Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On Mansions, Olive Oils and Fried Foods

This is a photo of the controversial Arlegui Mansion located inside the Malacanang complex in San Miguel, Manila.  I took it before going to a photo shoot inside the palace grounds.  To facilitate it, Ivan Man Dy, diverted the guards’ attention with some meaningless queries, while I took pictures.  You see, taking unofficial photographs in and around the palace vicinity is highly restricted. 

At that time, this mansion was being used as the office of the Press Secretary.  And just before the Arroyo administration ended, a much-needed maintenance work on this mansion was done at a cost of P180,000.  The repair took 12 days, including two days to vacate the place and 10 days to fix the facility.

Historically, Tita Cory, dismayed by what she deemed veritable excesses by the Marcos regime, set up residence in this grand mansion instead of in the nearby Malacanang Palace when she assumed presidency.  This noble yet quirky decision of hers certainly created nightmares for her presidential security guard unit, because unlike Malacanang Palace which is located within a gated complex equipped with formidable security measures, this grand mansion is on a busy street with rows of private houses, including two private schools nearby. 

I’m not sure who is now using this beautiful mansion and for what purpose; however, if I were a billionaire, I'd buy it in a jiffy and turn it into a museum and then donate it to the Filipino people before I kick the bucket. 

Anyway, although I never had a guided tour of the inside, one thing I’m sure of: as in most houses in the Philippines – huge or modest – this one has a “dirty kitchen.”  And where do I base my assumption from, you may ask?  Well, Filipinos simply adore fried foods.  And since grease can go airborne and attach themselves to the walls and draperies and then harbor lingering scents of meals gone by, the dirty kitchen became an undisputed necessity.

Hence, there is absolutely no going back to just plain boiling, roasting, and souring of our local foods.  Even health-conscious Pinoys who appear to abhor the mere thought of ingesting fried foods could not last too long without the greasy tapsilog and lumpiang Shanghai every now and then.  But rejoice!  A recent study now claims that eating fried foods may not put you at higher risk for coronary heart disease; that is, as long as you're frying those foods in olive or sunflower oils.

A study published this week in the British Medical Journal analyzed data on 40,757 Spanish adults age 29 to 69 who were followed for an average 11 years. Free of coronary heart disease at the beginning of the study, they were asked what they ate and what cooking methods they used, then were tracked to see who developed coronary heart disease and who died.  The bottom line: those who regularly eat fried foods cooked with olive or sunflower oil did not develop coronary heart disease and die from it.

Pinoys can now breathe a little easier, but there stems a new dilemma: the recent scandals of the Italian virgin olive oil production and labeling. How can we be certain about the quality of olive oils out there in the local market?  Unless we’re as savvy as Lael Hazan when it comes to olive oils, we will remain at the mercy of the importers and local grocers.  Lael Hazan and her husband import their own line of extra virgin olive oil --  A & H selections -- from the most southern region of Italy, Apulia. It is made from 100% Ogliarola olives; it is to olive oil what a single varietal estate reserve bottle is to wine.  Fret not, you can order their olive oil on the Internet site cybercuccina.

There are also online sites that offer olive oil-buying tips such as Real Simple  and indiaparenting.com.  The New Yorker also has an excellent article about the olive oil business that you may want to read.  Better yet, just befriend the chefs at your favorite Italian restaurants and ask for their sources for olive oils.

And once you have genuine sunflower or virgin olive oils at your disposal, you may want to check out these recipes: six steps to perfect fried chicken and fried chicken ala Max's.  You may also want to just come over to Panglao Island and indulge in some of the tasty dishes served at restaurants here like at Saffron's breakfast buffet:

Chicken parmagiana

Herbed vermicelli mustard cream dory fish fillet

Potato croquette

Fried chicken
Baked fussili with homemade meatballs

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Thank you!


Monday, January 30, 2012

Erap: Victim of circumstance?

Former President Joseph Estrada admitted during an interview with Cheche Lazaro on ABS-CBN last week, that his chief legal counsel, Estilito Mendoza, was partly responsible for his 2001 ouster for being too “legalistic” during the impeachment trial. 

Mendoza fought against the opening of the second envelope because it was not included in the charges against the former president.  “I wanted the second envelope opened because I didn’t want the people to think that we were covering up something. But Mendoza, who is very legalistic, said that it was against the rule of law. Being the chief legal counsel, he prevailed,” Estrada said.

Former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who was also interviewed by Lazaro, said he was able to talk to Estrada two weeks after the walkout of prosecutors and after the Senate had decided to open the second envelope.  During their talk, Erap asked the former senator what was in the second envelope.  “I told him there was nothing there and he asked me, you mean I lost the presidency because of that and I said yes,” Pimentel said.

Now whether that may be all true or not, as far as Erap's final dethronement is concerned, it is worth taking another look at EDSA Dos, the impetus that provided Gloria Arroyo the justification to grab the presidential seat.  Thus, I'd like to share the following excerpt from Margarita Ventenilla Hamada’s letter to Dr. R. Bernardo – entitled: Envious, Not Righteous Anger – page 81, Transcending Rizal:

            Anyway, regarding your-sum-up of EDSA Dos being the Filipinos’ most mature shining act as a national community” – as it was propelled by “the right to know the truth,” are you sure it was purely this intellectual ideal that really created EDSA Dos? I have my suspicions that 95% of those people at EDSA were merely anti-Erap, not anti-evil, and that envy, more than quest for truth, was the propelling force behind that display that so awed you. 

            I still think Pinoys can’t change their spots overnight.  Rizal’s brilliant observations about their apathy and timidity towards evil when confronted with it still holds true now.  So what galvanized the people to gather at EDSA is the same force that had galvanized EDSA Uno.  It is the same force that killed Romania’s Ceaucescus by firing squad.  It is the same force that sent France’s Queen Marie Antoinette to the guillotine: ENVY.

            The long-starving French were driven to homicidal fury at Marie Antoinette’s diamond necklace which costs millions of francs, and it wasn’t even true that she bought it.  The report that Mrs. Ceaucescu wore shoes the heels of which were of pure gold was the straw that broke the backs of the impoverished Romanians. Imelda’s beauty which her fabulous jewelry and gowns emphasized with vengeance, their noveau riche lifestyle, the international celebrities whose company they kept, fueled EDSA Uno. 

           And how could Erap escape the envious indignation of the Pinoys after they learned of Laarni’s Boracay-like mansion, the P20,000 tips she gave her beautician, her P11 M ring?  His eight other beautiful mistresses, their mansions and businesses?  His billion-peso bank accounts under false names? 

          Marie Antoinette, the Ceaucescus, the Marcoses, and now Erap have one thing in common: their having too much where everybody has to struggle for so little or for nothing.

            During EDSA Uno, the anti-Marcos frontliners were not anti-evil, because they were later accused to be just as evil and corrupt as the man they ousted.  Enrile, Ramos, Honasan, Sin, Butz and Tessie A. Oreta, Miriam D. Santiago – they were merely anti-Marcos.  All they ever wanted was lynch one enviable man.  If the zeal they used in ousting Marcos and his kith and kin was directed against evil and corruption instead, EDSA Dos need not have happened.  Now who are the frontliners at EDSA Dos?  Chavit Singson, Gloria Arroyo, Joey Lina, Nora Aunor, Angelo Reyes, Kiko Pangilinan, Ralph Recto, Raul Roco, Serge Osmena, Franklin Drillon under the leadership of bribe-taking Cardinal Sin.  Do you see these people as heroes/patriots or just politicians?  Remember, men do not conspire against the stuff they are made of.

            EDSA Dos was not really a rally against evil or truth.  It was more for a chance at experiencing that flush of power that comes from lynching someone who has so much more than you can ever hope to get in life yourself.  To politicians, it was an opportunity to grab that same power Erap enjoyed and taste the goodies he enjoyed, too – not for truth and justice, which they merely used as slogans behind which they could hide their real motives.


TRANSCENDING RIZAL by Margarita Ventinilla Hamada

Collected articles, letters and speeches on the controversial Jose Rizal and on the even more controversial cure she offers for the social ills she saw

Giraffe Books – 2005

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Related link:

Margarita Ventinilla Hamada on Jose Rizal



Envy (also called invidiousness) is best defined as a resentful emotion that "occurs when a person lacks another's (perceived) superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it."

Envy can also derive from a sense of low self-esteem that results from an upward social comparison threatening a person's self image: another person has something that the envier considers to be important to have. If the other person is perceived to be similar to the envier, the aroused envy will be particularly intense, because it signals to the envier that it just as well could have been he or she who had the desired object.

Bertrand Russell said envy was one of the most potent causes of unhappiness. It is a universal aspect of human nature because not only is the envious person rendered unhappy by his envy, but also wishes to inflict misfortune on others. Although envy is generally seen as something negative, Russell also believed that envy was a driving force behind the movement towards democracy and must be endured to achieve a more just social system.   However, psychologists have recently suggested that there may be two types of envy: malicious envy and benign envy - benign envy being proposed as a type of positive motivational force.

Source: Wikipedia

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Relationship 101: Giving

Giving opens up the door to receiving. You have so many opportunities to give every day.

Give kind words. Give a smile. Give appreciation and love. Give compliments. You can give courtesy to other motorists while you are driving. You can give a smile to the car parking attendant. You can give a warm greeting to the newspaper stand person or the person who makes your coffee. You can give by allowing a stranger to go ahead of you into an elevator, and you can give by asking which floor they are going to and pressing the button for them. If someone drops something you can give a helping hand and pick it up for them. You can give warm embraces to those you love. And you can give appreciation and encouragement to everyone.

There are so many opportunities for you to give and thereby open the door to receiving.

                                                                            Rhonda Byrne
                                                                            From The Secret Daily Teachings

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Reading Project at Tawala

It is a weekly community service endeavor by the staff of Amorita Resort.  The intension is to convey to the kids of Tawala Elementary School the value of reading.  

Volunteer readers from the resort read to the the kids a couple of children’s books.  And although they are in English, the volunteers translate them in bohol-anon (local Visayan dialect) in animated manner so as to engage the kids.

Ms. Leah of Amorita plans to expand the presentations in the near future by using audio/visual equipment, and even basic puppetry, if possible; that is, anything essentially helpful so as to further stimulate the curiosity, interest and participation of the kids in the joys of reading and storytelling. 

In addition, from what I was told, there will be other activities in the offing, such as drawing and various arts and crafts fun stuffs.

Last week’s initial effort proved successful.  The kids were completely engrossed as Ms. Cherry and Ms. Ivy read to them Beauty and the Beast and Three LittlePigs.  Turns out, most of these kids have pigs in their yard; thus, when asked what books they would want to be read to them in the future, the consensus was more on farm animals. 

As for the Beauty and the Beast, at first I thought it was a bit too heavy for these local first graders.  I was wrong.  They were very much involved with the story as it was read and translated to them.

Although it wasn't television, the kids appeared just as riveted

Ms. Ivy and Ms. Cherry as readers and translators

Ms. Leah prepping the kids for the reading session

The entire group with their teacher Mrs. Pernia

Suggested reads:

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Litratong Pinoy: Pagmamahal

My entry to Litratong Pinoy Weekly Challenge
This week's theme -- LP186: Pagmamahal

Many thanks to Lino Almuenda

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Bohol Coco Farm's Fun Run

Erwin Emata with the top 3 Fun Run winners
The intention was to promote agri-tourism in Panglao Island and heighten public awareness on the merits of natural farming, as well as provide a demanding yet fun-filled trail run – starting from Bohol Coco Farm down to the white sand beaches of Panglao, passing through a portion of the highway then to Dumaluan Beach, White Plains resort, Amarela Resort and other resorts along the way towards the Barangay Hall of Libaong, and back to Bohol Coco Farm.

The Bohol Coco Farm’s five-kilometer run held last Sunday was organized by Efren de Guzman, proprietor of Bohol Coco Farm.  Erwin “Pastour” Emata, the first Filipino Everester in 2006, was the run’s Race Director and Technical Organizer.  Emata reached the peak of Mount Everest last May 18, 2006 in about 24 hours after his companion, Leo Oracion, reached the same peak.

Also helping in organizing the event was Dax Ang, technical director of Everest Outdoors — a company formed as an offshoot of the 2006 Mt. Everest experience of which Emata served as race director.

It was indeed a successful event which everyone hopes will be repeated annually.

Julia and Efren de Guzman of Bohol Coco Farm with elderly Fun Run participant

Erwin “Pastour” Emata with his baby

Efren de Guzman, Libaong Barangay Chairman, one of Fun Run top runners, and  Erwin Emata

Elizer M. Alinio aka "Pastor Boy"

Erwin Emata with a female runner and co-organizers

After the run refreshments were served at the dining hall

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Natural Farming with Andry Lim

Last Sunday, the Bohol Coco Farm sponsored a talk on Natural Farming.  The owners, Efren de Guzman and his wife Julia, had Andry “Less is More” Lim flown in from Davao, the country’s guru of Natural Farming and recipient of the 2009 Secretary of Agriculture Awardee for Outstanding Organic Agriculture Initiative (Individual Advocate Category).

And just what is natural farming? It is farming without the use of any chemicals, only natural elements that promote the growth of beneficial micro-organisms in the soil.  The concept is to feed the soil in order to generate healthy plants.  Thus, whatever crops you plant in this kind of soil will grow with the right amount of nutrients and resistant to diseases to boot.  And when we consume healthy, nutritious, and chemical-free plants, vegetables, and fruits, we consequently become stronger and healthier as well.

During last Sunday’s talk, Andry mentioned the Marcos administration’s aggressive promotion of the so-called “Green Revolution,” inspired by American farming techniques.  And that the fertilizer of choice in the Philippines became the American-produced Urea, which according to Andry, is technically petro-based.  Among its adverse effects: a bag of which produces a three-car emission as it also destroys the soil.  Sadly, many farms in the Philippines still operate using this fertilizer.

Natural farming essentially stemmed from organic farming, but unlike the latter, natural farming strictly uses folia fertilizer (derived from plants and vegetables).  Organic farming uses some chemicals.

Andry also cited the low cost/high yield value of natural farming: a farmer can harvest 100 cavans of rice per hectare at a cost of 5,000 pesos or less.  This translates to 3 pesos/kilo (production cost) that yields a 12 pesos/kilo selling price.  To top it off, natural farming is environment-friendly, more beneficial and less negative, and supports a balanced ecosystem.

Andry Lim learned all about the merits of natural farming way back in the late 90s while he was working for a tribal mission foundation that conducted community development activities among the tribes in Mindanao, helping them earn a living.  He had the good fortune of attending a seminar on natural farming in 1997 conducted by Dr. Cho Hayn Yu, a Korean natural farming expert who was invited to Davao by a Korean missionary.  He was then able to apply such new-found knowledge when he took over the management of his family’s run-down farm –– Helen’s Farm in Joaquin Biao, Calinan district, Davao City.

Andry Lim described it as a run-down 30-hectare farm due to more than two decades of continued use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The soil had become acidic and the cacao trees that were about 20 years old had become sickly. The trees had few small yellowish leaves and they yielded very few fruits, most of them damaged by pod borers. The soil was virtually dead because the beneficial microorganisms had been killed by the chemicals.  Rehabilitating the sickly cacao trees was a big challenge that Andry faced right from the start. But he was undaunted. He was very confident that the techniques he had learned from Dr. Cho would work. And he was right.

He produced his own fermented fruit and plant juices (FFJ and FPJ), fish amino acid (FAA) and oriental herbal nutrient (OHN). He mixed the different fermented juices and added two tablespoons to a liter of water. He sprayed this on the sickly cacao trees once a week. After just two weeks, Andry said that new leaves had come out. Not long after, profuse flowers followed.

Eventually, the trees became healthy and productive – the leaves were big and glossy, while the trees yielded fruits virtually throughout the year. Even as the fruits were maturing on the trunks and branches, new flowers kept on coming out.  The trees have become very robust, which provided two profitable peak harvest seasons during the year. During November to December and April to May, he harvested an average of 200 kilos of wet beans every two weeks. During what he called the off-season months, the average harvest was 150 kilos of wet beans every two weeks.

In addition, also using the natural farming way, Andry grew a lot of high-value vegetables in another part of the farm, such as lettuce, spring onion, spinach, celery, eggplant, ampalaya, beans, tomato and many others.  The garden beds as well as the plants were sprayed with his own concoctions of beneficial microorganisms. Decomposed leaves of leguminous plants were also incorporated to enrich the soil.

Andry staggered his planting of the different varieties so that he had a continuous supply of the right quantity at the right time. He practiced crop rotation to avoid buildup of insects and disease organisms. He grew plants that repel insects together with the main crop of vegetables. Mint and lemongrass are two such plants that repel insects.  He planted a row of leguminous shrubs along the edges of the garden plots. The purpose is to prevent erosion of the planting beds. Another of his purpose was to have rich leafy twigs ready for use as green manure. Some may also be harvested to feed livestock on the farm.

He also started a piggery that was operated the natural farming way – about 800 pigs – which did not produce the familiar foul odor that would usually warrant a Barangay invitation instigated by irate neighbors. The pigs were not given any baths throughout their life; neither the pigpens were washed – a tremendous savings on water bill. 

Instead of the usual cement floor found in commercial piggeries, the pigpens were excavated one meter deep then filled with a mixture of sawdust, clean soil and a little salt. To be more specific, for every 10 sacks of sawdust, 5 sacks of soil and one kilo of salt are mixed together. The mixture served as the bedding that absorbed the manure as well as the urine of the animals.  Just the same, the pigs were raised the natural farming way.

The pigpens did not have the usual foul odor because Andry also applied his concoctions of indigenous microorganisms (IMO) that he used in his cacao and other crops. He explained that the bad bacteria that cause the bad smell are suppressed by the beneficial microorganisms.  

The technique: while the pigpen is new, the bedding is sprayed with the IMO every week for the first few months. After that, spraying is done only once or twice a month.  In other words, the pigpens are ‘infected’ with beneficial indigenous micro-organisms right from the start to kill the harmful bacteria. As opposed to the ordinary piggery, the pigpens are ‘disinfected’ with chemicals that kill both the bad and the good microorganisms.

Andry’s pigs were fat and contented even though they were fed only once a day with his own feed formulation. The pigs did not get excited when visitors arrive. They were relaxed on their comfortable beds, albeit the piglets were playful, some burrowing in the bedding. Andry explained that by burrowing in the bedding, both the piglets and the mature ones get the minerals they needed for their good health.  Hence, no need for injecting or vaccinating the pigs with veterinary drugs.  Instead of antibiotics, Andry used in his own feed formulation the various fermented extracts that he and his wife Joji concocted.

His feed formulation: for every 100 kilos of rice bran, he added 50 kilos of cracked yellow corn, 10 kilos of soya meal (5 kilos if for young pigs), 5 kilos copra meal and 3 kilos salt. To these, he also added 2 to 3 liters of fermented fruit juice and plant juice, 2 liters of fish amino acid, and one liter each of oriental herbal nutrient and lactic acid bacteria serum. He also mixed in 2 to 3 kilos of powdered coconut shell charcoal to help prevent diarrhea.

During that time, Andry’s feed costs only 15 pesos/kilo compared to the usual 27 pesos/kilo of the commercial feeds in the market. That was the reason why his cost of production per kilo live weight was a third less than the cost of commercial formulations.

Andry fed his pigs with his formulation at four o’clock in the afternoon. Those that are two to three months old were given a kilo while the bigger ones are fed 2.5 kilos each. Before that, at 3 p.m., the pigs were fed about a kilo each of green feeds that include what was usually known as Madre de Agua, ornamental peanut, Flemingia, Rensonii and many others. The more varied the green feed, the better because they contain different nutrients. Some have herbal attributes while others were high in protein and other nutrients. All these green forage crops were grown on the farm in combination with other crops.

It took about four to five months for the fatteners to reach market size of 80 kilos each. While Andry’s production cost was much lower than most other commercial hog growers, he sold his pork at P10 per kilo higher than the conventionally produced pork. He had no problem selling his pork in the supermarket owned by his family. He usually slaughtered 12 heads per week but he eventually doubled it due to increased demand for his naturally farmed pork.

Related links:

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Comparative analysis on various farming techniques in the Philippines


Conventional: This system uses the commercially produced fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, feeds, antibiotics, etc.

Organic:  This system uses organically produced fertilizers as the means of fertilizing the soil.  Pesticides and fungicides are also applied only when needed.

Natural:  This system brings the soil and environment back to its original form where nature works for the production of its needs.


Conventional: On horticulture, the first few years, profit is high.  But with the continued use of chemical inputs on commercial fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides, the soil’s nutrients become degraded so that its profits goes down at the same time.  For livestock, profit is very slim due to high capitalization.

Organic: Profit can be high but can be eaten up by the high amount of inputs.

Natural:  For horticulture, the profit is high and will increase yearly.  For livestock, profit is also high due to low labor requirement and low consumption of feeds.


Conventional:  On horticulture, during the first few years, the production is high but as soil becomes degraded, production goes down as well.  For livestock, production is good, but its life span is short.

Organic:  Low and slow.

Natural:  Production is high and increases yearly.


Conventional:  For horticulture, it destroys the soil and environment.  For livestock, it is very slim and fragile.

Organic:  Can’t sustain for the next generation.

Natural:  Can be beneficial for the many generations to come.

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Andry Lim

Julia de Guzman of Coco Farm

Efren de Guzman of Coco Farm

The Bohol Coco Farm will be conducting a 3-day 
Natural Farming Seminar 
with Andry Lim as resource speaker 
on February 28, 29 and March 1
from 8am to 9pm.  

Besides the essential application of natural 
farming on horticulture and animal 
husbandry, attendees will be introduced 
to various herbal healing techniques 
by using indigenous plants and vegetation.

For further details, contact:
Efren de Guzman of Coco Farm: 0926-444-6186
Andry Lim: 0917-705-1008

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Please note:
I very much appreciate my articles and photos appearing on fellow bloggers' sites, popular broadsheets, and local broadcast news segments, but I would appreciate even more a request for permission first.
Thank you!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Firstly, the only reason I bought this book was because I thought I had already missed the movie; that it had been shown in the cinemas here in Bohol before the holiday season.  It was only recently when I realized I was mistaken.  While in Island City Mall, I saw this huge poster (see below image) that says the movie is coming soon.

Secondly, I was glad I made that erroneous assumption; had I not, I most definitely would have just waited for the movie to be released locally, and not be bothered buying and reading the book.  Its 644 pages seemed a daunting read.  But I was wrong again at that.  This thriller turned out to be an absorbing, believable story, and reading it was rather addictive.  I have never read any of Stieg Larsson’s novels before and was pleasantly surprised to discover the riveting clarity and simplicity of his narrative style.  I’ll probably still go and see the movie just for the heck of it.

Anyway, the story revolves around the scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, Harriet Vanger, who mysteriously disappeared over forty years ago.  Her aging uncle, however, spent all those years seeking the truth.  He finally hires Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist recently convicted of libel and was heading to prison for a couple of months.  His task was to investigate and possibly pinpoint which member of the Vanger clan might have murdered Harriet.  For a research assistant he got Lisbeth Salander, a pierced and tattoed punk prodigy – the girl with the dragon tattoo.  That is all I’m going to reveal.

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Compelling …. Combine the chilly Swedish backdrop
And moody psychodrama of a Bergman movie with the
grisly pyrotechnics of a serial-killer thriller, then add an
angry punk heroine and a down-on-his-luck investigative
journalist, and you have the ingredients of Stieg Larsson’s
first novel.”

--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

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Movie review by Eldric Paul Paredo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

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I very much appreciate my articles and photos appearing on fellow bloggers' sites, popular broadsheets, and local broadcast news segments, but I would appreciate even more a request for permission first.
Thank you!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Dragon Fruit and The Dragon Lady

The first time I saw a dragon fruit was at a sidewalk produce stall in Binondo, Manila.  I was stunned by its fierce appearance of vibrant colors and highly unusual shape. Also known as pitaya, the taste of it, I was told, is slightly similar to kiwi or melon.

The dragon plant is a vine, believed to be native of Central and Southern America that has been brought to Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Vietnam. Dragon plant has fleshy stems that grow up to 20 feet when matured. It may grow from the ground or climb onto trees using aerial roots, and it has spines that grow up to 1 kilogram in weight.   It bears flowers that only bloom at night. The flowers are ornate and beautiful with fragrant scent.

Pitaya plants can have up to 4-6 fruiting cycles per year.  The fruit’s skin may be yellowish to dark red in color with edible flesh that maybe white or red depending on the variety. It has a lot of black small seeds that is also edible.

Dragon fruit is also known to have some health benefits such as:

- boosts immune system. Dragon fruit is rich in vitamin C and fibers that help provide an overall healthy body.

- helps in digestion because of its rich fiber content. 

- helps to lower blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes.

- prevents formation of cancer causing free radicals. 

- as anti-oxidant, the presence of high level of vitamin C, minerals and pythoalbumin is regarded as relevant in fighting free radicals and possess anti-oxidant properties.

- helps to control cholesterol level. Dragon fruit is also rich in flavonoids that are known to have favorable effects against cardio related disease.

- promotes healing of wounds and cuts.

- improves appetite.

- improves eye sight

- aids in weight reduction

- improves memory

The photo on top and the one right below I took in Subic last August.  Surprisingly, a number of farms in Zambales have been growing dragon fruits exclusively.  Some enterprising local folks buy a bunch from these farms and then resell them along the highway for 100 pesos per kilo.  And business is good, I was told.

The Dragon Lady: Editha Dacuycuy

Thanks to a daughter afflicted with cerebral palsy, Editha Dacuycuy, 53, discovered the wonders of dragon fruit, a vine-like cactus species that bears pear-shaped fruits that have a sweetish white or bright pink flesh. Pitaya or pitihaya, as the fruit is known locally, also has healing properties, Dacuycuy found out.

Dragon fruit is popular in South America and is also being cultivated in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan and, recently, in Burgos, Ilocos Norte, in northern Philippines.

Four years ago, Dacuycuy was on the lookout for alternative medication that could cure her daughter's frequent constipation, a common problem among cerebral palsy patients. A friend gave her some dragon fruit from Macau which, this mother found out, proved effective in inducing regular bowel movement. Dacuycuy, a former manager of an insurance company and a psychology graduate of the University of the Philippines, found herself browsing the Internet to learn more about this exotic fruit. The dragon fruit, she found out, was also known as a cleansing fruit in South America.

She also learned that according to physicians and nutrition experts, the dragon fruit is rich in fiber that helps in the elimination of wastes, and that it contains high levels of vitamin C, calcium and phosphorous. Its other nutritional benefits include high levels of antioxidants that can help prevent cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, rheumatism and urinary tract infection.

These findings led Dacuycuy to search for dragon fruit seedlings. To her surprise, she discovered that some of her friends have dragon fruit planted in their garden. However, they didn't realize its fruit was edible, since they had mistakenly thought it was just an ordinary cactus plant.

They consider it ornamental, and they plant it because they love its flowers, she said.
From single cuttings she got from friends, Dacuycuy managed to propagate the plant until they bore fruit several months after. Encouraged, she sent a daughter to Thailand to learn how to care for the plant, and later consulted the Deaprtment of Agriculture in her municipality on the proper management of her dragon fruit farm, the first in Region I in northern Philippines.

Dacuycuy's dragon fruit farm now covers five hectares in Barangay (village) Paayas, Burgos, Ilocos Norte. From a single variety, she has managed to grow at least five other varieties, with flesh of varied colors: dark pink, light pink, red, white and yellow. She has five regular helpers, mostly women, who do the potting, cleaning and watering of the plants. From May to November, the fruit season, she also hires other laborers to help harvest the fruits and deliver them to local markets, where they are sold at about P150 per kilo.

At first, people wondered about the strange fruit and how it could be eaten. (Just slice the fruit and scoop out the juicy flesh, filled with tiny seeds that could also be eaten.) Soon enough, however, they've been using it for relief of various ailments. Marieta Rivera, 49, a diabetic, said she has been eating dragon fruit regularly to maintain her sugar level.

Dacuycuy added that aside from being eaten raw, the dragon fruit is highly economical: Nothing is wasted because its pulp and flowers can also be cooked as vegetable (plain or as salad) and used as garnish in either fish or meat recipes like sinigang (sour soup), sweet meat and bulalo (boiled beef shank).

The dried flowers of the dragon fruit can be cut into pieces and cooked as lumpiang shanghai or burger patties. You may also add some carrots or meat seasoning to taste, said Dacuycuy. But don't throw the pulp skin, she added, because this can also be cooked as jam or jelly or boiled as tea.

Because she believes in the health benefits of dragon fruit, Dacuycuy makes sure that the fruit is grown organically in her farm.

Read more here.

See Ms. Dacuycuy's farm here.

Photo: McGee Productions

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