A description of what this section is, a blog-style collection of articles on wellness, good living and... stuff.


June 10th, 2012 - No Responses

The last article we discussed some ways to tackle social snags vegetarians encounter in a non-vegetarian society.  Now it’s time to take on the munchkin issues, particularly those who have established roots in the carnivorous environment.


All too often, I get this from a distressed newly vegetarianized mother eager to let her loved ones into the loving fold: “Ok, I’ve converted my husband into the contentious vegetarian planet.  But my kids!  OMG, I totally give up!”  Or, “God knows I tried but she just won’t touch her gulays, so I just have to give her her burgers or she’ll starve!”

First I say, DON’T GIVE UP!  And… she won’t starve. 

The very first lesson in this is quite simple: to successfully make a believer of anyone on anything, you have to be no less than a 100% believer yourself.  If you’ve got one foot in the door and one out, those following you will stay with the outside foot until you stick it in. With both feet in, half the battle—or more appropriately, transition—is overcome.  This confidence nourishes patience, the golden virtue, the key to all others.  Patience fuels determination.  Then:

C Offer the children options aplenty.  A smorgasbord lessens the odds against total rejection.  So the budget squirms not, make several small preparations to please the eyes as well as the palate.  Kids always judge books by their covers. 

C For fussy eaters (I speak from experience) the key is, feed them familiar favorites.  For now, tame that culinary adventure spirit and stick to “comfort foods”—in meatless versions of course.  (Save the elaborate cuisine for adolescents on the threshold—my, what an ENDLESS threshold—of adulthood.)  Burgers?  Sure!  There are a gazillion meatless burger recipes made from potatoes, tofu, mushrooms, puso ng saging, rice, ad infinitum.  Once in a while, try wild varieties of shrimpless shrimps, fishless fish, squidless squids, chicken-less chicken, etc….  Pricey but still less than the cost of real meat.  (I don’t really recommend these, but they’re good transition “tools”.)

Menu suggestions along this line: fries, “sausages,” spaghetti, mashed potatoes, “steak”, kare-kare, tacos, burritos, pancit, lumpia, lasagna, etc.  Only the imagination (and budget) may limit you.  Until their palates get “broken in” to the taste of foods without the blood (pardon the gore but meat without blood would taste like old socks), stick with the prosaic.  Once over that initial turbulence, the air clears.  There’s always sunshine after rain.

C Get them involved in the purchasing, planning, and preparing of monthly menus.  Munchkin kitchen participation may be messy and nerve-wracking, but the fun and priceless learning will override the fret even if palatability may not always be achieved.  Show them the chemistry, physics, mathematics all rolled into one fantastic kitchen experience.

C Besides this food involvement, demonstrate the earth-food nexus.  There are many ways to do this.  If you don’t have a farm, where the intimate experience is like no other, perhaps you can show them a neighbor’s vegetable plot, or start one of your own, even in containers.  Watching growth happen adds valuable botany, biology, zoology, environmental science lessons not found in classrooms.  Great opportunity to elucidate on the “circle of life” like Mufasa did to Simba.  They get to feel, touch and see how the sun, air, water, animals and insects, and man, etc. are all incalculable parts of that circle.  These lessons they’re not likely to forget.

C For staunch anti-vegetable kiddos, TRICK THEM! Even today, the likes of okra, eggplant, zucchini, squash, et al. have to be cleverly disguised in our dining repertoire.  Taste buds, like hormones, have some maturing processes.  Ultra frustrated at not being able to get them to eat these superfoods, I grate, homogenize, blend, process stuff in the patties, burgers, soups, pastas, breads, cakes, and cookies.  This is your lesson in creativity!

C Now about peers.  Let me tell you that some of my kids have come home complaining that their baons are never enough because their classmates eat off their delicious baons. 

Not infrequently did they come home from school with a friend or two who have expressed their desire to be vegetarians too. 

It’s not a phenomenon, just a simple fact of life: children are by nature vegetarian.  How many children can witness a slaughter for the first time without breaking down in tears, expressed or not?  I recall my own kids silently crying the first time they heard a pig being slaughtered.  Children, more than anyone, genuinely relate to George Bernard Shaw’s famous quip, “Animals are our friends, and we don’t eat our friends.”  Respect for life is a most enduring, deep-rooted lifestyle lesson.

And perhaps you mightn’t have noticed—we are children, too.


May 1st, 2012 - 2 Responses


By Shai

It makes me sad to see starting vegetarians suddenly turn part-time vegetarian or give up completely because the niggling flak attached to the meatless choice eats at their sensibilities.  From the first time I’ve disrobed the cloak of the omnivore a few decades ago till now, my encounters with that touchy word “vegetarian” has most often stirred fidget, fret and fuss…sometimes even downright rancor.  Through the years though, the rancor has turned to positive curiosity, the other f’s have let up just a bit.  So here’s some (sun)light at the end of the (green) tunnel.  The tides have turned and “vegetarian” has become cool—even here in the Philippines. J

Some familiar scenarios:

At a party (9 out of 10 are vege-unfriendly), host becomes flustered, embarrassed, flustered some more, sorry, then irate that she has nothing to feed the “grass-eating” guest that is you.  Behind the scenes, she orders the kusinera to tear up some salad greens and slosh it with some supermarket vinaigrette.  The night is saved, cheer up!  Though there may be a scar, Time heals all wounds.  Bright side, this may inspire party hosts to whip up vegetarian choices on the menu for non-omnivore guests.  Big plus for them and everyone else.  Supply follows demand.

At some corporate business meeting (what’s a Pinoy business meeting without the meating—er, eating), the caterers have only fish for the vegetarian that is you.  You refrain from saying that fish is not a vegetable, and you politely er, ah, take the tomato, iceberg, and cucumber garnishes instead.  (Sometimes, you’ll find a pineapple-watermelon centerpiece you can dismember, or a fresh fruit platter.)  A throat-clearing, awkward dense air slices through the business glee.  Thankfully, the meeting resumes and all is forgotten.  See?

Ah yes, we of the early P.I. vegetarian pioneers have weathered much rebuff & antipathy in the days of yore.  And here we still are, happily vegetarian!  To you who wish to embark on this blessed journey, or have just jumped in and are uncomfortable in the ride, allow me to lend some friendly advice.  

Firstà It does everyone good to nurture patience, perseverance, and spunk to ride thru any storm. 

Take comfort that:

o   The body can go many days without food, but not much longer than 3 without water.  So, if you find yourself without anything to eat at a chow-in, you can rest easy that you won’t be dying soon.  Just lots of juice and better yet, water, and you’re good!

o   This new chapter of your life could be a great entry into a brave new world of culinary adventures, if you aren’t already there.

o   There are such creatures called good cooks.  If you, like 30 million other Pinoys, are too busy or simply not a kitchen type, find time to find a good kusinera.  Good: adj., flexible, daring and positive about exploring new horizons.  (Remind the good cook that these aren’t new at all, just a tad different.)  I promise you, they will get the hang of it and get into the groove.  And you will eat hearty.

o   You are making steps in a positive direction—for the planet’s and your health. So stand proud :)

Some other tips:

In the past, when I’ve found myself in awkward situations where there’s nothing the host has for me at a gathering of eating, I deploy some default strategies: a) “oh no worries, I’m on a diet”; b) “Gosh, I’m so full—couldn’t say no to my mom’s casserole she prepared before I came here.  Maybe later…” (or, “maybe dessert” if I spot a rare vegan selection like fresh mangoes or bananas or kakanin); c) I bring a delish dish that everyone partakes of that becomes a hit; d) I seek fruits or nuts (the plant kind), whose richness in nutritious fats can do wonders at satiating.  

Since the tides have turned, I now just say “I’m vegetarian, don’t worry about me.”  More often than not, this spurs an engaging discourse.  Many are curious, awestruck, amazed or inspired.  It becomes an education-information exchange that can be very heartwarming.  No matter the option, do it as pleasantly as can be to chuck any discomfiture on both sides.

Knowing the vegetarian-unfriendly reputation of Pinoy cuisine, I always eat enough before going to a party or guzzle a robust glass of green juice before leaving.  This has the power to silence hunger nags for as long as the party lasts.

It’s no longer as thorny as it used to be.  Restaurants and airlines now offer more meatless choices, and more vegetarian restos have sprung up.  There’s pasta, better bread choices, sandwiches, power-packed shakes and a whole lot more options out there now than our peanut-butter/grilled-cheese/French-fries days.  Baons can be simple: brown rice, a ripe avocado with a little salt and tomatoes.  Possibilities are endless. 

So fret no more. 

Be mindful that we eat to live and not live to eat, that animals deserve respect for life no less than humans.  This makes the occasionally rough journey easy.

Don’t let living in one of the most vegetarian-unfriendly countries in Asia dampen your resolve.  Be imaginative, creative, soft of heart, and strong of will.  You will overcome.  Kiss hopeless resignation good-bye and simply enjoy the ride J.



March 20th, 2012 - 2 Responses

By Shai

Restful sleep is a cardinal ingredient of wellness.  It rejuvenates, repairs, regenerates, maintains body and mind, and boosts the immune system.


In this chaotic age, sleeplessness has become almost normal.  It could be a long and complex topic, so here we pare it down to fundamentals.

Too many researches affirm that lack of sleep is undoubtedly linked to several psycho-physiological problems, to wit:

·      Moodiness that makes one less able to cope with daily stresses, which may lead to troubled relationships

·      Weakened immune system, symptomized by frequent allergies, colds, chronic and acute illnesses

·      Poor academic and general performance, concentration, mental and emotional stability

·      Obesity (for children and adults), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), depression, binge eating and other eating disorders

·      Poor growth

·      Shortened lifespan.

Insomnia could mean: being unable to sleep upon going to bed; frequent waking during the night or waking in the middle of the night and being unable to get back to sleep; light fretful sleep; disturbing dreams.

Some tips to induce restful sleep:

1.      Align your bed with the earth’s magnetic lines running North and South.  The best is to face your head east and your feet west.  If that’s not possible, the next best would be head facing south and feet north.  If neither is possible, face head west and feet east (least).  DO NOT face your head north.

2.     Ever stayed out in nature?  Absolute blackness of night is nature’s original plan for her children to sleep deeply and restfully.  We’ve come so far from that.  Now all cities are over-lit, agitating circadian rhythms of the body, disrupting female cycles, and causing serious insomnia.  Turn off as many indoor and outdoor lights as you can, installing curtains or window shades to block artificial light (btw, moonlight is natural and healing), sleep masks, eye pillows or any light, natural fiber material to cover the eyes.

3.     Notice how synthetic fibers (polyester, acrylic, rayon) stir electric static?  This disturbs the body’s natural energy flows; it disallows the skin to breathe.  So it’s best to use natural fibers for bedding, sleep clothes, pillows that are always clean, frequently washed with natural laundry agents without artificial strong scents (these aggravate the central nervous system, are usually petroleum- or coal tar-based).

4.     Keep the bedroom an abode of relaxation: out with the TV, computers, work desks, and food (food aromas can disturb sleep); use restful colors for the room, décor, furniture, sheets, blankets, and curtains (Ayurvedically, blue is most relaxing; green next).  Bright, garish, harsh or very dark colors and designs can agitate.  Open windows and cross ventilation are better than air-conditioning.  Houseplants, aromatherapeutic oils, and soft meditative music help calm and soothe.

5.     Before going to bed, take a warm bath/shower to relax the body.

6.     Do foot massage before bedtime—rub some light oil (sesame, coconut, almond or sunflower) all over the top, toes, and especially the soles.  This is very calming, helps promote sound and peaceful sleep.  Great for restless adults and children.

7.     Try also a scalp massage with a small amount of any of the above-mentioned oils, or Ayurvedic oils specifically for calming the mind, like Brahmi oil.

8.     Eat a meal not less than three hours before going to bed.  If you can, eat at sunset or just after, and make it light so the digestive process doesn’t impede your sleep efforts.  Should you be hungry close to bedtime, drink a cup of hot milk with a sprinkle of nutmeg–very calming.

9.     Set the mood for sleep.  Don’t watch (movies, TV) or read (books, articles, mags, newspapers) or listen to (loud, harsh music) anything that will rouse your mind, as it can go on overdrive when lying in bed.  So calm it before bedtime.  Meditation or prayer, letting go of worries, reading inspirational books before bedtime promote restful sleep and peaceful rising in the morning.

10. Caffeinated drinks, food and drinks with harmful ingredients (artificial coloring, flavoring, and preservatives) or those that are heavily spiced, super sweet or flavored are not sleep-conducive, especially when eaten in the evening.

11. Just as with eating, sleep is benefitted by routine.  Routine trains the body and mind learn to get ready to retire. Bed by 10pm or earlier, 11:00 at the latest.

12. Regular exercise relieves tightness, stiffness and stagnation in the body, promoting overall relaxation.  There are specific yoga asanas and chikung exercises that are ideal for this.

13. Left nostril breathing cools the mind and promotes lunar energy for sound sleep. Lie on your right side, the left side up, promoting breathing through the left nostril.

14. EMF’s or electro-magnetic fields have shown to cause a lot of very subtle mind agitation.  So turn cellpones off, unplug as many outlets as possible before going to bed.

15. Try some relaxing herbal teas: chamomile; lemon balm; catnip; valerian /  (locals) lemongrass; botolan (common bushweed); kusia (slender golden shower); tawa-tawa (asthma weed), and more.  Ask mr. Google—you’ll find millions of sedative herbs and homeopathic remedies.  Always check for contraindications.

Bottom line: a healthy body—well-functioning digestion, good elimination, well-exercised, nutritiously fed, regularly de-stressed, adequately hydrated—will sleep well.  So, let’s work on that!