Friday, March 30, 2012

Get into the Green Habit

By Arleah Baingan

When the organs are at its optimal best, the body has the natural ability to heal itself. However with the kind of lifestyle that we lead these days, especially in big cities, the body takes a beating from poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and environmental factors like pollution, second-hand smoke and other toxins that can affect and weaken the immune system.

This is probably the reason why so many health and beauty supplements are available in the market, each claiming to boost the body’s defense against sickness, premature aging and even poor memory. But before reaching for yet another supplement, think about changing the way you eat. Most of us can get the necessary nutrients required by the body from food anyway.

Improving your diet is one of the easiest tweak that you can do to start the change. Eat less of processed foods and more of organic, natural choices like grass-fed meat, fruits and vegetables.

If you don’t have time to prepare your own meal, there is a viable solution to this “time-is-not-enough” lifestyle. Think green. Add super foods to your diet and reap its benefits. Super foods are called as such because they strengthen the immune system, balance the body’s pH level and also packed with anti-oxidants, essential vitamins and minerals, essential fatty acids (EFAs) and soluble and insoluble fiber, which all contribute to good health and keep the body functioning well.

Two of these super foods that are gaining popularity here in the country are wheatgrass and barley grass. Benefits of taking these greens include delaying aging, preventing and/or reducing inflammation, correcting metabolism, reducing bad cholesterol, regulating blood pressure and blood sugar levels, promoting healthy digestive system and even preventing degenerative diseases such as hypertension, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis to name a few.

Barley grass and wheatgrass come in powder and tablet form so it is easy to integrate it to your diet every day. Take note that these two are not supplements but food and since they are natural and organic, there is no danger of overdose and your system wouldn’t have a hard time processing them unlike synthetic drugs.

Both barley grass and wheatgrass are highly alkaline because of its potassium content. A diet that is high in potassium and low in sodium is ideal for heart and other organs’ health. In 2006, the United States Food and Drug Administration “announced that it has finalized a rule that allows foods containing barley to claim that they reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”

According to Health Wealth International Corporation website, one of the companies that sell green barley in the Philippines, organic barley contains 11 times the calcium in cow’s milk, 5 times the iron in spinach, 7 times the Vitamin C in oranges, vitamin B12 and significant amount of chlorophyll.  It also has the enzyme 2-O-Glycosyisovitexin which is said to be “more effective as an antioxidant than beta-carotene or Vitamin E.”

Another company, the Herb-All Organic Barley in their website emphasizes the powerful enzymes found in barley such as Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) which “restores the functions and repairs the body’s DNA to prevent cancer cells from developing,” P4D1 which repairs damaged molecules of the cells and amino acid Arginine which can “improve sexual performance and also increases sperm/egg cell production and motility.”

Wheatgrass on the other hand is also highly alkaline, contains 13 vitamins, 10 minerals, 17 amino acids and enzymes that, according to the company website of Easy Pha-Max Wheatgrass, can cleanse, alkalize and nourish the blood and the body. Just like barley grass, wheatgrass also controls pH balance in the body, has anti-inflammatory properties, delays aging, boosts the immune system, improves digestive health and cleanses the body of harmful toxins, the reason why the company World of Wellness calls it a powerful health drink.

Both grasses have high chlorophyll content which is responsible for its deodorizing, detoxifying, stimulating tissue growth, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. For those who are having weight problems, barley grass and wheatgrass can help you get to your ideal weight because they boost metabolism and corrects hormonal imbalance, if that is what causing your excess pounds or lack of it.

Wheatgrass and barley grass were cited in the website, listed in Dr. Perricone’s top ten super foods. Dr. Perricone is a high-profile board certified clinical and research dermatologist in the U.S. He is known as the Father of Inflammation Theory of Aging. According the site, “There is very little nutritional difference between wheat grass and barley grass, although it is important to note that barley grass acts as a free radical scavenger that also reduces inflammation and pain, and wheat grass contains P4D1, a "gluco-protein" that acts like an antioxidant, reducing inflammation. It is also thought to be able to help the body attack cancer cells.”

Not everyone can afford to buy supplements to maintain good health. Fortunately, there are super foods that you can turn to for effective and natural healing which can also boost your energy level and as a bonus, even make you look younger. You got to try it to believe. Wishing you all good health!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Enchanting Batanes

By Arleah Baingan

If you’re familiar with the Scottish Highlands, you can easily compare Batanes’ landscape with its dramatic cliffs, rolling hills and green open spaces.  Add to that the charming hedgerows, warm waters of its black and white sand beaches and sparkling ocean waves that seem to passionately kiss its dramatic cliffs, and any traveller can readily picture a piece of heaven on earth in the welcoming arms of Batanes islands, a small but wonderful travel destination in the northernmost part of the Philippines.

Batanes Hills The Hills of Batanes

Unique culture
Batanes Islands’ people and language are called Ivatan. Its pre-colonial past dates back to as early as 4,000 years ago when Austronesians inhabited the islands and introduced agricultural, boat-making and seafaring industries. The province had already a flourishing civilisation with its own set of administrative rules, justice system and military power even before Western colonisers reach the islands.
Incidentally Batanes’ English affinity does not stop with its topography. English freebooters headed by William Dampier and his Dutch crew had actually set foot in the islands as early as 1687. The three major islands in fact were named after the English monarchs. Itbayat was renamed Orange Isle after William of Orange. Batan was called Grafton Isle to honour Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Grafton. Sabtang Isle was named after the James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, thus becoming Monmouth Isle. The islands though were never claimed for the British crown.
Batanes was also invaded by the Dutch, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese and Americans, all leaving behind part of their culture that helped shape contemporary Batanes in terms of architecture, food, fashion and way of life. It is always interesting to see some Ivatans with aquiline noses reminiscent of Spaniards’ and almond eyes, a feature they got from their Formosa (in Taiwan) ancestors.

Warm and friendly people
The Ivatans are known for their gentle, hospitable, warm and friendly nature, typical Filipino traits that both local and foreign visitors take note of. People here are hard-working as well and it is not unusual to find an Ivatan who holds two jobs. Mostly, they work as farmers and fishermen while about a quarter of the population works for the government and services sector.
The adage “honesty is the best policy” still reverberates in modern Batanes and the Ivatans are also generally trusting people. You can have a first-hand experience of this trait when you visit the Honesty Coffee Shop in Ivana. If you drop by and didn’t find anyone manning the store, the store owner must be busy working in the field. You don’t need to wait for the shop owner. Just get the items that you want, check the prices in the list, leave the payment in the designated box and off you go. The shop owner trusts its customers to do the right thing even when nobody’s looking. A sign hanging on a wall though reminds the customers of the store’s honesty policy. It reads: “This store is too small for dishonest people.”

What to See and Expect During Your Visit
Natural beauty. Breathtaking, enthralling and even heavenly are just some of the descriptions that depict the rolling hills, landscape and physical beauty of Batanes. You wouldn’t be disappointed even if you just choose to sit atop a hill to have a relaxing commune with nature, gazing through the endless green spaces covering the hills and mountains and playful waters of Pacific Ocean and China Sea. The picture-perfect scenery is a great backdrop for artists looking for inspiration for their next project or those who are simply looking to capture nature’s beauty through photographs.
Rakuh-A-Payaman, also called Marlboro Country is also not to be missed. It is a pastureland that offers a great vantage point for more breathtaking sceneries that will surely make your journey extra-special.
Pre-colonial structures. Pre-colonial fortresses called idjang can still be found around the islands, particularly in Sabtang and Batan. An idjang is reminiscent of 13th century gusuku (castle) found in Okinawa, Japan. These structures are comparable because of the material used for its thick stone walls which were predominantly limestone. The Itbud Idjang is a popular spot since it is one of the highest points in the islands and was a former settlement of the Ivatans.
Colonial buildings. The Dominican influence is easy to spot through the churches that still stand today like the San Jose Obrero Church in Ivana, Sabtang and San Carlos Borromeo Church in Mahatao both built around 1873. Other churches of note are Santo Domingo Cathedral in Basco (the province’s capital town) built in early 18th century, Santa Maria Immaculada in Itbayat built in 1845 and the Chavayan church which up to this day still retains its thatched roof. 
Batanes has also interesting lighthouses to visit. Include in your itinerary the Basco Lighthouse, Tayid Lighthouse and Sabtang Island Lighthouse.
Beaches. The Philippines being an archipelago has great beaches from north to south. Batanes has its ample share of great beaches for different activities. The most popular beach destination here is Nakabuang Beach in Sabtang which is good for picnics and appreciation of stone formations. There are also nice views along the White Beach. Swimming is not recommended in Blue Lagoon in Mahatao but you will surely enjoy the sights and find ample photo opportunities. Disvayangan is a private beach but there are private picnic houses for rent. Divers can head to Duvek Bay in Sumnanga or Siayan Island, about 5.5 nautical miles away from Itbayat. You will enjoy the rich coral and marine life as well as the white beaches nearby.
Ruins and heritage sites. Volcanic activities courtesy of Mount Iraya and other natural circumstances shaped the province of Batanes. Mount Iraya last erupted around 325 BC. The big earthquake of 1918 left just a few structures standing, notable of which is Vahay ni Dakay (House of Dakay), a UNESCO World Heritage Building. It was a stone house built in 1887 by Luisa Estrella, is now the oldest existing of its kind in the province. It was named after Luisa’s nephew, Jose “Dakay” Estrella when it was bequeathed to him. It is a well-photographed house which is made of hardwood floors, lime walls, coral and stone. Its original shutters are still intact. It has cogon roof, typical of Batanes houses.

Ruins at Sitio Songsong The Ruins of Sungsung

The Ruins of Sungsung in Uyugan town was once a row of lime and stone houses located near beach. The community that once populated this area was devastated by a tidal wave in 1954.
Culture. The Ivatans have adapted very well with their natural environment which is evident in their way of life. Instead of typical Filipino houses made of nipa, Ivatans built stone houses to protect themselves from weather disturbances. They also used cogon roofs to withstand strong winds. As per tradition, the cogon roof of a typical Batanes house is changed every 30 years. Even today where umbrellas and raincoat are readily available, Ivatan women stilll wear the vakul, a headgear made of abaca fibre from vuyavuy palm which is used both for sun and rain protection. Men, on the other hand, still use the Kanayi (vest) and Salakut (hat), Kanarem and Vuhuan.  
To experience the fishing culture of Ivatans, go to Diura, about three kilometres away from the town of Mahatao during summer. There you can witness the Kapayvanuvanua (literally, the making of the port) ritual. This is to signify the start of the fishing season and to ask the spirit dwellers of the sea to favour their fishing activities.
Food. The best way to learn about a place is to try its local cuisine. When in Batanes, you can enjoy fresh catch such as the Tatus (coconut crabs), Kanañiz (squid), Dibang (flying fish) and Arayu (dolphinfish). The latter two are abundant from March to May. Other local dishes to try are Luñis (their dry and crunchy version of adobo), Hapa (their version of Bicolano’s laing, taro stalks cooked in coconut milk and topped with dried fish) and plenty of root crops such as sweet potato, yam, taro, ginger, garlic and onion. If you’re not that adventurous, you can always go for classic grilled pork.

Best time to visit
Because of its proximity to Taiwan (about 190 kilometres away), Batanes experiences four seasons and shares the same subtropical climate like that of Taiwan’s and Okinawa’s. The best seasons are summer from April to June and winter from December to February where temperatures can drop to seven degrees Celsius.
Every season offers different kind of adventure and unique experiences so it is a good year-round destination. Tourists and travellers often visit from mid-March to June because during this period, there is low chance of rain. Generally, from January to June are good months to visit.
The weather often changes in Batanes so visitors are advised to be ready for whatever surprises come their way. If you’re adventurous anyway, then the trip to these islands is definitely worth your while.
Exploring the island of Batan is easy. You can rent a jeepney to explore the island. Sabtang can be accessed through a boat ride from Ivana Seaport while Basco Seaport is the jump-off point if you want to reach the Itbayat Island.

Travel tips
·         Batan Island enjoys 24/7 electricity services while the other islands Itbayat and Sabtang has electricity services from 6 AM to 12 MN so time your activities accordingly.
·         There is no nightlife in Batanes.
·         If you have medical conditions, bring your own medicines as facilities in the islands are not as sophisticated as that of big cities like Manila.
·         Island hopping or not, bring ample protection for your eyes and skin. Sunglasses sunblock and insect repellent are travel essentials.
·         Bring cash. Your ATM cards and credit cards are of little or no use in the islands.
·         Bring jacket if you are visiting during winter.
·         Wear comfortable shoes. There are lots of outdoor activities to enjoy in Batanes so expect to walk a lot. Bringing trekking shoes is a good idea.
·         Proper documentation such as passports, valid IDs and other pertinent papers for foreign travellers.
·         Wrap your important items in plastic to prevent them from getting wet. Ziplocs are handy travel companion.
·         Bring your gadgets such as camera, mobile phones and chargers. Make sure that you have enough memory cards to capture your wonderful time in the islands.
·         Be flexible. There may be delays in your flight and boat ride schedule so bring a good book or a music player to keep you busy while waiting.
·         Don’t travel alone. Bring a friend and hire a travel guide. It’s not only safer but also more fun.
·         Batanes is about one and a half hours away from Manila by plane.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hello World!

Welcome to my new site. I hope you enjoy reading entries here as much as I did writing them.