December 18, 2014

Feel Young, Live Longer | New Research on Longevity

We Pinoys have this unique expression to refer to people (often  middle-aged and seniors) dressing up younger than their age.  We refer to them as "nagmumurang kamatis," literally a tomato intent on staying young and unripe.  Obviously, it's a pejorative term.  

Some folks pull it off nicely.  They look dapper and elegant naturally, carrying themselves with grace and dignity, in which case we'll probably use the word astig instead.  Some just look plain wrong and awkward though, taking unusual comfort with heavy makeup, skimpy attire, and excessive jewelry.  And that's when the tomato reference comes in handy.

But those folks could be onto something.  New research says that people who feel younger than their age are likely to live longer than those who feel their actual age.  It's the classic case of self-fulfilling prophecy at work here.

So maybe the next time we meet a nagmumurang kamatis on the street, keep those brows down.  They're not out to offend you, they're just living their life as they see fit.  We'll get to their age soon enough, and maybe then we'll wish our society was a lot kinder to the eldery.

And oh, here's a song from Frank Sinatra, just to drive home the point. You Make Me Feel So Young

December 17, 2014

Google's Video Honors Pinoy OFWs Everywhere

Google Philippines, which set up office in the country last year, just released a very touching video just in time for the holiday season, featuring Pinoy OFWs, their families, and how the Internet has kept them connected with each other across the miles

The video is titled Miss Nothing, which at first glance had me thinking about beauty pageant contestants.  But it's really about not missing a single thing, a single moment.

Hats off to Google Philippines, and of course to our valiant Pinoy OFWs.

The Wonderful Talinum Plant

Looking for an unconventional leafy green vegetable?  Look no further, talinum (AKA waterleaf) is here.  Scientific name: Talinum fruticosum

We say look no further because talinum literally grows everywhere in tropical settings, very abundantly without needing care.  Chances are there's a thickly thriving bush of talinum growing in vacant lots and untended plots of land.  They're so invasive on bare soil that most people mistake them for a useless weed, albeit a pretty weed with tiny pink flowers.

Good thing talinum doesn't mind being planted in pots; they're very sturdy.  To propagate, just break off a fleshy stem and stick into loamy soil in a pot, place in a shady area for a while, and allow to establish roots.  From then on you just water it from time to time.  Full sun or full shade, they don't really care.

Talinum as a leafy green vegetable

The leaves have a mild, almost subtle, barely-there taste.  Which is why you can use talinum for:
  • salads
  • smoothies
  • omelets
  • soups
  • Asian stir-fry dishes 

Talinum is rich in minerals such as iron and calcium, vitamins A and C, as well as phytochemicals that are beneficial for diabetes and hypertension.  Of course, it's a good source of fiber too.

As with everything else, eat moderately.  Since the plant sucks in the minerals from wherever it is rooted, a good, healthy and chemical-free soil is important.  Talinum is high in oxalic acid too, so people with kidney and gout problems shouldn't munch on them freely.

Things We Saw at the Lantern Parade

This year' theme at the UP Diliman is all about roots and growth, specifically Pasundayag Diliman: Paguugat at Pagyabong.  

The slight rain didn't dampen people's spirits.  By 5 PM the rain had let up, giving way to the lanterns.  Me and Edge didn't exactly experience the rain, someone just told us it rained.  We got there late, around 6 PM, and asked a girl what had happened so far, and she actually gave us a nice report of the proceedings. Thank you.

Why can't the UP admin provide seats, instead of making people jostle with each other, fight for the perfect spot, and gawk?  Every year the Lantern Parade happens.  Shouldn't they know this by now?  

So the three or four lanterns we did manage to see were okay.  There was this luminous green tree from the College of Business Administration, a lantern from the School of Economics which we thought was inspired by the triangular-roofed waiting shed at the University Ave., an ark from the College of Architecture, and a colorful fiesta-inspired float from the College of Arts and Letters.  And oh, the College of Human Kinetics had one of their hunkiest and handsomest guy painted in silver or gold, as a for their lantern.  His backdrop, though, reminded us of those portals in TV game shows riddled with elastics and through which contestants must wrestle their way out.

We hung around to see a couple of floats, then decided to walk away into a cement platform, far from the stage and from everyone else.  Our goal: to watch the fireworks from a distance, never mind if we miss the must-be spectacular creations from the Fine Arts folks.

We had peanut butter and wheat bread.  (Yes, bread is bad, but where do we spread the peanut butter on?)  And some kiwis.

Thankfully, there is still much to see from where we were seated.  People floating paper lanterns.  People wearing these stupid disposable tiaras or animal ears radiant with LED lights.  People launching these LED helicopters.  You slingshot it to the air and it gently spirals back downwards.  We couldn't resist, we bought two for PhP 20 each.

Then the fireworks came.  It was beautiful.  My second this December.  And yet still feels like the first time.  

Kamikazee was playing at the crossover concert at the Sunken Garden when we got there.  We didn't go in, we just watched from the edge, which was perfectly doable because one, the organizers put the stage right behind the Main Lib, so everyone can have a good view from street level, and two, they didn't put up ridiculously high and selfish walls like they do during UP Fairs.

Jay Contreras was at his usual funny self, spewing laugh-out-loud liners about their rise to fame and their disbelieving parents', as well as their carefully cared for caterpillars responsible for their Evil Genius clothing line.  

This girl near us was with her two friends.  She knew all the words to the band's song, clearly a fan.    

And there were second hand books for sale.  Nothing is more beautiful to see lying on the sidewalk than books for sale, illuminated by sodium streetlamps.  And good titles too!  There was a Tom Robbins novel which sells for PhP 80, but I scoffed at that because I got my Another Roadside Attraction for just 5 Pesos.

We left Sunken Garden for a while, went to Technohub to get some Beef Pot Pie from Family Mart, which is Edge's new favorite food.  Only PhP 55.  Goes nice with Yakult.  

On our way back found a giant rhino beetle on the paved path.  Apparently, rhino beetles flicker their wings when distressed, creating a loud hissing sound that's supposed to scare you away.  Its giant horns might look menacing, but all it could muster is a hiss.  

Back at the Sunken, no one was singing anymore, just dancy tunes from the DJ and mostly tired already crowd.  

UP was in a fine mess that evening.  All those plastic cups and wrappers, aluminum-lined paper food trays, etc.  The high price of celebration.  A few kids were gathering what could be gathered from all that mess, hauling them inside big black plastic bags and carrying them over their shoulders like ants in the dead of the night. 

December 14, 2014

12 Green Alternative Wrappers for Holiday Gifts

Yes, they've got free gift wrapping services in malls fo all our holiday purchases there, and who in their right hectic mind can resist them. As a general rule. though, I'd much rather wrap my own presents because it's more enjoyable that way.  

My favorite go-to gift wrapper is a simple plain brown paper that's actually used by seamstresses as a pattern paper.  At National Bookstore they sell for about PhP 20 for three large sheets.  You can never go wrong with plain brown paper.  It makes the perfect backdrop for any ribbon or twine or card or other ornament (such as origami fishes, twigs, and beads) you'd like to tie with the gift.  And these pattern papers have differently textured sides: on one side it's smooth and glossy, on the other it's matte, your call.

But sometimes I think about what happens to those newly-bought brown paper once they're unwrapped.  Not everyone is OC enough to carefully opening the gift, making sure the paper is as intact as possible.  Normal, happy people will simply tear and shred their way into the gift inside, and I can't exactly blame them because that's the lovely thing about opening gifts, right?  So instead of buying new paper from the bookstore each and every time, I just scour the house for alternative gift wrappers.  This list isn't really new actually, but I'm still surprised by people's surprise when they see I've given them a gift wrapped in something so ordinary and commonly found in the house, yet still looks festive and merry.

1. Newspaper comics section
This one's a classic green gift wrapper.  Since we've been getting our news online for the longest time, newspapers have become somewhat a rarity in our household, but when they do crop up, I make it a point to collect the comics section to use as a wrapper.  I don't much like the colored ones, the black and white version is nicer to pair with any color of ribbon.
Of course, why stop at the comics section?  Use other pages of the newspaper too.  (Just steer clear of the obituaries.)

2. Old calendar pages
Classic calendars of my childhood have large numbers in blue (for Mon to Sat) and red (for Sun and the holidays), and they make nice alternative gift wrappers.  Of course, I like calendar with numbers in a clean typeface, which are usually in black against a white background.  Perfect. 

3. Glossy magazine pages
Glossy magazines are easy enough to mine for a nice gift wrapping paper, but they work only for small gifts.  That said, the idea of dismembering a magazine just to use for a wrapper isn't always nice.  Nothing is more annoying than to find a missing page in a magazine you're reading, no matter if it's just an ad for a pair of Uniqlo pants.  So you'd better dedicate a single magazine you're ready to discard for all your wrapping needs, not tear from a dozen sources.

4. Telephone directory pages
Believe it or not, telephone directories are still around, and they've always been a great unconventional gift wrapper.  Maybe it's because of the stylish black-on-white (or black-on-yellow) small print, the recycled paper (which you'd be recycling yet another time), or the inherent anonymity of all those names and phone numbers.  Whatever it is, be sure to pretty up the paper with a ribbon or twine and a note card and you're all set.

5. Scrap wallpapers
If you've got lots of extra unused wallpapers, they make great gift wrappers.  Just make sure to match your ribbon with the wallpaper's design.  Work some contrast in: if the print is large showy flowers, go easy on the ribbon, if it's tiny blossoms, a big wide ribbon is okay.  Wallpapers in a plain color but with a textured surface are nice too.

6. Brown paper bags
Obviously, brown paper bags, since they're meant to be disposable, are usually thin and fragile and prone to tearing.  So if you have one of those bags that looks sturdy enough, go ahead.  Otherwise, I only use them as quick gift wrappers for small, light items. 

7. Mason jars and mayo jars

Mason jars and mayo jars make for a classic container for all kinds of gifts, especially the DIY kind.  The best part is your recipient can reuse the jars for their home.  Just tie with a 

8. Baking sheets or Wax papers

I've always loved the frosted translucent texture of baking sheets and wax papers.  Their off-white color makes for a lovely backdrop for whatever ribbon and trimmings you choose to tie with your gift. 

9. Handkerchiefs or scarvesThis counts as two gifts in one, and is bound to be appreciated by anyone.  In case they don't like the gift inside (the ingrateful dope!), there's always the hanky or scarf to keep them smiling.

10. Homemade Cloth bags

If you're skilled with a sewing machine, you can use old cheesecloths or appropriate fabric scraps of clothes in your closet and make a cloth bag.  Make it sturdy enough so it can be reused later, as a beach tote bag, a shopping bag, or just a bag for holding a sundry things. 

11.  Milk or Juice cartons
With a pair of scissors, cleanly cut off the top of the carton, wash, rinse, and dry well, and you've got yourself a recycled
 gift box.  To close, simply pinch the sides of the box, fold the top edge twice, and secure with tape or a couple of fasteners.  Don't forget your ribbon and card.

13.   Last Year's Christmas wrappers
Of course, nothing could be greener than reusing last year's Christmas wrappers.  In that case, make sure to carefully unwrap your presents so the paper emerges intact.  This is why I use as little tape as possibe on my gifts so that whoever gets them won't have to wrestle much opening them.

* * *

See, you really don't have to buy new gift wrappers at the store.  Chances are you already have them inside drawers and boxes and other nooks in your house.  Okay, I still buy ribbons and twines from time to time, but they actually go a long way, and I make sure they look nice enough so whoever gets my gift won't think twice to save them.

December 9, 2014

Paksiw na Galunggong Recipe

Paksiw na isda is hands down the easiest and simplest dish to make. 

Here, we're using galunggong (or scad mackarel), because the mealy taste of fish goes well with the sourness.  But of course you can use other fishes such as bangus and tilapia.

As for the vinegar, nothing beats the fruity sourness of apple cider vinegar.  If you've always used distilled white vinegar as your souring agent, stop now because ACV is much, much better.


4 pieces Galunggong (scad mackarel)
8 pieces Ampalaya (bitter melon), chopped
Broccoli, cut into florets
4 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 Onion, chopped
2 Green Finger Chilis 
1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup Water

1. Gut and rinse the fish, lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Cut the bitter melon in half, deseed, and cut into 1-inch half-logs.
3. Cut the broccoli into florets.
4. Chop the onions and garlic.
5. Boil a cup of water in a shallow pan.
6. Add fish and cook for five minutes.
7. Add the vegetables, green chili, and chopped onions and garlic.  Cook until the vegetables are done.
8. Season with salt and pepper according to taste.
9. Add the apple cider vinegar just before turning off the heat.