Sunday, October 28, 2012

Battle of the bulge

October 26, 2012

By Winston A. Marbella

A leading cooking oil company  has launched an information campaign as part of a global effort to reduce the increasing consumption of harmful fats, especially among children.  

As part of its corporate social responsibility program, Limketkai Manufacturing, makers of Marca Leon corn oil, is conducting an educational campaign to educate  parents about the dangers of  bad fats in the diet.

The World Bank has urged third-world countries to enact laws to encourage good food processing practices and control trans-fats content in food in the global fight against rising non-communicable diseases (NCD) like high blood pressure.

“These efforts, such as more effective legislation on the use of trans-fats and tobacco as well as public education to reduce salt intake would help delay the onset of these diseases,” the bank said in a report in Sri Lanka recently.

2 epidemics

Two epidemics are currently raging in poor countries---the all-too-familiar hunger and malnutrition and a more pernicious one, obesity.  Overweight afflicts 42 million children under the age of five, 35 million of whom live in third-world countries like the Philippines.

Alarmed, the World Health Organization is calling for action to end the epidemic of child obesity by reducing marketing of unhealthy foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children.

NYC bans trans-fats

The government of New York City has banned the use of trans-fats in all restaurants.

WHO says children worldwide are exposed to marketing of foods high in fat, sugar or salt. And this increases the potential of younger generations developing non-communicable diseases during their lives.

The WHO report says non-communicable diseases already account for 60 percent of deaths worldwide, or more than 35 million people, with a majority of these deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries.

WHO officials cite poor diet as one of the four common causes of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and chronic lung diseases, leading to more than nine million premature deaths. 

Good oil 
According to the  the Marca Leon corn oil website (, heart disease remains the biggest killer in the Philippines.

Other health factoids from the  information website:

---You can control cholesterol levels through diet and exercise. Corn oil boosts “good” cholesterol (HDL).  Saturated fats boost “bad” cholesterol (LDL).

---Regular exercise lowers bad LDL cholesterol levels and boosts HDL good cholesterol. No more than 35 percent of your daily calories shouild come from fats.

---Polyunsaturated fats are good fats. Corn oil contains 85 percent unsaturated fatty acid, 59% polyunsaturated acid (Omega 3 and 6), 24% monounsaturated fatty acid (Omega 9), and only nine to 13% saturated fatty acid.

---The right combinarion of fatty acids in corn oil leads to a healthy heart. Corn oil is rich in Betacarotene and Vitamin E, good for the skin and growth, and Thiamine, Niacin, Lecithin and Folic Acid for good health.

---Corn oil is rich in good minerals like phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, iron and copper.

Good taste
Because corn oil has a neutral taste, it imparts no harmful flavors to the food, thus making food taste better.   

Corn oil is rich in plant nutrients which lower cholesterol and protect the body from certain types of cancer such is prostrate, breast and colon. It is also free of transfats associated with hypertension in certain medical studies.

TV ads to blame

WHO blames television advertising largely for the marketing of unhealthy foods. It says there is evidence advertisements influence children’s food preferences, purchase requests and consumption patterns.

In the United States, a mother---with the support of an advocacy group---has filed a class-action suit against a fast-food chain for  a sales promotion which invites children to collect a new toy every so often. 

Clinton example

The legal arguments can go either way.  In earlier cases involving the use by food manufacturers of potentially harmful trans-fats, a standard cooking ingredient in fast-food kitchens, the companies settled out of court.

Former US President Bill Clinton is a celebrated example of how fast-food addiction can lead to heart problems.  Clinton underwent multiple heart bypass surgery after leaving office, adopted a healthy-eating lifestyle, and now appears to be in the pink of health.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Street art for the masses

People's Tonight
October 23, 2012

By Winston A. Marbella 

Nakakain ba ang art? Does art really improve our quality of life?”  With these words Prof. Acel German begins her lecture at the good governance class for barangay officials of the Pimentel Institute for Local Governance, which Mayor Alfredo Lim invited to Manila.

The institute, named for former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., has been training barangay officials in the craft of good governance.  The class on barangay art is one of its innovative approaches. 

Professor German continues, “Many Filipinos share the belief that “Art is the monopoly of the elite and that one can never appreciate art when the stomach is empty.

“But, there are studies proving that art engagement improves individual health, psychological well-being, skills and creativity.”
Professor German adds, “Art regenerates the community … the people involved feel an increased sense of pride and appreciation of their town.”

Key concerns

She cautions that “Sustainability of art projects depends to a great extent on the sense of local ownership. Involving the community in the art projects gives them a sense of ownership of the project. They begin to care for it and values its sustainability.”


To ensure success, she advises the communities to explore available talents, manpower, materials and art spaces.

“Art programmers must be sensitive in spotting raw talent from among a group of fishermen, drivers, mothers,” she says.

Multi-sectoral collaboration is also essential: “Involve the church, youth organizations, women’s groups, local associations,” she advices.


“Partnership with the business sector is encouraged,” she says. “Arts attract investments. By improving a community’s image, people may feel more confident about investing in the community.”

She suggests several barangay art ideas that would be easy to implement:


“Planners can explore community values creatively through storytelling,” she says.

“Storytelling allows people to present ideas about place and experience and to define their roles in those contexts.” 

She adds: “As a creative tool, storytelling helps planners understand how people in the community are seeing, have seen, and would like to see their location.”

Mural art

“Mural art as an engagement technique can be applied in settings such as celebrations of history, commemorations, and educational events. Community members can paint in small groups, perhaps with the guidance of an artist or planner,” she suggests.

“Sketching or art contests can involve the public in urban design,” she says. 

“Urban design can encompass a broad range of elements (e.g. street furniture, waiting shed, signage, entryways, parks, and plazas) It can be helpful to call for sketches and art ideas from the public for a specific project type.”

Sari-sari stores

“Instead of lewd posters promoting liquors, barangay leaders can encourage store owners to beautify their stores,” she says.

She also suggests creative signage for doors and gates in the community, and using art for environmental advocacy like recycling. 

As creative examples of local art galleries, she cites the following: the Enigmata Treehouse, Camiguin Island, and Fundacion Pacita Natures Lodge in
Basco, Batanes, a tribute to international artist Pacita Abad, who hails from Batanes.

Enigmata Treehouse Gallery

For easy-to-manage art programs, she suggests kite flying, a paper lantern festival, and a sand art festival.

Even the Internet can be mobilized for art programs:  “Optimize the use of the new media,” she urged the participants. “Join  the Google Earth sketch-up project.”

Institute of integrity

The Piimentel Institute was established two years ago to make available programs that promote good governance down to the barangay level.  Mayor Lim has engaged Pimentel to conduct a series of seminars for Manila barangay officials

Pimentel, who authored the landmark Local Government Code while still a senator, is the institute's guiding light. 

(The author is chief executive of a think tank consultancy specializing in transforming social and cultural trends into effective business strategy and public policy; e-mail