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Rainbow in the waters of Lake Pandin

Yeah, whenever we think of going swimming, we almost always think of going to the beach. But not as emphasized is the abundance of other bodies of water in the Philippines, aside from saltwater. I’d say that for every El Nido (in Palawan) is a Lake Agco (at the foot of Mt. Apo). And here, Lake Pandin also comes to mind…

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Yeah, whenever we think of going swimming, we almost always think of going to the beach. In the Philippines, this is not at all surprising, considering that we have – as Charlene Gonzales once (in)famously stated – 7,108 islands (during low tide), less one if it’s high tide. But not as emphasized (though definitely high time that we should) is the abundance of other bodies of water in the Philippines, aside from saltwater. I’d say that for every El Nido (in Palawan) is a Lake Agco (at the foot of Mt. Apo, the country’s highest peak)…

At least this was the very thought running through our heads when we raced to Lake Pandin, a body of water somewhat trapped somewhere in San Pablo in Laguna. Rustic comes to mind when here, with everything seemingly slowing down, as people (okay, tourists!) are paddled into the midst of the lake. And while there, everything becomes… poetic, particularly when the sun hits the waters, when just about everything turns green – mossy sans the reflection (as if something is lurking underneath) and then somewhat neon-ish when reflecting the sun’s rays (reminiscent of… Flubber, or merpeople, or the radioactive goo that turns mortal beings into superheroes/villains).

And with Lake Pandin, yes, there are (other, non-saltwater) bodies of water, indeed, that deserve to be discovered…






Lake Pandin is a somewhat “new” tourist destination that (get this) an all-woman organization started to tap after they realized it can help them make a living to help with the expenses in financing their families. In 2005, a total of 18 local women formed the Samahan ng mga Kababaihang Mangingisda at Bangkera sa Lawa ng Pandin because – as their prexy Cristina Abgrego said – “naisip naming maghanap ng kabuhayan para tulungan ang mga naghahanapbuhay sa mga bahay namin (we thought of finding a way to earn to help those who make a living for our homes).”

These women were, incidentally, already making some form of living catching fish from Lake Pandin, since most of them live in the area anyway. The formation of the association was, instead, a “leveling up” of that “making a living”, Abgrego said.

And so using the balsa (bamboo rafts) that they had, they started “touring” people into Lake Pandin.

The “tour” is simple:

  1. When you reach the bank of Lake Pandin, there’s a waiting area where you do the transacting for the tour (e.g. pay the fees, choose the type of tour).
  2. The bamboo rafts have bangkero/bangkera (man/woman who does the paddling) assigned to them.
  3. After agreeing on the payment/actual payment of fees, you are then queued. It’s a “first come, first served” arrangement, so tourists who arrived early will board a balsa You don’t get to choose the bangkero/bangkera (normally); instead, you’d board the available balsa that’s there (and have its accompanying guide/s) when it’s your turn.
  4. A “waiting period” happens when stuff need to be put onboard – e.g. food that you paid for.
  5. The guides do not paddle; instead, they just pull a rope (tied from one end of the lake to the other), which then brings the bamboo raft into the lake. There are “stops” – e.g. where the swing is (at the opposite end of the lake, coming from the take-off point), in the middle of the lake (where you can do some swimming), and so on.
  6. No swimming is allowed without a life vest. As per Abgrego, at least two tourists drowned in a different lake near Lake Pandin, so the local government told them (sounded to me like “threatened”) that their local effort will be forcibly closed if something like that happened there. There is, however, this awareness that it somehow seemed like a veiled threat that their effort to be sustainable – because it proved successful – will be taken from them so that the earnings will then go directly to the local government…
  7. While in the lake, you can eat the stuff you paid for (part of the package); go swimming; sunbathe; fish; or… do nothing.
  8. After two hours, the “tour” ends. You’d be taken back to the bank where it all started, and… so long/until next time.

The association now has 12 bamboo rafts – more than enough to tour the tourists who flock to the place particularly during summer; and more than enough to help support the now 22 members of the association.

And – by the way – they don’t just have all women members now; there is also a transman (there used to be two, but the other one moved overseas already), as well as four men (since they still consider the transman as “one of the girls”) who “do things women won’t do,” Abgrego said, “like replace the bamboos in the rafts.”

Truth be told, there’s not much in Lake Pandin (and so not much to do there).

That is, you don’t come here to – say – go swimming the entire day, picnic with the entire family (again for the entire day), or have water activities (e.g. wakeboarding or kiteboarding or whatever). The trip there will be very specific – i.e. go out in the water to swim for a few hours, grab some chow, then head back home. Now, if this isn’t your idea of “fun”, then Lake Pandin is obviously not for you.

But if the intention is to experience something largely undeveloped; to be in a still-rustic place; to be able to help (empower) a group of women who prove that adage that “if you teach a woman to fend for herself, she’d fend for her entire family”; to mingle with #KaraniwangTAO (and they even have a #KaraniwangLGBT, well-respected, as per the women we spoke with); or to be in a body of water that CAN charm, give Lake Pandin a chance to be experienced.

p.s.
We “lost” a rainbow flag in (the waters of) Lake Pandin. The wind blew so hard, one of Outrage Magazine’s rainbow flags fell in the water. No chance to retrieve it, so it’s there somewhere…
If you happen to find it, you may want to hand it over to the LGBT member of the association overseeing the tour (as Abgrego said: “We’re happy we have them here”). Else, give us a call/yell. Or… just enjoy how a rainbow is not part of the green waters of Lake Pandin…





Lake Pandin is located in San Pablo, Laguna. As soon as you reach San Pablo, there are tourist guides who will offer (for a minimal fee, of course) to bring you to the take-off area of Lake Pandin. At that take-off area is where the paying of the actual fees happen – usually from P350 per person per trip, or (if there aren’t many people) from P400 per person per trip. The payment often includes a meal (usually rice plus three kinds of viands, bananas, and bottled water).

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

Health & Wellness

Trans women can safely maintain estrogen treatments during gender affirming surgery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Love Affairs

Dating apps don’t destroy love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facilitated encounters

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

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

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

Searching for a lasting relationship

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

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

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

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

Couples with a diverse socio-educational profile

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

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

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Health & Wellness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Health & Wellness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Health & Wellness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Health & Wellness

Sexual dysfunction hits some women harder than others as they age

Factors other than use of hormone therapy, such as higher importance of sex, positive attitudes toward sex, satisfaction with one’s partner, and fewer genitourinary symptoms associated with menopause appear to be protective and are linked to better sexual function across the menopause transition.

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Sexual dysfunction often accompanies the menopause transition. Yet, not all women experience it the same. A study identified the determinants that affect a woman’s risk of sexual dysfunction and sought to determine the effectiveness of hormone therapy in decreasing that risk and modifying sexual behavior.

The study – “Sexual behaviors and function during menopausal transition–does menopausal hormone therapy play a role?” – was published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

Although hot flashes easily rank as the most common symptom of menopause, the transition is often accompanied by other issues, including changes that affect a woman’s libido, sexual satisfaction, and overall sexual behavior. Because hormone therapy is the most-effective treatment option to help women manage menopause symptoms, it was the focus of a new study designed to determine why some women experience greater sexual dysfunction than others.

The study involving more than 200 women aged 45 to 55 years found that women with secondary and higher education and a greater number of lifetime sexual partners were less likely to experience sexual dysfunction. In contrast, women with more anxious behaviors during sexual activity and those with more severe menopause symptoms were more at risk for sexual dysfunction.

Hormone therapy was not found to mitigate the risk for sexual dysfunction, nor did it play a major role in determining sexual behaviors. However, women using hormone therapy typically had higher body esteem during sexual activities; better sexual function in all domains, except for desire/interest; better quality of relationships; and fewer sexual complaints (other than arousal problems) than those women who do not. Of importance to helping maintain a woman’s sexual function were positive sexual experiences, attitudes about sex, body image, and relationship intimacy.

“These results are consistent with the findings of prior studies and emphasize that factors other than use of hormone therapy, such as higher importance of sex, positive attitudes toward sex, satisfaction with one’s partner, and fewer genitourinary symptoms associated with menopause appear to be protective and are linked to better sexual function across the menopause transition,” says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.

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