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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Specks of Magic

The Hundred Islands off fishing town Pangasinan are constant sources of wonder – home to swimming monkey, playground of largely unseen sirena, and haven of some of the Philippines’ best faith healers. Michael David C. Tan discovers that these islands are actually believed to be parts of Atlantis.

PHOTO BY GEORGE TAPAN, COURTESY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM

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“Welcome to Atlantis,” Manang Auring, a local manggagamot, said as her oily hands enveloped my proffered hand. Like many in her field, she believes that the numerous islands off the bay of Pangasinan, more popularly known as the Hundred Islands, are “pieces of the beauteous island, which drifted until they found their way here,” she said, all purplish gum when she smiled. “This is where we source our powers.”

And then she started massaging the side of the tummy of an old man lying on a mat, slowly pushing deeper until blood started trickling from an invisible wound. There was a deafening silence, ironically emphasized by the strong blowing of the wind that rocked the wooden windows, and was finally broken by a sigh from Manang Auring as she produced what looked like pebbles, which were supposedly stones from the kidney of her patient. Not a moment too soon, the old man sat straight, expressed his gratitude for the help, and then left.

While the experience was new to me, it was common in the area – we were in Pangasinan, after all, where many of the Filipino faith healers (no matter where they may be in the Philippines or overseas) are said to have originated. No wonder the flocking of those in search of the miraculous in the area – for healing of incurable illnesses, for the creation of love where there is none, or for the simple finding of peace of mind. Local legend has it that this is where the pieces of the famed Atlantis drifted when the mysterious island sunk eons ago, supposedly bringing with it its magic. The claim sounds implausible somehow, until one visits the islands.

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NATURAL WONDER

Only a few minutes by motorized bangka are the first few of the islands that, in truth, total over 100 (though so-called Hundred Islands only because it has a poetic rhyme to it). Many of these have high rocky cliffs thickly covered by vegetation and are thus often seemingly inaccessible – though many are attracted to the islands exactly because of this. Over the years, more and more visit to bravely climb the cliffs that seem to endlessly continue under the blue waters, or to make new treks from one side to another of one of the largely undiscovered islands, or to spelunk for the first time its enigmatic caves. Closely passing by the islands, however, never fails to bring about strange, even spine tingling, feelings, as if someone you cannot see is staring at you intently, waiting for your next step before they decide to act.

“Those are the spirits,” Mang Ambo, our guide, said in a hushed voice (so as not to disturb them). As if on cue, we passed through what seemed like a tunnel, though really a meeting of two cliffs overhead, forming what looked like a darkened cathedral – a rare formation since the islands are often separated. And yet, many snorkel around the islands, which are seemingly attached underwater by coral formations supporting a rich marine life (like the rare giant clam shells). When the seas are calm, the few who have dived around some of the islands mentioned the peculiar rock formations underwater that hide peculiar sea creatures, seemingly reflecting the eerie atmosphere evoked by the islands. Because when there, it doesn’t seem implausible seeing merpeople peeking through rock formations before diving in the deep seas when spotted. The place just has that feel, hardly explainable.

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EVERY ISLAND, A WORLD

Amazingly, the seeming awe inspired by the group of islands as a whole is the one things that is similar in all the islands, which differ from each other – both by nature’s designs, and by man’s manipulations.

At one, you can follow paths leading to the peak to get a 360˚ view of the whole place – not that there’s much to see, but the blue waters broken by islands that seemed to have been dropped from the sky like big rocks. In another, the white sanded shore stretches then curves to stretch and then curve once more to form a semi-circle, the middle only sparsely vegetated so that it looks more like an underwater rock exposed during low tide than an actual island – just perfect for swimming. Still in another are small communities that have fishnets surrounding islands to breed fish – perfect for meals in yet another island that now has nipa huts for such activities.

While snorkeling, trying to make out what the deep gulfs between islands hide by clinging on to a rope attached from one island to another , the silence is occasionally broken by gunshots, immediately followed by the flocking of wild ducks trying to escape hunters that venture the islands where they nest. For a while, the sky darkened as the fathered creatures sought refuge in the other islands, feathers fluttering on the waters that, suddenly (and even more interestingly), gave way to monkeys that started to swim. It was weird, looking at creatures deemed afraid of water as their heads protruded while trying to stay afloat. Then, when on dry land, they shook themselves before disappearing in the woods, like miniature Bigfoots.

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Truly, here, wonders never cease.

MYSTICISM (UN)EXPLAINED

After a luscious meal of freshly-caught tilapia, coupled by salted egg sharing a bowl full of freshly sliced ripe tomatoes, with grilled pusit and shrimps thrown, a quick dive in the water stirs the consciousness, though also adding to the mystery, as one swims with jellyfish that seasonally abound in the area, floating like torn fabrics.

These are playthings of mermaids who hide in the islands, Mang Ambo said. And I almost believed him, trying not to swim too far from the islands in case the mysterious stories were true.

In the end, though, whether one believes or not does not matter. Back on the mainland, Manang Auring said, “Maniwala ka o hindi, andiyan ‘yan.” And maybe, just maybe, she’s telling the truth, since you won’t escape the mystical when in the Hundred Islands of Pangasinan.

HOW TO GET THERE:
Along EDSA, catch a bus going to Alaminos via Kamiling. From there, catch a pedicab to Lucap, where the motorized bangkas to take you to the islands are docked.

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

8 Tips for promoting men’s health

Here are a few tips that can help ensure the success of men’s health programs.

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Photo by Christopher Campbell from Unsplash.com

Men tend to shy away from clinical medical services and formal health care programs, leaving community-based programs to help fill the gap. But not all programs are created equal. This is according to a study – “Community-based men’s health promotion programs: eight lessons learnt and their caveats”, which was published in the journal Health Promotion International – that shows that the programs that succeed are those that recognize and adapt to the social forces that uniquely affect men.

So for University of British Columbia (UBC) nursing professor John Oliffe, who led the study that reviewed community-based programs in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK and the US, there are a few tips that can help ensure the success of men’s health programs.

Recognize the forces that affect men’s health: The UBC research points out that social factors can significantly affect health, including race, culture, socioeconomic status, education and income levels. Dudes Club, a program based in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, succeeds because its content is tailored to its largely Indigenous clientele. Events include culturally based activities and elder-led circles, and clients are reporting improved mental, spiritual, physical and emotional well-being as a result.

Physical activity builds connections: Activity-based programs that link to masculine ideals such as problem-solving and physical prowess work well. Men’s Sheds, a program that runs in Australia, Canada and a few other countries, successfully attracts men with woodworking activities, computer tutorials, gardening and informal social events.

Safe spaces help men open up: Many men are reticent to talk about health challenges or talk about personal issues, but programs–like prostate cancer support groups–can expand their comfort zone by creating safe spaces for sharing experiences and discussing sensitive topics.

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Knowledge can combat stigma: Many men who are experiencing health challenges like depression or suicidal thoughts lack knowledge about their condition, which further fuels any stigma they may already feel. Community-based programs can promote health literacy and tackle stigma by using simple, non-judgmental language to describe health conditions, Oliffe said.

Men-focused environments work well: No surprise, “men-friendly” community spaces and activities–such as sports events or competitions–work better in recruiting men to health-related programs than strictly clinical programs. Oliffe points to a few examples, including some European soccer clubs, that draw men in to join exercise and healthy eating programs.

A clear vision for the program is a must: Programs must have tangible benefits, clear goals and strong, collaborative leaders. Dads in Gear– developed to assist dads to quit smoking–recruited participants with an offer of free meals and child care. It emphasized the need for participants to actively work for their well-being, and it encouraged the men to independently sustain their healthy practices after completing the program.

Evaluate to perpetuate: Every program should carry out a consistent and formal evaluation process, Oliffe advises. This helps to support future funding efforts and ensures the program is working as well as it should.

Pop-ups’ are OK: And finally, don’t expect to sustain or expand every program, says Oliffe, as some might be best considered “pop-ups”. Once they’ve hit their goal, they can be retired and regarded as the seed for future ideas.

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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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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Is it safe to leave my car in the driveway while away on vacation?

It is considered safe to leave your car in the driveway while on shorter trips, as long as you ensure that it is safe and secured. Emptying the fuel take and inflating tires to the correct pressure along with covering it up well, will help you avoid coming back home to find troubles with your car.

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It is the holiday season and you are probably packing your bags, and everyone is eager to go on a long-awaited trip. But before you do so, you need to make sure that your vehicle is parked somewhere where it is safe and secure.

Leaving your car in the driveway while on vacation sounds like a great idea. A house with cars parked in the driveway might keep away intruders and burglars who think you are home. However, theft shouldn’t be your only concern when leaving your car at home because other things might happen while you are away such as falling objects that might cause dents and scratches on your car. 

Deciding whether to leave your car in your driveway or to park it somewhere safer, depends on the length of your trip. For longer trips, it is best to leave your car at the airport’s parking lot and take a shuttle to the airport. In the US, for example, the idea of long term parking has really taken off, and it’s very convenient and safe. In Miami, if you are worried about incurring costs, MIA parking rates are affordable and often offer good deals. It will cost more to fix your car as a result of damage that may occur due to unsafe parking, than paying to leave your car in a secured area.

Here are a few tips to consider when you leave your car in the driveway while away on vacation:

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Cover Up

Choose the right car cover that fits perfectly on your car, so that there will be no, or little space left where dust can enter. The cover needs to be more weatherproof and tougher than the one designed for indoor parking.

Maintaining the Battery

Batteries lose charge over time, so even if your car is not operating, your batteries are still working, this keeps all the electronic presets running. The best way is to disconnect the negative terminal of the battery before leaving. 

Empty the Fuel tank

If your car runs on petrol, then it is best to empty your fuel tank. Because unlike diesel, petrol tends to become stale when the car is not in use. Also, additives in petrol degrade over time, causing problems in your fuel tank.

Inflate the Tires

Flat spots on tires occur when a car hasn’t moved for a long time. Inflating your tires to the correct air pressure will help avoid tire issues. For longer trips, it is best to get someone to move the car every week to warm up the tires.

After cleaning and organizing your car, make sure to secure it by removing any valuable items, such as electronic devices and the stereo system.

It is considered safe to leave your car in the driveway while on shorter trips, as long as you ensure that it is safe and secured. Emptying the fuel take and inflating tires to the correct pressure along with covering it up well, will help you avoid coming back home to find troubles with your car.

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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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