Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Singapore Fling

I was invited to speak at the Early Phase Clinical Trials Conference in Singapore.

Singapore is not new to me. Been there, done that. I guess it's one of the most frequently traveled countries on my list. In spite of the fact that I've been to the tiny country of 5 Million people that's bustling in prosperity and bursting out of it's economy gazillion times, Singapore has never ceased to amaze me.

I left Manila on SQ 917 at 210PM on a Tuesday. With a very tight schedule ahead, I was wondering how I would juggle my time there and get to work and play in my 24 hours stay in Singapore.

I arrived at 545PM at Terminal 3 (this was spanking new and they're building Terminal 4 now - geez where did the Philippines disappear to?), cleared immigration and got to the hotel at 630PM. Checked in, dropped my bags in the room and texted Marie that I arrived and would meet my former residents and students for dinner. I just needed to run to Orchard Road to get something. It was rush hour and I got to Ion Orchard at 715PM. Marie, Edmund, Miriam and Flei were already at Uniqlo waiting for me. After 30 minutes of quick shopping, we were off to Boon Tong Kee. Miriam had promised me the best Hainanese Chicken Rice in the world and I was hungry enough to eat.

This was one area of Singapore I have never been to. It's not a touristy area. The restaurant was located in an area of the city that tourists would not access readily. But the queue was long enough and Marie had made reservations so we didn't have to wait. Eventually, Braggy and Vince popped up to join us for dinner.

To say that dinner was great was an understatement. The food was fantastic and I loved everything that was served - from the Hainanese Chicken, Fried Chicken, Spareribs, Fried Tofu, Prawns (that were the size of my hand) cooked in cereal pork (I eventually named it Breadtalk Prawns because it's like the whole Prawn was cooked in Pork Floss just the like famous pork floss bread from Breadtalk) and of course, the rice! While gobbling on the food, my mind was thinking - where was I in all my trips to Singapore? How could I, a frequent traveler, have missed this place? But, yes, it takes a local Singaporean to find the best restaurants in the country. Forget about the Singapore Tatler's 100 best restaurant guides or the concierge at your hotel who makes a buck recommending a swanky place. Hands down, Boon Tong Kee was 5 stars and quadrillion miles away from the chic eateries on Marina Bay Sands! [Thank you Miriam for the dinner].

To say that dinner was fun was another understatement. It was time to catch up on each other. They were my students for God's sake. Which means that they kept calling me Dr. Co. Something that I was uneasy with. I guess it's the heirarchical tradition during medical school that leads us to address the oldies this way (sigh!). But the conversations had started with news about the UST Hospital and their training days there and how they compared the National University of Singapore's training (which had a wide disparity in both training, camaraderie and professionalism). Then it turned to a more relaxed atmosphere with gossiping about the shenanegans of even those wearing a cloak. This elicited so much laughter that we broke out in tears laughing out loud (I think the waitresses were looking at a bunch of crazy Filipinos who were on a day off from work). We talked and laughed for several hours, not minding the fact that they'd just kicked off from work and I just arrived from Manila and had to prepare for my talk the following day. We talked about life in Singapore, life in Manila, plans for the future and the reality that YES THERE IS A WORLD OUTSIDE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF SANTO TOMAS!

How time flew and after 4 hours of food, conversations and laughter, we decided to call it a night. They got me a cab and I got back to the hotel at 1045PM, reviewed my slide presentation and asked the operator to get me a wake up call for 6AM. I hit the sack past midnight.

After breakfast, I had a short meeting with JP from Proclin, a Contract Research Organization for clinical trials based in Singapore and Thailand. I headed straight to the 9AM conference and participated in the round table conference up to 10AM. I then gave a lecture at 11AM on the scenario of Early Phase Clinical Trials in the Philippines as why the country is ripe for the picking (or not!) as an Asia destination for Phase 1-3 clinical trials. After my talk at 1145AM, I was on the next cab back to the airport.

After checking in at 1220PM, I had lunch at a quaint Chinese Restaurant on Terminal 2. Roasted Duck and rice with a large cold lemon ice tea. I was facing the glass enclosure of the terminal building which overlooked the planes on the tarmac. I couldn't help but muse the conversations with my former students (and now colleagues). How time flew and how successful they were in their own rights.

It brought a smile to my face that knowing that as a mentor, they have come to the crossroad in life where they have grown to be mature, responsible doctors. I also realized that while I may be at the twilight of my professional career, I have been part of their lives. Somehow, that makes it worth the effort of having mentored them.

As the doors of SQ 916 at 210PM had closed for my flight back to Manila, I will always remember this 24 hours Singapore fling - where friends will always be the reason why anywhere we are, we will always find a home.

[Photo from Carmelo Braganza - and that's the waitress taking the pic at the mirror's reflection! If I had not thanked you guys enough, here's the blog dedicated to all of you.]

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Like most Chinese children in the Philippines, I grew up having to juggle with three languages and other dialects during childhood. In short, while my parents and grandparents spoke Fookien and Mandarin alternately, there was English and Tagalog in my vocabulary. My nanny spoke broken Tagalog because she had a "Bisaya" dialect. I don't recall when I spoke my first few understandable words, but I'm sure it was, like many other infants, a foreign language, to many.

In my clinic, I get a lot of queries from apprehensive parents as to why some of their toddlers cannot seem to compose understandable sentences at the age of 2 years old while some of the other children they see who are the same age as their kids are verbally competent.

There are many reasons why there is a delay in language development in children. This blog post is not intended to diagnose or treat language or speech problems. My readers will get bored with the dissertation on speech/language problems in children. However, since some of my readers are parents who may want to share a little information regarding this, let me point out the warning signs of a POSSIBLE language and speech problem in a child:

1. First, let's distinguish the difference between speech and language. Speech is the verbal expression of language and includes articulation and the way the sounds and words are formed. You notice sometimes how children lisp or cannot pronounce a few letter or how the Filipinos pronounce F as P and V as B and vice-versa. That's a speech defect. Language on the other hand is more broad. It's the entire vocabulary system and has something to do with verbal, nonverbal and written communication.

2. With that as an initial premise, there is a wide array of assessment for a child with speech or language delay. Let me enumerate just two:

A. If the child is less than 2 years old - you should get worried if the child does not use gestures for desire (wave bye-bye or point to what he wants), prefers gestures rather than verbal communication and cannot imitate sounds by 18 months, and has difficulty in understanding simple verbal requests.

B. After 2 years old, parents and caregivers should understand half a child's speech by 2, 2/3 of it by 3, and by 4 should be completely understood even by strangers.

With that said, when a child is worked up, the basic work-ups include hearing assessment for the child or a neurodevelopmental assessment. Part of the work-up includes a speech pathologist. The latter is far and few in the Philippines but can be found in some university settings (which means that instead of taking nursing programs, a lot of those that plan to go into college may want to consider taking this course which is part of an Occupational Therapy program).

Part of the assessment includes receptive language (what your child can understand) and expressive language (what your child can say). Kids that grow up in an environment where multilingual communication skills become a challenge have greater difficulty in expressive language and may be slightly delayed because of this.

With both parents having to shuffle off to work, that leaves other relatives or household help as caregivers to children left in the homes. The disparity in language used for communication skills early on becomes confusing to the child, not to mention that many of us just put them in front of a television screen and expect that Barney and Dora would eventually teach them how to speak. It's not uncommon that when the "masters" have gone to work, the child (or children) is/are left with poorly skilled nannies with very bad judgement. The nanny switches the TV channel to some midday or noontime show that has Vice Ganda or other two bit wannabe host and guest so that the nanny is entertained. Leaving the child dumbfounded at the kind of language that's being spewed from the entertainers lips - anywhere from "swardspeak" to the world of the jejemons! Of course, when the masters arrive, the child is back to watching Dora or Mr. Bean, as if the world had been as normal as it could get the morning they left for work.

Entertainers in the Philippines are amusing and the greater majority of its rabid fans duplicate their antics - from the way they dress, to the way they cavort with each other, and finally to the false endorsements they make. And the people will follow! No matter how stupid or ridiculous it is.

In yesterday's Philippine Daily Inquirer (Saturday Special), there was a short (probably unnoticed) article there that read as follows:

"Antonio Ramos, a retired accountant from West Covina, California, is calling the attention of ABS-CBN broadcasters: 'Despite their vaunted Ako ang Simula campaign, they are the simula themselves in teaching our countrymen wrong words in Filipino. Examples: sumemplang, timbog, minarder, minasaker, natripan, inaplay, sinampolan, karambola, binoldyak, dedma and other Taglish words like Boy Abunda's "NOW NA!" and Noli de Castro's "Ti-Bey Patrol", tsibog and other salitang sanggano. The network has a program here in the US, "Pilipino Ka Sabihin Mo (PKSM), teaching Filipino-Americans how to speak Tagalog. But, our countrymen, particularly my children and grandchildren who were born in America, are surprised to hear such words and ask me about what they mean. These aren't taught on 'PKSM'. To Kim Atienza: How did life become "weather-weather lang?" What's your basis? As for Abunda, is it difficult to say "Ngayon Na", instead."

Well Mr. Ramos has a point. Either Abunda, Atienza and de Castro will try to change the way they speak or (I will not be surprised if they) will retort the comment of Mr. Ramos something to the effect of "eh wiz mo naman getz kung vakit spelunkang kami ganich eh givs na givs lang ng Pinoy and efek sa mga crowd noh. Wa ka naman mang-okray sa amin kasi wa ka ma say sa formatting ng showbiz ditrils sa banana republika ng The Philippines! Wazzup wazzup ka Mr. Ramos sa yong pagka imbiernich sa mga kafatid na verde ang dugo sa Pinas. Ang showbiz ditrils ay para efek sa mga bagetsing na wiz ka na involved kasi guranggils ka na. O di va ditche? Mereceng ma-imbierna si Ramos sa atin eh spelunking pa rin tayo ng tsuktsaktienes para wiz na nya ma-getz at di na tayo ma-award pa ng gurangils na kanonigong yan. "

The irony here is that the double standards in media will always try to find some god-forsaken reason for doing what its hosts do (look at TV5 on how MVP protected Willie R all the way) and it's other hand will do some other thing.

That's showbiz! Madaming uto uto talaga sa mundo!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fashionista 103 - The Social Butterfly

There's no stopping an idea whose time has come. Once upon a time, establishing friendship took a long circuitous route and carried a long affair with having to size up the next persons likes and dislikes before we called him/her a friend.

The era of social networking has allowed us to come face-to-face with the fact that friends are but a "return" key away and whether he/she is a sociopath or just a lost bored soul searching for some fun, "friendship" has apparently taken a different twist in the age of technology.

Socializing is the pinnacle of establishing relations - from the boardroom to the bedroom. So now you've found a circle of friends whom you enjoy some "likes" with, you bring the new found relation from a simple chat online, to a casual meeting for a cup of coffee or a drink or two, to some intimate gatherings and finally to the BFF (best friend forever) level.

Interestingly is how social graces at a gathering or party divulge the kind of person (and the breeding) we impress upon.

So here's a few tips on partying with friends, acquaintances, and the corporate people:

1. It's a party!
When you're invited to a party, know what the occasion is and dress appropriately for it. Don't go looking shabby where your nanny stands out more than you, making you look like the nanny's help. Is it a formal or informal one? Never ever wear jeans and t-shirts to a formal event. The waiters may look like your boss. Even if you drive to the event in a Porsche or Jaguar, the clothes on your back is a reflection on who you are.

As Filipino as it gets, never bring uninvited guests to the party unless the invite says so. Which means that you check your invite and find out if the name embossed there says that you can bring your whole family or your partner along. If the invitation etches only your name, it means you come alone and not bring the whole barangay to the event. It's also a good reminder that once you get an invitation and it says RSVP (répondez s'il vous plaît), meaning please respond or reply - make that call to the inviter on whether you intend to come or not. It's simple courtesy. And it's improper to ask if you can bring along a partner or your household if the name on the invite just says YOU! One thing I cannot stand are people whom you invite and come with a hoard of hungry lackeys! Remember, the reason your name is the only one there means that the event is a highly intimate and personal one and that other guests may not know whom you're bringing or feel that it is inappropriate to bring a kid or a maid or your dog to the event. In addition, take into consideration that the inviter may have budget constraints on the event and that he/she is doing a head count. It may be a P4000/head affair, so be considerate.

If it's a pot luck party, do not scrimp by bringing only cheap dessert or ice cream. It is fair game that you ask all the other invitees what the budget of the party is. If the minimum cost is P1000 for the 10 people invited, make sure that even if you volunteered to just bring the wine, it's not Novellino or Carlo Rossi. Get one priced the same as what the other invitees will contribute. Cheapskates will never be invited to another party ever again. Besides, everyone will be talking behind your back on how a heel you were.

If the party requires a gift, how much worth of gift should you bring? I often get asked this question and I have a simple rule of thumb. It depends on the event. For example, if the event is a wedding and you happen to be a guest where the reception will be held at the Grand Ballroom of the Manila Peninsula with the guest list being part of the who's who in Philippine society, expect that the food plated would cost around P3000/head at the minimum. That's how much the gift should cost. If you're two people going (husband and wife are invited), the minimum gift you should bring should cost P6000. If you're going to a baptism where the reception will be held at Jollibee, the gift you bring should cost no more than P200 if you're going alone. If your whole family is invited, (and you happen to bring your husband, your 4 kids and 3 nannies), the total gift to the celebrant should be P1800. And do not attempt to drag something out of your closet and wrap them only to get free chow. It's so untasteful and disgusting. One time I got a gift that had the name of another person engraved in the pen! Ewwww...she was stricken off my guest list...for life! And NO, the cliche of "it's the thought that counts" does not apply to parties where a gift is mandatory.

Do you come in early or late? Like many parties, there are guests that arrive really early. The early birds are usually seen in wedding receptions. Most of the guests don't go to the wedding ceremonies but pop up in the ballroom. That's fine. Another rule of thumb: If you have no plans of going to the wedding proper, it is good courtesy that you don't appear in the reception much much earlier than the bride and groom entourage. Mga patay-gutom lang ang ganito! If you get to the reception earlier than the entourage, roam around somewhere nearby and wait for the bridal car to arrive before appearing. Otherwise, you'd look like paupers begging for scraps. Then there are people that like a dramatic entrance. Again, when the event is a formal event that requires you to be there at 7pm, come at 7pm and not Filipino time where the guests come prancing in at 9pm. You're too early for the next wedding reception! Remember: you're a guest here and it would be rude to make yourself the star of the event. You play a supporting role to the party, so be considerate and display proper decorum not only in what you wear to the event but in how and when you arrive. Even if you think you are Diva, you don't have to act like one. Divas in formal events stick out like a sore thumb. Then, there are parties that are highly informal - like birthday parties in the homes or soirees in the yard or just a night of unwinding in the garden. When the celebrant says that the party starts are 4ish and should go up to midnight, it means that you can drop in anytime as it's an event that will most probably have food flowing from dusk to dawn. And because the guest will be arriving and leaving at any point in time, a casual wear is most appropriate. Do not come looking like Prince Charles or the Queen of England to the latter type of event, unless you want to be mistaken for the security guard of the village.

Finally, what's the best gift to bring to a party? A good mood. If you happen to be having the worst day of your life that day, leave the bad mood at home or better yet, call the host and beg off from the party. He/she will understand. There's no reason why you will need to make other people miserable just because you think "misery loves company". It's a party. Enjoy yourself and the company of friends and make new friends. Dance. Flirt. Laugh. And do not discuss business just because you're a screwball gone ballistics trying to close in on a deal by attempting to sell houses, jewelry, cars, gadgets, kakanin, children's toys, or your business in the party! People came here to let their hair down and enjoy the day. Don't spoil it by introducing your business here and harassing the guests! I get enough of that in the malls every day.

2. Party size.
I am often asked, "what's a good party size" or "how many guests should I invite"? That depends on the party. A rule of thumb is when you just plan to have a few friends over for dinner and drinks, a light chat, a good laugh and some intimate conversation, 6-8 people is a good crowd. It leaves room for a great exchange in conversation and some parlor games to unwind to. It's a good reminder that guests should interact with each other. If you will need to invite 12-20 people, you may want to consider breaking the crowd into two batches. That way, you'd play the perfect host. Divide your set of friends into two by inviting those closely associated with one another in the first batch and then those closely knitted together in the second batch.
Remember, you don't need to get invited to every party your friends throw. I remember a colleague of mine asking me if I was invited to the wedding of the daughter of another close friend. She gasped when I said NO. I told her, "that's fine. Just because I didn't get invited doesn't mean they love me less. It just meant that I'm no in on this particular event."

3. Decorum in the party.
So there are food and drinks in a party. Which means that you don't have to pig out! Which is why I hate buffet events. Not because of the food, but because of the people without social graces. Once the host says that food's ready - boy do you see the whole caboodle get off their seats and swoop to the food station. The lechon is all bones in 30 seconds flat, the noodles have all the vegetable strands left, the tempura shrimps are all sauces left...and you see the lady in front of you grab a whole plate full of the crabs! You get what I mean don't you? When the food is served buffet style, get a little of each. Do not hog the buffet table by scooping in hoards all the oysters, prawns and caviar while talking out loudly "oh wow, this is my favorite...and this too...and wow, I love crabs..." and then teetering back to your seat with a plate as high as a pyramid because it's full of food! Ugghhh!!! Be considerate. There are other people that came to eat as well.

And if it's an open bar, it doesn't mean that you intend to get drunk in the party. The booze may be flowing, but you shouldn't be going home inebriated or dead drunk. You should know how to handle yourself if you intend to take alcohol. Getting too much drink will alter your inhibitions and you might end up spoiling other people's party just because you were drinking too much.

If you need to get a nicotine break, please do it somewhere far far away. It's unruly to be smoking inside the party place especially if it's held in a home. Courtesy dictates that if you do get the nicotine urge, take the pack of cigarettes you have outside the house (walk one block away) and fill your lungs with carbon monoxide there. You don't have to kill the guests just because you're suicidal.

4. Small talk or big talk.
One thing I cannot stand in parties is when people have nothing better to talk about, they begin to gossip. No, it's not the kind of gossip of tabloids. Like I wouldn't mind talking about a publicly relevant topic - PNoy's love life or Vicky Belo not being an accredited dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon or the RH bill's pros and cons - a healthy discussion on a relevant or irrelevant topic is fine. Two NO NOs when making conversation. Gossip and bragging.

There's always a bragger in the crowd. How much money he's made in 30 days. How expensive the new car he bought for his mistress. How much the latest LV or Hermes bag she bought at Greenbelt cost her. How pricey the latest Bulgari necklace her sugar daddy gave her. You're in for the picking for the "most likely to get mugged or kidnapped in the parking lot" award!

And the rumor mongerer. Guy, girl or gay - there's always the person whom you intend to tell a good gossip to because you know that telling that person is like broadcasting it live on DZMM. As a rule, it's never nice to gossip about friends (I think that's the same rule with your enemies). Just because they're not around does not give you permission to back-bite on them. You wouldn't like the tables turned when you're not around as well. Remember: Unless something positive and productive loosen from your lips, do not gossip unless you want to sink a ship!

5. Of friends, enemies and cliques.
I read an article that classified friends into various categories - former friends, famous friends, forgotten friend, and transgenerational friends. You end up in an event where you see friends falling in these groups. How do you associate with them?

When Jesus said that you should "love your enemies", I think what He wanted to actually say was "ignore the motherfucker". Civility is the rule and you'll need to practice the art of shunning from former friends. Don't forget - there was a reason for him to fall off your phone book contacts. Which means that all you'll need to remember is why he/she has been relegated to the category of "former".

Then there's the famous friend. These friends are like prescription drugs. They carry an expiration date. Some famous friends feel that they're the life of the party. They're the center of attention because they're famous. When the popularity has died down and he's now a has-been, they suck up to you for scraps of attention. A true friend - famous or infamous - sticks with you through thick or thin. When you see famous friend in the crowd, wave at him/her. If he/she waves back at you, you're recognized. You don't have to act like a puppy begging his/master to pet him on the head every now and then. Good boy - SIT! BEG! GROVEL! BITCH!

Now there's a face I can't put on my head. Seen him and as he approaches you with that gargantuan smile, you can't fucking remember his name!!!! He puts out his hand and shoves it into yours to greet you and pats you on the back and says your nickname out loud saying "dude, haven't seen you in ages.'re looking good man! So how's it going?" And you can't fucking remember the guy's name! Sanamagan! This frequently happens with me and when it does I just say "wow you look good too" or "wow, you've really aged and look like shit...what happened to you?". After the short chit chat, you still have no idea who he was. It's a good practice to ask a good friend, "who was that?" quietly.

I have come to a point in my life where I have a lot of transgenerational friends. These are the mentors and the mentee. We were once mentored when we were younger and beginning our practice or business. As we mature, we mentor in return. I remember my 50th birthday bash was a mixed crowd - my mentors and my mentees were there. It's a good reminder that we need to acknowledge those who've molded us to who we are today - successful in our own right. Then there are those whom we're molding to greatness as well. Life is a full circle. And this is how great companies and empires are built. Having them in the same crowd is a sign...that you've finally arrived!

It's inescapable that in an event, you'll bump into an enemy or two. Having the right enemies, however, should be the rule. It shows you have chutzpah or guts. It's a reflection on the standards you represent. But like true friends, it should be one on one and not a groupie.

Which leads to the description of a clique. It's the equivalent of the thug version called gangs. Never get involved in one. Cliques are a representation of a groupie and NOT your individual personality. If you're in a clique, get out of it before it's too late. We don't make friends with your friends. Friendship is a one-on-one affair and not a buy one take ten deal. You don't need to please the crowd. Doing so makes the friendship lopsided and stressful one.

Even in the age of technology where finding friends and liking people are but a google away, there will always be those whom we welcome into our lives not because of the fame and fortune, but the times when someone stood by you through thick and thin. There probably is a longer list of acquaintances we have today than say, a year ago. Thanks to the social network. But it does not mean that when we engage in social affairs with people, we will need to break traditional rules in dealing with them in social events.

Human nature dictates that we are all social butterflies.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

He said, she said....I say!

There's been so much exchange in opinions on various issues - from economics to politics to entertainment to health - in the newspapers lately.

Here are some of the news that made the headlines this week and while I post each side's viewpoint, here's my take on the them:

He said: Mayweather tweeted a link to an obscure boxing news site that had an article claiming that a former sparring partner of Pacquiao, who happened to be Filipino, claimed that he was the one injecting steroids to Manny at the Wild Card Gym, and that it began before the Oscar De La Hoya fight (according to an ABS-CBN report)...

Pacman said: "An anonymous post on an Internet forum claims an unidentified former Filipino sparring partner injected me with steroids before my fight with Oscar De La Hoya and in subsequent fights. This is completely false, totally fabricated, and, not surprisingly, leveled by someone who will not even identify himself. I did not even have a Filipino sparring partner during my training for the fight against De La Hoya or for any fight since then."

"I have never taken steroids, HGH, or any banned performance-enhancing drug. Period. My success in the ring is due to hard work, belief in God, and the support of my fans.

"Like every boxer, I am required to take drug tests in connection with every professional fight in the United States. I have passed every one, including my fight against De La Hoya and my most recent victory against Shane Mosley."

"I will fight to protect my hard-earned good name and reputation."

I say: This allegation has been running around in circles for the last few years. Mayweather refuses to fight Pacman unless Pacman has a drug test done. While Pacman claims that he has "passed" the drug tests for every professional fight, there's still the question of why he refuses to take the appropriate drug tests Mayweather is asking of him as a requirement to their "dream match". And it's not true that taking a little amount of blood would make one weak. I mean, really now. Gimme a break! And just because he is Pacquiao does not give him the right to whine like a baby regarding this. Of course, there are the nincompoops who believe that we should give Pacman a break on this issue. After all, to them, he is king of the ring. Who the fuck cares if he fights well? Give us a real fight Congressman MP! Idiots are making him rich over these sissy, one-sided, entertainment galore! Take the challenge of Mayweather. Have the goddamn blood test done. And give us a fight that will shut up the world!

2. 300 Private Schools to Raise Tuition Fees this coming School year.
He said: The CHED announced Friday that close to 300 colleges and universities in the country will hike tuition this year...69 private colleges and universities in Metro Manila are expected to hike tuition this coming school year, with St. Luke’s College of Medicine eyeing a 12-percent increase.

Meantime, the University of the East-College of Medicine, Ateneo de Manila University, Ateneo Graduate School of Business, Miriam College, Assumption College and OB Montessori will increase their tuition by five percent.

On the other hand, University of Santo Tomas, De La Salle University and UE-Manila will have increases of 3.75 percent, 3.5 percent and 4.35 percent, respectively.

They said: They need it to improve the quality of education and the rising cost of maintaining a school.

I say: You ever wondered why it's these Catholic- and church-run schools that actually raise tuition fees year in and year out? And the teachers only earn a pittance compared to the staggering cost of the tuition fees the parents and families have to shell out. It ends up with only those who can actually afford these mind-boggling sky rocketing tuition fees (READ: THE RICH AND THE VERY RICH) that can send their kids to school. What is actually weird is that church run schools have tax incentives and holidays and rebates compared to private schools that are not under the domicile of a religious order.

A larger majority have to contend with government run institutions, but then again, the government run schools are now being infiltrated by the rich! Once upon a time, the University of the Philippines had more poor and deserving students. But because the quality of education there is excellent, the rich now shove their way into the state-run university so that their kids can get good education at the lowest possible cost.

Two solutions: CHED must investigate if these church-run schools are actually making a large profit from the tuition fees collected. If so, the church-run schools MUST pay taxes accordingly. NO exceptions to the rule. Government and state run schools must proportion the number of enrollees to benefit the mission and vision of the republic. Fix the admission rate at 75/25, where 75% are poor and deserving and 25% are the rich and deserving. The latter 25% should pay 400% of the actual tuition fee to cover the cost of enrolling 75% of the poorer but deserving students. After all, they can afford this.

3. Intravenous Glutathione warning from Philippine FDA.
He said.
With the new age of advance skin science, you can now have a celebrity skin and put an end to DARKness!

Glow2Thione™ Skin Whitening and Age Defying Supplement, with revolutionary L-glutathione: the Body’s Master Antioxidant, Detoxifier and Tyrosinase Inhibitor.

Now you can easily achieve the complexion you have always wanted.

This is the ad that you see on And this is the exact same claim as all the other glutathione products in the market.

The Food and Drug Administration said.
Food and Drug Administration of the Philippines warns the public against the possible side effects of glutathione injection as whitening. Glutathione injectibles is not an approved skin whitener. High dosage might cause skin rashes, severe abdominal pain, steven-johnson syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis, derangement in thyroid function, kidney dysfunction and failure and gastrointestinal pain. When administered orally, it is hydrolyzed by gastric juices…Intravenous injection delivers very high doses directly into systemic circulation and may overload the renal function. Glutathione is an antioxidant, whitening the skin is just a side effect.

I say.
Glutathione comes in two forms - oral and parenteral. The oral formulation is rapidly and extensively destroyed by the gastric juice. Which means that taken orally, only a small amount of glutathione is present in blood. The parenteral or IV preparation is not legally commercially available or approved for skin whitening use because of the very high dosage it carries and that it is not registered as a drug or indication for this use in the Philippines. While it claims to have "antioxidant" properties, like all "food supplements", this carries a tag where there is "no approved therapeutic indication" for skin whitening.

I have given lectures on the scientific merits (and demerits) of "food supplements" and I have blogged about it already. The key word here is "supplement". Which means, that unless sound and scientific clinical trials have been thoroughly conducted on a product which purports to provide a clinical indication for treatment, the product is labeled as a supplement which has no approval as a DRUG. Supplements, undoubtedly have a larger margin of safety and hence, go through the back door approval of being approved for supplemental use at LOWER DOSAGES. Increasing dosages pose treatment problems because as the dosages are increased, so are side effects.

Which goes to the advertisements of these products. ALL supplements do not carry black box warnings, and neither is the public informed about their adverse events. The danger here is that the public is led to believe (or deceived) about taking more than what is recommended as a food supplement. The public (and some doctors) tend to think that increasing doses will provide more rapid and definite benefits.

Vitamin C for example, taken more than 1 Gm a day increasing the risk to formation of kidney stones. In the same vein, glutathione at the recommended oral dosages may provide some anti-oxidant effect. However, at the larger intravenous doses, which are by far experimental and have no scientific evidence (or clinical trials conducted), reports on allergic reactions resulting in death, destruction of the thyroid gland, renal dysfunction and congenital malformations during pregnancy are cause for alarm.

The only indications for giving the intravenous high dosages for glutathione so far are adjunct treatment for patients with Parkinson's Disease and as complement for ameliorating the toxicity among patients receiving Cisplatin (an anti-cancer drug)

Clinical trials serve as the backbone of the pharmaceutical industry because they not only provide evidence of efficacy, based on scientific data of the correct dosages for drugs (lowest dose to give the optimum effect), but on the safety of the products as well.

There is no one drug (or supplement for that matter) that is universally safe and it is wise to remember the saying that one man's medicine, is another man's poison.

I am thrilled that at least the local FDA has put out this notice and pray that the public heed the warning. There is no need to get that glitter white look by taking medications or supplements that may not suit you or have not been studied well enough, at the expense of developing fatal complications later on. You have enough time to look pearly white when you're dead.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fashionista 102

By popular demand, it's the women's turn.

When it comes to dressing up, it's fair to say that it takes less for a man to look shabbily dressed than a woman. That's because for women, there are more accessories that come with the clothes they wear.

Dressing to impress:

1. Shoes and bags. Closed or open-toes? This is a no brainer. Corporate attire mandates that all shoes worn to the office MUST be closed-toes. Shoes where the toes are protruding are only for informal events. Your pedicure must not stand out more than your shoes. It's also a good rule of thumb that you keep your toes clean and free of dead nails when you plan to wear open-toed shoes.

Regardless of sex, all shoes must be cleaned regularly. Wearing shoes that are dirty on top of it being open-toed makes you look like you used it as your running gear as well. The difference in men's and women's shoes though are the heels.

High-heeled or regular heels? Again, a no brainer. Even if you're as shrimpy in size as Charice is no excuse for you to wear stilettos as high as the Petronas Towers. Unless you plan to hide those shoes under a gown or very long pants, fine. But if you're wearing a skirt, the highest heel height should be no more than 2 1/2 inches. Anything higher than that would make you look like a prostitute parading the streets of Ermita.

Unlike men's shoes, women's shoes are much cheaper and should not be limited to black and white shades. While there are several colors one can choose from, make sure that you only get the darker shade of the various colors. Example - get a maroon shade if you're going for red or dark green if you want a pair of green shoes. Don't get the color of shoes that will make you stand out like a pair of reflectors on the street!

Rubber shoes and slippers are NEVER EVER in! You don't want to look like a dyke on the prowl or some beggar on the streets of Manila. Flip flops, whether it is Havaianas or Banana Peel or Sandals ni Aling Pacing - TSINELAS pa din yan!

Then there's the matching game. Understandably, women will need to match shoe color with their bags. Mixing and matching the colors works well especially if you simply complement hues. You do not need to wear brown shoes and carry a brown bag! A nice yellow bag with a few tones of brown and beige would go well with those beautiful brown shoes.

Which goes to the final point on women who can afford only ONE Louis Vuitton bag. It's horrible that you're able to lug around a Vuitton monogram classic canvas over a blue top and black skirt! Girl, you're forgetting that it's not the bag that people are looking at. I have a cardinal rule regarding this. The bag is supposed to accent your look. Whether it's a Marc Jacobs, Gucci, Prada, Raoul, Chanel, or Burberry, the bag is meant to augment your look. It plays a supporting role in the over-all attire you're wearing.

By the way, if you can't afford to get the real thing when it comes to designer labeled bags, don't get a fake. It's so third world. Buy what you can only afford. It's disgusting to see someone trying hard to be who she isn't.

2. Hair. Fuzzy or rebonded. Long or short. When it comes to hairstyles, it becomes complicated. But it's a good thing to remember that the short hair look fits a slim person while those on the more overweight size do well with longer hair. You have to hand it to the bulimic girl on the corner where she can get away with practically any hair style she wishes. Perfect examples are the beauty queens and the ramp models. It's the fat people (sorry about that) that have a hard time matching hair styles with body sizes. If the fatties wear their hair too short, they look like light bulbs dressed for the Christmas tree. If the fatties wear their hair too long and are not able to keep it well groomed, they look like a troll doll. If your hair looks like it needs a good hot oil because it seems hard to manage, save a little extra for that rebonded look. While it may cost you a little, you'll thank me for saving you the stare from people who're wondering if you got hit by thunder bolt and lightning on a warm sunny day.

Braiding your hair is NOT a style. Neither is putting gazillion pony tails. It is never, ever in vogue! Unless you want want to look like you're from the ghetto or from some tribal descent, get rid of it.

Then there are the women who make their head sparkle with glitters. And I mean glitter blings. The hair clips are supposed to provide accent to your hair. Putting 100 hair clips on your head is disgusting! And no Hello Kitty hair clips puhleez!! You don't have to shout to the world that at the age of 45, you're still in fantasizing mode about being a Harajuku lover! And take off those sunglasses on your head! God!!! I saw this radio commentator on TV wearing a sunglass on her head inside the studio. The sunglass is not a headband stupid!

Whether you have long or short hair, rebonded or frizzy look, with a clip or without one, in a headband or in a bandana, the bottom line is to carry a comb or brush and fix that hair when it's out of place. Good grooming and first impressions are from the top.

3. CLOTHING. Plain or printed? Monochromatic or technicolor? Unlike men, womens clothing are more flexible. They can get away with most mix and match items. For more formal occasions or corporate attires, it's always nice to wear a blazer on top of the uniform. Hence, the blouse should have a contrasting color to the blazer. Pants or skirt will go well with a blazer. The blouse or shirts should be short sleeves. No sleeves are a no-no, unless you have arms the size of Kim Chiu's, you should be wearing a shirt with short sleeves. No puff sleeves as well, unless you want to look like a blooming daffodil in your workplace. And the blouse should be either plain or pin-striped. Avoid the floral and printed ones in the work place.

To add elegance to your daily attire, it would be wise to invest in some bling. Not the Bulgari or Tiffany brand. There is a wide array of faux jewelry that will accent any plain dress. And please, no oversized costume jewelry! You don't want to make people think that you're bringing your kid's toys to your workplace. Remember to keep it simple. Over-dressing is only for the prostitutes!

Try to avoid gong with the trend! If leopard prints are in, don't over do it by looking like the real thing from the zoo. There are trends that fit your age. The younger generation will probably fit the shorter skirt and more clothes hugging look. However, it should be a constant reminder that the style is complementary to your body size.

As I already mentioned, mixing and matching colors with a consistent hue is the key to making people wonder at how many clothes you have in the closet! Try to keep a whole set of black to grey, a set of brown to beige, a set of shades of blue, green, red, yellow and lavander. That makes seven colors. Build up on this set one at a time and you'll be surprised at how many clothes you can mix and match with just having 2-3 of these shades at a time!

When you're asked to come in a formal attire, it means that it's not a short dress! Whether it is a Yves St Laurent or Giorgio Armani outfit, a short dress is NEVER a formal attire. For the Filipino woman, if you're asked to come in formal clothes, do not come in Filipiniana clothing unless it's a Filipino themed event. You will look like Melchora Aquino (Tandang Sora) in the event.

Keep in mind that a great dress is one wherein you look great in a formal attire and when you remove that blazer of yours to dress down to an informal look, you still look fabulous!

4. Underwear. Ever heard of the "quadruple breast syndrome?" It's when women try to fit into clothes that are one or two sizes down! Like a bra one size too small make your breasts look like they want to explode. Remember though that most Filipinos are small breasted and wearing a cup one size down may make you look like you're putting on a very tight band-aid over those raisins.

Since we're talking about bras, there are general rules regarding wearing the right bra style and color. Never wear black or colored bras on white dress. It shows off laciviously. Unless you're a stripper in a go-go bar, you shouldn't make this contrast shriek in disgust! Your children will disown you.

I did not realize that there are 31 kinds of bra designs. But there are five that you should remember: full support bra, push up bra, strapless bra, t-shirt bra and finally the sport bra.
And you will need one of each at the very least. Bras provide support to the breast and keep them from looking obscene when wearing clothes. Never ever go commando in both the workplace and during informal events. Going commando is reserved for the strip clubs or the bedroom. The sport bra is recommended for women who work out as it provides support for the breast and prevents discomfort and embarrassment during exercise. The strapless bra are used when you intend to wear clothes that reveal the shoulders. Never wear a bra that shows off the straps when your dress is off the shoulder. Ewwww..... The t-shirt bra is designed without raised seams. These have padded cups so the nipple is concealed and provides a smooth line under the t-shirt, no matter how tight the shirt is. Finally, a push up bra is designed to lift the breasts and place them together to make the cleavage more distinct. If you have really small breasts, you may want to go with a push up bra as they can augment what is lacking.

Then there's VPL (visible panty lines). Women wear hip hugging dresses and pants. Also, the clothing materials used by women are finer than men. Which makes another obvious thing happen unintentionally. Those panty lines become obvious. You can practically tell that the girl wobbling her butt in front of you is in a thong bikini. While we're on the subject of VPLs, a lot of younger women love to wear very low rise pants making it such a turn off that when they stoop to pick up things from the floor, the panties pop out like a sore thumb! Rule of thumb - when you need to wear hip hugging clothes, wear panties that have a boxer fit. And please, no thongs, unless you intend to pole dance in your workplace.

5. Perfumery. Fragrance is both a turn on and a turn off. If your perfumery smells like Glade room and air freshener please get a life! There are women that bring the whole bottle of Victoria's Secret body spritz to the work place and in between break time spritz herself to the annoyance of my olfactory senses! And puhleez, those Victoria's Secret spritzes are obnoxious and so third world. Seriously? That's my "pasalubong" for my maids when I come from the US.

6. Make-up and Nail polish. Okay so the cosmetic line is one of the best sellers in the world and women are by far more vain than men. Given that fact, rule #1 - do not match your make-up with your clothes, unless you want to look like a wall paper! Geez! I see some people walk around dressed to match their make-up. What are you - a clown? Duh?!?! Rule #2 - don't wear heavy make up unless your job happens to be the oldest job in the world - prostitution. and finally Rule #3, puhleez get a good opinion for the make-up that suits your skin tone and color. Unless of course you want to look like a jigsaw puzzle where all that make-up splashing all over your face has non-complementary hues.

And then there's the've seen it and some girls and women like it. Well FYI, whether you're 15 or 51, putting caricatures on your nails is not an in thing. It's not even in vogue and never will be. Unless you want to look like a pick-up girl, a sophisticated look is always a shade and not embossed or in technicolor!

7. Jeans and shorts. Women carry jeans better than men. That's because of the shape of their body as well as the shape of their butt. If you have a big butt or a large pelvis, please avoid wearing jeans. They make you look like a large condom walking around that tight fitting pair. Have mercy on your jeans. And the biggest faux pax among women into jeans is that some of them wear jeans from head to foot. I mean, really! Where'd you park your horse dearie?

Teenage girls love to wear short shorts. Like they want to show off those shapely legs. Never ever wear shorts if you have a lot of imperfections on your skin. And this goes true for sleeveless blouses and mid-riffs. Some women can get away with it. Most, on the other hand, with cellulites splattered all over or freckles splayed on the exposed skin - are such a turn off that any guy would even have an erection die down at the sight.

Remember, dressing up and accessorizing is a skill that needs to be learned. Dress simply. You don't need to be trendy. Casual means carefree and not slutty. Formal means dress to impress and not look like you're the debutante in every party!

A beautiful woman will stand out in the crowd as long as you carry yourself in an elegant manner. Poise, beauty and simplicity are the hallmarks of loveliness.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fashionista 101

I am not an expert in the fashion world. But I have fashion-sense.

I completely agree with J Alexander when he says that "fashion is not for everyone". I have seen people wear designer clothes only to make them look like a dressed up elephant or some aging person who tries desperately to look like a teeny bopper even if all those sags are splashing and screaming in the wrong places.

And so this blog is dedicated to the fashion scene.

I'll start with a few basics and let's stick to men's dressing first. A few tips on dressing to impress:

1. Shoes. It's not the brand stupid. Nobody cares if you wear a Vuitton or Ferragamo. Remember though that dirty shoes stand out more than a spit-shined pair even if the latter is only Manel's or Wade. Once upon a time, I used to buy Ferragamo or Bally. One pair could buy me 10-15 pairs of Wade shoes and while the feel on the feet may be a bit more impressive for the designer shoes, seriously it wouldn't matter if you're seated more often than not. Remember, dirty shoes are a reflection of who you are.

You also need to keep it simple. Always make sure you have a pair of brown and black shoes to match your clothes. Don't wear cowboy boots under formal outfit unless you want someone to be asking where you parked your horse...

2. Hair. Here's the cut. Unless you're a movie star that needs to get that pompadour of yours all slicked up with the hardest of gels because of all that glitz on the movie set, you should make sure that your hair is cut suitably for your everyday get up. I see some kids with mohawk styled hair over a formal outfit and it looks like the guy is a douchebag from planet Mars. If you can't seem to maintain your mane well, make sure that you cut it short enough for low maintenance. And no, you don't have to go to Frank Provost just to get a haircut. Even Bruno's can provide you a decent cut. Remember, the style has got to fit you. If you're 50 years old, getting a Justin Bieber look screams the word GAY BOY all over your face.

By the way, carry a comb or brush in your bag or pocket. Just because it's windy outside is no excuse for looking like you got yourself electrocuted at the last MRT stop.

3. Formal. Do you need to get it tailor made or do you just go retail? I get my barong tailor-made. It's a tad more expensive since they're not made en masse! But I make sure that Bergamo makes it a unique fit. Retail clothes are not sized up for the height of the person. It's usually made to measure your chest and perhaps a bit your neck size. But that's as far as it goes. Getting long-sleeves at retail are more of a problem particularly for the Asian men. Lacoste long sleeves are made for Europeans and you'd have to go through the whole length of having the sleeves altered shorter. Many of the formal clothes by European labels like Armani, Topman, and Zara are tailor-fitted for the slim dude. If you happen to be on the paunchy side, you may want to get a Spanx and suck up that gut before you engage in clothes that have the slim look. Spending money on alteration is also mandatory if you're getting retail clothes. The waistline size for pants as well as the length is important. Do not just fold the pants underneath and put tape or staple them together just because you can't afford alterations! Getting one size bigger for your waist isn't also helpful.

I have a general rule of thumb. I only have pants tailor made. They fit my waistline just right so that when I put a belt around my waist, there is no telltale sign of creasing because the waistline is larger than my size or that it's too small that my belly is all over the snaps. When the waistline gets a bit tight, it's not time to change your pants. It's time to get more exercise because our flabs are in the way.

Muscled men or those into pumping those arms should get a size a bit larger. Those bulging biceps and triceps on slim clothing will rip apart those expensive clothes. A cardinal rule for bodybuilders is that formal clothes should not be tight and taut on your body. T-shirts and muscle tees are the only clothes that should hug your body like Glad Wrap. You don't have to go on the advertising rampage that you work out. We get it!

The problem here is that musclemen wouldn't mind spending on Protein supplements but scrimp on the peso when it comes to spending on clothes that fit the man. Remember, the only time that people will appreciate those muscles is if they bother to look at you because you're naked or posing. Otherwise, get some decent clothes that don't make you look like a sack of potatoes bulging in the wrong places. And try to avoid those spandex and nylon fitting clothes that show your nipples all over the place. You need to get a bra!

4. Color coordination. If you have a hard time understanding the colors of the rainbow and have not developed an eye for harmonizing hues, dude, you don't have the right to dress up. Even the pauper next door is more color coordinated with his black t-shirt on top of faded jeans while you're splashing around in your pink shirt and green pants! It's like you're a wild radar screaming to Osama Bin Laden that you're part of the landing lights in Pakistan!

Mixing and matching clothes is a good way to dress smart and keep people guessing at how many outfits you have. Nevertheless, it is a good reminder that color coordination is the rule to mix and matching. Colors should complement and not necessarily match. Otherwise, you'd be mistaken for buying clothes in an ukay-ukay shop.

5. Elegance. A hallmark of the Pinoy OFWs are the bling blings in gold around his neck. A hallmark of the Pinoy government officials are the bling blings on his hands. Your jewelry should not fade into the background of your clothes. Wear your jewelry to accent your clothes and NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. In short, your jewelry or bling does not have to scream out loud that you've come from the desert or probably hit the lotto the day before. Like a movie , your bling plays only a supporting role. Unless of course you're actually advertising to the muggers that you want to be beaten up and robbed on your way to your car.

6. Underwear. Let's start with the top. Underwear should be coordinated with the attire. Never wear black underwear under light clothing. You don't want to look like a zebra. Never wear a sando under barong or formal attire. A chinois t-shirt or crew neck/round neck/v neck t shirt fits a barong perfectly - whether it is short sleeved or long sleeved barong. And for every body's information, unless you're wearing a colored barong, all undershirts must be WHITE!

Now with the bottom. Boxers are nice wear especially if you want your jewels to hang loose. While it's more comfortable, it also makes it uncomfortable when "junior" begins to come to "attention". But make sure that the boxers fit well and not protruding all over the place (over your slacks and showing a crease under those pants). Oh yeah, puhleez do not wear basketball shorts under your clothes. It's so Filipino! It's so third world. Pinoys love to wear basketball shorts under all their clothes. I think it's a fetish. There's the usual underwear and then they wear these basketball shorts over the underwear and then they were their pants on top of it. Sheesh!!! Their crotches must be full of fungal infection (it's smelly down there and the odor is permeating in the elevator).

A few tips for underwear:
- Boxers are underwear and NOT SHORTS. Do not parade in the streets wearing your boxers and letting your jewels hang. Strangely, Filipinos also wear briefs under their boxers! Naman!!! In this hot and humid country, you have just cooked your precious eggs. No boxers under jeans! Never mind that Gangsta look where you see on MTV hip hop singers with hoodies on no shirt shucking to the a song and baggy faggy jeans worn all the way to the hips and a buckle as large as a coconut to match.
- Low-rise or regular briefs? Whichever makes you comfortable. For fashion sense though, it's good practice that if you intend to wear low-rise briefs, please shave your crotch. It's not nice to see a full bush hanging out of your underwear like a strange flower arrangement in a funeral parlor. Low-rise are for fit people. The skimpier the underwear the more fit you should be. You don't want to look like a large ball on a tiny slingshot wearing those tighty undies.
- Men wear briefs. Cotton or lycra. Just briefs. Those skimpy itsy weeny bikinis are only for macho dancers who gyrate to the tune of "Another one bites the dust" humping their seemingly oversized crotches sheathed in the tiniest underwear in the air or on a pole. Of course, you can have a few in your drawer for those daring hot nights with your partner. But do keep it in the closet and in the bedroom.
- It's a sign. When the garters are about to loosen up and the edges are getting "fried" and frayed, it means that you've got to replace them. It's a good reminder to replace your undies every 3 months as long as you have at least 14 pairs. The less undies in your closet, the more frequently you need to replace them. And YES it is not good hygiene to just invert your underwear inside out for the next day's wear!
- The brand does not need to be showing off! Do not wear your pants so low just to show off that you're wearing a Hugo Boss or Armani or Papi or Toot brand. Showing off the brand of your undies is only for picking up men in gay bars. Unless you intend to do that, don't show off the wrong signals in public.

Finally, socks are considered underwear. While you can get away with wearing no socks under your espadrilles, fine if you're wearing clothes meant for relaxing. But when you're in a corporate suit, make sure you wear socks and please, check that your socks have not been eaten by the cast of Ratatouille. When there are holes in your socks, buy new ones. You wouldn't want to get caught in a situation where you're mandated to remove your shoes and your toes are sticking out like a sore thumb!

7. Scent. They say that your scent tells a lot about your personality. Remember, just because someone endorses it does not mean that it fits your body type. A mild, fresh, out of the shower scent is always a head turner. Some citrusy, floral smell is more fit for the younger crowd while the stronger masculine smell should be reserved for the 30 or more generation. Pick one that suits your sense of smell and persona! And puhleez do not splash the whole bottle all over your body! In the same vein as smoking is irritating to the public, so is too much cologne or perfumery in a person. You don't need to be a walking LUSH store! Remember, heads don't necessarily turn because they appreciate your smell. Smelling very obnoxiously can make heads turn - to look at who carries that irritating smell?

8. Jeans. The ultimate everyday wear. They can used for both formal and casual occasions. It's the kind of jeans that go into your body that speaks of who you are. Hip hop low or skinny? Super low rise are only for the fit and the few. If you have a body that looks like a punching bag, go for the regular jeans. Skinny jeans are only for the skinny people. If your legs are like the trunk of a tree, do not wear skinny jeans because they will look like ballet tights on you. Hip hop clothing is definitely NOT fashion sense. You may be going through a phase in your life, but if you're reading this blog and you're already 21, and you're NOT a hip hop artist in some band, you shouldn't have a shred of hip hop styled jeans in your closet anymore.

Ripped or acid wash? It's really nicer to get your jeans fading naturally through extensive washing. But if you want that faded look from the get go, the faded areas should be centered on the thighs and butt areas and not the fade on the crotch area. Ripping also gives some macho feel. But the tear should be in the RIGHT places. Tears on the crotch and butt area are dedicated and reserved for gay action where rips are intentionally placed to pick up other men. If you're not into this, I suggest you stick to regular jeans so you don't send wrong signals and get banged up in the butt on the wrong side of the street.

One doesn't need expensive labels to dress well. You can make heads turn as a sign of appreciation by the way you carry your clothes and accessories. Or you can make heads turn as a sign of disgust at the pitiful state of those expensive labels on you.

Remember, we dress to impress!

[ photos from and liz jones fashion on men , barong photo from alvin rafael fashion photography]

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Like most Filipinos, I was raised a Catholic.

I went to an exclusive boys school run by La Sallian brothers for my primary and secondary education. In spite of the prohibitive cost of education in private schools, my parents felt that a religious upbringing would provide better formation for both me and my sister. I spent 11 years in La Salle.

After high school, my choice was either the University of the Philippines or the University of Santo Tomas. After all, my father was bent on my pursuing a medical degree. While I made it to both schools, the decision of going to the University of the Philippines became a debate. The image of me going to a more "radical thinking" institution was not an option. I ended up at the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas for my undergraduate, postgraduate and residency training. I spent 12 years studying at UST.

I can say that I have had my share of Religion and Theology classes during my educational years. The only time I was not exposed to any formal religious education as part of any curriculum were during my Internship in an army hospital and my Fellowship training in the United States.

At almost every point in my life, my trust and faith in my religion was tested time and again. During those "aha" moments, I praised God for the fortune he brought my way. During those depressing days and tragic times, I could not help but ask - why me? In between the bipolar episodes of joy and sadness, I pray each morning for a good day ahead and each evening thanking Him for having survived another day. I guess this scenario does not apply only to me, but to the majority of Catholics as well.

The story on my religion is not the story here. Neither is it about faith. It's about the church in the changing times.

The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic nation, with 85% of the population being raised a Catholic. Here, marriage in Church is the gold standard of union between man and woman. children born should be baptized in Church. In Catholic run schools across the archipelago, communion and confirmation are blessed sacraments that are practiced and obeyed. Every form of event from birth to death or simply requiring a blessing (house, building, cars, events, opening of a mall or gas station or business enterprise) will have a priest in attendance.

As I grew older, I realized that there were marginalized sectors of the population that did not receive as much attention as those who had money to rear their children in Catholic schools. The church gave in to requests from mall owners to hold masses in malls during Sundays. An odd acquiescence to a dumb request. What was the difference if Purok 16 in Smokey Mountain Tondo, Manila made a request for the priest to go to the warm, stench-riddled area to hold a weekly Sunday mass? I have always believed that the Church should not be holding masses in malls simply for the convenience of shoppers - majority of whom belong to the upper and middle class - who are too lazy or stubborn to go to the right place of worship.

The Iglesia ni Kristos or the Jehovah's witnesses or even Christian Life Movements do not have this unusual practice like the Catholic Church that allows masses in places of non-worship because of financial gains. The latter is my own deduction. Perhaps I do not understand the concept of allowing masses to be held in shopping centers, but I have always believed that when we need to practice our religion and we need to thank God, we go to Him. I mean, why make priests hold masses in malls where the blaring sound of Justin Bieber or Mariah Carey competes with the ongoing choir or sermon? The distraction in itself does not serve a purpose. The attendance in masses becomes mechanical and rote. It is a bad excuse to say that there is a lack of priests when we find them in this situation. And when the Church is more prone to accepting requests from paying patrons where the gatherings will provide them more financial returns than from the poorer people where Church events will probably generate only a pittance, then you know that the vow of poverty is probably lip service.

And so the story goes that over the years, I have seen many of the Catholic faithfuls drift slowly away from the Church that I grew to know. Friends, acquaintances, and even loved ones have had a change of heart on the faith they grew up to.

The last Holy Week was a concrete example of the drifting of solemnity in traditional events of Christian religion. Two decades ago, the Holy Week would see all business establishments shut down from Holy Thursday to Black Saturday, to commemorate the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. People were in churches doing the Pabasa or watching some guys masochistically flagellate themselves. The Holy Week was a time of reflection and recollection and atonement for sins prior to the resurrection of our Lord.

Since a decade back, the Holy week became a traditional event for Filipinos to go on an Exodus - to the beaches, the provinces, jetset to Hong Kong or Phuket or New York. The churches were not that full and the passion of the Visitas Iglesias and the way of the cross has become less and less palpably visible, especially among the younger generation. Those who were left in the city were said to be those who did not have the cash to splash!

The recent debate on the Reproductive Health bill has caused a row of name calling on the side of the church officials as well as those pro-RH bill. It has come to the point where church officials in the Philippines have taken a stand and castigated those who are pro-RH bill as un-catholic in values and a devil's advocate. The division has deepened as the gathering storm where the prolife group in exclusive enclaves like Ayala Alabang have implemented banning contraceptives in their neighborhood. Even if the barangay ordinance is being contested by the local government authorities, barangay officials in Ayala Alabang remains defiant with the Catholic Church going overboard to defend the inanities of some secular denomination.

Government officials, especially congressmen, are playing pussy politics where they watch the storm from afar. Afraid to get the ire of the church, they have delayed debates and action on the pending bill because of popularity issues. Since the protestants have now taken side with the government regarding this issue, the wounds inflicted on the Catholic church have now deepened.

Those caught in the conflict are not the extremists - the believers and non-believers, the faithful and the atheists. They are the people in the middle.

Where was the church during the corruption allegations of the government of GMA? Where was the church during the atrocities committed among the people who died in the Maguindanao massacre? What is the alternative plan of the church to the RH bill and what will the church do for the people instead of providing lip service? How will the church lead its flock at a time where even the church is embattled with scandals left and right on morality among the rank and file and some of its leaders? How have the catholic schools addressed calls for austerity measure in terms of rising tuition fees in this time of inflation? Why have the marginalized sector of society received less attention from the church compared to those residing in enclaves of the rich that have churches not accessible to the poorer community? Where was the church when issues on health and medicines was being tackled in congress and the senate?

It is at this time when the church needs to review its mission to the greater good of the Filipinos. The microscopic view on the RH Bill is a totally absurd view on reproductive health and is by and large not a pro-abortion law. I suggest that people read the draft bill so that they can provide constructive comments and criticisms and engage in healthy debates that can enlighten both pro- and anti-RH bill. The issues raised must be taken point by point and not swept as a generalized statement that the reproductive health bill is the work of the devil and that it is anti-life. This is not fair to generalize that all the people of the Philippines will not benefit from the reproductive health bill. The choices one makes is always for the greater good. I think people do not understand that PUBLIC HEALTH policies are for the greater benefit of the majority and not one for the privileged few. And if there is a majority or minority that does not understand this message, it is best that explanations and doable alternatives be provided. One cannot use the pulpit to scare the people, especially the misguided, uninformed or misinformed based simply on the demerits of the proposed bill. Since the church has gotten itself deeply involved in this imbroglio, it must provide alternative plans in reproductive health as well as avoid threatening to excommunicate people or banishing their souls to hell early on. There needs to be a more pacifying resolution to the way the issue is being handled - intelligently and in a non-confrontational manner.

I don't think God would have wanted to see this scenario where officials of the church has divided its flock. The division is self-serving to say the very least. There is a need to take into account the greater good of all the people.

Regardless of religion.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Quality time

Thanks to the world wide web, our long lost classmates have now been found.

At first, it was just touching base.

The congratulations on achievements and the birthday greetings that popped up as reminders of how old we have become were happy reminders that we celebrate another fulfilled year or another year battling with some chronic disease.

A fair reminder are the pictures that accompany these greetings in both our Yahoo group photo buckets and in Facebook.

As we rekindled our acquaintances, we found out that like a double-edged sword, it also brought bad news as well.

Some of our classmates have met their maker - sooner than most of us who still get to read the news trails.

Lately, the group messages have become morbid.

The father of so on and so forth, the mother of so on and so forth, the sister or brother of so on and so forth have passed away. One of my batch mates in med school (Beth Solang) had posted in the email trail a startling, but real message - "some of our parents are in final stretch of this journey on earth."

That struck a nerve. Many, if not all of us, owe a lot to our parents. Not only because they sacrificed so much for us, but because they are (or were) the foundation and bedrock and inspiration for us all (to quote Evelyn Musni). They are the reason why we are where we are today. I guess, it's also the reason why we remain inspired to do good and to take the road less rearing our children and providing for them in return for the care and love they shared with us.

Today is Tuesday. It's my regular day off. It's the only day of the week that I don't work and I kick back from all the stress in my very busy career to spend a day with my mom, whom I fondly call INANG. I have done this since my dad passed away over 15 years ago. One of my fave students, Rhona, coins my day off as TUESDAYS WITH NANAY!

When I read the email message of Beth, I was having lunch with INANG in the mall. I took a second look at my mom's feeble hands. The white hairs sprouting out of her head. The wrinkles on her peaceful face. The gusto when she put that spoonful of Arrabiatta pasta in her mouth. That was when the chord struck.

How many of us still spend some quality time with our parents who probably are in that homestretch of their journey?

While we probably are embroiled in the busy schedules we have in our successful careers, it's a fair reminder that we are all travelers in the journey of life. That we need to stop and smell the roses. That what we earn today, we will never bring to the after life. That life is beautiful and each day is painted more colorful by the quality of time we give to those whom we love the most.

Tomorrow? Well, tomorrow is another day. No one knows if we will still live another day to make amends for all the regrets when we or our loved ones are gone.

As the song goes, yesterday is dead and gone.

[photo from]

Monday, May 2, 2011


I have an uncle who has advanced prostatic cancer.

He's been battling with it for the last 2 1/2 years. And he is single at the age of 66.

Initially, he was in denial, but a few months ago, he accepted his fate. A tad too late, though.

Some of us in the family have chipped in for his medications for palliative relief from the pain and the infections that have come and gone.

In the meantime, his condition continues to deteriorate.

Last Saturday night, I received a call from my resident informing me that he was in the ER. He was conducted by ambulance. He had passed the house of his brother to ask him to accompany him. My other uncle declined. So my uncle ended up in the ER alone. My resident had called me to ask me if I was willing to sign consent for procedures and other responsibilities for him. I told her that my relatives should be contacted for this as I am his nephew and not the primary person responsible for his welfare. Understanding the legalities and ethics of medical practice, my remaining unreliable relatives might end up suing me for taking care of him.

The remaining living relatives residing in the Philippines had actually abandoned all care for my uncle. It was not a matter of caring for him in his time of need. It was about financial matters. (I will not delve on the complicated issue and story of the life of my relatives. That is not worthy of this blog.)

The following day, I went to the hospital to check on him.

It was sad that he was sitting in a hospital bed all alone. When I saw him, I was drawn by so much pity. He was very ill and all alone. I asked my resident Osang to accompany me to him. I was touched by the fact that the clerks, interns, and Medical Residents at UST had taken the time out to buy him food and lend him their mobile phones so that he could contact his siblings. But they all did not want to come. And I had to break the news to him. No one was coming. Then he became teary-eyed and held my hand.

This was the scene I wanted to avoid.

I could not imagine how flesh and blood could abandon someone who is dying.

It was not about the finances. That was the easier part. Parting with hard earned money was something that could easily be replaced. But the emotional support to someone who is your brother at a time when he would need all this family support seemed to have broken down completely. While my other relatives may have financial difficulties at this time, the responsibility of caring for him emotionally was theirs. Providing consent to procedures was theirs as well. It blew my mind that one of my uncles had called me that morning to ask me to just go there and see what he needed and settle everything. Their excuse was that they didn't have the time.

Didn't have the time...

After settling all the accounts at the hospital and giving him money to buy medicines and some other things he may need, he could be sent home.

I blog about this because a part of me died that day.

It pained me to see that even family had little meaning when it came to financial challenges like these. We can always prepare for a life of luxury, but when an illness strikes us, where is our family? How can we be so selfish?

That Sunday morning, I wondered where my uncle drew the strength to continue his battle with cancer in spite of how his brothers treated him.

That Sunday morning, I found the real definition to the term ALONE.

I pray that everyone who leads a life like my uncle, will somehow draw strength from the others like my clerks, intern, nurses, and residents...who took the time to care.

Strangely, it is the nameless people in the crowd who cared more than those who you lived your whole life with.

Being alone is the worst kind of exit we have in this life. Being alone, means losing meaning to everything we lived for. It is the ultimate taste of hell while still being alive.