Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Decade: “Living Long Enough To Live Forever”

Bill Clinton        Rebecca "Becky" Singson-Zahar     Ray Kurzweill

I belong to the Gal-lang Maynigo Clan. There are many things to be proud of by being a member of this clan. Readers of my column, my blog and my Facebook notes found out some of them and will continue to do so during the course of our lives. But there is one thing that seems to bedevil each and every member of the clan. Based on our genes, we are all expected to have heart diseases.

Indeed, my parents died of heart disease. So did two of my siblings and several of my cousins. My two other sisters who now live in California have had several heart surgeries. In my case, I have had a triple by-pass, a stroke, and just a few months ago, a heart attack after which a stent was placed in my coronary artery..

I am sure that there are families out there who are similarly situated or might be soon without realizing it. This article might interest them as well.

I just graduated from my Cardiac Rehabilitation Program and coupled with my regular exercises at my sports gym, I am quite optimistic about the future relating to my health and to that of my entire clan.

In my heart procedure, only one stent was required. I was told by my cardiologists that because of my regular exercises small arteries were naturally created connecting to my heart allowing greater and better blood flow.

Over the years, the traditional reading for one’s blood pleasure for me was that, if the diastolic was low, it would be okay even if the systolic was high.  After some diligent research and self-involvement of my healthcare, I found out that the systolic also mattered.  Trying out certain drugs and coupling them with gym exercises lowered the systolic. But this was not regular. Sometimes the systolic was still high. It turned out that during those times I was taking my medicines together with the recommended fiber food (oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat bread, etc.) that I was eating.

The effectiveness of the medication is greatly reduced when taken within two hours of eating fiber. Knowing that and changing the eating and medicine-taking time, my blood pressure, be it systolic or diastolic has been normal or low ever since.

Medication, exercise, diet, lifestyle, and new technologies are the major factors in the prevention and cure of heart and other diseases.

I understand that a maximum intake of 1600 calories daily would be good. This means that daily, a combination of 5 servings of starches and grains, a minimum of 3 cups of vegetables, 2 pieces or cups of fruits, 2 servings of milk, dairy and dairy alternatives and 8 oz servings of proteins (fish, lean meat, eggs, etc.) would be ideal.

High fat deserts, regular canned and cream-based soups, butter, coconut oil, partially hydrogenated oils, relish, sea-salt, and hard liquor should be avoided.

Former President Bill Clinton who has had a triple by-pass and a stent procedure  believes that based on certain studies the blockage of our arteries could be reversed through diet and exercise. He is now part of an experiment aimed precisely to accomplish this.

When I was still maintaining an office in Makati, Philippines a few years ago I joined the Rotary Club of Makati Dasmarinas. In one of our luncheon meetings, the first President of the club and also the Chairperson of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City Dr. Rebecca “Becky” Singson-Zahar made a presentation I will never forget. It was entitled, “The Possibility of Not Dying Is Just Around the Corner” explaining the advances in stem cell research, the effectiveness of transplants such as heart, kidney and other body parts and the invention/discoveries of new technologies in the field of medicine. Dr. Becky is a strong advocate of healthy living and is known to teach her patients how to eat right, exercise, relax, and rest.

Settling back in the United States for medical reasons, I came across the works of a multi-awarded and well respected author, scientist, inventor and futurist, Ray Kurzweil. He had written several interesting books but I will discuss only two in this article. Together with Dr. Terry Grossman, an expert on human longevity, Kurzweil authored and published “Fantastic Voyage: Living Long Enough To Live Forever”, and “Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever.”

In both books, they have essentially asserted that we can tap today’s revolution in biotechnology and nanotechnology to virtually live forever. They claim that startling discoveries in the areas of biotechnology, nanotechnology and genomics are occurring every day, As one reviewer said, “The array of scientific knowledge is mind-bending and that it is now possible to prevent nearly 90 % of the maladies that kill us including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and liver disease.  It will be feasible for 10% of our blood cells to be replaced by artificial cells, radically extending our life expectancy and enhancing our physical and even mental abilities beyond what is humanly possible.”

According to them, the brain is like a muscle: use it lose it. The brain can be exercised showing that relevant brain growth can be stimulated with letter differentiation training.

They did not only talk of possibilities and feasibilities, they actually made predictions. Some of their predictions worth mentioning are:

1.      In the 2020’s nanobiotic cameras will perform endoscopies and colonoscopies; physicians will almost never examine patients by hand (or stethoscope), using imaging technologies instead;
2.      In 2023, stem cells will be able to overcome nerve damage such as spinal injuries; sleep can be replaced with devices and medication; drug therapies will be able to turn off bad genes or add new ones; robotic sex will be popular; most types of meat can be grown artificially in factories; early detection will make heart disease and cancer rarer and greatly improve survival rates; many injuries and genetic damage can be fixed using stem cells;
3.      In 2034, blood-stream nanobots will enhance memory and learning ability; bloodstream nanobots will replace some red blood cells greatly increasing oxygenation efficiency and reducing the emergency nature of a heart attack; virtual reality sex will be a reality; gene therapies will erase virtually all genetic problems.

In a book written several years ago, Kurzweil had made 109 predictions. Of these, 89 proved to be correct, 13 essentially correct, 6 partially correct and 1 has still to occur. .

With such a batting average, I would not bet against Kurzweil and his co-author. The best strategy is to stay in good health while we wait for technology advances which will greatly extend life.

Medication, exercise, diet, lifestyle and new technologies will make us live long enough to lend us the possibility, feasibility and even the predictability of living forever. Why not?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Remembering my First Christmas in America

 "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11)

I would have wanted to write about what I remember during my first Christmas in the Philippines but I was only a day and a half young then. Despite some scientific studies showing that babies of that age already have cognitive faculties, I must admit that I could not remember anything that would at least be of interest or significance to anybody. All I know is that I was born and baptized as Benjamin “JESUS” Maynigo, two days after my mother celebrated her birthday on the 21st of December and close to that of our Lord’s.
Baptismal Certificate bearing "JESUS" as middle name

But my first Christmas in America is something I remember and can scribble about as a writer. As a teenager living with an American foster family in Seal Beach, Orange County, California as a foreign exchange student under the American Field Service International Scholarship Program, I got to experience the Christmas of my life.

The Bauchwitz family were devout Catholics who followed most of the traditions that go with Christmas celebrations such as going to mass, Christmas parties, family reunions, caroling, Christmas cards and gift giving. Because I was far away from home, my foster family planned our Christmas so that it would be fun and memorable for me.

Let me focus on the gift-giving part. I loved it because understandably I was more a lucky recipient of those who in the spirit of Christmas were very happy to give me gifts. My foster Grandparents, for example, gave me seven gifts. I also received presents from my foster parents, three foster brothers (Harold, Barry and Freddie), foster sister Kay Ann, and foster Uncles and Aunties. Since I was adopted by the 200-member Seal Beach Women’s Club, I should receive a gift or gifts from them, right? Yes, I did. The AFS Club in school and the AFS Committee in the community somehow showed a similar spirit by also giving me gifts. What about the neighbors and my newly-found friends? Of course, they did! It was Christmas time and I was a very willing, thankful and appreciative gift receiver.  

While receiving gifts was fun and joyful, receiving and reading the Christmas cards from relatives and friends was as satisfying. Leading the way was my sister Manang Perla who was working as a nurse at the Mayo Clinic at that time and who also managed to insert a check. I also got cards from sisters Loreto and Nelly. Among my first cousins in the Maynigo side, I still have in my scrapbook the cards from Manang Ruth Maynigo Danao, Manong Manoling Maynigo and Father Vic Maynigo Arenas. From my first cousin on my mother’s side Manang Conching Gal-lang Raquel Duran was a memorable card. So were the Christmas cards that I received from friends such as Mrs. Felix Coloma and daughters Nenita, Olga and Bebe, Mrs. Flora Bass who featured me in the Philippines Free Press and town mate Manong Zosimo de Veas.
BGM with gifts and Christmas gift tags

Christmas Cards

Christmas is not just about having fun and gift-giving. It is also about giving up something you enjoy for others and meeting your responsibilities. While I could not afford to buy gifts, I remember giving up something which I enjoyed so much in order to meet my responsibilities as an AFS student and as a foster child.

Before coming to the United States, I enjoyed playing basketball in the Philippines. I was our high school’s Team Captain of the basketball team. In fact, I made it to the Pangasinan (provincial) Team which became the Central Luzon Athletic Association (ClAA) Champion. My being in the short list for the AFS Scholarship and the leading candidate to be Class Valedictorian prevented me from joining the team to the National Interscholastic Athletic Association Meet.

In Huntington Beach-Marina High School, I was recruited to try out for the Varsity Basketball Team by the one slotted to be Team Captain who played with me during gym class and against me during Intramurals. I enjoyed the drill and try-out sessions so much that I popularized the shout, “faster” which is the English translation of “bilis”.

I was told later that I made the team but I had to join all the practice sessions during the holidays and would have to miss some AFS speaking engagements and trips. It would have ruined the vacation plans of my foster parents and disappointed the local AFS Committee. At 5’8”, I would have been the shortest “small forward” but arguably the fastest, having been a one hundred meter dash runner in the Philippines.

I gave up basketball and the company of beautiful cheer leaders that came with it. But to Lake Tahoe, San Francisco and Sacramento we went and enjoy we did.  And more gifts in the process! So I had no regrets.

Pictures are worth a thousand of words. So I am reserving part of my space to show some scanned images that illustrate what I wrote above.

Let me end by quoting the words of some famous songs about Christmas:

“What a bright time, it’s the right time; To rock the night away.” (Jingle Bell Rock)

“Long lay the world; In sin and error pining; ‘Till he appeared and the soul felt his worth. The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.” (Oh Holy Night)

“Yet in thy dark streets shineth; The everlasting Light; The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” (O Little Town of Bethlehem)

Merry Christmas and MAyNIGOng Bagong Taon!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reperire veritatem – Finding The Truth

Argumentum contra factum non-valet ilatio. Arguing against facts is not a valid inference.

Reductio ad absurdum. Reduced to absurd or untenable conclusions.

As a Philosophy major and as a member of the Huntington Beach High (CA.), AB and Law debating teams of San Beda College (Philippines), I learned the above-mentioned Latin precepts as ways of winning arguments, thus in most cases leading to debate victories.

Indeed, if the facts support your argument, no amount of shouting or maneuvering would change the inevitable outcome of the case. In our judicial system, it should be expected that truth always prevails.

When Noynoy Aquino was asked to run for President after his mother’s death, the clamor was for somebody to step up to provide hope, humility, honor and honesty in governance. During the campaign, Noynoy was heard promising to the people that he would make use of all available resources of the Presidential Office to substantially minimize if not totally eradicate graft and corruption. Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap! When criticized for his performance as a legislator he said, “There are enough laws already made”.

He was elected overwhelmingly with that mandate, among others. The hope for a humble man running an honest government is finally here to bring honor to his people, his parents, and his country.

In an article published by the Asian Journal USA on June 18, 2010, page 18 entitled, “BENIGNO ‘NOYNOY’ AQUINO AND THE CORY CONSTITUTION” (, I wrote about the Presidential Oath and what it would take to be an effective President by consecrating himself in defense and support of the Cory Constitution and in the execution of the laws which are more than “enough”.

As mandated by the Filipino people P-Noy is now taking the necessary steps to gather information and facts about the anomalies that occurred during the “previous administration” or specifically, the GMA tenure. This is admittedly in consonance with his executive and administrative powers. This is why the Department of Justice and all law enforcement agencies including the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the police and armed forces are under the President.

Gathering and determining the facts is necessary for the courts to interpret and apply laws as well as make wise and sound judgments. It is necessary for legislators to conduct investigations and search for the truth “in aid of legislation”.  It is likewise necessary for the President to have sufficient facts “in aid of an effective and efficient execution and enforcement of laws.”

Through Executive Order No. 1, P-Noy created the Truth Commission with data gathering and fact-finding duties regarding large scale graft and corruption during the previous administration.

President Diosdado Macapagal had his Presidential Anti-Graft Committee (PAGCOM); President Carlos Garcia, his Presidential Committee on Administrative Performance Efficiency (PCAPE); President Ramon Magsaysay, his Presidential Complaints and Action Committee (PCAC); and President Elpidio Quirino had his Integrity Board.

President Cory Aquino, of course, created the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) while President Joseph Estrada established the Saguisag Commission. President Marcos exercised dictatorial powers most of his tenure and was known to have used even torture in gathering information. President Gloria M. Arroyo is also accused of using similar tactics to elicit information.

Except for PCGG which still exists today, all the aforementioned bodies were ad hoc committees with limited terms of existence. The Truth Commission is like the latter.

My opinion is that P-Noy did not have to issue Executive Order No.1 in order to accomplish the objectives defined thereof. The Cory Constitution, Section 17 (1) Article VII, the Administrative Code of 1987 and other existing laws have provided him sufficient powers to go on a fact-finding and data gathering mission. In fact, the PCGG and the Department of Justice can independently assume such functions under the law.

But he did and the Supreme Court, led by a Chief Justice who was once the Presidential Chief of Staff and Acting Executive Secretary of the “previous administration” which is the subject of the fact-finding body, declared it “unconstitutional” because it is allegedly violative of the “equal protection clause”. It declares that the EO, by limiting the class to the “previous administration”, discriminates in favor of other past administrations. In fact, it proposes that it corrects the under inclusion by adding the letter “s” to become “previous administration(s).”

This is when I thought of the second Latin precept, reductio ad absurdum. If the proposition is followed, the Supreme Court is virtually telling P-Noy that for the EO to be constitutional, it should also investigate all previous administrations up to the time of President Emilio Aguinaldo – going back about 112 years. Considering that the prescriptive periods for many have lapsed and the likelihood that the truth has been buried with the potential suspects, persons of interest, and witnesses, plus the fact that resources are limited, it is indeed virtually impossible, untenable and ABSURD to comply, thus negating the reason for its being.

That indeed is reducing to absurdity all efforts to find the truth.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ps Be With You

“PEACE BE WITH YOU!” Every Sunday at church during mass and every mass that I attended ever since I can remember, I have never missed saying these words.  So do hundreds of millions of other Catholics worldwide as each repeat what Jesus said, “Sholam alay kum” (Luke 24:36) when he was talking to the Apostles.
Muslims also say it (Salaam Alekem) on a regular basis and so do the Jews (Shalom Aleichem).

Yet peace is precisely what eluded the Philippines, a country where over 90% of its population is Christian and a certain percentage is Muslim. The only times when there was virtually complete peace was when Pacquiao had championship boxing fights because the military, the Muslim rebels, the communist dissidents, the police and the criminals stopped to watch the bouts.       

Philippines is indeed beset with numerous problems. Enumerated in a brainstorming session that I chaired are: Patayan (crimes and rebellion); Poverty; Payables (debts); Paychecks (unemployment); Pagkain (food & hunger); Population explosion (unwanted pregnancies); Peddling of influence (graft and corruption); Pork; Pollution; Puppetry; Patronage; Patay-patay (slow and ignorant) and among others.

Provided as solutions to the problems are: Prayers; Panacea; P-Noy; People with Power;  Pacquiao; Prelates, Priests and/or Preachers; Passionate people; Point men; Plans; Programs; Projects; Proposals; Policies; Procedures; Preparation; Perspiration; Parental authority and responsibility; Patents (creativity & inventions); Peace; Poverty alleviation; Patriotism;  Pedagogy; Portable computers & phones; Pens; Pencils; Paper; Pilots; Patrons; Papal and/or Pastoral teachings and others.

I learned at an early age that there are really no problems. There are only challenges.  What the Philippines faces as challenges require passion, preparation and perspiration.  Pre-requisite is knowledge and familiarity of the Ps described as problems or challenges.
P-Noy and other people of power and influence must absorb and inculcate in their respective minds and hearts the immensity of these Ps that they, and the people  they serve, are facing.

It should be noted that while the problems enumerated in the brainstorming session are all Ps for a purpose, the provisions to solve them as mentioned in the same session are all Ps as well.

God helps those who help themselves. While prayers always accompany our endeavors, thus requiring mass participation led by priests, preachers and/or prelates, the Philippine political and socio-economic pilots must develop and implement efficient and effective plans, programs, projects, proposals, policies and procedures that would lead to a more peaceful and prosperous society.  A panacea is unattainable but as Catholics, many of our leaders and their followers are guided by Papal and Pastoral teachings which when adhered to create an environment where “miracles” could happen.

Poverty alleviation is a priority program. P-Noy ran for and won as President with this as a platform. In his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York he said, “We will not be passive players in our quest for development…… This is what our people put us in power for. This is what the world expects of us as leaders—to be exemplars of what it is to be compassionate human beings, and vanguards of hope for our common humanity.”  

In an article former NEDA Secretary Cielito Habito wrote, “As of last count in 2006, there were close to 4 million poor Filipinos. The poor make up one of every seven (14 percent) Americans; for Filipinos, it’s one of every three (33 percent). But even that may be underestimated: Social Weather Stations (SWS) tells us it’s close to one out of two (43 percent); Ibon Foundation says it’s two out of three (66 percent)…….We know of course that poverty is much more than simple lack of income. To be poor is to be deprived not just economically, but deprived in the social, environmental, cultural, political and spiritual dimensions as well. Recognizing this, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, in a summit of world leaders held in September 2000, adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aimed at cutting extreme poverty in half by 2015.”

P-Noy pledges to the United Nation “to channel the gains we might reap from Public Private Partnerships into social services, like those in health, education, and poverty alleviation.”
Pictures of Poverty in the Philippines - 1

Pictures of Poverty in the Philippines - 2

Pictures of Poverty in the Philippines - 3

Secretary Habito proposes that we look “to private finances as a potential source of funds for poverty reduction…. What’s needed are more creative ways of harnessing private sector finances to support the fight against poverty. One such creative mechanism has been the controversial PEACE Bonds whereby civil society organizations under the CODE-NGO network managed to raise a substantial endowment fund of P1.3 billion to provide sustainable financing for poverty-reduction initiatives by the non-government sector.”

Peace is a precondition to achieving prosperity. Programs and projects are hard to implement in an atmosphere where there is a lot of “patayan”.  Let us hope that the newly designated peace negotiators are patriotic enough to find the pathway to peace.

Portable computers and phones, pencils, pens and paper should be made available, accessible and affordable to the e-generation from which come the “digital natives”. They are the best hope for the creation of new, innovative and patentable products and technologies.

Payables or debts, be they foreign or domestic, sovereign or non-sovereign, remain a challenge for the country’s leadership. A plan to reduce the principal and correspondingly reduce the servicing of the same must be added in the list of priorities.

As shown, Ps come aplenty. Many of the problem Ps are self-explanatory but the solution Ps would require a lot of thinking, preparation and planning to explore and implement.

To P-Noy and all people concerned, as you appreciate how serious the challenges are and as you strive to tackle them with all the resources at your command, Ps Be With You!