Author: Alan Parma

London Baby!+ a little Istanbul

Right now I’m a bit sad, because it’s already been 4 weeks since I got back from our tiny vacay in London. Now let me preface this by saying that Japan, Hong Kong, Taipei, and Paris will always hold a special place in my heart, but there’s just something about London that somehow got my juices flowing…. maybe because everything was in English?

Getting There

After browsing through Skyscanner for the best prices in airfare (Skyscanner should pay me for that plug), we decided to give Turkish Airlines a try, especially because its one of the best airlines in the world and cheaper than our local PAL. Upon further research, I found that Turkish Air offered FREE day tours in Istanbul, especially designed for layovers. They even offered free in breakfast and lunch, so I set it up so we had a longer layover.

We arrived in Istanbul on a Friday, so the tour included a river cruise. I don’t understand why many people asked about the security sitch in Turkey, but we found it to be a very pleasant and convenient experience (see my wife’s review here). I guess we don’t watch the news much.


Touchdown: London

I originally planned to take the London Underground from the airport to our hotel since the Picadilly line took us to our hotel station without any transfers, but our flight got delayed so we missed the last train. Good thing free wifi is standard in most airports now, so we just Uber-ed out of there. It’s about 2x more expensive than the train, but worth it if you had 3 suitcases and a child to lug around. Our Uber driver arrived in a big sedan whose brand I wasn’t familiar with. He was a nice Kenyan man, though the combination of his african and english accent made it challenging for me to understand. It took us about an hour to get to the hotel from Heathrow, and we were intrigued that a lot of restaurants aside from pubs were still open at midnight. Then again, we’re rarely out past 9, so I wouldn’t really know if this was normal.

IMG_6891A quaint and cozy hotel

After a few hours research in, we finally settled with United Lodge Hotel and used our rewards points. We arrived at a little past midnight. We should’ve requested for a room on the ground floor… this hotel doesn’t have elevators (it is a converted aprtment/house). Aside from the double-bed and extra bed for Brie, our room also had a fully-furnished kitchen (stove, oven, microwave, utensils, sink). Despite the cold-ish weather (around 10 C at night), the room was warm enough not to use the heater.

Day 1

I planned our itinerary a week before, so we scheduled our Saturday to be as loose as possible. We all woke up around 9am. Our hotel was in a nice area. It had a mini-mall nearby with a Costa Coffee, McDonald’s, a couple of shops, a £1 store (which Anj loves). More importantly, it had a Sainsbury’s, a 24-hour supermarket chain with a money changer. Which is important because all I had on the first day were old British pounds that my mom gave me. As I was paying for our breakfast at Costa Coffee, the cashier gave me a weird look and asked me if I was trying to pay with Monopoly money. Thank god for credit cards.

Upon the recommendation of the concierge, we bought 2 Oyster Cards with the one week unlimited load (Oyster is London’s universal transportation access card). We took the tube to Covent Garden, a tourist/shopping area near the theater district. It’s basically an outdoor Metro Manila mall (Mark & Spencer’s, Aldo, Geox, Apple store, restaurants) but with British people, old architecture, and red telephone boxes. We walked around till we reached the theater area, where we found our theater for the Wednesday Matilda show. We even stumbled upon the theater for the upcoming “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”.

IMG_6901It was on this day that we found our greatest treasure: Primark. Upon the “recommendation” of niece Sophia (translation: Sophia wants pasalubong), we looked for this treasure trove of cheap clothes. It was comparable to an H&M or Uniqlo, only really, really, cheap (like £2.50 for shirts, £8.00 for pants). We had to control ourselves from spending our budget…it was only the first day after all. We then took a bus home, as the bus stop was just outside the store (and with 0 transfers, brought us down right in front of the hotel). Gotta love London’s public transportation system.

Day 2

One of the reasons I picked our hotel were the number of cafes nearby, particularly the Park View Cafe beside the nearby Underground station. It was run by, I’m assuming, a Turkish family. Turns out there were a lot of Turks living in London and running small business. Man, their breakfast was awesome and relatively affordable. Big servings all around, but we still ordered a plate each, with a banana Nutella pancake for sharing, and continued to do so during the next 2 or 3 breakfasts we spent here.

Protein-packed breakfast

I pre-ordered a London Pass and used their mobile app instead of the physical pass and decided to use it on Sunday.  All our tours I scheduled for the next 2 days were prepaid through the London Pass. After attending mass in a depressing chapel behind the Shard/London Bridge station, we proceeded to go on a hop-on/hop-off bus tour.. This was our first hiccup: some roads were closed, so we had to walk around and even call the bus company to find our pickup point. We ended up walking across Tower Bridge to find our pickup point.

View from the HoHo Bus

Is the London Pass worth it? In our case, I don’t think so. For the London Pass to be worth it, you would have to visit at least 3 spots to take advantage of the discounted rates. And we never found the need to get in front of the line, as the places we went to had manageable lines. The places are so nice and interesting, you’d have to spend a whole day to really appreciate it. So unless you get bored easily, you wouldn’t need a London pass.

After a couple of hours going around London, we took our late lunch at an Italian restaurant near our next stop, Shakespeare’s Globe. Before joining the guided tour, you can take a look at the exhibits featuring the various props used during Shakespeare’s time. There were even videos showing how the special effects like blood and decapitations were done during that time.

ShakespearesglobeIt was getting late, but we decided to run next door to the Tate Modern, a modern art museum. Since we only had 30 minutes before closing, we only got to see a few exhibits, but needless to say, they were too modern for our tastes (aka weird-ass-shit).

Aside from Google Maps and the London Underground app to guide us around, another free useful app is the London Bus by Zuti. It showed us nearby bus stops and bus numbers after you input your destination. It works offline, so no cellular data is needed.

Day 3

For our 2nd day with the London Pass, we went to the Tower of London, The London Bridge Experience, and Westminster Abbey. You can spend an entire day at the Tower of London, but we decided to just attend a portion of the guided tour and check out the family jewels. We took a quick look at the armory, but didn’t get too far due to the abundance of stairs (Anj opted out due to her recent operation). Luckily, they were also having a Tudors Fair at the grounds, where a number of activities (mostly geared for kids) simulated life during King Henry’s time. Brie enjoyed making a candle, shooting a crossbow, and dressing up while collecting stickers to get a free button.

Tower of LondonWe skipped lunch (we were still full from our heavy breakfast at Park View Cafe) and went to the London Bridge Experience next. It’s basically an educational horror maze, literally under the London Bridge. Anj had her eyes closed most of the time, but there were interesting exhibits and guided tours that tries to give you the feel of how life was in the 1600s.

There was a slight drizzle today, but not really enough to stop anybody from walking under the rain. We went Westminster Abbey but missed the visiting times, so we just took a couple of pictures before heading home.

Day 4

Today was dedicated to the Warner Bros. Harry Potter tour. You have to pre-order your tickets online to get in. It was an hour’s train ride north of London. We had to add some change to our Oyster card as our weekly unlimited pass didn’t cover that part of London.

WB HPWhile not as interactive as Universal Studios’ World of Harry Potter, it was still a very interesting experience going through the actual sets and props of the movies. I was even “forced” (Imperio!) to buy 2 full video/photo packages of the broomstick section where you ride a broomstick against a green screen (check our videos here!).

The whole tour took about 4 hours to get through. You can buy your lunch there and have butterbeer and butterbeer ice cream. Before heading back to the city, we stopped by one station to check out Craft World, a huge craft store ala US’s Michaels, in a small compound that also had a Toys R Us. We decided to utilize the hotels’ kitchen for dinner, so we bought a pizza from Mark’s and Spencer and chicken fillet from the nearby Sainsbury.

Day 5

MatildaWe pre-ordered matinee tickets to Matilda, a play in Cambridge Theater, since Brie is a huge Roald Dahl fan. In the morning, we took time to visit the Bank of London to exchange my mom’s monopoly money for real British Pound notes. The nice guards at the door suggested that we visit their free museum just around the corner. Nice! Spent a little time there before meeting up with Anj’s aunt at Leicester Square station. Even managed to baptize the museum’s bathroom…with my poop.

Exchange your expired £'s here,...well at the bank, not the museum.
Exchange your expired £’s here,…well at the bank, not the museum.

Leicester Square, aside from having the Leicester Square Garden, has a number of big and small movie theaters as well as cafes and restaurants around. You can also buy discounted and last-minute theater tickets at the park. It’s a short walk to Covent Garden and West End, so it’s a perfect place to have lunch before watching Matilda. After eating at an italian restaurant (we seem to eat at a lot of Italian restos in the UK, sorry but British food generally sucks), we dropped Anj’s aunt off at the nearby Chinatown. It’s amazing how you can just turn the corner and find yourself in a place almost completely out of Asians, with Chatime and Asian groceries around.

London Chinatown
London Chinatown

Matilda was awesome! Cambridge Theater was tiny, so you could probably buy the cheapest seats and still be in a great spot. The cast was made mostly of children, and they were all so talented. A definite must watch, and London has no shortage of plays to choose from. Too bad we didn’t know there was a run of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe for only £5, it sold out during our stay (we should’ve stayed for at least 2 weeks).

We took an early dinner at a Japanese place in Chinatown. They take their Japanese seriously there: no tips, the menu says they speak Japanese, and they won’t take sushi suggestions. It was a nice break to be able to eat rice again.

Walking down PIccadilly
Walking down PIccadilly

We took a walk to Piccadilly Circus and went to Waterstones, a huge bookstore. God, I love London. I really prefer using the bus to the Underground because you can see London, and it’s really just a few minutes slower than the train, so I checked my bus app to make sure we can take 1 bus straight to our hotel. Most of the time, we could.

Day 6

We planned going to Westminster today, and since Buckingham Palace was on the way, decided to stop by as well. Brie wanted to baptize Green Park station’s bathroom…with her poop… and we were close enough to the time of the changing of the guards at the Palace. The tourists were gathered around like pigeons in a park full of crumbs. We saw the horse parade and the troops filing in, but for about 45 minutes of waiting and nothing much going on, we would’ve been better off snapping a few selfies and watching the change on Youtube instead.

Buckingham Palace

Westminster Abbey was awesome. We took advantage of the audio-guided tour narrated by Jeremy Irons and spent a few hours in the Cathedral. We took our lunch in their cafe, which I don’t recommend unless you want overpriced bland food. Better to buy the cheaper hotdogs right outside the Abbey.

We then proceeded to the museum compound that had the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, and V&A museums (all free to enter, £5 donation optional). Brie opted for the Science Museum, where we only had 45 minutes to spend as we also wanted to check out the V&A before closing time. We spent most of our time in the home exhibit, where you learned about the first versions of the home appliances we take for granted (washing machines, toilets, refrigerators). Riveting stuff. My recommendation: if you only had time for 1 museum, spend it in the Natural History Museum (more on that on Day 7).

We went back to Covent Garden for some last minute shopping and dinner. We decided on Greek, and it was awesome. Managed to get a shoe on sale and spent our last few hours at Primark.

Day 7

Last day…sad. We decided to spend some time at the Natural History Museum for Brie, but made a few stops before that. We went to Abbey Road to take a few pictures of me crossing it. Of course, there’s a Beatles coffee shop right outside the Underground station, where I HAD to buy a cup of coffee and a coffee shop guitar pick. And of course, a newly opened Abbey Road store made spend a few more pounds on a guitar strap. I don’t know what it was, but somehow it felt like I was walking on hallowed ground outside that studio. But really, it was just an ordinary street where ordinary people get annoyed by tourists continuously walking back and forth on their sidewalk that caused daily minor traffic jams.

IMG_7054We then took a bus to Baker Street station to check out the Sherlock Holmes Museum. We didn’t get in due to the line (our flight leaves in the afternoon!), but hung out in the shop to buy a few small items.IMG_7066

Finally, we spent about 30 minutes (I know, right? Should’ve extended to another week) at the Natural History Museum. It as huge, interactive, and had great architecture.

Natural History

We went back to our hotel and ordered our Uber to the airport. We could’ve used the tube to go straight to the airport, but we were lugging 4 bags. It took us almost 2 hours to get there, so allot some time for that.

I shall meet you again London. I even teased Brie that she’ll be the only one going back to the Philippines because she has school. Who knows, maybe we’ll live here for a while.


Oh-some Osaka

The most mind-blowing image in Osaka...nay...the world!
The most mind-blowing image in Osaka…nay…the world!

We love to travel, and we love Japan.  Since 2010, we’ve tried to come back at least once a year and experience the wonder of the land of the rising sun. We’ve been to Tokyo and Nagoya, but we’ve been to Osaka the most times. Try to visit between the months of March-May and October-November, where it’s neither too hot nor too cold. June-Sept is usually hot as hell, while Dec-Feb is usually cold as hell (unless you like it in hell). Here are a few of my experiences on the whats, wheres, and hows of Osaka.

We’ve never taken a guided tour in Osaka, so I became the de facto tour guide. All the info I’ve gathered comes from our good friend Google and his sister, Google Maps.  There are also numerous free apps (I use Rail Map Lite) for your phone to help you navigate the complex trains and stations around Osaka. Even without these, though, the stations are full of helpful information (yes, in English) that, depending on your patience and sense of direction, will eventually get you where you want to go. I’ll organize this “guide” in chronological order.

Starting with getting into Osaka via Kansai Airport. We usually get our Yen right after we get out of immigration since I found it hard to find a money changer in the city, but our friend and fellow blogger, Odessa, recently suggested that we get our Yen in Manila for a better rate. I usually book a hotel in the Namba area for two reasons: it’s an awesome place to base your stay, and it’s an easy train ride from the airport.

There are 2 trains going to the city: the JR Airport Express and the Nankai Line. The Nankai Line gets you to Namba Station, while the JR line takes you to Osaka (Umeda) station. If you’re going to more than 2 cities outside of Osaka accessible to the JR Lines (like Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe), I would recommend the 3 or 5 day JR pass, which gives you unlimited train rides (including the Airport train). But if not, you’re better off just buying tickets at the station (or getting a prepaid card, which I haven’t tried, so I won’t discuss it here).

We usually get a hotel with a good breakfast selection, using that qualifier to balance out the cost. Our hotel selection process goes like this: near Namba station, good enough breakfast, the pictures featured in Agoda doesn’t look like a prostitute was killed there. We’ve been using Agoda  to book our hotels for a while now, and we’ve collected enough points to either get rooms for free, or get a big discount on 5-star hotels. We stayed at the Osaka Floral Inn with a big group, and we were surprised to find a big room with 2 big beds. We could’ve booked fewer rooms and it would still fit our big group. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but we were very happy with the rooms and breakfast. It also sits right at the entrance of Shinsaibashi, so the location was ideal. Unfortunately, we haven’t been back there since, it seemed to always be fully booked. We’ve also tried Hotel Il Cuore Namba. This is way classier and a bit more expensive than Floral Inn, and is just a few steps from Namba station. The latest hotel we’ve tried is APA Hotel Namba, which is another business hotel. This is the farthest hotel from Namba Station we’ve tried, and on the last day I found out this was closer to the JR Namba station. If you’re staying here, I would suggest taking the Airport Limousine Bus instead of the train, as the bus station is much closer to this hotel.

I would relegate this section to our other contributors like 0de3s5a, since we usually don’t have a planned itinerary for food. We usually walk-in restaurants that have pretty pictures    when hunger finds us, so I can’t really make any specific recommendations. What I can say, though, is to dispel the seemingly popular notion that eating in Japan is expensive. While it’s not hard to find expensive food, it’s equally easy to find reasonably priced food, and I’m not talking about the convenience store variety kind. You can get awesome tonkatsu, gyoza, sushi, and even bentos in the Y300-Y900/person range (P120-P370). All you have to do is walk around (and some of these restos are even in the big malls).

Places to Go
Namba and Umeda
If you took my hotel recommendation, then you’re already here. Commonly accessed through the Namba station, this area is where you basically do your food and shopping duties. Dotonbori, Osaka’s famous food strip, is also here, as well as the long covered shopping street of Shinsaibashi.

Shinsaibashi, huge covered-street shopping complex in Namba
Shinsaibashi, huge covered-street shopping complex in Namba

Whether you’re a budget shopper or a splurger, you will find something here. You will find Uniqlo, Apple, H&M, Tokyu Hands (a giant craft/DIY store), Forever 21, high-end brands, as well as numerous Daiso stores in this area.  Don’t miss Namba Walk as well, which is the underground shopping network that connects the train stations under Namba station. There are plenty of shopping and dining options here. A bit southeast of Namba Station is DenDen town, a place to visit if you’re a big Anime fan. Here you will find maid cafes, gaming areas, and toy shops. It is the equivalent of Akihabara in Tokyo. Another commercial shopping center is Umeda. We haven’t explored that area well (another reason to return). We’ve only extensively explored Yodabashi Camera, a big shopping complex for gadgets, clothes, and toys, as well as a collection of restaurants at the top. This is a must-go for me, as I am an avid toy shopper. You might also have some great deals here with huge discounts for gadgets and accessories (including bags and luggage). Yodabashi Camera can be accessed directly from the Umeda train station.

Namba Walk, shopping center under Namba Station.

Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan Market
After getting awestruck by the giant manta rays and spider crabs at Osaka Aquarium, cross-over to the Tempozan Market to get some meals and do some shopping. If your kids still have energy, tour them around the Lego Discovery park in the same building.  Use Google Maps to determine if you can reach it by bus (Bus 88), as it drops off/picks up right at Tempozan Market. We used to take the train here, and some of our groupmates complained about the long walk.

Lego Discovery Center in Tempozan Market, right beside Osaka Aquarium.

I know the first thing that comes to mind when “Kobe” is mentioned is beef, but unfortunately, I cannot eat beef anymore. Kobe is about an hour away from Osaka by train, and in the two times that we’ve been there, we’ve only been visiting one area: IKEA, UCC Coffee Museum, and Kobe Science Museum.

UCC Coffee Museum, with free espresso shots and a UCC history test with certificate.
UCC Coffee Museum, with free espresso shots and a UCC history test with certificate.

These three places are all within crossing distance from each other. After letting the kids expend all their energy in the science museum, we took our lunch at Ikea (probably a force of habit from living in Los Angeles). Check the websites for museum closures, as museums are usually closed on Mondays (though in this case, the coffee museum has a different schedule than the science museum, so plan your trip accordingly).

If you love deer, walking, and temples, then head on to Nara, about an hour’s train ride away. It’s pretty easy to get to the deer park and Todai-Ji Temple, which features giant buddhas and miniature dioramas. If you

It took every ounce of her courage to fake pat a deer 10 meters away.
It took every ounce of her courage to fake pat a deer 10 meters away.

want an unforgettable experience with the deer, buy a bundle of deer crackers the vendors are selling there. You will have a new appreciation for Bambi.  We usually spend the morning and have lunch in this area. You can be back in Osaka for some more shopping as early as 3pm.

Universal Studios
Aside from the usual Universal Studios rides and features, probably the main reason to come here is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It can be tricky getting in though, as apparently you need some kind of lottery ticket to avoid the long lines (and there are long lines, every single day, whether it’s a holiday or not). If you know Japanese or someone who can navigate a Japanese website, get your reserved and special passes to Harry Potter on the Universal Studios Japanese website (yup, it’s not available in English). And it wouldn’t be Universal Studios Japan without Hello Kitty.

What? Hello Kitty in Japan? No way!
What? Hello Kitty in Japan? No way!

You will find live Hello Kitty bands, Hello Kitty fashion museums, HK cotton candy…you get the idea. If you decide to skip the park, you can also stroll around Universal City walk to eat and shop.

Budget Shops

A trip to Osaka is not complete if we don’t bring shopping bags home from the following budget shops: Daiso (Y100), 3 Coin (Y300, found in the subway shopping centers of Umeda and Namba, as well as in the covered street shopping center of Shinsaibashi), and Seria (another Y100 store, classier than Daiso). These shops are all over Osaka, a quick consult on Google Maps will help you find them.

Other Places to Go
Another point of interest is the Nissin Ramen Museum

Customize your own Nissin cup noodle!
Customize your own Nissin cup noodle!

in Ikeda (Ikeda station, accessible from Umeda Station). It’s about 30 minutes away from Umeda. There is a tourist guide right at the Ikeda station exit, and is about a 10-minute walk to the museum. Aside from learning about the history and evolution of the cup noodle (free admission), you can also customize your own Cup Noodle. So if you want a shrimp-chicken-beef with egg and curry cup noodle, you can make it here! Also visit Osaka Castle for some history and culture,

Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle

but expect to walk for a bit as it is a huge complex and far away from the train station.

As you can see, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what we can do in Osaka. We haven’t even explored Kyoto so much (about an hour’s train ride away) except for the Toei Studio Park. We’ve barely explored Kobe. Osaka and the cities nearby are huge, and we’re looking forward to visiting it again numerous times and still discover new places every time.


Alternative healthcare, or Our Hippie Lifestyle (part 3, last na ‘to, promise!)

To be fair, Dentex solved my jaw-clicking problem almost immediately. Of course, at the cost of wearing a plastic appliance that forced your jaw to align itself. You can’t help but be frustrated that your first attempt at braces actually made things worse (even if it improved my looks by straightening out my horse teeth).
Alternative Doctors
Let me list below the alternative doctors we frequent:
  1. Fr. Jacob Gnalian – priest, Ayurvedic doctor, patience-tester.

    Fr. Jacob Gnalian (Indian Catholic priest/Ayurvedic doctor) – Visits to Fr. Jacob will teach you a lot about patience (or your lack thereof). He is a jolly Indian priest (Slumdog Millionaire, not Dances with Wolves), but he really takes his time and has absolutely no respect for yours. However, his knowledge in Ayurveda and his belief that our incurable ailments are curable (as can be attested by his numerous patients and success stories) make the wait somewhat worth it. I get my regular dose of eyedrops and tablets for my glaucoma from him. Here’s a Rappler article about him. His clinic is in 628 Sto. Niño St., Mandaluyong (near the Mandaluyong City Hall). 

  2. Dr. Tan of Binondo – is a somewhat famous Chinese doctor based in Binondo. He will shine a
    Chinese herbs, mushrooms, twigs, insects, leaves, cockroaches, roots, branches, bugs, yum!

    light on your tongue and take your pulse, and from there will recommend a concoction that you prepare as a tea, which is absolutely horrible. Again recommended by my mom and also found out some friends are also frequent customers. We come to basically keep our blood sugar low and keep the chronic diseases (like gout and glaucoma for me) in check. You can do a google search on “Dr Tan of Binondo” for more info.

  3. Efren Guazon – was a talented manghihilot based in Quezon City. He combined the traditional Filipino hilot which he inherited from his mother and integrated it with western theory. He cracked our backs and made us squeal in pain as he pinched the hell out of our accupressure points. He also surprised us with his ultra-hot hands which he used as a natural hot compress. His advocacy was to train new manghihilot, much to the chagrin of fellow hilots. Unfortunately, he prematurely died of tongue cancer…or kulam, due to the enemies he created from the tight circle of albularyos. You can still buy his organic products (lemongrass extract, various healing oils, natural soaps) from his wife from their stall in Roxas Public Market, Champaca cor. Sct. Chuatoco streets, near Quezon Ave./Classmates. 

Our Learnings

  1. We are far from the ideal lifestyle – We haven’t even gone full organic yet. We don’t drink water at the right time (30 mins. before eating, 1 hour after). I’m pretty sure we aren’t hitting the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables in our diet. We still enjoy the occasional dessert. However, we found that we’ve built quite a tolerance from the bad stuff like sharing dessert, and feeling some discomfort whenever we overindulge.
  2. It took a while before we felt positive effects – And why wouldn’t it? We spent 30 years eating junkfood, fats, soda, etc. So it makes sense it will take our bodies 6 months to 1 year to even start pushing the bad stuff out.
  3. We went through a healing crisis – We experienced more-than-usual headaches and flu-like symptoms, which really tempted us to quit and down a handful of Bioflu. But we’re glad we pushed through.
  4. It’s really hard to do – Just drinking 8-10 glasses is tough. When I think about it, I used to drink only 3-4 times a day, if I do the drinking during meals math. It helps that I have a pitcher of water beside me, and you can assign the helper to always bring a pitcher to your desk or bedroom. And every time I get up to drink, I usually down 2 glasses to reach my quota.
  5. We built a tolerance – Like I said in my previous post, just passing by a fastfood joint can make me nauseated. Yup, this lifestyle has made me into a food snob. Though I still enjoy buffets, I doubt I get my money’s worth. Unless I’m really hungry, I can’t finish a cup of rice anymore.

In conclusion, we’re pretty happy we started on this alternative path. It really helps to have a partner who’s on the same health page as you. Anj used to take antibiotics at the first sign of phlegm. I used to take Biogesic, Excedrin, Advil, Ponstan (before I became allergic) like Tictacs. But we eventually got used to no soda, waking up at 5am for a shot of calamansi, and breakfast fruit shakes. Hopefully, we’ve put our daughter on the same path, though we may have overdone it. She avoids candies and chocolates and proudly declares that her brain isn’t addicted to sweets.

Alternative healthcare, or Our Hippie Lifestyle (part 2)


During the course of our visits to alternative doctors and our own research, we’ve come across some learnings on alternative medicine and a general attitude about what to do when we get sick.

Since this journey started at almost the same time as the birth of our daughter, Brie, adopting the alternative lifestyle proved to be a challenge. Aside from your pediatrician, you had doting grandparents who had their own opposing ways of dealing with our daughter. And of course, you had to challenge years of being brainwashed about our relationship with medicine and sickness. For example, if Brie had a fever, the common practice is to cool her down and immediately give her paracetamol. We also had to re-learn or unlearn what a fever really was, because it was different for infants (it was a bit higher). Our research also said that the most important thing about a fever, especially in kids, is the general disposition of the child. If she is active, happy, and playful despite of the fever, then she is ok. The only times we resorted to paracetamol are when she broke the 39°C temp and when all she wanted to do was lie down and sleep. We also put her on the daily calamansi regiment, but at a lower dosage (about 10 pieces of calamansi compared to our 20). We still keep her on her vitamins though (Ceelin with zinc and Growee). So far so good. She hasn’t visited the Pedia in about 3 or 4 years (we’ve lost count). We only went back partially out of courtesy but mainly because we thought it was a good idea anyway.

Another attitude we had to adopt was to treat food as medicine. It’s a forgotten idea especially from eastern medicine (Chinese and Indian). We still did pills and capsules for convenience, but went for the “natural” stuff. Lagundi for cough, malunggay for vitamin C, and we even had turmeric powder (for arthritis/gout) capsulized. We ate bananas and drank a lot of water for diarrhea (as well as avoided oily/fried food). We ate boiled kamote for gas pains. We drank fresh salabat (boiled ginger, no sugar) when we felt a cold coming. And of course, slept and rested when things really got rough. Thankfully, we only experience a serious flu attack about once a year, and we probably skipped one if we’re lucky.

According to our Ayurvedic doctor, the cure for gout is goat meat, especially the joint and bone parts. I’ve tried to form a habit, but it’s a bit difficult as it isn’t common in the grocery/market, and it takes a special kind of patience to cook it properly.

Anj’s sister suffers from asthma and psoriasis (which is actually related to asthma). When we recommended her to our Ayurvedic doctor (Fr. Jacob, more info here), he told her to avoid chicken. For the first time in probably years, TC had a few weeks of relief from her cough. Unfortunately, she couldn’t let go of chicken as part of her diet, so she eventually got back into it…and so did her cough.

However, a couple of things were hard to totally avoid: farmed meats. Especially tilapia, bangus, dory, and chicken. Ayurveda recommends native, organic chicken if we have to eat chicken. Non-farmed fish (like talakitok and the like) are freakin’ expensive.


Both of us suffer from chronic headaches, though we probably don’t have migraine (as we are still able to function). Anj pushes through it for the most part, but coffee and naps help (and lovin’ :)). I, however, have been a customer of various topical ointments since high school. My mom gave me Borher-ding, a chinese pill-shaped crystallized menthol. It provided quick but temporary relief. You could still buy this at Mercury, along with White Flower and Katinko.

Borher-ding looks like this, probably rebranded.

In recent years, I’ve found Giga’s No Pain ointment to be more effective (I’ve probably developed a resistance to Borher-ding).

Giga stores can be found in the big malls (SM Megamall, Robinsons Galleria, etc.). I also buy their soaps.

Another topical treatment I use is Tago-Ngirit, a spray-on oil produced by our former manghihilot (Efren Guazon, RIP. A google search will show a couple of websites and Youtube videos. Unfortunately, he died last year. His wife continues to sell these products, though.). Aside from rubbing/massaging it on my temples and the back of my neck, I also massage my scalp, which basically sets my whole head on fire (or ice) and provides some relief. I also do some acupressure, pressing the tips of my fingers firmly as well as pinching my palm (between the thumb and forefinger).

We monthly go through the gates of hell, to visit our dentist at Tutuban Mall, Divisoria.

However, it was only in recent months that my headaches were significantly reduced. I already expected to get headaches at least 3-4x a week, now I only get them about 2x a month. Due to my hippie mom, who was always on the hunt to solve her chronic sinus and headache problem (gee, I wonder why I get headaches), she discovered a cranial dentist (Dentex, Dra. Lindsay Bancosta, whose office is in oh-so-inconvenient Tutuban Mall in Divisoria). According to the dentist, a lot of her problems are caused by imbalances in her teeth. She explained that misalignments in our teeth can cause problems in our breathing (nasal passage), headaches (TMJ misalignment), all the way to our back, hips, and legs. Crazy, right? So here I am, 38 and with braces…again.

Up next: Alternative doctors and overall learnings

To be concluded….

Alternative healthcare, or Our Hippie Lifestyle (part 1)

Anj and I probably started this around 2008 or so, around the time I had my first gout attack. I was also on my 4th year of glaucoma medication, and was ready to look for a more viable alternative to the expensive eyedrops. We visit the doctor at least once a year for our APE, or when we get really sick. After a couple of visits, we started noting that doctors don’t really examine you, and yet recommend powerful meds that have serious side effects, along with more meds that counter those side effects. We have also started attending Bo Sanchez’s The Feast, which sometimes feature good health topics. Add to that my mom, who is always on the search for alternative health fads and practitioners. So now, let me bore you with our “alternative” health regiment.


Our morning ritual begins with a knock on the bedroom door by our helper, Jen, around 5:20am. She brings us a small glass of freshly squeezed calamansi: around 20 pcs. each and nothing else. We down this like a shot of tequila. Why so early? Well, according to Bo Sanchez, you need to do this at least 30 mins before eating or drinking anything, even water. Not only will this give you your vitamin boost, it helps keep your system alkaline instead of acidic, which should keep cancer at bay.

Before we eat rice and choice of regular breakfast fare, we drink a glass of blended mixed fruits (with a little water, no sugar, usually a combo of at least 2 fruits).

A major part of our diet is the absence of softdrinks. We’ve managed to limit ice-cold glasses of Coke to roughly 4-5 a year (somehow, we’ve managed to justify that drinking softdrinks in another country doesn’t count). We’ve also cutout powdered drink and iced tea, and instead ordered fresh juices (when available) when eating out.

Probably the hardest part of changing your diet was avoiding fast food altogether. I’ve gotten so used to cycling between Jollibee, Mcdo, and KFC everyday for years. The most painful thing about doing this is how it hurts your wallet. Eating out it non-fastfood joints is expensive. I guess it’s more motivation to work/earn more. Eventually, we managed to get the fastfood out of our system that whenever I smell a whiff of a regular yum, I get nauseated. I occasionally indulge in a KFC Zinger or a Sausage McMuffin once in a while, but for the most part, I’ve phased out fastfood as part of my diet. See my post in my personal blog on where I do eat out near my office here.

To be continued…