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Palawan’s Huma Island: Almost there…

Dom visits Huma Island in Busuanga, Palawan and discovers that – even with the good PR spouted by the likes of Kris Aquino, the place leaves a lot to be desired. This is not to disparage Huma Island because this place has its (numerous) charms, “but I’d like to think of Huma Island as a paradise-in-the-making; a place that is ‘almost there’ but ‘not quite there yet’,” Dom says.

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Huma Island1Huma Island2Kris Aquino was here,” a few of the staff members of Huma Island are bound to say (at times with a hint of pride) to visitors.

That is supposed to be an enticement (the “hook”, so to speak, on why people should at least visit this place). But for many others (LIKE ME!), it’s actually a reason why you should not visit.

Don’t get me wrong – Kris bashing is the farthest thing in my mind (Kris gets more than enough bashing from others, as it is). But if you eat at Chowking because you believe Kris eats its food (Hey, she endorses the chain, after all!), you’re a fool. If you buy Cherry Mobile’s Omega phablet because Kris endorsed it, well… D’UH! If you buy Leonardo bags because you think she uses it (Well, she similarly endorsed it!), you need to reconsider your shopping BIG time.

And in the same way, if you visit Huma Island solely because Kris promoted it, you’re a bigger fool.

Not that this place doesn’t have charms. Because it does.

But with the rates ranging from $800 per night, it isn’t for everyone. And – for those willing to cough up that much money – you should expect more from this place than the PR mouthing done by Kris.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at Huma Island…

WHY GO THERE?

As a somewhat exclusive resort (it is on its own island somewhere in Busuanga in Palawan), that “exclusivity” can be appealing. Particularly for those who want to be by he beach, where the space is accessed by (extremely) limited number of people, this is worth considering.

There are only a few villas in Huma Island – some built over the water; and others built by the beach. The villas can accommodate from two adults (occupying the queen-sized bed) plus two kids (occupying the sofa bed/s). Every villa, by the way, has its own verandah with a small(ish) Jacuzzi – this is enclosed by rattan-like material, so that every verandah offers guests privacy.

Also because of the exclusivity, facilities abound: there’s the library (not that you’d head here just to read…); the fitness center (also built over the water); the pools; the rocks for climbing; the archery; and the restos (one atop a hill, overlooking some parts of the island – or at least those not covered by the foliage).

Huma Island3Worth mentioning is the spa. Why? Because: 1) The massage rooms are all over the water; and 2) The floors of the massage rooms are transparent (fiber glass), allowing you to see the corals and the fishes swimming in them. It’s almost like being massaged while looking at an aquarium…

And the waters? Well, as can be expected in Palawan, there are wonders to be had here – from shipwrecks that can be viewed not just by diving but even by just snorkeling, untouched underwater environments, pearl farms, et cetera, et cetera. Hello, this is not called the “Last ecological frontier” for nothing!

For so many, though, it’s the display of the so-called Filipino hospitality by the Filipino staff members that is the biggest come-on. The bowing and kowtowing is endearing, making you feel welcome; and the desire to be of service is authentic, not at all invasive or – well – fake.

WHY NOT GO THERE?

Alas, even risking being called bitchy, I still have to say that this isn’t… paradise.

The swimming area isn’t spectacular. And note that early in the day is the high tide, when swimming is okay; and the latter part of the day, when the tide is low, is when swimming isn’t even possible because the rocks surface. Well, the pools are there, you say? Yes; but they aren’t even big enough for laps, so…

The waters under the villas are actually among the nicest, particularly during high tide. Except that – no – you can’t swim there. If only they make that part of the seas accessible…

The food is a hit-and-miss affair – some of the preparations were yummy (everything grilled, for instance, were S-U-P-E-R!), while others just weren’t (e.g. the mousse tasted like a mousse would when left too long in a hot and humid condition). Now, am I expecting too much? Perhaps. But again, for spending a lot, the expectations soar.

And the water (both for washing/showering/brushing teeth and for drinking)? Think salty…

And the bar offerings? Almost all of them – from Weng weng to Singapore Sling to whatever – tasted like Four Seasons (!).

The facilities in the villas are sufficient. But sufficient, I suppose, isn’t what’s expected. So as not to be disappointed, forget the hot shower; the replacement of the water in the Jacuzzi; the fluffy pillows; et cetera.

Connectivity sucks, by the way. Smart connection is almost always nil; Globe – even if the island has its own Globe tower – doesn’t fare any better; and Wi-Fi connectivity is… extremely disappointing. There are times when getting disconnected with the world is a blessing (such as when visiting an island paradise, perhaps). But in these days of selfies, being able to upload a visit to paradise should be a given – and this just isn’t an easy thing to do when here.

And despite the lure of getting a massage while there (that glass floor!), the spa’s limitations are apparent – i.e. limited oil choices, and even if I adore her, just how many times can one listen to Enya wailing?

FOR THE WILLING…

If you’d rather believe Kris and head there anyway, that’s fine by me.

But I’d say that Palawan – albeit largely under-developed – does have numerous venues that may offer the same, if not more of what Huma Island offers (I’m thinking of, say, El Nido; or even some of the resorts off Coron, many of them offering better access to the natural attractions of the area).

This is not to disparage Huma Island, nonetheless. Because as I said, this place has its (numerous) charms.

But I’d like to think of Huma Island as a paradise-in-the-making. A place that is “almost there”, but “not quite there yet”. Though hopefully, its owners think the same way, too.

That is, if changes are made to it, it can most definitely become a must-visit attraction, no matter the price it demands its visitors to pay; and no matter who (including Kris) promotes it. But until then, well… you know where I stand…

Huma Island is at Busuanga, Palawan, Philippines. For more information, contact (+632) 553 0119.

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My name is Dom - that's short for DominiK... or Dominique, depending on which parent you're speaking with. One of my Dads, Michael, says it should be the former; but my other Dad, also named Michael, said it should be the latter. It must be because they have the same names, so they get confused about me, too (!). But no matter, I'm here - all peachy and fluffy. About me: I'm almost peach in color (not brown, ARGH!); have striped ears (white and red), black eyes (and toes), and brown nose. No, my nickname is NOT "Fluffy"! I'm only four (or five - again, depending on which Dad you ask); but that's a gazillion years in Teddy-time (if you must know). So I feel... experienced. I move a lot, too, with my Dads, and I'm here to share everything as I move around. So come join me...

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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Photo by @kylewilliamurban from Unsplash.com

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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Photo by @nordwood from Unsplash.com

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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Lifestyle & Culture

How you should pack for a cross country move

Packing can take a long time, which is why this is a task you won’t want to put off. You shouldn’t try to pack everything you own up in just a few nights. Instead, you’ll want to tackle this job a little at a time. Start by packing non-essential items. Save the items that you regularly use until the last minute.

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Are you getting ready for a big move? If you’re packing up your things ahead of moving day, many tasks need to be taken care of. Thankfully, this advice will help you as you pack for a cross-country move. 

Start Packing As Soon As Possible 

Packing can take a long time, which is why this is a task you won’t want to put off. You shouldn’t try to pack everything you own up in just a few nights. Instead, you’ll want to tackle this job a little at a time. Start by packing non-essential items. Save the items that you regularly use until the last minute. 

If you give yourself more than enough time to pack, you won’t feel rushed. You’ll be able to take your time and make sure that everything is properly organized when you’re packing. Remember, this is a big task. Set a packing schedule so that you’ll have more than enough time to take care of everything. 

Look Into Hiring A Full-Service Moving Company 

If you feel overwhelmed by all of the packing you need to do, you should keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to do all of it yourself. You also have the option of hiring a full-service cross country moving company that will be able to pack everything up for you. 

Hiring professional cross country moving companies to pack up your things is an especially great option if you’re working with a tight schedule or feel that you don’t have enough time to prepare for your move fully. You can trust your movers to take care of the packing. You’ll be able to focus on other tasks. 

Get Rid Of Items Before You Start Packing 

You likely have many things that you won’t need to bring with you when you move. That’s why it’s a good idea to go through your belongings and see what you can donate, give away, or sell ahead of your move. 

This is the perfect time to get rid of clothes that no longer fit or clear out toys that your kids don’t play with anymore. You’ll have limited space for your things when you move cross-country, and because of that, you’ll want to get rid of plenty of items before you pack. 

Label Every Box That You Pack 

You should be able to identify exactly what’s in each box that you pack. Once you’ve packed a box, you’ll want to make sure that the box is clearly labeled so that you know exactly what’s being stored there. 

Although it’s standard to use cardboard boxes when packing for moves, you may want to consider investing in clear plastic storage containers. When you use these kinds of boxes, you’ll be able to see everything that you’ve picked up at a glance. You can also reuse these boxes for storage once you’re settled in. 

Pack Heavy Items In Smaller Boxes 

When you’re packing up items like books, you should keep in mind that these boxes can become very heavy fairly quickly. That’s why it’s a good idea to stick to using smaller boxes when you’re picking up heavy things. 

If you stick to boxes on the smaller side, you won’t have to worry about the boxes becoming too heavy. You should use your largest boxes to pack up fairly lightweight items. The heaviest items you own should go in the smallest boxes that you have. 

Take A Suitcase 

You shouldn’t put all of your things into cardboard boxes. It’s a good idea for you to pack up some essential items in a suitcase. That way, you’ll be able to access these items before all of your things are unpacking. 

It’s especially important to take this step if you’re going to be stopping at a hotel as you travel to your new home. Your suitcase should include toiletries, a few changes of clothing, and other essential items, like first aid supplies.

Photograph Your Things 

Even if you’re cautious when you’re packing, some of your things may wind up missing. That’s why you’ll want to take plenty of pictures throughout the packing process. Before you seal up a box, take a picture of that box so that you’ll be able to see exactly what’s in there. 

Snapping these photographs will provide you with evidence if something is lost or damaged, and it will also help you find any things you are looking for. It only takes a few seconds, and it could save you a lot of trouble. 

Use The Right Packing Strategies 

If you just toss items into a box without any strategy, a lot of your things will likely wind up getting lost during your move. Beyond that, you might wind up with items that are damaged or even destroyed during the moving process. 

Always pack similar items together. When packing fragile items, you should take steps to protect those items from damage. You’ll also want to mark the box as fragile so that movers know they need to treat your box with care.  

Packing for a cross-country move can be a big project, but with a little bit of extra planning, you’ll be able to get through these challenges in one piece. Follow this advice so that you’ll be able to stay organized as you pack up for your upcoming move.

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Lifestyle & Culture

Are you ready to start thinking about a baby?

Before you commit to this decision it’s important to think about whether the two of you are ready. That’s not always an easy question to answer however there are signs that you can begin to move forward with this new chapter.

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You might be interested in starting a family with your partner. However, before you commit to this decision it’s important to think about whether the two of you are ready. That’s not always an easy question to answer however there are signs that you can begin to move forward with this new chapter. 

IMAGE SOURCE: PEXELS.COM

You’re Both Stable 

First, you need to make sure that you are both stable in your lives. Think about your career and your profession. You should ideally both be earning a solid income where it’s unlikely that either one of you will experience redundancy in the future. While there are no guarantees, there are always signs that your career is stable. You might also want to think about setting up a side hustle to make sure that you have an extra cushion of cash to fall back on whenever you need to. 

Of course, it’s not just your career that needs to be stable. You need to think about your health – both mental and physical – and your lifestyle. Don’t forget, these are things that will be taken into consideration if you are planning to adopt. So, they should be considered when you are thinking about conceiving naturally too. 

You Both Want One 

As crazy as it sounds many couples do end up having a baby because one individual wants one rather than both. The other will often just go along with the idea because they don’t want the relationship to end. That’s why it’s important to have an open and honest relationship with your partner. It’s possible that there are things that are stopping them from seriously considering children. They might even be questioning whether it’s possible for them. If they’ve tried before with someone else, then this fear is always going to be present. However, there are options like advancedfertility.com to explore if that is indeed the case. 

You don’t Argue All The Time 

Finally, many people believe that couples shouldn’t argue and that’s not true. You need to have the occasional argument otherwise issues are going to simply lie dormant underneath the surface. This will lead to a massive blowout and the last thing that you want is to bring a child into an environment with a lot of friction. 

If you do find that you are arguing quite a lot in your relationship, then you should think about something like couple’s counseling. This can help you get back on the right track with your partner and ensure that things don’t continue to get worse. It can help you deal with some of the deeper issues that might be plaguing your relationship and causing you problems right now.  You can learn more about couples counseling on bark.com

We hope this helps you understand some of the signs that you could be ready to start thinking about having a baby with your partner. Remember, while this can be a big step forward, there are plenty of avenues and resources you can explore to help here and ensure that you do approach this the right way.

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Lifestyle & Culture

Can you earn extra money while getting SSDI benefits?

If you’re permanently disabled, you’ll likely need to apply for SSDI or Social Security disability insurance benefits. As with seeking any type of government aid, this involves going through a qualification process.

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If you’re permanently disabled, you’ll likely need to apply for SSDI or Social Security disability insurance benefits. As with seeking any type of government aid, this involves going through a qualification process. 

Once you’re approved, you don’t want to do anything to disqualify you from receiving benefits, and this includes earning too much income in addition to your monthly benefits. An overview of this issue is described below to help you stay within the Social Security Department’s guidelines.

You Cannot Earn Substantial Gainful Activity

The SSDI benefits you’ll receive are intended to provide you with the income you would otherwise earn through performing work. For this reason, the Social Security Administration has established a limit on how much you can earn in addition to the benefits you receive each month. The precise number is evaluated year by year and, as of 2020, that limit was $1,260 a month. The only exception is that people who are classified as legally blind can earn up to $2,110 a month.

There is a trial period during which you can earn more than the substantial gainful activity allowance (or SGA) and still receive your benefits. The first nine months are considered a trial period to ensure you can maintain that level of income. 

In a month in which you earn less than the SGA limit, you will receive your full benefits for that 30-day period. This will continue for 36 more months after you complete the trial period. The extended eligibility period of 36 months is implemented to keep you entered in the system in the event that you have to return to full benefits status. This eliminates the need to have to renew your initial application.

How Are Benefits Calculated Against Income?

As a matter of protecting your financial interests, you should consult a social security disability lawyer before beginning any type of work. Generally, the first $85 you earn won’t be counted towards your earned income. After reaching that limit, half of every dollar you earn will be deducted from your total eligible benefits. 

For example, if you earned $1,000 in a 30-day period, the $85 allowance would be reduced, bringing your measured income down to $915. That amount would be divided by two to arrive at $457.50. For that month only, the benefits you receive would be reduced by $457.50 to adjust for your earned income.

What Are You Required To Report?

In order to remain compliant with the conditions for receiving benefits from the Social Security Administration, there are certain employment status changes that you must report. You will have to report the dates upon which you begin or stop a job, including any periods during which you’re suspended or laid off. 

You will also have to report any changes in your position, including the number of hours you work, the duties you perform, or the wages you’re paid. Any changes in these conditions can affect your benefits, so it’s important to keep the SSA updated. Finally, you should report any expenses you have suffered in relation to your disability. 

For example, if you have had to buy a custom wheelchair to allow you to perform your work-related duties, that expense should be documented and reported. You should check with your local SSA office for exact reporting timelines. Generally, reports should be filed between the 6th and 10th day of the following month, depending on the method of reporting.

If you are trying to navigate the complexities involved with filing for SSDI benefits, consulting an attorney can help. A lawyer who’s experienced in handling Social Security law can ensure you get all of the benefits to which you’re entitled. This may mean a significant difference that can help you enjoy a better quality of life.

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