Jun 19, 2015

Happy Father's Day to my Dad

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A dear friend’s father died yesterday. It got me thinking about my own Dad. Tatay Cargo, like my Dad, is a Pangasinense -- a group of people in the northern Philippines who pride themselves in those age-old traditional values of solid work ethic and diligence. I was not really planning on writing this, or rather I was planning to write about my Dad on his birthday next month, but I am just gripped right now by an urgent need to write this Father’s Day tribute to my Dad, in light of Tatay Cargo’s passing, or rather graduating into Heaven.

My Dad was born in 1944, so that makes him 71 next month. The Bible says the average lifespan is threescore years and ten (a score means 20 years) and so Dad has just passed that average by a year. Every day that passes by I think about it as a bonus day for Dad.

Not a day passes by that I do not feel sad by what I could not do for my Dad. I am the eldest in the family and I’m now 40 years old, now feeling a little too late about paying Dad and my parents back. Part of me yearns for the capacity to give Dad more -- perhaps tours around the country, a nice house, more of my presence, more of my time, and more of my resources with them.

In Jewish customs each household was to sacrifice the firstborn, or the firstling of his livestock, to God. The firstborn son can be redeemed by an animal sacrifice though. Nonetheless, the thought is that the firstborn is supposed to be given up wholly for God. I would like to think that God’s calling me into the ministry is God’s way of calling Dad to give me up as a sacrifice.

So that what looked like such a lucrative future for me in the years past became nondescript instead (by worldly standards). I was class valedictorian in elementary (bukid nga lang), I managed to get into a science high school and got some awards in debate, graduated cum laude in Zoology, seized a Nancy von Kellog academic scholarship grant in medicine… and then suddenly quit it all for love and ministry.

To this day, I do not know if my decision (as well as my husband’s, for he was a promising metallurgical engineering graduate and a school mate in science high school as well) was misguided or not. Mary who broke the alabaster box was perceived by many as having wasted it. But I do know that had I become a doctor, I would not have been as involved as I am now with the ministry. Or maybe not, I don’t know. I would not be able to carve a normal private home life for my kids in the very public nature of ministry, had I been in a cozy cubicle treating physical illnesses of other people.

But then this is not about me and so I go back to my Dad. I love, respect and admire Daddy. I may be so much like my Mama in terms of personality. Dad is people-oriented. I am private. Dad is stoic. I am emotional. We are both stubborn though, and we both stand on what we believe, to the point of sacrificiing our convenience. He always instilled in us to study hard, to use our brains, to not mind gossip, to deal fairly with people, to always smile and to be polite and honest.

Dad used to be a mahjong addict. He can go on a 48-hour mahjong spree fueled only by cups of coffee and sandwich. Yet he never went beyond the set amount of money Mama allowed him to spend out of his own salary as a Civil Engineer at the National Power Corporation. When he was in his 40’s, he repented of his sins, accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, read his Bible and was enabled to give up the vice that has held him for so long.

He was soon talking everybody’s ear off about the Gospel. His favorite verse was about preaching in season and out of season and he seemed like preaching out of season a lot of times. I used to dread bringing my classmates over to our house because I knew he would preach to them. I know he came across as annoying -- preaching in streets, neighbor’s houses, busses, terminals, etc -- but I know heaven has a special place for these annoying preachers who are snatching souls from hell.

No one would wonder why, at midlife, Dad opted to retire early to become a pastor. He is still the wings behind my Mama, that amazing superwoman who has achieved so much because Dad encouraged her to. He is still a pastor now, still hollering the Gospel at times, building a vibrant church, running a Bible School. Yeah, building lives, restoring homes and grooming men for the ministry -- all at 71 and counting.

I comfort myself with the thought that though I haven’t showered my parents with much material things, (I'm working on it, I hope I still have time), I have showered them and my sibs with prayers. All of them are successful, godly, responsible, polite and involved in the ministry. Biboy plays the saxophone in church and manages a farm; Alvin is a civil engineer, the choir director in church and savvy church violinist; Micmic is a nurse, clinical instructor at a state university and the church pianist, Pongpong is a nurse as well, the registrar of our Christian school, church pianist as well and now studying his second course, Plang is a teacher in our Chrisitan school and powerful alto and soloist, Grace is a 2nd year medical student (who will hopefully finish what I have given up) and Janjan, our youngest, is a most talented guitarist.

Those that are married have married into godly and good spouses as well. I myself have settled in my heart to marry only a godly, responsible man and I have -- and a pastor at that. God has rewarded my Dad with blessings that would live on for eternity. Dad stands tall in the sight of us his children and I know, before God. After all these years, he still never fails to wake up at dawn to lead the family devotions. We all joke that he is our alarm clock. He is still doing good physically, financially and spiritually.

Unlike other old men, he has not gone cranky at all. He still has incredible patience and an easy-going air about him. Give him a board of chess (he was once chess champion in the whole Cotabato province) and a Bible and he would rest content. I love you, Dad. You have never been mushy with feelings and expressions but I know you love us so much and we love you back so much. I always thank God for bringing me into your home.

I am writing this because I want all and sundry, and especially Daddy, to know this while he can still read this. I don’t ever want to read a eulogy that he will no longer hear. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

Jun 12, 2015

Lacto-fermented Kamias or Iba

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Lacto-fermented kamias or iba is one of my more recent lacto-fermentation projects. It never ceases to amaze me how powerful and beneficial this ancient way of food preservation is. I still am a newbie in lacto-fermentation, though I have always made it a point to ferment something each week. The mainstay is Curtido, as it’s something that really agrees with my family’s palate.

We went on a two-week vacation last summer and my two older kids told me they miss my Curtido. So yeah, that’s how enamored they are with it. And I am one happy mom when I hear that, because lacto-fermented foods are loaded with nutrients from fresh, raw food as well as a host of beneficial bacteria which will greatly diversify and colonize our gut microbiome to keep us protected from bad microbes.

Kamias or iba is quite meaningful to me as my Mama said she craved this super-sour fruit when she was pregnant with me. You know how powerful and irresistible those pregnancy cravings are, right? Kamias or iba are very sour, like mouth-puckeringly and face-contortingly sour. When added to sinigang (Filipino sour soup recipe) however, they make delightfully flavorful souring agents with just a hint of fruitiness about it.

Kamias or iba can be found growing wild in most areas in the Philippines. The fruits are green, are the size of your thumb on the average and are cylindrical to pear-shaped. They can be seen profusely sprouting directly out of the main trunk and branches of the kamias tree.
In our city market, kamias is not really frequently seen, perhaps because most home cooks prefer the convenience of instant sinigang soup mixes and bouillons in place of these traditional souring agents. That’s sad as nothing can beat real, fresh fruit in terms of safety and nutrition.
Instant soup mixes, on the other hand, are not only loaded with salt and MSG but are also added with artificial flavors and colors.

To skip the instant souring mixes in the making of sinigang, use kamias or iba instead. And to make sure you have iba on hand, preserve jars and jars of it by lacto-fermentation. Lacto-fermenting kamias is so darn easy. As with any other fermentation recipe, you only need a glass jar, unrefined sea salt, water and time. That’s all.
  • You need a lidded glass jar as it is non-reactive.
  • Unrefined sea salt is simply the coarse, lumpy, slightly moist and grayish salt that is being sold in any wet market all over the Philippines. Read on its health benefits here.
  • Water here simply refers to ordinary tap water. I’ve been fermenting foods for months now and I’ve never had problems with using tap water.

Directions:

  1. Wash iba in running water and drain in a colander.
  2. Nip off the buds and slice into thin circles.
  3. Dump the iba circles into a large bowl, add in salt and then toss to mix. You need about half a teaspoon of salt per cup of sliced iba.
  4. Gently pack the sliced and salted iba into a glass jar, taking care to leave about an inch of headspace at the top. Add enough water so as to submerge the fruits.
  5. Cap the jar with a lid. Leave the jars in a cool, dark place away from sunlight and heat.
  6. Twice in a day -- in the morning and at night -- let the jar burp by opening the lid and pressing the fruit downwards with a clean spoon. Fermentation of good bacteria will push the sliced fruits up out of the brine, potentially exposing them to air and molds. As such, keep the fruits submerged by pressing it down under the brine from time to time.
  7. After three days of leaving the jar at room temperature, fermentation would be complete and you can now transfer the jar to cold storage.

Fermented kamias keeps for a year, would you believe that? It’s because the multitude of good bacteria colonizing the food make it naturally resistant to bad bacteria that cause food spoilage. In fact, I still have a big jar of fermented kamias right now, in my ref, and it's been 4 months. It has not spoiled. Isn’t that amazing?

How to use or consumer fermented kamias:
  • Use it as tangy toppings for fried or grilled meats.
  • Use about a cup to 1 ½ cups of lacto-fermented kamias to sour up a kilo of fish sinigang.
  • Use this instead of vinegar in fish paksiw.










Jun 7, 2015

Foods to include and avoid in your regular diet to prevent skin psoriasis

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(Disclaimer: This is a sponsored guest post.)
Psoriasis, a chronic skin disease can be treated through regular medication based on the severity of the symptoms. Though there is no complete cure to the condition, there are certain medicines that can ease out the symptoms. These medicines have their own side-effects too and hence one may follow some healthy diet regime to prevent the frequent attacks of psoriasis. The foods below are items you should include or remove from your diet in order to help in substantially combating psoriasis.
Foods to include in your diet
  1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids from Salmon
Salmon is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and would ease out the psoriasis symptoms to great extent. It will also check frequent psoriasis flare ups. You can include more fish into your diet, provided you are not allergic to the same. Omega 3 fatty acid has anti-inflammatory properties that would help you fight psoriasis. Wild salmon has high levels of astaxanthin which farmed salmon may lack. Having wild salmon is good but still you may have it in moderation to avoid side-effects if any.
  1. Garlic
The main benefit of garlic lies in its properties that inhibit the lipoxygenase which is responsible for inflammation that is the result of arachidonic acid. Garlic has antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties too along with the rich levels of antioxidant selenium.
  1. Carrots and melons
Carrots and melons may not have any direct studies favoring their effectiveness in psoriasis but they are known for the anti-inflammatory properties which may eventually help in controlling psoriasis symptoms and frequent flare ups.
  1. Lettuce
Lettuce has good amount of vitamin C, beta-carotene and folate that improves digestion along with the liver health. Improved digestion would show positive results in psoriasis.
  1. Turmeric
Turmeric has been used in many Naturopathy and Ayurveda medicines of Chinese and Indian origin. The benefits of turmeric for psoriasis have been witnessed over years but no substantial study has been found backing it. The research for the same is in process.
  1. Broccoli
Just like any other green vegetable, broccoli is also rich in beta-carotene and is good source of vitamin C. Organically grown broccoli is even better and should always be your first choice. Those suffering from psoriasis can have broccoli in steamed or raw form to get maximum amount of fiber.
  1. Whole Grains
Fiber rich diet that can regulate the blood sugar levels and also aid digestion may be good to ease out the symptoms of psoriasis. You can switch to whole grain breads and cereals to flush out the toxins.
Apart from these 7 foods, you should include more of nuts and berries in your diet too.
Foods to avoid
  1. Alcohol
Alcohol is strictly not recommended if you are fighting psoriasis. Alcohol intake may dilate your cells and allow the unwanted T-cells on upper layer of the skin. Even the moderate drinking would worsen the symptoms.
  1. Tomatoes
Tomatoes have no proven side-effects but many people suffering from psoriasis have observed that they have unfavorable experience with tomatoes. The effect of tomatoes may differ from person to person and if you have also found some negative impact of tomatoes on psoriasis then just avoid!
  1. Junk Foods
Main reason for aggravation of psoriasis symptoms is inflammation. Junk food which is loaded with saturated fats would add to your weight which would increase the risk of heart disease which is also one of the side-effects of psoriasis.
  1. Dairy Products
Arachidonic acid in dairy products is main trigger for psoriasis. Red meat and eggs are also having higher amount of this acid. Especially, when you consume cow’s milk, the risk of psoriasis gets higher.
  1. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits are known to flare up psoriasis as they have allergens and allergic reaction in most cases may be the primary cause of psoriasis. The allergic reaction would also make the symptoms of psoriasis worst. You can start avoiding citrus fruits to see whether you are allergic to them.
  1. Gluten
Many people are allergic to gluten and would develop unexplained rashes on the skin. Avoiding gluten has always shown positive results in psoriasis patients. There are laboratory tests that would check whether you are intolerant to gluten and if it’s so then follow gluten free diet regime which is usually expensive!
  1. Refined Sugar
Obesity and psoriasis are connected to some extent and sugar will trigger the weight gain for sure. Refined sugar has always remained the biggest enemy of health and excess sugar would cause inflammation which is not good for psoriasis.
You may also avoid condiments and fried foods if you want to keep psoriasis at bay. Just some additions and eliminations would make psoriasis management easier and your body healthier.

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