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The Hinatuan enchantment

John Ryan Mendoza explores an enchanting part of Surigao del Sur: Hinatuan. While going for a swim, he recalls that “when you lie on your back to float, you find yourself surrounded by palm trees and indigenous plants, and if you dive below with goggles or with your eyes open, a deep cave entrance could be found and different fish swim undeterred by swimmers.”

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Hinatuan enchantment1

Hinatuan enchantment2It was at noontime when me and my friends left Tinuy-an Falls to head to the Enchanted River in the small but resilient fishing town of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur, the usual entry point of the Pacific typhoons during the rainy months. The cool sea winds kept us comfortable under the scorching noon sun on our 21 km backride on a habal-habal (retrofitted single motorcycle).

Other options in going to Hinatuan from Brgy. Mangagoy, Bislig is the bus going to Butuan City which takes an hour for 50 pesos; or the local jeepney from Mangagoy Jeepney Terminal to Hinatuan Jeepney Terminal, which takes an hour and a half for 35 pesos, and get off at Dugmanon Junction and transfer to a habal-habal going to the Enchanted River at 50 pesos per way per person.

When we arrived in Brgy. Cambatong (30 minutes away from the Hinatuan center), our motorcycles stopped in front of a row of wooden stalls of local fisherfolk selling fresh seaweeds, fish, shrimps, crabs and lobsters. The fresh seafood can be cooked for you, usually at 20 pesos per kilogram. They gave us a block of wood with a number to identify us in the tables in the picnic cottage

Everyone pays an entrance fee of 30 pesos.

When we settled in our table, we saw the crowd come up from below. We overheard that we just missed the fish feeding at 12:00 noon where a caretaker would ring a bell to signal everyone to get out of the water. The “Hymn of Hinatuan” is then played and fishes from the deep cave below would surface. The caretaker and tourists would throw cooked rice and minced octopus meat, which you could buy single packets for less than 50 pesos.

After enjoying our lunch feast of steamed crabs, shrimps, grilled fish, and beer, we then dipped into the enchanting display of crystal clear aquamarine and deep blue waters. A portion of the placid brackish river has been transformed into a kiddie pool.

My friend who is a local from Bislig joked that this river was just a place where women came to wash clothes and now it is one big tourist spot. Nevertheless, she herself was in awe.

When you lie on your back to float, you find yourself surrounded by a canopy of palm trees and indigenous plants, and if you dive below into the crystal clear blue waters with goggles or with your eyes open, a deep cave entrance could be found and different fish swim undeterred by swimmers. Divers who have attempted to explore have only reached 87 meters deep into the underwater cave.

Life vests can be rented at 100 pesos each, and lifeguards can be seen around the area. They not only watch out for people drowning but also for those who are smoking. Smoking is prohibited inside the area around the Enchanted River.

At 3:00 PM, bell was again rung to signal fish feeding. Everyone went out of the water and awaited the caretaker’s cue to throw the fish food for the huge fishes to feast on.

One of the caretakers offered us the river cruise that would take us to the neighboring islands. The cruise costs at 160 pesos per hour for a maximum of five people.

The fishing boat took us to through the Sibadan Fish cage where fishes are cultured in the middle of the sea. Guests can do fishing here and rooms are available during brief stopovers.

The next stop was the Pangasinan white island that boasts fine golden sand and a burial cave during the Spanish period. Rooms are also available for overnight stays.

The other destination we didn’t have enough time for is the Tinago River and islands, a group of unexploited islets which the locals claimed will be soon developed to become a honeymooners’ paradise. It would take an hour to get there by boat.

We got back from boating at 5:00 PM already when the Enchanted River is closed. No one was in the river anymore and one couldn’t just help but marvel at the stillness and mystical vibe of the clear blue waters.

Night swimming is prohibited as the locals believe that it is the time for the nature spirits to dwell in the river.

We rode back to our habal-habals to our hotel in Mangagoy and we all left the river utterly enchanted.

A registered nurse, John Ryan (or call him "Rye") Mendoza hails from Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao (where, no, it isn't always as "bloody", as the mainstream media claims it to be, he noted). He first moved to Metro Manila in 2010 (supposedly just to finish a health social science degree), but fell in love not necessarily with the (err, smoggy) place, but it's hustle and bustle. He now divides his time in Mindanao (where he still serves under-represented Indigenous Peoples), and elsewhere (Metro Manila included) to help push for equal rights for LGBT Filipinos. And, yes, he parties, too (see, activists need not be boring! - Ed).

NEWSMAKERS

Tech-related jealousy is real… including LGBTQIAs

According to the Pew Research Center, about one-third of LGB partnered adults whose significant other uses social media report that they have felt jealous or unsure in their current relationship because of how their partner interacted with others on social media (versus 22% of straight people who say this).

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Photo by @nordwood from Unsplash.com

Social media can be a source of jealousy and uncertainty in relationships – especially for younger adults.

This is according to a Pew Research Center study (with the survey conducted in October 2019, though the study was only released recently) that found that, indeed, many people encounter tech-related struggles with their significant others.

In “Dating and Relationships in the Digital Age”, Pew Research Center noted that “younger people value social media as a place to share how much they care about their partner or to keep up with what’s going on in their partner’s life.” However, “they also acknowledge some of the downsides that these sites can have on relationships.”

Twenty-three percent (23%) of adults with partners who use social media say they have felt jealous or unsure about their relationship because of the way their current spouse or partner interacts with other people on social media.

Now get this: the number is higher among those in younger age groups.

Among partnered adults whose significant other uses social media, 34% of 18- to 29-year-olds and 26% of those ages 30 to 49 say they have felt jealous or unsure in their current relationship because of how their partner interacted with others on social media. This is definitely higher than the 19% of those aged 50 to 64 who say this, and 4% of those ages 65 and up.

The insecurity is also common among those not married – i.e. 37% of unmarried adults with partners who are social media users say they have felt this way about their current partner, while only 17% of married people say the same.

Women are reportedly more likely to express displeasure with how their significant other interacts with others on social media (29% vs. 17% for men).

Meanwhile, college graduates are less likely to report having felt this way than those with some college experience or a high school degree or less.

And yes, LGBTQIA community members are no different.

According to the Pew Research Center, about one-third of LGB partnered adults whose significant other uses social media report that they have felt jealous or unsure in their current relationship because of how their partner interacted with others on social media (versus 22% of straight people who say this).

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Lifestyle & Culture

4 Signs you suffer from anxiety and how to treat it

Here is a list of the symptoms to watch out for and how to get relief.

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Did you know that anxiety disorders are the most common types of mental illnesses in the United States of America? In fact, it is estimated that approximately two in every ten adults are affected. If you think that you might be one of them, you are probably wondering what your treatment options are.

Here is a list of the symptoms to watch out for and how to get relief. 

You struggle with insomnia 

Anxiety and stress lead to the release of strong stress hormones that can drastically impact your ability to both fall asleep and stay asleep. This insomnia often sets off a vicious cycle of fatigue throughout the day combined with dreading going to bed at night, which only exacerbates your worries. 

You constantly feel nervous 

Most people diagnosed with anxiety report feeling consistently nervous, ‘on edge,’ or restless. These feelings are not always associated with events but become a part of daily life regardless of what they are doing or where they are going. 

You notice a wide array of physical symptoms 

Along with feeling jittery and nervous, you might also notice a few physical manifestations of anxiety. For example, many anxiety sufferers will experience an increased heart rate, shortness of breath, profuse sweating, shaking hands, weakness, and certain stomach problems. 

You cannot rationalize with yourself 

Have you noticed that no matter how much you try to tell yourself that you are overreacting or to remind yourself that everything is going to be fine, your symptoms still do not dissipate? This is a sure-fire sign that anxiety is present. Anxiety is not rational, and it can be challenging to control it without outside help.

Treatment options for anxiety 

There is no doubt that one of the most effective solutions for the treatment of anxiety is CBD or hemp oil. The relief brought about through the ingestion or inhalation of CBD or hemp oil is due to the powerful natural agents working wonders on re-balancing your brain chemistry. There are both animal and human studies that corroborate these benefits, so it is definitely worth giving it a try to see if it helps you. Luckily, it is very easy to buy ready-made CBD/hemp oil (although costly) or to buy bulk hemp seeds and start growing the plants yourself at home. 

Other treatment options to consider for anxiety relief include meditation, finding a proper outlet for stress, cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and hypnosis. Many of these therapies are about trial and error, so be sure to try them all to find out which one works best for you. 

In some cases, simply talking to a therapist or a psychologist can help you to learn productive coping strategies for getting your feelings of anxiety under control. 

Once you are aware that your anxiety is playing a key role in your life and influencing you negatively, you can proceed to take action. Here’s hoping that you will find a worthwhile source of relief sooner rather than later.

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Health & Wellness

Binge drinkers beware, ‘Drunkorexia’ is calling

Excess alcohol consumption combined with restrictive and disordered eating patterns is extremely dangerous and can dramatically increase the risk of developing serious physical and psychological consequences, including hypoglycaemia, liver cirrhosis, nutritional deficits, brain and heart damage, memory lapses, blackouts, depression and cognitive deficits.

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Mojito, appletini or a simple glass of fizz – they may take the edge off a busy day, but if you find yourself bingeing on more than a few, you could be putting your physical and mental health at risk according new research at the University of South Australia.

Examining the drinking patterns of 479 female Australian university students aged 18-24 years, the world-first empirical study explored the underlying belief patterns than can contribute to “Drunkorexia” – a damaging and dangerous behavior where disordered patterns of eating are used to offset negative effects of consuming excess alcohol, such as gaining weight.

Concerningly, researchers found that a staggering 82.7 per cent of female university students surveyed had engaged in “Drunkorexic” behaviors over the past three months. And, more than 28 per cent were regularly and purposely skipping meals, consuming low-calorie or sugar-free alcoholic beverages, purging or exercising after drinking to help reduce ingested calories from alcohol, at least 25 per cent of the time.

Clinical psychologist and lead UniSA researcher Alycia Powell-Jones says the prevalence of Drunkorexic behaviours among Australian female university students is concerning.

“Due to their age and stage of development, young adults are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors, which can include drinking excess alcohol,” Powell-Jones says. “Excess alcohol consumption combined with restrictive and disordered eating patterns is extremely dangerous and can dramatically increase the risk of developing serious physical and psychological consequences, including hypoglycaemia, liver cirrhosis, nutritional deficits, brain and heart damage, memory lapses, blackouts, depression and cognitive deficits.”

She added that “certainly, many of us have drunk too much alcohol at some point in time, and we know just by how we feel the next day, that this is not good for us, but when nearly a third of young female uni students are intentionally cutting back on food purely to offset alcohol calories; it’s a serious health concern.”

The harmful use of alcohol is a global issue, with excess consumption causing millions of deaths, including many thousands of young lives.

In Australia for instance, one in six people consume alcohol at dangerous levels, placing them at lifetime risk of an alcohol-related disease or injury. The combination of excessive alcohol intake with restrictive eating behaviors to offset calories can result in a highly toxic cocktail for this population.

The study was undertaken in two stages. The first measured the prevalence of self-reported, compensative and restrictive activities in relation to their alcohol consumption.

The second stage identified participants’ Early Maladaptive Schemes (EMS) – or thought patterns – finding that that the subset of schemas most predictive of Drunkorexia were ‘insufficient self-control’, ’emotional deprivation’ and ‘social isolation’.

Powell-Jones says identifying the early maladaptive schemas linked to Drunkorexia is key to understanding the harmful condition.

These are deeply held and pervasive themes regarding oneself and one’s relationship with others, that can develop in childhood and then can influence all areas of life, often in dysfunctional ways. Early maladaptive schemas can also be influenced by cultural and social norms.

Drunkorexic behaviour appears to be motivated by two key social norms for young adults – consuming alcohol and thinness.

“This study has provided preliminary insight into better understanding why young female adults make these decisions to engage in ‘Drunkorexic’ behaviors,” Powell-Jones says. “Not only may it be a coping strategy to manage social anxieties through becoming accepted and fitting in with peer group or cultural expectations, but it also shows a reliance on avoidant coping strategies.”

It is recommended for clinicians, educators, parents and friends to be aware of the factors that motivate young women to engage in this harmful and dangerous behavior, including cultural norms, beliefs that drive self-worth, a sense of belonging, and interpersonal connectedness.

“By being connected, researchers and clinicians can develop appropriate clinical interventions and support for vulnerable young people within the youth mental health sector,” Powell-Jones says.

Worth highlighting: Alcoholism is a big issue in the LGBTQIA community.

A 2017 study found that bisexual people had higher odds of engaging in alcohol use behaviors when compared with people from the sexual majority. This study also found that bullying mediated sexual minority status and alcohol use more particularly among bisexual females.

Still in 2017, another study noted higher levels of alcohol use among men who have sex with men (MSM), which is closely associated with intimate partner violence (IPV). The same study found that over half of MSM experienced IPV, and just under half of MSM perpetrating IPV themselves, including physical, sexual, emotional or HIV-related IPV.

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Travel

A first for Central America, Costa Rica legalizes marriage equality

Costa Rica is now the 28th UN member state to recognize marriage equality.

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Photo by Jose Pablo Garcia from Unsplash.com

#Loveislove

Costa Rica has formally – and finally – legalized marriage equality, after a landmark court ruling came into effect.

In 2018, Costa Rica’s constitutional court ruled that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and discriminatory. The country’s parliament was given 18 months to legislate on this, or else the ban will be automatically overruled.

May 25, Monday, marked that deadline.

In a tweet following this, Costa Rica’s President Carlos Alvarado Quesada said: “Empathy and love should from now on be the guiding principles which will allow us to move forward.”

Quesada took office in May 2018, and his campaign promised to legalize marriage equality.

https://twitter.com/CarlosAlvQ/status/1265160738936631296?s=20

Costa Rica is now the 28th UN member state to recognize marriage equality.

Also in a tweet, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the U.N. Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity — who is also from Costa Rica — said that this is “an extraordinary moment of celebration and gratitude to the work of so many activists, and of quiet reflection of the loves of those who lived without seeing this moment.”

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Health & Wellness

Greater availability of non-alcoholic drinks may reduce alcohol consumption

The findings suggest that interventions to encourage healthier food and drink choices may be most effective when changing the relative availability of healthier and less-healthy options.

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Photo by Joyce McCown from Unsplash.com

People are more likely to opt for non-alcoholic drinks if there are more of them available than alcoholic drinks, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.

A team of researchers at the NIHR Bristol Biomedical Research Centre, and the Universities of Bristol and Cambridge, UK found that when presented with eight drink options, participants were 48% more likely to choose a non-alcoholic drink when the proportion of non-alcoholic drink options increased from four (50%) to six (75%). When the proportion of non-alcoholic drink options decreased from four to two (25%), participants were 46% less likely to choose a non-alcoholic drink.

Dr Anna Blackwell, the corresponding author said: “Alcohol consumption is among the top five risk factors for disease globally. Previous research has shown that increasing the availability of healthier food options can increase their selection and consumption relative to less healthy food. To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate that increasing the availability of non-alcoholic drinks, relative to alcoholic drinks in an online scenario, can increase their selection.”

Participants in the study completed an online task in which they were presented with a selection of alcoholic beer, non-alcoholic beer and soft-drinks. The drink selections included four alcoholic and four non-alcoholic drinks, six alcoholic and two non-alcoholic drinks or two alcoholic and six non-alcoholic drinks. 808 UK residents with an average age of 38 years who regularly consumed alcohol participated in the study.

When presented with mostly non-alcoholic drinks, 49% of participants selected a non-alcoholic drink, compared to 26% of participants who selected a non-alcoholic drink when presented with mostly alcoholic drinks. These results were consistent regardless of the time participants had to make their decision, indicating that the findings were not dependent on the amount of time and attention participants were able to devote to their drink choice. The findings suggest that interventions to encourage healthier food and drink choices may be most effective when changing the relative availability of healthier and less-healthy options.

Anna Blackwell said: “Many licensed venues already offer several non-alcoholic options but these are often stored out of direct sight, for example in low-level fridges behind the bar. Our results indicate that making these non-alcoholic products more visible to customers may influence them to make healthier choices. The market for alcohol-free beer, wine and spirit alternatives is small but growing and improving the selection and promotion of non-alcoholic drinks in this way could provide an opportunity for licensed venues to reduce alcohol consumption without losing revenue.”

The authors caution that as the study measured hypothetical drink selection online, results may differ in real-world settings. Further studies are needed to determine how the relative availability of non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks impacts the purchasing and consumption of alcohol in real life.

Alcoholism is a big issue in the LGBTQIA community.

In 2017, a study found that bisexual people had higher odds of engaging in alcohol use behaviors when compared with people from the sexual majority. This study also found that bullying mediated sexual minority status and alcohol use more particularly among bisexual females.

Still in 2017, another study noted higher levels of alcohol use among men who have sex with men (MSM), which is closely associated with intimate partner violence (IPV). The same study found that over half of MSM experienced IPV, and just under half of MSM perpetrating IPV themselves, including physical, sexual, emotional or HIV-related IPV.

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Travel

Calgary officially bans ‘conversion therapy’

The so-called “conversion therapy” is now illegal in Calgary in Canada, with the city council voting 14-1 to approve a bylaw that bans the practice. Businesses that break the law by offering the practice for a fee will face fines up to $10,000.

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Photo by Blake Guidry from Unsplash.com

Rainbow rising in Canada.

The so-called “conversion therapy” is now illegal in Calgary in Canada, with the city council voting 14-1 to approve a bylaw that bans the practice. Businesses that break the law by offering the practice for a fee will face fines up to $10,000.

“Conversion therapy” is the most widely-used term used to describe practices attempting to change, suppress or divert one’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. It is also called reorientation therapy, reparative therapy, reintegrative therapy, or, more recently, support for unwanted same-sex attraction or transgender identities.

Medical associations are critical of this practice – e.g. the World Psychiatric Association criticized these as “wholly unethical,” and the Pan American Health Organization warned that they pose “a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people.” The Canadian Psychological Association and the World Health Organization also oppose the same, stating that it poses a “severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons.”

Other countries already deal with this, including Malta, Ecuador, Germany, Brazil and Taiwan. Still other countries are in the process of banning the practice, including Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, and the US.

With this development, Mayor Naheed Nenshi was quoted as saying: “There are forces of anger and hatred that our gender and sexually diverse brothers and sisters have to deal with every single day. Sometimes in this job, sometimes we get to just do what’s right.”

Approximately 47,000 LGBTQIA Canadians underwent some form of “conversion therapy”, according to a Community Based Research Centre study.

To date, five Canadian provinces and eight other Alberta municipalities have taken steps to ban the practice. A federal ban is also in the works.

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