Wednesday, June 29, 2011

on watching Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food

"Good food and good eating aren't a class thing -- anyone can eat good food on a budget as long as they know how to cook." 
-- Jamie Oliver

While flipping channels one night, Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food show in TLC caught my attention. Being culinarily challenged myself, I could relate with the people featured on the telly. In the episode I watched, Jamie gathered together people in Rotherham who had no clue about how to cook (one didn't even know what boiling water looked like!) and who relied on take-away dinners to feed their families. They reminded me of Master Shifu's statement at the very beginning of Po's training in Kung Fu Panda (the first movie): "There is now a Level Zero."

As I watched the episode, I thought that I fare a little better than these people because I do know how to cook rice, pancakes, and scrambled eggs... and a few others. I had my first taste of cooking (simmer meats and cut vegetables, really) by assisting my mom in the kitchen (though I always successfully disappear when I'd be assigned to deep fry meats... I never got over my fear of splattering cooking oil). Remember "Wok with Yan", "Cooking It Up with the Dazas", and that Chinese cooking show on RPN 9 after the Sunday morning Chinese action movies? Well, I was a fan of those too. 

Despite knowing enough to survive on food that I cook up, I previously opted to eat burgers, chips, and soda (don't forget the chocolate chip cookies!) when I was a grad student. My reason, similar to Jamie Oliver's students, was that buying take-away is much much easier than cooking my own food... well, until I got quite sick and was forced to three days' worth of bed rest.

Watching the cluelessness in Jamie's students made me wonder, aren't there home economics classes in Great Britain where the students are taught how to prepare weekly healthy-food menus?

By the end of the episode, the students were nothing short of amazing. From clueless fast food fans to confident cooks!

If they could do it, so could I. How hard could following instructions from a cookbook be, right?


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Jollibee dropped by for a visit

Well, the founder and the CEO of the company, that is.

Jollibee is known mainly for its food... and its mascot. As a child, I would look forward to the day my parents would bring me and my siblings to a Jollibee store. We used to go as far as the branch along Quentin Paredes Street in Binondo. Eventually, the Calamba Crossing branch opened, and it fast became the meeting place, stopover, and celebration venue for my family for a long time (until my siblings went to Manila to attend college, really). In short, Jollibee occupies a happy part of my childhood memories. 

The fond memories of playgrounds and special Hetty and Popo spoons and forks (which they used to give away instead of toys in the precursor of the Kid's Meal) were why I was excited when I found out that founder and the CEO of the fast food chain, Mr. Tony Tan Caktiong, was going to share Jollibee's role in agricultural development during a lecture in IRRI. Imagine, the 11th richest man in the Philippines (according to the latest Forbes survey) up on stage! The closest I got to these rich and famous people, previously, was when HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand visited the office. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Review: x-men: first class (2011)

Where did Magneto come from? Why does he wear that helmet? Why is Professor X called such? Why's he paralysed?

All these questions were answered, for the X-men novices like me (I never read the comic series), by X-Men: First Class. This origin movie, directed by Matthew Vaughn, strongly featured the close friendship of these two characters and what made them archenemies.

The story of Charles and Erik's friendship and eventual separation was well portrayed by the two leads: James McAvoy (Charles Xavier/ Professor X) and Michael Fassbender (Erik Lansherr/ Magneto). Thanks to these two, and to Matthew Vaughn, the prequel is now my favourite among the X-Men movies to date.

This movie lives up to its name. It really is First Class. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

my photo is in the news!

Yes, a photo of me this time... well, my 2005 self... with the same short hairstyle! Only the eyeglasses are different and the watch. Looking at it, I wonder where that watch is right now.

The article is "Philippines Suffers Shortage of Science Workers" published by Intellasia.Net (Vietnamese online news site) in February 2011. The photo of me was taken when I just started graduate school (and was still enrolled at the University of Sydney). The lab was still new at the time this photo was taken. Everyone was really excited that day because it was one of the first times that the press was dropping by to take photos of us, the lab's staff! And no less than Agence France-Presse was there too.

Here's the link of the article:

In this photo, I was weighing rice flour into aluminum pans so that I could measure the temperature at which the rice samples begin to cook. This experiment was part of my study (with other co-authors) on starch chemistry that eventually got published in 2010. 

I am happy to report to the writer of this article that I'm still with the Institute and I'm still in the Philippines. I have to agree with the article, though, that a lot of the Pinoy scientific talent is being pulled away towards greener pastures in other countries. 

Scientists are humans too; they do need to feed their families and provide bright futures to their kids. If they couldn't practice their professions and get paid well here and if they are globally competitive, they will leave eventually. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

my photo is in wikipedia!

Oh boy, receiving an email from a Wikipedia contributor several months ago is one of the exciting points of my "career" as a photography hobbyist. Career with the quotation marks because I couldn't think of a better term. I've always been an enthusiast, but not as serious in the hobby as other people who have turned photography into an income-generating activity. 

So back to Wikipedia...

This contributor had taken a look at my photos in my Flickr account and has selected a photo of the Church Among the Palms that I took during an alumni homecoming. This photo was intended for a Wikipedia entry on UPLB. Of course, I said that I am happily contributing it for the article... I was honoured to have a photo of mine selected.

Then yesterday, I was just reading about the Protestant Movement in the Philippines (as additional reading stemming from writing one of my posts) and then I saw it...

That's my photo!! :)

Here's the link to the article:

To find it, just scroll down until you see the church with the caption:
"UCCP Church Among the Palms"

NOTE: I'm NOT in it. I just took it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

of baptisms and fairy tales

For Marga Anacleto's baptism, her parents, Roslen and Mylah, selected four people to act as ninang (godmothers) to the ten-month old baby. They were Fe, Dara, Crystal, and me. Now, having four godmothers sounded awfully like the christening of Princess Aurora in Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty (1959)...

Monday, June 20, 2011

songs from grade school

On June 19th, I went back to Church Among the Palms (the church at the Christian School International) to attend the baptism of Marga Anacleto, Roslen and Mylah's youngest daughter. It's been a while since I've attended a service at the Church Among the Palms, and quite frankly, I miss all the royal palm trees. However, my heart was warmed when the Chancel Choir performed two of the songs I learned in grade school.

While members of the congregation were walking around and wishing each other peace, the choir sang "This is the Day" which is based on Psalms 118: 24. Then, when the congregation had accepted Roslen and Mylah and Arnold (the guidance counselor at CSI) as formal church members, the pianist played "Onward Christian Soldiers" (lyrics by Sabine Baring-Gould, 1865 and music by Arthur Sullivan, 1871).

"This is the Day" was an action song during my days in CSI. We used to sing along to it during Chapel Service. I remember it also being sung when the weather wasn't so good... maybe in an attempt to cheer us up (or to wake us up, even).

I never memorised the lyrics of "Onward Christian Soldier" but I could still recite the notes in the melody of this song. Yes, the notes. Thanks to the CSI Band's teacher during my grade school days, Mr. Almario, the notes are still drilled in my head. It's the first marching song I've memorised for the lyre. So when the tune was played during the June 19th service, my brain went: "do do do do re do/ sol sol fa sol la/ la la do fa fa mi/ re re la ti do..."

I learned a lot of songs during my days attending CSI and Church Among the Palms. These two are some of the songs that warm my heart whenever I hear them because they remind me of the good old days of grade school.

What songs did you learn in grade school?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

a language you can't hear

"And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence"

-- The Sound of Silence (1964), Simon & Garfunkel

It's amazing how normal people could take for granted their fully functional senses. In the movie "Dinig Sana Kita" (an entry in the Cinemalaya Film Festival; directed, written, and produced by Mike Sandejas), for instance, the female lead character was a rock musician who no longer wanted to live in her noisy and chaotic environment. She initially isolated herself through listening on her music player but eventually her hearing capacity gave out. In contrast, the male lead character was deaf (and is really deaf in real life). He, being a dancer, badly wanted to hear; he even placed wooden planks all over his room just so he could feel the sounds. He communicates with his teachers and with other hearing impaired dancers by sign language and with very expressive facial expressions.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

of unreal scholarship requirements

Officials in Valenzuela City, Metro Manila have allotted PhP 1.5 million for an internship program targeting tertiary school students, reports Kristine Felisse Mangunay for the Philippine Daily Inquirer (page A22, June 17, 2011 issue). This program is supposed to prevent students of financially challenged families from dropping out of classes. According to the report, students admitted to the program will be employed by the city government -- being assigned positions in day care and health centres, social welfare facilities, and other departments within Valenzuela City -- while they are enrolled in colleges or universities.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

rizal loses the overcoat

Over lunch today, the table talk veered towards the life and times of Jose P. Rizal, the Philippines' national hero. It was an apt time too because on Sunday, June 19th, the country will celebrate his 150th birth anniversary.
For the longest time, Rizal has always been taught in history class as larger than life: he always had excellent marks in school; he was a talented artist (he was a sculptor, a poet, a novelist); he was a polyglot; he travelled extensively; and he was a doctor too. Teachers in grade school and high school would tell their students to emulate him. What a tall order for kids who could barely relate to his writings because they are being given as required reading!

With these in mind, I approached with dread the Rizal's Life and Works course (also known as PI 100) when I was in college. I shouldn't have feared all that much. My professor in this course recommended the book "Rizal Without the Overcoat" by Ambeth Ocampo (published by Anvil Publishing) as one of our reading materials to further understand the man whose profile pic is carved on every one-peso coin. Why does Rizal wear an overcoat in this sweltering heat anyway?

Instead of introducing Rizal the way I had heard before, the book irreverently pulled the National Hero  down from the typical historian's pedestal. Lo and behold! Rizal was human too! Articles in the book painted a picture of a Rizal who ate tuyo (dried fish) for breakfast; who, no matter how artistic, was hopeless in singing; who, despite having a larger-than-life persona, was really short in stature; and who may have also explored 19th-century Philippines taboo behaviours while in Europe (without the disapproval of the Padre Damasos of the time). Paciano, the older brother, wasn't spared either. He had his share of bloopers, with one caught on camera too! Gone, to me then, is the image of a stiff and unmoving Jose Rizal.

Rizal has finally lost his overcoat in this tropical country.

I doubt that the author intended to mar Rizal's reputation. Rather, by humanising him, Ambeth Ocampo has made Jose more relatable to the modern day college student  (who may also be living away from the prying eyes of his/her parents). He becomes an easy read, along the lines of the subjects of gossip columns and entertainment articles in newspapers.

Needless to say, instead of finding this reading material a boring chore, I treated it as entertainment. I easily finished reading this book from cover to cover in a day! If only all history books could have that same lightness that prepares students for more of the heavy stuff. 

koalas going the way of the giant panda (?)

The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) (1) is one of Australia's national symbols. On my first trip down under, I went to Taronga Zoo in Sydney specifically to see these cute and cuddly mascots of Australia (along with the kangaroo, of course). I even got koala baubles and stuffed toys as souvenirs of that trip.

I have previously thought that these creatures are docile and quiet; however, I was told that they could be violent and they do make horrific noises at night. Thankfully, I was staying in one of the inner city suburbs in Sydney at that time and not near any forests; I was lucky not to hear koala families communicating with each other. My image of cute and cuddly koalas has stayed intact. 

Koala poster boy (or girl) in Taronga Zoo

At present, the koala is listed as "least concern" in the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) system (1). Like the giant panda, however, the koala might soon be declared an endangered species.

Scientists from leading universities in Australia have observed the decrease in koala numbers in several regions of the country. They also identified the contributors to the decline of the koala population. As with giant pandas (2, 3), the shrinking koala population is caused by climate change and human encroachment (45). A third factor, Chlamydia infection (6), also contribute to the decline of the koala (45).

For more details, please read the news articles 4 and 5 in the references list.

Will the koala outlive the pressures it faces today? I hope it does. The giant panda population, through serious conservation efforts from government and non-government organisations, is growing (7).


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010)

I never appreciated Disney's Fantasia (1940) when I first saw it because I didn't understand what it was all about; there was no clear plot that a kid could latch onto, unlike the other Disney animations. However, I liked Mickey Mouse's segment, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice". The dancing brooms and buckets reminded me somewhat of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White (well, the dark and grisly trees, really).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

medical professionals on allergies

I stumbled upon an interesting article about how the human body responds during an allergic reaction. The title is "Allergies as an epithelial barrier disease" by Pirkko Mattila, Sakari Joenvaara, Jutta Renkonen, Sanna Toppila-Salmi, and Risto Renkonen. It is published in Clinical and Translational Allergy 1:5 (doi:10.1186/2045-7022-1-5).

Since I've got so many allergies, this piece is interesting to me. Here's the link to the article:

The authors review the literature that looked at allergies as epithelial diseases. This means that the barrier between the person and the environment (the skin or the lining of the lungs, for example) is breached, allowing foreign objects to enter the body, leading to the allergic reaction. The breaches in these barriers may be caused by mutations in the receptors on the epithelials that turn them off (imagine cell sites being turned off and mobile phones unable to detect network signals because the cell sites aren't working).

This is quite a different view from what I've learned in school: that an allergic reaction is hyperactive reaction of the immune system. 

Please have a read of the paper. I hope you'll find it as interesting as I did. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

driving in the rain

The rain hadn't let up the whole day. Worried that the road conditions would be worse tonight than they were this morning, I decided to take the "road less travelled", by me at least. This route goes from Los Banos, through Calauan, San Pablo, and Alaminos in Laguna, and then through Sto Tomas, Batangas  just to get to Calamba. Basically, this road, the Maharlika Highway, goes round Mount Makiling. 

I chose this route because it's on higher ground, particularly in San Pablo, Alaminos, and Sto Tomas: less chance of flooding out there. The downside: this route is about 58 km one way; that's almost three times the distance along the more direct, albeit flood-prone, path (about 20 km) and is longer than the distance from home to Luneta Park in Manila! 

And what impeccable timing I had. Just as I was going up the zigzag road to San Pablo, the rain intensified; I could barely see more than beyond a few meters in front, hence the measly 20-30 kph pace. Once I got into the city, the rain weakened a bit (and by this I mean I was able to drive at 40 kph), only to strengthen once more as I was leaving Sto Tomas. So strong that I didn't realise that I've missed the turn to the SLEX link until I've passed one of the industrial parks.

At times like these, especially with my accident still fresh in my head, I just wish I am not behind the steering wheel...

Anyway, even with the longer route and the 90-minute trip home, I think I made a good call by travelling via the Maharlika Highway, round the mountain. As soon as I got home, I received a message saying that Brgy Pansol is indeed starting to be flooded. 

Happy to be home.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Endeavour's swan song

The second to the last mission under the Space Shuttle program, Endeavour, has returned safely to Earth last week. With its mission over, there is only one last Space Shuttle left to fly before NASA moves on to other space projects.

This* may be the last time we see Endeavour in full pre-flight form. Next time we see it, Endeavour might be parked in a museum... free for people to touch and to experience, without leaving the ground, of course.

*Click on the link to see photo of Endeavour as it makes its way from the VAB to Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre. This great photo is by Jim Grossman.

Monday, June 6, 2011

isn't it ironic? (part 2)

Some more things out of place that make me go: What figure of speech is this?!?
  1. In Scrabble tournaments, "shh", "brr", and "grr" are accepted. Hmm...
  2. I've seen traffic enforcers turning a blind eye on motorcycle drivers who do not switch on the headlights and the taillights at night. 
  3. Fish in cages are dying en masse in Taal Lake and in Pangasinan as the summer wanes. Market prices of these fish take a dive.
  4. The ongoing Escherichia coli O104:H4 outbreak in Europe was erroneously attributed to Spanish organic cucumbers. Consumers are warned against eating raw vegetables (particularly tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce) as people are actually dying from hemolytic-uremic syndrome. Salad, anyone?
  5. I can normally remember a lot of details, even those that aren't really that important. However, when I get a relatively strong bump on the head, I don't remember the actual impact. I only remember what I was doing before and then people staring at me after... and the headache, of course. Ouch!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

my car, broadsided

On my way home, one Saturday night, I was sitting through the Manila-bound moderately heavy traffic jam along the national highway in Pansol, Calamba. This situation is quite normal during this time of the year because a lot of people troop to the swimming pools and the resorts in an attempt to cool down. 

What wasn't typical this particular Saturday night was the freak accident that I figured into.

Pascal, the kitten

Pascal, one of the new kittens, taking a swipe at my camera. I named him after Pascal, the chameleon in Tangled. He is Kitty's current sidekick. :)