April 2008

Yesterday, I think I reluctantly returned this DVD which was lent to me. I realized, a bit too late, that I should have watched it one more time or burned a copy for myself.

This film which centers on a young Buddhist monk’s journey towards enlightenment, might remind you of Herman Hesse’s novel, Siddhartha. I loved this film and it’s slow, tranquil pace which featured breath-taking views of the Himalayas. One review even referred to its cinematography as zen-ematography — slow, silent and lingering shots of nature dominated much of the movie. Samsara even offers quite a different take on Buddhism, perhaps even religion in general, and for a change gives voice to the women who are left behind by men on spiritual journeys in hopes of trying to find themselves.

Best to watch this film with a friend, as the simply mind-blowing end would make you want to talk with somebody. I’m glad I got a reply (even at quite a late hour) when I sent a text message to somebody who had seen it. Just writing about it makes me want to watch it again.

A brief synopsis at Rotten Tomatoes and several interesting reviews here.


Stacked neatly inside INAM‘s shelves along with all the other herbal medicine, were bars of soap called Mosbar. I have to admit I’ve never heard of this mosquito repellent before but nevertheless I purchased a bar to see if it would be a good alternative.

Dengue cases have surged in the past year, and what used to be a disease that was associated with the rainy season has now become an all-year-round public threat, according to the DOH. And quite recently the World Health Organization (WHO) even warned that climate change will increase the risk of dengue.

When all means of preventing mosquitoes from finding their way inside the house have failed, we usually resort to applying insect repellent lotion. I would often joke that the lotion’s stench, er, scent could repel not only biting insects but people as well. This type of repellent is quite thick, with the scent sticking to your skin for a few hours too. To wash the scent and stickiness (and the taste – blech ) off my hands, I discovered using dish washing liquid to be more effective than regular hand soap. I prepare our meals at home and wouldn’t want any of its residue getting into our food.

I’ve only used Mosbar once, and it’s a bit like Caladryl when it dries though not as thick and barely visible. Unlike organic soaps that use natural bug-repellent plants like citronella or cedarwood, Mosbar uses Deet, a chemical used in insect repellent products. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA), has given this chemical clearance as safe to use but still with all the necessary precautions. A recent Google search has also led me to a few more information about Mosbar. Apparently, it is being used, recommended even, in countries that have recorded high incidence rates of malaria. Its efficacy has been tested — and proven — in significantly reducing malaria cases in Afghanistan. Some travel guides also recommend using this soap when going to countries in Africa where malaria cases are also rampant.

At P35 per bar it is more economical than the commercially available insect repellent lotion that costs around P54 for a 50ml container. Our acupuncturist at INAM shares that she uses Mosbar as an insect spray by simply dissolving some of the soap in water, using a regular vegetable/cheese grater, before pouring it into a spray container. It is also quite odorless.

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Lastly, a photo of the dreaded Aedes aegypti, dengue-carrying mosquito:

from Wikipedia

This past month, for a few days at least during the Holy Week, including the day the transport strike was held, Metro Manila air was given the briefest of respites from the pollutants that are emitted daily by vehicles.


Our home is not far from a major thoroughfare. While our little house may be ensconced inside a wee little subdivision, our roads are accessible to tricycles whose loud, sputtering engines just obliterate all sound as they pass (quite embarrassing when you’re on the phone, extremely annoying when watching a favorite tv program), leaving behind a cloud of smoke that hangs in the air for roughly a minute or so. Sadly, I notice many people have become accustomed to this, and a familiar sight would be people simply waving off the smoke and dust away from their faces. While others just resort to wrinkling their faces in disgust. I also see many who don’t even seem to mind, just stay where they are and let their kids do the same. No reminders to the children about covering their nose or moving away until the smoke clears. Though I am not sure if such gestures — waving away the smoke or covering one’s nose — even does much in terms of protecting one’s self from the toxic fumes.

My guess is, perhaps not much since Metro Manila was found as one of the Philippine cities that has the largest “health burden” due to air pollution. This is according to the Philippine Environment Monitor 2006 (PEM), a joint report of the World Bank and the DENR released late last year. Respiratory and cardiovascular diseases as a result of constant exposure to poor air quality accounts for an estimate of 4,968 premature deaths in Metro Manila each year, the PEM report says. This isn’t any wonder since the report also mentions that particulates are at unhealthy levels in Metro Manila with Valenzuela and Quezon City having the highest health risks from particulate pollution.

While the Clean Air Act may have helped improve the air quality or at least lower the amount of the more toxic substances like lead in the air, as usual, stricter enforcement and better monitoring facilities for the agencies concerned remains our greater challenge.

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For globe trotters, here are some of the cities which landed in the most polluted list.

Statistics are available in the World Bank’s “The Little Green Data Book”.