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Northern (gustatory) pride…

Outrage Magazine drops by Vigan City to enjoy… empanada and okoy.

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Every region (if not every town) in the Philippines has their own gustatory offerings that sort of define them – e.g. Bicol Express in, obviously, Bicol; bagnet in Ilocos; guapple pie of Negros; and so on…

This is why – when one is just in Metro Manila – when seeing all those “original such-and-such” offerings of various restos, supposedly with their preparations learned from the regions these offerings originated from, one can only really… frown. Because how “original” can an offering be the moment you take them from the very contexts that made them thrive to begin with?

This is the thought that stays in the mind when thinking of Ilocos’ empanada and okoy, particularly after one has tried those offered in Vigan City’s Nanang Sion.




WHAT’S THERE

There are actually two branches of Nanang Sion (as per the apo or grandchild of Nanang Sion herself) – one is by the plaza/near the church in downtown Vigan City (this is the “main” branch), and another one in one of the streets parallel to Crisologo (that tourist trap portion of the city, where just about every tourist has his/her pic taken). The former is a more “formal” resto; but the latter – if I may say so – has more character, with the apo’s collections of everything old (vintage, if you must).

There are wooden tables, and chairs and benches scattered on two floors, and adding to that “being in an old place” vibe/feel.

But – more apparent – are the owner’s collections of… just about everything, from rebulto (statues of holy people or saints) to scooters to bikes to kalesa (horse carriage) wheels, and so on. And while many are placed on pedestals, there are some that are made to be – literally – parts of the place, e.g. the bicycles that were cemented on the walls.

If it’s “character” you want, then this one’s worth a check, indeed.

WHY GO THERE

But – recognizing that ambiance is but part of the attraction – if there’s one thing that will make you come here, this can be summed in one word: FOOD.

Must try are:

  1. Empanada (super special, P65) – I’ve traveled to various parts of northern Philippines a lot of times, and while there, many always tell me to try the local empanada. But – considering the number of people who recommends empanada – I can’t fathom the fuss about it. In my mind (and from what I tasted) it’s nothing really special, just a combo of longganisa/chorizo with either scraped green papaya or thinly chopped cabbage, plus egg thrown in, and then wrapped in dough before being fried.
    And then I tried Nanang Sion’s empanada, and I now sorta get the hype. I’d say this: if done really well, empanada is really tasty. And this one (so far) has been the tastiest empanada from somewhere north of the Philippines for me.
  2. Okoy (with egg and longganisa, P55) – This one is also a surprise because okoy, as we know it, is nothing but fried: shrimps with veggies (some use carrots or kamote), and then coated in flour. Now be honest, how many times have you eaten okoy and actually complain with that hair-like strands from the shrimp heads? With Nanang Sion, though, the okoy is actually… succulent, with the shrimp juicy and (thanks to the longganisa) tasty.

The servings are big, BTW. So if you end up unable to finish what was given you because you’re too full already, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you…

If hungrier and in search of “real” meals (not merienda or snacks), there are “silogs” – e.g. bagnet (P150) and longganisa (P120), and the “common” corned beef (P90), siomai (P90), hotdog (P90), et cetera.

If it’s just me, though, I’d say stick to the food that has been helping define Ilocos. That way, you avoid getting disappointed…

And so, yes, empanada and okoy are good starts…

WHY AVOID IT

To start, heading to Vigan isn’t in everybody’s list of to-do. And truth be told, even when driving (instead of commuting), going there takes a while. So for those who have… aversion to long trips, then this isn’t for you.

If- I suppose – you’re a local and already have had enough empanada and okoy to last you a lifetime, then…

IN THE END…

But – let me say this – the next time someone mentions “original such-and-such” to you, and you’re having that offering outside its original context, it’s always better to have them where they (first and originally really) made them. That way, you’d be able to tell how “real” or “fake” the offering has become.

And as far as some of the best northern gustatory delights are concerned, I’d say head to Vigan City. And give Nanang Sion a try while there; for less than P100, you’d understand why “eating local” continues to be the best way to appreciate delicacies…

Nanang Sion is at Plaridel St, Vigan City, Ilocos Sur. Vigan City isn’t THAT big of a place. Ask around NOT just for the location of Nanang Sion, but also where else you can grab what’s good there. I’ve encountered shy Ilocanos who demur when speaking with us outsiders; but almost always, they try as much as they can to help out and lead you where you wanna go or – for that matter – where they think you ought to head to best enjoy being there…



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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Health & Wellness

Facebook posts help facilitate belief that HPV vaccine is dangerous to health

Nearly 40% of Facebook posts about the HPV vaccine amplified a perceived risk, and the data suggests these posts had momentum over time.

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The human papillomavirus infection, or HPV, is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HPV is associated with health problems including genital warts and cancers, but a vaccine has been available since 2006 to help stop the virus. The CDC reports more than 12 years of data supports the HPV vaccine is safe and effective, yet HPV vaccination rates still remain low.

Social media has a history of being a popular place for sexual health discussions, and the HPV vaccine is one of the most discussed vaccines on the internet. Monique Luisi, an assistant professor in the University of Missouri School of Journalism, has studied more than 6,500 public HPV vaccine-related posts on Facebook from 2006 to 2016. In a previous study, Luisi used these Facebook posts to identify a negative trend on Facebook related to how people perceive the HPV vaccine.

Now, she suggests this negative trend on Facebook may also cause people to develop a false perception of the health risk of the vaccine. After looking at the percentage of posts that made the vaccine seem more dangerous, less dangerous or neither, Luisi found nearly 40% of Facebook posts about the HPV vaccine amplified a perceived risk, and the data suggests these posts had momentum over time.

“We should not assume that only the disease is perceived as a risk, but when research supports it, that medical treatments and interventions might unfortunately also be perceived as risks,” she said. “It’s more likely that people are going to see things on social media, particularly on Facebook, that are not only negative about the HPV vaccine, but will also suggest the HPV vaccine could be harmful. It amplifies the fear that people may have about the vaccine, and we see that posts that amplify fear are more likely to trend than those that don’t.”

Luisi suggests the spread of this negative information may lead people to have a false perception of the vaccine, so people should consult their doctor or health care provider before making an informed decision.

“Facebook remains a very popular social media platform for adult audiences, which necessitates action to address HPV vaccine risk messages,” she said. “People are going to see what they are going to see on social media, so it’s important to not only take what you see on social media, but also talk to a doctor or health care provider. Just because it’s trending doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Luisi notes research must continue to address the perception of vaccine safety where the vaccine is perceived as a greater health threat than the virus or disease it prevents, and her study could also inform officials for the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine roll out and distribution.

“As the COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out, people are likely going to see a lot of negative information, and that negative information will be what trends on social media,” she said. “But, if the public can anticipate this negative information, it will be interesting to see if that will that make them less sensitive to the perceived risk of the vaccine.”

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Health & Wellness

Depression and stress could dampen efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines

Even though rigorous testing has shown that the COVID-19 vaccines approved for distribution are highly effective at producing a robust immune response, not everyone will immediately gain their full benefit. Environmental factors, as well as an individual’s genetics and physical and mental health, can weaken the body’s immune system, slowing the response to a vaccine.

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Decades of research show that depression, stress, loneliness, and poor health behaviors can weaken the body’s immune system and lower the effectiveness of certain vaccines.

A new report accepted for publication in Perspectives on Psychological Science suggests that the same may be true for the new COVID-19 vaccines that are in development and the early stages of global distribution. Fortunately, it may be possible to reduce these negative effects with simple steps like exercise and sleep.

Vaccines are among the safest and most effective advances in medical history, protecting society from a wide range of otherwise devastating diseases, including smallpox and polio. The key to their success, however, is ensuring that a critical percentage of the population is effectively vaccinated to achieve so-called herd immunity.

Even though rigorous testing has shown that the COVID-19 vaccines approved for distribution are highly effective at producing a robust immune response, not everyone will immediately gain their full benefit. Environmental factors, as well as an individual’s genetics and physical and mental health, can weaken the body’s immune system, slowing the response to a vaccine.

This is particularly troubling as the novel coronavirus continues to rage across the world, trigging a concurrent mental health crisis as people deal with isolation, economic stressors, and uncertainty about the future. These challenges are the same factors that have been previously shown to weaken vaccine efficacy, particularly among the elderly.

“In addition to the physical toll of COVID-19, the pandemic has an equally troubling mental health component, causing anxiety and depression, among many other related problems. Emotional stressors like these can affect a person’s immune system, impairing their ability to ward off infections,” said Annelise Madison, a researcher at The Ohio State University and lead author on the paper. “Our new study sheds light on vaccine efficacy and how health behaviors and emotional stressors can alter the body’s ability to develop an immune response. The trouble is that the pandemic in and of itself could be amplifying these risk factors.”

Vaccines work by challenging the immune system. Within hours of a vaccination, there is an innate, general immune response on the cellular level as the body begins to recognize a potential biological threat. This frontline response by the immune system is eventually aided by the production of antibodies, which target specific pathogens. It is the continued production of antibodies that helps to determine how effective a vaccine is at conferring long-term protection.

The good news, according to the researchers, is that the COVID-19 vaccines already in circulation are approximately 95% effective. Even so, these psychological and behavioral factors can lengthen the amount of time it takes to develop immunity and can shorten the duration of immunity.

“The thing that excites me is that some of these factors are modifiable,” said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at The Ohio State University and senior author on the paper. “It’s possible to do some simple things to maximize the vaccine’s initial effectiveness.”

Based on prior research, one strategy the researchers suggest is to engage in vigorous exercise and get a good night’s sleep in the 24 hours before vaccination so that your immune system is operating at peak performance. This may help ensure that the best and strongest immune response happens as quickly as possible.

“Prior research suggests that psychological and behavioral interventions can improve vaccine responsiveness. Even shorter-term interventions can be effective,” said Madison. “Therefore, now is the time to identify those at risk for a poor immune response and intervene on these risk factors.”

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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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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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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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