Friday, January 25, 2008

Hacienda Macalauan

“Apparently, sticking our arms into lots of cow shit has not curbed our appetite.”

The Monday after Herbalife’s Spectacular, Che and I stayed the whole day at the English Department of Ateneo de Manila University giving teachers a free health and wellness evaluation that includes a fat analysis. Side tripped to Jesscom and shopped for shoes in Baranka, Marikina. At around 6 p.m., left for Laguna to visit my brother, Bayani, in Hacienda Macalauan, a dairy farm that provides the milk of Manila-based coffee shops (except Starbucks).

It is already dark when Bayani and Grace, his girlfriend, pick up me and Cheryl at a road junction in the blue car that he and his three colleagues share. When we arrive, Bayani parks in front of a huge sprawling air-conditioned house that has a huge living room, four big bedrooms, a television, a washing machine and a dryer, and a huge refrigerator. (Kuyawa uy.) Maiden is the only other vet in the house; the other vets are in Thailand and in Makati. When Bayani and Grace’s former schoolmates at UP LosBanos, Jae and Elma, arrive, Che and I get to work on the Herbalife demo and answer everyone’s questions. First mission accomplished.

The next morning, Che and I get up from our sofa beds in the living room to find that Bayani and Maiden have already left to check up on the cows. So with camera in tow, Che and I step out of the house to explore the dairy farm by ourselves. For about 30 minutes, we stand watching in fascination at 10 male cows or “bulls” who are taking turns mounting each other. One bull’s nose is tied to a metal bar and the other bull is led to stand behind it. Everyone waits patiently for the second bull to mount the first one. Why are the farmhands urging one bull to have sex with another bull?

Bayani arrives and explains that that’s how semen’s collected from the animals. A single ejaculation is collected, and when it is processed, some 100 straws can be produced from it. In the laboratory, each straw has the potential to become a cow or a bull after its fertilized with an egg. The resulting male eggs are discarded, only the female eggs are kept and implanted in a cow’s ovary. In Hacienda Macalauan, female cows are valued for their milk and bulls are valued for their semen.

He continues the lecture: one bull can mate naturally with 10 cows. But here in Hacienda Macalauan, because of artificial insemination, one bull can provide processed semen for over a hundred cows. Bayani: What we are doing is not genetic modification but selection. We select the traits we like in a cow or bull, and because of these traits we use them in breeding, so that these traits will be passed on to their offspring. He laughs and shrugs: This is how it goes on all farms. With pigs too you know. (Me: I’m glad I’m not a cow. Bayani: You should be glad you’re not any farm animal. Me: Bitaw no?)

We hop on the motorbike and Bayani drives us to the part of the farm where Maiden oversees the milking of the cows. Four heavy metal tubes are attached to each cow’s tits. The pressure sucks the milk which flows into a hose and is then collected in a container. If there’s no more milk that flows through the hose, that means the cow has no more milk and the tubes are removed. Bayani says it’s important to suck out all the milk from the cow’s tits, I mean, breasts, to avoid infection. I watch Maiden demonstrate how to milk a cow with her hand. Then it’s my turn. I curl my fingers around the black rubber-like tit, first the thumb and my pointing finger and then the rest of my fingers. Yippee, a strong spurt of milk!

Next stop: infanticipating cows. There’s a row of cows lined up beside each other. Bayani leads one into a pen so tiny that the cow can barely move. He then puts on a glove that reaches up to his armpits and covers his right shoulder, he rubs a lotion on the glove, and then slowly sticks his hand up the anus of the poor beast. When Bayani removes his hand, bits of dark brown shit tumble out. Cheryl and I shriek in disgust. Once all the shit’s removed, Bayani’s whole arm disappears in the anus.

He explains: “First, you have to remove all the cow’s shit. Close your hand when you put it in the anus. Once inside, spread your hand flat and feel the fetus.” Che gives it a try and tentatively puts her hand in the cow’s behind. Gosh it’s hot, she says. Then she pushes further, her whole arm now stuck in the cow’s behind. She gets alarmed when the cow’s butt muscles contract and she shrieks. I snap a picture to send to her husband, Bryan. Second mission accomplished.

It’s now 9:30 a.m. Time for breakfast. Che and I leave Bayani with his cows and head towards the house where a delicious meal of fish and eggs is waiting on the table. Apparently, sticking our arms into lots of shit has not curbed our appetite. Thanks Doc Broeck for the amazing tour!

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Genevieve, Rolita and Analyn

When I was in Manila, I texted some high school classmates to get together: Kristin, Armi May, Maye Ann, Stella, Sheila, Arianne, Amihan, and Dominador. Armi texted back that she’s in Thailand, Stella texted she’s in Antique, Kristin let me know she’d try to make it. The rest, no reply. At the last minute, good old Jerry preferred to leave me in the hands of my girl friends. So that’s how I met up with Genevieve, Rolita and Analyn at the Renaissance hotel’s lobby. Hadn’t seen Gen since last summer, Rolita since 2001, and Analyn since 1998.

(Genevieve is a good friend from Antique who is now teaching creative writing in La Salle University. Rolita was my elementary and high school classmate. She is now based in Manila and into the outsourcing business. Analyn was a classmate in college. She’s also based in Manila working as the accountant of a chain of restaurants.)

So there we were sitting in a corner of the Renaissance’s lobby – me and the three friends I got to know during different parts of my life. Funny thing was that they all knew me but didn’t know each other. It was so good to see them and talk about our work, etcetera! Shared to them of course my Herbalife story, then we went out for a late dinner in a Thai restaurant in Greenbelt. Had an interesting conversation about the guy who has all the books of Richard Dawkins. More I shall say not. (If I spill every interesting thing that we talked about, nobody would want to meet up with me anymore knowing that the next week they’d end up in my blog. So, pasensya na mo.)

At about past ten we called it a night because the next day was a Monday. I’m looking forward to Analyn coming to Davao this March, Rolita coming in December (tinuod?), and Genevieve I’ll be seeing again in April I suppose.

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There are no fat ferraris

Went to Manila last weekend to join Herbalife’s Spectacular gathering. Was impressed by the before and after results of Herbalifers. Especially the man with the nine-month beer belly that just disappeared. (Pregnant-looking males out there – there’s still hope for you!) One woman with a terrific sense of humor said she’s 60, but looked like she’s 35. Her secret? She drinks about 6 shakes a day. With that much fiber and vitamins and minerals a day, how can she not be detoxified! Another woman who looked huge before when she was in her 30s, but fit and trim now that she’s in her late 50s, said that she has probably one of the unhealthiest families – diabetes, UTI, constipation, ulcer – you name it, they have it. But with the herbal food of Herbalife - she’s been able to “correct” those problems, slim down, and increase her energy level! I found it inspiring to see so many people like her look very unhealthy when they were younger, but now that they’re older look much, much younger.

Another highlight of Spectacular gathering was Dr. Luigi Gratton, the sexy and good-looking top physician of Herbalife who is also the nutritionist of LA Galaxy, David Beckham’s soccer team. (My companions, Evelyn and Cheryl, gushed that Dr. Luigi has the cutest butt which I didn’t dare contest because every time he ventured into the crowd, women screamed.) Dr. Luigi answered technical questions about how many percent of this is in that tablet and so on. That’s a seemingly uh, not very interesting conversational topic, but boy was Dr. Luigi clear and precise. His eloquence, as well as the fun and passion with which he talked about herbs and the human body, made me actually feel bad that I didn’t study to be a doctor myself.

Gala night found us all sitting in our immaculate gowns and suits around dinner tables on which were laid out the softest wheat bread. The main course was a choice between salmon and beef. No soft drinks, only iced tea; and fruits for dessert. The whole time, top distributors of Herbalife were made to go on stage and receive long-stemmed red roses instead of the usual medals and trophies. More testimonials. More picture-taking. All the while in my head: “Some people waste their health going after wealth only to later on spend their wealth to try and take back their health.”

DR. LUIGI GRATTON: “The human body is like a car’s engine. It needs fuel to function. The difference is that when you put too much gasoline in a car’s engine, the gasoline just spills out. But if you eat more food than your body needs, the food will just be absorbed… and absorbed… and absorbed by your body. The point is: there’s no such thing as a fat Ferrari.”

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

My Year In A Nutshell

Last year was one of the best and worst years. Finished my thesis, graduated with an MA degree and said goodbye to friends in Ateneo de Manila University; visited Bayani in Los Banos, Evohn in Antique, and went snorkeling in Palawan; joined a “peace” meeting in Midsayap; made the first two big investments of my life – talakitok and equities in Philam. Broke up with Ariel (sigh) but rediscovered friendships with Giselle (I’d like to believe) and Joey Baby. Watched four friends get hitched: Julie to Jun-jun, Joey to Chris, Chechu to Bryan, and Doms to Erwin.

For five months, had been dead set on spending my work leave volunteering in China. Even got all the prerequisites but then changed my mind because it dawned on me that I’d have to teach English as a Foreign Language which is more tiring than teaching English as a Second Language.

To get my mind off my first love, Joey let me host VIEWFINDER on MIX FM with the top college debaters in Mindanao as regular guests. But listeners complained we were too serious. So from political dynasties and animal testing, we switched to relationships, sports and the Internet. One caller suggested we talk about whether masturbation is evil. I told her, “No problem, stay tuned.”

Fran got me hooked on Multiply where I have posted the pics of that painful climb up Mount Dulang-Dulang, the best preserved mountain in the Philippines according to George Tapan. The wind and rain gushing through the trees sounded like angry waves crashing and colliding. That’s how it seemed like the entire time we were up there some 2,800 meters above sea level.

With Linda’s encouragement, I started polishing my pen through blogspot and revived my trusty Macho I Love Yous and Ode to Ms. Javellana to name some. (This year, the blog entries are going to be shorter, I promise.)

I went to the gym regularly, running as fast as I could and feeling great, my mountain bike waiting for me in vain. Persistent Che who looked great without exercise kept on bugging me about joining Herbalife. Finally I conceded and joined a meeting in a room of non-stop clapping and gushing: “wow!” “amazing!” “yes!” Now I’m part of the crazy bunch of former security guards, single moms, dentists, manicuristas, students, NGO workers, and entrepreneurs.

Mind you, I’ve become a lover of Herbalife’s chocolate shake yet haven’t given up on my exercise. This is how I intend to still feel and look like I’m 35 even if I’m already 60. If Cory Quirino can do it and tons of other people, so can I! When she and Jaime Licaoco came to Davao City and held a talk about healing body, mind and spirit at the Royal Mandaya hotel, I dropped everything I was doing just to listen to them. Mr. Jaime told us, “We humans use only 1% of our brains.” That got me thinking about my own underused brains.

At home one night, Yummy got the terrific idea for me to pursue law school just like her. “Maya, you’re good in English and you’re hardworking,” she said. Her enthusiasm rubbed off on me and I spent hours solving math problems (my waterloo) in order to pass the entrance exams to law schools around the country. All the while I fantasized about how I’d defeat in court the multinational companies that are encroaching on Davao City’s watersheds. What a fulfilling life I thought. Two months later, Father Nazareno and some newspaper columns about how hard law school really is made me change my mind again. (I’m finicky I know.)

Good thing, Paul happened and made me realize filming’s what I really want to pursue. The offers poured in one documentary after another and soon I was digging into my savings to buy my own videocamera, an extra battery, a microphone, a headphone, lights, and teamed up with college buddy, Arthur a.k.a. Ian. I liked life behind the cameras so much that I decided to apply for a film school scholarship in Singapore, got positive results, only to be turned down by my bosses. Too expensive daw. Besides, there are enough local teachers to teach Mass Communications daw. Bummer. But I’m not giving up!

Cheska’s good friend, Ryan gave me the contact numbers of Filipino filmmaker, Nick de Ocampo who graduated at the top of his class at the New York Film Academy. He’s been making documentaries for at least two decades now. And he headed the guerilla filmmaking workshop in Davao City which Ryan joined. I’m going to e-mail Mr. Nick today and try to join the two-month film workshop he always gives in summer.Have a fabulastic new year everyone!

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