Friday, October 26, 2007

Paper or Plastic? Reusable !

Though plastic bags are convenient and cheap, they do not biodegrade; they only photodegrade. That process, in which sunlight breaks down plastic into smaller and smaller pieces, can take up to a thousand years.

Plastic bags use up natural resources, consume petroleum in order to be manufactured, create litter, choke marine life and add to landfill waste.

Paper bags, though biodegradable, take more than four times as much energy to manufacture (which in turn produces greenhouse gases) than plastic bags. In 1999, 14 million trees were cut down to produce the 10 billion paper grocery bags used by Americans in that year alone.

Nations such as Australia, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Taiwan, India and Bangladesh have banned plastic bags or have imposed taxes on them in an effort to clean up their environment.

San Francisco is the first city in the United States to ban the use of plastic bags. The ordinance was passed last March and will take effect soon. In place of plastic bags, the city is advocating reusable, biodegradable bags.

I have taken to using re-usable bags to the grocery. Most of the time, I still forget them but it was just a matter of getting used to. Now I pack my groceries with pride, knowing I am keeping plastic bags away from the landfill. Many people come to ask me where I got them. I just point them to the right direction as every grocery store here sells them for 99 cents each, with a credit of 6 cents when you use them in-store.

Check out the whole article at The Antioch Press. See you there!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Community Library for Children

Opened only on Saturdays, the children's community library in Baranggay Paltok has been a highlight of the children in the area.

The kids are most eager, lining up early, for the story-telling sessions, and of course, to browse the many colored picture books:

I will try to find out how we can send them more books for their library.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Willy's Bagels

I did an interview with the Richardson family--Ron and Karen and their kids, Ryan, Scott and Julie, owners of Willy's Bagels & Blends in Brentwood.

I personally like bagels since my friend, M, taught me how to eat it with cream cheese and orange juice for breakfast when we were young and poor and New York. Since then, I have dreamed of opening a bakery in Tagaytay, Philippines when I retire. I have tried to make bagels twice in my life and to say that I was not successful means that the onion and garlic bagels that I so tenderly kneaded came out like rocks (but softer on the inside) and only my husband was kind enough to eat them!

I was blown away by the bagel showcase at Willy's: Plain. Blueberry. Sesame. Egg. Garlic. Whole Wheat. Poppy. Onion. Cinnamon Raisin. Salt. Jalapeno. Sourdough. Chocolate Chip. New York. Of course there was the Everything Bagel sprinkled with poppy, sesame, and sunflower seeds.

Their bagels are bigger and heftier, dough-y and specially made for sandwiches, but will definitely stand alone anytime, but better with their shmears (flavored cream cheeses) all the time.

There are also other goodies like danish and cookies and fresh-fruit smoothies.

The coffee is a special house-blend, roasted just for Willy's. They boast of a full range of coffee blends--from espressos to white chocolate mochas. And their prices are way more affordable than coffee chains.

I put their brewed house-blend to the test to fully investigate its flavors and undertones. Their coffee is mild and smooth and none of the acidic-sour taste of bigger chains. I enjoyed that cup of coffee a lot, and with my Homemade Chicken Salad on an Asiago Bagel sandwich for lunch, I was very happy.

There's something for everyone at Willy's. I saw a couple of kids enjoy their Chocolate Chip Bagels with cream cheese and chocolate milk. There were a couple of ladies who were lunching out.

A true family-owned and operated business, dad Ron said that everyone can "do everything." That means, each of them can bake, can sell, can clean, or run the stores. I could feel their tight bond as a family, where the children actually take a genuine interest in their parents' business and work ethics.

They are very much involved with the Brentwood community, raising funds for scholarships, hosting events, and even providing on-the-job-training for youth with special needs.

The Richardson family--Karen and Ron (front) and kids
Julie, Scott, and Ryan

Visit their new branch at 390 West Country Club Drive, Brentwood or call (925) 308-7534.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

A Note from the Universe

(picture from by openlens1)

First, as a child, it seems like the entire world is there for you and you rush to drink from its every cup, sometimes wondering to yourself how anything could ever be more fun.

Then, as you grow older, if you're observant, you realize much of what you enjoy was made possible by the contributions, work, and labor of those who came before you, and you're taken aback, disappointed even , because with maturity you can now see cracks in the fa├žades, imperfections in the details, and 10,000 ways it could have all been done better.

At which point, folks typically choose one of two paths: Spend a lifetime lamenting how far from perfect things are. Or, to one degree or another, roll up their sleeves and pitch in.

And should they choose the latter with gusto, dear Minotte, they will come to know, to the core of their sacred being, that the differences they might make in the world cannot be made by another. And then they will discover the answer to their often-wondered childhood question.... That the most fun one can have in time and space comes from making such a difference, and that the joy derived from serving is 10,000 times that of being served.

At your service -
The Universe

Monday, October 01, 2007

Candlelight Books update

Thank you, Candlelight Books!

It was a sunny day on July 18 when members of the South Upi Project Management Team (PMT) went to Cotabato City to receive a back-to-school present from Candlelight Books, USA. The drive from South Upi to Cotabato took 4 hours of travel on rough terrain but the trip was well worth it for 250 colorful and nearly-brand-new storybooks were waiting for new homes in the municipality’s elementary schools. The books were a gift from Candlelight Books, an initiative run by Ms. Minotte Cuenca from California, USA, to bring storybooks and learning materials to needy communities in the Philippines.

Colored story and picture books from Antioch, California donors and neighbors.

The members of the PMT were very pleased when the big balikabayan box revealed an assortment of books, pictures and even toys for storytelling. They were very excited especially since the need for such materials was raised to Synergeia during the teachers’ training held in April. Synergeia informed the group that unlike the first shipment of books, all Candlelight Books donations were sent to one municipality for this batch - to achieve scale and wider impact.

Children reading their local mimeographed textbooks.

The PMT held a meeting to discuss the mechanics of the storybook distribution. They decided to prioritize schools that already have existing mini-libraries to ensure that the books will be utilized and be maintained properly. Timaan Central School received 114 books while Pandan Elementary School received 130 books.

Students were very happy when the books were brought to class for reading sessions. Their eyes were bright with wonder upon seeing brightly colored pictures and reading about stories from other lands. Teachers expressed their deepest thanks to Candlelight Books and Synergeia, for providing them with these materials.

Existing library at South Upi School in Mindanao--mimeographed, old and uninteresting reading material

The PMT looks forward to helping the rest of the 31 elementary schools in South Upi to put up their own reading corners and libraries, with the support of partners.

  • Alvin Palao, Site Coordinator, South Upi, Maguindanao

South Upi, a fourth class municipality in the province of Maguindanao, is one of the newly opened programs of Synergeia in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). There are 1,312 grade one pupils in the municipality participating in a Synergeia reading program, which is supported by Telengtan Foundation. Half of the town is located along the coastal areas while the other half are locate in upland communities. Because of this topography, children have to travel several kilometers everyday to go to school. 90% of classes are multi-grade, meaning students from grades 1 to 3 are grouped in one class, as with grades 4 to 6. In an assessment examination, 9 out of 10 pupils can only read 3 out of 10 words correctly.