And He Learned

3 Jun Featured Image -- 802

Rethink the Rant

When he noticed the naked little girl at the beach didn’t look quite like he did and asked why, they answered his questions in simple phrases painted in black and white, pink and blue, and tradition. And he learned that boys and girls were different.

When one of the neighbor kids painted his nails, they got angry. That wasn’t something boys did. And he learned that there were different rules for boys and girls, and that breaking those made people upset.

When he was handed down a pink bike from his cousin, they replaced it with a blue one, because they didn’t want him to be mocked for having a “girly” bike. And he learned that being girly was something to be mocked.

When he cried, they told him to be a man. And he learned that crying, and being not a man, was something less.

When he was being picked…

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Consumers soon to be served with nutrient-rich rice choices

27 May

Stumbled upon this article by a former officemate, Rowena Galang-Bumanlag, a bubbly, sassy gal, and, well, a journalism awardee. She is the Information Officer of the Philippine Carabao Center National Headquarters and Gene Pool in Nueva Ecija and is currently taking up her Masters in Communication at the Ateneo de Manila. This article made me reconsider my rice preference. Just in time to save me from my deteriorating weight! Read on.

 

 

Consumers soon to be served with nutrient-rich rice choices

By Rowena Galang-Bumanlag

 wen_g17@yahoo.com / 09178327275

 

Janice Nilo-Recometa, 32, a mother of one and an overseas Filipino worker in the United Arab Emirates, lives with her family abroad.

At mealtime, she serves them with a steaming bowl of perfect white rice even if there is an abundance of international food choices.

Each month’s payday, her grocery basket is filled with two 5-kilogram packs of Jasmine rice that she buys at the nearest grocery store at 5 dirhams or 60 pesos per kilo.

Jasmine rice is a favorite choice among rice lovers particularly in Asia because it is tender, exudes sweet scent, and is mild in flavor when cooked.

Janice is aware of the healthier benefits of the more widely promoted brown rice but she said it has a certain texture in the mouth that just doesn’t quite satisfy her family’s discriminating taste.

Theirs is a typical Filipino family whose palate is cultured to eat polished rice.

Most rice consumers like Janice and her family still favor white rice as the more palatable and fashionable staple, choosing it over the healthier, unpolished, and half-milled rice varieties.

This preference is even more predominant among upscale consumers.

Scientists have a take on this.

Polished rice is devoid of essential nutrients

Research shows that polished rice grains lack nutrients that are present in the outer (bran) and inner (germ) layers, which are ripped off in the refining process.

Among the nutrients that are taken away along with the bran layers during milling include magnesium, manganese, zinc, and iron.

The loss of these micronutrients, particularly zinc and iron, has become a global concern especially in poor nations suffering from zinc and iron deficiency.

Both iron and zinc are essential elements for human health to complete bodily functions and highly complex processes that are indispensable for survival such as production of red blood cells and transportation of oxygen throughout the body. 

According to the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), micronutrient deficiency is widespread in countries where rice is the staple food.

Regarded as the most pervasive form of malnutrition and a leading cause of anemia, iron deficiency has affected the health of millions of women and children in particular.

The World Health Organization puts the figure at a staggering 2 billion people or over 30 percent of the world’s population.

One important item in IRRI’s research agenda is to address this global concern.

IRRI develops healthier rice with more nutrients to significantly contribute to worldwide interventions that aim to reduce micronutrient deficiencies and improve the nutrition of rice consumers.

This agenda is realized through biofortification.

Biofortified rice is nutrient-rich rice

Biofortification can help poorer groups in society gain access to nutritious foods, which they would otherwise not be able to purchase because of lack of resources.

IRRI’s rice breeding research usually uses traditional or conventional methods, but increasing the iron content of rice is not achievable using these techniques.

Dr. Jessica Rey of the Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology Division (PBGBD) of IRRI said that conventional breeding methods were not successful because there are no donor rice germplasm with exceptionally higher levels of iron.

Genetic modification, thus, becomes the more applicable method, she said.

Using biotechnology as a tool, the rice is genetically modified (GM) to carry a gene or genes that exhibit the desired traits, in this case iron, into its genetic makeup, explained Dr. Rey.

The same method, she said, has an added benefit of enhancing the zinc content of the rice grain.

“We encourage the rice plant to absorb more minerals from the soil, to take them all up and distribute them evenly to the plant with a concentration of more minerals into the grain so that even after milling, the minerals are retained and not wasted away,” Dr. Rey said.

The researchers did this by using a substance called nicotianamine and other iron transporters from rice to enhance the movement of these micronutrients from the plant roots to the grains.

Dr. Rey also explained that they also use ferritin, an iron storage protein found in soybean and rice, to boost the rice endosperm’s capacity to store iron.

Through genetic modification, IRRI has successfully developed rice with additional 30 percent of the estimated average requirement for iron compared to the non-genetically modified line.

This improvement was achieved in their 2012 field trials.

Dr. Rey said their research team is still working on further increasing the iron levels in the grain, particularly in the endosperm (the part of the grain that is retained after polishing), to above 13 parts per million, which is the nutritionists’ required level to make a significant impact in reducing iron deficiency.

The exciting thing about biofortification, the team said, is that once the preferred gene is in the plant, it remains there forever—a glaring advantage of biofortification over mechanical or commercial fortification.

In mechanical fortification, Dr. Rey said, the desired nutrient needs to be added onto the grain each time the rice is processed.

This is why biofortification is a more sustainable strategy, she added.

Biofortified rice on the way

However, consumers still have to wait a few more years before iron- and zinc-rich rice reach their tables.

IRRI’s research on iron-rich rice variety started in 2009. Zinc-rich rice, which they started research on way before iron fortification, is already available in Bangladesh.

Dr. Rey said that they are still in the research phase and that there are national and international biosafety standards that IRRI still need to strictly comply with as the rice varieties go through the breeding process.  

Prior to the public release of any GM rice variety, she said, IRRI has to conduct advanced bioavailability studies to verify its effectiveness in reducing iron or zinc deficiency.

Such studies will measure how much iron or zinc in the rice is bioavailable to humans or is actually absorbed and used in the human body. This will allow researchers to measure how well the rice can reduce iron or zinc deficiency.

 

Biotechnology for food sustainability

In the Philippines, strategies to harness biotechnology in crops are advanced by the government through the Department of Agriculture Biotechnology Program.

The mission statement of the program is to “utilize the tools of biotechnology as an alternative means to improving the productivity of local agriculture towards food security and sustainable development.”

Dr. Antonio Alfonso, coordinator of the DA Biotechnology Program and director of the Crop Biotechnology Center of the Philippine Rice Research Institute, said that the DA Biotech Program gives support to programs such as food biofortification through field tests and performance validation under field conditions.

He said that their focus is on further improving the variety by ensuring that it is disease-resistant and that its agronomic traits are what farmers would highly prefer.

Dr. Alfonso said that what the public should remember about crop biotechnology is this: “genetic modification is a tool to produce sufficient, safe, and nutritious food amidst production constraints and changing climatic patterns that have direct adverse impact in agriculture.”

In fact, he said, GM crops are the most studied products before they are allowed for commercial release. This means that breeding processes strictly comply with biosafety regulations, he explained.

Scientific interventions such as the development of healthier rice varieties, he said, are benefits of technology that the public sector can take advantage of.

Dr. Alfonso said that with the availability of iron- and zinc-rich rice varieties in the market, rice consumers, such as Janice’s family, can have healthier rice options and they can then make informed choices for the benefit of their families and the community.

Of course, it is still up to the consumers to decide because rice is both nutrition and culture, Dr. Alfonso said.

— 30 —

A letter to myself

20 Mar

Dear amazing Jo,

 

Life gets tougher each day and you have constantly reminded yourself that you got to be tougher whenever. Truly, you’ve braved an arduous journey with your head high but with your feet always grounded.

Now that you are a few months close to turning 25, those jitters are flooding in making you feel like you haven’t had much of life and yet you are turning old so fast. But hey, try to look back and realize that you have been so wonderful and keeps on being more fabulous and fiercer as the years go by.

Remember…

When you were still five years old and you were so eager to go to school yet they didn’t want to admit you ‘coz you were still ‘too young’ to be in Grade One. But you still went on anyway and even ranked first that they admitted you in Grade Two right after.

When there was a time when you cried yourself out because the flood was waist-high and nobody fetched you from school yet you still braved the typhoon and managed to get home.

When you almost drowned because you didn’t know how to swim but eventually you were even able to save a life of a little kid from drowning and who was almost lifeless.

When you were seven years old and came running to your mom while sobbing because an “admirer” was doing “harana” and you were very scared for you thought you were already getting married. Then your mom was just laughing and said, “Baby, you’re not getting married. Not yet.”

When you first had a crush on someone but he never noticed you because he liked your bestfriend instead but later on you moved on and found another classmate worth having a crush on.

When you first had a boyfriend and thought you were already in love only to realize you didn’t actually even know what ‘being in love’ actually meant just yet.

When you first cried over a heartbreak and thought you’ll never be able to love again but you fell in love again anyways.

When you would always tell your mom how you wanted to be an office girl like her and right after finishing college, you also had your office like your mom has.

When you were so scared of airplanes but eventually got fond of it that you wished you’d be able to ride in one someday. Then you found yourself going from one place to another, from one country to the next; always marveling at the beauty of the world up in the air.

When you were still a little child and your mom asked what you wanted to become and you immediately said, “Abokado!” when you actually meant “abogado”. You were too scared then but now you’re almost done with your first year in law school.

When you thought you’ll never have good friends but eventually you are blessed with so many great friends in every place you’ve stepped on.

Most importantly, when you thought you won’t ever be able to gain that strength to fight for yourself as you fight for others but eventually found yourself falling in love with all the beauty the world offers. Your appreciation of the beauty of life has made you even bolder and braver keeping in mind that life, no matter how tricky and painful, has always beautiful things in between.

See? Who says you didn’t have much of a life? You’re making your life just as worthy as it has to be. For sure you will still mess up and will weaken from time to time. But I know you’ll manage to get up and keep the lessons you get from each bump. I am very proud of you for at this point in your life you are starting to learn how to save those pennies and how to be more patient in everything that you do (especially in standing in a long line. HAHA).

So stop worrying, my dear Jo. Always remember that you’ve gone through a lot for anyone to just easily crash it down. You’re amazing. You’re kind and have a big heart. You know how to forgive. You know how to be genuinely happy for people who are successful in their lives. You know how to listen and make someone feel better. You know how to love truly. You know how to accept people for who and what they are. You know you need not to change your other half but to accept him and love his flaws as they unveil themselves in front of you. And remarkably, you know that life isn’t always about winning a battle but also giving up a battle that is no longer worth fighting for.

Cheer up and stay as fabulous and as adorable as you have always been.

 

Sincerely,

Joahna ❤

 

 

 

Baguio City fulfills my fantasy of wonderland

1 Sep

September 1. Baguio City Day. Signaling the start of “ber” months.

Baguio has always been a second home to me. My photos from childhood painted how I’ve always loved to spend Christmas season here. I have photos in Burnham Park with a flower of either Bougainvillea or Rose tucked in my ear as I beam sheepishly in front of my mom’s camera.

I remember giggling helplessly as the bus approaches this City overlooking mountains which looked like giant Christmas trees. I would close my eyes as I savor the cold breeze wafting through the air, sending soothing scent from surrounding pine trees. My mom would just smile holding me tightly, keeping me from jumping off the bus to contain my overflowing excitement.

When I reached College, I did not have second thought when I was given an opportunity to transfer here. The thought of it overwhelmed me with an intensity that “yes” is the only answer I would ever say.

For four and a half years, I witnessed how this City grew more beautifully, like a bud uncoiling into a full-bloomed flower. I watched how it transforms from a busy daylight into an even busier but livelier night. At night, the City transforms into a world where all you see are bright lights, people coming in and out of malls or universities, either rushing to go home or just slowly walking trying to savor the calmness of the night.

At the other side of the road, there is another life on roll, too. Those places where dim light is more preferable than a bright light; where smoke comes from every corner, where loud music makes one thump on their feet and freely move their hips, like nothing else matters in the world but that very instant of merriment and freedom.

But this City isn’t all about busy days and merry nights. This City is booming with surprises and treats. There is an abundant supply of fresh fruits and vegetables everyday. There are food shops offering an array of any type of food that your taste buds so desires. Shopping stalls are everywhere, too. If you’re a fan of branded but cheap stuff, “wagwagan” are in every corner. Not only do they bargain clothes and shoes but books, too. For a bookworm who loves to hoard books of his or her preference, just be patient to dive into a mountain of books and you’ll have them right in your hands.

If one opts to just sit down and quietly commune with her surroundings, there are perfect places to visit for such. One could go to Botanical Garden, Wright Park, Mines View, or at Sunshine Park. In Burnham park, too, a public taebo is regularly available. It’s a perfect venue to dance with people whom you don’t know yet dance with the same rhythm as you. If one dares to see more of the rich culture of Igorots engraved in this City, the Tam-awan Village is a perfect pick. But if you’re looking for a more pumped-up adventure say riding in a zipline or falling off from a giant tree, then Camp John Hay is just but a few minutes’ drive away from the heart of the City.

The list could go on forever and there are still a lot more left for me to discover. There are devastating changes, too, yes. But I’ll keep mine on remembering how Baguio City has made my childhood fulfill a real fantasy of wonderland. And now that I’m back here for my post-grad studies after leaving it for three years, I’ll always remember that child in me who would still want to take a photo with a flower tucked in my ear.

That Familiar Feeling

21 Aug

Sitting alone, couched in my own thoughts. Watching little drops of water sliding through the glass window, holding my breath as daylight start to unfold. Hot coffee untouched on a table for two. The fog’s getting thicker, people are vanishing from sight, cars tires screeching are the only sounds that reminded me there’s still something going on outside this deserted cafe.

Unconsciously, my fist rested on my left chest as something is pounding furiously inside, my throat’s getting choked. Warm drops started to drop off down my cheeks… just like those little drops of water sliding against the window… just like that familiar feeling a long time ago…

Believing in the unknown

20 Apr
My five-year old self dreamt to see Africa one day. I finally did!

My five-year old self dreamt to see Africa one day. I finally did!

Growing up from a village with nothing much to do but go with the usual routine of school to house and house to school, I dreamt to see the world outside my village someday.

I grew very curious (and envious) how the life in cities seemed to be very exciting and fairy-tale alike. I was always jealous when I see a child in movies having grand toys and wearing grandiose clothing while my childhood past time were that of climbing trees, jumping off a mound of rice husks in the rice fields, having an improvised play house, and compulsory sleep in the afternoon.

I remember being gleeful and excited with just the sight of an airplane roaring above the skies. Each time I hear an airplane coming, I would rush outside our house and savour the spectacle. Then, I wished to see an airplane up close.

For every falling star that I saw, I closed my eyes and wished. One of which is to someday ride in an airplane and see the world beyond the village where I live.

Life, however, has its own way of discouraging me from my dreams. There were times when I felt there was no more hope. Some people even told me I was meant to go nowhere and end up like the other young girls in our village who were forced into marriage at a very young age.

But I didn’t allow myself to fall trapped in these unprecedented tricks of life.

Then I saw a falling star again. I wished and closed my eyes. When I opened it, I was already up above the skies riding in an airplane I thought will only happen in my imaginations. And before I knew it, I was already going from places to places, from one country to another.

I am full of dreams. Slowly, while carrying a sheer determination with me, they are coming true. Not that of having grand toys and grand clothing which later I realized is pointless.

I graduated with flying colors. I landed with a job I love so much. I am surrounded with amazing people who are always there to give me a little push and a tap on my back whenever I feel weary and hopeless. I have a loving family and a super mom. I am able to travel to many places here and abroad not just as a tourist but someone who speaks in behalf of her country. I’ve already visited a country in Africa, a dream since I was a five-year old kid.

Today, I am moving forward to fulfilling yet another dream I’ve set myself into since I can remember.

Now that I am 20-something, I know I already have a head-on of my own life. There are still challenges of course. But still, I believe in the unknown, one that is scaring and thrilling me in equal measures.

I asked myself, how many of us have the chance to fulfil their dreams at this very young age? How many of us have the chance or ability to counter a traditional belief about a village girl’s fate?

I am lucky enough to be one. While it wasn’t an easy road, I believed I can do it. I worked on it. I valued each and every opportunity given to me. And I trusted the heavens.

I did. And you, too, can do it.//

Some things don’t change

28 Jan

He gave me love letters. Those were the first love letters I received.

He has a pair of deep, beautiful dimples. Whenever he smiled at me, flashing those dimples, my breath was taken away. He was simply gorgeous.

He was so persistent, following me wherever I went. He sat with me in the library. Every time I turned the page of the book I was reading, he would turn it back. Until he succeeded in getting my attention, my heart included.

He was smart. He was tall, dark, and drop-dead handsome. There was no single day that passed that he didn’t piss me off. But it was the kind that melted my heart.

He was so sweet he’ll knock you off his feet. And he was capable of making you laugh so hard until your stomach hurts.

He was a very thoughtful person. He sent me flowers and a handwritten love letter all the way from the other side of the world.

He was full of surprises. The best part—he always stole kisses on me especially when I was mad.

Each of these men who came and went in my life, left a permanent trace of memory that no matter how much I try to forget, I can’t. When I see a familiar place or hear a certain song, every single memory I had with them comes playing in the background, like everything just happened yesterday. These are the things that will never, ever change.

But while they left something for me to remember with, they also took a piece of my heart that I, up to now, am still trying to piece back all together.

I fell in love with each of them. I fell so deeply in love that I forgot about a very important person—myself. Because of this, I journeyed on finding the love in myself so I can love again with my whole heart.

For more than two years in this journey, I am not very sure if I did progress at all. But I did feel a sense of fulfilment, a sense of being me. Those many weekends that I celebrated alone and those times I did things alone—running, shopping, going home, watching a movie, and sleeping, I felt something so powerful that I never felt before: confidence, a breath of fresh air, and bliss. But more importantly, I realized that no matter how small the piece of my heart that is left, I am still capable of loving again.

I do not know when I will ever have that beautiful love story like many of the people around me did. But even if I am uncertain of time, I will still believe. I will believe that the love that is meant for me will someday get its way to me.

For while some things don’t change, some things do.

Travelling is Living

12 Jan

BanguiWindmills,IlocosNorte
Reverie. Bliss. Excitement. Fear. Love. Life.

All of these emotions embrace me with great intensity every single time that I travel. With each place that I set my feet unto brings me a renewed appreciation of how big and wonderful the world is. And with each of these places, I come to realize that I am no more than a speck in the whole realm of creation.

Travelling allows me to immerse in the lush of serenity of tropical rainforest, feast on the bounties of nature, and savour an invigorating scenario which brings nothing but a sense of fulfilment. But travelling doesn’t only allow my eyes to feast on scenic spots but also lets my stomach indulge in tasty treats and sumptuous food offers. The whiff of fresh foods, unlike those in fast foods, stokes a gastronomical delight bringing me into an unknown place of satisfaction and curiosity. I’ve also come to learn about each place’s glorious past thru its songs and dances. The way indigenous people live their lives in the middle of the mountain seems so simple yet very enchanting.

I’ve climbed the second highest mountain peak in the Philippines, explored the deepest chamber of caves, jumped off of a waterfall, crossed one of the longest hanging/ suspended bridge in the country. I rode in a vehicle that couldn’t almost get thru a high-waist mud as it traverses the top of the mountain.  I experienced riding on the top load of a jeepney while overlooking deadly cliffs on our way through.

I did some extreme adventures, too, like that of a somersault in a river with sharp and giant stones around. I got face to face with a python, a crocodile, and even the remaining smallest primate on this planet. I tried walking and hiking for twelve straight hours, mountains after mountains, just to get to my destination.  I rode in a roller coaster where I literally felt my body departed from my soul. I tried living in the middle of a mountain where there is no electricity but a single lamp lighting the whole house. I bathed on a river naked as it is a way of life in that village. I’ve visited museums, centuries-old churches, and unknown sub-villages. And I’ve listened to many stories by old villagers as they unveiled the secrets of the past and the stories of the World War II.

To top it all, travelling makes me a better person. It allows me to appreciate the simple things that I have. It gives me a better sense of responsibility toward nature, culture, and life itself.

So I dare you to go out and discover the beauty of the world. Head off somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of a city life. Allow yourself to get lost in the wilderness. There are a lot of surprises waiting for us to discover. While a lot of references can vividly describe how beautiful a certain place is, I tell you, it is way more beautiful and exciting if you experience it yourself.

Wherever you go, keep your wonder alive. Keep moving. Go forward. Keep your spirit adventurous. And keep it still enough to savour the beauty that moves around you, too. So go travel while you are still able and free.

P.S. Don’t forget to take photographs.

Just like today

11 Dec

When you set your feet on a new environment, on a new place, and feel like everything is fresh, feel it. Own it. When you see a natural attraction just like that of the amazing Banaue Rice Terraces for the first time, immortalize it. If not in photographs, at least in your head. Take some time to let it linger in your mind, close your eyes, and play the scenes over and over in your head. Until it becomes vivid and clear even if you no longer see it.

Just like today.

When you meet new friends at school or at a certain event, take a moment to really get to know them. Laugh with them. Share your stories and listen to their stories, too. Connect with them.  Share a glass of beer together or play the “Never Have I Ever” game. Let the fun flow naturally. And let the friendship stay even if the years keep rushing by. Even if the distance keep getting farther and farther away.

Just like today.

When you chance a moment to be with your family amidst all the hustles and bustles of work, be physically and emotionally present with them. Do anything to make that very moment memorable and full of love that you may keep the happiness in your heart even if it takes another painstaking months before you get to see them again.

Just like today.

When an opportunity knocks on your door, open it; grab it. When you’re given a chance to be a part of an important event, make it happen. Go on the streets and let your voice be heard. Support other people’s advocacy if you think it is what it takes to become an active citizen. Experience a Flash Mobilization once in your life. No matter how simple it is, if you take part in it and lets your voice reverberate throughout then it is, undeniably, fulfillment itself. Opportunities don’t come twice just like lightning that don’t strike at the same place twice.

Just like today.

When you go to a bar and feel like drinking up all night long yet you hesitate because it feels wrong, don’t linger on that feeling. Don’t let what others think dampen your excitement. Don’t keep avoiding that very moment when you can actually do what you’ve always wanted to experience somehow. Dance with the beat. Don’t deny yourself from an evening that could bring so much energy and anticipation, even just for one night. Spending a life avoiding what you’ve always wanted to do only mean avoiding yourself to be just you.

Just like today.

When you meet that someone who keeps your heart beating ten times faster than it regularly does, allow that person in your world. When the universe permits you to be with each other’s arms, hug tighter. When the starts align and lets you experience that spur of a moment once your lips meet, savor it. Close your eyes and listen to your heartbeat while the planet stopped on turning. No matter how uncertain the future is, let yourself experience the wonder of being in love.

Just like today.

When your heart is broken and you feel that burning sensation in your chest over and over again, feel it. When the pain cripples your heart to believe in love again, fight back. When it feels like nothing is going be the same again after your belief in love is crushed into tiny pieces, get up and move on. Pain goes with loving. And so is moving on.

Just like today.

Let go and feel free again. Dream big and chase after them. Stop and start anew. Kiss if you feel like kissing someone who allows you too. Cry hard and smile again afterwards. Keep travelling. Keep doing the things that make your heart filled with happiness and fulfillment. Let you be you. Truly, to get somewhere, you have to be hurt, you have to feel pain, and you have to fail at something. But keep trying. Because just like today, these things might not ever happen again. And they’ll be the days that you’ll surely miss.

12. 12. 12

Make-A-Wish Day

11 Oct

I was very busy today, like I was running for my life. But for every single hour that passed, I found myself smiling remembering the memories of yesteryears and knowing how beautiful life is unfolding before me. Only then did I realize that today is a date that happens only once in a lifetime. And I’m a part of it. WE are a part of it!

October 11, 2012. Happy Day! 😀