Wake Up, Philippines!

The Price of Fitness: Eating before exercise – good or bad?

Posted in fitness, Health, Tips, What/How/Why/Where/When by Erineus on March 6, 2009
By Anna Unson-Price
February 23, 2009

This question is pretty simple; however, the answer isn’t quite as straightforward.  The best answer is that it isn’t good or bad whether or not you eat before exercise.

To answer as correctly and thoroughly as possible, I did a lot of research instead of merely giving you my opinion on the subject.

The reason for eating before a workout is so that you’ll have energy when you’re going through your program or following an exercise class.  But it’s all about balance. There’s a pretty thin line between providing enough food to give you a needed boost and feeling overly full when you’re working out.

Once, a bunch of us had come from yoga pictorials and we were running late for my evening yoga class, which they all were attending. Everyone was starving because, of course, we had done the pictorials on empty stomachs so we’d be able to do difficult poses looking as fit as possible.

We still had about an hour so we ordered several vegetarian pizzas to go and ate them on the way to class. Unfortunately, they took a bit long to fill the orders so we were not only hungrier, we were also so late that we only had enough time to munch quickly and put our mats in place.

In a class of about 20 or so people that night, there were about six of us who were feeling really sick, especially during the bent-over stretches! I’m sure I am speaking for all of us when I say we learned our lesson.

Research shows that when you eat before exercise instead of exercising with an empty stomach, it improves your athletic performance.  We’re not talking about full meal here; this is just a snack, so generally, a snack taken before an activity will provide fuel for that activity – or practice, game, workout, run, etc. – depending on how long the session lasts.

When you exercise with an empty stomach, your body burns more fat than if you ate before you exercised, But – and this is an important consideration – your body also ends up burning lean mass or muscle.

Remember that your body will still burn fat even if you don’t exercise with an empty stomach; it just won’t burn as much. But to be able to burn fat as a fuel, your body needs carbohydrates.

Also, a snack before a workout will keep you from becoming very hungry after a workout, which happens often and ends up making you eat more than you intend to and definitely more than is good for you.

If you decide to go ahead and eat before exercise, these are the best ways to do it for maximum benefit:

• Choose a light 200- to 300-calorie meal containing some carbohydrates and protein.
• Allow at least one half to an hour to pass before you begin your workout.
• Dehydrated muscles perform poorly so drink water not just before, during, and after a workout, but throughout the day.
• Don’t go longer than four hours without eating. Make sure that in between meals, instead of suddenly feeling hungry and grabbing the nearest unhealthy snack, you have planned nutritious snacks.

Some possibilities (these can also be breakfast if you exercise early in the morning):
• egg whites
• cottage cheese
• nonfat or low-fat yogurt
• protein shake
• fruits (bananas, oranges, apples, grapes)
• unsalted and/or whole-grain crackers
• a slice of whole-wheat or multi-grain bread
• soups that are low in fat and salt (pureed soups, minestrone, miso, etc.)

Avoid high-fat proteins:

• peanut butter
• red meat
• cheese

These take longer to digest and sometimes make you feel even more tired. Look for food that is quickly digested and absorbed.  Experiment with various options.
And if you have an important event or scheduled workout activity with a friend, this may not be the best time to try a new food, just to be safe.

Sources: Go Ask Alice! Columbia University Health Services; Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 1997; American Dietetic Association.
Note: I heard from some friends and readers that my mail bounces.  If it does, please email me at anna.price2008@gmail.com.


What is a heart-healthy lifestyle?

Posted in Health, heart by Erineus on March 6, 2009
By Czarina Nicole O. Ong
March 02, 2009
Dr. Saturnino Javier (Director) and Dr. Ma. Belen Q. Carisma (President) (Photo by Pinggot Zulueta)
Dr. Saturnino Javier (Director) and Dr. Ma. Belen Q. Carisma (President) (Photo by Pinggot Zulueta)

There is a reason why the heart is so important. Not just because it is the harbinger of feelings such as love and happiness, but also because it pumps blood through our body’s vessels. Keeping it healthy is therefore everybody’s top priority.

But when it comes to taking care of one’s heart, every person has his or her own idea on how to do it right. Some would say exercise would definitely keep one’s heart healthy, and some would claim that eating right would lead to a healthier heart.

These opinions are based on personal experiences, and sometimes based on what we’ve read on medicine books or what we see on television. But what do the experts really think? The doctors at Philippine Heart Association (PHA) share their beliefs on having a heart-healthy lifestyle.

“It is finding time to indulge in a fitness activity, keeping it sacred, and pursuing it with passion.”

-Dr. Ma. Belen Q. Carisma

“A heart-healthy lifestyle means setting reasonable goals, even for your health. It does not mean you have to engage in strenuous exercises. Rather, it could be a simple walk in one’s subdivision or doing yoga. Also, you should engage in activities that enhance your other talents and skills like singing and dancing!”

-Dr. Maria Teresa B. Abola
Vice President

“A heart-healthy lifestyle is avoiding the major risk factors: smoking, stress, etc. Personally, to keep my heart healthy, I stay on a diet, meaning my cholesterol is moderated, and I also do exercises at least three times a week. I make sure that I do not let stress overcome me. I spend time with my loved ones and I keep my work problems separate from my personal life.”

-Dr. Eleanor Lopez

“A heart-healthy lifestyle is when you exercise, because your body releases endorphins. It makes you feel good the natural way.”
-Dr. Efren Vicaldo
Immediate Past President

“It is a lifestyle that sticks to regular exercise program and a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables. It is also a nicotine-free lifestyle with enough time to relax and nourish the mind and spirit.”

-Dr. Saturnino Javier


Is the health care industry recession-proof?

Posted in Global Financial Crisis, Health, Health Care by Erineus on March 6, 2009
By Rowena Bautista-Alcaraz
February 23, 2009

A recent government-to-government arrangement was made that will initially bring some 300 Filipino nurses to work for Japanese hospitals. This is good news considering the current economic slump worldwide. And then came the announcement of RCM Health Care Services’ need for occupational (OT) and physical therapists (PT) in the United States. Now that’s even greater news!

RCM is a recognized leader in health care staffing solutions, backed by 30 years of experience. Six years ago, it partnered with the leading HR solutions provider in the region, John Clements Consultants, Inc., and its overseas staffing partner, EDI Staff Builders, in promoting work opportunities, particularly for therapists.

According to RCM’s senior vice president Michael Saks during their recent visit to the country, “the Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows nursing and physical and occupational therapy as the major health care job occupations with the fastest employment growth.” It is estimated that by the year 2014, health services employment is projected to increase dramatically with over 4,700,000 new health care jobs.

“Even in an economic downturn, one sector is staying strong, and that is health care. Intangible job markets such as health care and education has grown by over 500,000 jobs since the recession began,” Saks shares.

Marc Chafetz, RCM’s vice president, also agrees, “The health care industry is pretty much recession-resistant. We have more jobs than we’ve ever had. While some of the smaller companies who used to come and recruit in the Philippines has pretty much gone out of business and stopped coming, we, on the other hand, increased our efforts by coming twice in a year now.”

Strong demand for Filipinos

According to the Philippine Department of Health Report in 2007, 85 percent of Filipino health care professionals are working overseas, making the country the number one exporter of nurses and therapists worldwide. Between 12,000 and 15,000 nurses, therapists and other professionals are reported to leave the Philippines each year to work abroad, mostly in the United States.

“Filipinos consistently provide excellent and world-class service in the field of heath care all over the world. And the top three reasons why US health care institutions choose Filipino therapists and nurses are because of their strong work ethics, outstanding educational training, and genuine compassion in caring for patients,” explains Chafetz.

And while there’s currently a strong demand, RCM focuses its initiative on raising public awareness on these relatively unexplored fields with the end of getting more Filipinos interested in working as therapists in the US. It has partnered with various educational institutions across the country to create scholarship programs for students of physical and occupational therapy courses. RCM sees the development of educational programs in occupational and physical therapy as integral to increasing employment for Filipinos in the American health care industry.

“Our goal is to help local universities produce as many qualified OTs and PTs as possible for deployment to the US. We have critical shortages in the US, and to think that qualified therapists will never graduate solely because of money is a hard notion to grasp,” says Saks.

With yearly trips to the Philippines, RCM had the opportunity to tour the country, lecturing to students at various universities, nursing schools, and rehabilitation schools. They also hold seminars in every major city around the country for qualified RNs, PTs, and OTs that are looking for sponsorship. Some of its current partner schools are the University of the Philippines, the University of Santo Tomas, Cebu Doctor’s College, and Emilio Aguinaldo College.

“The cost is prohibitive to go to school and enter a career, so we have tried to be creative and come up with ways to develop scholarship programs, help therapists go to school, to learn, to get a degree, but to still dream of a great job opportunity in the US,” Chafetz tells.

He finally ends, “We’ve made it a mission as an organization to get out in the field to educate people about the opportunity. We are very committed to expanding that as a profession so we can let them know about different opportunities.”


The trouble with crash diets

Posted in Diet by Erineus on March 6, 2009
By Edu
February 23, 2009

Q. I am a 36-year-old mother of two who has been waging an unending battle with my weight in the last few years. My desirable body weight is around 110 pounds, but my weight swings between 120 and 150 pounds. When I hit 150, I go on a crash diet. I usually lose 20–30 lbs in three to four weeks. The problem is I very easily gain back the weight I lose. What should I do to be able to reduce to and maintain a desirable body weight?

– Irma C., Makati City

A. Excess weight is a risk factor for many chronic diseases, that is why you will really be better off without the extra poundage that you now carry. However, your practice of repeatedly losing and gaining weight or “yo-yo” dieting may be as dangerous as being overweight. In the end, you might only lose your self-esteem instead of your unwanted pounds.

Whenever you go on your “get-thin-quick scheme” or “crash diet,” you run the risk of suffering from fluid-electrolyte imbalance and protein, calorie, and micronutrient (i.e., vitamins and minerals) deficiency, which could compromise many of your body functions and even irreparably damage some of your vital tissues and organs. You also increase your risk of developing gallstones.

Crash dieting works in that, as in your experience, one can lose as much as 20–30 lbs in just a few days or weeks. The trouble is, the weight one loses in crash dieting does not really result from the burning of fat alone; in fact, most of it is the result of dehydration and muscle waiting. Furthermore, it is next to impossible to keep the pounds that one loses by crash dieting permanently off. They promptly return, and with vengeance, when the person starts to eat “normally” again.

To lose your extra weight and to keep it off, you need to commit to certain permanent lifestyle changes—you have to modify your eating habits and to exercise.

Your diet should provide enough calories to maintain a desirable body weight, but nothing more. It should be balanced, low in fats, and high in fibers. If you weigh 20% more than your desirable body weight at the moment, this is simply because you are taking in 20% more calories than your body needs. Often, you can remove the extra calories in your diet by simply cutting down on soft drinks, desserts, and snacks. You need not give up chocolates, ice cream, and cakes forever, but you will have to reduce intake of these to occasional small servings. In addition, you can replace some of your viands and rice with a lot of leafy vegetables. If you institute these changes in your diet, you will gradually lose weight (even without the benefit of a reducing diet), one half to one pound a week, until you trim down to your desirable body weight.

Exercise, on the other hand, will raise your body’s metabolic rate and will help you burn calories more efficiently. So, in addition to modifying your diet, you need to exercise regularly.

You don’t have to engage in a structured exercise program to get the exercise you need. You simply need to adopt lifestyle changes such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, doing household chores regularly, walking or biking in going to and from the neighborhood grocery, etc. You are getting enough exercise if these activities lead to palpable physical exertion and add up to more than 30 minutes per day.

(Email inquiries on health matters to: medical_notes@yahoo.com [1].)


Why liver cancer is common in the Philippines

Posted in Cancer, Diseases/Disabilities by Erineus on March 6, 2009
March 02, 2009
(Illustration by Greco Milambiling)
(Illustration by Greco Milambiling)

Q. Our 68-year-old neighbor died of liver cancer last week, less than six months after he was diagnosed with the disease. I understand that the outlook for liver cancer patients is very poor. Why is this so? Also, why is this form of cancer common in the Philippines when it is rare in the US? Is there a way to prevent this form of cancer?

Celso N., Cebu City

A. Liver cancer has a poor prognosis or outlook because it is often diagnosed very late in its course. It usually presents no symptoms until the tumor is already at least 10 cm in size, at which time the disease has typically already spread and is in the advanced stage.

Most liver cancer patients die within a year of diagnosis, and the five-year survival rate for the disease (if no treatment is undertaken) is less than five percent. Even with treatment, the five-year survival rate for liver cancer is still a low 35 percent.

Liver cancer is only the eighth most common cancer worldwide, and as you mentioned, it is relatively rare in the US (and for that matter, other developed countries). In the Philippines and other underdeveloped countries, however, the incidence of liver cancer is rather high. The latest DOH advisory shows that liver cancer is the third most common form of cancer among Filipinos—in men, it is the second most common, while in women, it is the ninth most common.

Liver cancer is relatively common in our country primarily because many Filipinos suffer from cirrhosis of the liver, a major risk factor for liver cancer. Cirrhosis of the liver precedes 80 percent of all liver cancers; thus, any condition that predisposes to cirrhosis indirectly causes liver cancer. The usual cause of liver cirrhosis among Filipinos is chronic hepatitis B, a major public health problem in the country. Chronic hepatitis B afflicts between 10 and 12 percent of all Filipinos (i.e., more than 8 million Filipinos). Other less significant causes of cirrhosis are hepatitis C infection and alcoholism.

Another risk factor for liver cancer that adds to the high incidence of the malignancy among Filipinos is aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a poisonous substance that damages the liver and may cause liver cancer. It is produced by certain species of molds that grow in foodstuff such as peanuts, corn, rice, dried fruits, spices, crude vegetable oils, cocoa beans, and copra, as well as milk and milk products from cattle that have consumed contaminated feed. The high temperature and relative humidity that prevail in the Philippines and the often improper storing, processing, and handling of foodstuff are the reasons why the aflatoxin content of the above-mentioned food products is frequently above the acceptable level.

Other less common causes of liver cancer in the Philippines are certain chemicals such as vinyl chloride (used in certain industries), and estrogens and androgens—hormones that are present in oral contraceptives and anabolic steroids, respectively.

The outlook for liver cancer is poor, but the disease is preventable because the major risk factors for the disease have already been identified. Measures that can significantly reduce one’s risk for cancer of the liver include vaccination for hepatitis B, avoidance of alcohol, and proper storage of foodstuff.

(Email inquiries on health matters to medical_notes@yahoo.com)

Medical Notes
Manila Bulleting

The other attractions of Siquijor

Posted in Tourism, Travel by Erineus on March 6, 2009

In this age of technological wonders, Internet, iPods, and what have you, when one talks of the mystical island of Siquijor located in Central Visayas and easily accessible from  major  cities in the region, the talk will invariably shift to the island’s famed mambabarangs and mangkukulams, or those who practice witchcraft and black magic.

The fact is, even before I could even set foot  for the first time on the island, I was already warned  about strangers suddenly tapping me at the back for a greeting or about the danger of accepting drinking water from a glass, The advice was when someone taps me, I should return the tap immediately so a cast spell does not have any effect. For the water, that I should stick to drinking from sealed mineral water containers.

Another person warned me about going into the interior of the island and if ever I do, there are certain days and times of  the day that it is better to stay indoors because of lurking evil spirit.

Another interesting  story I gathered was about the mambabarang, Aling Busya, who was supposed to have treated Imelda Marcos way back when fish-like scales  started growing on her legs, supposedly, when the San Juanico Bridge was built  connecting Leyte and Samar. There were water spirits who were angered and vented their ire on Imelda.

The same Aling Busya was killed, again allegedly by her own relatives about five years  ago when  she started going out of control and cast spells on anyone who crossed her path, even if they were her own relatives. One person I talked to actually had the chance to meet her a long time ago and admitted getting scared by her stories.

Then there are those who also use their powers for good as Siquijor is also known for its bulo-bulo healing method where the healers use a small pipe-like  stem to blow on the afflicted part of a person seeking treatment and lo and behold, all sorts of objects appear as if by magic and the person is healed.

I was able to talk to somebody who actually underwent this treatment. And to his surprise, what came out were river sand and pebbles. And when he was asked if he had been near a river recently, he remembered that indeed, he went to the riverside. He also saw with his own eyes another person getting healed and a stone bigger than a golf ball  came out of nowhere.

These healers gather during Black Saturday in secluded caves in the hinterlands in San Antonio. And after collecting medicinal herbs and roots, they do rituals called tang-alap that are supposed to make them powerful healing materials. Healers not just come from Siquijor but from all over the Visayas and even Mindanao.

Of course, there are also local folks who do not believe anymore in the mambabarangs, particularly in the coastal towns. It seems the new generation of people do not want to accept anymore powers that  used to be transferred from  one generation to the other.

Mayor Gold Calibo from Siquijor’s commercial capital of Larena is one of those who personally does not believe in witchcraft. Instead, he points out to the numerous natural attractions of the island for visitors to visit. The island does get its share of local and foreign tourists.

For one, the place has no insurgency problem. It has one of the lowest if not the lowest crime rate in the Philippines and jails are seldom occupied. There are no squatters and local people go out of their way to make visitors welcome.

‘‘Actually, that is what we want to focus on. We cannot avoid all those tales of mambabarangs and mangkukulams. But Siquijor boasts of  natural attractions like white sand beaches with beautiful rock formations and very clear water. We have caves and waterfalls, and historical places, particularly churches. And during the month of May, we get a lot of visitors who celebrate with us our fiestas,” said Mayor Calibo.

And he helped me get around the whole island literally, using the circumferential coastal highway and stopping by to take shots of some attractions he was talking of except for waterfalls and caves where one has to go to the interior to enjoy them, and maybe meet also the mambabarangs.

I visited the century-old San Isidro Labrador Convent, a historical landmark and believed to be one of the oldest and biggest convents in the country. It is located in Lazi fronting another historical place, the San Isidro Labrador church constructed in 1884 and up to the present still maintains the same old  wooden flooring. One can also see towering acacia trees near the convent, attractions by themselves.

There are other old churches and an old bell tower in the province but then what I wanted to see were the island’s famed beaches. And I was not disappointed at all—the guide from the provincial tourism office brought me to a secluded public beach in Kasuguan in Maria.

From the highway, we turned into a side road flanked by tall trees and ended up seemingly on a dead-end spot. But there was a small hidden cemented stairway that brings one down to the white sand beach, a favorite week-end swimming spot for locals and visitors even if there were no facilities except for a few picnic tables.

But the next place we went to was even better, Salagdoong Beach, still in the town of Maria. Here, there were  overnight lodging places, cottages and the provincial government-run Agripino Hotel, the only hotel in the province and which rooms offer a beautiful view of the surrounding area as it is located on high ground but still accessible to the beach.

Some smaller rock formations even offer shade for swimmers while a big one was converted into a viewing deck. There were several cottages and a restaurant in the area and the place, when we visited, had a lot of people frolicking on the water.

According to our guide, all their beaches are white-sand beaches and practically most of the major coastal towns have their own resorts, some owned by foreigners who have settled down for good on the island.

What we missed because of the shortness of time was the island’s waterfalls like the Cambugahay Waterfalls in interior Lazi, going through either a forest or taking a river boat to reach the place, the caves of Cantabon where one treks inside the cave for over an hour to reach the other end while dodging stalactites and stalagmites inside this live cave. Adjacent area also has the Talawog and Boljo caves and while in the area, one can also go to the Bandilaan Nature Park located at the center of the island.

One can go all the way to the highest area of the park, 557 feet above sea level and get a view of the entire island and the waters surrounding Siquijor. The park also features natural springs, a butterfly sanctuary, a shrine, and an outdoor way of the Cross.

For divers, Siquijor also offers  several marine sanctuary teeming with underwater sea life and live corals. The Tulapos Marine park is the biggest among these marine shelter and protected areas.

You see, Siquijor indeed casts its own brand of enchanting spells with its beautiful beaches, waterfalls, nature parks, caves, and marine parks, and who can refuse the island’s allure after experiencing these places.

This summer, consider Siquijor among the local destinations one can visit and enjoy. I did and I have not even taken a dip in their beaches.

By Lito Cinco

Preserving the Makiling Botanical Gardens

Posted in Botanical Gardens, Conservation/Preservation, Heritage by Erineus on March 6, 2009

March 03, 2009

We have two “must” places to explore when traveling to a new destination. The first would be the local market. The botanical garden would be the second. The local market gives us a feel of a country’s daily life while the gardens give us a peek into its ecological status.

The miniscule country of Singapore could only allot 63.7 hectares to its Botanic Gardens, which is one-fifth the size of New York’s Central Park. Yet it is the only botanical garden in the world that doesn’t charge any admission fees. The Botanic Gardens sources its income from tree-orchid breeding and hybridization. It reportedly pioneered the multi-million dollar cut-flower industry, which has received recognition worldwide.

Another small country, Brunei, has 8,000 hectares of forest reserves. It also has a forestry university which sponsors international botanical and conservation studies, and dozens of well maintained parks and gardens.

Here in the Philippines, the Mt. Makiling forest reserve covers 5,900 hectares. Of this total, 300 hectares is designated to the Makiling Botanical Gardens. It is the center of forestry and botanical studies and is managed by UP Los Banos.

In terms of size, the Makiling Botanical Gardens covers less area than the gardens found in much smaller (but much wealthier) countries.   These thoughts crossed our mind when we took part in the Ecological-Cultural Festival organized by the UP Alumni (UPAA), the Mariang Makiling Foundation, and the Department of Tourism. The festival was held to drum up support for the endangered scientific reserve.

Among the events was a painting session that featured actress-singer Karylle posing as Mariang Makiling.  “We decided to put a face to the legend,” explains Dr. Feliciano Calora, a respected entomologist and head of the Mariang Makiling Foundation.

Half of Mt. Makiling has been denuded already. To prevent further destruction, the Mt. Makiling Conservation Movement last year planted 507 seedlings of flower tress and timber along the periphery of the forest reserve.

The project has obtained the support of various institutions like Calamba Water, the Embassy of Finland, Ford Motor Philippines, National Power Corp. Sto Tomas, Batangas, Phil. Wood Producers, Surigao Development, CIBA-Geigy, Novartis, and Sterling Health.

But more monetary and manpower support is needed to save this mountain, which is said to have a more diverse plant species than that of the entire USA.

Forester and education officer Ben Arisala is despondent over the turn of events. He has been with the Gardens for 27 years (he started working here immediately after graduating from the College of Forestry). In the past, he says, the garden had a staff of 36. Now, there are only 12 tasked to manage the 300 hectares.

The Gardens was opened in 1965 to support the academic and research needs of the forestry and plant sciences, as well as serve as a tourist attraction. It is a dipterocarp forest – it has a hiking trail, arboretum, a plant nursery, picnic grounds, venues of special events, and a swimming pool with water fed by the natural springs of Mt. Makiling.

Arisala gave us a virtual tour of the immediate surroundings starting with the rotonda marked by a sculpture of the Apitong tree seed framed by two towering bagtican trees. Sixty to 70 percent of the forest, he says, come from the family dipterocarpaceae to which bagtican, giho, and yakal among others, belong. They are classified according to diameter and height – small at 16 cm. in diameter  and height equivalent to a one-storey building; medium up to 45 cm. in diameter and two-storey building in height; and large at more than 45 cm. in diameter and taller than a two-storey building.

The small to medium Bitangcol is native to the Philippines and Borneo and is said to be a curative for cancer.

The medium to large trees are the Almasiga with bark producing oils for varnish; the endangered Philippine teak, which is a quality material for furniture; Molave, which grows in the limestone forest; and the Camachile from tropical America. Its bark is used as tanning dye for leather.

The highly fibrous Twai, originally from India and the Himalayas, is used for pulp and paper products and is also locally known as Tuhod since its trunk is shaped like a knee.

Malapapaya is used to make chopsticks, toothpicks, wooden teaspoons, popsicle sticks, and tongue depressors. Its leaves are used as a material to make contraceptives. The ilang-ilang flowers are a popular source of perfume.

We were also introduced to the the king of the flowering trees, the saraca under which it is believed Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism was born. Its orange color is the same color Buddhist monks used for their habits.

The gardens are open daily except holidays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.