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Finding Paradise

Siargao in Surigao may be known for its big, BIG waves – frequently visited by surfers from all over the world. But it has many more magical attractions that, for some, made them choose to stay, not just visit.

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Native of Spain, Luis San Jose visited Siargao in Surigao in the late 1990s “after hearing of it from friends as a good place to take a break in from the hustle and bustle of life.” He has never left.

Seated on a cushioned rattan chair while languidly sipping the sweet juice of a buko (young coconut), with the wind blowing his long brown hair, he talks about Siargao and the resort he put up there “for people who are bound to fall in love with the place as I did.” Often murmuring as if he is just talking to himself, and even occasionally “losing myself in moments,” as he puts it, all the while gazing at the seemingly endless sea in front of him. San Jose isn’t exactly your ideal interviewee. But even from the little that he says, it is abundantly clear that Siargao—which he now calls home—still has him firmly under its spell.

San Jose’s experience may sound melodramatic, but it is definitely not unique, says 68-year-old Surigaonon Virginia Nuñez in the vernacular. “There are many of them like him here,” she adds with a toothless grin as she waits for clients who want a massage (she used to be a hilot,a native healer, but now works as a masseuse in San Jose’s resort). “Not that it is in any way bad.”

A former resident of Cebu City, Nuñez understands why Siargao “has that hold on people.” “Mura’g lahing kalibutan (It’s like another world),” she says in Cebuano.

And everyone who has visited Siargao can, and probably will, attest to that.

THE HIGH SEAS

The most popular attraction of Siargao are, of course, its gigantic waves which have been drawing surfers from different parts of the world, particularly during the rainy season (May to July and October to December) when they swell to even more humongous proportions.

CLAD IN FUN
It has gained a reputation as a surfing haven, but there’s more to Siargao than good waves.

The discovery of Siargao as the Philippines’ surfing capital was supposedly accidental. Locals relate that some foreigners ended up on to the shores of Siargao after losing their way while traveling around the Philippines. But they found the waves so challenging that they have been coming back since. Over the years, the locals themselves learned how to surf from these foreigners, using the surfboards that the visitors usually leave behind when they return to their respective countries.

But not everyone visits Siargao to brave the waves.

Offshore, a different encounter with nature can occur. Men and, occasionally, women, as well as some children go deep-sea fishing to slug it out with gigantic tunas or blue marlins. But catching a game fish is by no means easy, and, even when one does bite, reeling it in and getting it on the boat is an exhausting undertaking that can go on for hours.

“This is one of the hardest fights anyone can engage in,” says a visiting Cebuano businessman, who spent hours trying to reel in a swordfish, only to lose it when it somehow managed to swim under the boat where the reel string was cut by the propeller.

“And it may well be one of the most satisfying,” quips his friend, who successfully landed a huge tuna that ended up as the night’s feast, making for a delicious kilawin (raw fish served as side dish or with salad) and sinigang (fish broth).

TRAPPED ENCHANTMENT

Island-hopping is another favorite activity of many visitors. A kayak is usually towed by a bangka (dinghy) to tour nearby islands. This is actually the safest way to tour the islands, most of which are rarely visited, thereby becoming breeding grounds of prickly creatures such as sea urchins and sea anemones.

Visitors can choose the islands they want to visit. There are the islands with sand dunes that disappear when the tide is high. Some islands only have three to five coconut trees, although a number are covered with thicker foliage. In fact, the mangrove-enveloped islands serve as nurseries for migrating marine life. And, of course, there are the most frequented islands where the exclusive resorts are.

For the adventurous, a visit to the Sohoton Lagoon will more than satisfy. Over three hours by bangka from Siargao (a little shorter by speedboat), the lagoon is only accessible through a small opening that appears when the tide is low. In so many ways, it is a trapped enchantment. A natural wonder, the lagoon is dotted by islands where plant species that are not only rare (they grow only in the area) can be found. The Sohoton Lagoon is also a source of amazement because of the tall tales the locals tell about it, magical yarns about mythical characters that supposedly play in its waters.

Mythical or magical, Sohoton Lagoon is an ideal venue for long swims between islands. Farther from its shores, its blue waters turn to the darkest green, betraying the sudden drop in depth. With its surface mostly calm and almost without ripples, it looks like a lake instead of a nearly landlocked part of the sea.

In between swims, intrepid visitors can savor hearty meals that feature delicacies harvested right from the waters around the islands. This is, indeed, going back to—and being one with—nature in its truest sense.

But while the adventurous will never run out of things to do in Siargao, Nuñez notes that many visitors simply choose to remain idle. “They simply do nothing,” she says.

San Jose looks at it in a different way. “It’s a reclaiming of peace—with nature and everything around you, with yourself,” he says. “When you are here, you actually can listen to yourself.”

“Sitting on my favorite rattan chair that overlooks the open seas, or lying on the sand gazing at the stars, or walking by the beach when the tide is low to pick hermit crabs, or falling asleep in a hammock—these, for me, define what taking a break is,” San Jose says. “Away from the different to be in a different world.”

He gazes at the sea again as he loses himself for yet another moment. Then he smiles, more to himself. “Who knows, when I get tired of doing nothing, I may decide to go back to Spain,” he says. He admits though that he does not know when this will happen, adding that he certainly does not want to set a date yet.

Nuñez laughs every time she hears this. Asked why, she laughs even more, covering her mouth with her hand, as if embarrassed by her own laughter.

“Because whatever they say, they come back, they always come back,” she finally utters.

It isn’t hard to understand why.

The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. Though he grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City in Maguindanao), even attending Roman Catholic schools there, he "really, really came out in Sydney," he says, so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing and a developed world". Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, research (with pioneering studies under his belt)... this one's a multi-tasker, who is even conversant in Filipino Sign Language (FSL). Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism. Cross his path is the dare (read: It won't be boring).

Health & Wellness

Trans women can safely maintain estrogen treatments during gender affirming surgery

The practice of withholding estrogen prior to gender affirming surgery was not necessary. Most transgender women can now safely remain on their estrogen therapy throughout surgery.

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There was no difference in blood clots when estrogen hormone therapy was maintained during gender affirming surgery.

This is according to a study (titled, “No Venous Thromboembolism Increase Among Transgender Female Patients Remaining on Estrogen for Gender Affirming Surgery”) helmed by John Henry Pang with Aki Kozato from Mount Sinai, and was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Historically, the lack of published data contributed to heterogeneity in the practice of whether doctors and surgeons advised transgender women to withhold their estrogen therapy before surgery. The sudden loss of estrogen in the blood was sometimes very uncomfortable with symptoms that amounted to a sudden, severe menopause.

So the researchers tapped 919 transgender patients who underwent gender affirming surgery at Mount Sinai’s Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery between November 2015 and August 2019. Notably, including 407 cases of transgender women who underwent primary vaginoplasty surgery.

This study found that the practice of withholding estrogen prior to gender affirming surgery was not necessary. Most transgender women can now safely remain on their estrogen therapy throughout surgery.

The bottom line: This study found that most transgender women can  safely maintain their estrogen hormone treatments during gender affirming surgery.

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Love Affairs

Dating apps don’t destroy love

Contrary to earlier concerns, a UNIGE study has shown that people who met their partners on dating applications have often stronger long-term relationship goals, and that these new ways of meeting people encourage socio-educational and geographical mixing.

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As dating apps escalated in popularity, so has criticism about them encouraging casual dating only, threatening the existence of long-term commitment, and possibly damaging the quality of intimacy. There is no scientific evidence, however, to validate these claims.

Now a study by the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland – and which was published in the journal PLOS ONE – indicates that app-formed couples have stronger cohabitation intentions than couples who meet in a non-digital environment.

What is more, women who found their partner through a dating app have stronger desires and intentions to have children than those who found their partner offline. Despite fears concerning a deterioration in the quality of relationships, partners who met on dating apps express the same level of satisfaction about their relationship as others.

Last but not least, the study shows that these apps play an important role in modifying the composition of couples by allowing for more educationally diverse and geographically distant couples.

“The Internet is profoundly transforming the dynamics of how people meet,” confirms Gina Potarca, a researcher at the Institute of Demography and Socioeconomics in UNIGE’s Faculty of Social Sciences. “It provides an unprecedented abundance of meeting opportunities, and involves minimal effort and no third-party intervention.”

These new dating technologies include the smartphone apps like Tinder or Grindr, where users select partners by browsing and swiping on pictures. These apps, however, have raised fears: “Large parts of the media claim they have a negative impact on the quality of relationships since they render people incapable of investing in an exclusive or long-term relationship. Up to now, though, there has been no evidence to prove this is the case,” continues Dr. Potarca.

Facilitated encounters

The Geneva-based researcher decided to investigate couples’ intentions to start a family, their relationship satisfaction and individual well-being, as well as to assess couple composition. Dr. Potarca used a 2018 family survey by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office. The analysis presented in this study looks at a sub-sample of 3,235 people over the age of 18 who were in a relationship and who had met their partner in the last decade.

Dr. Potarca found that dating websites – the digital tools for meeting partners that preceded apps – mainly attracted people over the age of 40 and / or divorcees who are looking for romance.

“By eliminating lengthy questionnaires, self-descriptions, and personality tests that users of dating websites typically need to fill in to create a profile, dating apps are much easier to use. This normalized the act of dating online, and opened up use among younger categories of the population.”

Searching for a lasting relationship

Dr. Potarca sought to find out whether couples who met on dating apps had different intentions to form a family. The results show that couples that formed after meeting on an app were more motivated by the idea of cohabiting than others.

“The study doesn’t say whether their final intention was to live together for the long- or short-term, but given that there’s no difference in the intention to marry, and that marriage is still a central institution in Switzerland, some of these couples likely see cohabitation as a trial period prior to marriage. It’s a pragmatic approach in a country where the divorce rate is consistently around 40%.”

In addition, women in couples that formed through dating apps mentioned wanting and planning to have a child in the near future, more so than with any other way of meeting.

But what do couples who met in this way think about the quality of their relationship? The study shows that, regardless of meeting context, couples are equally satisfied with their lives and the quality of their relationship.

Couples with a diverse socio-educational profile

The study highlights a final aspect. Dating apps encourage a mixing of different levels of education, especially between high-educated women and lower educated men. Partners having more diversified socio-educational profiles “may have to do with selection methods that focus mainly on the visual,” says the researcher. Since users can easily connect with partners in their immediate region (but also in other spaces as they move around), the apps make it easier to meet people more than 30 minutes away – leading to an increase in long-distance relationships.

“Knowing that dating apps have likely become even more popular during this year’s periods of lockdown and social distancing, it is reassuring to dismiss alarming concerns about the long-term effects of using these tools,” concludes Dr. Potarca.

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Health & Wellness

Bisexual men more prone to eating disorders than gay or straight men – study

80% of bisexual men reported that they “felt fat”, and 77% had a strong desire to lose weight, both figures higher than the 79% and 75% for gay men, respectively.

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Bisexual men are more likely to experience eating disorders than either heterosexual or gay men. This is according to a report from the University of California San Francisco, published in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders.

A handful of studies have actually indicated that gay men are at increased risk for disordered eating, including fasting, excessive exercise and preoccupation with weight and body shape. This newer study, however, suggest that bisexual men are even more susceptible to some unhealthy habits.

For this study, the researchers surveyed over 4,500 LGBTQ adults, and a quarter of the bisexual male participants reported having fasted for more than eight hours to influence their weight or appearance. This is higher when compared to 20% for gay men.

The research also found that 80% of bisexual men reported that they “felt fat”, and 77% had a strong desire to lose weight, both figures higher than the 79% and 75% for gay men, respectively.

Now this is worth stressing: According to study co-author Dr. Jason Nagata, not everyone who diets or feels fat has an eating disorder. “It’s a spectrum — from some amount of concern to a tipping point where it becomes a pathological obsession about body weight and appearance,”Nagata was quoted as saying by NBC News.

For Nagata, several factors may be at play here, including “minority stress” (the concept that the heightened anxiety faced by marginalized groups can manifest as poor mental and physical health outcomes).

“LGBTQ people experience stigma and discrimination, and stressors can definitely lead to disordered eating,” Nagata was also quoted as saying. “For bi men, they’re not just facing stigma from the straight community but from the gay community, as well.”

Of all the respondents, 3.2% of bisexual males were clinically diagnosed with eating disorders (compared to 2.9% of gay men). For heterosexual men, it’s only 0.6%.

For the researchers, there is a need to conduct eating disorder research on various sexual identities independently. This is also to raise awareness on this issue (and how it affects different people of various SOGIESCs).

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Lifestyle & Culture

Ways to stay fit and fabulous over 40

Keep reading to discover how you can keep yourself mentally and physically strong as you hit the big 4-0.

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40 is the new 30! Or is it 50 is the new 40?! Either way, it has never been more socially acceptable to be entering into your middle-aged years.

That being said, as you hit 40 and beyond, you are likely to notice certain changes to your body, even if you pride yourself on staying in shape. 

Fortunately, if you are worried about the signs of aging, there are several techniques that you can adopt to keep yourself feeling fit and fabulous for longer. 

Interested to know more?

Keep reading to discover how you can keep yourself mentally and physically strong as you hit the big 4-0. 

Cut back on cardio

Have you heard of runner’s face? If not, now is the time to find out. Although cardio is a great fat burner and can help keep your heart healthy, it is not the best choice when it comes to your skin. Prolonged periods of running as you age can lead to “runner’s face”, a condition where your skin starts to droop and sag. Not what you want as you come into your 40s.

Instead, focus on strength training exercises such as yoga, weight lifting, or swimming if you have issues with your joints. 

Focus on follicles

Hair loss is a frequent problem in men aged 40 and over and can manifest itself in thinning or bald patches. Now, unless you think you can rock the shaven look a la Bruce Willis, you may want to look into hair loss prevention and hair loss treatments. 

Hair transplantation is one of the most effective hair loss treatments on the market, especially given new developments in technology, making hair transplantation even quicker and more successful. If you choose this option, look to hshairclinic.co.uk for expert advice and for the latest in hair transplant innovation. 

Move more 

Just because you are cutting back on your cardio doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be trying to hit your recommended 10,000 steps a day. Take regular walks in the fresh air, try running up and down the stairs in your home, getting off public transport a few stops early, or simply trying to lead a less sedentary lifestyle

If you don’t want to be counting all day long, you may want to invest in a pedometer or smartwatch that will do all the tracking for you. You can find fitness watches that will count your steps and calculate calories burned and monitor your heart rate.

Schedule sleep 

Although you might have been able to get away with only a few hours of shut eye in your 20s and maybe even into your 30s, once you hit 40, your body needs the recommended 7-8 hours’ sleep per night. 

A lack of sleep can make you feel irritable and tired, but it can also make you crave sugar, which in turn can lead to weight gain and lackluster skin. Focus on creating a good sleep routine, and don’t be afraid to take an afternoon nap if you feel like it and your lifestyle allows it. 

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Health & Wellness

Timing and intensity of oral sex may affect risk of oropharyngeal cancer

Love giving head? Consider this: Having more than 10 prior oral sex partners was associated with a 4.3-times greater likelihood of having HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer.

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Human papillomavirus (HPV) can infect the mouth and throat to cause cancers of the oropharynx.

This is according to a study published in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, which has found that having more than 10 prior oral sex partners was associated with a 4.3-times greater likelihood of having HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer. The study also shows that having oral sex at a younger age and more partners in a shorter time period (oral sex intensity) were associated with higher likelihoods of having HPV-related cancer of the mouth and throat.

Previous studies have shown that performing oral sex is a strong risk factor for HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer. To examine how behavior related to oral sex may affect risk, Virginia Drake, MD, of Johns Hopkins University, and her colleagues asked 163 individuals with and 345 without HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer to complete a behavioral survey.

In addition to timing and intensity of oral sex, individuals who had older sexual partners when they were young, and those with partners who had extramarital sex were more likely to have HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer.

“Our study builds on previous research to demonstrate that it is not only the number of oral sexual partners, but also other factors not previously appreciated that contribute to the risk of exposure to HPV orally and subsequent HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer,” said Dr. Drake. “As the incidence of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer continues to rise… our study offers a contemporary evaluation of risk factors for this disease. We have uncovered additional nuances of how and why some people may develop this cancer, which may help identify those at greater risk.”

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Health & Wellness

Sexual, gender minority youths more likely to have obesity, binge eating disorder

Findings suggest that weight and eating disorder disparities observed in SGM adolescents/adults may emerge in childhood. As such, “clinicians should consider assessing eating- and health-related behaviors among SGM youths.”

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Sexual and gender minorities (SGM) youths were more likely to have obesity and full-threshold or subthreshold binge eating disorder. This is according to research – “Obesity and Eating Disorder Disparities Among Sexual and Gender Minority Youth” by Natasha A. Schvey, PhD; Arielle T. Pearlman, BA; David A. Klein, MD, MPH; et al -published in JAMA Pediatrics.

SGM are those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender, or whose sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression do not conform to societal conventions.

For this study, the researchers noted that as it is, “obesity and eating disorders in youth are prevalent, are associated with medical and psychosocial consequences, and may persist into adulthood. Therefore, identifying subgroups of youth vulnerable to one or both conditions is critical.”

For them, one group that may be at risk for obesity and disordered eating is SGM.

In total, 11,852 participants were considered (aged 9-10 years), derived from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study. The mean age was 9.91, and 5,672 (47.9%) of the total number were female. The sample comprised 1.6% (n = 190) probable sexual (n = 151) and/or gender minority (n = 58) youths, of whom 24.7% (n = 47) responded yes and 75.3% (n = 143) responded maybe to the SGM queries.

The researchers found that one in six youths (1,987 [16.8%]) had obesity and 10.2% (n = 1,188) had a full-threshold (86 [0.7%]) and/or subthreshold (1103 [9.4%]) eating disorder.

They also reported that adjusting for covariates, SGM youths were more likely to have obesity (odds ratio, 1.64; 95% CI, 1.09-2.48) and full-threshold or subthreshold binge eating disorder (odds ratio, 3.49; 95% CI, 1.39-8.76).

SGM and non-SGM youths did not differ in the likelihood of full-threshold or subthreshold anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. The same pattern of results remained when limiting SGM youths to those responding yes to the SGM items, although significance for the likelihood of obesity was attenuated.

For the researchers, the findings suggest that weight and eating disorder disparities observed in SGM adolescents/adults may emerge in childhood. As such, “clinicians should consider assessing eating- and health-related behaviors among SGM youths.”

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