Wake Up, Philippines!

Seair extends 14th anniversary promotion

Posted in Rest and Liesure, Tourism, Transportation, Travel by Erineus on May 8, 2009

Updated May 08, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Due to insistent public demand, Southeast Asian Airlines (Seair) is extending its 14th anniversary promo by giving additional discounts of up to P70 million.

Until May 31, passengers get P1,400 discount per roundtrip on all fare classes and seats to any of its destinations when they book their flights online.

The travel period for this promo is from June 15 to Oct. 15. Travelers may log on to www.flyseair.com and type “iflyseair14” in the promo code field to avail themselves of the promo.

Seair has flown almost three million passengers to local destinations, including Boracay, Puerto Princesa, Tablas (Romblon), Masbate, Clark, Zamboanga, Jolo (Sulu), and Tawi-Tawi.

It currently flies daily to Basco, Batanes and will be increasing flights to twice daily to the scenic island paradise until June 14 every Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

Seair also offers flights from Boracay and Puerto Princesa to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.


Diamond Hotel serves Super Summer Coolers

Posted in Tourism, Travel by Erineus on May 8, 2009

Updated May 08, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Beat the scorching summer heat with Diamond Hotel’s Super Summer Coolers.

Diamond Hotel offers thirst-quenching drinks and unique ice cream creations at its Poolside Bar.

Relax by the pool and enjoy irresistible ice cream delights such as Ice Cream Paradise, a delightful treat of 10 scoops of assorted ice cream flavors, fresh fruits and nuts topped with whipped cream; and Diamond Hotel’s own version of the ultimate Filipino summer delight — Halo-Halo Fiesta Grande, a mixture of local sweet preserves, crispy pinipig, milk, shaved ice, ube yam and leche flan.

Those with healthy appetites can also enjoy hearty starters such as Chicken Fingers, Potato Wedges with Rosemary Salt, Gambas al Ajillo, Vietnamese Spring Rolls and Crispy Calamares or sandwiches like the classic Grilled Cheese, Club Sandwich and Diamond Hotel’s signature burger made of grilled beef patty with chorizo, Swiss cheese, semi-dried tomato, gherkin and rocket, served in toasted sesame bun.

Pizzas with innovative toppings are also available such as Parma Ham, Rosemary, Onion and Parmesan Pizza, and Mediterranean Pizza served with char-grilled capsicum, eggplant, zucchini, spinach, olives, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella and crumbed feta cheese.

The Poolside Bar also offers an array of fresh fruit shakes, refreshing smoothies and summer cocktails.

The Super Summer Coolers are available at Diamond Hotel’s Poolside Bar and Palm Court Cafe. For reservations or inquiries, call 305-3000 or 528-3000.

Diamond Hotel is located at Roxas Boulevard corner Dr. J. Quintos st., Manila.


How to avoid a faux pas in Provence

Posted in Rest and Liesure, Tips, Tourism, Travel by Erineus on May 8, 2009

How to avoid a faux pas in Provence
PURPLE SHADES By Letty Jacinto-Lopez Updated May 03, 2009 12:00 AM

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This is the way you eat: The art of eating (and enjoying) bouillabaisse is done in stages.

To avoid a faux pas while traveling through France, take note of the following:

Q: How is bouillabaisse eaten?

A: In the following order:

• A platter of live and snapping crustaceans is brought in for your approval. I actually saw them fish the lobster out of the huge wall-to-wall tank.

• The soup stock (strong with all the juices of the crustaceans) is served first.

• Slurp it with gusto and savor each taste of fat and roe. (Make a mental note not to report this to your family cardiologist.)

• The cooked crustaceans that have been boiled in their natural juices with herbs and spices are then served with a basket-full of French baguettes and a special thick, creamy sauce in which you can dip the French bread.

Bouillabaisse is not an ordinary seafood soup. It is not like our sinigang or the Thai’s tom yong where the meat and veggies are mixed and can be taken while floating or submerged in the tasty stock. The art of eating (and enjoying) bouillabaisse is done in stages.

Q: How did we give our “identity” as foreigners away?

A: By not ordering wine.

The owner, Pierre, came to our table to ask what wine we would like with our lunch. My husband shook his head and replied, “L’eau minerale, s’il vous plait.” Pierre was horrified. “N’est pas possible!” he declared. “You can’t have bouillabaisse with water. It’s a sacrilege.” “D’accord,” I replied. “Give us one half carafe of your house wine (une demi-pitchet vin pays),” but not before we got my husband’s Perrier and son’s Coca/Orangina.

We were in vin territory where it is de rigueur to have local wine rather than water with meals. Pierre even took us to his underground cellar where you could actually buy generic wine being aged in wood barrels with their own tap. Imagine helping yourself to some fresh and fruity rosé or chardonnay. If you don’t want to go for the generic wines, there was the red Chateauneuf-du-Pape grown in southern Rhone, the dry white wines of seaside Cassis and the Provencale rosé grown in Bandol or Cotes (rocky hillsides) de Provence. When in France, it’s a crime to be a teetotaler.

Avoid sidewalk cafés during the festival months. Dine indoors during odd hours and choose restaurants where the chef is also the owner/operator; the food is guaranteed to taste good and special. Don’t be taken by the glossy photos posted outside sidewalk cafés; the actual dish served is guaranteed to be blah and lousy.

Q: Where are the drug kingpins to be found in Marseilles (like the ones in the cop thriller The French Connection filmed in Marseilles in 1971 with a young Gene Hackman)?

A: Nowhere.

They have beautiful museums of Marseilles’ history, the Roman docks, the Palais Longchamps and the Golden Madonna on a 150-foot bell tower at the Basilique de Notre Dame dela Garde plus the old commercial docks and the old town rebuilt. Marseilles has enough attractions without investigating its dark side.

Q: When and where are truffles to be found?

A: Wait until November (autumn) or December (winter). The richly flavored fungi is a close cousin of the mushroom, harvested in the woods or forests of Haute Provence and sold in the market stalls. What makes them unique? Trained pigs sniff them out from underground, near the roots of oak trees. (Lately, I am told, they substitute dogs to do the sniffing because the pigs tend to sniff and eat the truffles).

The golfball-sized truffles are collected in winter when they are at their most fragrant. Local markets specialize in truffles when they are in season but because of their rarity, they always tend to be expensive to horde.

If you see “truffes” on the menu, make sure your host is truly your bosom friend who would willingly spend a ransom for you or your worst competitor who would spare nothing to impress you.

Q: What are santons?

A: Gaily painted traditional or religious figures in terra cotta garbed in rural attire depicting the different lifestyles of rural France. Some are reasonably priced but because of their weight, it is difficult to smuggle many into my luggage without husband “detecting” them.

Q: What is le mistral?

A: It’s the wind blowing from the northwest of Europe.

Life and living conditions in Provence are influenced by the weather and I’ve often heard them talk about le mistral. Described as strong, fierce, icy and relentless, this thick Herculean white mass of “goodwill” blows the clouds away in spring and cools down the heat in summer. But sometimes, they say it can be a cruel, “ill” wind. I find it captivating that the French could give a name and a personality to the wind.

Q: How do you greet someone or say goodbye in Provence?

A: With two or three kisses, usually one on each cheek.

The usual greeting among friends of either sex is generally two or three kisses on the cheek. Our beso-beso must have been patterned after this ritual of camaraderie and politeness, though in Provence it seems to look more sincere and spontaneous.

And on a high note:

Q: Why do the lavender fields and the color purple have a romantic appeal?

A: The color purple speaks of wanting to be loved.

Oui, c’est l’amour, ma chère, ‘tis love.

View previous articles of this column.


Weight and see: New alert on diet pills

Posted in Consumer, Diet, Health, Health Care, Medicine by Erineus on May 8, 2009

CONSUMERLINE By Ching M. Alano Updated May 05, 2009 12:00 AM

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Illustration by REY RIVERA

Oh, to live and diet! The battle with the bulge rages. You’ve tried every diet program on the planet, every fat-zapping procedure and diet pills there are. But so far, the only thing they’ve successfully reduced is your hard-earned money.

Wait, did we just say diet pills? Before you pop that pill into your mouth, here’s a mouthful: The Food and Drug Administration recently warned the public against weight loss products that are tainted by potentially dangerous ingredients. Many of these products claim to be “natural” or “herbal,” when in fact, they contain drugs — and in very high doses at that. Now, that’s a bitter pill to swallow.

In its new alert, FDA lists these dangerous drugs found in weight loss products (stop, look, and see if your diet pill has them):

Sibutramine, a controlled substance.

Phenytoin, an anti-seizure medication.

Phenolphthalein, a solution used in chemical experiments and a suspected cancer-causing agent.

Bumetanide, a diuretic.

Since it made the issue public in December last year, the FDA has found 72 weight loss products, most of them imported from China, which are tainted with hidden and potentially dangerous drugs and chemicals. Among these are:

Cetilistat — an experimental obesity drug that can cause serious health risks in certain populations.

Fenproporex — a stimulant not approved for marketing in the US, which can cause increased blood pressure, uncontrollable movements or shaking, palpitations, arrhythmia, and possibly sudden death.

Fluoxetine — the active pharmaceutical ingredient in Prozac, a prescription antidepressant, which can increase the risk of suicidal thinking and suicide in children, adolescents, and young adults.

Furosemide — the active pharmaceutical ingredient in Lasix, a potent diuretic that can cause profound dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, leading to dehydration, seizures, GI problems, kidney damage, lethargy, collapse, and coma.

Rimonabant — the active pharmaceutical ingredient in Zimulti, which has not been approved in the United States because of increased risk of neurological and psychiatric side effects, such as seizures, depression, anxiety, insomnia, aggressiveness, and suicidal thoughts among patients.

(The full list of contaminated products can be found in FDA’s web site.)

These tainted weight loss supplements on the list are not FDA-approved and available over-the-counter without a prescription, which is not to say that those that are FDA-approved or available by prescription don’t have serious side effects.

Two of the most well-known diet drugs in the United States are Xenical, a prescription-only drug, and its non-prescription version Alli. Unpublished studies on Xenical have revealed the following alarming data:

• Xenical increases the precursor markers to colon cancer by 60 percent in rats.

• When eating a high-fat diet and taking Xenical, the cancer risk increased 2.4 fold.

• Fat-soluble vitamin E depletion, due to Xenical’s fat-blocking action, raises the risk of colon cancer even further.

• Recorded adverse reactions to Xenical include: 39 cases of increased abnormal blood thinning, several cases of bleeding episodes, 10 hospitalizations (four with life-threatening reactions), and one death.

• Dangerous thinning of the blood can occur in people taking drugs like Warfarin (an anti-coagulant), or who suffer from vitamin K deficiency.

On the other hand, Alli, which blocks the absorption of about 25 percent of consumed fat, can also result in loose stools, hard-to-control bowel movements, and gas with an oily discharge. But the manufacturer calls these “treatment effects.”

Fat chance you’ll lose weight with diet pills alone. Fact is, the Mayo Clinic reports that the average weight loss for prescription-strength Xenical is only about six pounds greater than diet and exercise alone after one year. Since Alli is half the strength of Xenical, they reasoned Alli could conceivably result in an average of just three extra pounds lost in a year.

Certainly, diet pills are a big business in the US. According to health activist Dr. Joseph Mercola, who wouldn’t be tempted by the promise of shedding unwanted pounds without sweating — simply take a pill, then sit back and relax as the pounds melt away.

According to Mercola, “for the 15 percent of American adults who say they’ve used weight-loss supplements, many probably thought, ‘Why not?’ What could they lose other than the money to buy them and possibly some extra pounds?”

Here, you could lose a lot, warns Mercola, including your health, if you take many of these weight-loss supplements.

Dieting is much more than having a bikini-worthy figure, according to Mercola. “It’s about having more energy, fighting disease, protecting your heart and, above all else, choosing a lifestyle that will support your entire body and your health.”

He gives this weighty tips:

Tailor your diet to your nutritional type. These are the foods that are right for your biochemistry, and foods that will push your body towards its ideal weight. (They may be high in fat or carbs, heavy on protein or veggies, it all depends on you.)

This is not a diet — no need to deprive yourself, no need to count calories. In fact, if you still feel hungry after eating, you are definitely not eating according to your nutritional type.

Consider exercise as a drug. When you’re trying to lose weight, a casual walk here and there is not going to cut it. Many studies find that exercising for one hour, five days a week is actually needed — agree! Sometimes you may even need up to 90 minutes of aerobic activity every day.

Take double note: There is also strong compelling evidence that strength training and high-intensity anaerobic interval training may be especially effective for weight loss.

The safe and effective way to lose weight, according to Mercola is to eat right, exercise, and address the nagging issues, big and small, in your life. You have nothing to lose but those stubborn unwanted pounds.

* * *

We’d love to hear from you. E-mail us at ching_alano@yahoo.com

View previous articles of this column.


Hair today, more hair tomorrow?

Posted in Diseases/Disabilities, Medicine by Erineus on May 8, 2009

AN APPLE A DAY By Tyrone M. Reyes, M.D. Updated May 05, 2009 12:00 AM

For men and women experiencing the most common type of hair loss — androgenetic alopecia, or pattern hair loss — and pondering what, if anything, could be done about it, there’s a mix of encouraging and discouraging news. There’s still no great way to easily restore your hair to its former glory. No drug treatment has gained US FDA approval since 1997, and the most effective existing therapy — hair transplant — is expensive and unlikely to come down in price. But on a more positive note, for those who can afford them, hair transplants now offer increasingly satisfying results — thanks to improved surgical techniques. Also heartening is the news that recent biotechnology discoveries may lead to less invasive treatments.

Falling Follicles

As a teenager, the average person has about 100,000 scalp hairs. Nearly everyone experiences some hair loss with age, but for people with pattern hair loss — a genetic condition inherited from one’s parents that causes hair on top of the head to gradually fall out — the problem is more noticeable. About half of men have significant hair loss by about age 50, and 38 percent of women have it by age 70.

Pattern hair loss is caused by a gradual shrinkage of hair follicles on top of the head, so they become less effective at sprouting hair. Normally, each hair grows for two to six years, rests for several months, and falls out. Then a new hair emerges. In a healthier scalp, more than 90 percent of hair follicles are in the growth phase. But as our hair follicles shrink, the growth phase gets shorter and the resting phase, longer. The result is double trouble: Not only are the new hairs shorter, there are also fewer of them. These older, smaller follicles also produce thinner hair. Men with pattern hair loss (and a very small percentage of women) have a third problem: the follicles shrink so much they stop producing hair altogether, so the bald patch starts to take over.

Follicles become less productive because hormone levels change. An enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone(DHT), which stimulates the growth of hair follicles, but typically on the face and other parts of the body and not the scalp, where it has the opposite effect. Young men and women with androgenetic alopecia have higher levels of 5-alpha-reductase, as well as lower levels of an enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen. Still, the cause of women’s pattern hair loss is less well understood. Researchers believe that several enzymes and hormones may combine to produce effects that are similar to DHT. Estrogen seems to be protective against hair loss, so some research suggests that the estrogen-to-testosterone ratio may be a factor. Although hair thinning can occur at any time after puberty, many women first experience it in their 50s, possibly as a result of ebbing estrogen levels.

Be Gentle

In the early stages, you can minimize hair loss by treating your hair gently. Hair is more fragile when it’s wet, so it’s important to softly dry it with a towel — and don’t pull at it with a comb or brush. Twirling your hair can twist it off its follicle moorings. Head scratching may help you think, but it’s hard on your hair. If you’ve got an itchy scalp, the hair-friendly solution is to use some kind of an anti-itch shampoo. Hairstyles with braids — indeed, any style that pulls the hair back — can speed hair loss because they tug on the hair.


You can find plenty of treatments for hair loss on the Internet. Some are combinations of “specially formulated” shampoos and herbal supplements in capsule form that may have saw palmetto as an ingredient. But aside from paid “it really works” testimonials, there’s not much evidence that these remedies are effective. Save your money. Of course, a hairpiece of some sort is an option, but it tends to wear out or fade after a year or two of regular use because of combing, sun exposure, and routine cleaning. The less detectable ones are often expensive.

The US FDA has approved only two drugs for hair loss: over-the-counter minoxidil (Rogaine and generic) and prescription finasteride (Propecia). Minoxidil is available as a two-percent liquid solution for women and a two-percent or five-percent solution for men. In studies, between a quarter and a half of people who apply minoxidil twice a day notice a slowdown in their hair loss or even some hair regrowth. The most common side effects are itching and skin irritation, and the monthly cost is about P2,000.

Finasteride comes as a one-milligram tablet when used as a hair loss treatment. Men take it in larger doses as a treatment for an enlarged prostate gland. The drug, which blocks the conversion of testosterone to DHT, is only approved for use by men; some recent studies suggest that finasteride might be effective in women under certain circumstances, but early trials came out negative. Finasteride is more effective than minoxidil, with up to two-thirds of users reporting hair regrowth. It also costs about P 2,000 a month. Side effects are rare but may include impotence and decreased libido. A major drawback of minoxidil and finasteride is that you need to keep taking them to sustain the benefits. If you stop, your scalp will return to the balding state it was in before you started using the medicines. So year after year of treatment can start to get expensive. Doctors usually advise patients with significant pattern hair loss to try the conventional drug treatments for at least a year. If results aren’t satisfactory, a hair transplant is an option.

Splitting Hair Follicles

Hair transplants involve removing hair follicles from areas of growth on the sides of the head and implanting them in bald or thinning areas. One of the main obstacles is money: The labor-intensive surgery, which typically takes a surgical team of up to nine people five hours to perform, is expensive. One or two procedures may be needed for the best results. Hair transplant has steadily improved since its introduction in the 1950s, making for a more natural hairline and appearance. Surgeons have moved from large grafts (known as plugs) to a combination of minigrafts (three to six hair follicles) and micrografts (one or two hair follicles).

The most recent development, known as follicular unit transplantation, or FUT, continues the trend towards smaller and smaller grafts. A follicular unit is a small bundle that includes one to four follicles, oil glands, a tiny muscle, and other tissues. Once follicular units are extracted — either in a narrow strip or one unit at a time — the surgeon dissects away extra tissue before implanting the individual follicular units (see drawing on Page D-1).

This technique allows for a denser packing of transplanted hair and minimizes inadvertent damage to the follicles as they are being transplanted. FUT has improved results for women, so they’re now better candidates for hair transplantation. About 80 percent of transplanted hair falls out within three weeks, but about three months after that, the follicles start producing hair at a normal rate, and hair continues to grow from then on. Applying minoxidil can accelerate this process. Complications are rare but may include bleeding, infection, and scarring.

Getting Abrasive

Several drugs that preserve the health of functioning follicles are in the pipeline. Conceptually, this is the same approach that minoxidil and finasteride take. But some companies hope to develop entirely new approaches that would involve creating hair follicles from scratch. One example started with a University of Pennsylvania researcher’s discovery that mice healing from wounds can produce new hair follicles. In a report published in 2007 in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, the researcher, Dr. George Cotsarelis, showed that when skin is damaged, the skin cells behave like stem cells and generate new hair follicles. A company he founded is working to apply the discovery to humans which, in theory, would involve using an abrasive gel to gently damage the skin and then the application of a topical cream to switch on the follicle-generating genes.

Another biotech possibility is a technique in which hair-forming cells are extracted, multiplied under controlled conditions (such as a culture), and reimplanted into the scalp.

Your Choice

Aside from the psychological implications, pattern hair loss has no negative health consequences. What you choose to do about it — which may be absolutely nothing — is a personal decision, best made after talking over the options with a dermatologist, family, and maybe some fairly objective friends. You’ll need to take into account your age, the extent of your hair loss, your expectations, and your bank account. There’s no right or wrong decision — just what you consider worthwhile relative to your personal appearance, inconvenience, and the cost.

View previous articles of this column.