsius.

For participating retailers, trending recipes, helpful tips, and tricks, follow Taste Australia-Philippines on Facebook and on Instagram

Color-coded food labels a health boon

When medical doctor Anthony Leachon’s weight ballooned to 200 pounds, his blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels were deranged.

Leachon decided to lose weight or else he will never have the moral ascendancy to advocate preventive health if he will not walk the talk.

According to a 2016 joint study by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), obesity among children below five years old jumped 400 percent, from 1 percent prevalence in 1992 to 5 percent in 2013.

In the Philippines, three out of 10 Filipinos suffer from obesity, due to the large intake of sugar-rich foods and calorie.

An advocate of preventive health and healthcare reform and renowned cardiologist, Leachon said the ideal daily intake is 1,500 calories for women and 2,000 calories for men, but many Filipinos do not know that.

“The reasons why many Filipinos are obese or overweight are due to Ignorance. Lack of education on the calories they are taking. It should be inserted into the health curriculum. Ineptitude, people are educated but they fail to apply [their education] correction. Food labels should be imposed. Failure to shape the environment. No parks, biking, or walking lanes to encourage people to exercise,” he explained.

Regular exercise vs smart eating

Experts revealed that one can lose weight with diet alone, but exercise is an important component.

“Control calorie intake and burn calories through exercise,” said Leachon who now regularly goes to the gym and has lost 20 pounds since.

As a rule of thumb, expert says weight loss is generally 75 percent diet and 25 percent exercise.

“Eat smart. An analysis of more than 700 weight loss studies found that people see the biggest short-term results when they eat smart. On average, people who dieted without exercising for 15 weeks lost 23 pounds; the exercisers lost only six over about 21 weeks. It’s much easier to cut calories than to burn them off,” said Shawn Talbott, PhD, nutritional biochemist and former director of the University of Utah Nutrition Clinic.

Smart eating is reading or checking the food labels to help one understand the nutritional value and ingredients of his or her food.

“It is extremely important. People fail due to two errors: error of ignorance and error of ineptitude. Education is key to making the right choices and decisions,” said Leachon.

But not just nutrition labels, Leachon is pushing for the color-coded food labels that will be displayed on the front of food and drink products to visually show the consumers the nutritional value of food portions.

The consumers will see first-hand if the product has low, medium, or high amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars, and salt.

“If the label is yellow, the product is dangerous for health. If the label is green, it means the product is consumable. If it’s red, do not take it,” said Leachon in an interview.

Unfortunately, color-coded food nutrition labels are still not being implemented in the Philippines.

“In 2014, we convened a group with former Food and Drug Authority director Suzette Lazo, Philippine College of Physicians, medical organizations together with the food and beverage industry. We were close to execution but the Department of Health and the next FDA chief did not pursue it,” revealed Leachon.

How healthy is your food?

In an article published by, it said that trans fat has been shown to increase levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol while decreasing levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.

A label that lists 0 grams (g) trans fat can contain up to 0.5 grams trans fat per serving and say it has none.

When it comes to sodium, excess sodium can raise blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease.

For fiber, the article suggests looking for at least 3 grams per serving in any product that contains grains, including crackers, pasta, bread, and even some soups.

For calorie count, a higher-calorie food is said to be worth eating if it also contains lots of nutrients.

If sugar is one of the first two ingredients, manufacturers split up sugar into dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, cane crystals. None of them is the first ingredient, even though if you added them up, they would be, said the article.

For vitamins and minerals, a food that contains anywhere from 10 percent to 19 percent of the daily value is considered a good source of the nutrient.

As for whole grains, look for the word “whole” for a heart-healthy and fiber-rich whole grains (eg oatmeal and quinoa).

“Enriched” grain means the grain has been refined.

Changes to the nutrition facts label

Last May 20, 2016, the FDA announced the new nutrition facts label for packaged foods to reflect the new scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as heart disease and obesity.

According to FDA, the old label is more than 20 years old. FDA wanted to make sure consumers have access to more accurate and recent nutrition information about the foods they are eating.

Changes include modifying the list of required nutrients that must be declared on the label, updating serving size requirements, and providing a refreshed design.

“The new Nutrition Facts label will make it easier for consumers to make informed decisions about the food they eat,” FDA said in an article.

Although the label is still recognizable, FDA made some improvements to the format to provide significant public health information, such as:

  • Highlighting “calories,” “servings per container,” and the “serving size” declaration by increasing the type size and placing the number of calories and the “Serving size” declaration in bold type;
  • Requiring manufacturers to declare the actual amount, in addition to percent daily value, of the mandatory vitamins and minerals;
  • Adding “Includes X g Added Sugars” directly beneath the listing for “Total Sugars”; and
  • Changing the footnote to better explain the percent daily value. It will now read: “The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet, 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.”

The FDA extended the compliance dates for the nutrition facts and supplement facts label final rule and the serving size final rule, from July 26, 2018 to January 1, 2020, for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual foods sales.

Manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales would receive an extra year to comply — until January 1, 2021.

Article originally published at The Manila Times on July 28, 2018


Creating smoke-free workplaces

Image from

One of the most common misconceptions about workplace smoking is that designated areas will suffice instead of going 100-percent smoke-free.

What many people don’t know is that designated smoking areas (DSAs) imply that workers and visitors are still exposed to second-hand smoke, and the only way to eliminate the hazards of tobacco smoke is through a 100 percent smoke-free policy.

“A smoke-free workplace is not a privilege, it’s a global standard,” said medical doctor Shing Young-soo, World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for the Western Pacific, in a statement.

In a data presented by WHO, smoking at work is associated with more lost workdays, more industrial accidents and occupational injuries, time lost from work on smoking breaks, higher insurance premiums for smoking workers, higher cleaning costs, and higher insurance premiums for fire and other hazards.

The rate of lung cancer for workers in bar and restaurants that allow smoking as opposed to the general is 50-percent higher. The total time lost from smoking breaks annually is 20 days.

Research from the United Kingdom found that smokers spend 40 minutes each workday to smoke.

Tobacco kills 7 million people around the world each year, including 890,000 non-smokers who are exposed to tobacco smoke.

In a Global Youth Tobacco Survey in 2015, 23.8 percent of adults (aged 15 years and above) are current tobacco users; 21.5 percent of adults working in indoor workplaces reported being exposed to second-hand smoke in their workplace.

“In the Philippines, it is estimated that nearly 118,000 deaths are attributable to tobacco use and exposure annually,” said Mina Kashiwabara, technical officer of Tobacco Free Initiative, WHO Western Pacific Regional Office.

WHO’s new smoke-free campaign

WHO has traditionally targeted governments to adopt and enforce smoke-free laws, but even with the best understanding and intentions, strong opposition hinders the passage of effective laws.

Out of 27 member-states in the WHO Western Pacific Region, only nine have adopted comprehensive smoke-free laws covering all public places and workplaces, leaving hundreds of millions of people vulnerable to second-hand smoke.

Launched on July 16, 2018, Revolution Smoke-Free campaign invited businesses across the Western Pacific Region to establish smoke-free workplaces in which everyone is free from tobacco smoke in their workplaces and beyond.

“This campaign highlights the importance of protecting employee health and the bottom line through a commitment to creating a smoke-free environment in the workplace,” said Shin.

Through the campaign website,, companies can establish smoke-free workplaces and offer support to employees who wish to quit.

Workers can also learn about how to make their workplaces smoke-free or they can request their management to implement a smoke-free workplace policy.

Participating businesses can share experiences in going smoke-free and invite other businesses to also commit to smoke-free workplaces.

“Companies can submit their pledge on the campaign site and their stories on going smoke-free. The stories may be published on the campaign site to encourage others to join,” said Kashiwabara.

The global data overwhelmingly confirm that a smoke-free policy does not harm businesses.

In fact, some industries, sales improve after going smoke-free as smoke-free workplaces keep everyone in the office healthier and safe.

The employees’ exposure to second-hand smoke in the workplace is reduced to zero, making them more productive and less prone to missed days at work. Smokers even support smoke-free policies after they’ve experienced it.

The first country launch event was carried out in Beijing, China, the same day the campaign was launched. Hopefully, the campaign will be launched in the Philippines in the last quarter of 2018.

For who wishes to take part in Revolution Smoke-Free, one may visit the website to sign up and join the movement. From there, one can get access to the materials needed to implement a smoke-free workplace.

By joining the movement, companies must ensure a 100 percent smoke-free workplace without any exemptions like DSAs.

Businesses will be guided on how to successfully launch a policy through the kit available from the site.

PH’s nationwide smoking ban

On May 16, 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte issued an Executive Order (EO) 26, entitled “Providing for the Establishment of Smoke-Free Environments in Public and Enclosed Places” imposing a nationwide ban on smoking in all public places in the Philippines.

The order, which took effect on July 23, 2017, 60 days after its publication in a newspaper, replicates on a national level existing ordnance in Davao City that President Duterte created as mayor in 2002.

Violators of EO face fines ranging from P500 to P1,000 for the first offense, P1,000 to P5,000 for the second offense, and P5,000 to P10,000 for the third offense plus revocation of a business permit or license to operate in the violating establishment.

The public may report violators to the Department of Health hotline (02) 711-1002.

The National Capital Region Police Office reported that the smoking ban ordinance saw most numbers of violators from June 13 to July 13, 2018.

A total of 16,442 people violated the smoking ban, which is equal to 33.95 percent of the total recorded violations of ordinances against drinking in public places, being half-naked in public places, smoking, violating curfew hours for minors, and others.

The Eastern Police District (EPD) reported the most number of ordinance violators at 22,440 out of the total 48,435 cases recorded for the entire NCRPO.

While the EO was warmly received by the public and health advocates as a realization of a tobacco-free future, Section 4 of the EO, however, allows smoking only in DSAs, which may either be a separate area with proper ventilation, open space, and where warnings on the ill effects of smoking should be posted. It does not also cover vapes and e-cigarettes.

Article originally published at The Manila Times on August 4, 2018



Why I lied about my weight and how I got to achieve it eventually

I know it was not a good idea, but yes, I used to lie about my weight. I remember telling people I was 165 lbs, when in fact, I really weigh 180 pounds or more.

I told myself they’ll never know anyway unless they’ll check my medical records or they will weigh me on the spot, which I won’t subject myself into unless it’s an annual medical checkup.

But I apologize for doing that. I know whatever reasons I had in the past won’t justify that I did lie at some point. But please hear me out why I did that for once.

You see, I was ashamed of how heavy I was becoming. In college, I used to weigh 120 pounds and still felt heavy. Years after that, I gained freaking 50 pounds and struggled every day to lose them.

You see as a kid, I’ve always had weight issues. People, even family, always try to compare me with my younger sisters who have always been so skinny and petite.

Looking at my old pictures, I think growing up I’m also skinny but compared to them, I am taller and had bigger bone structure so I looked chubbier and bigger.

Due to that constant comparisons, I became so conscious about my weight, but instead of doing something about it, I turned to chocolates, junk foods, and cookies for comfort.

I remembered how I could eat two cups of rice every day and finish one pack of Chips Ahoy in one sitting whenever I feel sad or lonely.

Entering the military

I entered military school primarily to prove something to myself and my family, and hoping I could lose all the excess weight I had.

But it was pure hard work because I was no sporty and don’t have physical activity as a civilian. At 120 lbs, I struggled physically inside the academy compared to my female classmates who were fitter and physically prepared than me. I was too overweight when I entered the military I couldn’t even pass my physical fitness tests.

Luckily, I had upperclassmen and squad leaders who closely monitored me, making sure I eat less and would do extra runs and exercises so I can pass my physical fitness tests.

Two months after, they were all surprised to see how skinny I was. Even my parents when they saw me on their first visit during the Open House, didn’t recognize the dark, skinny me.

And because we were physically and active, we also tend to eat a lot in the academy, but surprisingly, we didn’t gain much weight.

Unfortunately, after two years when I left the academy for good, I imbibed the same routine of eating a lot minus the rigorous exercise so I gained a lot of weight.

As years go by outside the academy, I got heavier and heavier so I just stopped putting my real weight. The heaviest weight I had bordered to 190 lbs. I tried running and enrolling to a gym, resulting in a little weight loss but after some time, I’ll become complacent again, regain my weight and will be back to my usual routine. I was very inconsistent.

Turning point

It wasn’t until last year when I started having dizzy spells and pain in my lower back that I started to consider losing weight seriously. I want to enjoy life, still have a lot to do, so I need to be healthy for myself, my parents, and my future family.

I tried an intermittent diet which gave me fast results but apparently, with diet alone, I felt so weak and tired all the time.

That was when I realized that there has to be a balance: Healthy eating and regular exercise. Healthy eating for me means eating in moderation. I couldn’t give up everything like coffee so if I drink coffee 3x a day, now I drink brewed coffee once a day just to satisfy my cravings, and just mix it with a little creamer but no sugar.

And since we have a family history of diabetes, I also controlled eating sweets and junk foods. I still eat but in moderation especially with my family during movie time.

And I don’t know if it’s a blessing in disguise because I live with my parents so I had to eat whatever they eat and that’s more fish, chicken, veggies, organic foods, and less meat, carbs, sweets, processed foods, junk foods, and fast foods.

When it comes to exercise, I try to run 2-3x a week and workout at home. Exercise speeds up metabolism and tones the body. It also combats health conditions and diseases.

As of this writing, I weighed myself and guess what I saw? 160 lbs. Yey!

I know lying was bad, but looking back, I think I was unconsciously projecting myself to achieve 165 lbs.

I remember one of my favorite books, Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser, which said something about the magic of writing down a goal because it sets everything in motion.

“Putting it on paper alerts the part of your brain known as the reticular activating system to join you in the play. Putting a goal in writing is like buying a blue Honda; it sets up a filter that helps you be aware of certain things in your surroundings. Writing a full-fledged description of what you want is one way of saying you believe that it’s attainable and you are ready to receive it.”

Well, 165 lbs. was not my goal at that time, but I got to achieve it.  So I think I have to set a new goal, and I promise, I won’t lie about it this time. What do you think?

Map your way to healing with Almario’s new gene-based program

Physical therapy patients who have poor weight management often complain of recurring joint and muscle problems. The increased weight places more stress on joints in the lower back, hips, knees, and ankles.

The body’s reaction from extra stress brought by poor weight management and sedentary lifestyle leads to symptoms of pain, tightness, and postural issues.

But not every patient is the same. Physical therapy clinic Almario Physio Team (APT) is paving the way for an error-free method of recurring pain treatment with its new program that tailor-fits every patient’s need.

Prueba, a treatment program that uses innovative diagnostics technology from the United States, is all-encompassing genetic profiling to optimize one’s health and well-being.

This program aims to find out one’s underlying health problem on recurring pain on muscles and joints, which usually occurs even after a patient has already taken medicines or when procedures were already done.

Using the results of the genetic analysis, Prueba combines pain management, weight management, and strength and conditioning in one program. This helps patients return to their productive lives and reach their maximum health potential, without worrying about constantly going back to their physiotherapy centers.

The Prueba Premium Program consists of world-class machines including Rehab Roller, Rehab Capsule, Vacuum Treadmill, Body Composition Analyzer, and Real Time Ultrasound Imaging (RTUI) for core muscles.

Photo 4
Rehab Roller is employing deep tissue massage roller targeting Cellulite and  increases blood flow

APT’s physiotherapists are trained to use these technologies, keeping in mind the mission of giving the most comfortable and pain-free experience for the patients.

This has inspired APT to deliver even better programs for their patients.

“During our seven years in the physical therapy industry, my team has constantly been looking for how we can treat patients to prevent the recurrence of pain,” APT CEO Aveza Almario says.

“It’s not because I don’t want to see them again but because I understand what they are going through.”

On a personal experience, Almario, who does a lot of traveling, can attest that a busy lifestyle can bring disadvantages for one’s health. For one, she experiences stress from a strained body.

While she does regular visits to their clinic to check on her back pain and continue her strength and conditioning regimen, she knows that managing her health needs not to be a trial and error method.

“If I myself spend this much time and effort but still unsatisfied with my results, what more our patients?” she says, “I told myself that I want a map that will bring me to right direction for my health. I want to share this map with our patients so we can help them save time, energy, effort, and money.”

Almario is inspired to bring in this development to a larger audience so that more and more people can not only receive health treatment which has value-for-money but can also save their time and effort.

Almario Physio Team

Almario Physio Team is a group of medical practitioners, highly skilled and licensed professionals bringing in innovative technology and techniques to the PT Industry through the Training, Research and Development Team headed by Ayeza Almario and its Manager Marianne J. Yee, PTRP.

They have been well trained to analyze the results of the gene profile and have extensive experience in the recommendation of treatment through the Thorough Medical Assessment which other facilities may not have.

The team ensures to think out of the box and develop the traditional or conventional treatments based on evidenced-based studies that are why APT is the first in its field to employ this innovation and is always on top when it comes to the development of treatment programs.

For more information, visit

Get your crowning moment at Headtown Salon & Spa

For beauty entrepreneur Det Sarrol-Fuentes, opening a one-stop glam destination started out as personal advocacy.

“I grew up in a close-knit family of mostly female members and coming from an exclusive school for girls, all my life I’ve been surrounded by women who share the same passion for beauty,” she said.

Det Sarrol-Fuentes, owner of Headtown Salon and Spa

“I was a frequent salon visitor growing up and have tried numerous services and with that, I have grown to become particular with the kind of service that I want. This has eventually inspired me to put up a salon where I could hopefully give my clients the satisfaction and consistency of expert styling and stellar service.”

Entering the beauty industry, prompted her to invest in professional development and constantly push her team to be on top of the current trends. She’s not only determined to come up with an upscale salon that puts a premium on client-servicing, but also keen in making sure that potential customers feel at home knowing that they are being handled by experts.

Located in the bustling city of Makati, her newest venture called Headtown Salon and Spa takes enormous pride in bringing out the best in every person.

“We want our salon to be an Urban Beauty retreat where clients can experience total beauty and relaxation at an easy access location.”

The beauty and pampering hub offers world-class styling, hairdressing, and pampering that go beyond fab and fad. Whether it’s a change in your ‘do, a mid-day massage, or a fabulous makeover to get you in the mood for a night out, Headtown Salon and Spa guarantee that you’ll leave the salon looking and feeling like royalty.

If you’re looking for a great place to spend the day for a rejuvenating beauty treat, then you’ve come to the right salon. Headtown Salon and Spa has an innovative pool of stylists that takes good care of your beauty needs.

Ensuring luxury experience that represents the top standards of the hair, beauty and pampering industry, the entire team, as headed by its salon owner Sarrol-Fuentes, guarantees clients of an amazing glow and quality me-time.

What sets Headtown Salon and Spa apart from its contemporaries is that it has a unique styling space, with exclusive VIP rooms that allow professional and freelance make-up artists to book a space for their clients, and double as a venue for workshops and events.

And as a way to empower women to express their individuality, the top-notch full-service salon offers one-on-one tutorial services for hair styling and basic make-up application. With inclusivity and empowerment as two of their core values, the beauty startup positions itself as a game-changing potential that is emblematic of what the salon industry should be: fearless, bold, and constantly evolving with the times.

 Book an appointment by calling Headtown Salon and Spa +63917 553 3838. The salon is located at the 2F Shops at the Ayala North Exchange. Like and follow Headtown Salon and Spa on Facebook.

Sick at 30,000 feet: How Delta handles urgent medical needs on board

When more than 192 million customers take to the skies in a given year on board Delta, in-flight medical events can occur, just as they do on the ground.

In 2018, the airline reported about 11,900 medical events or one medical event per 460 flights. The most common problems are fainting or feeling dizzy and lightheaded (33%), nausea or vomiting (15%), and respiratory (10%) or cardiovascular symptoms (7%).

 It’s why Delta heavily invests in first aid and CPR training for its flight attendants, as well as invests in onboard medical equipment and expert consultation services​ when medical events do take place.

“Our flight attendants go through a very extensive training process as new hires where they learn CPR, how to use a defibrillator and all onboard medical equipment, among a number of other procedures,” said Barbara Martin, General Manager—Occupational Health. “They also have recurrent training every year that includes emergency response.”

Delta has equipped all of its aircraft with an automated external defibrillator (AED), enhanced emergency medical kit, first aid kit, oxygen, medical accessory pouch, Universal Precaution Kit – used to protect against and dispose of bodily fluids – and a medical communication headset. The airline’s emergency medical equipment on board exceeds the minimum requirements set by the Federal Aviation Administration.

In addition to intensive flight attendant training, the available onboard medical equipment and the assistance of volunteer medical professionals on board the aircraft, Delta leverages the help of physicians on the ground through an airline consultation service called STAT-MD to provide support during onboard medical events. This service is backed by the resources of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

How does STAT-MD provide ground-based medical support?

Inside a control center in the Communications Center of UMPC Presbyterian Hospital, trained medical personnel sits behind walls of computer monitors and communications equipment standing at the ready to provide consultation during in-flight medical events on Delta. The team also provides pre-flight screenings for customers if there are any medical concerns prior to boarding their flight. Delta has partnered with STAT-MD for nearly 20 years to provide ground-based medical support.

Medical recommendations come from a core group of select physicians, who are residency-trained and Board Certified in Emergency Medicine. In fact, physicians at STAT-MD have an eight-year average tenure and most still work in the emergency department when they aren’t on duty providing ground-based support to airlines.

“STAT-MD is key to our overarching objective to achieve the best medical outcome for our customers,” said Martin.

What’s the process when a medical event occurs on an aircraft?

  1. A flight attendant first notifies the captain.
  2. The captain establishes radio communication with the flight’s designated dispatcher in the airline’s Operations and Customer Center.
  3. The dispatcher contacts the medical coordinator at STAT-MD who gathers flight information, such as the flight number, destination and origin, and estimated arrival.
  4. The medical coordinator then puts the physician on the line to administer the medical consultation.
  5. The flight attendant relays information to and from STAT-MD via the captain or through headsets in the cabin.

“The key for us is information,” said Dr. TJ Doyle, STAT-MD’s Medical Director. “Delta uses what is known as a medical assistance form to gather key information about the passenger, such as symptoms, vital signs, and significant medical history. When the physician gets on the line, the information is relayed to us, and typically we can make a pretty quick and informed recommendation.”

To provide the best clinical outcome, STAT-MD has become familiarized with Delta’s onboard medical equipment and capabilities and they also have one of Delta’s emergency medical kits on hand to instruct medical volunteers on where to locate proper medications and equipment within the kit.

What happens in more serious situations?

“There are four criteria that we use to determine the difference between a medical event and a medical emergency,” said Martin. “For example, ‘Is CPR in progress? Has the AED delivered a shock? Is a baby being born? Is there uncontrolled or significant bleeding?'”

In the case of a medical emergency, the airline may consider a diversion or request a priority landing from air traffic control. The decision to divert is ultimately made by the captain and dispatcher with guidance from STAT-MD.

As part of that calculation, multiple considerations are taken into account, including the customer’s vital signs and proximity to the flight’s destination. “The airline uses the expertise of STAT-MD to help mitigate unnecessary diversions,” said Martin.

“If we recommend a diversion, we will suggest the best medical facilities in the area,” said Doyle. “We keep a global database of all airports, two hospitals closest to the airport and what their capabilities are.” STAT-MD regularly updates this list every year by calling hospitals and other medical facilities.

Depending on the circumstance and status of the customer, the airline may find it more suitable to continue the flight and have paramedics meet the flight upon arrival at its scheduled arrival city.

“With medications available on board, the AED and someone administering CPR, you’re pretty much doing the equivalent of what the passenger would get in an ambulance,” said Doyle.

With safety as Delta’s top priority, the airline continues to leverage the dedicated professionals at STAT-MD for the benefit of customer health on all its flights.