So far, so good

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Official statement of the Philippine Department of Health on the swine flu virus

This past weekend saw a flurry of reports that can hardly be missed with regard to the swine flu outbreak that has spread through parts of Mexico City, reaching places as far away as Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.

The Philippine Department of Health (DOH) has just issued an official statement/advisory with regard to the swine flu virus. Major points in the statement include:

1) The current H1N1 strain of the swine flu virus is a novel one, an unusual combination of pig, bird, and human genetic materials. Consequently, no vaccine is available yet.

2) Human-to-human transmission looks like the mode of illness transmission.

3) The multilevel response of the DOH includes detection of possible infected individuals coming in via the various Philippine ports of entry; identification of local outbreaks of influenze-like illnesses, and; treatment of such individuals in referral hospitals.

4) As a precaution, the DOH recommends the following:

a) Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

b) Wash hands regularly with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze.

c) Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective

d) Avoid close contact with sick people.

e) If sick, self-monitor and stay home from work or school and limit contact with others.

f) Consult your doctor immediately should signs and symptoms of flu persist.

g) While no travel ban to Mexico and other affected countries is issued, travelers to these countries are however "asked to reconsider their plans to travel to Mexico and other affected countries unless extremely necessary."

5) Contact your local health center or call the DOH Hotline +6327111001 / +6327111002 if you or a family member or a neighbor exhibits flu-like illness including the following symptoms- fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting ESPECIALLY after travel to the swine flu affected countries or having come in contact with someone who has traveled to these place.

More information on the swine flu virus can be found here

Here is the full text of the official statement of the Philippine Department of Health regarding the swine flu virus issued on April 27, 2009 (taken from

Today, the Department of Health (DOH) clarifies that there are no reports yet of swine flu among humans in the Philippines in relation to the outbreak that originated from Mexico and other affected countries.

This morning, however, we have convened an emergency meeting to develop recommendations that will make our country better prepared to face this recent occurrence of swine flu among humans.

The DOH is emphasizing that the H1N1 swine flu virus recently discovered in Mexico is an entirely novel strain. Experts describe it as having an unusual combination of genetic material from pigs, birds and humans which have reassorted and caused the development of the current human H1N1 swine influenza virus. This is the first time that such a virus has been isolated with evidence of human-to-human transmission. There is no available vaccine as of yet specific for this virus.

Following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) alert to all its member states on April 25 that the outbreak has escalated into a “public health emergency of international concern,” the DOH immediately stepped up its surveillance and biosecurity measures in all international and local airports to prevent the entry of the virus, which has now killed 81 individuals in Mexico and possibly infected and unconfirmed number of other individuals in certain parts of other countries like U.S. and Canada.

The Bureau of Quarantine has already instituted precautionary measures in major ports and possible entry points of the virus in the country. All quarantine stations are already implementing health surveillance measures including thermal scanning of all arriving passengers from countries with reported swine flu cases. Travelers will also be required to fill up a Health Declaration Checklist to screen for potential signs and symptoms and possible exposure to the virus.

A Health Alert Notice (HAN) on flu-like illness or Swine Influenza Virus (SIV) will also be distributed to all arriving travelers especially from the U.S. and Mexico. We will also convene another meeting with all stakeholders at our ports for a more heightened and coordinated response against the entry of the virus.

All DOH Regional Health Offices and local government units are requested to look out for influenza outbreaks, influenza-like illness (ILI) and /or atypical pneumonia in their areas of jurisdiction and to immediately report such cases to the National Epidemiology Center and/or the Health Emergency Management Staff. (DOH HOTLINE: 7111001 / 7111002)

The DOH Referral Hospitals for Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) have also been primed to ready their facilities to receive patients confirmed or suspected to have been infected with the novel swine flu virus. These referral centers include the Research Institute of Medicine (RITM), the San Lazaro Hospital and the Lung Center of the Philippines, all of which are equipped with negative pressure isolation rooms for managing patients infected with highly virulent and pathogenic microorganisms.

The DOH is gearing up to respond to and manage the potential entry of the H1N1 swine flu virus in the country. Sufficient number of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the antiviral drug, Oseltamivir, are available and will be given to high-risk exposure groups which include frontline health workers and surveillance teams at the national and local levels.

Meanwhile, we are now advising the public that there is no travel ban being issued by this Department to Mexico and other affected countries. Travelers are however asked to reconsider their plans to travel to Mexico and other affected countries unless extremely necessary.

As a precaution, the DOH recommends the following:
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
Wash hands regularly with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective
Avoid close contact with sick people.
If sick, self-monitor and stay home from work or school and limit contact with others.
Consult your doctor immediately should signs and symptoms of flu persist.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

PhotoHunt: Protect(ion)

This is an elevated covered walkway running perpendicular to a busy thoroughfare in Cotabato City, meant to protect both pedestrians and motor vehicle drivers plying this route. It also doubles as an area for hanging streamers and posters of congratulations to successful examinees from the city who passed the licensure examinations for physicians and nurses just released a few days before this photo was taken.

It's a poignant reminder on how many a Filipino family's hopes are pinned on college education. College education- which can lead to good employment- is their family's protection. And recently, with the Philippines having "exported" some 50,000 nurses in the last decade alone, having a licensed nurse in the family is almost like manna from heaven. Imagine, a Filipino nurse working in the country maybe earning roughly USD 200 per month, while s/he can earn something like at least 10 times that outside the country. To sweeten the pot, with the employment there also comes the chance to emigrate with his/her entire family. It seems like a no-brainer. To make matters worse, some 9,000 Filipino physicians are training or already have trained to become nurses, with a great number already employed in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, among other countries. Hospitals are being closed due to the absence of doctors who will run them and go on duty in them.

All this is happening in our country where 7 out of 10 Filipinos die without ever being attended to by a health professional.

So who's taking care of us left behind here?

I pray it will be those whose names are plastered on this elevated walkway...

To work in another country to feed your family or to stay in the country in service of your fellow Filipinos? It's not really a no-brainer, is it?

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Friday, April 24, 2009

T2: Tenement 2 (Star Cinema, 2009)

The gene for good looks, the gene for wit and humor- I inherited from my pop. But not his knack for horror-suspense flicks. That’s why it wasn’t an automatic choice to watch with my sister Star Cinema’s newest offering T2: Tenement 2 on my first free Saturday after a grueling last few weeks. T2 narrowly beat Slumdog Millionaire to be our movie of the day, thanks to the sudden rush of nationalism and our mutual love for T2’s lead actor, Maricel Soriano.

Overall, T2 for me represents one of the rare Filipino films that have been well thought of. Here are my reasons why. (Some T2 spoilers follow in this review.)

The movie gives a modern spin on Philippine folklore, wrapped around and woven into the world of elemental beings- the encantos. There are minimal special effects, minimal gore: the plot unravels beautifully, paced well enough for my imagination to conjure a scene, only to be blindsided a better visual onscreen.

The scenes were executed by a tight cast of about ten who developed their characters skillfully. Clare and Angeli and their compatriots exuded enough melancholy, enough smugness, enough ethereal aura to make them believable but still maintain that level of being surreal.

What made up for the absence of gore and characters was the interesting use of visuals and sceneries, T2 being partly a road film. It was a good call to juxtapose the showcasing of a huge chunk of the Philippines on screen (to set the general mood of the film) with an even more grandiose but synthetic parallel world of encantos (which existed through a tiny portal in a nondescript plaza of a rundown housing project).

T2 is a travelogue through the Philippine countryside, remarkable not just because of discovered roadside wonders but because it is an unwitting journey into coming to terms with one’s past, key to having a better, smoother drive ahead.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009: No to Bataan Nuclear Power Plant Revival

Let's do the earth and its inhabitants a favor by not supporting the moves to re-commission the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. For only the second time in a decade, physics has become personal again for me as I got to listen to the presentation by the Network Opposed to Bataan Nuclear Power Plant Revival in the UP Global Health Course last week. Their presentation slides follow but to summarize their arguments against the BNPP:

1. The BNPP is not essential in addressing the looming "energy crisis" in 2012. The country has vast indigenous energy resources that we can tap which are more safe and reliable than nuclear power.

2. The operation of the BNPP does not assure cheap electricity for the people and energy independence for the country.

3. The BNPP is defective, almost obsolete and is not safe to operate. There are numerous and significant arguments being raised with regards to geologic hazards, infrastructure integrity, and nuclear waste storage and disposal. Its operation will pose great risks to the health and lives of the people and the environment.

4. The fund for the BNPP, to be paid by additional people's taxes and foreign loans, would be a source of corruption and kickbacks for the corrupt officials and cronies of the current administration. Until now, no one has been held accountable for the BNPP corruption scandals of the Marcos administration.

Let your voice be heard. Sign the online petition to stop the re-commissioning and operation of the BNPP at

Let your voice be heard. Sign the online petition to stop the re-commissioning and operation of the BNPP at

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Fourth U.P. Global Health Course

After a two-year hiatus, six months of intensive preparations, and last-minute edge-of-chaos activities, we're very proud to have successfully conducted The Fourth U.P. Global Health Course at Silungan in Morong, Rizal last April 13 to 18, 2009.

The UP-GHC 4 has brought together 28 students studying in the health professions schools of the UP, UST, Ateneo, Emilio Aguinaldo College, FEU, St Louis-Baguio, and West Visayas State University, including two students from Australia. Through marathon sessions last week, the UP-GHC 4 endeavored to re-focus their education towards a preferential option for the underserved as we talked about topics that our respective university curricula hardly touch: topics like globalization, the current financial crisis, war and health, culture and health, health and the environment, the use of ICT, urban agriculture, among others.

UP-GHC 4 faculty members came from the deep bench of the UP College of Medicine, as well as equally engaging resource persons like Sonny Africa from the IBON Foundation and Professor Giovanni Tapang, PhD of the UP National Institute of Physics who talked about the advocacy against the re-opening of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

The UP-GHC 4's student coordinator, Angela Wee, as well the student facilitators Bev Ho, Rom Imperio, Venjune Tansiongco, Renzo Guinto, Tina Langit, Micko Perez, Myx Caampued, and VJ Mercado all ensured that the course had the correct balance of youthful perspective, practicality, and fun.

The course may have ended, but our work towards making quality healthcare available to those most in need have just began. Welcome to the wonderful world of public health work Nikka, Jam, Leeo, Ginger, Jackie A, Jackie M, Mitch, Yen, Myk, Paul, Peter, Migs, Omar, Jessica, Kim, Kevin, Leslie, Danni, David P, David C, Dana, Angel, Nery, Jopapz, Nicole, Ezra, Jim, and Dalvie!

Congratulations, everyone! UP Global Health Course 5, coming up!

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Cross training"

It was to this that God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps.

He committed no sin, and no one ever heard a lie come from his lips.

When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God, the righteous Judge.

Christ himself carried our sins in his body to the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. It is by his wounds that you have been healed.

You were like sheep that had lost their way, but now you have been brought back to follow the Shepherd and Keeper of your souls.

1 Peter 2:21-25

Our cross maybe a job that forces us to work too much for little pay; our cross maybe the loss of a job. Our cross maybe a mom who nags us all the time to clean our room; our cross maybe enduring the pain of a parent’s passing. Our cross maybe the intermittent bouts of loneliness; our cross maybe the ever-present need to serve and please other people. Whatever our cross is, Jesus has shown us the most perfect example of how to bear it, with the correct spirit and perspective, that of love, meekness, obedience, faith.

So, this Easter and beyond, we continue our daily “cross training.” No, we don’t have to find two huge pieces of lumber, set them at right angles to each other, and lug it up and down and through rocky rustic paths. What we have to do is pray- for the vision to see our daily t-i-n-y crosses, for the resolve to carry these crosses, and for the ever increasing love to bear these amidst the temptation to let go and give up.

We carry our cross not only in excited anticipation of the reward in store for us in heaven, but more importantly to show our love and gratitude to the Father who sent His Son to save us and redeem us and claim us again as His own.

For now and always, we rejoice in the fact that

The Lord Is Risen! Alleluia!

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

PhotoHunt: Triangle

Perched atop one of the rolling hills of Malaybalay City in Bukidnon Province, this new chapel of the Monastery of the Transfiguration gives a new meaning to the feeling of being close to heaven. Its simple architecture, benign wooden benches, and nondescript stone slab altar complement perfectly the wondrous beauty of God's creation surrounding it, the vista uninterrupted thanks to the glass walls on at least three sides of the chapel. The edifice blends seamlessly to its green surroundings as well as to the azure sky; it's like a pair of hands, touching fingertips to fingertips, palms about to press on each other, praying with expectant faith.

This is part of my April 2007 sojourn to Mindanao which you can find here.

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