Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Year Celebration in the Philippines

Although New Year is a distinct occasion, most Filipinos consider its celebration as a part of observing the long Christmas season. The New Year’s Eve is a moment when people welcome the arrival of another year as the clock strikes at midnight. New Year is supposed to be merrier than Christmas because it is more of a secular occasion. Christmas has a religious significance because the day is identified with the birth of Christ while New Year is a day to start another Gregorian calendar year. Despite the fact that Filipinos put more meaning on Christmas than the New Year, both occasions are given grandiose celebrations.

New Year's Eve is also an occasion for gift giving

Above pictures are favorite foods on New Year's Eve
beer, a favorite New Year's Eve drink
Like Christmas, fiesta, wedding, birthday and other occasions, New Year Eve is the time when members of the family, relatives and friends gather to be with the company of each other. Parties and parlor games are held, music is played for a dance or a listening, videoke or guitar or in some cases a band accompanies a song, gifts are exchanged and foods are served to people. The extent and quality of foods available and activities done are determined by the financial status or capability of a family. People who are more religious attend a mass before waiting for the arrival of the New Year.                                                                                                                    
The many activities that people are doing keep them up all through the night. As a result, they sleep late in the following morning, the New Year’s Day which is an official public holiday. In contrast to the lively atmosphere that characterized the celebration of the previous evening, the following day is usually almost devoid of people’s activities. People are in their home resting or sleeping. Government offices and private shops and businesses are closed. And many vehicles are off the street resulting in a significantly lighter traffic.

round shaped fruits on the table
Some superstitious practices that are probably of Chinese origins and not rooted on Christian belief influence the observance and welcoming of the New Year. Said practices are believed to bring forth good luck and ward off bad luck and evil spirits. Although many people do not subscribe to the ideas, other people observe the practice anyway for the sake of social tradition. Making loud sounds, putting 12 kinds of round fruits on the table, wearing polka dot dress, and spreading coins around the house are said to bring in good luck. Jumping 12 times on New Year’s Eve is said to make children become taller. When the New Year’s noise has died down, the sound of an animal that is heard first is a sign of a good or a bad fortune. A crow of a roster or a bark of a dog is a bad sign while the moo of a cow or a water buffalo or a bleat of a goat is a good sign for the coming year. Those are some of the many Filipino superstitious beliefs that are related to the celebration of New Year.

fireworks display
It is the practice of the Filipinos to make loud sound when the clock strikes midnight to bring in good luck and drive away evil spirits. People make noise by blowing horns, blowing the horns of cars, playing music loud, and banging cans and kitchen utensils among other actions. But the most popular and effective way of making noise is the use of firecrackers and fireworks. In relation to it, some people, before the New Year’s Eve, set aside money to buy those stuffs. The varied explosions, shapes, light colors, sparks and smokes caused by the exploding fireworks in the ground or in the sky are for some people a brilliant spectacle in the night sky. But for other people including the animals the burst of explosives can scare them out of their wits. There is inherent risk in exploding fireworks because people might get injured or properties might be burned. For this reason, the sale and use of fireworks and firecracker are strictly regulated or in some instances discouraged by the government.

The western influenced making of resolutions for the New Year is a practice that is adapted by the Filipinos. People hope to change their character or behavior for a better life in the coming year. Some put their resolutions into writings while others just commit them to their memory. And still other people do not make New Year’s resolutions at all, because for them, if there is something to be changed or corrected, they should do it right there and then without waiting for the year end to come to do it.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Renovated Fountain of Cagayan de Oro

Gaston Park is a historic and major Landmark of Cagayan de Oro, and one of its main fixtures is the fountain. Locals who visited the park and those who went to the mass at Saint Augustine Cathedral relished the view of the park with its decorative fountain and people had their picture taken with the fountain, the church and the old water reservoir now converted into museum as the background. However, the operation of the fountain was temporarily stopped so that it can be improved and renovated.

In December 2015, with the renovation done, the fountain was reactivated. Now, when the fountain’s electric pump is turned on people can see the water jets into the air which is accompanied with lights and music. The fountain retains its old original basin that is surrounded by railings. In the middle is a new smaller and higher elevated basin where the nozzles of the main spring are located. Outside and below this smaller basin in the pond are nozzles that create smaller springs around the main spring in the middle.  

The reactivation of the fountain with its colored lights and music is indeed a beautiful sight not only to the local residents but also to other people who will visit the city.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Doing Business with a Debit Card

Debit card is a plastic card that allows user to withdraw cash from financial institutions or purchase items from merchants with the cost charged directly to his bank account. It is a convenient instrument for a person to do business or personal activities. It is a paperless bank account on which a bank issues a card instead of a passbook to its client. Aside from making deposit to his debit card account, the user can make payment to another person or institution or receive payment or deposit on his saving account through his card.                                               

Like ATM card, a debit card can also be used by its holder to withdraw money from bank’s ATM. A debit card issued by one bank can withdraw money from another bank’s ATM if both of them are connected with interbank ATM networks such as Express, MegaLink and BancNet.  In the Philippines, the major electronic fund transfer facilitators are Visa and MasterCard. Banks that issue debit card carry the brand of those two international companies on their cards. The Visa or the MasterCard brands and the connectivity of debit card to bank networks allow the holder to use his debit card locally or even abroad.                                                                                                                                                                   
Cashless shopping or payment is the main convenient feature of debit card in financial transactions. A debit card can be used to pay utilities, groceries, restaurant or other bills to merchants that accept such form of payment. A cashier swipes the card in an electronic authorization device at the point of sale.  Sometimes a separate PINpad to enter the PIN is used. But in some establishments there is no need to do it.

Both debit and credit cards can be used to shop online. There are some advantages in buying items online because in some cases they are cheaper than what can be bought physically at local stores. Manufacturers and merchants who have large inventories of unsold, overstocked and discontinued items find online stores as convenient place to sell them off. To attract buyers, these items are offered for sale at a very huge discount. Since the items are still very usable, online shoppers are attracted to them because of their low price. Furthermore, some old and hard to find items at the local stores might only be available online. And the debit card and credit card may come in handy to acquire those much desired items. However, the purchase of the debit card holder is limited to the amount of his bank savings account balance while a credit card holder purchases are limited to the range of his line of credit. The credit card holder therefore has more leverage in purchasing online items. He can even buy them in installment basis with interest.

Using a debit card is in essence a cash transaction while using a credit card is virtually an acquisition of goods or services on short term loan. And since credit card purchases may not be backed up with the user’s bank account, the items are usually charged with interest. Since the debit card holder spends only what he has in his bank account, there is only little risk that he may go into an unmanageable debt. On the other hand a credit card holder may be tempted to go on an uncontrollable shopping spree that may put him in future dire financial straits. 

Almost always, one needs to have money in his possession since debit or credit card alone won’t be able to pay for anything. But with a debit card, he may not have to bring along with him huge amount of it. Money that is lost will be gone forever, while a lost debit card can be replaced with a new one. The user will just have to report the incident to his bank which will then deactivate the card to prevent transaction that will be made by unauthorized persons.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

GOP Presidential Candidate Donald Trump- Love Him or Hate Him

Donald Trump (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)
With his bold and heavily controversial statements on public issues, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump draws attention not only from the American public but also from his rivals from the Republican and Democratic Parties. The outspoken billionaire always minces no words in his statements in answers to questions asked of him.

On December 8, 2015, in the aftermath of the San Bernardino shooting involving Islamic terrorists, Donald Trump made statements suggesting to “ban Muslims from entering the United States unless its representatives can figure out what is going on.” He then immediately got a lot of criticism over his words. Hilary Clinton, a Democratic Party presidential candidate commented that Trump’s remarks are “shameful” and “dangerous” and that he is playing into the hands of the ISIS by supplying it with new propaganda. Her view was echoed by the Pentagon which voiced concern on the security implication on Trump’s remarks. Fearing a backlash to the party over Trump’s comment, Republican Party presidential candidates also rebuked him. Jeb Bush, another republican presidential candidate said that Trump’s action is helping Clinton to win the presidency, and that Trump is not going to be the Republican Party nominee for president. In the academe, on December 9, 2015, the Robert Gordon University revoked Trump’s Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration for making statements that are incompatible with the ethos and values of the school.                                                
Donald Trump also received a lot of flak abroad over his anti-Muslim rhetoric. British Prime Minister David Cameroon, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Canadian Foreign Minister Stephanie Dion also expressed their criticism. In addition there is a petition in the UK which already gained half a million signatures to ban Trump in the country.

Despite the attacks leveled against him over his anti-Muslim and anti-immigration stance, Trump remains defiant and says that he will stand by with what he said. Latest opinion survey by Huffpost pollster conducted after his controversial remarks shows that his popularity in the Republican Party has not  diminished. He still leads the republican presidential hopefuls with 35.6%. His closest rivals Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio got only 14.1% and 12.3% respectively.

Donald Trump joined the presidential race with official slogan: “We are going to make our country great again.”, and commitment “to become the greatest president that God created.” His proposed policies as president include the deportation of 11 million immigrants from the United States, the construction of a substantial wall on the US-Mexican borders, and the aggressive bombings of the ISIS. He would also support the surveillance of mosques in the US.

Most often, Trump’s statements don’t sit well with the illegal immigrants to include the Syrian refugees and even the liberals. Though there are some people who disagree with his view, there are others who appreciate Trump’s candidness to speak his mind on controversial issues. He says what he feels without being constrained with political correctness. His supporters believe that his views reflect the sentiments of the majority of the Americans.  

You like him or not, Donald Trump if ever he would be elected as the next president of the United States would likely bring significant changes in the country’s policies and direction especially on matters such as immigration and the war on terrorism which are some of the key issues that could sway voters’ preference in the coming US presidential election of 2016. And the world would see a shift from a liberal oriented administration into one with conservative leanings.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Earthworm, a Beneficial Organism to Your Garden

Earthworm is a name given to a worm in the class Oligochaeta in phylum annelida.  The earthworm has a cylindrical shaped segmented body that tapers off at both ends. Some species are pale red while others are dark brown. Earthworm has bristles called setae that project from their body which it uses to hold to a surface. Some of them grow only about a few centimeters in length, but there are other tropical species that can grow up to 3.3 meters. Some earthworm species can live up to ten years.

With no other type of sense except its sense of touch, earthworm relies on its skin to observe and perceive its surroundings. Earthworms are hermaphrodites with each worm having both male and female reproductive organs.  However, they still need a partner to reproduce. Their eggs are buried in earth in cocoons. The cocoons protect the eggs until they hatch as small fully developed worms.

Earthworms live in a moist condition and usually live in the upper layer of the soil. They shun sunlight but usually get to the surface in special situation such as when their burrows are flooded during rains. They usually get out at night to feed and to throw off their castings. They usually feed on organic matter such as dried and decayed leaves in the soil. During hot weather they penetrate downward to avoid dehydration. In burrowing they swallowed soil containing decayed leaves, vegetable and other organic matter.

Species of earthworms can be categorized in three types according to their dwelling places in the soil. The litter dwellers or epegeic species live in fallen dried leaves and other organic matter on top of the soil. They usually consume decayed organic matter. The topsoil dwellers or endogeic species live 2 to 3 inches in the topsoil. They create horizontal burrows and consumes large amount of topsoil and organic matter. The subsoil dwellers or anecic species live 5 to 6 feet in the soil in vertical burrows and need surface crop residue to live. They also consume large amount of soil and organic matter in it.

Earthworms play an important part on the ecology of the soil. They benefit the plants by decreasing or controlling the amount of harmful organism in the soil and by improving its fertility. Plants need air in the soil so that their roots can thrive. The earthworms’ burrowing breaks the compaction of the soil that allows plant’s roots to remove carbon dioxide from the soil. At the same time they also help let in the needed oxygen of the plant in the soil. With the improve soil porosity, plants can now easily absorb water to facilitate its growth. As they burrow, earthworms consume soil and organic matter for food. The combination of soil and organic matter in the earthworm’s gut makes a good fertilizer in the form of castings in or on the surface of the soil when they are excreted. Earthworm castings have higher value of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, zinc and boron contents than the surrounding soil. Earthworms’ castings also improve the soil’s pH level.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

American Civil War: General William Tecumseh Sherman's Christmas Presents to Pres. Abraham Lincoln

Pres. Abraham Lincoln
After capturing Atlanta, Georgia, Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman with about 60,000 men composed of cavalry and infantry continued his campaign called as “March to the Sea” to capture Savannah, Georgia which was of strategic importance because it was one of the south’s  main ports.

Expecting the siege of Savannah by the Union Army, Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee, the Confederate Army commander defending the city against the union forces positioned about 10’000 troops composed of regulars and militias in the strategic positions of the city.

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman
 On the 9th and 10th of December, 1864, Sherman positioned his troops west, north and south to the city. At the same time he communicated with the Union Naval fleet for the needed supplies. On the 13th of December Sherman’s division led by William Hazen assaulted and captured Fort McAllister on the Ogeechee River south of Savannah thus opening the back door to the port city of Savannah and made Sherman’s forces closer to their main objective.

With him in the control of the conflict situation, Sherman called on Hardee to surrender, but the latter refused. Sherman then ordered his troops for an assault and at the same time he went to the headquarters of Maj. Gen John J. Foster, commander of Union forces in South Carolina to coordinate with him on blocking Hardees possible exit toward the north.

Before Gen. Sherman’s deal with Gen. Foster could be executed, Mayor Richard Arnold surrendered the city to the Union Army under Gen. Sherman. The mayor’s move had been prompted by the sufferings and hardships suffered by the civilians brought about by the foraging and other acts committed by the Union Army. Meanwhile, Hardee thought that it was unwise to pit his much smaller force against a larger and stronger enemy. Moreover, a battle between his and Sherman’s forces would level the city with artillery bombardments which would only add to the sufferings to the already besieged residents. With those considerations, Gen. Hardee sneaked his troops from the city through a makeshift pontoon bridge for a withdrawal to South Carolina on December 20, 1864.

On the 22  December 1864, at the headquarters of Gen. Forster in South Carolina, after being informed of the surrender of the city and withdrawal of Gen. Hardee’s troops, Sherman then declared the successful conclusion of the “March to the Sea”. He then telegraphed President Abraham Lincoln to inform him of the development, and to give the president the Christmas presents that were the city of Savannah and 25,000 bales of cotton.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Philippine Wild Chili Pepper (Siling Labuyo)

Often mistaken for bird’s eye chili pepper, the cultivar siling labuyo is a species of capsicum fructescens in the capsicum genus. The name “siling labuyo” in Filipino means wild chili although at present this plant is widely cultivated because of its culinary importance in some Philippine dishes. The frail looking but fast growing plant probably got its name because it usually grows wildly almost anywhere in soil near a house.

Siling labuyo is a small plant that grows only at about a meter in height and has acuminate leaves and small star shaped white flowers. Its tiny and slightly tapered fruit is about 2-2.5 cm in length and turns red when ripe. The plant’s peculiarity is that the fruits are usually on the stalks upside down unlike any other fruits.

The “wild” chili was once listed as the hottest chili pepper in the Guinness Book of World Records. But now, it is only ranked in the middle in the list of hottest chilis in the Scoville Heat Scale. The heat of siling labuyo is measured in the range of 50,000-100,000 which is below that of the bird’s eye chili pepper at 100,000-225,000 range. The hottest chili in the Scoville list is the Carolina Reaper which is measured in the range of 1,600,000-2,200,000 heat units.

A bite of the tiny chili will cause intense burning feeling and irritation. However, it is its hotness that makes this chili a highly sought after food commodity. For some people, the hotter it is the better. The native chili is an indispensable ingredient in some of the cuisines of Maranao, Visayan and Bicolano tribes. In the Visayas and Mindanao regions, a raw fish dish called “kinilaw” is not complete without siling labuyo in it. Siling labuyo is also used to spice up canned or bottled sardines and commercially sold vinegar. It is also added in a condiment or dip for broiled pork or fish and roasted meat for a spicy hot meal. Moreover, Siling labuyo leaves are great for a stewed chicken dish called “tinola.”

“Boodle fight” is a kind of informal dinner in the Philippines that originated from the military. It is a sort of a buffet style meal where diners by the table partake on foods with their bare hands. This type of informally serving foods has found its way outside the military, so that some civilians adapted it in gatherings where foods are served. In a military “boodle fight” foods such as boiled rice, canned sardines, fried dried fish, broiled pork and pancit are laid on the table without utensils. Handful of Siling labuyo is deliberately inserted in the cooked rice. During the meal those who have the misfortune of putting and chewing the chili in his mouth would suddenly feel the burning sensation caused by the chili. However, such discomfort is only temporary since it will be gone after a few seconds, and then the partaker’s urge to eat returns to normal.

Aside from its culinary uses siling labuyo is also used in herbal medicine. Consuming it stimulates mucous flow from sinus cavity clearing nasal congestion, and because of it, the chili is used to treat cough and stuffed nose during cold and fever.  It is also said to lower cholesterol and fight inflammation. Crushed fruits are used to help clean wound to avoid infection. Mixed with oil and massaged on joints affected by gout and rheumatism, they help ease pain and inflammation.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Call against the Construction of a Diesel Power Plant in the Tropical Island Paradise of Camiguin

An Island known for its sweet lanzones, Camiguin also boasts of its beautiful islets and azure sea waters. It has fresh air, volcanoes, pristine mountain rain forests, hot springs, old Spanish colonial-era church ruins, rustic environment and friendly and hospitable people. Camiguin Island is indeed a tropical paradise for local and foreign tourists. However, in the view of some people the beautiful island is threatened with planned infrastructures that may alter the nature which make it an environmentally pleasant tourist destination.

Citizen for Green and Peaceful Camiguin (CGCP) which has hundreds of International and local members is at the forefront of protecting the island’s environment. The group is protesting the construction of a diesel power plant located in Sitio Maubog, Bgy. Balbagon, Mambajao, Camiguin. On November 5, 2015, it staged a “peace assembly” at the village freedom park on said matter and other social issues affecting the island.

On the issue of the diesel power plant, a protest is directed against the Camiguin Electric Cooperative (Camelco), and the local public officials of the island province. The group deplored the lack of transparency of officials of the local government and electric cooperative on the project as well as the lack consultations with the local residents on the project’s social acceptability.                                                                                                                    

The group is concerned that construction of the power plant will adversely affect the island’s ecosystem and biodiversity which will destroy the environment and affect the well being of the people. In fact Camiguin is proclaimed as an Environmentally Critical Area. Local residents rely heavily on farming, fishing and tourism related activities for their livelihood. In addition, the operation of a diesel power plant may increase the level of green house gasses such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. Excessive amount of those gasses in the atmosphere is detrimental to the health of the inhabitants which may make them prone to respiratory, cardiovascular and other diseases caused by toxic gasses in the air.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Kerson Fruit (Muntingia Calabura)

Muntingia Calabura plant grows abundantly in all parts of the Philippines. It also grows in the Caribbean and Jamaica, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, China, Cuba, Mexico and other places where there is tropical climate. In the Philippines it is called aratelis in Luzon and mansanitas in Visayas and Mindanao. Kerson fruit is also known as Panama berry, Jamaica cherry, Singapore cherry and other names.

Mansanitas tree or muntingia reminds me of my childhood days when neighborhood kids used to play by climbing into the tree and picking up its tiny fruits which were eaten just for the sake of having fun. Although Kerson fruit tastes sweet, adults completely ignore it, and unlike other fruits it never finds its way on the table as part of a meal.

Muntingia is a small sized tree with small serrated leaves. It is a fast growing tree that fruits in two to three years. The small flower is white, and the fruit that is developed turned to red when ripe. Inside the soft skin is the juicy flesh with plenty of edible, soft tiny seeds all over it. Although the wood is not soft, it is not hard enough for use in furniture. Because of it, the woods are mainly use for fuel.   


A fruit bearing tree becomes magnet to birds, bats and insects. In a tree one can see the plants reproductive cycle at work. Bees and butterfly visit the flowers to start the pollination process. By day, birds feast on the ripe berries. And at night it is the turn of the fruit bats to have their fill. Birds and bats scatter the seeds to farther areas that result to growths of new seedlings. Even the element such as rain is also an agent in the tree’s reproduction process. Flood water can wash away fallen berries to distant areas that may cause the propagation of young plants.

Muntingia grows rapidly in any kind of soil. With just little sunlight and water, It can survive in poor soil that has acidic and alkaline conditions. The negative side of it is that muntingia is an invasive tree. If left unchecked, the trees can multiply rapidly in an area in just a short period. Its seedlings can emerge almost anywhere so that at times they become nuisance in one’s yard or garden. Unwanted seedlings have to be uprooted so that it would not compete for space or outgrow preferred plants. Since the tree is small, it can be grown at the house for decorative purpose or as shade against harsh sunlight because of its wide spreading branches and lush leaves.

The fruit contains vitamin b, vitamin c, fiber, water, carbohydrate, protein, calcium, phosphorus, and iron. Fruits and leaves are packed with anti-oxidants and have more than 24 flavanoid and phenolic substances that are also found in green tea.

Muntingia has virtually no economic value because in most places its fruits have no consumer demand in the market. However, the fruits and the leaves can be used most specially in herbal medicine. Aside from their anti-oxidants, they also contain substances that have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The fruits can be used to treat gout. Eating 9 to 12 berries for three times a day can ease pain in the affected areas of the body. The leaves are dried and crushed for consumption as tea. They contain nitric oxide which can lower blood pressure and improve blood flow. They can also treat diabetes by reducing blood sugar level in the body. The antioxidant substance of the leaves can prevent a type of inflammation that can cause heart disease. The leaves can also relieve pain by blocking the ability of the pain receptor cells in the body to receive pain stimuli. Researches that are made have shown that the leaves can reduce cancerous tumor growth. However, further researches need to be done to validate such claim. The flowers too have their use. A decoction of them is a remedy for abdominal cramps.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Columbus, the Man Who Opened America's Door to European Settlement and Christian Evangelization

Photo credit: Sebastiano Piombo (from Wikipedia)
Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Persian Empire paved the way for the cultural and religious exchange between Europe and Asia. In addition, trade and commerce between the two continents were opened and enhanced with the flourishing of lands along the Silk Route. The Roman Empire supplanted Alexander’s Greek Empire and extended its influence into Northern Africa and Western Europe. The conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine spread Christianity all over the Roman Empire. The birth of Islam around 610 A.D. eroded Christianity’s influence over much of Asia and North Africa. In just a few years after Prophet Muhammad’s death, his followers conquered much of territories that were once parts of Persian and Roman Empires.

The fall of the Christian City of Constantinople to the Muslim Ottoman Turks in 1453 had a profound implication to Europe and the world. The Ottoman's conquest was significant in the sense that the city was the seat of the Eastern Roman Empire or the Byzantine Empire. The city’s location was also very strategic considering that it geographically links Europe and Asia, and it was a gateway for the transport of goods and people between the two continents.

The control of trade routes by hostile powers made it difficult for Europe to avail of commodities such as silk and spices from Asia. particularly those that came from India, China and Southeast Asia. It also made their cost became prohibitive. Christian maritime powers of Europe such as Spain and Portugal had to find an alternative way to Asia without passing through perilous land routes. The best option was through the sea. The competition of European powers to cross the seas to reach the spice islands in Asia ushered in the Age of Exploration.  

Christopher Columbus (30 Oct. 1451-20 May 1506) a Genoese navigator, proposed to King John II of Portugal an expedition to the East Indies via western sea route. But the monarch was not convinced and turned down his proposal. In 1488, Bartolomeu Dias, sailing southeast reached Cape of Good Hope which was a spring board toward the East Indies.  The success of Dias doused any hope of Columbus to have the king agree with his proposition.

Failing in his bid, Columbus presented his idea to King Henry VII of England who also turned it down. He later went to King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of Castile, Spain. At first, the monarchs were skeptical of Columbus’ proposal. However, it occurred to them that the eastern sea route was already taken and controlled by rival Portugal, and Columbus’ proposal if successful would give Spain an edge in the lucrative spice trade.

Photo credit: John Vanderlyn (from Wikipedia)
Photo credit: E. Benjamin Andrews (from Wikipedia)
In 1492, Columbus was granted authority by Queen Isabella to sail to Asia. He was given three ships- the Pinta, the NiƱa and the Santa Maria which was his flagship. For claims on new lands to the crown Columbus was entitled to the following privileges: a rank of “the Admiral of the Ocean”; a designation of viceroy or governor of new found lands; a 10% perpetual share of profits earned as a result of his explorations, and the option to buy 1/8 interest in commercial venture in the new lands and to receive 1/8 of the profits.

On August 3, 1492, Columbus with his fleet of three ships departed from Palos de la Frontera, and sailed to his destination. After travelling considerable distances, he saw an island and landed on it. He named it San Salvador. He then passed through groups of islands that is now called the Bahamas and explored the northern coast of Cuba and Hispaniola. At that time Columbus believed that he had reached India, and even called the native inhabitants “Indios”or Indians. The Spanish crown was pleased with Columbus’ discovery, and was prepared to grant the condition set by Columbus in return for the successful voyage.

After meeting the monarchs, Columbus left port of Cadiz, Spain on September 24, 1493, for a second voyage. With a fleet of 17 ships and 1,200 men composed of soldiers, farmers and priests, he aimed to establish permanent colonies in new found lands. In his third voyages in 1498 Columbus with a fleet of six ships made further explorations to the islands and reached as far as the western coasts of South America. He returned to Hispaniola only to find that the Spanish settlers of the new colony were rebellious to his role. He made peace with them, but the news of his gross mismanagement and tyranny had already reached the Spanish monarchs who ordered that Columbus and his brothers be arrested and returned to Spain. Columbus was replaced as governor by Francisco de Bobadilla, a member of the Order of Calatrava. In Spain Columbus and his brothers were imprisoned, and he was divested of his privileges and properties. 
King Ferdinand II listened to Columbus’ plea and released him and his brothers after six weeks of confinement. They were also restored of their wealth and privileges. Columbus was also allowed to lead another voyage to the new found lands. But this time he would no longer serve as governor. He left Cadiz on 11 May 1502 with a fleet of three ships. He explored several islands and landed in Hispaniola. He explored the west coasts of Central America and east coasts of Cuba. A fierce storm stranded his fleet in Jamaica where he remained for almost a year. Columbus and his men then returned to Spain. They arrived in San Lucar on June 29, 1504. In Spain, Columbus' long years of travels took a toll on his health. He was severely stricken with diseases. Columbus died on May 20, 1506, probably at age 54 in Valladolid, Spain.

Critics of Columbus cited the negative effects of his explorations. They claimed that the arrival of the European settlers caused the depopulation of the indigenous Taino and Arawak Indians. The Indians were being exploited for forced labor such as having them worked in gold mines. Spanish soldiers committed with impunity grave abuses such as massacres and rapes. Indigenous people were seized, captured and sent to Spain as slaves with about half of them dying en route. The pandemic of small pox in 1519 which was brought by the European settlers into the islands almost brought to extinction the indigenous inhabitants.

Map from Wikipedia
Columbus’ erroneous view that the lands that he found were part of Asia denied him the honor of having the continent named after him. Amerigo Vespucci, a Florentine navigator, who came to the new lands a year after Columbus, correctly speculated that the land Columbus discovered was not Asia. Amerigo's travel journals also convinced German cartographer Martin Wadseemuller to reach the same conclusion. Wadseemuller published a world map in 1507 referring to the big new found continent as “America”, which is the Latinized version of Amerigo. With that map, people at that time also followed suit to refer to the continent as “America”. For it, Vespucci was unintentionally and undeservedly accorded an honor that should have rightfully belonged to Columbus.

It is claimed that Vikings came to America before Columbus did, and therefore he was not the first European to discover it. But there is no doubt that Columbus’ explorations were the ones which certainly opened the door of the American continent for European settlement. After Columbus had claimed lands for Spain, other European powers such as Portugal, England, France and Netherlands followed to explore the hitherto huge unknown continent. This resulted to the influx of immigrants who brought along with them their languages and cultures, and created new Independent nations with predominantly European cultures and demographics. The predominantly Christian roots of the immigrant people have also brought about the Christian evangelization of the American continent, thus making Christianity the largest religion of the world.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Knights of Columbus in the Philippines

The Knight of Columbus is a Roman Catholic, family, fraternal and service organization which is a member of International Alliance of Catholic Knights. It is the world’s largest fraternal service organization. The order operates with blessings of the church, and helps it in its endeavor to reach out to the faithful and to serve the community. Recognizing the effort of the order, Pope John Paul II said that the Knight of Columbus is the “strong arm of the church”. The order involves itself in charitable and humanitarian activities such as helping victims of calamities like typhoon, giving donations and paying visits to the sick and needy in such institutions as hospitals and orphanages. Knights, as what the members of the order are called, also provide free and voluntary service to the community on endeavors that can help the people and the local government. With sense of fraternity, knights foster strong bond of relationship with each other and help each other in their time of needs.  

Father Michael J. Mcgivney (August 12, 1852-August 14, 1890), an Irish-American Catholic priest from New Haven, Connecticut founded the Knight of Columbus on March 29, 1882. The son of Irish immigrant parents, Father Mcgivney saw the hardships of Catholic families in the search of livelihood in a Protestant Anglo-Saxon dominated society. Their situation was exacerbated during a loss of a breadwinner in the family. Surviving members had to cope with the lack of income and finding job. To deal with the problem affecting the Catholic families, Fr. Mcgivney established a mutual benefit society that could provide a sort of insurance system to the families. Fr. Mcgivney also noticed that Catholics were barred from joining labor unions. And by policy of the Catholic Church, a catholic could not join fraternal organization such as the Free Masonry. On that background, a new catholic organization was conceived.

The explorer Christopher Columbus, a catholic who served under Queen Isabella I of Catholic Spain, was the person who opened the door of the American continent for European settlement and Christian evangelization. He was considered a hero during Father Mcgivney’s time. But the young priest was some sort of disappointed to observe that catholic immigrants were marginalized in the predominantly protestant society. He originally thought of a name “The Sons of Columbus” for his organization.  The word “Columbus” was some sort of a mild rebuke to the “Anglo-Saxon” leaders to stress that Catholicism had a role in the founding of the United States.  The word “sons” was replaced with the word “knights” after James T. Mullen who would later become Supreme Knight successfully suggested that “knights” would better describe the ritualistic nature of the organization. Thus the name “Knights of Columbus” was adopted for the new organization.

In the Philippines, the first members of Knights of Columbus were American army and navy soldiers who established the first council which was Council 1000 on April 23, 1905, in Intramurus, Manila. Its first Grand Knight was Richard Campbell. Atty. Gabriel LaO was elected as the first Filipino Grand Knight. In 1947, Fr. George J. Willmann was granted by the Supreme Council in the U.S.to expand the number of council in the Philippines. In 1948 the first Knights of Columbus district was established composed of Manila Council 1000, and the newly constituted councils: Cebu Council 3106, and Cagayan de Oro Council 3108. Father Willmann was the first District Deputy who served until 1953. In March 1, 1954, Supreme Knight Luke Hart appointed Fr. Willmann to the title of Territorial Deputy which he held until 1961. By 1962, he was made the first Philippine State Deputy as a result of the emergence of more than 100 councils in the Philippines. Father Willmann served in that capacity until his death at age 89. According to past Supreme Knight Virgil Dechant he was the Father Michael J. Mcgivney of the Philippines. Former Senator and Ambassador Oscar Ledesma succeeded Fr. Willmann as the Philippine State Deputy from 1977 to 1983. He was instrumental in the creation of three Assistant State Deputy positions of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Mardonio Santos succeeded Ledesma in 1983. During his term, the order saw enormous growth of membership. On July 1989, the Philippine Jurisdiction was divided into three states of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. And the Assistant Philippine Deputies were then automatically appointed to be the first State Deputies of their respective areas.

A knight is dedicated to the principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism.  Charity is the first principle of a knight which calls for generosity in sharing his material resources and services especially to the poor and less fortunate people. Unity is the solidarity or the spirit of teamwork among knights in the attainment of the order’s goals and activities. Fraternity is the spirit of brotherhood and camaraderie that bind a knight with another. Patriotism is the unselfish love and duty for the country. A knight’s adherence to the constitution and service to the government are in line with this principle.

Hierarchy in knights’ ranks is categorized in four degrees. The first degree is the lowest and the fourth degree is the highest. Each degree, in ascending order, embodies the core principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism. To qualify as a knight, a gentleman must be 18 years old and above, and that he must be a practical Roman Catholic. He undergoes a closed ritualistic initiation called exemplification to become a first degree knight. In that level he embodies the principle of charity. He climbs into the ladder of hierarchy by following the rules set by the Knight of Columbus. He should also recruit a new member to reach the second degree. A third degree exemplification brings a knight closer to full knighthood. The fourth degree which embodies the principle of patriotism brings the knight to the apex of the knights’ hierarchy and bestows on him the title as a “sir knight”.  An elaborate rite participated in by the color corps, top officials of the assembly and clergy and attended by family members and guests characterized the exemplification to the fourth degree.  In that degree a knight can qualify as an elected officer of a council or an assembly. A fourth degree knight can have the regalia consisting of chapeau, baldric, cape, tuxedo or white dinner jacket, a bow tie, a glove and a sword upon purchase. On his option he can join the color corps which is the most visible group of the order. Priests who desire to become knight do not participate directly in degree exemplification as laymen do, but rather take the degree by observation.

The council is the lowest and the basic unit of the order. It comprised of knights of all degree. Only 4th degree knights are eligible to become an officer of the council. Officers are elected by knights of the council except the Financial Secretary who is appointed by the Supreme Knight who is based in USA. The highest officer of the council is the Grand Knight. The council holds a meeting every first Sunday of the month. The assembly is composed of fourth degree knights of member councils who hold meeting every fourth Sunday of the month. It also elects its own officers. The highest officer of the assembly is called the navigator. Councils and assemblies usually establish their headquarters at the parish or church they are connected with. The assemblies and councils are overseen by a district whose head is the District Deputy. The Philippines is divided into four states of the Knight of Columbus which are the North Luzon, the South Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. Each state is a jurisdiction of an officer who is called the Deputy. The highest authority of Knight of Columbus units the world over is the Supreme Council in 1 Columbus Plaza, New Haven, Connecticut, USA which is headed by the Supreme Knight who at present is Carl A. Anderson.  
                                              Council                                     Assembly             
                                        Grand Knight                                   Navigator 
                                           Chaplain                                             Friar
                                  Deputy Grand Knight                            Captain
                                           Chancellor                                     Admiral
                                             Recorder                                        Scribe
                                    Financial Secretary                               Comptroller
                                           Treasurer                                            Purser
                                            Lecturer                                         Non Existent
                                            Advocate                                       Non Existent
                                             Warden                                             Pilot
                                        Inside Guard                                    Inner Sentinel
                                       Outside Guard                                 Outer Sentinel
                                  Trustee (Three Year)                       Trustee (Three Year)
                                    Trustee (Two Year)                         Trustee (Two Year)
                                    Trustee (One Year)                          Trustee (One Year)
                                        Non Existent                            Color Corps Commander
                                        (Above is list of officers of council and assembly)

Knights follow a military like protocol and parliamentary procedures during their meetings. In the council level the title of officers is prefixed with “worthy”.  A Grand Knight is thus addressed “worthy Grand Knight”. In the assembly the title of the officers is prefixed with “faithful” and in a meeting a knight should say “faithful navigator”. Utmost respect is rendered to the Grand Knight, Navigator, top officers of the district and state and the clergy during official meetings and other gatherings.

The original purpose on which Knight of Columbus was founded which is to provide financial assistance to members during times of needs and misfortune has lived on. Relative to it, the Knight of Columbus has in its system the provision of voluntary insurance which is exclusive to the members of the order. The U.S. Knight of Columbus is an organization with over a billion of US dollar in assets. Its financial program has generated 2 million insurance contracts totaling US 90 billion dollars in life insurance that is in force and backed up by US $21 billion in assets as of 2014. In 2013, its insurance program has a surplus of US $1.8 billion. Knight of Columbus ranked 900 in total revenue in 2011 according to Fortune’s 1,000 list. The financial benefits however cannot be extended to the Philippines because of restriction on laws between the country and the U.S.

In the Philippines, in 1958, Fr. George J. Willmann founded the Knight of Columbus Fraternal Association of the Philippines, Inc., or KCFAPI. It was incorporated as a non-stock corporation. On September 9, 1958, KCFAPI was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and was duly licensed to operate an insurance system that would cater exclusively to the members of Knights of Columbus.  With its insurance programs, the association provides knights following advantages: one is that they become a co-owner of the association when they apply for insurance: another benefit for them is that the insurance transaction is tax free and exclusive to the members of the Knight of Columbus. KCFAPI has subsidiary companies that could enhance its financial status. Income of the association is used to pay for the proceeds due to the members, to spend on charitable and humanitarian activities and to fund the scholarship of seminarians.

Some world famous figures who are members of the Knight of Columbus include the late President John F. Kennedy of USA, his brother Ted, the legendary baseball legend Babe Ruth, former World Heavyweight boxing champion Floyd Patterson, Jeb Bush and two-time Medal of Honor recipient Daniel Day. In the Philippines, some of famous Knights of Columbus members include the late former Senator Oscar Ledesma, former Supreme Court justice Hilario Davide, Justice Jose Reyes, and Jaime Cardinal Sin. The list of famous knights is not limited to the names that are mentioned in this paragraph.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Is Guyabano a Cure for Cancer?

A plant that is common in the Philippine, guyabano is drawing interest especially to health conscious individuals and to those with health issues. It is called soursop or guyabano in English, graviola in Portuguese and guanabana in Spanish. In the southern part of the Philippines it is called “abana”, a name that is perhaps a corruption of the Spanish guanabana. Guyabano is said to have originated from South America, and is now cultivated in many parts of the world especially in places where there are hot tropical climate. In the Philippines Guyabano might have found its way in the Philippines through the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade during the Spanish colonial era. 

The Guyabano plant is a small tree with small elliptical leaves and an oddly shaped unattractive flower with thick petals. The thin rind of its fruit is surrounded with soft pricks. Inside the fruit is a juicy white pulpy flesh and inedible black seeds. The flesh has a sweet and sour taste. The evergreen fruit is usually harvested when matured and kept in a place to ripen after several days.

Guyabano used to be planted only in the backyard for its fruit. The fruit is ranked low in Filipino preference. It is not as popular as some native fruits such as banana, melon, avocado, mango, durian and other fruits. But the hype that guyabano fruit and other parts of the plants are cure for some diseases particularly cancer has created an increase in demand for the fruit in the market.

Usually, the fruit is eaten as is. It is also used in smoothies, in the production of fruit juice and in the flavoring of ice cream. It has significant amount of vitamin C, vitamin B1, and vitamin B2..

The fruit of guyabano plant and its other parts such as the leaves, stems, barks and roots are used in traditional medicine. Diseases that are said to be treatable with guyabano include dysentery, skin disorders, scurvy, and diabetes among others. The good thing is that herbal medicine such as guyabano can be used without the undesirable side effects experienced by patients in using conventional pharmaceutical drugs.

Indeed, the hype that guyabano is a cure for several illnesses including cancer has brought about the manufacturing of products that are derived from extracts of guyabano. The products come from the USA, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Peru, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and other countries. They are labeled only as food supplement, but some people used it as a medicine or as complementary drug for cancer and other diseases anyway. Graviola or guyabano capsules ads and sales promotions have proliferated in the internet. Orders can be placed in big online stores such as eBay, Amazon and Lazada. Comments made in Amazon by those who used graviola or guyabano capsules claimed that they are effective in dealing with health issues such as eczema, stomach parasites and even cancer. However no refutable cancer organization has subscribed to the effectiveness of graviola products as treatment to the one of the most dreaded diseases.                                                                                                                                                          

 Cancer Research UK laboratory test indicates that guyabano extracts can kill some types of breast and liver cancer cells that are resistant to particular chemotherapy drugs. However, it won’t officially conclude that graviola extracts are cure for cancer since no large scale studies and tests have been conducted in humans. The Center therefore does not support the use of graviola as a treatment of any type of cancer.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Coconut Sugar, an Alternative to White Cane Sugar

There is again another product of the tree of life, the coconut tree, which is called coconut sugar. Although its production has already taken place for a long time, it is only recently that there is enough awareness on this type of sugar that is reported to be a healthy alternative to regular white or brown table sugar which is shunned by some people because of its adverse effect to health.

Coco sugar comes from the sap of the coconut bud. To gather sap, a bud is cut crosswise. Liquids from the cut then trickle down and collected in a bamboo container. The whitish sap is sweet and invigorating to drink. However, too much of it can get one intoxicated. Left alone, the toddy turns to vinegar after some time.

To produce coco sugar, the raw sap is boiled in moderate heat in a wok to evaporate the moisture. What remains is syrup that is subjected to further heat until it becomes caramel colored granules which is the finished product. In the process of production there is no artificial ingredients added or there is chemical alteration in any way. Coco sugar is similar in taste to brown sugar and can be substituted for cane sugar in most recipes.

The disadvantage of using coco sugar is that it cost much more than regular white table sugar. Coco sugar’s selling point is its low Glycemic Index or GI. Glycemic Index ranks carbohydrate foods on the basis on how they affect blood sugar (glucose). Glycemic Index of coco sugar is ranked as 35, and by that measure it is classified as low GI food. White table sugar has GI which is 60 to 75. Foods high in GI cause blood sugar to spike which can lead to fluctuation of blood sugar level. A spike in blood sugar causes insulin level to raise in short period of time and this have some serious complications to diabetics. 

Basic sugar content of coco sugar is 70-79% sucrose and 3-9% each glucose and fructose. Cane sugar on the other hand is 50% fructose. Fructose is a type of sugar the body quickly converts to fat. Only the liver can break down fructose. And one result of this breakdown is triglyceride – a form of fat. A large amount of fructose is not good for the body because excessive amount of it elevates blood pressure, triglycerides and LDL. It also depletes vitamins and minerals, raises insulin resistance and causes obesity and it also contributes to hypertension and high blood pressure and to other diseases such as arthritis and cancer.                                                                                       
Coco sugar has 16 calories per teaspoon. It has relatively low contents of essential nutrients with the exception of potassium at about 25% of daily value per serving of 100 grams which is approximately 25 teaspoonfuls.