Write Post

Featured Image

The Philippines just finished its presidential election, and it seems that Bongbong Marcos Junior has won. As the son of the ex-president Ferdinand Marcos, who fled the country in 1986 as a result of popular revolt against his dictatorship, will he remove the holiday that celebrates his father's fall from grace?

Will museums in the Philippines remove references to the EDSA event and the Marcos dictatorship?

I watched a Youtube video on a US comedian's take on the election. John Oliver's video the Phillippines Election contains two pieces of useful information to me.  

At 11:20 into the video, it shows Marcos Junior's reply in 2016 when asked by his then vice presidency opponent to return the money that his family owed in taxes to the Philippine government, he said: "I cannot give what I do not have!" Maybe this is the line that all taxpayers can use when asked by the Bureau of Inland Revenue to pay taxes. The money could have been spent, or hidden. As long as you do not have it, you should not have to pay it to the government, since this works for the Marcos family.

At 12:25 of the video, it shows several students one by one, said that they thought that during the time of the martial law imposed by Marcos, it was the golden era of the Philippines. It went on to show a journalist saying that the Filipino poor have no access to newspaper or television. When I first came to the Philippines in 1990s, I also noticed that there were few people who read newspaper. It was probably too expensive for the general public. Now, the social media is their only source of information. If you have enough money, you can tell the version of history that you choose, and people would believe it. The version that those who voted for Marcos Junior may lead to one less holiday in the next six years, to say the very, very least.

Featured Image

Believe me, I had never wanted to know so much about toilets. But after having to spend a lot of time and money to unclog our toilets, which worked most of the time but clog once a month or so, I decided I need to figure it out by myself.

Some people would say, you should not put toilet paper into the the toilet. To me, that is very unhygienic, since the waste basket in the toilet will be infested with bacteria.  In any case, toilets are designed to deal with certain amount of toilet paper, and I have had no trouble with flushing tissues into toilets elsewhere.

We had relied on our condo building's technicians and outside contractors to solve the problem of clogging. They would come and declog, and then it would clog again a few weeks later. Maybe our building's technician had asked that the toilet be removed for them to check, but I had thought that it would be too troublesome if the problem turned out to be with the toilet. Then the toilet would be out of commission while we go looking for a replacement.

So I decided to look for a toilet that could flush really well. I will share what I learned about the features that one should look for when buying a new toilet in the latter part of this blog, but let me just give you the spoiler here: after I bought the new toilet, and the plumber removed the old toilet, we found that the clogs in my toilets had NOTHING to do with the design or manufacture of my toilet.

Photo above: After removing the existing toilet, we saw the misalignment of the sewerage line and the toilet bowl outlet. The brownish material around the sewage line is cement.

After the old toilet was removed from its location, we immediately saw the problem. The floor on which the toilet was sat was not flat as it should be. It had been dug out about three inches deep into a sort of oval shape from the sewage line. There was a big piece of human waste at the other end of the oval shape, so clearly, that was where the toilet's outlet located above the ground.

From my research, as well as advice from my plumber hired to replace the toilet, I know that a toilet's waste outflow should go straight into the sewage line. In other words, the centers of these two 'tunnels' should align vertically. Not only that, there should not be any gap between the two tunnels, so that the down flowing waste would not splash into any cavity between the toilet and the floor.

In the case of my old toilet, its outflow was located a few centimeters away from the sewage line. When a big item was flushed out, it landed on the rough cement surface below, instead of the sewage line. Presumably, when there was a lot of tissue piling on top of it, it clogged the passageway that carries waste away from the toilet bowl. When we unclogged the toilet last time (the day before), we probably managed to dislodge the tissues, but not the lumpy waste, which was stuck on the cement surface.

Had we not removed the toilet, the pile of waste would have stayed, and caused another clog later when toilet papers piled over it. This also explains why we often see what we call 'poop flies' in our toilet. The odor of the waste must have attracted them into our toilet. Since our toilet is S-type, there is a body of water that separates the bottom of the toilet from the waste catchment area. The smell was not too strong for human detection, but still it seeped through and was very attractive to this type of insects.

Why did this happen?

Why was our toilet not placed where it should be for proper flushing?

I think there are two causes. One, the developer of our condominium building did not build the sewage line according to the standard size of toilets. The sewage line should be about 300 millimeters from the back wall of the toilet. In the case of this bathroom, it was about 390 millimeters from the back wall of the toilet to the center of the sewage line. The sewage line was also too close to the side wall for the comfortable use of a toilet. I suspect badly located sewage line in bathrooms is not that uncommon in the Philippines.

Next, our contractor who renovated our condominium made a decision without consulting us. He wanted the toilet to sit prettily in the bathroom, this means no space at the back between the toilet and the back wall, and a lot of space on either side of the toilet so that the user can have enough space for the legs.

To do this and allow some flushing, he dug an area below the toilet's outflow, and created a slope from there to the sewage line. But apparently, the depth of the dug-out area was not high enough to accommodate some heavy-duty waste, and the slope was not slippery enough to encourage this type of waste to slide down into the sewage line.

New toilet installation

Having identified the problem, what could we do? Between a prettily sitting toilet that always clogs and a oddly placed toilet that flushes well, my decision was easy. I do not want to deal with another toilet clog if I can help it. Put the toilet at where it should be for best flushing result.

Even though the clog was mostly due to the misalignment between the toilet outflow and the sewage line, I still decided to put in the new toilet, since I spent so much time studying the features of a toilet that flushes well before settling on that new toilet!

Because of the space dug out by my previous contractor, the installation of the new toilet could not follow the norm, in which the floor below the toilet would be flat, and the toilet would be bolted onto the floor. He had to cement the toilet to the floor. Because there is a gap between the toilet and the surface of the floor within the dug-out area, he also could not put a sealing ring between the toilet and the sewage line. There will therefore some spillage from the toilet to the surface of the dug-out area, even though the two 'tunnels' are better aligned now.

We have just installed the new toilet, and have to use it for a while to see if there is any problem. Its location looks odd, as there is a big gap of about 9 cm from the wall to the back of the toilet, and the distance to the side wall is a little bit small for the user to sit comfortably on the toilet. But we hopefully do not have to deal with clogs, at least frequently, from now on.

Having a toilet removed is an expensive exercise and takes a few hours. Our plumber charged us nearly P4,000 for the job, and took two persons nearly four hours. A lot of time was taken for him to chip away the cement that glued the old toilet to the floor. If it was bolted on, probably less them would be needed to remove the old toilet. But from experience, you really need to have the toilet removed to properly figure out why your toilet always clogs. Do not go and buy and new toilet before that.

Work around if you do not want to relocate your toilet to properly align it with the sewage line? Maybe adding some soap in your flush may help to move the sticky waste into the sewage line a few centimeters away. Definitely putting those harsh chemicals would not help.

Tips on buying a new toilet

First thing to look for is the "rough in" of your bathroom's sewage line. This is the distance between the wall and the center of the sewage line either on the floor or the wall. Yes, you need to know where the waste is drained. 

If the waste drain is on the floor, then you get a S-trap type toilet. If the drain is on the wall, get a P type.

Check the specifications of the toilets that you like, and see if they have the right dimensions of rough-in.

For S-type, the standard rough in in condo buildings in the Philippines seems is 305 millimeter, or 12 inches. If you buy a toilet that has a longer rough in, then you will not be able to fit it in the toilet. If you buy a toilet with a shorter rough in, then there may be a gap behind the toilet and the wall, but you still can fit the toilet there. One complication is that the builder may not be good at measuring distance, and built the waste pipe at a non standard distance from the wall. Then you will have to use your own judgment. Ask the building admin for the rough in, but the only certain way to find out is to remove your existing toilet. I have not bothered to do that and just bought a new toilet with a standard rough-in distance of 30 cm, and accept the gap behind the toilet.

After that, we need to find a toilet that is designed for very good flush. Factors that are important are the flushing mechanism, valve size, the passageway size and the passageway surface.

The flushing mechanism, including the flush valve, is located in the water tank. We want the flush valve to be as big as possible so that a larger volume of water can be discharged into the towel bowl, and thus giving a stronger flush, as compared to what is possible under a small valve. The usual valve size is 2 inches, but if you can find a toilet that has a 3-inch valve, get that. The valve nowadays can be a flap valve, or a canister looking contraption, but I cannot find discernible differences between them in terms of flushing performance.

The usual flushing mechanism is to have a water storage area, like a tank, and then water is used to flush out the waste. In my research, there are two types of flushing mechanism, one is a siphonic and the other is washdown. Washdown toilets let gravity drain the water into the toilet bowl. A siphonic flushing mechanism makes use of a vaccum in front of the trapway (or passageway) to get the waste sucked out from the toilet bowl.

In practice, I am not sure if any toilet sold in the Philippines for condominium use is washdown type, because washdown types do not have a body of water at the bottom of the toilet bowl to catch the waste from the user, and this is regarded as not very hygienic. Washdown toilets seem to be more common for squat toilets, which are more found in public toilets than domestic toilets.

Then there is the smoothness of the passageway. Make sure it has a glaze so that it is smooth enough to help the waste slide down.

There is a big range in terms of the price of a toilet. Well known brands like Toto and Kohler can sell for P40,000 and above. American Standard, HCL are less premium brands, but still are quite popular. I bought a Kohler before, and it is flushing well. But I do not have a good idea of why these brands justify the much higher price. This time, I bought a lesser known toilet, Vivari, because it is midway between Kohler and the cheapest toilets (around a few thousand pesos), with a few features that I thought should lead to good flushing performance. Its passageway is glazed, I know because I touched the inside of one in the showroom, The size of the flushing valve is bigger than that of our existing toilet. It may not be as good as a Toto or Kohler, but it should be good enough. The point is, a good compromise is what is often sufficient.

Assessment of our new toilet: compared to the Kohler, the flushing strength and speed of the Kohler is much stronger and faster. In the Kohler, the water flowing from the rim of the toilet bowl to the bottom goes down at an angle, so there is like a swirl effect and that seems to clean the bowl well. So based on this simple comparison, the high price of a Kohler has some justification.

Featured Image

We do not go out as much as before, and certainly do not go inside cafes at all.  Meanwhile, I found a bottle of coffee green beans that has been sitting in a cabinet for over three years.

I bought the beans with the intention to roast them, but I was occupied with other stuff before, such as running a business. Now that my business has stopped operation during the pandemic, I thought it was time to get rid of stuff, including these beans.

Green coffee beans can keep for years if stored in a dry place. In fact, I once roasted a one kilogram bag of African coffee beans after more than five years of storage, when I had a small batch electric coffee roaster. The coffee was really good, but the batch size was like two ounces of bean per roast, and it took over 15 minutes to finish each roast, so it was tiresome.

I had also about two ounces of green beans in this bottle. Since the coffee roaster had broken, I decided to roast them in my small saucepan. I have roasted coffee beans in saucepans before, but this was the first time that I did it on a induction cooktop, so I was not sure that it would work.

The green beans actually have a light brown color, not green. I started the roasting by pouring the beans into the saucepan, and set a low heat level of 3 out of 9.

I stirred the beans constantly for a couple of minutes, then I got distracted and went some where for about five minutes. When I returned, I found that some beans looked darker than others! not good. We want an even roast. But since the beans were still in early stage of roasting, and they were for self consumption, I stirred continuously after that, and the outcome was still ok.

The beans had the first pop after about ten minutes, and then came the second pop a few minutes later, and the color of the beans went darker. 

I like a medium roast bean, so I stopped roasting soon after the second pop. 

After the beans cooled, I put them in a bottle for storage. The beans would release some aromatic gas in the next two days. After that, the beans are ready to be grinded and brewed whenever I feel like having a cup of mellow coffee at home. Noice!

The chaff of the beans, like the skin of onions, are mixed with the roasted beans, making the beans look lighter in color than they really are. Since the chaff has no flavor, I did not bother to remove them. They can easily be removed by blowing air over the beans with a hair dryer, but cleaning it up would be too much work for me, hahaha.

Featured Image

Since April 2021, the local government units in the Philippines have started offering COVID-19 vaccines to the residents. At first, only two brands, Sinovac and AstraZeneca were available. Then, the Philippines on May 10, 2021, received the first 193,050 doses of donated Pfizer vaccines from the WHO-led COVAX facility.

Photo above: vaccination center at Bonifacio High Street

One of our family member has comorbidity, so he was eligible to get a vaccine. However, since he was planning to go to Europe, which at that moment, only recognizes certain brands of vaccines, he decided to look for brands that are already approved by WHO.

Photo above: vehicular entrance of the Lakeshore COVID-19 Vaccination Center

Photo above: residents with prior appointment were to check in at the waiting area first.

Photo above: Parking area outside Lakeshore COVID-19 vaccination center

He went to check out the vaccination center at Lakeshore in mid May, as they were said to have Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. But apparently, that batch was quite small, and within a few days they were all gone.

Some people said they got vaccinated from the SM Aura vaccination center. But the only vaccine available as of early June, is Sinovac, which despite recently having been approved by the World Health Organization, is not yet approved in Europe or Canada, our travel destinations. 

Even though recently the government announced that vaccine priority group A4 is now eligible for vaccination, there does not seem to have ample supply for everyone. So our wait for vaccine continues.  We heard that at the end of June, millions of vaccine will arrive. Let's see.

Featured Image

I learned about the fresh taho vendor from a Facebook group for BGC residents. Someone said that the vendor would appear outside Uptown Mall on weekday mornings at around 7AM. 

Like many BGC residents, I crave for fresh taho from time to time, not the funny ones that are sold in convenience stores. I even have bought a slush drink with taho from a milk tea chain, just to get the taho. When I learned about this vendor, I could not wait to try.

This morning, I went to Uptown Mall area with my scooter, anxiously hoping that he had not left. I arrived at Uptown Mall at around 7:30AM, and lo and behold, a man with two metal buckets was standing at a street corner!

Kuya Alman, the taho vendor, told me that he is there every weekday from 5AM to 8AM, so that is great news for taho lovers who are also early birds. He offers the taho in two sizes, but I was only interested in the large one, which costs thirty pesos (P30).

I handed over my food container and he happily filled it up with soft taho, and asked me if I wanted sago balls or not. I said I only wanted the syrup, which is brown sugar syrup called 'arnibal' in Tagalog.

I stood there for a few more minutes to observe the business. Specifically, I wondered if it was normal for customers to give him their own food containers. Kuya Alman serves his taho in either plastic cups (for small size) or paper cups ( for large size), like most taho vendors do. I feel that taho is a food item that is very suitable for customers to adopt the Bring-Your-Own-Container style of buying food take-outs, so that we get our food without adding to the waste-disposal problem that contributes to environmental pollution.

To my pleasant surprise, quite a few customers brought their own containers. Out of the eight customers that he served in the five minutes that I was there, apart from me, two other customers handed over their own containers. 

Photo above: The taho vendor uses his cup to measure the correct quantity of taho before transferring it to the customer's own container

It was also interesting to notice that Kuya Alman's customers came from all walks of life. There were security guards, office workers and managers, as well as people who arrived in private cars to get their taho fix.

Kuya Alman remembered to spray his hands with sanitizer before touching the containers of his customers.

Photo above: Kuya Alman handed me back my food container after filling it with taho.

If more people will adopt the BYOC style for getting take-out food, we can make a small but important contribution to protecting our environment.

Maybe not all restaurants are willing to use customers' containers (such as Starbucks who now refuses to use customers' own cups to fill up their drinks), but I believe with caution, such as wiping the outside of the container if necessary with alcohol, COVID-19 should not necessarily be a good reason to refuse customer's container. At least one restaurant in Bonifacio High Street has accepted our food container for serving our own takeout. (Brotzeit).

Featured Image

How did the COVID-19 pandemic change the process of renewing the business permit for business operating in Bonifacio Global City?

In this blog, we record our experience in applying for the permit renewal in January 2021.

Other people may have a different experience especially regarding the waiting time. If you were able to have all the documents ready in the first week of January, for example, your waiting time would most likely to have been shorter than ours. But then not many businesses were likely to have been able to do that because of the large amount of documents required. 

Changes from last year's permit renewal experience: The location of the Taguig City's permit processing office had moved to a more remote place for BGC residents. One of the dozens of requirements for renewing a business permit, namely barangay clearance, could be done completely online (kudos to Fort Bonifacio barangay office). One more form had been added to the list of requirements - naming of a safety officer for COVID-19 measures (to comply with the requirement relating to Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan (IDPRP), also known as the “Safe City Checklist".

Other than those, there were no changes. The overall process of business permit renewal can be described by 3-ALOs:

- a lot of documents 

- a lot of moving around different queues

- a lot of sitting in the various waiting areas


It would be a very time consuming mistake if you were to just go there to figure out what is needed. Check first the Facebook pages of Barangay Fort Bonifacio for information about barangay clearance, Taguig City, and its Business Permit and Licensing OfficeWebsite of Barangay Fort Bonifacio provided information about online renewal of barangay clearance for business permit, one of the numerous requirements for permit renewal.

Download the permit application form, fill it up and make three copies. There is free photocopying service at the BPLO location, but it takes extra time to make copies.

Check if you have the original and at least one copy of the required documents. Ours were:

- SEC certificate

- 2021 BIR annual registration;

- VAT filings for first 3 quarters in 2020;

- audited financial statements for 2019;

- certificate of employees;

- certificate of gross income for 2020;

- last year's business permit and receipt, community tax certificate, sanitary permit;

- new barangay clearance;

- new insurance policy to cover third party injured in the place of business;

- notarized renewal application form, three copies;

- documents showing map, your business's lease, permit of occupancy of the place of business

The insurance policy and notarization of the application form could be done at the BPLO off-site center.

On the way to the new off-site center for processing the renewal of business permit

Going to the new BPLO off site location

The new location was at a multi-storey parking building of Vista Mall, Camella Taguig Road. It is not far, but there was a detour and the road condition was not good. We got lost a couple of times even with the help of Google map. Once you reached Vista Mall, you had to go around the building to reach the parking building.

The new location was certainly spacious, and there was natural ventilation. In this regard, it was an improvement from the BPLO location at SM Aura. 

We left BGC at 7:20AM on a weekday, and arrived he BPLO off-site location at Vista Mall parking building at  8.10 AM. We could have got there faster had there been better road signage along the way from BGC. We first went to the second floor to fill in the COVID-19 contact tracing form.

The first stop was to submit the application form and documents. There was a queue number printing machine and we got a number. Instead of just sitting there and waiting there for our number to be called, we went to do notary public and get the new insurance policy. Both had a booth on site. Notarization was P200, and insurance policy was P1,870, as our registered office space was only 10 square meters.

We paid for the insurance policy, which was an insurance for injuries to third parties in relation to transactions made on the business premises, even though we knew this was a total waste of money because we do not meet clients in our office, and since the pandemic, we all are working from home. We were never given an option not to pay, and when inquired, were always told that this is a government requirement. 

After we finished these steps, our number on the first queue (the queue to submit the documents) had hardly moved. We inquired with the officials manning the queue number printing machine. They saw that we had gray hair, and gave us a number for senior citizens.

There were fewer number for the senior citizens queue, but we waited even longer in that queue than if we had stayed on our original queue, as a single counter was assigned to senior citizens, but somehow, it got stuck by one applicant for a very long time. So here is one tip. Even if you qualify for the senior citizen line, do not bother with it and get the number for the regular line, which is often faster.

At 9.51am, after waiting one and a half hour in line, we complained to the officials in charge of the queuing that the senior citizen's line was not moving. After about 15 minutes, they arranged for us to go to a regular counter. At 10.08am we finally got to submit our documents.

We did not ask for special treatment, and we wish the queuing system could be improved for everyone. We asked to talk to the manager, but instead, got fast-tracked a little. If the senior citizen lane were not confined to one counter, but blended into the regular queue, it would have been more useful. We never got to see the manager. 

After the official at the counter checked the documents, everything seemed to be in order, and we were told to wait for the printing of the bill (second queue). This would be the most time consuming part of this multi-step process, as someone would need to check our reported income and company size to make an estimate of how much the City Hall would charge the business.

We were told to sit somewhere and wait for the name of the company to be called. After more than an hour of waiting, we did not hear many companies called, so we asked the officials and were told that the counters for billing were still dealing with applications from the previous day. We had no idea how much longer we had to wait, but it looked unlikely to be soon.

We checked with an official in charge of the queues, and were told that we could come back the next day and go straight to the billing counters to get our bill. We knew it was not that simple, because at that time, we already saw people queuing up on rows of chairs for their turn for their bill, without being given any queue number or appointment time. We left anyway, as we could not be sitting there the whole day doing nothing.

Second visit

We went back two days later, and arrived on a Saturday at 10am. True enough, we went to the billing counters and were told to line up behind about a hundred fifty people to get billing. There were chairs for the queue, so as someone left to collect their bill, people moved up to the next chair. There was no queue number, or were people sorted by the date of submitting their documents.

After one and a half hours, 11.30am, we saw only about one third of the queue in front of us cleared. Occasionally, a small chaos was created when an official announced something to the others and made some people got up and went somewhere. We had no idea what went on, and continued waiting for a few minutes more, until we could not stand it any more and asked an official  about the progress.

At first, all he could do was to tell us to wait. We complained that we submitted our papers two days ago, and should not be waiting behind people who might have submitted their papers yesterday. Eventually, the official went to talk to someone in the billing counters and took us to a billing counter.

The lady there found our file and gave us the billing together with the pile of papers we submitted. We were told to go down stairs to get a number to pay.

Making payment took only a few minutes, and there was only a few numbers in front of us. We were told to copy the receipt and go to another counter with our pile of documents.

The counter was to submit the form for Safety checklist, which gave the information of the designated safety officer. Luckily we printed it out when we filled it in while doing the barangay clearance online. Still, there were a few people in front of us and we had to line up to get the Safe City Certification.

With the certificate, we went to another counter, presumably to check the Safe City Certificate and the receipt for payment. There, we also handed them the whole pile of documents that we submitted and checked at least two times already.

At this counter, they checked all the documents again. Luckily the queue there was short also. Then they told us to wait 20 min for them to print the permit and collect them at the release counter.

When we went to the release counter, we were told to wait three hours. When we told them that the previous counter told us to come in twenty minutes, the officer went to check the files that they had received from the previous counter, and told us to go back in 20 minutes. We went to get lunch first, and went back in an hour.

The releasing counter luckily was still not too crowded. After waiting for about ten minutes, they managed to find our files, checked all the submitted documents again, and released the new business permit to us. Finally.

What should have happened

There were a few hundred businesses each time we went to the BPLO office during this 16 day period (Jan 4th to 20th) for businesses to renew their business permits, so we estimate that there are nearly 10,000 businesses that have to go through this permit renewal process each year. Each one has to send someone there for nearly two days to get it done. Excluding the time for preparing the documents, some of which like last year's permit should already be in the record of BPLO, this means a cost of 20,000 human days. Many of those who sent there were small business owners like us.

With a little thought by the authorities, we reckon that the time needed to complete the process could have been halved, at least. We are not talking about the use of some high tech equipment. A simple email system would have worked.

After an applicant submitted the documents, the office would have done the first check. If there is anything missing, the applicant can be informed in the first visit. After this first check is passed, the applicant could have been given an option to receive notification for billing by email, either to inform the applicant of the billing amount, or the need for additional documents.

If billing can be done online, so much better. If not, the applicant can be given a time to come back and pay, and collect the new business permit. Better still is to issue the new business permit online, and any officer checking the business to see if the permit has been renewed should be able to do so online.

A little more sophisticated electronic workflow system would have allowed uploading of soft copy of documents as well as recording the documents that have been admitted into the system.  

We could only wish.

Business permit renewals in the future

The government seems to be trying to put up a web portal to unify the processing of business permits in the Philippines. See this: https://business.gov.ph/home

We hope they succeed. However, there are many obstacles. Cities that claim they have an online system are often unable to deliver a smooth user experience. Quezon City, for example, announced that they could now process business permit renewals online. On the Facebook page, we can see a lot of puzzled or angry applicants as the online system was not designed and did not function properly. Each city has its own requirements, and management capability and capacity. We hope the portal will not just be a site that provide lists of requirements but that the Anti-Red Tape Authority can assist the cities in simplifying their procedures so that businesses can spend more time on running their business..

Featured Image

In the past Christmas, we would get ingredients for our Christmas meals from the supermarkets, or just eat out. This Christmas, we had more time to think about better ingredients, and also to look for alternative suppliers of the ingredients, to make this pandemic-affected Christmas more positive, in the good sense (vs. the COVID-19 test result sense).

Greens with no pesticides

We chanced upon a company (CityGreens.PH) that grows hydroponic vegetables in Pasig City, and they offer free deliveries on certain days to BGC. We tried them a few times, and found that the quality of their greens are consistently good, so we ordered several of them for our Christmas and New Year meals.

We made salad with their sun flower shoots, by blanching them quickly and tossing them with a vinaigrette. Their kale is served in a similar way, while the baby tomatoes were eaten raw. Bokchoy was stir-fried with a little garlic.

Photo above : Sunflower shoots

Photo above: Cherry tomatoes

Clash of the Steaks

We wanted to get some quality red meat to make the meals special for the season's celebration. And since we have not been going out that much due to the restrictions made necessary by the pandemic, we were ready to splurge. But in the end, we did not. 

Honestly, we did not realize that finding a good steak is such a laborious process. Or educational. Before, a steak was just a big slab of red meat, and the only way to tell the quality was by checking the price. Well, this is still true, but at least now we know a little about the why. First, there is the cut. Rib eye, for example, is more tender than striploin, for example. Then there are the grades.

Photo above : USDA choice steak.

Almar of Legit Steak Company, a company that specializes in USDA prime ribs and Australian Meltique steaks advises me that USDA certified steaks have three major grades of rib eye steaks : Prime, Choice, and Select. Prime is the highest grade because it has the highest level of marbling (fat deposited between the muscle tissues), Choice has less marbling and is the most widely available, while Select grade steak is very lean and not very juicy. Marbling is good for steak because it makes it juicy, and more flavorful, as oil stores flavor.

This new knowledge made us look at stickers in a butcher shop or supermarkets with a new eye. We do not glaze over them, but zero in on a specific grade of meat, and compare the price across shops. We got a frozen USDA Prime Rib from Legit Steaks for our Christmas dinner.

Photo above: Prime rib eye from Legit Steak

Photo above: our USDA prime steak

Getting a high grade steak makes it easy to have a great Christmas dinner, as you do not have to be a chef to make it taste delicious!

Featured Image
Fun and Learning

Author: Anna Unson-Price

Younger generations tend to believe that as people get older, there is an automatic and natural loss of flexibility and strength, and, as they themselves age, they think that they have no choice but to accept it and just allow it to happen. This is absolutely not true. What happens most of the time is that as adults acquire families, jobs, and surround themselves with more comforts, they become more complacent and less active, and muscles that were once used regularly are now utilized less frequently, if at all. They sit at their desks or on their couches, and the muscles atrophy, the joints tighten, and the stamina decreases. And when they do need to be active for some reason, like to pick up something on the floor or to play badminton on a weekend, it’s more likely that they end up injured and aren’t very likely to want to try it again.


But is there a point when one should stop expecting to benefit from exercise? In short, no. Even very young people who stop exercising lose conditioning and certain capabilities they had when they were training regularly in a sport or activity. A man of 25 who could do 100 push-ups easily is definitely going to have a difficult time trying to do to again after just a year of not working out. A teenage ballerina might even injure herself performing a split if she suddenly tries one after several years of not stretching. The biggest reason that people, whether young or older, lose strength and flexibility that they once had is due to nothing more than simple disuse. One of my jobs is teaching kids and teenagers and one of the lessons I make sure to emphasize is that it takes much less time and effort to maintain strength and flexibility than it does to lose it all and have to start from scratch. But if your fitness level did decrease, because of an injury or just being busy, it is entirely possible to gain it back and get even stronger and more flexible than you were before.


Although we’ve discussed how you can start a fitness program at any age and still reap amazing benefits, for this article, I’m starting out by offering 5 moves that you can do to gently wake up muscles and joints that may not have been active for some time. These moves are very safe and effective if done properly and carefully. If you would like to watch them being done properly, click the link. The instructions are below. Please remember to always check with your doctor before beginning this or any kind of exercise program.


1. Exercise Band Chest Opener - This is a wonderful opener that counteracts chest tightness and upper back hunching that comes from the constant sitting and all the forward movements that we do all day, every day. It’s one of the best movements you can do to improve your posture and re-energize your whole upper body.


If you don’t have an elastic exercise band, you can use a 1.5 to 2 meter length of string or leftover ribbon, or the sash of a bathrobe. It can be done sitting on the floor, or on a chair, and even standing. Just make sure to stop your back from arching.

 2. Gentle Back Stretch - In yoga, there are cat and cow poses that ease the body into a gentle spinal flexion and extension. This is pretty much the same, but is a lot easier on the lower back because you’re in a well-supported position instead of on all fours. When you get used to this, you can move onto lying or kneeling Cat-Cow. This pose sequence is excellent for stretching the lower back and allowing it to flatten by engaging the abdominal muscles, so it’s also great for strengthening and tightening the stomach.

3. Strengthening the arches of the feet - Maintaining the stability of the arches of the foot is necessary for the body to have balance and mobility. Weak or collapsed arches can affect the ankle, knee, and hip joints and even contribute to falls. This simple exercise targets the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that strengthen the bones in the feet which help the foot support the body’s weight and provide shock absorption during movement.

 4. Seated Piriformis Stretch - The piriformis muscle is located deep inside the hip. If you don’t keep this muscle flexible, it can pinch the sciatic nerve which can cause pain along the path of the nerve which goes all the way down from the hip to the foot. Tightness in the piriformis can also cause lower back strain. This can be done when you first get up from bed or when you feel tension in the back and hip.

 5. Lying Hamstring Stretch - One of the primary causes of lower back injury is inflexibility in the hamstrings. The hamstrings are a group of three muscles on the back of the thigh, and tightness here makes it difficult to maintain an upright posture, that’s why you might see that someone looks elderly because of how their torso leans forward, especially when walking. Tight hamstrings can even make sitting on the floor difficult, without using the hands on the ground behind for support.


The lying version is the safest way to stretch the hamstrings because the lower back is supported. The opposite foot stays near the hip to provide even more support, or if it’s not uncomfortable, you might prefer to extend the leg to the ground.



I am proud to be the very first fitness and health columnist in the Philippines, since 1990. I also hosted and choreographed Philippine TV’s first fitness shows - The Gym Team and Muscles in Motion. I have taught a wide variety of fitness for all populations - from babies and kids to adults and seniors. Aside from teaching classes regularly, I also lecture and lead workshops for sports, fitness for special populations, all the way from breathing for stress-relief to regular weight loss and body shaping and strengthening for anyone, of any age.


My main objective in my career in fitness has always been to put health and fitness within easy reach of the general public, at any level of society, at practically any capability. I believe that the best way to accomplish this is by giving them all the tools and knowledge to create their own healthy lifestyles, instead of being forced to rely on doctors or personal trainers they might not be able to afford. I am not trying to take the place of medicine or doctors and I always tell my clients to check with a medical professional before they begin any fitness program.


I injured my lower back when I was 23 which in a way was a blessing in disguise because it taught me to always be aware of how poorly performed exercises and movements can do certain people who may already have weaknesses or injuries more harm than good. Since then my goal has always been to teach people to take care of certain high risk areas in their body and to gently strengthen and stretch them to bring them back to as close to normal function as possible.


Follow me on Facebook at Yoga Moves with Anna Unson-Price, where I will be moving all my live streaming sessions. I’ll also upload the live stream videos to my YouTube channel. I do both personal training and corporate classes, but in this time of home quarantining, I do coaching calls for regular fitness and also create workouts for specific needs, like lower back or shoulder injuries. I can be reached via text or Viber at 09178433001.