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And He Learned

3 Jun

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 / 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.

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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.


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.



Joahna ❤




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…

Travelling is Living

12 Jan

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.

The cards and my true love

12 Aug

After a very long time of debating with myself whether to have my future read by a psychic or not, I finally decided to do it.

I entered the room where the psychic was. As the door closed behind us, my apprehension was growing a knot higher each second.  However, I convinced myself saying that it’s all right to do this, that there is no harm in trying it. But for the very last minute, I wanted to back out.

As I motioned to the door, the psychic said: “You are very apprehensive.” I froze and as if in a trance, I found myself sitting on the opposite side of the table, fronting the lady psychic.

“I’m sorry,” I said, my hands were trembling. I told her that this was my first time while saying to myself I actually don’t believe in fortune tellers. She seemed not to mind what I was saying even though it was obvious that I wanted to leave as quickly as she read my mind.

She began scribbling numbers on a paper as she randomly asked questions. For the first couple of minutes, she told me my lucky numbers, my interests, my achievements, my dominant characteristics, and how apprehensive I was to have the tarot cards read my past, my present, and my future.

I picked my first tarot card.

“He’s the person who is in your mind right now,” she said. I was stunned by her revelation.

As she enumerated more things about me, I felt how my uneasiness gradually faded in the background. But while the discomfort dipped down, the fire of fear started to slowly burn up.

I asked, “Do you see us together in the future?” She didn’t directly answer my question. Instead, she told me I’ll be meeting two men in the next six months who will bring significant changes in my life. She also noted that one of them will cause me an irreparable damage of whom I should really be very cautious off.

After she detailed events of my past and my personal background along with amazing predictions for my future, I was incredibly happy and scared at the same time as I left the room.

On my 23rd birthday, I once again asked for another reading from a friend. I asked an almost the same question about the matter of my heart.

“You always love very deeply. But the card says that you may not prosper in finding the one who will love you back the same way anytime soon. But you will definitely realize that you are meant for something more important, something bigger.”

Now that five months have passed after my first reading and almost a month after the second, I find myself reflecting back. While I don’t exactly believe in each of every word they predicted about my future, I still feel that twin excitement and fear I felt right after those experiences. And while I hope that they will be right about a huge blessing that will about to come in terms of my profession and aspiration, I also realistically know that those predictions are just but cautions and reminders that may guide me as I stride through my journey.

I have come to realize that while there are actually people who were blessed with an astonishing talent of reading the future and that our destiny is predetermined by something greater than any of us all, still, majority of what happens to us is within our control. That our journey of finding what makes us happy is mostly dependent on us, on our actions, and our determination to make it happen.

With that said, I know that I will always be looking forward to whatever happens tomorrow, the day after that, and maybe for the next 20 years to come. For it is the feeling of knowing that there is something exciting and very intriguing in discovering the unknown that makes life. . . life.

To the psychics’ credit, however, I must say that I am still on a shaky ground of finding the one. But for the past couple of years, I have been receiving overwhelming blessings that has been filling the empty spaces in my heart. And this for me means more than having that one true love.


Of being a mom

27 May

I purposedly developed this article as a gift for my mom and to all other moms for the Mother’s Day celebration. And hey, it got published in a local publication which is circulated in 8 provinces in the Cordilleras! I couldn’t be happier! 🙂