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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Living on the edge in a house on stilts

Contributing writer Jonathan Orbuda finds himself in the floating nipa huts of Laguna Lake, where he discovers that life may be harsh, but people try to thrive. As one of the persons he met, Mang Rolly, said: “Mahirap tumira sa lawa. Tiyagaan lang talaga (It’s hard living on the lake. But you just have to put up with it).”

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Bangus, bangus! Limang piso na lang ang kilo (Milkfish, milkfish! Only P5 per kilo)!”

The audible voice of a woman was persuading me to buy her milkfish.

Bakit ang mura (Why so cheap)?” I asked.

She just smiled at me, and then whispered: “Mga huli ko ‘yan sa baha. Galing sa Laguna Lake na nakawala sa fish pen pagkatapos ng bagyong Glenda (I caught them after the flood. They escaped from Laguna Lake after the fish pens broke due to typhoon Glenda).”

With that, I had a sudden flashback; that moment when I talked to a fish pen care taker in Laguna Lake, right inside his bahay kubo (nipa hut).

Nipa huts – that cube-shaped house closely identified with rural living – is traditionally found in the countryside. However, as I found, it can also be found at the very core of Laguna Lake.

On a visit there, the sight of one immediately picked my curiosity, and so I immediately took a ride on a paddled boat, and after 30 minutes, landed on one, meeting its owner, Mang Rolly Larita, a fisherman and who has been looking after fish pens for 10 years already.

Mahirap tumira sa lawa. Tiyagaan lang talaga (It’s hard living on the lake. But you just have to put up with it)”, he said to me as soon as we came face to face.

As a caretaker of a fish pen owned by his brother, Popoy Larita, Mang Rolly is responsible for guarding it day and night. And the need to be there all the time is what triggered him to build the nipa hut afloat on the lake.

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Nipa huts on lakes are – not surprisingly – not made in the same way as the nipa huts on land.

Here, piled bamboos at the bed of the lake serve as the nipa hut’s foundation, while tied bamboos serve as the floor and walls, and the “lona” serve as the roofing, with these canes warming and drying the tired workers after long periods of sailing and fishing.

But as it is in other family dwellings, fishermen in floating nipa huts are communal – they share their foods among each other.

The nipa hut also serves as Mang Rolly’s watch tower.

Uso kasi ang nakawan dito kahit na tubig ang ginagalawan. Ninanakawan kami ng alagang isda sa pamamagitan ng pagbutas ng net, tapos sasaluhin nila ‘yung mga isda na lumalabas. Kaya kailangan gising na gising kami kasi sa gabi sila umaatake (Theft is common here, even if we are surrounded by water. The thieves steal fish from us by boring holes in the nets, and then catching the fish that escape from the holes that they create. And so it’s important that we stay awake, particularly since they steal in darkness/at night),” Mang Rolly said.

That living on the lake can be dangerous was recognized by Mang Rolly.

Kapag makulimlim ang kalangitan, nakatutok kami sa radio para pakinggan kung may bagyo ba. Kasi kung meron, inaalam namin kung anong signal na, Kapag signal number one, mananatili pa kami sa kubo, babantayan ang lambat na nakalatag sa lawa. Pero kapag tumaas na at inaanunsyo na lumikas, kinukuha na namin ‘yung mga importanteng gamit, tapos aalis na kami. Pagkatapos ng bagyo, saka kami babalik para tingnan ang palaisdaan (If the skies darken, we listen to the radio for news on the weather. If there is a storm, we make sure to know the status of the storm. If it is signal one, we stay where we are to look after the fish pens. If the signal worsens, we pack up our belongings and leave right away. We come back when the storm has passed),” he said.

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Typhoon, obviously, is their worst enemy.

The floating nipa hut, therefore, exemplifies how hard remains for Mang Rolly, and other people like him.

Eighteen-year-old Jose Linaw, originally from the Visayas, worked for almost four months as a caretaker, and he willingly shared his experience living in a nipa hut on the lake. He initially worked on Korean-owned fish pen, but then transferred to another fish pen owner due to the difficult work paired with low wages.

Mahirap manirahan sa lawa kasi masyadong malayo dito ‘yung mga kailangan mo. Tiyagaan lang. Ang kaibahan lang dito tahimik at mas presko. Ang kalaban talaga rito ay sama ng panahon, delikado talaga kasi hindi mo alam kung kailan darating (It’s hard living on the lake because it’s far from all conveniences. But you just put up with it. The one difference with living here it it’s quieter, and the air is fresher. Our enemy here is the bad weather, which is really dangerous, particularly since you don’t know when it’ll come),” Jose said.

And so their ilk stay living on floating nipa huts, built with bamboos characterized as resilient by standing firm after storm hit them. The nipa huts reflect the very people who subsist in it, not just standing firm, but also soaring after storms of problems face them.

Alas, there is no place like a bahay kubo, indeed.

Jonathan D. Orbuda, an Economics graduate, was a writer in college, when he served as a section editor (from 2007 to 2008) of The Pillar. Not surprisingly, after completing his degree, he ended up blogging, detailing his travels (sans much of the frills). He also established “Cute Pinoy”, an online social networking site for Filipino gay and bi men, eyeing to inspire closet gays to come out and learn to embrace themselves. Since finishing his schooling, he already worked for a bank and the BPO industry, among others. But his passion remains writing, and so he now travels as much as he can to discover what this world (and life) has to offer. As he keeps stressing: “I honestly don’t want to be rich; I just want to fly and be free.”

Health & Wellness

2/3 of parents cite barriers in recognizing youth depression

Teens and preteens are no strangers to depression: 1 in 4 parents say their child knows a peer with depression; 1 in 10 say a child’s peer has committed suicide.

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Photo by Warren Wong from Unsplash.com

Telling the difference between a teen’s normal ups and downs and something bigger is among top challenges parents face in identifying youth depression, a new poll suggests.

Though the majority of parents say they are confident they would recognize depression in their middle or high school aged child, two thirds acknowledge barriers to spotting specific signs and symptoms, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan in the US.

Forty percent of parents struggle to differentiate between normal mood swings and signs of depression, while 30% say their child is good at hiding feelings.

“In many families, the preteen and teen years bring dramatic changes both in youth behavior and in the dynamic between parents and children,” says poll co-director Sarah Clark. “These transitions can make it particularly challenging to get a read on children’s emotional state and whether there is possible depression.”

Still, a third of parents polled said nothing would interfere with their ability to recognize signs of depression in their child.

“Some parents may be overestimating their ability to recognize depression in the mood and behavior of their own child,” Clark says. “An overconfident parent may fail to pick up on the subtle signals that something is amiss.”

The poll also suggests that the topic of depression is all too familiar for middle and high school students. One in four parents say their child knows a peer or classmate with depression, and 1 in 10 say their child knows a peer or classmate who has died by suicide.

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Indeed, rates of youth suicide continue to rise. Among people ages 10 to 24 years old, the suicide rate climbed 56% between 2007 and 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Our report reinforces that depression is not an abstract concept for today’s teens and preteens, or their parents,” Clark says.

“This level of familiarity with depression and suicide is consistent with recent statistics showing a dramatic increase in suicide among… youth over the past decade. Rising rates of suicide highlight the importance of recognizing depression in youth.”

Compared to the ratings of their own ability, parents polled were also less confident that their preteens or teens would recognize depression in themselves.

Clark says parents should stay vigilant on spotting any signs of potential depression in kids, which may vary from sadness and isolation to anger, irritability and acting out. Parents might also talk with their preteen or teen about identifying a “go to” adult who can be a trusted source if they are feeling blue, Clark says.

Most parents also believe schools should play a role in identifying potential depression, with seven in 10 supporting depression screening starting in middle school.

“The good news is that parents view schools as a valuable partner in recognizing youth depression,” Clark says.The bad news is that too few schools have adequate resources to screen students for depression, and to offer counseling to students who need it.”

Clark encourages parents to learn whether depression screening is taking place at their child’s school and whether counseling is available for students who screen positive. Given the limited resources in many school districts, parents can be advocates of such efforts by talking to school administrators and school board members about the importance of offering mental health services in schools.

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The Mott Poll report is based on responses from 819 parents with at least one child in middle school, junior high, or high school.

Depression is – of course – an important issue in the LGBTQIA community. One study done in November 2018, for instance, found that half of LGBT people (52%) said they’ve experienced depression in the last year; one in eight LGBT people aged 18-24 (13%) said they’ve attempted to take their own life in the last year; and almost half of trans people (46%) have thought about taking their own life in the last year, 31% of LGB people who aren’t trans said the same.

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Health & Wellness

First case of sexually transmitted dengue confirmed in Spain

Health authorities confirmed a case of a man spreading dengue through sex. This is a world first for a virus which – until recently – was largely thought to be transmitted only by mosquitos.

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Photo by Егор Камелев from Unsplash.com

No, getting bitten by mosquitos isn’t the only way you can get dengue.

In Spain, health authorities confirmed a case of a man spreading dengue through sex. This is a world first for a virus which – until recently – was largely thought to be transmitted only by mosquitos.

The case involves a 41-year-old man from Madrid who contracted dengue after having sex with his male partner, who got the virus from a mosquito bite during a trip to Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

When the man’s dengue infection was confirmed in September, it puzzled doctors because he had not traveled to a country where the disease is common. An analysis of the sperm of the two men was carried out and it revealed that not only did they have dengue, but that it was exactly the same virus which circulates in Cuba.

Dengue is transmitted mainly by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which grows in number in densely-populated tropical climates, such as the Philippines.

Though it kills 10,000 people a year and infects over 100 million, the disease is fatal only in extreme cases, though symptoms are extremely unpleasant, including high fever, severe headaches and vomiting. It is particularly serious – and deadly – in children.

In the Philippines, the Department of Health reported a total of 271,480 dengue cases from January to August 31 this year, prompting it to declare a national dengue epidemic. As of end-August, an estimated 1,107 people have died of dengue in the country.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Gay in space in Disney’s ‘Star Wars Resistance’ kids’ show

This isn’t the first time an animated series highlighted LGBTQIA people/relationships; arguably even more progressive than mainstream Hollywood fare.

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Viewers sort of knew it all along, and then Disney confirmed that two characters on its “Star War Resistance” animated series for children are indeed a “gay couple.” 

On the Coffee with Kenobi podcast, Disney executive producers Brandon Auman, Athena Portillo, and Justin Ridge said that they are “proud” that two characters, Orka and Flix, are a “gay couple.” 

When Ridge was asked about the link between the two characters, he said: “I think it’s safe to say they’re an item… They’re absolutely a gay couple and we’re proud of that.” 

Orka is voiced by Jim Rash, while Flix is voiced by Bobby Moynihan.

Moynihan said later on the same podcast that he was glad to speak openly about Orka’s tendencies. 

“I have had a sentence prepared for a year and a half,” he said. “If someone would finally ask me, I would say, ‘All I can say is that when Flix says I love you, Orka says I know.’ … They’re the cutest.”

Orka and Flix are non-human, but fans assumed that they are homosexual. In an episode titled Dangerous Business, in the first season of “Star Wars Resistance“, there was a moment perceived to reveal the pair’s proclivities. 

The show is now in its second and final season on October 6, after getting nominated for an Emmy last year for outstanding children’s program.

This isn’t the first time an animated series highlighted LGBTQIA people/relationships; arguably even more progressive than mainstream Hollywood fare.

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In August, the new Aquaman, Kaldur, in the animated “Young Justice: Outsiders”, DC Universe’s animated show about teenage superheroes, was revealed to be LGBTQIA.

And in 2018, “Steven Universe”, a series from Cartoon Network, showcased a lesbian marriage proposal between two out queer characters in a special July 4 episode.

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Travel

Surrounded by art

Heading to Niagara Falls in NY in the US? The waterfalls may be the main attraction;buut there’s more to see in Niagara Falls than the body of water. Go IG crazy with a quick visit at Art Alley NF.

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When heading to Niagara Falls in the state of New York in the US, the three waterfalls at the southern end of Niagara Gorge (between the Ontario, Canada and, yes, the US state of New York) may be the main attraction. This isn’t exactly surprising; heck, everyone who saw 1980’s Superman (before he got grumpy and too dark – even if he stayed yummy – with DC’s re-imagining of the alien boy scout) will want to see the… grandeur of the location. For that matter, Hollywood has repeatedly “told” us (via the likes of 2003’s Bruce Almighty, 2014’s Tammy, 2016’s After the Sun Fell, and 2016’s The American Side) that it’s a must-visit.

When you get there, though, it is but… a body of water.

Sure, it is grand. Perhaps made even grander by the power of illumination, with the waterfalls enveloped in various colors when the sun sets. But truth be told, there’s more to see in Niagara Falls than just the body of water.

Case in point: Art Alley NF.

Located a few minutes from Niagara Falls State Park, Art Alley NF is a public mural project located at 425 Third Street in Niagara Falls, NY.

Credit for its development goes to Seth Piccirillo, the city’s community development director, and Rob Lynch, one of Niagara Falls High School’s art teachers. The two established the roadside inlet in 2016 to house 19 murals from local artists.

Think of San Francisco’s Clarion Alley, and you’d get the idea of what this is. Sans the angst, political activism, et cetera…

The location used to be a vacant lot blocked by a wall. It was blasted down by the city’s Department of Community Development to make way for a walkway lined with the murals.

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Street art enthusiasts ought to like this; or at least IG aficionados.

Though I say that again, when in Niagara Falls, NY in the US, don’t just stick to the body of water (you can check this in a just a day); instead, be surrounded by art with a quick visit to Art Alley NF.

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Health & Wellness

Improved support after self-harm needed to reduce suicide risk

To reduce the high risk of suicide after hospital attendance for self-harm, improved clinical management is needed for all patients – including comprehensive assessment of the patients’ mental state, needs, and risks, as well as implementation of risk reduction strategies, including safety planning.

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Photo by Sasha Freemind from Unsplash.com

Risk of suicide following hospital presentation for self-harm is very high immediately following hospital discharge, emphasising the need for provision of early follow-up care and attention to risk reduction strategies

To reduce the high risk of suicide after hospital attendance for self-harm, improved clinical management is needed for all patients – including comprehensive assessment of the patients’ mental state, needs, and risks, as well as implementation of risk reduction strategies, including safety planning.

The results are from an observational study spanning 16 years and including almost 50,000 people from five English hospitals, published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.

“The peak in risk of suicide which follows immediately after discharge from hospital underscores the need for provision of early and effective follow-up care. Presentation to hospital for self-harm offers an opportunity for intervention, yet people in are often discharged from hospital having not received a formal assessment of their problems and needs, and without specific aftercare arrangements. As specified in national guidance, a comprehensive assessment of the patients’ mental state, needs, and risks is essential to devise an effective plan for their follow-up care,” says study author Dr. Galit Geulayov, Centre for Suicide Research, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, UK.

It has been estimated that every year there are approximately 200,000 presentations to emergency departments in hospitals across England following acts of non-fatal self-harm. Self-harm is associated with increased mortality, especially by suicide. Approximately 50% of individuals who die by suicide have a history of self-harm, with hospital presentation for self-harm often occurring shortly before suicide.

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The new study compared the risk of suicide following hospital presentation for self-harm according to patient characteristics, method of self-harm, and socioeconomic deprivation. It also estimated the incidence of suicide by time after hospital attendance, adjusting for gender, age, previous self-harm, and psychiatric treatment.

The study included 49,783 people aged over 15 years who presented to hospital after non-fatal self-harm a total of 90,614 times between 2000-2013. The authors followed these patients for 16 years (until the end of 2015), and the study included five hospitals (one in Oxford, three in Manchester and one in Derby).

Within the 16 year follow up, 703 out of 49,783 people died by suicide – with the incidence of suicide being 163 per 100,000 people per year.

Around a third of these deaths occurred within a year of the patient attending hospital for non-fatal self-harm (36%, 252/703 deaths), and the study confirmed the high risk of suicide in the first year after presentation to hospital for self-harm (the incidence of suicide in the year following discharge from hospital was 511 suicides per 100,000 people per year – 55.5 times higher than that of the general population).

The authors found that risk was particularly elevated in the first month (the incidence of suicide in the month following discharge from hospital was 1,787 per 100,000 people per year – close to 200 times higher than in the general population) – with 74 out of 703 people in the study dying by suicide within a month.

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The authors note that men were more likely to die by suicide following hospital presentation of self-harm than women, people who attended hospital more than once for non-fatal self-harm were more likely to die by suicide than those with a single presentation, and age was associated with risk (with risk increasing 3% with each year of age).

In addition, those who lived in less deprived areas had a higher risk of death by suicide than those who lived in the most deprived areas, but this contrasts with a large body of evidence and might be explained by higher rates of psychiatric disorders in this group in this study – more research is needed. The authors also note that some forms of self-harm were more strongly linked to subsequent suicide, but advise against including detail of this kind in media reporting.

Suicide is a big issue in the LGBTQIA community. In 2018, for instance, a study found that a total of 37% of trans respondents reported having seriously considered suicide during the past 12 months and 32% had ever attempted a suicide. Offensive treatment during the past three months and lifetime exposure to trans-related violence were significantly associated with suicidality.

A study published in LGBT Health in 2016, meanwhile, emphasized the importance of strengthening family support and acceptance as part of a positive intervention.

The authors of this newer study note that holistic assessment of risk factors is required, and warn that no single characteristic will help predict later suicide.

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“While awareness of characteristics which increase the risk of subsequent suicide can assist as part of this assessment, previous studies indicate that individual factors related to self-harm are a poor means to evaluate the risk of future suicide. These factors need to be considered together, followed by risk reduction strategies, including safety planning, for all patients,” says Professor Hawton, Centre for Suicide Research, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, UK.

The authors note that their study focuses on three cities in England and the findings may not necessarily apply to the whole of the country.

Writing in a linked comment, Dr. Annette Erlangsen, Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention, Denmark, notes that there is a range of treatment options available following presentation of self-harm in emergency departments (including referrals to psychiatric wards after psychosocial assessments, outpatient treatment for patients not under immediate risk of self-harming, and – in some countries – specialized suicide prevention clinics) but many countries send patients home with a referral to their GP or do not refer at all.

She says: “The bottom line is–while the body of evidence of effective intervention is growing, we need to help people who present with self-harm. Operating in such a scenario is challenging but the numbers are clear; we need to ensure that patients receive support immediately when presenting and implement a continuation of care after discharge.”

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Is Lara Croft an LGBTQ+ icon?

Lara Croft paved the way for female representation in action games and movies, and in doing so created an icon and ally for the LGBTQ+ community. While her tomb raiding days are still ongoing, the wealth of other games means that so many more people can find characters that resonate with who they are.

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Screencap from "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" (2001)

Lara Croft is one of the most recognizable and popular characters to ever be created. Whether fans know her from the classic PlayStation games, from the Angelina Jolie films, or even from the remake with Alicia Vikander, Lara Croft is an icon. While female gamers are more aplenty today, back in the early days of gaming, every corner was nearly entirely male-dominated. So Lara Croft was created to appeal to every gamer. As such, she fell between the two demographics and became a broad church to many, but a very niche fandom for some.

While the tomb raiding heroine offers some much-needed female representation in the action genre, is she also an LGBTQ+ icon?

Who becomes and who doesn’t become a queer icon is unpredictable, but since her debut in 1996, Lara Croft has proven she has the mettle to do more than just raid tombs. Action games are coded with high masculinity, so offering a female counterpart helps to take some of the testosterone out of the equation and offer a different kind of character. It has been well documented that LGBTQ+ identifying people are more likely to choose the female character in games – from Princess Peach to Coco Bandicoot and Eevee.

Women in games are often underappreciated, which helps the LGBTQ+ community identify with them. The disregarding of traditional femininity to be an adventurer also bridges the gap towards androgyny. Lara Croft eschews what is expected of her to do what she really wants to do – a trait that is both admirable and holds a deeper meaning for a lot of LGBTQ+ members of society.

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But, while there has been wider representation as of late and a more welcoming eye on all communities since 1996, Lara Croft and the strength she embodies still pervades in all forms of gaming today. As the Lara Croft Tomb Raider slot game at LeoVegas Casino shows, that utilises popular themes, artwork, and motifs from the franchise, the theme is still a popular one, still succeeding in offering something different for players. The fact that so long after her debut, and with so many more options available, Lara Croft is still the go-to franchise for many people, helps to prove her appeal.

While some of the marketing may look at Lara Croft through a male lens and focus on her physicality, for queer people, the adventurous nature that contrasts with this image helped cement her as a heroine. The 2013 reboot, written by Rhianna Pratchett, strands Lara on an island with nobody else except Samantha. Her mission becomes to keep Samantha safe and illustrates the true power in their sisterhood.

Lara Croft paved the way for female representation in action games and movies, and in doing so created an icon and ally for the LGBTQ+ community. While her tomb raiding days are still ongoing, the wealth of other games means that so many more people can find characters that resonate with who they are. There wouldn’t be as much representation across gaming had it not being for Lara Croft and the temples she raided, and the doors she unlocked.

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