A TV commercial of a cough medicine caught my attention tonight as I settled down on the sofa after a long day. I cringed at the image of a wriggling bacteria on the teaspoon. Eww. Good thing I only give safe, proven cough medicines to my family. As a fussy mom with a Bachelors degree in Food Technology, I am quite aware about adverse effects of bacterial contamination especially in young kids with lower immune systems.

Two years ago, I wrote about the salmonella contamination in a peanut butter brand. Concerns about food safety have grown stronger and more far-reaching. I recall the milk products being distributed in the country that were found to have traces of melamine that can cause bladder or kidney stones. Melamine-tainted milk was blamed for four deaths and kidney stones and other illnesses in 54,000 children in China. Remember the pullout of food products from Taiwan that is suspected to be contaminated with plasticizer di(ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)? How could I forget the candy products with formaldehyde content found to be carcinogenic? There was also a noodle brand that was recalled from the market after the discovery of ““traces of salmonella”.

It is scary to see our children suffer from potential adverse effects from toxic ingredients but bacterial infections as well. It can range from an upset stomach to more serious symptoms such as fever and gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea, which in severe cases, could lead to life-threatening dehydration. Safety is about more than keeping our children’s hands away from a whirring food processor blade. It means knowing how to avoid spreading bacteria, safe shopping, and more.

The thing is, bacteria is practically everywhere yet I am in control of things I can do. I know I have control over food products or medicines to purchase. I have control about keeping my house clean and making sure handwashing procedure is followed.

So I can see how herbal cough remedies can become contaminated from bacteria originating from the soil. In addition to the risk of bacterial and viral contamination, herbal remedies may also be contaminated with microbial toxins. How can I be sure that these herbal medicines conform to quality control standards from harvesting and production practices? Am I sure microbial contamination are at acceptable levels set by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration or WHO Guidelines for Quality Standardized Herbal Formulations?

Better to be safe than sorry.

Read more on the safety of medicines in children:

WHO Promoting Safety of Medicines in Children

The World Medicines Situation 2011 Traditional Medicines- Global Situation, Issues and Challenges

“I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend?”
— Robert Redford

I just arrived from Vietnam for a media briefing on HP Closed Loop recycling. We all know recycling is a good thing to do. As a consumer, it makes me feel good to know not everything I consume goes to garbage.

Before the media briefing, I took my sweet time enjoying the beach in Da Nang. This quiet city is a refreshing respite from busy Manila.

It was a great opportunity to be together with media from India, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, China to witness the closed loop recycling in Lavergne ‘s Da Nang plant. Sometimes it is hard to believe that plastics can be recycled but yes, it can be done.

It is wonderful to see companies like HP that are doing it right now because all of this will have an accumulated effect on all of our tomorrows.

All these solid wastes are the discarded leftovers of our advanced consumer society. The billions upon billions of these wastes is mind boggling. This growing mountain of trash represents not only an attitude of indifference toward valuable natural resources, but also a serious economic and public health problem.

It is inevitable that destroying the ecosystem also destroy ourselves.

There we were at the plant to check on HP and Lavergne’s partnership on an industry-first ink cartridge disassembly machine, which can separate the plastic, foam, ink and metal components of returned cartridges more effectively and recover a higher percentage of re-usable content. It is the industry‘s first closed loop ink cartridge recycling process, combining plastic from post-consumer recycled Original HP Ink cartridges and other sources, such as recycled water and soda bottles, in the manufacturing of new Original HP Ink cartridges. It is estimated that this facility will reduce 6% in the plastic carbon footprint as soon as it is fully operational.

Imagine if every business can recycle their plastics?

Business is beautiful when it’s a vehicle for serving the common good of man and the environment. Wouldn’t it be great if we all help create an economic system that will respect and protect Mother Earth – one which would “replace corporate globalization with a global network of local living economies.”?

“Our choices at all levels—individual, community, corporate and government—affect nature. And they affect us.”
— David Suzuki

Protest against MERALCO electricity price hike. Join Facebook page.

powerIt was my daughter who first made me aware of Chuvaness Meralco bill for one month worth PHP 41,902.95 pesos. Poor Cecille has lost sleep and energy to do anything and trying to make sense of this. I too was perplexed when my usual bill of 8,000 pesos suddenly hit close to 15,000 pesos. Thinking it was my two girls airconditioning consumption, I advised them that our electricity bill was just too much. I thought it was that grounded lamp outside the gate.

Really, why does it have to be double that amount? Couldn’t there have been some way for us to slowly absorb the cost?

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I encounter all sorts of stories about children’s death in the course of my advocacy work in The Compassionate Friends, a grief support group for those who have lost a child. I often hear the word “if only”, “what if?” and so many words of regret and guilt. I can’t help but cry along with their heartbreaking stories. Sometimes, cause of deaths are accidental, congenital or some complication of a disease. In the Philippines alone, the statistics are alarming.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 1 million children under the age of five die from pneumococcal disease every year. Pneumococcal disease includes serious, invasive diseases such as meningitis, pneumonia and blood infection (bacteraemia), to less severe, but highly prevalent diseases, such as otitis media, sinusitis and bronchitis. The WHO estimates reveal that over 90% of children’s deaths caused by pneumococcal disease occur in developing countries. Philippines is listed in the top ten of countries with this high mortality rate.


Each year, around 1 million succumb to Invasive Pneumococcal Diseases (IPD); including 82,000 Filipino children. WHO and UNICEF further underscores the importance of IPD by identifying its bacteria, Streptococcus pneumoniae, to be the leading cause of Pneumonia. In the Asia Pacific region alone, 98 children die from Pneumonia every hour – more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. My friend lost her 4 year old daughter due to this type of pneumonia. Thinking it was just high fever and bad cold, she didn’t know that one of her lungs was already filled with water. At that time, she wasn’t aware that there was a vaccine against pneumonia or it was even there.
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Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.
Donald Porter V.P., British Airways

As bloggers, sometimes it is so easy to bitch and rant when something displeases us. I myself, am sorely tempted to blog whenever bad service or experience hits me. As a rule, I blog only after I exhausted every means to resolve an issue or resolve it amicably with the person concerned. Wearing the hat of a small business owner with an online business, I’m going to be unhappy if my customer blogged about my services without having gone through the help desk or given me a chance to resolve the issue in a timely manner. It is one reason I am patient with customer service because I know how it feels to be on the other end.

Now, I also know my consumer rights and am quite assertive. My daughter calls it my bitch powers. Don’t think bitch power is about being mean or demanding. I’ve used it before with MERALCO. It means knowing my rights and being assertive. Let me cite three recent examples that started with a complaint and ended with a positive resolution.

1. Amazon purchase and DHL

Last December 2008, I ordered two sacred songs CDs and a DVD for the Candle Light ceremonies of my grief support group. Since I wanted it to arrive within 5 days, I chose the express mail.

1 CD Angel Voices (Libera) $13.99
1 DVD Angel Voices: Libera in Concert $14.99
1 CD New Dawn (Libera) $16.98

Item Subtotal: $45.96
Shipping and handling: $41.96
Total: $87.92

Here is that Custom duties statement

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Rowell Santos whipped his wallet out of his pocket, pulled out a frayed photo of his lovely daughter. He looked up at me and explained in Tagalog that “all I want is to ensure that my daughter finishes her college. She is just in her second year and I still have another child in third year high school. After they are finished, I can rest”. Glancing at Rowell, he didn’t fit my stereotype of the wild bus drivers who ply recklessly along EDSA. He looked refined and educated. He sighed, “Yes, I am a college graduate. I ended up being a bus driver. It is hard being a bus driver in the Philippines. I barely get any rest. We work more than 8 hours a day When my bus is not functional, I don’t have income.”

I saw the hopeful look of a parent who just wants the best for his children. Don’t we all? I understand, I patted his shoulder.

Me, Rowell Santos and Rochelle after our short chitchat

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If you are a facebook user and living in the Philippines, you might have received this message last month

My name is _______, I am a Thai-Chinese born and living in Bangkok, Thailand. I am now starting to expand my business branch to the Philippine market.

I am looking and searching for anyone who desires to work for or do business with Thailand, USA and virtually anywhere in Far East Asia and Europe. About the investment, there’d be no worry, since we have set up working environment facilities in Ortigas already.

There’re so many opportunities to create a future with us in the Philippines, the income opportunity here is endless.

I do not know much of any contact there, so I wish God and Facebook would help me connect with someone who have this unique and identical interest.

Our business will need a lot of travelings, mostly to the US, Europe and the Far East. Since we are an outsourced company, most trips are provided without personal expenses.
But the person must be able to speak good English with an entrepreneurship minded 🙂

I’d be glad to set up an appointment with you to discuss further details when I am in Manila next month in May 2009.

Thank you so much for taking your time with my message. If you have an interest to learn more about this. Just add me, and drop me a message!

I will be living in Ortigas Center Area, Pasig City, Metro Manila at Astoria Plaza Hotel.

Maraming Salamat Po! Hope to hear from you! 🙂

God bless you!

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You’ve heard it in the news. My favorite local peanut butter is contaminated with Salmonella. Samuya Food Corp., manufacturer of Ludy’s Peanut Butter Sweet and Creamy and Ludy’s Peanut Butter Spread pulled out their products from the shelves to quell public fear that its products are tainted with salmonella.

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

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Update: My Earth Hour 2009

Remember Earth Hour 2008?

Earth Hour 2008 – Zero Hour at Roxas Boulevard, 8:00 PM

Where were you last year? I remember I was at the SM Mall of Asia and restaurants and other establishments were eagerly awaiting the approach of the Earth Hour. Did you know that last year, we ranked 9th in terms of global sign-ups? Another plus is that last year’s Earth Hour initiative generated 56 MWh saved in Luzon alone. We can significantly increase the savings by just participating in Earth Hour 2009.

This year, Earth Hour 2009 is going to be at 8:30 PM on March 28, 2009.

In terms of Earth Hour countdown events, there will be an event at the SM Mall of Asia on March 28, 2009 form 7PM-10PM as well as in Cebu and Davao. Various LGUs nationwide will also be holding their own Earth Hour countdown events.

Taking the first step is as easy as turning off a light. This is an easy task as we keep our lights to a minimum anyway. I am sure you do but Earth Hour 2009 wants to send a message to the world.

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A parent’s love knows no boundaries. Remember the movie, Lorenzo’s Oil? Failing to find a doctor capable of treating their young son Lorenzo’s rare disease, adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), Augusto and Michaela Odone sought their own cure. Lorenzo died on May 30, 2008 at the age of 30 though but lived 16 more years when they found the cure.

I had the pleasure of meeting another loving mother, Vilma Dee (read her story) as one of our members in The Compassionate Friends Grief Support Group. No, she did not find a cure for her daughter’s very rare disease called Wilson Disease, diagnosed at the late stage of the disease. Wilson disease is a genetic disorder that prevents the body from getting rid of extra copper. Through sheer research, she discovered contact persons abroad that provided medicines for her daughter. Her daughter didn’t live long but Vilma continues to save lives by being the contact person for Wilson Disease in the Philippines. Mary Graper, president of Wilson Disease Association (WDA), praises Vilma, ““I never imagined she would be doing as much as she has been doing for the last seven years (since her daughter died) . . . . Despite her great loss, Vilma is determined to help others in the Philippines so that they would not suffer the same loss as she had.”

Good thing her heart is big enough to accommodate all of them.

Another mother with a big heart is Cynthia Magdaraog, President of the Philippine Society for Orphan Disorders (PSOD). She had no idea back then that her 10 year old Dickoy had a rare disease called Pompe Disease. She was only told that her son had muscular dystrophy. Cynthia went as far as the USA for consultation and got the correct diagnosis, Pompe Disease, a disorder which causes the deterioration of the body’s muscular system. She was told that her son won’t live long but today, at 28, Dickoy goes about his day on a wheelchair, and aided by a breathing machine. He even managed to get a degree in Industrial Design as well as lead a productive life by forming and running a business of his own.

Cynthia Magdaraog, PSOD President and a parent of Dickoy, who at the early age was diagnosed with Pompe disease

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