Sunday, August 31, 2008

I'm in and I'm out

I had a 17 year old male patient admitted at the Pediatric ICU of a hospital. It was a case of ethanol/alcohol intoxication. The boy had a drinking spree with his friends with Cobra Energy Drink mixed with brandy and later on gin. The pharmacologic effect of the energy drink was immediate as all caffeine are. Because of that, the patient felt strong and thought that he could down more liquor later on. The peak effect of ethanol and alcohol set it much later. With more alcohol being downed, the boy had loss consciousness in a day and ended up intubated in the ICU.

In May 27, 2008, the New York Times had published an article entitled "Taste for Quick Boost Tied to Taste for Risk" ( The article reports that "health researchers have identified a surprising new predictor for risky behavior among teens and young adults - the energy drink".

These super-caffeinated energy drinks come in various names. In the Philippines, they are more popularly branded as Red Bull, Cobra, Extra Joss and Lipovitan.

Side effects of the drink are linked to reports of nausea, abnormal heart rhythms, palpitations, sweating and ER visits.

"New research suggests the drinks are associated with a health issue far more worrisome than the jittery effects of caffeine - risk taking."

"In March, the Journal of American College Health published a report on the link between energy drinks, athletics and risky behavior with the associated of "toxic jock" behavior, which is a constellation of risky and aggressive behaviors including unprotected sex, substance abuse and violence."

In the Philippines, a product manager of mine who used to work for an energy drink company said that the biggest consumers of these drinks were not in the supermarkets but in the clubs. Kids who go clubbing are into this new cocktail craze - energy drink mixed with alcohol. The kick you get from the energy drink is immediate and when laced with alcohol, the inebriation takes effect long after the party is over.

In the US, the American Beverage Association claims that "its members don't market energy drinks to teenagers as the intended audience is adults". But in the local market where the buck stops when the bucks don't come in, the intended audience to the greedy marketing sector will always be - everyone!

All the energy drinks are not regulated and are available locally in even a grocery store. These drinks have many ingredients but some contain stimulants like guarana (which also has an appetite suppressing property), gingko and ginseng, amino acids, vitamins and most importantly caffeine.

The latter is a drug in itself and the higher content of caffeine should be classified as a regulated substance (as we should be classifying nicotine and alcohol). The caffeine content varies and a 12 ounce serving of Coke or Pepsi contains 34-38 mg caffeine. Red Bull has 116 mg! In the US, Wired X344 contains 258 and Spike Shooter has 428 mg of caffeine in 12 ounces.

"At Starbucks the caffeine content is 75 mg in a 12 oz cappuccino or latte or as much as 250 mg in a 12 oz brewed coffee."

Where's the fuzz? Energy drinks are served cold and hence are consumed in larger amount and more quickly that hot drinks that is sipped. The increasing popularity of mixing energy drinks with alcohol can make alcohol users feel less drunk, but motor coordination and visual reaction time are just as impaired as when they drink alcohol by itself.

"Dr. Mary Claire O'Brien surveyed energy drink and alcohol use among college students at 10 universities in North Caroline and the study published this month in Academic Emergency Medicine, showed that students who mixed energy drinks with alcohol got drunk twice as often as those who consumed alcohol by itself and were far more likely to be injured or require medical treatment while drinking. Energy drink mixers were more likely to be victims or perpetrators of aggressive sexual behavior. The effect remained even after researches controlled for the amount of alcohol consumed."

The story line is simple, as our youth engage in riskier behavior without taking into consideration their health. Media should be more abreast with issues like these, rather than emphasizing on ratings of the word war between Wilma Galvante and stage-mom Anabelle Rama.

As for my patient, he wanted to just be "in". Now, he's "out".

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Project

Now that my house is 95% finished, I can blog again.

It's kind of a good feeling to know that I'm living decently again. And of course, much poorer financially now, considering that I had to spend quite a sum OVER and ABOVE the budget because my interior decorator was giving my bank account a financial make-over as well. Oh well, after 35 years, it was time to give the much needed face lift.

I've asked my partner to bring his camera over one of these days and take photos of our new house. For the meantime, for those that have seen my old house, they seem to give a thumbs up sign for the make-over.

And now the billing starts. And it's time to sing the rhythm and the rhyme, "I owe, I owe, so off to work I go..."

It's a long weekend this week and next week, thanks to our economically deranged president who thinks that the economic holidays are the solution to this country's problems. Anyone who thinks that the little Philippines is tantamount to the US has got to be hallucinating. The traffic yesterday was hell! The Filipino is not known for being thrifty. As long as there's a holiday, off to the provinces in hoards and droves. And the tiny expressway which is likewise getting a face lift at snails pace has contributed to the expense of the middle class family just for gasoline.

It was mom's birthday the other day, August 15 and we had a little house warming even though it wasn't completely done yet.

The raves of her friends on the house were generally good. That was nice. But considering they were between 60-85 years old, they'd really find everything good. Hahaha.... They loved the bathrooms and thought my architect, Dindo Valdes did a good job. The house was, according to the mom of Anton Barreto, very Cocoy Cordoba. Of course, for people like me who didn't know these artistic flares in interior design, I left everything to the interior decorator.

The good and the bad of the project.

The good part is that at the end of the 2 months make-over, you get to appreciate a really new home.

The bad part I thought outweighed the good. For those into make-overs, remember not to commit the same mistakes I did.

1. When you get an interior decorator and you have no idea of anything, ASK. I trusted the interior decorator with all the quotations only to find out during the project that I would have to find my own carpenter, my own architect, that all the quotations did not include all the accessories to make the home look much nicer or like a showroom. And the accessories were simply beautiful, but the cost was much more than the cost of the furnitures he put into the house! And so you can just imagine how much it cost me.
2. Living inside the house during the who make-over was like living in Desert Storm. Now I know how the homeless felt. We were moving balikbayan boxes in crates and we filled about 15 boxes just for our personal stuff. Oh my God. After all had been done, it was like going through purgatory just unpacking them AGAIN and trying to figure out if it was gold, or it was trash. We're still sorting them out now and we're in box number 7.
3. Never ever get everything from the interior decorator. Well, he did the drapes, he did the wallpaper installation of the ceilings, he did the painters....and he fought with the painters...who did a lousy job and I ended up spending AGAIN to have the painting re-done. And the painters never came back to finish the work. And I was fully paid.

Lessons learned. I resolved that I shall never, ever have my house re-done again. I will just go buy a new one in the future.

As for interior decorators, I vowed never to get another one in a project again.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Cinderella and Lea Salonga

We were all psyched up to watch Cinderella which was for the Asian Hospital Charities last July 30, 2008. I got box tickets for the family and when the curtains rose exactly at 8PM at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, I sat back, relaxed....and dozed off.

Let's look at the positive side of the play. The set and costume design were good. The pumpkin turning into a golden carriage was the highlight of the show.

The downside outweighed the positive sides. The songs were unfamiliar and cheesy. While the stepsisters did justice to being twiddledee-doo and twiddledee-dumb, that's about the evilness they had because they were actually stupid oafs unlike the Disney characters.

Unfortunately for the audience, while Lea can sing, she didn't fit the role of Cinderella to a tee because of her height. I do not mean to be mean, but let's face it, everything can't just be about the voice. You need someone who not only can sing but must fit the role to a tee. Lea looked like one of those Filipinas that go off and marry a foreigner who's so attracted to Caucasians because of their wealth. And prince charming looked like a rice king.

The script was dragging. And it was boring. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz......

Was it worth the buck? If I were you, I'd just go ahead and buy the Walt Disney version on DVD and watch it. While Lea Salonga sings well, she doesn't fit Cinderella to a tee and that in itself made the whole play a disaster.

The consolation is that at least I donated to charity.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


So this is a late reaction to the president's State of the Nation Address last July 28.

While I waited for everyone to comment and give the president her "grade", I watched on the sideline the reactions and read the comments coming from the newspapers. My assessment of the reactions was that it was relatively a fair one. Of course, the people at the palace would always want to defend her positions on the current economic and political scenario. The bottom line remains that her best is not enough. Over the past few weeks the political row between Meralco and GSIS has reeled the ugly side of Philippine politics and business. Damn, this isn't something new, but we seem to be washing our dirty linen now in public. Bribery is nothing new in our country and knowledge of it being present in the judiciary is not surprising. I was taken aback that the Philippine Daily Inquirer was parading it in the headlines! FYI, whether it is in the lowly government employee, to the cops and robbers on the streets, to those who wear the religious cloak, to the highest officials of the land - bribery is a way of life. We have evolved into that stage that whether you put it in your face issue, there is no shame among those involved. What the public would want to see is whether those who get exposed get punished. Now that's a different story.

On the stand of retaining the 12% VAT, I certainly have no objections. As a matter of fact I have some suggestions.

1. Consider tax rebates. I would want to have a scheme where an individual tax payer is provided tax rebates on contributions to charitable institutions. We get an official receipt on this donation, example to Bantay Bata or Gawad Kalinga, and get a rebate on the whole amount for the other taxes we need to pay for the year. This way, I get to manage where the rest of my taxes go to, rather than to some seedy government official who goes on a junket trip or skims off money for some pathetic building he decides to build with low quality material.
2. Belt tightening on government. This means that government officials should do more belt tightening than us. For example, the gas guzzler back-up SUVs of senators, congressmen, and other executives should be removed and back-up cars should be limited to two. Perhaps a Chery or an Avanza would be sufficient. And the official cars allotted to the Congressmen should not be more than P750,000, while that to the Senators should not be more than P1M. No car should be more than 4 cylinders and none should be automatic transmission. Imagine how much this country would save just on government officials saving from the gas that is provided them care of the public funds.
3. Fixed income for public utility vehicle drivers. At present these people work based on boundaries. Remove the boundary they have to make and you will see better efficiency on the streets, with less traffic because these drivers will not make every corner a waiting station. In the meantime implement what should be there in the first place - if there is an MRT or LRT, there should be no buses nor jeeps nor tricycles as mode for public transportation. If the street is accessible to buses, jeepneys and tricycles must vanish. If the road is accessible to jeepneys only, tricycles must not ply it. In short, the tricycles have no other role but to provide employment for the many poorer Filipinos that are unemployed. See how pathetic this government is? And they say that there is gainful employment. Which leads to my last point.
4. Gainful employment means paying taxes in return. Make everyone pay tax, including the painter, gardener, carpenter, public utility vehicle drivers, vendors, sari-sari store owners, and the mendicants on the street! Every peso counts and since these form 70% of the "gainfully employed" the government claims, that's a lot of money!

On a side note, I have two weeks left and our dilapidated house will now get the spanking facelift finish it took so long to do. We're still living in the dusty place, but it looks like it's shaping up to look like a home. I'm looking forward to the finishing touches.