Ben&Ben brings light and hope in debut album, Limasawa Street

Since topping various streaming platforms and radio charts with their hit singles “Kathang Isip,” “Ride Home,” and “Maybe the Night,” Ben&Ben has been a vital force in the local music scene, charting their own path with anthemic, folk-infused pop that brims with elegance.

Without releasing a proper full-length album since 2019, the nine-piece act has amassed more than 300 million streams on Spotify and Youtube combined and headlined concerts and festivals here and abroad.

Formerly known as The Benjamins, the indie-folk outfit has achieved critical and commercial success in less than three years – a  proof that they’re in for the long run.

This year, the band is ready to take their journey to the next level with the release of their debut album, Limasawa Street. Derived from “Masawa” which is a Butuanon word for light, the 13-track opus embraces the beauty of finding luminescence in darkness.

Ben&Ben performs during the album launch

“We wanted the album to represent a place of light by singing about hopeful perspectives in troubling situations,” lead singer and guitarist Paolo Guico shares.

It’s also the name of a street that holds a special place in one of the members’ heart, grounded with a deeply personal story that offers the comforts of life and home.

Most of the songs in the album were written in a relatively narrow time frame. Despite their hectic schedules, Paolo and Miguel Guico spent significant hours in the studio writing songs for the album.

The rest of the band, on the other hand, had to record their parts individually for all thirteen songs. It took Ben&Ben three months to finish the recording, on top of juggling live shows and concerts in between.

Hard work eventually paid off, resulting in an eclectic collection of anthems that challenged their creative process.

“Limasawa Street really stretched and explored our limits, in terms of both songwriting and arranging,” Paolo Guico reflects. “During our arranging retreat, we tackled each song with a very particular mindset, but not necessarily a clear cut direction. There was a lot of sharing of different musical and technical influences, which resulted in arrangements that were all so different from each other, but all still cohesively and distinctly Ben&Ben.”

This level of commitment manages to break sonic and lyrical barriers, exploring various musical styles from world music to ’60s soul, jazz to choral music, and employing afro-Latin breaks, indigenous stylings, rock arrangements, and other eclectic elements to their brand of radio-friendly folk-pop tunes.

With Limasawa Street out this month, Ben&Ben takes control of their destiny with an album that stretches music-making to exciting, entirely new places.

The album will be available starting May 17, 2019.

Get a copy of Limasawa Street on their upcoming tour dates: May 17 at Marquee Mall, May 19 at Harbor Point, June 9 at Centrio Mall, June 15 at Ayala Malls Capitol Central, June 22 at Ayala Malls Legazpi, June 23 at The District Imus, June 29 at Ayala Center Cebu, July 13 at Alabang Town Center, June 20 at Ayala Malls Circuit, June 27 at Ayala Malls Solenad, August 9 at TriNoma and August 17 at Abreeza.

Albums will also be available at booths near the concierge from May 10 to 12 at the following Ayala Malls: Abreeza, Alabang Town Center, Ayala Center Cebu, Ayala Malls Legaspi, MarQuee Mall, Solenad, and Trinoma.

 

 

The Peninsula Manila earns its 5th star

The Peninsula Manila earned its fifth star this year, pushing the Peninsula Hotels to become the world’s first all Five-Star hotel company. Other outstanding 5-star award-winning properties in Manila include Marco Polo Ortigas Manila, Nüwa Manila, and Sky Tower at Solaire Resort & Casino.

In an e-mail interview with Filip Boyen, Chief Executive Officer of Forbes Travel Guide, he explained what standards made The Peninsula Manila stood out among the list and these are a very high level of courtesy and manners as well as high levels of overall luxury, such as quality of linens and fixtures.

“The Peninsula Manila achieved a composite score over 90 percent, which qualified it for a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award—Four-Star award winners earn 80 percent or higher, while Recommended winners must score 70 percent or higher,” said Boyen.

Forbes Travel Guide uses a set of globally designed standards for its evaluations. A hotel evaluation tests up to 501 standards, which rotate methodically through various guest experiences, including arrival, guest room, and hotel dining, to name a few.

“Our inspector remains incognito during the entire process, from making reservations to departure, never revealing his or her identity. The results of the evaluation are applied to an algorithm, which is set at 75 percent service and 25 percent facility,” he added.

Defining a true sense of ‘luxury’

Luxury goes beyond the physical elements – such as fine linens, high-quality glassware, and attention to design – according to Boyen.

“We also look closely at how the staff members dress, behave, and interact with the guest. We assess if they use the guest name, are thoughtfully institutive in a wat that it is not robotic or forced. We also look at the efficiency and, of course, overall convenience. Food quality is another important element,” said Boyen.

“When you combine all these factors together and a hotel trains its staff to work harmoniously — the takeaway for the guest is a true sense of luxury that is comfortable and completely personalized,” he added.

Photo from http://www.peninsula.com

How luxury is different for everyone

Boyen revealed that the 12 award-winning hotels included in Forbes’ list are quite diverse. But what’s wonderful about the list is that it captures today’s trend that luxury means something different to everyone.

“For some, luxury is having quick access to world-class entertainment, gambling, and sleek modern design. We look at Sky Tower at Solaire Resort and Nüwa Manila for this experience. For others, classic luxury in hotels such as The Peninsula Manila and Raffles Makati make perfect options for the business traveler,” he explained.

Business travelers are driven by the predictability of brands. They want to exactly what they are going to get in order to help their productivity; while high-end tourists are curious and like to discover a destination. They enjoy an element of surprise. They love interacting with local employees and want the hotel to help them discover the best destination has to offer.

Verifying luxury

Leaving school at the age of 18, Boyen took a job as a commis chef. He immediately knew that hospitality was what he wanted to do. His experience of working his way up through the ranks proved invaluable in his development. He stayed in the food and beverage side of the business for 10 years.

Filip Boyen, CEO of Forbes Travel Guide

“It taught me to treat everybody with dignity and respect. Each and every employee plays a key role in delivery memorable guest experience. At Forbes Travel Guide, ‘We verify luxury’ and that means we champion, support, and celebrate all those with a passion for extraordinary service. I feel I have the best job in the world,” Boyen shared.

Before joining Forbes Travel Guide in 2018, Boyen served as CEO of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, where he oversaw a portfolio of more than 520 exceptional independent hotels in 80 countries.

Prior to that post, the Belgium native spent 18 years with Orient-Express, the famed precursor to the Belmond brand. First joining the hospitality company as general manager of Bora Bora Lagoon Resort in Tahiti, he rose through the ranks to become executive vice president and chief operating officer of Orient-Express. In between, his various roles included Group Vice President Operations; Regional Vice President, Africa, Australia & Latin America; and Managing Director, Hotels & Trains.

He also worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in Belgium, France, and England. He even did a stint under French master chef Joel Robuchon.

His extensive background in food and beverage, experience managing complex operations—including trains and ships—and luxury hospitality expertise all harmoniously combines at Forbes Travel Guide.

Award categories

Forbes Travel Guide rates properties in 76 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East. Newly added destinations for 2019 include Anguilla, Bahrain, Belize, Danang, Doha, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Istanbul, Oman, Perth, the Swiss Alps, Tel Aviv, and Uruguay.

The 2019 award recipients include 21 new Five-Star hotels, 49 new Four-Star hotels, and 62 new hotels in the Recommended category. Other first-time recipients include six Five-Star restaurants, eight Five-Star spas, and 21 Four-Star spas.

The winners were honored at Verified, The Forbes Travel Guide Luxury Summit at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills on February 26 and 27, 2019. The two-day lineup included a celebratory dinner hosted by Brooke Shields.

Travel Guide awards three categories for hotels: the entry-level in Recommended, which denotes the property is excellent, one of the best in its destination; Four-Star honors are for hotels that are not only excellent but offer a particularly high level of overall luxury, convenience, and upgraded amenities; while Five-Star accolades are reserved for properties that consistently offer outstanding facilities and service that often will go above and beyond for its guests.

The process for an evaluation begins with the Rating department, which pre-selects properties that could potentially achieve at least a Recommended award, based on its research. Since Forbes Travel Guide pays for all its own inspections, it is very discerning about which countries/destinations it enters, and subsequently the hotels they schedule for an inspection.

Photo from http://www.booking.com

“The system is not paid to play, and every award is earned through an objective incognito inspection—the award is based off how the staff performs, a rating cannot be bought or voted upon,” explained Boyen.

“When a property appears in the Forbes Travel Guide list, it affirms that not only we visited it but that the property was assessed against the same criteria as all award winners,” he added.

See the complete list of winners here.

My 10 go-to churches for Visita Iglesia

The seven churches visitation has been a tradition of Filipino Catholics during the Lenten season. It is usually done on the evening of Maundy or Holy Thursday, after the last supper mass.  Born and raised as a Catholic, I got used to doing VIsita Iglesia with my parents usually after attending Chrism Mass at the Antipolo Cathedral because, for one, we were already out. Second, it was hard to travel during night-time.

During the Visita Iglesia, some people would usually visit seven churches to pray and meditate before the Blessed Sacrament, which is exposed and placed on the Altar of Repose in each church, or say the Stations of the Cross. But some, like us, go to 10 to 14 churches depending on our mood – if it’s already within the vicinity or along the way, or if there’s still time.

This year, my parents and I visited these 10 churches and here’s why:

  1. Shrine of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, Antipolo City – This is where we attend the yearly Chrism Mass every Maundy Thursday. Chrism Mass is a religious service usually held in the diocesan cathedral at 6:00 am. It is considered as the largest annual gathering of the clergy and faithful. During Chrism Mass, the faithful are called to renew their baptismal promises, while priests/ministers and deacons also reaffirm their ministry by renewing their promises made at their ordination. Holy oils are also being blessed during the mass. Those oils are given to priest/ministers which they can use in their parishes.
In front of Antipolo Cathedral
  1. Monasteryo de Sta Clara, Quezon City – St. Clare of Assisi is an Italian Saint and one of the first followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. St. Clare is the patron saint of eye disease, goldsmiths, laundry, and television, and the most popular for childless couples. St. Clare being also the patroness of good weather is where the Filipino custom of offering chicken eggs originated from to ensure good weather. If you go to St. Clare even on regular days, you will see dozen or half a dozen of eggs being sold outside the church as an offering. Once inside, there’s this room adjacent to the church where you can pray, write your petitions using papers and pens, and/or offer your eggs. People with all sorts of petitions and prayer requests go there from students who are about to take their exams to single people praying for his/her better half, or couples praying for a child.

  1. Diocesan Shrine of St. Joseph, Quezon City – St. Joseph is the patron saint of workers, married people, and good husbands or those praying for a spouse. I decided to visit St. Joseph this year because it’s been a while since I last visited it. It’s one of the old churches I grew up visiting with my mom.

 

 

 

  1. Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception, Cubao, Quezon City – Immaculate Conception is the conception of the Virgin Mary free from original sin by virtue of the merits of her son Jesus. As the driver, which my parents have no choice, I particularly requested to visit this church because this church is very memorable. This is where my parents got married and this is where my sisters and I were baptized. This is also where my mom used to pray before the Blessed Sacrament during lunchtime when she was still working as it is only about 300 meters away from her office.

  1. National Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Quezon City – The devotion to the Sacred Heart is one of the well-known and widely practiced Catholic devotions, taking the heart of the resurrected body as the representation of the love by Jesus Christ, which is “his heart, pierced on the Cross”. Some of the 12 promises of the Sacred Heart made to St. Margaret Mary for devotees include giving them all the graces necessary for their state of life, peace in their families, consolation in all their troubles, assured refuge during life and especially at the hour of death, abundant blessings on all their undertakings, blessed homes where the image of Sacred Heart shall be exposed and honored, and many others.

 

  1. Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish Church, Marikina City – The church enshrines one of the several images of the Virgin Mary venerated as miraculous, which has received Papal recognition. According to Rev. Fr. Marvin P. Borda, the parish is said to be the house of the Assistant/Auxiliary Bishop of Diocese of Antipolo. It is where the incumbent Bishop of Antipolo Most. Rev. Francis De Leon was assigned back in 2006 to 2016 when he was still the Auxillary Bishop of Antipolo.

  1. Immaculate Conception Parish, Marikina City – This is also one of the old churches I grew up visiting. When we got there, we chanced upon the choir practicing probably for the Last Supper mass in the afternoon being accompanied by only an acoustic guitar and it was really good. I was really touched upon hearing them sing.

 

  1. San Isidro Labrador Parish, Nangka, Marikina City – San Isidore the Farm Labourer is the patron saint of all farmers for his piety toward the poor and animals. Carabao festival and Pahiyas are just some of the known festivals in the Philippines during May in honor of the good saint for plentiful harvests. As we all know, the Philippines has an agricultural economy and our farmers take pride in producing rice, corn, sugarcane, and coconuts.

  1. Diocesan Shrine and Parish of Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu, San Mateo Rizal – Our Lady of Aranzazu is the title of the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary venerated in this town. The image is said to be widely known due to claims of miraculous healing and flood safety. This parish and I have a long history together. This is where my sisters and I finished our elementary. I was also in grade 4 attending one of my classes in this school when the 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit Luzon on July 16, 1990. Reportedly, an estimated 1,621 people were killed, most fatalities were located in Central Luzon and the Cordillera region during the earthquake. My classmates and I were told to go out of our rooms on the second floor to the grounds in complete shock and disarray. Our school has improved a lot though. No more traces of creaking stairs. Thank God!

  1. Cecilia Parish, Maly, San Mateo Rizal – Saint Cecilia is the patroness of musicians. While I am a singer, I am also a frustrated keyboardist/pianist so Sta. Cecilia is one of my patron saints. It is one of the nearest parishes from where I live so we took advantage of Visita Iglesia to visit it and we’re glad we did. From an old, small chapel, Sta. Cecilia Parish has really transformed into a beautiful and stunning parish as you can see in its interiors.

 

So there you have it! That concludes my 10 go-to churches to visit this Holy Week. Remember, it’s not the distance, it’s not the church or the history, it’s the sacrifice, effort, and prayers you’ve put into during those visits that count. Happy Easter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commemorating the Day of Valor

Today, the Philippines is commemorating Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valor (also known as Bataan Day or Bataan and Corregidor Day).

Araw ng Kagitingan is extremely important to us Filipinos because it marks the annual commemoration of the Fall of Bataan during World War II on April 9, 1942 – the bravery of Filipino and American soldiers during the campaign against invading Japanese forces. It also commemorates the Bataan Death March.

History says that at the dawn on April 9, 1942, against the orders of Generals Douglas MacArthur and Jonathan Wainwright, the commander of the Luzon Force, Bataan, Major General Edward P. King, Jr., surrendered more than 76,000 starving and disease-ridden soldiers (67,000 Filipinos, 1,000 Chinese-Filipinos, and 11,796 Americans) to Japanese troops.

These prisoners of war were forced to endure the infamous 140-kilometer (87 mi) Bataan Death March to Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac where my 100-year-old still much alive World War II veteran grandfather, Cpt. Alberto Tuico Orillo took part of.

I detailed in my previous blog, A centenarian reveals secrets to his long life how my grandfather survived and endured the Death March.

During the march, the Japanese did not give the soldiers’ food or water, so they became weak. Many fell behind and were killed or beaten up by the Japanese. Upon reaching the camp, thousands of more soldiers died from starvation and disease.

“We slept together like sardines. Sometimes we get drenched by the urine of our dying comrade sleeping beside us. When they die, we let their bodies dry in the open. When the pile reaches 20, we would bury them all together in a deep well,” my grandfather shared in Filipino.

Luckily, my grandfather kept a canteen so he can sip just enough water to wet his dry lips or throat. He also refrained from eating just about any food. He said some soldiers survived the march but died from eating rotten food and drinking water anywhere.

But apart from water, food, and his overall discipline, my grandfather said that it was his prayers and faith in God that helped him survive the ordeal.

Of the 76,000 prisoners, only 54,000 reportedly reached their destinations. Some died before they could even reach Camp O’Donnell, some became captives, some escaped so it was difficult to assess the exact death toll.

Republic Act 3022 passed by Congress in 1961 made Bataan Day on April 9 a holiday. In 1987. Executive Order No. 203 renamed the holiday, “Araw ng Kagitingan”. While Proclamation 466 in 1989 declared April 5 to April 11 as “Veterans Week” in honor of all veterans of the Philippine military, not just the WWII veterans.

(Sources: Wikipedia and Rappler)

 

Save the Future

Aimed at restoring confidence in the globally accepted and effective protocol of childhood vaccination, pediatric doctors all over the country have come together to launch advocacy in response to the current measles outbreak.

“Save the Future” campaign was launched by the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP), a subspecialty organization of the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) during its annual convention held at the Crowne Plaza Galleria Manila in Ortigas, Quezon City.

Identifying vaccine hesitancy as a key factor in this outbreak, the movement seeks to engage in activities that will highlight the safety and efficacy of vaccines provided by the public program.

The movement brought together the members of PIDSP as well as the other subspecialty societies of the Philippine Pediatric Society. The PPS, established in 1947, is the oldest medical society of physicians caring for newborns, infants, children and adolescents in the Philippines.

“Addressing the issue of vaccine hesitancy within our individual and collective capacities is a matter of professional as well as personal responsibility being Filipino citizens,” stated PIDSP president Dr. Anna Lisa T. Ong-Lim.

(From left) Pediatric Society of the Philippines President Dr. Anna Lisa Ong-Lim, Department of Health Secretary Dr. Francisco Duque III, and Philippine Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines President Dr. Salvacion Gatchalian.

“Our movement is a public-private partnership that aims to mobilize our society members to cooperate and collaborate with government stakeholders in making the most of our available vaccine resources and to deploy them properly and effectively,” she added.

In a recent joint letter to its member-doctors and the Department of Health, the PPS and PIDSP issued an “urgent plea” to “immunize eligible children against vaccine-preventable diseases.”

This primarily involves the routine immunization schedule for infants that vaccinate against tuberculosis, diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus, polio, Hemophilus influenza B, hepatitis B and measles from birth to the first year of life.

The organizations reminded pediatricians to ensure up-to-date immunization of their patients as part of the primary responsibility of their individual practices. In particular response to the current measles outbreak, PPS and PIDSP also now recommend pediatricians to administer the first dose of measles vaccine to infants starting at the age of six months instead of the usual nine months, as recommended in the country’s Childhood Immunization Schedule. The schedule is determined annually by both societies along with the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV). 

PPS and PIDSP also urged members to collaborate and coordinate with their respective city, municipal or provincial health offices in organizing community-based regular vaccine mission activities to help administer free measles and other vaccines that are available to qualified children, adolescents, and even adults.

“We need to take urgent action in order to preserve the advances we have made in the past decades in terms of curing children of fatal diseases and steadily decreasing the number of vaccine-preventable deaths in the Filipino population,” said PPS president Dr. Salvacion Gatchalian.

“We are optimistic that all of us working together will effectively address this healthcare crisis that has gripped our country,” she added.

Who says Filipinos don’t read?

Contrary to misconceptions that we don’t read, Filipinos actually love to read. In fact, a 2017 Readership Survey commissioned by the National Book Development Board (NBDB) shows that majority of Filipino respondents still read printed books.

Segundo “Jun” Matias Jr, company president and general manager of Precious Pages

“In my experience for more than 20 years, Filipinos read. It’s just that maybe that time, books are expensive. Now it has become digital, reading has become more accessible,” said Segundo “Jun” Matias Jr, company president and general manager of Precious Pages, the company that publishes the industry’s bestsellers, Precious Hearts Romances (PHR), during its Dito Ka Masaya Grand Fans Day 2019.

 

The survey continued that of the 1,200 adult respondents with ages 18 and above, 921 or 76.75% say they have read a printed book in the last 12 months, while 1,020 or 84.99% of youth respondent with ages six to 17 say they have read printed books in the same time period.

Of the genre of books, romance or love ranked fourth with 48.17 % of adult readers, while Bible is still the most read book at 72.25 %, followed by picture books and storybooks for children at 53 percent, and the short story for children at 52.08 %.

Treat to loyal readers

Every two years, PHR brings treat to its loyal readers. This year, Dito Ka Masaya Grand Fans Day 2019 was aimed at forging a stronger relationship with its community through fun activities, meet and greets, and exclusive performances held at The Space, JRich Building, Sto. Domingo Ave., Quezon City on March 30, 2019.

“Readers like engagements. They want to see the writers behind their favorite stories and characters. We used to hold it in the malls, but now we have a place. It’s more intimate – where writers can talk to their readers and vice versa,” said Matias.

During the media gathering, Precious Pages also launched 32 new and exciting titles for 2019 with genres ranging from romance, gothic romances to horror. It was graced by its famous authors such as Rose Tan, Sonia Francesca, Luna King, Vanessa, Lush Ericson, Sofia, and Wattpad-writers-turned-PHR-writers such as Jian, Ms. Buttterfly, C.D. De Guzman, Xavier John Ford, and Princess Cordova, who were very game in answering questions from the media.

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Instead of a cul-de-sac, PHR has seen an opportunity. Wattpad, a popular online platform for authors, has provided an avenue for the discovery of promising talents in the country. With a similar purpose, PHR has birthed Booklat, another online literary outlet specifically targeting Gen Z and millennial readers who are familiar with the brand.

“We try to evolve and embrace change because we do not believe that it has to be ‘Jurassic’. We encourage our writers to write timeless and classic stories that even our generation today can still relate to,” Matias added.

PHR has searched wide over these platforms to find writers of quality stories – regardless of the number of their followers or readers. With its new writers, it has proven that PHR stands the test of time and is still on the game of pulling Filipino readers’ heartstring.

“PHR has introduced online writers from Wattpad two years ago. Of course, we screen them. We look for quality stories. We are not really more on the number of followers but on the quality of their stories,” he added.

From the company which started in 1981 with one book by now an award-winning director, Patricia Gil who introduced Matias to the pocketbook, Precious Pages is now publishing 40 to 50 titles a month.

For aspiring writers

Every year, PHR holds two-day brainstorming sessions for selected contract writers. On top of this, their creative group sits together to come up with plots that will be offered to willing writers. Sometimes, authors are commissioned to write them.

For aspiring Precious Pages authors, writing workshops are given for free. If you believe you can be part of something bigger or aspire to be the next bestselling Filipino romance author in the country, send your manuscript via email: ed2rialstaff@gmail.com.

From here on, PHR guarantees that readers can only look forward to more good stories from their homegrown writers and online writers.

How accidents change our lives

“Tomorrow, I will do this and that. I will attend an event, then go to mass. After that, I will go home, check Facebook, some emails and write. Then I will read and relax the rest of the night.”

How many of you plan your tomorrows? Well, I do and that is how I usually visualize my day the night before. When I don’t write it on paper, which I usually do at work, I just run it through my head just like that.

Planning my tomorrow gives me something look forward to, and after accomplishing them, it also gives me a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.

But not every day is perfect. Not every day runs smoothly and as planned. We may plan our days, but at the end of the day, something happens that is beyond our control and our day definitely changes forever.

Although it normally happens — I mean the change of plans — last Saturday was different because I figured in a minor car accident. I was on my home driving with my mom as my passenger, taking the usual route home, when a truck mixer hit the left bumper of my car.

I screamed and went blank for a quick second. But my mind came back instantly when mom told me to take a photo of the accident right from the driver’s seat. I knocked the driver’s passenger door to alert the driver and got off the car to see how big the damage was.

How bad was the damage?
View from the driver’s seat

A few hours before

We left home around 6:30 am to attend an event. It was still too early so we decided to attend mass first in Quiapo church.

Visiting and attending mass in Quiapo church in honor of the Black Nazarene has become a tradition when time permits. In fact, I just finished a nine-day novena recently to ask for a favor, and it was answered. Praise God!

Black Nazarene is a “life-sized image of a dark-skinned, kneeling Jesus Christ carrying the Cross enshrined in the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila” known for curing illnesses, granting miracles, among many others.

Millions of devotees flock to Quiapo church every Friday and during the yearly Translacion to ask for a miracle and favors, and others as an act of thanksgiving for a favor received.

After the mass, we went straight to the event (which I will detail in my next post) and decided to go home after.  About 24.1-km away from home, that’s when the accident happened.

The accident

After taking photos, I was waiting for a police/traffic enforcer to mediate, but no one’s coming. The truck driver told me if I’m in a hurry, we can just exchange numbers or I can just to their office to talk about it, but I refused because wanted to have it documented by the police first to make sure he won’t get away with it.

One concerned vendor went by and told me to call the police. I asked him instead if he can call the police for me, but no one’s going to look after his goods, so he just pointed to the direction where I can find one, and lo and behold there were the police/traffic enforcers about 100 meters away.

I quickly approached the police and told them about the accident and they immediately responded and went to where it happened.

After making sure I’ve already taken photos of the accident, they asked the truck driver and me to remove our vehicles to avoid causing more traffic and were escorted to the nearest police station so we can have our police reports prepared. They’ve taken our driver’s license to make sure we won’t get away.

Upon arriving there, we filled up a form and waited for our turn to report the accident. We then narrated what happened. As soon as the police report was finished, I got off first and was told to communicate with the truck company so they can have their insurance cover it.

Before going home, I dropped by the truck company’s office, and they promised to settle it by Monday.

Aftermath

Despite the time, trouble, and shock it took me and mom, I’m still thankful that nothing really major or life-threatening happened to us.

I actually had second thoughts of posting the photos of the accident on Facebook that night but decided to post it anyway as a reminder of how grateful I am for that day.

Also when my friends and relatives started commenting, that’s when I realized the accident could have been worse, so thank God, we got through it safe and well.

What if the truck mixer hit me instead? What if he was fast? Could be a different story. But there, the truck just hit the left bumper, left a dent yes, but no one’s hurt.

Before this accident happened, I’ve been planning my day as I told you earlier, but then an accident happens and changes our lives forever.

It’s true, we may plan our lives, but at the end of the day, God has something in store for us. We can only pray and trust He’s always there to guide and protect us and trust His reasons for allowing certain things to happen to us.

Why we didn’t go home on time, why we had an accident, why we had to spend more than three hours on the road — longer than expected are just some of the questions only God knows the answers.

But to me, two things are clear that day — the Lord gave me and mom another life and He has protected us that day by sending His angels to shield us from greater harm.

So today, allow me to just thank the Lord for another life. Thank you for protecting me and mom. Thank you also to all the people, friends, and relatives who expressed their love and concern for us.

Thank you, Lord. Amen.

Heavy metal may not cause violence

It’s no secret that heavy metal music can be a bit morbid and macabre. Because of its loud and rowdy characteristics, heavy metal music is often associated with violence. Some heavy metal music is said to be inciting teenagers to commit murder and suicide. Bands are also accused of being devil worshippers, Satanists and trying to pervert kids, and using music to confront mortality, pain, and suffering.

Various cases of heavy metal artists committing suicide or heavy metal fans committing crimes make people wonder, is there really a link between heavy metal music and suicide or criminality?

“I cannot and will not conclude that heavy metal music effect on criminality simply because a criminal incident has many elements or factors to consider which outweighs a person listening to music, such as intention, opportunity, dynamics or the individuals in each role including risks, and the like. It is simply stereotyping and prejudicial, which is against any ethics or law,” said Candy Mauricio, certified management consultant, and licensed counselor.

Heavy metal music

Heavy metal music — or simply metal — is a genre of rock music often characterized by high energy, distorted guitar, yelling or growling vocals, and headbanging. Popular heavy metal artists include Metallica, Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Guns N’ Roses, Ozzy Osbourne, Def Leppard, Led Zeppelin, Pantera, Anthrax, Megadeth, Scorpions, Deftones, Marilyn Manson, Death Angel, Korn, among others.

Of 20 musicians listed by OC Weekly namely Ouorthon, Mike Scaccia, Nick Menza, Bill Tolley, Wayne Static, Jani Lane, Paul Gray, Mayhem Dead, Mitch Lucker, Bianca ‘Butthole’ Halstead, Chi Cheng, Peter Steele, Chuch Schuldiner, Lemmy, Ronny James Dio, Jeff Hanneman, Oderus Urungus, Randy Rhoads, Cliff Burton, and “Dimebag” Darrel Abott; three reportedly died from heart problems, six from accidents, five from alcohol and drugs, one from depression, one from suicide, three from health problems, one from smoking, and one was murdered.

Ranker.com also listed 27 famous musicians who committed suicide with two deaths stemming from alcoholism, four from drugs, eight from health-related factors, and two from mental problems. Fifteen of them suffered from depression.

How music influences a person

Music, as defined by the dictionary, is vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion. Being an expression itself, it can resonate with individuals with similar sentiments.

“For example, when we are heartbroken, we may find ourselves listening and ‘feeling’ particular love songs similar to the situation we are dealing with. On another note, when we are not heartbroken yet are fond of sad love songs, we also find ourselves somehow getting back to that particular state of being broken hearted or sometimes scared to get into ‘serious’ relationships. Why? We need to understand that the energy stimulates our brain and aligns with our mind, soul, and spirit to trigger our decisions as expressed in our actions. When I say ‘stimulates,’ I mean ‘influencing,’” explained Mauricio.

Mauricio used a “friend” as a classic example who can influence a person in making a particular decision, going on a diet, shopping, taking a course or even getting into a relationship.

“However, the effect of this influence to our action is dependent on us — on how much we will let it affect our decision. I think this perception was strong in the 1980s when people thought heavy metal was encoded with secret messages,” Mauricio added.

Underlying factors

In an article published by CNN.com, it was stated that heavy metal is often used as a scapegoat to distract one from more complicated societal problems.

With that, it’s easy to see where journalists, parents and religious groups get their ideas from by just scanning the lyrics of any heavy metal band worth its salt will often reveal some gasp-inducing subject matter.

But for metal musicians, death, blood, and mayhem, in its various guises, are all simply part of the act, part of “the show.”

“Although recent researches concluded young heavy metal fans are five times more likely to self-harm or attempt suicide, the research also caveat that this requires interpretation within the wider context of public concern around alternative subcultures and their impact on the mental health of young people,” said Mauricio.

It can also be noted that there are several underlying factors leading metal artists to commit suicide, either from deteriorating health, illnesses, depression or prolonged use of drugs and alcohol, or some mental illness.

‘Exposure’ to criminality

As to the link between criminality and heavy metal music, Mauricio revealed they investigated the background of people who had committed a crime. She added the common historical element was their “exposure” to it — either their parents, relative or neighbor did it and was not caught or they witnessed such event — personally or through media and the effect or aftermath of the crime was something “tolerable” to their regard.

They also looked into the basic elements of a crime: desire, ability, and opportunity. The individual who may have been exposed to the crime may find it desirable because it augments their needs — could have given them food on the table, means to buy medicine, among others.

“I’d like to emphasize on this point the idea why we know we are only catching the small-time criminals who have limited ability such as snatching, hold-ups and pushing drugs yet are not able to stop syndicates who have greater abilities to synchronized crimes. Lastly, the opportunity is given by the environment when the ‘right’ timing is determined by the person to commit the crime,” she explained.

“Because criminality, as mentioned above, requires elements and/or factors that are not just in consideration of the person to commit such act, it will definitely be stereotyping and/or prejudicial to spot a criminal,” Mauricio added.

On another note, individuals during their childhood don’t necessarily show telltale signs unless they talk about their fantasies or make believe to be, for example, a robber, serial killer and the like.

“You may then need to further examine the child’s desire to in such role/s and determine the required way to ‘process’ such thoughts with him or her,” said Mauricio.

When it comes to reversing the negative effect of a certain type of music to a person, Mauricio stressed that it might be addressed by the brain through neuroplasticity, a characteristic of the brain that allows it to regenerate.

“With regards to unlearning, for some behavior modification techniques, this includes replacing what we want to unlearn with something new to learn. For example, instead of just stopping smoking, it suggests you learn breathing exercises. With these in mind, if we feel that heavy metal music is influencing to the point that it is affecting you towards a negative act, stop listening to it and explore new genres of music,” she concluded.

A centenarian reveals secrets to his long life

Much has been said about how to live longer. But 99-year-old World War 2 (WW2) veteran and Bataan Death March survivor, captain Alberto Tuico Orillo, who will turn 100 years old on Feb. 17, 2019, only has two secrets: avoiding meat and smoking.

“Our food before consists of nilagang pako (steamed fiddlehead fern) and laing (taro leaves in coconut milk, a Bicolano dish) with fried kabasi (gizzard shad). We get coconut and firewood from the farm. We only eat meat when my father brings us. Celi (referring to his late younger sister, Araceli Orillo Arone) looked healthier because she lived with our father,” Orillo said in Filipino.

Born on Feb. 17, 1919, in Nagcarlan, Laguna, Orillo is the second child and only boy in the family of three children. His father, Mariano Orillo was a municipal police officer and his mother, Andrea Velasco Tuico was a housekeeper, who died when they were still young.

It seemed like longevity really runs in the family as Orillo’s paternal grandmother, whom he fondly called Andang, and elder sister, Rosalina Orillo-Cortezano both lived their lives well until the age of 101. Araceli passed away at 90.

Orillo admitted he used to smoke, but when he retired, he quit smoking and drinking entirely, and seldom (or never) ate meat.

“When I retired from the food and beverage company I used to work for in Manila, I discovered that meat has this ingredient or chemical that is poisonous to the body. Since then, I stopped eating meat, or I seldom eat meat/pork,” he added.

His favorite food includes sinigang na bangus (milkfish porridge) and vegetables like okra and kamote (sweet potato), saying they also helped in bowel movement. His morning routine usually consists of drinking coffee or milk, eating two pandesals (bread roll) with peanut butter and a sunny-side-up egg, and reading a newspaper. Orillo also sleeps and wakes up early.

“Now that I’m old, I only have one vice and that is buying Lotto tickets [or I ask my son to buy for me]. I already won P2,000 in two-digits, P800 in four-digits, and P2,000 in EZ2 before, so I kept on buying,” said Orillo.

Younger years

Orillo used to be an altar boy until he reached high school. In college, he studied in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, but only got to finish the third year when war erupted in a nearby town.

Alberto Tuico Orillo then (inset) and now

To make use of his free time, Orillo collected bets from jueteng, then worked for a slipper’s factory and furniture shop where he would get 20 cents to P20-P30 a day.

At 20, he was recruited by the government to undergo a six-month military training in Guagua, Pampanga. After his training, he applied in Fort Stotsenburg in Camp Dau, Mabalacat, Pampanga, but was rejected from signs of hypertension.

When he went home to Laguna, his father accompanied him to see a doctor, who advised him to take a bath in the afternoon before going to sleep to help lower his blood pressure. He followed the advice, but his blood pressure fluctuated.

Orillo later joined the Philippine Constabulary and got promoted to private first class. He was later inducted to United States Army Forces in the Far East Liberation Army when Pearl Harbor in Hawaii was attacked on Dec. 8, 1941.

Bataan Death March

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese quickly invaded much of southeast Asia.

Young Alberto (extreme left, sitting) with some of the Filipino and American troops

Apparently, the combined American-Filipino army, even with the presence of military bases in the country, was not enough to defeat the Japanese forces. After months of fierce fighting, the allied forces surrendered and the Bataan Death March followed.

The Japanese forced about 76,000 captured Filipino and American soldiers to march about 65 to 80 miles across the Bataan Peninsula in April 1942, from Mariveles to San Fernando and from Capas Train Station to Camp O’Donnell in Tarlac. Orillo took part in the infamous Bataan Death March.

During the march, the Japanese did not give the soldiers’ food or water, so they became weak. Many fell behind and were killed or beaten up by the Japanese.

Upon reaching the camp, thousands of more soldiers died from starvation and disease.

“We slept together like sardines. Sometimes we get drenched by the urine of our dying comrade sleeping beside us. When they die, we let their bodies dry in the open. When the pile reaches 20, we would bury them all together in a deep well,” Orillo recalled in Filipino.

Luckily, Orillo kept a canteen so he can sip just enough water to wet his dry lips or throat. Orillo said that it was his prayers and faith in God that helped him survive the ordeal.

Alberto with his children and grandkids

In February 1945, US-Filipino forces recaptured the Bataan Peninsula and Manila was liberated early March. The 23-year-old Orillo then met the beautiful 22-year-old Constancia Arbilo in a dance party. They got married and were blessed with seven children: Alice, Carmelita, Bienvinido Jose, Eva, Emma (deceased), Roberto and Alejandro.

When Orillo retired from the service with a rank of a guerilla captain, he opened his own store and copra business, but they didn’t flourish. So, he decided to work for a food and beverage company in Manila where he retired after 20 years of service.

Young Constancia Arbilo

In recognition of his military service during WW2, Alberto was granted US citizenship in 1992 at the age of 72. But after seven years, he decided to go back to the Philippines from homesickness as his wife couldn’t be with him.

Constancia died on Nov. 5, 2012, at the age of 90 from illness.

Today’s life span

According to medical doctor Shelley de la Vega, past president and lifetime fellow of the Philippine College of Geriatric Medicine, the lifespan of humans was about 120 years old.

“Lifespan is the maximum duration of life of a species. What has changed is life expectancy. In the 1990s, the life expectancy of Filipinos varied between 65 to 68 years. Now it is 68 to 72 years,” she said.

Dr. De la Vega noted that Orillo was the best example of how to eat and live long. He probably also had a healthy mother. However, there is really no secret and no answer as to how one can live longer.

In low-middle income countries like the Philippines, the biggest contributor to increasing life expectancy is the reduction in maternal and child mortality. In high-income countries, it is a declining fertility rate and mortality in the older age groups.

“You can read books such as the Blue Zones. Genetic predisposition accounts for 30 percent of your longevity. The other 70 percent are improving nutrition and sanitation, disease management and medicine, use of antibiotic, having vaccines, drugs for hypertension, diabetes, improved surgical techniques, early screening, and diagnosis [of a certain disease]. Being safe in roads, workplace and healthy lifestyle such as no smoking and being active,” she added.

Not everyone gets to live up to 100 years old, so Orillo is just one of few blessed to last a century, but one can live healthy by consulting a geriatric doctor regularly and maintaining family and social connectedness.

“Improve your nutrition, manage your disease by taking appropriate medicines [drugs for hypertension, diabetes], get vaccinated against flu and pneumonia, get into fitness and rehabilitation to avoid falling, discuss goals of care and end of life choices and issues to your doctor, and maintain family support and counselling,” she advised.

These days, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the world’s biggest killers. One-third, or 31 percent, of deaths worldwide are from CVDs, resulting in about 17.7 million dying every year. It is no longer associated only with elderly people.

CVDs are now affecting individuals in their 20s and 30s from lifestyle, age, gender, family history, and other risk factors.

Alberto, hours before his birthday celebration, reading his life story published at The Manila Times

That thing called trans fats

US-trained Filipino chef Fernan Punzalan, together with his two business partners, put up Creative Group, Inc., which owns and operates Serenade Hall in Makati Central Business District area.

US-trained Filipino chef Fernan Punzalan

What differentiates Serenade Hall from other restaurants is its classy cafeteria concept where they serve 16 affordable and varying dishes every day. Its core dishes consist of Filipino delicacies cooked differently.

The classy cafeteria where they serve 16 affordable, varying dishes every day

The restaurant, where Chef Fernan is the corporate chef, strives not to use trans fats, which have been found to increase the risk of developing heart diseases.

“There is a conscious effort not to use trans fats in our own little way. For example, in our coffee, we offer fresh milk instead of powdered creamer alone. For cooking oil, we try to use Minola since this is made from coconut oil. And we have a fryer that can separate trans fats during frying. The technology was from Korea; it’s called water fryer,” explained Chef Fernan.

However, Chef Fernan revealed that while they offer alternative healthy options, they are a bit more expensive than their regular meals, and sometimes overlooked because some customers are not aware of their health benefits.

“We always offer them (customers) organic chicken binakol and our black/red rice. But in the end, it’s always their choice,” he said.

What the survey says

Of 16 individuals asked in a random survey, 10 are aware of ‘trans fats,’ while the rest aren’t. The respondents consist of eight males and eight females with ages ranging from 23 to 58 years old.

When buying food, 13 respondents usually look for the health benefits and food taste, 12 for affordability and food preparation, eight for ambiance, location/convenience, and six for customer service. 

While majority look for health benefits in the food they eat, 12 admitted to eating French fries once a month, three for twice a month, 11 admitted to eating cakes once a month, seven eat doughnuts, and one does not eat any of the food mentioned.

The survey also looked into the body mass index (BMI) of respondents, seven have normal BMI, six are overweight, and three are considered obese. Only 10 of the respondents are engaged in physical activities such as running, swimming, basketball, walking, road cycling, jogging, and many more.

Six of them have medical conditions (e.g. hypertension and high cholesterol) and are currently taking maintenance medicines.

Understanding trans fats

Trans fats are partially hydrogenated or trans fats created through an industrial process where hydrogen atoms are added to liquid vegetable oils. They are more solid than oil, making them less likely to spoil. Trans fats help food to have a less greasy feel.

“Trans fats are edible, consuming trans fats has been shown to increase the risk of coronary artery disease in part by raising levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) often termed as ‘bad’ cholesterol,” explained Dr. Anthony Leachon, a cardiologist and preventive health education and health reform advocate.

Worldwide, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the world’s biggest killers. One-third, or 31 percent, of deaths worldwide, is due to CVDs, resulting in about 17.7 million deaths every year.

Some of the foods with trans fats include French fries, margarine, fried chicken, non-dairy creamers, microwave popcorn, frozen dinners, pie and crust, ice cream, creamy beverages, and potato chips.

Dr. Leachon admitted that “ignorance” is the primary reason or challenge when advising his patients to switch to healthier options or food.

“I usually educate them using the Harvard healthy food plate and then give them a food checklist,” he shared.

Created by nutrition experts at Harvard School of Public Health and editors at Harvard Health Publications, the Healthy Eating Plate was designed to address deficiencies in the US Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate. It provides detailed guidance, in a simple format, to help people make the best eating choices.

In order to totally eliminate trans fats, Dr. Leachon said there is a need for preventive health education and strong regulatory guidelines to all consumers and public health awareness.

“Stop smoking and drinking alcohol. Eat healthy food. Exercise regularly. Practice ‘chill’ days to reduce stress. Lose weight and have regular check-ups,” he advised.

REPLACE project

According to Mary Grace Anne S. Rosales-Sto. Domingo of ImagineLaw, Inc., it is possible to totally ban the use of partially hydrogenated oil (PHO) with appropriate policy and regulatory measures in place.

“Countries like the United States, Canada, and Thailand were able to do it. We can learn from their experience and determine the appropriate policy measures for us to implement a PHO ban. It will take a multi-sectoral effort to conduct the necessary research, but it’s achievable,” said Rosales-Sto. Domingo.

In October 2018, ImagineLaw, with support from Global Health Advocacy Incubator, began its legal and regulatory review of trans fat reduction measures in the Philippines and encountered interspersed issues concerning the elimination of trans fat—there was the fragmented food safety regulatory system, the impact of a proposed ban on PHOs/TFAs on the market, and the capacity of the government agencies to regulate or implement TFA regulations.

“Another challenge would be on the lack of available data on the level of consumption of TFA or the prevalence of the use of PHOs in the Philippines. This is currently the subject of the proposed study to be conducted by DOST-FNRI (Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute),” she revealed.

To raise consumer awareness, Rosales-Sto. Domingo suggested that government agencies like Department of Health and National Nutrition Council disseminate IEC (information, education, and communication) materials and conduct training in barangays on the negative effects of industrially-produced TFA to one’s health.

“The DepEd, in line with its policy banning the sale of food with TFA in schools, can conduct a simultaneous communication campaign promoting a healthy diet in schools. The Department of Trade and Industry can also conduct IEC campaigns on healthy diets and identify consumer products that pose a threat to consumers’ health. Lastly, the DOH and Food and Drug Authority (FDA) can strengthen guidelines on nutrition labeling and teach consumers how to read nutrition labels and identify ingredients known to have TFA,” she said.

But the best agency to lead efforts and facilitate multi-agency coordination would be the DOH said Rosales-Sto. Domingo.

To encourage producers to produce healthy oil, she revealed that during their consultations with the Department of Agriculture, possible incentives would be government subsidies in terms of certification and registration fees for farmers, crop insurance, or farm assistance.

While possible disincentives would include higher taxes on oil or ingredients with trans fat through the enactment of appropriate legislation.

Entertainment dining at its best!

Originally published at Manila Standard on March 18, 2019.