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Distracted driving: America is Number 1

Driver in a Mitsubishi Galant using a hand hel...
Driver in a Mitsubishi Galant using a hand held mobile phone violating New York State law. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The most distracted driver can easily come from the Philippines because majority of Filipinos are really fund of texting messages on their mobiles phones while the other hand is on the wheel. However, the number one spot among the most distracted drivers is already claimed by the Americans according to this article.

Read more on why they think so:

Distracted driving: We’re Number 1

“Americans drive while talking on a cellphone or texting more than their counterparts in seven European countries. A report published yesterday showed that 69% of American drivers surveyed said they had talked on a cellphone while driving at least once in the previous month (31% said they did it “regularly or fairly often”), and 31% said they had read or sent text messages while driving. The least distracted drivers were in the United Kingdom.

We may not make it to the list but at least, we now know what to avoid to be away from accidents.

This is actually the number one spot that we should shy away from!

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Backpacking from Border to Border in Southeast Asia


By: Elena Grace Flores


Southeast AsiaIt must have been the narrow escape from death surviving a car accident that finally led me to follow my conscience of going back to my roots through basic traveling and see for myself what has become to the lands that my forefathers entrusted me. Life is too short. It’s now or never. Never mind the 15 years of living and working in Thailand. The time has come for me to embrace the challenge.

I have always lived with the motto, “A man who risks nothing- gains nothing” and, I always deepen the stakes. So be it. Remembering Cebu and Mindanao how they were during my childhood days and the capabilities I had in terms of public relations, I was determined to show to my International media friends how these destinations really are, bearing in mind that I could raise funds for a good cause through sponsors to support this adventure travel project and I could put this on T.V. and get media attention to project the actual situation of at least a part of mainland Mindanao on a different angle away from terrorism and Cebu as the gateway to Visayas and Mindanao.

I’ve always thought what life each soul is assigned to, is a game of chance. My running buddy Finn Sorensen, an ex-Danish commando, who gained his expertise dealing with terrorism from the military just agreed in escorting me to this ultimate trip without too much convincing. He took it as a holiday offer to also visit his friends in Manila. So, Finn took the direct flight to Manila to have some time with his friends and off I went starting my backpacking spree from Bangkok’s “Hua Lumpong” Train Station going to Hatyai with the intention of visiting my younger sister quickly in Brunei after sorting some routes out in Malaysia.

Going out of Thailand…From Hatyai to Butterworth, Malaysia Getting to Hatyai by overnight sleeper train is easy, should you need or want to go there on a budget; it leaves Bangkok at 2.00pm and arrives in Hatyai about 7.00am the next day. You could also order meals from the train’s menu at a very affordable cost. It is located in the south of Thailand, about 25 kms inland from the east facing coast of the central isthmus. The stopover in Hatyai was pretty fast considering the immigration procedures that passengers going to Malaysia had to undertake.

The train proceeded to its destination and arrived in Butterworth, Malaysia at around twelve in the afternoon. The normal “chopping” of passports continued and there were transports available as soon as we were heading out either going to Penang by ferry or to Kuala Lumpur by bus. I chose to continue my trip to Kuala Lumpur since I really wanted to try out these “low cost airlines” that made KLIA (Kula Lumpur International Airport) as their hub. In a matter of 5 hours or so, I found myself in KL Bus terminal looking for a taxi that would take me to KLIA for 30 Ringgit.

Once in the airport, I shopped around for the most convenient and affordable flight to Brunei to the point of befriending the very helpful airline counter personnel of Malaysian Airlines who was kind enough to refer me to “Air Asia”, the most successful low cost airline in the region with the motto, “Now, everyone can fly! It could have been more convenient, immigration wise as I was told if there was a flight to Labuan which is 45 minutes by ferry away from Bandar Seri Begawan, the modernized capital of Brunei but the only choice I got at that time was to fly to Miri which is 3 hours away by land from the capital.

Without any reservations, I just lined up to get my ticket, checked in and for 80 Ringgit (35 Ringgit if I had a reservation well in advance), I was promptly on board Flight no. AK 312 that departed at 7pm and arrived in Miri at 9:15pm. I was lucky enough to be talking to a Malaysian woman with her two children during the flight who offered me to share their reserved car to Bandar Seri Begawan for 50 Ringgit. The picturesque sights from Miri made me realized that Miri is more than just a booming oil and timber town; it is the gateway to the northeast region, rapidly becoming Sarawak’s most popular tourist area.

Visa to Brunei is not required for visiting Filipinos if staying for not more than 15 days provided that you have a “show money” of 600 Brunei Dollars and a return ticket. At the immigration check point, I got away from the show money requirement after the driver of the car lent me some Brunei dollars to show to the officer but I was not ready for my return ticket because I have not thought where to return at that time; to Thailand, my country of residence or to the Philippines, my home country. Although after a thorough investigation and too many documents I have to dig from my luggage to show that I am a desirable tourist, I was able to finally enter Brunei. Definitely not my first Brunei visit but obviously, first time coming from the “back door”, as they say.

My sister, who was fascinated with my adventurous ordeal, pampered me for two days and even bought me a direct flight ticket to Manila to catch up with my colleague, Finn Sorensen. It was during this flight that I met Jerry Manego, a Brunei based Filipino- Korean Foreign Diplomatic Missions Officer who got me acquainted with traveling from Brunei’s Serasa Ferry Terminal close to the city of Muara, to Kota Kinabalu – Sandakan – Mindanao via Zamboanga, at least for my next adventure trip.

I found Finn in Manila anxious to do the adventure in the wilderness and not even his tremendous stomach upset could stop him from traveling with me to Cebu the next day via Cebu Pacific. Upon arrival, my cousin Lani Dakay, drove us to the Northern part of Cebu, the origin of my mother’s family, passing Danao, then to Luyang, Carmen Cebu. Luyang is a fishing village rather than a tourist destination and I was amazed that our provincial way of life was enough to have this appealing effect from a foreigner like Finn, an experienced traveler. He was fascinated by the simple but happy life in the village where laughter and pure hospitality from men and women alike really excel, the exciting cock fighting gatherings also amazed him, the nipa huts also attracted his innermost sight and even just the short nap at the beach seemed like boasting his spirit in experiencing another local custom late at night – the “baile” or outdoor disco featuring the town’s after fiesta fundraising event; the Coronation of the barrio Queen and her consorts. Showing once again, one of the secrets to the seemingly boundless energy of many Filipinos is the love of music and dance.

Basic accommodations along the beach for as low as php 800 per night were good enough but we cannot refuse the humble offer of our host to spend the night at the comfort of their own house with full board meals for free. On the way back to Cebu City, we managed to take some artistic shots of the Magellan’s cross before embarking in the overnight Cebu Ferries Trip to Cagayan de Oro since the Superferry was not going to Ozamis that day. It was also a real experience on board the ship. The Tourist Class was not bad at all. In fact, Finn commented that it was actually too good for a back to basic adventure. While having some beers in the entertainment outlet of the ship,

I have learned some jungle tips from Finn. To summarize, the most important thing to take on a mountain adventure is your brain – good decision-making skills, the ability to adapt to changing, even life-threatening, situations, and to make the most of the equipment and resources that you have with you.” Sometimes it takes a few mistakes to reach that ideal.

The early docking of the ship at the arrival pier was greeted by native people on bancas (small boats) asking for some “pasalubong” (gifts) perhaps. Some passengers threw coins to the sea and to our great astonishment, the natives hurriedly dived down to the deep to search for it and they seemed to have collected them all; coins, snacks, candies and personal items. Bornean Access to the Philippines Backpacking Tips The beauty of the trip to Ozamis was actually not the destination but certainly “the way” to the destination. It was not at all a problem asking our way around and we were never in trouble due perhaps to our casual but descent looks and politeness. The “Rural” bus brought us down passing Iligan halfway of the trip and as far as Tubod where we have to cross the barge to Ozamis. It helps traveling light with a knapsack by land wearing comfortable shirt and pants with a hat. It fits rain or shine and enhances easy mobility under strenuous circumstances.

Few more hours in the bus going to our destination in Mindanao, Calamba, Misamis Occidental really gave me much pride how beautiful Mindanao is. Abundant rivers with clear waters, green, natural forest, endless rice plantation, orchards and ambiance very close to nature that you can smell the freshness of the earth. The house that I remembered as my grandparents’ big house on my father’s side is now a ruined old house. Nevertheless, familiar faces still lingers, only, they are a lot older plus many more young additions. To make most of our trip there, it was crucial to start moving to the forest so that we could accomplish something before sun down. The family’s over 17 hectares-Bitibut hills in Sapang Dalaga was my favorite. This is where I dreamed of having my native resort someday. It was composed of seven hills with a source of spring water dripping the whole year round since time immemorial. On the second hill we met one of the families looking after the land.

The picture of the old man riding his young horse with his family on the background was a breath-taking angle. The reward of reaching the peak of the 3rd hill was the spectacular view of the island of Siquijor. As we hurdle down the hill to get to the next one, we came across men harvesting some of the coconuts for copra trading. The only surviving means of income of the land. Enough to pay land taxes and the shares of the people looking after them. The combination of lush forest, hilly slopes, creeks and plateaus could make this place an ideal site for an adventure run. A refreshing fresh young coconut break was our reward that afternoon, which we gleefully shared with the locals.

The night set in and our intention of sleeping under our tents did not materialize since it was safer from the snakes to take a nap in the nipa hut but only after having our survival dinner – bread and canned goods. The journey continued early that morning surveying other adjacent family properties such as the 28 hectares shrimp farm area, orchard sites and paying respect to the private grave of my grandparents. At last, we were treated to a sumptuous seafood home cooked meal that did justice to our energy-draining schedule. The smooth sailing

WG&A’s Superferry trip from Ozamis back to Cebu allowed us to regain our inertia. Here, we re-counted our backpacking experience summing up the most convenient route for the planned trip of our adventurers from Bangkok over few bottles of San Miguel beer in the music and disco lounge of the ship. Finn went back to Thailand pretty much the same as when he came into the Philippines but I still had to sort out going back to Brunei by sea via Zamboanga, then, hopefully back to Thailand. This was not as smooth as by land coming into Brunei.

At first I was a little hesitant about doing most trips alone, but I took a chance and found it to be the most rewarding experience of my life. It has changed me in a way that I never thought possible. It opened up my eyes to a lot of new things in life. It’s amazing how much we can learn from other cultures and re-discover our own, seeing through the gradual transitions of the travel from borders to border. I encourage everyone that reads my travel experience to go and find your roots by means of basic travel modes and backpacking to gather the most detailed information. THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE!!! Unbeatable freedom in exploring our very own and great way of knowing what we could offer in terms of tourism and discover our uniqueness from our neighboring countries. If we do not explore our country first,who would?

Backpacking Tips

  • Never leave without a map
  • Make a research about your destination before going
  • Know most if not all of the transport means of the area and its alternatives
  • Budget your trip. Do not bring excessive cash and do not rely on credit cards
  • Be fit. Exercise daily. Stretching and meditation helps
  • Travel Light
  • Include Diarrhea tablets in your medical kit
  • Take daily dosage of Vitamin C
  • Bring food and water supply
  • Wear comfortable but decent gear
  • Be flexible
  • Wear a hat
  • Bring a rain coat
  • Bring extra footwear
  • Do not wear jewelries or bring expensive accessories
  • Never leave your belongings unattended
  • Do not trust a new friend you happen to meet along the way
  • Travel with an open mind
  • Do not hesitate to ask the locals for any information
  • Be friendly and polite
  • Bring small tokens for the nice and helpful people you meet along the way

Please note that this article was written in between 2005 to 2006 – so, the details may differ slightly compared to the present time – but the whole essence should be the same.

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Brushing Techniques for Healthier Gums


By: Gynn Flores


Tooth BrushingBrushing your teeth the proper way is very important for good hygiene. The main goal is to remove plaque and build up on your teeth to prevent bad breath and tooth decay.  At a very young age, we are taught to do this starting at home by our parents, in toddler and kindergarten school and even in grade school by our teachers. Sad to say, most of us really do not do it properly still even as adults. It only takes at least two minutes and twice daily and you are assured of clean teeth and healthier gums. Here is the proper way of brushing your teeth:

  1. Choose a good toothbrush. Not too soft and not too hard bristles as well- as it might be too harsh for your gums. Rinse and clean thoroughly before using it.
  2. Use a tooth paste of your choice. You should like its taste to like brushing all the more. You can consult a dental practitioner if you need to use prescription toothpaste as it contains more fluoride than your ordinary toothpaste and also has sensitivity protection.
  3. Rinse your mouth thoroughly by gargling water.
  4. Put toothpaste on your toothbrush enough to fill the length of the bristles.

  5. Start with the back teeth first both the lower and upper teeth. Position the toothbrush in 45 degrees angle to the gum line. Make small tooth size circular motion around the teeth reaching up to the gum line as this is where plaques are formed. Do not make back and forth movement as this might be too strong for the gums and can cause it to bleed. Make sure you reach every side of every tooth. Do the same all the way around and so with the inside of the teeth.
  6. On the chewing surface of the teeth, you can make a back and forth movement. Your aim is to remove plaque and build up here as this is where food is being chewed and broken down into small pieces. Do the same for the left and the right surfaces.
  7. On the interior teeth, use the tip of the toothbrush to do the same small tooth size circular motion still at a 45 degree angle to the gum line. So the toothbrush here is positioned vertically. Do the same on the interior teeth of the upper arch.
  8. After the entire two minutes of brushing, you can now rinse your teeth and mouth with water. Gargle for a few times until you are sure all the toothpaste and removed plaques are washed away.

Plaques and build up causes bad breath and cavities that can ruin good grooming. This will slowly weaken and destroy your teeth. Brushing regularly and thoroughly can prevent this from happening. It is also important to brush your teeth properly as per the technique given above particularly the strokes to also care for your gums. There are soft and tender tissues in the gums that when brushed vigorously can get ruptured – making them prone to infections. If you prefer to brush your teeth more often, then feel free to do so. Just be gentle. Using mouthwash after you brush is also an option to have fresher breath. This adds to your confidence especially if you have to talk face to face with people. You can also be confident to get extra close to your special someone when you know you have fresh breath.

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Cleanliness is a Must to Avoid Hookworm Disease


By: Gemma Lagasca


Hookworm or Necatoramericanus is the source of parasitic illness in the human body. People who usually walk on soil bare foot can easily be infected with this kind of disease. Soil contains different kinds of infectious elements—especially if it is contaminated with human feces. The hookworm eggs and larvae are happily residing in the filthy soil.

What is hookworm disease and how is it transmitted?

Once a person has direct contact with the infected soil – specifically without foot wear, the hookworm larvae can then be transferred to the human skin. When the hookworm entered into skin, it will quickly travel up to the blood stream going through the lungs. Right there and then, the hookworm will be coughed up into the airway going through the mouth and will gradually go down through the gastrointestinal tract. The hookworm will be transmitted to the small intestine and finally finds its own comfort zone there.The larvae will mature and multiply if not treated immediately.

Who are at risk?

Hookworm disease is mostly detected in tropical and subtropical areas. It affects more or less 40 million people worldwide. According to NIAID, the United States was once affected with this disease. Fortunately health care providers expedited the resolution to improve environmental hygiene.

People who usually dwell in unsanitary places are most likely at risk with hookworm disease. However, this kind of infectious disease can easily be avoided when the public is aware of its presence.

What are the alarming symptoms of Hookworm disease?

Generally, there are no such manifestations of hookworm disease in the intestines. Nevertheless, once the residing hookworm larvae in the intestine reaches its maturity, that’s the time that some unusual health condition will appear.

The affected patient will sooner or later experience gastrointestinal discomforts. Other affected individuals feel itchiness and swelling plus the visibility of red spots on the skin. Additionally, continuous coughing and other respiratory illnesses will persist due to the presence of hookworm larvae in the lungs.

A person who is positively carrying hookworm disease will have abdominal cramping, nausea, diarrhea, bloody stool, and accumulation of gas in the stomach and also loss of appetite.

What are the recommended treatments for this predicament?

Stool examination is the key to determine the presence of hookworm inside the body. The doctor will ask you to provide a stool sample for laboratory testing. Once the result shows a positive result, the doctor will prescribe a drug to kill the parasitic worms residing in the intestine. Antithelminthics is the common medicine to eliminate the parasitic worms. You should be careful in following and completing the prescribed medications to expedite the elimination of the dangerous parasites inside the intestine.

What are the severe complications for untreated hookworm disease?

Being unaware of the condition or delaying the treatment will cause Anemia to persist if full treatment is not administered. Chronic conditions are more likely to develop—especially with pregnant women and children when left unattended. Chronic complications due to hookworm disease include: Ascites or accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, low red blood cell count that may lead to severe Anemia and nutritional deficiencies.

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Male Insecurity is Just in the Head


By: Elena Grace Flores


Male InsecuritySexual Dysfunction is a common problem of men especially when they reach middle age. Issues such as erectile dysfunction (ED), impotence, loss of interest in sex, premature ejaculation, anorgasmia and inability to sustain erection are prevalent. This makes them feel insecure especially those who are with life partners. However, it must be known that most cases are reversible by psychological therapies and by taking dietary supplements. Administering these drugs without proper prescription from licensed medical practitioners is however discouraged. Here are areas that must be explored to fully understand the psychological factors with regards to sexual dysfunctions:

  1. Depression is a very powerful force that can cause psychological impotence. Loss of libido or lack of interest in sexual activities is a symptom of depression. In itself sexual impotence is a very depressing experience to any man. This must be discussed with a healthcare provider to properly assess the situation and to come up with effective remedies without beating the bush. Being ashamed or embarrassed about the problem will hinder possible solutions.
  2. Performance anxiety is developed by men who suddenly experienced one or more erectile dysfunctions during sexual intercourse. The focus during sexual activity is diverted from sensual feelings of pleasure to fearful thoughts that erectile dysfunction might happen again – giving more probability for it to occur – which is very frustrating for both partners.

  3. Lack of senate focus happens when at the time of sexual intercourse, problems about money or business matters creep into the mind – which is the most sensitive sex organ. When the mind drifts to other matters, concentration on the sensual act is destructed – that eventually leads to loss of sexual focus. This will cause the erection to subside – making it impossible for intercourse or deep penetration to happen.
  4. Anorgasmia happens when men cannot reach orgasm or also called as delayed ejaculation. It is a medical condition in which ejaculation difficulties are experienced either during intercourse or by manual stimulation. Ejaculation may not happen at all or takes a long time from 45 minutes or longer after thrusting continuously.Psychological causes on this involve:
  • Disturbance in the person’s mind that sex is a sin due to religion
  • No desire for the partner
  • Getting used to unusual masturbation habits
  • Traumatic personal events or unforgettable infidelities including anger towards the partner

For years it was acceptable to believe that sexual problems are part of growing old. Modern science already debunked this myth. Nowadays, with many treatments available, there is no reason why men cannot be sexually active even in their 70’s. Men’s health should be given importance and attention in order to avoid such occurrence. When intimacy in bed ends, it is hard to keep up with the strains in the relationship. Women should be supportive to their partner in this aspect. Men may be the masculine gender but they are not machines. They need the care and understanding by their other half to keep their sanity.

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