Archive of ‘gogirls’ category

pop goes the world: in the eye of the beholder

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  15 September 2011, Thursday

In the Eye of the Beholder      

Keyboards ceased clattering. Phones stopped humming. Work ground to a halt in the country the other morning as people downed tools to watch the live airing of this year’s Miss Universe pageant. It was said that the Philippines stops for only two things – the Miss U contest, and Manny Pacquiao fights.

Such is our fascination with the contest, which was established in 1952. Year after year, people have sat glued to their sets to watch how our candidates fare. Those at work had to rely on word-of-mouth for the results, and watch the replay at a later date. But with the Internet now providing the live feed, anyone with a broadband connection could watch it. The contest this year garnered more interest, with the well-beloved Shamcey Supsup fighting other Amazonian beauties to uphold the pulchritude of Filipinas on the world stage.

Shamcey was a pambato on many levels. Physically, she is a gorgeous specimen. But what’s more interesting is her blazing intelligence – a magna cum laude Architecture graduate of the University of the Philippines and Board topnotcher? Her future offspring would be formidable if they inherit her combination of beauty and brains, assuming she has them with a male of such impeccable DNA as herself.

Whether or not she should have won is a moot point. Beauty contests are subjective. The question is why someone as intelligent and talented as Shamcey, who has proven the quality of her brains in the academic arena, should still seek to validate her physical worth as well in a contest that looks primarily at appearance.

Shamcey Supsup’s Philippine Architecture Board exam result here.

We know the question-and-answer portion is a mere accommodation to deflect accusations of shallowness. If you really wanted to test a person’s intellect, then ask them to solve an algebra problem or write an essay. Pageant questions generally ask what a contestant would do given a certain scenario. The answers are usually grounded on the candidate’s cultural background, which the judges, who also come from different backgrounds, may not entirely agree with. So how can the Q & A be considered as a serious criterion for choosing a winner? No, it’s still primarily the looks.

And there we see that no matter how long the feminist battle has waged, it’s still the world’s commercial standards of beauty that prevail. Women all over the world strive to reach this ideal. Many spare no expense for cosmetic surgery and dentistry. Advances in knowledge and technology in cosmetic surgery have made it easier for non-contestants – the average person – to look like a “Miss U” candidate.

Those who can afford the procedures end up looking like each other, blank-faced Barbie dolls with breasts larger than nature can make them, their foreheads immovable from Botox. (Google images of US reality show celeb Heidi Montag.)

What’s alarming is how, in the process of socialization, these standards of beauty are being applied to younger females. Children have always been sexualized at various points in history; the question is, is it in their best interest for adults to allow this, in this day and age that we supposedly know better? Can we not protect children from this trend?

But in America, for instance, we see how child beauty pageants are so popular that there’s even a reality show for it – “Toddlers and Tiaras”.  Girls as young as two are dressed in frills and made-up. Those six and older sport fake eyelashes, elaborate hairstyles, and are made to look as much like adult women as possible.

Some studies have linked preoccupation with appearance to dissatisfaction with body image, trust issues, impulse disregulation. Other women suffer from eating disorders – anorexia, bulimia – or put other forms of pressure on themselves as they struggle to conform to the world’s notions of beauty. Is this worth chasing after?

We need to revisit our ideas of beauty and body image. Filipinos are racist. Some have expressed dissatisfaction with the victory of Miss Angola, the lovely Leila Lopes, because of her skin color. Otherwise, they said, she had attractive facial features and a great body. This mindset hearkens back to our colonial mentality. It’s a cultural disadvantage that prevents us from seeing more beauty and goodness in the world.

The debate will rage on. One thing is certain – our fascination with beauty and beauty pageants will not go away.

* * * * *

Education through entertainment: Web developer Bea Lapa announced the release of an “edutainment” online game that will help children learn about history and geography by taking a virtual trip on “Janjan the Jeepney”.

The game took three years to develop and is a pro bono project of Anino Games, Inc., the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and the now-abolished Commission on Information and Communication Technology. Says Lapa, “It’s part of our mission to uplift Filipino talent and culture and support our education sector.”

The game is free for access at http://janjanthejeepney.com/.

* * * * *

Art Alert: Controversial artist Mideo Cruz’s all-paintings show “Phases of Ra” runs from October 8 to 29 at Gallery Duemila, Pasay City. In this group of portraits in oil on canvas, Cruz looks at “the representation of power and how the public assigns reverence to those who have it.” The images are of the elite of society, but with the heads “replaced by filled-in or imprints of circles, a direct reference to Ra, the Egyptian sun-god.”

Mideo Cruz, “Eclipse”. Oil on canvas. 36 x 36 inches. From the artist’s Facebook page.

“I always look at how people attribute to sacredness to a thing,” Cruz says. “I try to deconstruct those things and put parallel meanings to them.”

Long interested in the “dynamics of belief systems,” Cruz’s works ask: “Why do we sanctify something and how do we arrive at doing so? In this cycle of paintings, he asks us to look at the “neo-deities” and see why we revere them because what we hold in high regard says much of ourselves.” ***

Shamcey Supsup image here. Toddler in tiara here. Leila Lopes here. Janjan the Jeepney here.

taste more:

pop goes the world: namaste, a place of wonder

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, published on 13 August 2011, Saturday

This article has already appeared on this blog in a somewhat different form here.

Namaste, A Place of Wonder

Namaste Art and Objects in Baguio City  is said to be the only shop in the Philippines that sells Nepali and Tibetan fine goods and art; they also carry  crystals and semi-precious stone beads to be made into custom jewelry.

Located at the ground floor of Porto Vaga Building along Session Road, the shop is small, yet filled with wonderful things. Everywhere is the gleam of brass or perhaps gold leaf, the shimmer of fine pashmina wool, and the sheen of beads displayed on countless racks.

Palanca Award-winning writer German Gervacio in front of Namaste. (April 2011)

I visited the shop last April. Its windows are crammed with an overload of interesting objects. Since they are informed by Buddhist Tibetan and Nepali culture, the meaning behind much of the things escapes the usual visitors.

In the center of the window was an intricate brass figure, winged and haloed, perhaps an avalokiteshvara (bodhisattva of compassion). Yet another gleaming Buddha sits serenely in the window, behind a quartz geode and metal elephant. Elephants (gaja in Sanskrit) symbolize fertility, abundance, richness, boldness and strength, wisdom and royalty. In Buddhism, the “Precious Elephant” means strength of mind, a “symbol of the calm majesty possessed by one who is on the Path.”

There is no wasted space in the shop; every available inch holds something. The walls of Namaste are adorned with paintings, carvings, masks, and a stringed musical instrument, while from the ceiling dangle bells, wind chimes, patchwork fabric hangings, and more.

Buddha figures in all shapes, sizes, and forms abound. One of my favorite tableaus on a high shelf featured a Buddha in the center, flanked by a warrior and a horse. In Chinese mythology, horses stand for virtue and power. From obvious associations, it also connotes speed, intelligence, and natural forces like the wind and waves. In Buddhism, the “Precious Horse” is one of the “Seven Jewels of Royal Power”, said to “travel among the clouds and mirror the Buddha’s abandonment of or “rising above” the cares of worldly existence.

Placed on eye-level on another shelf was a triptych, maybe eight inches high, carved from wood and painted in turquoise, pink, and gold. On the center of the left-hand panel is the Sanskrit symbol for OM, the “eternal syllable”. Buddha sits upon a lotus, and one is carved on either side of him. In Buddhism, the lotus refers to the “complete purification of body, speech, and mind.”

More brass Buddhas sit atop a pile of silk and wool fabric – shawls and what-not. From the ceiling in front of them is suspended a wooden charm carved and painted with the Chinese symbol for good luck.

The shop has many displays of bracelets and necklaces made from crystals and stones.I asked Namaste store attendant Meg Reyes to make me a bracelet. She asked me, “Ano’ng kailangan mo?” I asked her, “Ano ang tingin mong kailangan ko?” She looked into my eyes, while her own narrowed. Then she said, slowly, “Maraming naiinggit sa iyo.”

I was taken aback by that; it was unexpected. But then I recalled two Enochian card readings I was given last year, in November and December; the reader, Malou Mallari, told me both times to be wary of workplace envy. For the same issue to crop up again was an uncanny coincidence; I decided to take heed, and let Meg guide me in the choice of stones for my bracelet.

She put in a mix of power (creativity, health, success, etc.) and protection (anti-negativity, anti-envy, returning back ill-wishing) stones. Because the power stones cost more, I got only one of each, while the rest of the length of the bracelet was made up of the less expensive jet black “anti-negative” stones.

Meg chose various colors of tourmaline; clear, rose, and cherry quartz; and amethyst, jet, lapis lazuli, and angelite to make my bracelet. She placed my chosen beads on a makeshift cardboard stand, like a Scrabble tile holder, and strung them on several strands of elastic thread, then knotted the ends tightly and fused them in a candle flame.

I was also drawn to a tiny brass Buddha statue less than an inch and a half high. (I carry it with me every day in a pouch in my bag, putting it in front of my computer monitor when I get to work in the mornings.)

Before handing me my items, Meg “blessed” both the bracelet and the mini-Buddha in a Tibetan metal “healing bowl”, running a wooden implement around the rim to create a ringing, echoing sound, while telling me to think of good things. As I drew the bracelet on my wrist, Meg advised me to wear the power stones close to the pulse.

Prayer wheel and blessing/healing bowl.

Fast-forward to late May. Now one of the protection stones on my bracelet has cracked in half, and half of the bead beside it has changed color, from black to a murky gray. I was puzzled – I don’t slam my hand around, while the color change is frankly inexplicable.

Then the other day at work I learned that several people whom I thought were friends are backbiting me about my position, though  they admit that I have never done anything against them either professionally or personally.

When the green monster rears its ugly head, it spells the end of friendships. Or not, because now I realize these people were never my true friends, and I’m glad I found that out early on.

I can’t help thinking now that my bracelet took the hit of all that negative energy. A coincidence? It’s still uncanny. Three friends (a writer, a lawyer, and an editor) to whom I showed the damaged bracelet pushed it away and averted their eyes“Nakakakilabot,” they said.

I plan to go up to Baguio on the next long weekend and visit Namaste again, this time to ask Meg for a bracelet made entirely of the “anti-negative” stones as a pangontra. Though I believe luck is what we make it, some coincidences are just too strange and cannot be ignored.

It will also be a treat to immerse myself once more in a world of wondrous things replete with symbolism, a trove of exotic treasures from a different place, a haven for unraveling stress and instilling a sense of deep peace. ***

taste more:

namaste in baguio

When in Baguio last April I visited one of the most interesting shops I’ve ever entered – Namaste, at Porto Vaga Building along Session Road.

Namaste attendant Meg Reyes with writers Clarissa Militante and Genevieve Asenjo.

a place of wonder

It is said to be the only shop in the Philippines that sells Nepali and Tibetan fine goods and art, as well as crystals and semi-precious stone beads to be made into custom jewelry.

The shop is filled with wonderful things. Everywhere, the gleam of brass, or perhaps gold leaf, the shimmer of fine pashmina wool, the sheen of beads displayed on countless racks.

The shop windows are crammed with interesting objects. Here, a brass figure holds center stage, perhaps an avalokiteshvara (bodhisattva of compassion); behind it walk Meg and fictionist Yvette Tan.

Yet another gleaming Buddha sits serenely in the window, behind a quartz geode and metal elephant. Elephants (gaja in Sanskrit) symbolize fertility, abundance, richness, boldness and strength,  wisdom and royalty. In Buddhism, the “Precious Elephant” means strength of mind, a “symbol of the calm majesty possessed by one who is on the Path.”

The walls are adorned with paintings, carvings, masks, even a  musical instrument or two…

…while from the ceiling dangle bells, wind chimes, patchwork fabric hangings, and more.

A view of the Namaste shop interior. I’d love to have one of those intricately-carved wooden stools.

A prayer wheel sits atop a display case.

Buddha figures in all shapes, sizes, and forms abound…

One of my favorite tableaus – a Buddha in the center, flanked by a warrior and a horse. In Chinese mythology, horses stand for virtue and power. From obvious associations, it also connotes speed, intelligence, and natural forces, like the wind and waves. In Buddhism, the “Precious Horse” is one of the “Seven Jewels of Royal Power”, said to “travel among the clouds and and mirror the Buddha’s abandonment of or “rising above” the cares of worldly existence.”

This very interesting triptych is carved from wood and painted. On the center of the left-hand panel is  a prayer wheel with the Sanskrit symbol for OM , the “eternal syllable”. Buddha sits upon a lotus, with more on the other panels; in Buddism, the lotus refers to “the complete purification of body, speech, and mind.”

More Buddhas sit atop a pile of silk and wool fabric – shawls and what-not. From the ceiling in front of them is suspended a wooden charm carved and painted with the Chinese symbol for good luck.

The shop has many of these displays of bracelets and necklaces made from crystals and stones.

I asked Meg to make me a bracelet. She asked me, “Ano’ng kailangan mo?” (What do you need?) I asked her, “Ano ang tingin mong kailangan ko?” (What do you think I need?) She looked into my eyes, while her own narrowed. Then she said, slowly, “Maraming naiinggit sa iyo.” (Many people envy you.) I was taken aback by that; it was unexpected.

But then I recalled two Enochian card readings I was given last year, in November and December; the reader, Malou Mallari, told me both times to be wary of workplace envy. For the same issue to crop up again was an uncanny coincidence; I decided to take heed, and let Meg guide me in the choice of stones for my bracelet.

She put in a mix of power (creativity, health, success, etc.) and protection (anti-negativity, anti-envy, returning back ill-wishing) stones. Because the power stones cost more, I got only one of each, while the rest of the length of the bracelet was made up of the less expensive jet black “anti-negative” stones.

Meg makes my bracelet…

…choosing from these beads – tourmaline, quartz, amethyst, jet, lapis lazuli, angelite, and onyx among them. Beside the box of amethyst beads are two tiny (less than 1.5 inches high) Buddha statues that I was choosing between. I got the one on the left. I carry it with me everyday in a pouch in my bag, putting it in front of my computer monitor when I get to work in the mornings.

Meg places my chosen beads on a makeshift cardboard stand, like a Scrabble tile holder, and strings them on several strands of elastic thread, knotting the ends tightly and fusing them together in a candle flame.

The finished bracelet.

Before handing me my items, Meg “blessed” both the bracelet and the mini-Buddha in a Tibetan metal “healing bowl”, running a wooden implement around the rim to create a ringing, echoing sound while telling me to think of good things. As I drew the bracelet on my wrist, Meg advised me to wear the power stones next to my pulse.

envy breaks rock

Fast-forward to May 2011. Now one of the protection stones on my bracelet has cracked in half, and half of the bead beside it has changed color, from black to a murky gray. I was puzzled – I don’t slam my hand around, while the color change is frankly inexplicable.

The other day a friend at work told me that at least four people in our department, three men and a woman – people I had known from before we came to our present office, people whom I thought were my friends – have been griping about my position at work, though they acknowledged I had never done anything against them, either professionally or personally.

I noticed these four people have barely spoken to me the past several months – now I know why. This was not the first manifestation of their envy. (The first time around, the woman staged a weird and uncalled-for temper tantrum, texting me strange messages.) When envy rears its ugly head in erstwhile friendly relationships, especially in the workplace, it spells the end of friendships. Or not, because now I realize these people never were my true friends.

When Malou read my cards last year and told me that my biggest problem this year would be office envy – “It would really be severe,” she said – I shrugged it off, paid no heed; I was more interested in hearing about whether my lovelife would improve. Now I see what she meant.

And I can’t help thinking that my bracelet took the hit of all that negative energy. A coincidence? Still, it’s uncanny. Three friends (a writer, a lawyer, and an editor) I had showed the damaged bracelet to pushed it away and averted their eyes. “Nakakakilabot,” (gives me the shivers, frightening) they said.

I plan to go up to Baguio on the next long weekend and visit Namaste again, this time to ask Meg for a bracelet made entirely of the “anti-negative” stones as a pangontra. Though I believe luck is what we make it, some coincidences are just too strange and cannot be ignored.

It will also be a treat to immerse myself once more in a world of wondrous things replete with symbolism, a trove of exotic treasures from a different place,  a haven for unraveling stress and instilling a sense of deep peace.   ***

All photos by JennyO, taken April 2011  with a Nikon Coolpix L21.

taste more:

bene gesserit litany against fear

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

- Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear (Frank Herbert, Dune)

Image here.

taste more:

till you love me

Sketch by Ju-chin (Justine Espinola).

Ju-chin is a very talented schoolmate of my Major Offspring’s at De La Salle University. She is majoring in Japanese studies and loves all things anime. She dresses mori (forest girl) style, is a fantastic cook and sketcher and sewer and more besides.

This is one of the many drawings in her notebook, and I wonder what it means. She says one day she wanted to design a wedding dress, and here it is.

But the quote that accompanies the sketch makes the girl in the wedding dress seem like a stalker lying in wait for her crush who doesn’t even know she exists or if he does he is staying very very far away from her because she is weird and persistent and scary.

Or maybe it’s just me. I don’t think Ju-chin intended for her drawing to have any such meaning.

But that is what art is – open to the beholder’s interpretation, to her or his individual frames of reference. Once the artist releases art to the world, it is no longer her own, but everyone’s.

taste more:

a conversation with ik

“Hey, Ik. What should I write about tonight for my daily blog post?”

“Pandas.”

“Why pandas? I know nothing about pandas!”

“Because they’re the most non-racist animal? They’re black, white, AND Asian.”

“Riiight. What else, other than that?”

“Water, because it’s important.”

“But you could die from too much of it. You know, like, drown.”

“Sigh. I mean it’s important, because you have to drink it. How about you write about your daily activities?”

“You mean ‘eating a lot’?”

Another long sigh. “That’s not a good thing.”

“What else?”

“Dolphins. Almonds. Unevenly-placed slats in furniture. Foods that have caused temporary insanity.”

“You’re making that up.”

“Twinkies and cupcakes. No really, there’s an article.”

Thanks, Ik. <3

taste more:

advice from the young

I have two daughters and they are very wise, wise beyond their years.

Living with them is like having “Dear Abby” at my beck and call. They are ready to dispense advice when I ask for it and consolation and comfort when I’m a depressed puddle of goo. As a mom, I must’ve done something right for them to turn out so level-headed and well-adjusted – or so I’d like to think. Most likely they’ve turned out well despite me, not because of me. Parenting is often by trial-and-error and we are blessed when our kids grow up to be fine people notwithstanding our mistakes.

Ik is 12 and Alex is 19. Their thoughts on relationships and other topics:

On people who hate on you:
Ik: “Haters gonna hate. They’re wasting their time, using their negative energy to devise ways to hate you – it’s not benefiting them.”
Alex: “”You jelly?” They just jelly.”

On being dumped:
Alex: “It’ll hurt for a while, but you were okay before them. What makes you think you won’t be okay after?”

On divorce:
Ik: “It’s good to not keep yourself attached when you’re not in love anymore and it’s awkward when you’re sharing the same house and bed and “Hiiii.” It’s a good idea to just get them out of your life.”
Alex: “Bring out the divorce cake!”

On exes:
Alex: “Wish them happiness. Don’t wish them run over by a tractor.”

On communicating with your exes:
Ik: “Don’t.”
Alex: “If they were real bleeps, cut off all communication. And body parts.”

On being single:
Ik: “Enjoy life while you can, and don’t fret about being single because it’s fun to not be obligated to be attached to be one person. And you save more because you don’t spend too much money on Valentine’s Day.”
Alex: “Oh, well.”

On failed relationships:
Ik: “It’s the past, get over it! Let it go, because if it failed in the first place, you aren’t perfect for each other and you should just get over it instead of showing up on their lawn drunk going “I miss yoooou.” And search for the right one instead.  Lots of people have wasted their lives over people who aren’t even the right one.”
Alex: “What about?”

On life in general:
Ik: “Make the most of it because life is short.”
Alex: “What she said.”

Bonus advice from Alex and Ik!
On pizza:
Ik: “It’s great, it’s delicious, I love it! Shakey’s, Pizza Hut, or Yellow Cab? All three.”
Alex: “If it comes with Mojos, all the better.”

taste more:

patriots on the street book launch

After a wait of many months, there’s finally a schedule set for the launch of the novel Patriots on the Street.

The book serves as a platform for the thoughts of property developer Rex Drilon II and was written by Manila Standard-Today opinion editor and columnist Adelle Chua.

Patriots on the Street explores the issues of nationalism and poverty and offers Drilon’s solutions to the economic and political challenges facing the country.  It is a gentle and wry commentary of social ills and a search for social justice and change that should, at the very least, incite critical thinking and propel a revolution in the way one perceives Filipino politics and culture.

The book launch is set for January 20 at Bestsellers bookstore, The Podium, Ortigas Center.

From the book, on the true state of Philippines politics:

The truth is, they – administration or opposition – are all the same. Political parties? They don’t mean a thing in terms of policy positions. Politicians identify themselves with parties so they can take advantage of resources during elections. But at the first instance of disagreement, somebody can easily bolt a party, join another, or establish one of his own.

Furthermore, the country’s political elite, both on the national and local levels, flaunts the wrong values. They feel entitled to deferential treatment. They assert their influence in big and little things alike. Most of them believe they have the monopoly on good intentions and treat political office as a family enterprise – and nobody from outside can challenge their starring roles.

As a result, the governed feel both disgusted and powerless. They become resigned to their fate so they do just what is necessary to survive from day to day. They don’t see any value in participating in the building of the community, much less the nation. Why bother?

The book will be available at Bestsellers and National Bookstore branches.

taste more:

carrie fisher wants to lose…

..not the Slave Leia outfit. Rather, thirty pounds so she can get back in it.

Last Wednesday the actress launched her partnership with the Jenny Craig weight loss company, not only to lose weight but also to change the way she “interacts with food as a whole.”

Fisher played Princess Leia Organa in the ’70s Star Wars trilogy, and one of her most memorable costumes is the ‘metal’ bikini she wore while a captive of the repulsive and villainous slug Jabba the Hutt.

In her blog post on the topic she writes:

I wish I still had the body I had when I was attached to that giant slug wearing that metal bikini… You know, I swear when I was shooting those films I never realized I was signing an invisible contract to stay looking the exact same way for the rest of my existence… Must have been in the small print.

So anyway, this is where my friends, at Jenny Craig come into the picture. The truth is I’ve been unhappy with my weight for a long time now, & so when the world takes a snapshot of you like that and you get locked forever into it, it doesn’t make it any easier.

I adored her in the Star Wars movies, but for me she is Leia only on the screen; I admire her as the strong person that she is, actress and writer and human being, whatever she looks like. Fisher portrayed Leia; she is not Leia.

But most people tend to judge celebrities more harshly than they would ordinary people. They are held to higher standards. Fame comes with a price.

Yet she is doing this not only to regain her looks, but also to become healthier. Her positive steps towards wellness are an inspiration to all of us struggling with weight issues.

Slave Leia image here. Carrie Fisher image here.

taste more:

pop goes the world: sinful and sweet

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 30 December 2010, Thursday

Sinful and Sweet

I was at work yesterday afternoon when someone dropped by with a luscious chocolate mousse cake. It was a three-layer concoction composed of a sinfully rich chocolate cake base, chocolate mousse center, and whipped cream rosette topping. Like all desserts are made to do, it beckoned, tempting me – “Eat me. You know you want to.” I knew it would melt in my mouth and coat my tongue with pleasure.

Yet I hesitated – it was a calorie- and fat-laden time bomb that would further expand my waistline and elevate my glucose and cholesterol levels. Should I taste it – or not?

The matter was taken out of my hands when an officemate cut a slice, plated it, and handed it to me along with a fork. Now, I couldn’t very well be rude and refuse it, could I? It would have hurt her feelings. So I sank the fork in that three-tiered treat and dissolved into a puddle of sugar-fueled ecstasy when the chocolatey goodness hit my tastebuds.

I was dumped from my cloud of baked bliss when a voice spoke. “Jenny, don’t finish that cake.” It was a visitor, one of my former bosses. “Give the rest to someone else to finish.”

I stared at the cake with different eyes. Yes, Attorney Mon was right. That cake would have gone from my lips straight to my hips. Already carrying excess poundage and having trouble losing it, any extra avoirdupois was just an added health liability I could ill afford.

Which brings me to the point of this article. The holidays are a traditionally a time for feasting, when abundance and the pleasures of the table are an essential part of the celebration. Almost every household has its Christmas and New Year recipes for ham, pasta, salad, whatever. It is a ritual, this preparation of the holiday food that is often not made at any other time of the year. And when the special dishes are served, it marks another cycle in the circle of cultural observances.

But many traditions we observe, while fulfilling psychological needs, are not always good for us. The overconsumption of sugar, fat, salt, protein, carbohydrates, and alcohol wreak havoc on our health, which we pay for in the future, if not right away in the form of, let’s say, indigestion, hypertension, and diarrhea.

After the holiday feasting, we step on a bathroom scale and watch the needle swing much farther to the right than we’d like. Some panic and look for quick fixes. Diet pills, for one. Through the years, there have been many, some with evil side effects.

Some 20 years ago, fen-phen – a combination of two drugs, fenfluramine and phentermine – caused a global sensation for resulting in very rapid weight loss.Fenfluramine was later shown to cause heart problems and other internal damage. It was withdrawn from the market and “led to legal damages of over $13 billion.” This is one case where the “cure” proved to be more harmful than the cause. (“Phentermine was not shown to cause harmful effects.”)

Undergoing scrutiny now by the American Food and Drug Administration is bupropion/naltrexone (trade name Contrave), “designed to affect the hypothalamus to decrease food intake over extended period of time…On 7 December 2010 an FDA Advisory Committee voted 13-7 for the approval of Contrave, and voted 11-8 for the conduct of a post-marketing cardiovascular outcomes study.”

The current popularly marketed medication, available over-the-counter here, is orlistat, “a drug designed to treat obesity… [by] preventing the absorption of fats…thereby reducing caloric intake.” (All citations from Wikipedia.)

Succumbing to the ease of taking a drug panders to our desire for convenience and immediate gratification. For some, under a physician’s care, such medications could even be necessary. But the best results come from the old-school way to weight loss – healthy eating that is predominantly vegetarian combined with sweaty exercise (both aerobic and strength training), adequate sleep, and less stress.

I’ve done it both ways, and only the natural method really worked and made me feel better. So this is one of my resolutions for the coming Year of the Rabbit – to regain wellness.

I will lay off the White Rabbit candy, and lace on my walking shoes once more. Because of my hypertension, I will reduce my caffeine intake. My 12-year-old daughter is helping me get healthy by giving frequent reminders. “Mama, you have to stop drinking too much coffee, eating sweets and chicharon, and sleeping late. Those are bad habits. I’m just glad they’re not illegal.” Thanks, Ik.

I must harness my willpower and discipline to achieve the goals I’ve set because it’s the only way I will get well. And only I can do this for myself – no one else. And because I have loved ones to take care of, I have to stay healthy as long as I can.

It’s a resolution I think we all need to make – and stick with. Happy new year, everyone.

My thoughts return to the chocolate mousse cake that got away. Bereft and forlorn without the other half, I console myself with a chunk of banana loaf someone else left behind. That should be healthier, I figure, because it’s got fruit in it.

Right?   ***

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