Saturday, April 25, 2009

Environment Conservation Champions

Environment conservation is one of the hottest issues we find today. In fact, advertising and marketing companies have started to relate brands to the environment or join the bandwagon of going "green" to promote their brands and earn more profit. I have seen slogans saying "Green is in" and "Let's Save the Environment" almost everywhere. Even car manufacturers have started making "green vehicles" claiming their products emit less carbon dioxide and is made of environment friendly materials.

Going green is good. Last April 22, we celebrated Earth Day and a number of malls in Metro Manila asked Haribon Foundation to join them in their environment conservation awareness programs. There were clean ups, tree planting, story telling for kids, exhibits and even singing contests. People nowadays are more exposed to environment activities which I think will be beneficial for the next generations. One thing is lacking, though, Filipinos lack environment conservation champions.

While I was listening to a radio program last Earth Day, the DJs started a contest asking listeners to name famous people who are known to be environmentalists. Of course, a nice price will be awaiting the lucky contestant. Instantly, several listeners called and texted names like: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Al Gore, Oprah and several foreign celebrities. Only one contestant mentioned a Pinoy name, and he is Richard Gutierrez. Is he really and environment advocate? Don't we have Pinoy environmentalists? How about Chin Chin Guteirrez, Noel Cabangon and Joey Ayala? Are they really environment advocates or are they just joining the advocacy to increase their popularity? How about non-showbiz people? Politicians? Nahhh, too risky to trust them most especially now that elections are just around the corner.

Filipinos need an environment conservation champion to lead them. Last people to be known here were Celso Roque and Junie Kalaw. Do you know them? They were famous during the 80's and it has been 2 decades and nobody followed their footsteps. Hopefully somebody will step up and be a champion to the environment cause, not just as a spokesperson but a person who can start movements. Influence plays a major key and credibility will also be major factor. And a good leader must lead by example and must always be a good follower.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Halo Halo

Halo halo is probably one of the famous desserts you can find in the Philippines. During summer time, when the temperature reaches 30 degrees Celsius up, people would like to cool down by drinking ice cold drinks and eating their favorite dessert. Halo halo which is the Tagalog translation of mix or mixing is made up of different ingredients namely: banana, ube, leche flan, beans, melon, garbanzos, nata de coco, kaong, sago, gulaman, pinipig, etc. mixed with crushed ice, sugar, milk and a scoop or two of ice cream on top. Halo halo is so in demand during this season that a popular fast food chain decided to put up a television advertisement on primetime just to feature their halo halo. Just watching the TV ad would make you crave for it and go to the nearest store and satisfy your hunger and thirst.

Due to halo halo's demand this summer, restaurants and stores have taken advantage and raised their prices to earn bigger profit. Prices in fastfood ranges from 70-120 pesos and a scoop or two of ice cream increases the prices more. If you are not particular eating in restaurants you can actually buy halo halo from any "carinderia" or canteen located in your neighborhood. Prices are relatively cheaper, around 25-50 pesos. Not as many ingredients compared to fast food chains but will definitely satisfy your craving for a cold beverage or dessert.

A word of caution though for people who love halo halo. If you are on a diet or watching what you eat, halo halo is not too healthy for you. The only healthy ingredients in this dessert is milk, banana and a few slices of fruits. Halo halo would be bland without sugar, ice cream, leche flan and other sweets. Therefore, if you want to indulge in this tasty and refreshing dessert, try to remember to drink lots of water after, exercise and eat vegetables and fruits. For me, halo halo is an indulgence and a way to relieve stress and pressure after a long day at work. Happy eating!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Waking up in Twitter

I admit, i was not impressed when i first signed up in twitter, for me, its like any other social networking sites out there. I'm not registered in a lot of these sites because i decided i would concentrate on a few sites and maximize its potential. I just decided to try twitter again because of Jan and his numerous posts about twitter.

Indeed twitter will make a newbie like me star-struck. First celebrity i followed was Oprah, then Ashton Kutcher (who i think has the most followers), Ashton's wife Demi (childhood crush) and Lance Armstrong. If you consider John Chow a celebrity, i followed him too.

I have been thinking what will happen or what do i get if i follow these famous people? Other than reading their tweets/posts and getting the latest scoop, i think that's about it. I might learn a thing or too from John Chow, but then again, i am not a techie when it comes to building a blog.

So how can i maximize twitter to promote my blog? That i have to learn. I just hope that twitter is not just another fad that was suddenly famous and after some time, people will learn to hack it and use it for their own selfish interests. The makers of twitter are really impressive that it would be a pity of they can not maintain their success for a long time.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mount Makiling Los Baños, Laguna

Mount Makiling is probably one of the most famous mountains in South Luzon because of its proximity in Metro Manila and is the home of University of the Philippines Los Baños, Laguna. Personally, its one of my favorite destinations because the community around the mountain is very successful in preserving the environment around the mountain. UP offers several courses in Biology and Forestry which contributes in educating the youth in their role in environment conservation and research. In fact, biologists and researchers employed at Haribon Foundation came from UPLB and they have proven several times their expertise in their chosen fields.

In case you have not visited the site, here are a few places to visit:

1. Jamboree Site - camp site for Boy Scout of the Philippines
2. National Arts Center - managed by the Cultural Center of the Philippines
3. Mud Spring - a place where you can see boiling mud, a good 2-hour hike from the foot of the mountain
4. Raptor Center - a place for rescued birds in the wild. You can see the Philippine Eagle here (in case you haven't seen one)
5. UP Los Baños - several places to see around the campus

Other than the sites I mentioned, one activity you may want to try is Bird Watching. New to this activity? Mount Makiling is one of the best sites. The reason: it is home to a lot of Philippine endemic birds, or birds only found in our country. If you want to see pictures, you may go to Romy Ocon's site or you can click this link. You need not reach the summit to see the colorful birds. Just at the foot of the mountain you can see the Colasisi, Philippine Falconet, Coleto, Guaiabero, etc.

Of course, an outdoor activity would not be complete without swimming. Although Mt. Makiling is not known for falls and rivers, you can actually enjoy hot springs all over Pansol, Laguna. This municipality is a famous tourist destination because of its hot springs. Resorts are affordable and some places include kiddie pools and slides. You can also rent a small house for private or family occassions. And before leaving Los Baños and Pansol, Laguna, do not forget to buy native delicacies such as espasol, kesong puti and the ever famous buko pie.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Holy Week in the Philippines - Cutud, Pampanga

photo from

As we near the end of the Holy Week, we can see news and tv reporters covering different events in the Philippines during the Lenten Season. One event, which is famous not just in the country but overseas as well is the re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in Cutud, Pampanga. People who have a yearly "panata" or "promise" to be nailed to the cross are the center of attention of tourists, reporters and writers. Reporters would interview the people before they are nailed to the cross and are asked why would they make these kinds of sacrifices even though the church are against it. Some said that they make the sacrifice to give thanks after God answered their prayers or they are asking for a miracle to happen. They say that being nailed to the cross is just a small sacrifice compared to the blessings or answered prayers they received from God.

Being nailed to the cross before is just practiced by males, but i remember last year or two years back, a woman decided to join and let herself be nailed too. It was covered by a local television channel and I saw a her hands pierced by 3-4 inch nails. It was really a disturbing sight. I could imagine the pain she felt. People were really concerned that after she was taken down from the cross, she received first aid immediately and was interviewed by a tv reporter. She was asked how she felt and if she would repeat the ordeal next year. She said it was painful but she thinks she can do it next year. So this year, we may actually see her again. In fact most of her male counterparts have been nailed to the cross 5 or more times (i heard a guy was nailed 12 times) and she believes that if a man can do it, so can she.

For ordinary people like me, honestly, it's difficult to sacrifice. It's hard to sacrifice what you love to do everyday and abstain from your indulgence. Not eating meat is an effort for me, but i try to abstain even just for the Lenten Season. The church sent a message for people to sacrifice this Holy Week by avoiding using mobile phones, computers, tvs and music gadgets and spend the time by praying and reflection. Can we do it? We can at least try. Just try to remember people in Cutud, Pampanga who sacrifice their health to show gratitude and faith to our Creator.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Holy Week in the Philippines

Holy Week in the Philippines officially started yesterday, Palm Sunday. People heard mass and brought along their "palaspas" as a tradition inherited during Jesus' time. These "palaspas" after being blessed at the church will be displayed usually near the front door and windows of homes in the belief that they will ward off evil souls and bad luck from entering their homes. After Sunday, offices will only be open for two days since today, Monday, was declared holiday by the Philippine Government to celebrate our "Araw ng Kagitingan" (Day of Valor) holiday.

Due to several non-working holidays, we can expect people to start up filling bus stations and national highways going home to their provinces or just maximizing their holidays by going to beach resorts, pools and other tourist destinations. Traffic jams will switch from EDSA to the North and South Expressways and other national highways. People will crowd at the usual swimming destinations and you could hear events being advertised which will take place at the famous beaches in Boracay and Puerto Galera.

In reality, Holy Week in the Philippines is now different compared to 5 or 10 years ago. Before, Holy Week, people are busy preparing for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday at their respective parishes. Washing of the feet, Seven Last Words, Way of the Cross, "Pasyon", "Bisita Iglesia" and "Salubong" are the activities that highlight Holy Week Celebration. Now, although we still see people joining these activities, its very obvious that hotels and resorts are more jampacked compared to churches. Try calling or booking rooms at beaches, resorts and even swimming pools and you will be extremely lucky to get a room.

Honestly, Holy Week is one of the long celebrations that people take advantage to get a pause from the stress and pressures from their work. Its not that they don't respect Holy Week celebration anymore, its just that people say they badly need the vacation to relieve stress. For me, Holy Week is a blessing too, although we don't go out of town, i just rest at home and spend time with my family. Its also a nice time to have a general cleaning at the house and spend time with my parents and my sister's family.

Times have changed and i wish that Holy Week tradition will still be here when my kid or children grow up. Hopefully, people can adapt better and celebrate the Lenten Season more that just going to the beach. I don't know how will the church adapt to the changing times, but i hope people will at least remember the true meaning of the season. They say that Easter Sunday is more important than Christmas because although we celebrate Jesus' birth in Christmas, we must also celebrate His Rising from the dead during Easter Sunday. And we should always remember his sufferings and sacrifices to save us all and give us a second chance from our sins.