Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lunch at Ala Fiesta

I left Padre Garcia, Batangas at 11.00AM on my way to Los Banos, Laguna. Because of the long travel time, I was just supposed to eat my lunch on the road (read: the classic cheeseburger meal). The Jollibee road signs led me to the Fiesta Mall (Lipa City, Batangas). All set to join the queue in Jollibee, my curiosity was piqued when I saw the restaurant across it: Ala Fiesta.

I was a head of the lunchtime rice-eating crowd; no long queues and the staff was very quick at serving the food. Ala Fiesta offers all-day breakfasts, so I bought the bangsilog (with garlic rice, sunny-side-up, and atchara). It's version is so tasty and filling: I found that the daing na bangus paired so well with the pickled red peppers that having that extra rice was a right decision.

The menu items are not very pricey as well: I spent Php119.00 for bangsilog, extra rice, pineapple juice, and soup. Plus, I had a relatively healthier lunch than what I had in mind. I just wish there was a vegetable side dish to go with the fish. Perhaps the lunch menu items have vegetables, but I missed out because I chose a breakfast meal.

I am happy that I decided to try it out. There will be a next time. Definitely.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The rise of HIV awareness

Forget regret, or life you're sure to miss. No other road, no other way; no day but today.
– Jonathan Larson, Finale B (Rent)

Late Thursday night, as I was driving home from work, I tuned in to Raffy Reyes on Heard on Thursdays (RX 93.1). The guest that night was Wanggo Gallaga, who lives with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

What, HIV again?!

Yes, it seems the topic is making the rounds these days, or at least I've been seeing it more often. 

First, there was Freddie Mercury, the late front man of the band Queen. On the anniversary of Live Aid 1985, I read up on the band's performance and started watching its performances and MTVs on YouTube. I watched the last music video he recorded, These Are The Days of Our Lives, where he looked really gaunt; black and white photography and bright stage lights didn't hide his exhaustion. He succumbed to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) a few months later, at 45 years of age.

Second, there was Rent. The bohemian lifestyle led by the characters in the Alphabet City encouraged risky behaviour, which made them a high-risk group for HIV. With most of them living –– not dying –– with AIDS, they find the support they need to stay alive in the harsh city. The song Seasons of Love, which was performed during The Gift, now has new meaning for me.

Third, the Department of Health (DOH) announced that there is a steep increase in the number of reported cases of HIV infection in the Philippines. Take note of the word: reported. To curb the disturbing rise in the number of HIV/AIDS cases, the DOH had taken upon itself to promote the Reproductive Health Bill. A controversial manuscript, this one is, because the Philippine representatives of the Catholic Church are vehemently against the passing of the bill. With elections coming up, the bill is one thing political candidates have to deliberate on: how to appease the Church while making sure that people know their options regarding their health.

Last (but not the least on this list), people with the infection are stepping up and informing others about the disease. Wanggo Gallaga, although not claiming to work as an advocate, is one of those who believe that information is the best weapon against HIV at the moment. I heard him in Raffy Reyes' show, and I'm sure he is also discussing the disease and its prevention in other forms of media.

The questions sent in by the listeners on Thursday night proved that there are a lot more things to know about the disease. Wanggo seems to be an effective spokesperson because he caught a lot of people's attention during the show, and he was dishing out information that could actually help them. Plus, he is most likely in his late 20s, early 30s... a member of the yuppie age group; simply too young to come to terms with his own mortality. Still, he makes the issue relatable to that age group; that's the most important thing.

The topic is currently largely taboo, though the channels for discussion are not as tightly sealed as during the late Sarah Jane Salazar's time (1975-2000). A lot more work still needs to be done, and I salute people like Wanggo (and the HIV+ lady who visited UPRHS when I was in senior year, I think) for making an effort to educate us about the disease, how to avoid it, and what it's like living with it.

Love in the time of AIDS: "a broken heart is the least of your worries" (I quote from Raffy Reyes).

Thank you, Wanggo.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Right after posting about punctuation (thanks to a book I am currently reading at leisure, "Eats, Shoots and Leaves"), I got called for MISSING a missing comma!

Flashback (1997-1998): Once upon a time, the Advanced English class staffed  The Ruralite, the school organ of U.P. Rural High School. Ms. Connie Apalin-Gaffud, the adviser during my time, always reminded the staff that the last person to see a publication's proof before it hits the press is responsible for last-minute checking of really obvious errors (normally on spelling or grammar in titles and captions). At one point, I was tasked to bring the Junior-Senior Prom program to the press for printing. Before going there, at least three people reviewed the text; all agreed that it was ready to print (including me). Nobody noticed that one of the names in the program was wrong. I was reprimanded for not spotting the mistake before the program was mass produced.

Fast Forward to 2010, deja vu moment: Thirteen years later, a proof of a brochure was last seen on my hands before the brochure got mass-printed. Six people (including me and the editor, Tess Rola) reviewed the text and approved its printing. Nobody noticed that the typically sneaky comma was absent from its usual post! Its absence wouldn't have been too conspicuous if it weren't in the front page and the text wasn't written in large font. My attention was called because of this particular missing comma.

Oh well, seeing a draft too often normally makes me miss the small but obvious mistakes. When these errors are pointed out, I often hit my forehead and exclaim, "How in the world did I miss that?!" I am happy with what Ma'am Apalin and Tita Tess said when mistakes were pointed out, "It's not the end of the world."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sensible Punctuation

A panda that entered a restaurant, ordered food, and ate there. After finishing up, the panda stood up and fired a gun in the air before moving out of the restaurant. The waiter, confused, asked the panda why he did that. The panda handed him a wildlife manual and said, "I'm a panda, look it up." The waiter flipped the pages to the panda entry: "Panda. A black-and-white bear-like mammal, native of China. Eats, shoots and leaves."

I came across this joke in the book entitled "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" (by Lynne Truss) in February 2005, but I am reading it again this month just for kicks (it is really a humourous book, though reading it helps me with writing papers). The contents give me dizzying visions of red ink swirling over pages and pages of my theses (B.Sc. and Ph.D.) drafts.

As I delved deeper into reading this book, I realised that my academic supervisor, Prof Bob Gilbert, had also kept reminding his students, me included, on how to properly use punctuation marks in writing manuscripts. He once sent, by email, a chapter of "The Chemist's English" (by Robert Schoenfeld) called "One, Hand, Clapping" to all his students. As with the first book, the chapter has that extra comma in its title. Both authors discuss, at length, the importance of correct comma usage, and prescribe rules in using it. The chapter emphasised that some rules may be relaxed in conversational and informal English; however, scientific writing requires that the rules of punctuation be followed more closely – including equations (!). 

Non-native English speakers and writers probably do not mind being told the rules of punctuation. We normally get all of that in grammar classes anyway. The amazing thing, though, is that the target market of these books are native English speakers! I assumed that these people know their language quite well since they use it every single day, and they don't need to be taught the rules.

Then again, I may be wrong about the need for a manual on English punctuation. Filipino is the official language in the Philippines; despite this, the rules of Filipino sentence construction is taught in school, too.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Anilag 2010

March 7, 2010.

Ate Madie, Trisha, and I dropped by the province capitol to peek at the activities that day in the Anilag Festival. We were there just in time to watch the "Mardi Gras" presentation: dancers representing the different towns comprising Laguna performed their interpretations of the Anilag theme song.

Beyond the Mardi Gras was the trade fair. Each town had a booth showcasing products that had made the place famous. For instance, Sta Cruz featured white cheese, Binan had rice cakes, San Pablo had a hut made of coconut husk, and Pagsanjan had waterfalls. Paete displays all had extremely colourful crafts while Lumban featured pandan.

Review: Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Genre: Kids & Family

When I first heard that Alice in Wonderland was going to be made into a movie, I couldn't imagine anyone playing the Mad Hatter other than Johnny Depp. My hunch was right! He did portray the Mad Hatter, and succeeded in putting some sense to all the craziness under his top hat.

Audiences unfamiliar with the characters from "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" not featured in the original Disney animation would not be able to follow the plot fully; and like me, may need to have a repeat screening to understand the story.

Set thirteen years after Alice's first trip down to Wonderland, the movie tells about her return. Alice meets a lot of the characters from her previous visit (the blue Caterpillar, the March Hare, the Dormouse, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the White Rabbit, and the Cheshire Cat). Together, they rescue Underland from the evil clutches of the bratty Red Queen.

Still a fun movie to watch, but the attempt to make the audience to sympathise with the troubles haunting the Hatter was quite futile. Very much unlike Robin Williams' Peter Pan or Johnny Depp's Sweeney Todd.

Gawad Youth 2010: Awarding Ceremonies

The Awarding Ceremonies were held on March 11 at the Laguna Cultural Centre. My parents and my siblings were unable to attend the ceremonies, but Ate Madie, Trisha, Tita Mely, and Tita Lucy went with me. =) When we arrived, I heard people asking my aunts if I was the scientist because they saw my signature (a lot of people scanned my portfolio?!?).

Winners in other categories were really impressive. I couldn't believe I joined the ranks of heroes and of famous people I only normally see on the television or read about in the newspapers. I couldn't recall the names of the firemen and policemen who were all involved in the search and rescue operations in different towns after floods wreaked havoc all over Laguna in 2009. Other awardees included Jiggy Manicad (GMA) and Sol Aragones (ABS-CBN), broadcast journalism; Lahing Kayumanggi Dance Ensemble, dance; Maria Rachelle Gerodias, music; Irma Dimaranan, film and television; Ricamela Palis, cultural educator; Susan Ong, landscape architecture; Bum Tenorio, literature; and Doroteo Gerardo Alanguilan, Jr., visual arts.

Then there were other awardees too. I just wasn't able to note their names down. 

When I was named the winner in the youth category, my mind just went blank, and I didn't hear what the emcees were saying about me. I just kept on wishing that I wouldn't trip over myself as I walked to receive the award (the usher made sure I didn't fall off, thank goodness!). Up on stage, I remember Neil Nocon (Laguna second district board member), Virgilio Lazaga (President, Laguna History, Arts, and Culture Council), and Ningning Lazaro (Laguna governor) were all very happy to learn that a fellow Calamba City resident won in the youth category. =)

With that, I thank the Laguna Youth Development Office Selection Committee for picking me as the "Natatanging Lagunense (Youth)" for 2010. I am very honoured to receive this recognition. I am grateful to Ate Madie and Ginny, who believed that I am qualified for the citation (and gave me the form hot off the printer). I acknowledge Bob and Melissa for providing letters of recommendation to the Selection Committee. I also thank my friends and relatives for their encouragement. =)

The one thing that will probably stick to me many years on is what Gov. Lazaro said to all the Gawad Youth finalists: Do not forget where we came from.

Friday, March 12, 2010

International Women's Day 2010

Selected shots from Melissa's seminar and the panel discussion on March 8, 2010, focusing on the challenges and opportunities of being a woman in science.

Flowers were given to the non-GQNPC member of the cast, who lent their talents to make the music video (I Am (Stereotyped) Woman) a reality. I took zoomed in photos to (ambitious, even without a macro lens) capture the central parts of the flowers.

Leo took photos of the panel discussion.

Gawad Youth 2010: My Application

I know I haven't told many people about me participating in the competition. I had kept it very close to heart until the awarding ceremonies. So now that the results are known, I thought I might share my experiences during the competition.

Each year, the Anilag Festival recognises residents in Laguna who have excelled in their chosen fields. This year, Ate Madie and Ginny (my cousins) convinced me to join, effectively nominated me into the competition. Nominees were given a week to organise a portfolio of their achievements, obtain letters of recommendation and clearances from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and provide an executive summary of their achievements. Here's the catch: everything needed to catch the Selection Committee's attention should be fitted into 20 pages, max.

I thought these things would be easy enough to gather. However, as I was gathering my documents, I realised that it wasn't as easy as I thought it was. My papers were in disarray; getting a letter from my supervisor, Melissa, was kind of tricky because deadlines of reports at work were spaced too close to each other; making the portfolio appear extremely professional - and not just a hodgepodge of scanned images - was challenging too. On the last day before the deadline, I had forgotten to have a picture of me taken. I just had one of my photos (the profile pic, actually; thanks to Ate Maddie) blown up, converted to greyscale, and printed on a bond paper. Then, I got confused about the portfolio being notarised - on the last day for submission no less (turned out that the portfolio need NOT be notarised)!! In the end, I eventually finished all the preparations at 11am on deadline day. I had to drive fast and furious from Calamba to Sta Cruz (took me less than my normal driving duration to Sta Cruz) because getting the clearances took more time than I expected.

That was why being able to submit the portfolio and the relevant documents on time was quite a feat, at least for me.

2010 Gawad Natatanging Lagunense (Outstanding Lagunense Awards)

I was officially star-struck being in the same table as Jiggy Manicad, having a photo with Sol Aragones (both awardees for broadcast journalism), and being on stage with Gov. Ningning Lazaro and other officials at the provincial level. To top that all off, I had the pleasure of being among the five finalists for the Gawad Natatanging Kabataan (Outstanding Youth Award)... and ultimately getting the prize.

High heels and long gown didn't stop me from taking photos, but I couldn't move too much with my talent of tripping over stairs, so Ate Madie shared the picture-taking assignment with me. =)

Thank you to Ate Madie and to Ginny for getting me involved in this competition; and to Bob and Melissa for the glowing commendations; and to my stage aunts (the stage mother called up right after the ceremonies) for being there with me.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I Am Woman

In the beginning, I've never heard of this song. However, preparations for Melissa's talk for the International Women's Day celebration at work acquainted the women in the lab with the song.

As it turns out, in the 70s, the song "I Am Woman" (Helen Reddy and Ray Burton, Capitol Records) was the battle cry of the women's liberation movement in the developed countries. Forty years on, a lot has improved in terms of how much more visible women are in various fields dominated by men. However, the lyrics remain relevant because there are still many challenges faced by women in the workplace and in society (specially in very traditional and conservative societies).

The original lyrics are found below. 

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore

And I know too much to go back an' pretend

'cause I've heard it all before
And I've been down there on the floor
No one's ever gonna keep me down again

Oh yes I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman

You can bend but never break me
'cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
'cause you've deepened the conviction in my soul

I am woman watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin' arms across the land
But I'm still an embryo
With a long long way to go
Until I make my brother understand

I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong
I am woman

Happy International Women's Day!

Behind the Scenes of "I Am (Stereotyped) Woman"

Stills left from the cutting room floor (and not featured in the "Dara's cut") during post-production of the adaptation of the Helen Reddy-Ray Burton 1972 hit, "I Am Woman" (adaptation written by Melissa).

We had a blast working on this project. I hope that the audience during Melissa's seminar enjoyed watching it as much as we had making it.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cat-person watches Marley & Me

... and got moved to tears. The movie isn't exactly a new one, but I was only able to watch it on cable today. It's a story about the ups and downs of a family and its unruly pet, Marley, that the family had grown to love. That is why parting was quite hard.

What made this cat-lover cry? When the vet told Marley's owner that his sickness would kill him eventually, the owner couldn't accept what the vet had said, and insisted that the dog was a fighter. This part of the movie hit so close to home. 

I remember bringing Coogee (one of the family cats) to two vets. The first one said that as long as his appetite was good, he'd survive (though with paralysed hind legs and tail). At the same time, she recommended having him x-rayed to find the injury. The second vet, upon seeing Coogee's x-ray film (showing a dislocated vertebra), told me that his was a hopeless case because the paralysis would ascend eventually; it's better to put Coogee to sleep. 

Like any typical pet-owner faced with bad news, I went through the denial stage, and insisted that Coogee would recover. I opted not to have him put to sleep. With such a hearty appetite, how could the big cat die? Anna even propped his hind legs in a makeshift cart so he could move around and play with the kittens. 

The day did come eventually. I was in Brisbane when it did. Anna had given Coogee some kibble (he was still eating a lot!) and the next time she checked on him, he was gone. At least he died happy (not hungry).

This is Coogee, the goofy cat.

Two years and two months have passed since that day. Pan now sleeps on top of the car, where Coogee used to. And, B1 (the unnamed kitty) has made Coogee's travelling cage his jungle gym.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Paper #3 accepted!! (Updated)

I thought finishing my first ever 3k, with my shoes falling apart while I was running, was the highlight of my Tuesday afternoon; but I was way wrong. Later in the evening, Dr Fitzgerald relayed the news: Paper #3 has been accepted!! This paper comes relatively soon after my first two journal articles have been accepted in January 2010, proofs of which are now currently being corrected, or are in the queue in the journal's publication offices. Please check out the link:

 As with the previous two papers, I'm excited to see the third one in the "Articles in Press" page of the Carbohydrate Polymers website. The link to the abstract is now available. Here are some of the details:

Cuevas, R.P., R.G. Gilbert, M.A. Fitzgerald. (in press). Structural differences between hot-water-soluble and hot-water-insoluble fractions of starch in waxy rice (Oryza sativa L.). Carbohydrate Polymers.

On to paper #4!!