Your Horoscope for the week of July 30-August 5, 2014 (page B6 of the Manila Mail)

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#29 For the week of July 30-Aug. 5, 2014

ARIES (Mar 21-Apr 19) Adjust your schedule accordingly to comply with some new system. It’s always best to find the middle ground. Weekly mantra: I am balanced.
TAURUS (Apr 20-May 20) Someone is in charge, and that is definitely you. The powers-that-be are watching you and they are suitably impressed. Weekly mantra: I am a responsible person.
GEMINI (May 21-June 20) Every voice needs to be heard, even if it means initial confusion. Strive to reach an agreement with your colleagues. Weekly mantra: I am respectful.
CANCER (June 21-July 22) Do not try to control anyone else apart from yourself: it can only backfire. Try to reach a compromise in lieu of out-and-out war. Weekly mantra: I am peaceful.
LEO (July 23-Aug 22) Stand your ground: you have the crown. Don’t give in to emotional manipulation. Distinguish between lust and love. Weekly mantra: I am discerning and wise.
VIRGO (Aug 23-Sept 22) You’re in your element now when it comes to analyzing the route that your heart and love life will take. Listen to your inner voice. Weekly mantra: I am guided from within.
LIBRA (Sept 23-Oct 22) “Even tall trees bend,” goes a song by Fra Lippo Lippi. Then make the necessary adaptations so you can sway with the sweeping changes. Weekly mantra: I am ready.
SCORPIO (Oct 23-Nov 21) Keep your cool at work instead of angling for attention or power. Be inscrutable until you have a handle on other people’s motives. Weekly mantra: I am already powerful.
SAGITTARIUS (Nov 22-Dec 21) You do some of your best work when unsupervised. If your superiors have no idea, well, how about some modest self-promotion? Weekly mantra: I am a smart worker.
CAPRICORN (Dec 22-Jan 19) When it comes to a romantic competition, please go easy on both your hapless rival and the object of your affections. Weekly mantra: I play fair.
AQUARIUS (Jan 20-Feb 18) Don’t underestimate your ability to handle with aplomb a business or social situation. You will do very well, indeed. Weekly mantra: I am confident.
PISCES (Feb 19-Mar 20) This is not the time to slack off in paying attention to details, otherwise what was overlooked could be a problem later on. Weekly mantra: I am going to remember.

“The Old Farmer’s Almanac: Virtually Unchanged In 222 Years” in this week’s issue of the Manila Mail (July 30-August 5, 2014)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of July 30-Aug. 2, 2014


Nowadays when people need information on a certain subject, the tendency is to Google the inquiry or use an electronic application (app). The information obtained is as close as one’s computer or cell phone screen at the snap of the fingers. But what if certain types of information were grouped together into one hard-copy publication so that you can find a multitude of useful data all in one place?

Such is the unique and continuing appeal of the Old Farmer’s Almanac (OFA) which first went into publication in the year 1792, sixteen years after the signing of the USA Declaration of Independence. An “almanac,” according to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, is “a publication containing astronomical and meteorological data for a given year, and often including a miscellany of other information.” The OFA, being such a reference book, contains highly practical information on many topics which are directed toward its primary intended audience: farmers, especially those in Dublin, New Hampshire, the city where OFA was founded. Hence, it was a compendium of organized facts like weather forecasts, planting charts, tide tables, astronomical data, recipes, and other useful articles in astronomy, gardening, sports, and farming. The Almanac has been in print without any yearly gap since 1792, thereby making it the oldest continuously published periodical in North America.The Old Farmer’s Almanac was founded, edited, and published by Robert B. Thomas of Massachusetts. From an initial distribution of 3,000 in the first year, circulation tripled to 9,000 in the following year, 1793. At that time, a copy of the book was sixpence or about four cents.

There were other competing almanacs during that time but the OFA enjoyed enduring success, surviving longer than similarly named contenders, thanks in the most part to Thomas’ being at the editorial helm for more than 50 years (1792-1846). In 1832, with his almanac having outlasted others of its kind, Thomas added the word “Old” in the title but he dropped the word four years later in 1836. When John Henry Jenks was appointed editor with Thomas’ passing, the book’s name was permanently and officially revised to “The Old Farmer’s Almanac.”

The editors-in-chief of the Almanac, are counted from the founder, Robert B. Thomas in 1792 up to the current, 13th, first and only female so far, Janice Stillman, who took the reins in 2000 and is still serving at present. With regard to the succession of editors throughout the centuries, it can be said that some regimes introduced significant changes to the look and content of the Almanac, while some were content to merely keep the operations afloat with no intention to change anything. If we go back to the “ruling period” of John Henry Jenks (he was the editor from 1847-1860), it was then that the word “Old” was inserted into the publication’s title. Another change that Jenks initiated was the inclusion of the photo-engraving titled “Four Seasons” as the main cover illustration. This artwork was by Boston artist Hammatt Billings, engraved by Henry Nichols. Jenks dropped this cover for three years and then reinstated it permanently in 1855. This trademarked design is still in use today.

In the year 1858, President Abraham Lincoln may have used the Moon tables of the OFA to help his client, William “Duff” Armstrong, get acquitted. Armstrong was on trial for murder in Beardstown, Illinois (Illinois Historic Preservation Society). Apparently, the testimony of one eyewitness, Charles Allen, stated that he saw the crime happen by the light of the moon on August 29, 1857 (University of Illinois Library). However, the OFA stated that not only was the Moon in the first quarter (just waxing, definitely not full), but that it was also riding “low” on the horizon and about to set. However, since the actual hard copy of the almanac used by Lincoln in that trial was not retained for posterity, there still exists a bit of a controversy as to which almanac was actually used. In 2007, a competing almanac, the “Farmer’s Almanac,” based in Lewiston, Maine, ran an article claiming that the almanac in contention may have been one of theirs. Roger Scaife, if one was to go along with the historians at themselves, is definitely the “worst” editor that the OFA ever had. He took the reins in 1936 and for the first time in the Almanac’s history, circulation was down from previous years and the book’s financial status was questioned. His term coincided with the only time in the history of the Almanac that it declined precipitously in circulation and financial stability. (The 1938 edition had a circulation of only 88,000, compared with 225,000 in 1863!) Scaife also committed the greatest of all Almanac blunders: He dropped the weather forecasts! In their place, he substituted temperature and precipitation averages. The public outcry was so great that he reinstated the forecasts in the next year’s edition, but it was too late to save his reputation.

Relevance in the 21st century
Knowledge, entertainment, and instruction can be found in the pages of the Old Farmer’s Almanac. In fact, when one examines the Almanac, one finds that the pages are “busy” or crowded with all sorts of information. This was how the founder, publisher, and first editor Robert B. Thomas implemented the look he wanted for the publication; hence it has become a tradition. In my opinion, it is this hewing to tradition that contributes to the relevance of the Almanac to our current time. The retention of the Almanac’s essential look and purpose actually contributes to its relevance in the 21st century because its subscribers long for “the good old days.” There is comfort in knowing that some things will never change if those in charge can help it, and as proof, four million subscribers and counting as of the early 1990s when the publication hit its 200th year cannot all be wrong.

Edward Parks, in his article for the Smithsonian Magazine, writes that “One subtle reason for the Almanac’s present success may be the site of its editorial offices.” It appears that Dublin, New Hampshire, lies close enough to Monadnock, a great big mountain, “a favorite of Emerson’s, Thoreau’s and thousands of other New Englanders.” Monadnock, with its majestic size, eternal presence, and seasonal changes in foliage, reminds the editorial staff of “the nearness of nature and all its rhythms.” This mountain serves as a daily inspiration to these New Englanders, whose work ethic and conscientiousness are legendary among the various regions of our country. In effect, Parks is saying that the editorial staff of the Almanac is being imbued with energy to churn out an edition year after year with the mighty Monadnock as backdrop and the circulation among loyal subscribers who think the same way about the cycles of nature.
There is an undeniable sense of timelessness when considering the appeal of the Almanac. With each edition, one holds a piece of living history in one’s hands. Surely, to a sizeable portion of the North American population, history and tradition count for values that should be cherished, maintained, and supported in whatever form it appears, even in print. And why not in print? With the OFA’s unbroken history of publication for 222 years now, with only minimal changes in formatting and content, and with the ongoing mystique of arcana like astronomical tables and weather predictions which approach “80% accuracy,” these are the powerful elements that attracted the circulation of 3,000 way back in 1792 and the continuing patronage of more than 4 million subscribers now. As a reference, the USA population as of the beginning of July 2014 is 318 million (, meaning that 1.26% of the population read the OFA. Is this the other 1% – the future farmers going back to the cycles of nature?

The OFA’s content usually spans astronomy, gardening, how-to, calendar, folklore, home remedies, recipes, fun facts, history, and weather forecast updates. We posed the question at the beginning about the continuing visceral appeal of having all sorts of information available as something tangible right in our hands, and we are approaching the answer to the continuing relevance of the Old Farmer’s Almanac in this day and age. This writer thinks that there is a part of us that is longing for a simple life with minimal intrusions from electronic devices. This writer would go as far as to say that when our generation hits the extreme of too much dependence on technology, then cultural trends will gradually swing back the other way: toward simplicity, face-to-face communication, eye-to-eye contact, and other rare flora and fauna of “archaic” communication. Books and magazines will be in vogue again and people will actually read from a hard-copy source again instead of from their cell phones or tablets. That is this writer’s attempt at a fearless forecast, much like the Almanac’s forecasting staff makes weather predictions every year.

References: 2014. webpage. 27 July 2014.
David Guralnik, editor-in-chief. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1980.
Lamb, David. “”Almanac begins third century of know-and-tell”.” LA Times 1 February 1993: 5. print.
Library, University of Illinois. “Lincoln Room – Lincoln Collections .” n.d. 24 July 2014.
Parks, Edward. “”Weathering every season with one canny compendium”.” Smithsonian Magazine November 1992: 91-101. Print.
Rao, Joe. “A 100% guarantee and how we ‘may’ have helped a former US President.” Farmer’s Almanac 2007: 142-144. print.
Society, Illinois Historic Preservation. n.d. internet. 24 July 2014.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac. 1996. internet. 24 July 2014.
Thomas, Robert B. “To our patrons”. Dublin, New Hampshire: Old Farmer’s Almanac, 1829. print.
White, Martha. “Farming by the moon”. 2014. internet. 2014. internet. 24 July 2014. 2014. internet. 27 July 2014.

Find advisor Blesilda44 at, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings, email me here:

“On Culture and Food” in this week’s issue of the Manila Mail (July 16-22, 2014)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
July 16-22, 2014

There is such a huge divide between American consumerist culture and the culture of most of our food producers in Central and South America and Asia. My medical school block mates and I once had the honor of staying with host families for a week in a small rice farming town north of Manila. My classmates and I learned firsthand about the town mates’ attitudes about farming, the land, and their health. If we were to sum up what those Filipino health workers, farmers, and housewives have said, it is this: everything is one, everything is connected.
This is the one of the subtexts of Kelsey Timmerman’s book, “Where Am I Eating?” There is a big difference between how an American looks at his food and how a producer from another country values his produce. A Filipino folk singing group, Asin (which means “salt” in Tagalog) sang a song titled, “Kapaligiran” (“Environment”) in the 1970s, long before it was fashionable to be concerned with the environment. Their song goes (translated): “Haven’t you been noticing our environment?/ The air and the rivers are polluted./ There’s nothing wrong with progress/ and indeed we have gone far/ but look at the color of the sea:/ it was once blue, and now it’s black.” In the case of man and nature, it appears that American culture sees itself apart from the environment, such that it becomes “man versus nature,” a working-against instead of a working-with, man conquering nature instead of nurturing it, “man together with nature.” In Timmerman’s book, for instance, the Arhuaco Indians indigenous to the Sierra Nevada in Northern Colombia, believe themselves to be living in the very heart of the world. There is a spiritual element here that is missing in how American culture treats its surroundings. This, in turn, becomes problematic when we consider the relationship that culture has with food.
Therefore, we will examine what conditions or factors cause Americans to become less appreciative of food, and we will posit that it has a lot to do with what American cultures do value in contrast to what producers of our food like coffee, chocolate, and bananas value instead. There are also consequences to Americans being disconnected with food and their roots. Consumers’ choices also impact that of the producers in the farm.
There are several factors that cause Americans to become less appreciative of their food. It is because of a basic perceived separation between the individual and the environment, a basic perceived separation between what is inside each individual and what can be found outside of the individual. Instead of believing everything in nature and the ecosystem as connected, Americans possess entirely different values. For instance, in the book, “Where Am I Eating?,” author Kelsey Timmerman quotes an Arhuaco Indian talking to a Dutch researcher as saying, “The civilized whites sit all day but what do they do? They do not meditate. They only think about money, cheating others, and food.”
Let us deconstruct this. The Arhuaco Indian calls the Americans “civilized,” but truly – are they? Obviously, meditation is important to the Arhuaco in how they evaluate a fellow human being, but the Indian here notes that Americans do not meditate. Finally, are Americans truly civilized when all they do, according to the Arhuaco Indian’s perception here, is to be concerned about money, cheating others, and food? This quote is just one among the many that Timmerman cites from Peter Elsass’ Strategies for Survival: The Psychology of Cultural Resilience in Ethnic Minorities (New York: New York University Press, 1992). Suffice it to say that American values are clashing with the values of the many cultures around the world that produce our food.
We become less appreciative of our food because fast food is cheaper than vegetables. If we trace what has happened, it appears that throughout the years the world has become connected economically, importing and exporting goods and produce among each other, but at the same time we as American consumers have shown a gradual disconnect with the producers of our food. We end up losing awareness of questions like who harvests our produce or where our food comes from. In Timmerman’s book, he says, “The world is dominated by American agribusiness, which provides American eaters with potato chips that cost four times less per calorie than carrots (p. 263).” The mentality may be: If it is that easy to buy anything we want like potato chips at a lower price, then why do we have to care about where those “expensive” fruits and vegetables come from? The problem is that we Americans have taken our food for granted.
We become less appreciative of our food also because we lack the direct awareness of where our food comes from. We naively assume, like Timmerman, that the USA is quite independent and can feed its citizens with food farmed and raised in US soil and waters. The entire book is an argument for the thesis that we Americans actually get a lot of our food from many different countries – coffee from Colombia, cocoa/chocolate from West Africa, bananas from Costa Rica, lobster from Nicaragua, and apple juice from China/Michigan, among many others. Until we become aware of this fact – that we actually depend on other countries for the food on our tables – we will continue in our lack of appreciation for our food. According to a 2011 report by George S. Serletis (p. 7), “The amount of food we import to the United States has doubled in the past 10 years.” Various reports that Timmerman cites continue thus: “Eighty-six percent of seafood, 50 percent of fresh fruit, and 20 percent of the vegetables we Americans eat come from another country. In total, we import 319 different types of fruit products from 121 different countries.” These are staggering statistics of how outsourced our food items are. Furthermore, I think it is showing an underbelly of vulnerability for us should the nations we depend on for our food suddenly took it upon themselves to starve us because we are treating them so unfairly.
But because we have coffee bean suppliers like the Arhuaco Indians, for instance, they would rather pray for us. “They are nearly independent of the outside world, yet see outside of themselves. They see what we share, the impact that each of us has, and they pray for all of us. What if each of us believed that our lives impacted everyone everywhere (pp. 262-263)?” Like Timmerman asks: What if all of us realized that you and I, all of us, are interconnected with one another and the world’s ecosystem/environment around us? Again, this is our appeal to unite body and mind, the physical and the spiritual, so that a holistic valuing of ourselves and our entire earth can empower us to make wise choices for ourselves and the next generation to whom we will leave this world. Is our legacy going to be one of alienation and destruction or of interconnection and creation?
Some consequences of Americans’ lack of appreciation for their food is wastefulness, for instance up to 25% of entire banana harvests do not make the grade on 40 appearance standards so these will just be discarded. Another consequence is the Americans’ indifference to the plight of the farmers or workers who produce their food. But I guess the great kicker is obesity, since Americans are so out of touch with their own bodies, separating mind and body, that they have forgotten to self-regulate once they feel full. This is dualistic culture at work. However, we need to balance this with holistic culture. It’s not a question of one culture being better than the other but of achieving a kind of balance.
Aren’t we all one? Yes, we are, and we are so thankful. So very thankful.
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YOUR HOROSCOPE for the week of July 9-15, 2014 (page B6 of the MANILA MAIL)

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#26 For the week of July 9-15-2014

ARIES (Mar 21-Apr 19) Make sure that you have a situation under control. There’s a surprise or two for you on the romantic front. Weekly mantra: I am in control.
TAURUS (Apr 20-May 20) Form new friendships and alliances. You will help them and they will help you in return. Your partner cheers you up. Weekly mantra: I am friendly.
GEMINI (May 21-June 20) Sometimes dreams come true and sometimes they don’t. Cut yourself some slack. Go within to find the answers. Weekly mantra: I dream and achieve.
CANCER (June 21-July 22) Take care of your health. I know it’s your birth month and you’re feeling a Solar surge of energy. Still, don’t overdo it, OK? Weekly mantra: I am strong and healthy.
LEO (July 23-Aug 22) Balance the books and straighten your finances. If you have to pass on your values, make sure they’re truly worthy of emulation. Weekly mantra: I handle my resources well.
VIRGO (Aug 23-Sept 22) Short travels are favored, and so is getting in touch with your siblings and neighbors. Jot down your ideas. Weekly mantra: I connect people.
LIBRA (Sept 23-Oct 22) Your home base becomes quite significant to your peace of mind. Make changes if you must, but don’t overdo it. Weekly mantra: I take care of my dwelling place.
SCORPIO (Oct 23-Nov 21) Time enough for work later: right now it’s time for play, adventure, and romance. Enjoy the ride while you can! Weekly mantra: I feel great!
SAGITTARIUS (Nov 22-Dec 21) Your vivid dreams may hold the key to an issue you’re facing in your waking life. Believe that things will get better soon. Weekly mantra: I am optimistic.
CAPRICORN (Dec 22-Jan 19) Don’t neglect your partner. Honor them instead. Remember how they stood by you time and again? Weekly mantra: I appreciate my lover/partner/best friend.
AQUARIUS (Jan 20-Feb 18) A career or relationship issue may be too much to handle. At any rate, your natural confidence will see you through. Weekly mantra: I am guided by wisdom.
PISCES (Feb 19-Mar 20) If you come up with something original, make sure you control its use and disposition. Your creative output inspires you to produce more. Weekly mantra: I am in creative control of my work.

Your Horoscope for the week of June 18-24, 2014 (page B6 of the Manila Mail)

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#23 For the week of June 18-24, 2014

ARIES (Mar 21-Apr 19) You are acting on too little information. Do your research and wait for the other factors to be known, and then make your decision. Weekly mantra: I am a prudent decision-maker.
TAURUS (Apr 20-May 20) You are fighting against your sweet and laidback nature, taking on more than you can handle. Ask yourself if you’re just trying to impress someone. Weekly mantra: I am getting enough work done.
GEMINI (May 21-June 20) You can use more calm and deliberation as you debate your options. Work at half your usual speed for less missteps. Weekly mantra: I am mellow and productive.
CANCER (June 21-July 22) You need to keep your discernment on tap when it comes to figuring out people’s motives. That being said, be a happy camper. Weekly mantra: I enjoy!
LEO (July 23-Aug 22) Tie up loose ends and tend to unfinished chores. There will be time enough to kick up your heels when all is satisfyingly done. Weekly mantra: I do my best.
VIRGO (Aug 23-Sept 22) Keep things simple. Attend to one kind of stimulus at a time. Appreciate the beauty of nature around you. Weekly mantra: I am rejuvenated by nature.
LIBRA (Sept 23-Oct 22) If there are chores waiting to be done, you are the person to do it. Double-check the security features of your home. Weekly mantra: I anticipate and act.
SCORPIO (Oct 23-Nov 21) Maybe it’s best to put off serious emotional conversations for now. Be patient and kind to your partner who is eager to extend the same courtesy to you. Weekly mantra: I am considerate.
SAGITTARIUS (Nov 22-Dec 21) News from far away may excite you. Double-check and be careful in negotiating over products, money, or services. Weekly mantra: I am careful.
CAPRICORN (Dec 22-Jan 19) Things can go wrong, not everything is under your control: it’s all right. Do focus on what you can control: your mental and bodily reactions. Weekly mantra: I am focused yet relaxed.
AQUARIUS (Jan 20-Feb 18) What you want hasn’t happened yet. But why not just be present in the moment? Pay attention. Weekly mantra: I enjoy the gift of the present.
PISCES (Feb 19-Mar 20) Research your own nutritional, medicinal, and other choices. What worked for others may not work for you. Weekly mantra: I am careful about my health options.

“Around the Zodiac with Philippine Independence Heroes” in this week’s issue of the Manila Mail (June 18-24, 2014)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of June 18-24, 2014


Philippine Independence Day was declared on June 12, 1898 in Kawit, Cavite and has been commemorated ever since. This year marked its 116th observance, and I count myself blessed to be one of the many heirs to the freedom that Filipino revolutionaries, our heroes sung or unsung, fought for.
Once upon a time, I made a bet with myself that I can go at least once around the 12 signs of the zodiac and be able to name a Philippine national hero who was born under that Sun sign. I was thinking: June 12, 12 signs of the zodiac, at least one national hero or heroine per sign. Lezdoodiz!
Aries: General Emilio Aguinaldo, born on March 22, 1869 in Kawit, Cavite, is the President of the First Philippine Republic. Being an Aries, he’s just got to be the first! After the defeat of the Spaniards by Cmdr. George Dewey, Aguinaldo declared independence on the special date and location we mentioned above. However, the Americans refused to recognize the Aguinaldo regime and this led to the Philippine-American War. Aguinaldo would be captured and retire as a farmer. He died at age 95 in the mid-1960s.
Taurus: Gregoria de Jesus, also known as the “Lakambini” (First Lady) of the Katipunan and the wife of Andres Bonifacio (whom we will meet in the Sagittarius section), was born on May 9, 1875 in Kalookan City. Gregoria was doing revolutionary work by 18 years old, going through extreme danger in doing tasks that only women can do undetected by the guardia civil. The Filipino revolutionary leaders spoke in awe of her courage and daring. After the Revolution, she married another patriot, Julio Nakpil, and raised their children on the ideals they fought for.
Gemini: Born June 19, 1861 in Calamba, Laguna, the Philippine National Hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal was a Renaissance man of the sciences and the arts. He was a physician, a novelist, a sculptor, a poet, and an intellectual. His two novels, “Noli Me Tangere” (Touch Me Not) and “El Filibusterismo” (The Rebel), written during his long stay in Europe are believed to have inspired the revolution against Spain. Despite having nothing to do with the armed uprising (his writings advocated peaceful means of reform), he was tried for rebellion and sedition. Dr. Rizal was imprisoned in Fort Santiago and executed by firing squad at Bagumbayan (now Luneta) on Dec. 30, 1896, which Filipinos now commemorate as Rizal Day. Of course, the night before his execution, he wrote his last poem, “Mi Ultimo Adios” (My Last Farewell).
Cancer: Apolinario Mabini, a lawyer, born July 22, 1864, was called the “sublime paralytic” for his guidance, sound counsel, and good judgment to Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo. He wrote the Malolos Constitution and most of the decrees of the revolutionary government. Despite his disability which is polio, he planted the seeds of greatness and heroism in other men’s hearts at a critical time in Philippine history.
Leo: Princess Purmassuri of Jolo, Sulu has an unknown birthdate but she exemplifies the Leonine concepts of royalty, being the princess of her clan, and a fierce fighting spirit, being able to defend the entire Muslim Mindanao region against the Spanish onslaught. She had a fighter’s courageous heart!
Virgo: Marcelo H. Del Pilar, born August 30, 1850 in San Nicolas, Bulacan, is the greatest journalist and the moving spirit of the Propaganda Movement during the Philippine Revolution against Spain. He used his powers of logic and analysis to fight the good fight!
Libra: Gen. Miguel Malvar, born Sept. 27, 1865 in Santo Tomas, Batangas, was the last Filipino general to surrender to the Americans during the Fil-Am war. Well, what can I say but that this is what you get when cross a Batangueño and a Libran. Their motto becomes: I will never surrender for as long as I can hack it, man!
Scorpio: Called the “Visayan Joan of Arc,” Teresa Magbanua, born Nov. 4, 1871 in Pototan, Iloilo, is the first woman fighter in Panay Island. An intense, fierce Scorpio co-ruled by Mars and Pluto, Teresa’s mantra might have been: I dig the revolution, man! In fact, I started it for women in my province.
Sagittarius: Born on November 30, 1863 in Tondo, Manila, Andres Bonifacio is known as the Great Plebeian because even if he was from the middle-class himself, he sympathized with the grudges of the common people against the Spaniards. He was also called the Father of the Katipunan which was the highest-level secret organization formed by Filipino Bonifacio, fellow revolutionary Emilio Jacinto and others whose aim was to overthrow Spanish rule in the Philippines. August 23, 1896 marked the so-called “Cry of Balintawak” when Bonifacio and his assembled men tore their “cedulas,” raised the Katipunan flag, and engaged the enemy forces. It was unfortunate that subsequent events, especially the power struggle between Bonifacio and Aguinaldo, are still the subject to speculation. Bonifacio died by assassination on May 10, 1897 in Cavite.
Capricorn: Melchora Aquino, “Tandang Sora”) (literally Old Sora) is considered the Mother of the Philippine Revolution. Tandang Sora was the oldest living soul in the revolutionary movement at that time, being born on January 6, 1812 in Banilad, Kalookan, so by 1896-1898, she was already 88-90 years old! But did that stop her from contributing her share in the movement? No freaking way! It’s worth mentioning at this point that Capricorns, being blessed with sturdy constitutions, do usually go on to live long productive lives.
Aquarius: Padre Jose Ma. Burgos is a priest-reformist, one of Dr. Jose Rizal’s teachers at the Ateneo de Manila. He died by execution in Bagumbayan, Manila as part of the Gomburza triumvirate of martyr-priests on suspicion of rebellion against the Spanish government. Born Feb. 9, 1837 in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Fr. Burgos is the champion of the cause of the Filipinization of the clergy, to which the Spanish priests did not take kindly. Along with Fathers Gomez and Zamora, Fr. Burgos died by garrote after a mock trial on trumped-up charges.
Pisces: Gabriela Silang, born on March 19, 1731 in Santa Caniogan, Ilocos Sur, is the first Filipino woman to lead a revolt against Spanish colonization, taking over after her husband Diego Silang perished during the fighting.
So there we go. We all made it through the zodiac, one Philippine national hero or heroine at a time. Wasn’t that fun? Being a hero is not the monopoly of any one sign. There is a hero within all of us. You know, just as there are microclimates, so there are microcommunities. Then please let’s be heroes in our respective microcommunities. THAT would be fun!
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Your Horoscope for the week of June 11-17, 2014 (page B6 of the MANILA MAIL)

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#22 For the week of June 11-17, 2014

ARIES (Mar 21-Apr 19) There is no getting around it: you have to reorganize your files and working space in earnest this week. Weekly mantra: I am organized and efficient.
TAURUS (Apr 20-May 20) Venus in your sign may tempt you to overindulge but rally the self-discipline you’ve been developing for some time now. Weekly mantra: I am in control.
GEMINI (May 21-June 20) People will look to you for advice and logical explanations. Your own romantic communications are playfully direct. Weekly mantra: I am a source of wisdom.
CANCER (June 21-July 22) Before you plot your next move, just appreciate how far you’ve come and be thankful for that. A partner bolsters your self-esteem. Weekly mantra: I arise.
LEO (July 23-Aug 22) This could be the week to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances. You may have a potential role in new organizations. Weekly mantra: I am a people person.
VIRGO (Aug 23-Sept 22) It takes a lot of patience and elbow grease, but rest assured that your to-do list will get done. Good work as usual, Virgo. Weekly mantra: I am a doer.
LIBRA (Sept 23-Oct 22) You have never been selfish, and this week you are reminded about the perks of sharing resources within limits. Stake your claim. Weekly mantra: I am generous.
SCORPIO (Oct 23-Nov 21) You are no stranger to weird dreams that seem to make a lot of sense in the waking world. Use your discernment on how to use them for your good. Weekly mantra: I am a conscious dreamer.
SAGITTARIUS (Nov 22-Dec 21) If you find yourself longing for smaller gatherings or even some time for yourself, honor those urges. Find your space. Weekly mantra: I am peace.
CAPRICORN (Dec 22-Jan 19) Relating to others with honesty and straightforwardness appeal to you now. Some mutual appreciation will go a long way. Weekly mantra: I am appreciative.
AQUARIUS (Jan 20-Feb 18) If you care, show it. Don’t hide behind cool casualness. That being said, be aware of the messages you send to others. Weekly mantra: I am consistent.
PISCES (Feb 19-Mar 20) Look at a problem a different way with a blend of common sense and intuition. Inspiration – and a solution! – will hit you when you least expect it. Weekly mantra: I am a problem solver.



“Celebrating the role of fathers in our lives” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (June 11-17, 2014)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of June 11-17, 2014

                                                 CELEBRATING THE ROLE OF FATHERS IN OUR LIVES
We say this to the most important man in our lives: Happy Father’s Day!
I’m sure you have your own memories of how your father was either a daily part of your formative years or somewhat absent, either a disciplinarian or a softie, either aging gracefully or grumpily. When I think of my own Dad, I think about different skill sets to describe him.
First of all, when my sister Cherry and I were still very young, he used to tell us bedtime stories after tucking us in within the “banig” (woven sleeping mat) and “kulambo” (mosquito net). He would start weaving a tall tale about a beautiful princess who lived in a big castle — but he would quickly say that her gown had pockets! Of course my sister and I would protest that a princess’ gown does NOT have pockets, what was he thinking?! Thereupon Dad would change the narrative again (“O sige, sige, walang bulsa,” he would concede) until a pivotal break in the story, when Dad is free again to say anything outrageous to our young minds, anything that doesn’t fit our preconceived notions of what a fairy tale should be. Dedicated and hard worker that our father has always been, even during our younger days, he always tucked us in at night with his imagination and sense of humor. Short explanation from an astrologer like me: my father is a Virgo.
Still speaking of skill sets: Maybe some of you have even hear my Dad, Ron Carmona, sing and play his guitar at the former Bobby’s Bamboo Grill in Union City around 4-5 years ago. Once he sings his Elvis, Beatles, and Filipino “kundiman” (sad love song) pieces, the audience is always enthralled and asking for more. So much so that he has been invited every now and then to birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and other special occasions because of his evocative talents for entertainment. My father is also an accomplished cook specializing in Ilocano dishes like pinakbet but has since expanded his expertise to include traditional Filipino party dishes like pancit palabok, menudo, dinuguan, and adobo. Dad is the kind to turn to the Internet for the recipes and then tend to follow these to the letter. True enough, his delectable concoctions taste very yummy, and we’re even talking about the “second-day phenomenon” at home, about how Dad’s dishes manage to even taste better the following day!
So with the fathers in our lives, we usually talk about different skill sets, each unique to the man we owe our life to and/or who raised us. Now I am very blessed that my father is still here, married to my mother for 45 years now, still with us to grace us with song, make us laugh with his jokes, or play weekend chef to feed us with yet another tasty dish. Dad is encouraging his grandchildren to play the guitar and has even bequeathed one of his old ones when he and my Mom visited the Philippines recently.
Some of my elementary and high school batch mates have already lost their fathers and announce the fact on Facebook so that we who cannot personally be there can post our condolences. I know for a fact that some classmates had been especially close to their Dads such that the parental loss temporarily set them off on a spiral of paralyzing depression. It’s good to know that they eventually recovered and continued to face the challenges in their lives.
Father’s Day in the USA had its first champion in Sonora Smart Dodd. Upon hearing of Anna Jarvis’ successful campaign for Mother’s Day the year before, Dodd wanted a celebration in Spokane, Washington in 1910 to honor fatherhood, specifically her father, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart who was a single parent who raised six children there. Dodd wanted the celebration to be on June 5, her father’s birthday, but the pastors wanted more time with writing their sermons so they moved the first Father’s Day to June 19, 1910. However, through the following years, it was ridiculed and resisted as merely a “commercial ploy” to sell men’s products on another “special” day. It was only in the 20th century that its legalization has truly come to pass: In 1966, Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when Pres. Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.
We have actual fathers and metaphorical fathers, fathers in various senses of the word and fathers of many splendored things. From the head of top Olympian Zeus sprang Athena Minerva fully clad for battle, literally birthing the warrior goddess off the top of his head, but not as an afterthought, I hope. We are talking about heroes and father figures to nations. Mahatma Gandhi is considered the father of the Indian independence movement. Albert Einstein is the father of modern physics. Andres Bonifacio is the father of Philippine revolution while Dr. Jose Rizal is the father of Philippine nationalism. The poet Francisco Balagtas is the father of the Tagalog poem while Julian Felipe is the father of the Philippine national anthem. The late Blas Ople is the father of overseas employment while Isabelo Delos Reyes is the father of the Philippine labor union movement. William Torres is the father of Philippine Internet while Roberto Verzola is the father of Philippine email. Thanks by the way to Wikipilipinas, the hip and free Philippine encyclopedia, for the List of Philippine Fathers, which I encourage you to visit for other names and fatherly designations unique to our land of birth.
Regardless of my personal beliefs, though, I think that the “father” making the most worldwide impact these days is Pope Francis, the “Papa,” the current leader of the Roman Catholic Church. From the very beginning of his ascension to the papacy, he has shunned the pomp and finery of his office, preferring humble vestments and accessories. Even weightier than matters of dress are the matters of the Pope’s statements. Upon the many issues presented to him, his overall attitude is: “Who am I to judge?”
Finally (I said in my mind), here is a worldwide head of a religion daring to lead by his example of love and humility. As of this writing, he has just headed an unprecedented prayer for peace among Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Vatican gardens, with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in attendance. In that historic event, Pope Francis said, “To have peace, one needs courage, far more than you need for a war.” Four months ago, Pres. Barack Obama, current father of the USA and father to Malia and Sascha, met with the Dalai Lama, father of the Tibetan faith, despite the threats and dissent from mainland China – precisely because both of them want to leave a better world for their actual and spiritual children.
These are the kinds of fatherhood that our world truly needs, not the macho incarnation that finds glory in war and carnage, not the tough-love persona that expects too much yet gives so little. Father-figures around you who have inspired and challenged you all throughout the years deserve your love, respect, and greetings on this special day proclaimed especially for them.
So all together now, let us say: Happy Father’s Day!
***********For personal readings, email me here:


“How to intervene in a crisis situation” – in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (June 4-10, 2014)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of June 4-10, 2014


Crisis intervention is a needed skill in this topsy-turvy world of ours when almost anything can happen in the blink of an eye: natural or man-made disasters, accidents, health crises, medical emergencies, or even some child’s pet being run over by a vehicle. It is thus very important to be prepared with at least the very basic skills needed to intervene in a crisis.
Assessing is a pervasive strategy by the crisis worker – that’s you – throughout crisis intervention. This assessment is action-oriented and situation-based, fluid and non-mechanistic, able to adjust to even the slightest change in circumstances. The first three steps you will read are more of LISTENING activities than they are actions. The final three steps are largely ACTION behaviors on your part as the crisis worker, although you are continuing to listen and assess the whole time.
As to difficulty: These steps could be moderately challenging. You may need special training to be able to respond effectively to crises. However, in a pinch, these steps can serve as the broad outlines of what you need to do in a crisis situation.

1. Step One: Define the problem. Understand the problem from the client’s point of view. You are addressing how the client is reacting to the crisis event, not the event itself. Try to perceive the crisis situation as the client sees it, so that your intervention may not miss its mark. Practice the core listening skills of empathy, genuineness, and acceptance or positive regard. For example, a client just broke up with her boyfriend of 3 months. It may not seem like much of a crisis to you, but it may be a huge crisis to her and that is why she’s in the emergency room with imperfectly slashed wrists talking to you in a hushed monotone.

2. Step Two: Ensure the client’s safety. This means minimizing further physical and psychological danger to the client and others. Although we put this down as Step Two, we apply this step in a fluid way, meaning that client safety is actually a primary concern throughout crisis intervention. I encourage you to make client safety a natural part of your thoughts or behavior as a crisis responder.
3. Step Three: Provide support. Communicate to the client that you care about her. You cannot assume that a client experiences feeling valued, prized, or cared for. This is your opportunity to show the client that someone actually cares about her, and that someone is you in an unconditional, positive way, regardless of whether the client can reciprocate or not.
4. Step Four: Examine alternatives. Given the present crisis, explore people, situations, and coping mechanisms, positive and constructive thinking patterns that may just provide a way out of the current dilemma. Think with the client about what would get her out of her present state of numb immobility or hysterical panic.

5. Step Five: Make plans. This flows directly from Step Four. The plan should identify additional persons, groups, and other referral sources that can be contacted for immediate support, and provide coping mechanisms. By these I mean that the client should be given something concrete and positive for the client to do now, definite action steps that the client can own and understand. Help the client problem-solve and cope.
6. Step Six: Obtain a firm commitment from the client. This means that you ask the client to verbally summarize the plan. Remember the SMART goal? A goal has a better chance of being achieved if it is SMART: S- specific, M- measurable, A- attainable, R- relevant, and T- time-bound. So it is with goal-setting with your client. Make sure that they get out of that ER/clinic/specific setting in a pre-crisis mode before terminating the contact with the client.

Later, follow up on the client’s progress and make the necessary and appropriate reports. Remember the overarching strategy of assessment and the twin components of listening and acting which are incorporated in the six steps of crisis intervention – and you’re all set! Remember that in crisis intervention, it’s not enough that you have good intentions: you have to have certain skills as well. This six-step model is a good way to get you started. Good luck!

Find advisor Blesilda44 at, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings, email me here:


“May is Mental Health Month” – in this week’s issue of the Manila Mail (May 21-27, 2014)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
a column by Bles Carmona
For the week of May 21-27, 2014

May is Mental Health Month

Among the many celebrations we observe during the month of May, few elicit such mixed emotions within people as “May is Mental Health Month” which has been observed for 65 years now, according to the website of Mental Health America, The theme for May 2014 is “Mind Your Health,” aiming to connect mental health with overall health and wellbeing.
We in the media are encouraged to blog about it, use #mhmonth2014 in our Twitter or Facebook posts, and otherwise get the word out there that mental health issues should not be a source of stigma but of healing and inclusion. The May 2014 “Mind Your Health” goals are:
• To build public recognition about the importance of mental health to overall health and wellness
• To inform people of the ways that the mind and body interact with each other, and
• To provide tips and tools for taking positive actions to protect mental health and promote whole health
Through the media, local events, and health screenings, we want to increase awareness about the body-mind connection and a more holistic perspective in the care and management of the mentally ill.
On the first Saturday of this month, my mother and I attended the “May is Mental Health Month” annual picnic of the Pathways to Wellness Clinic Group at Kennedy Park in Hayward. This is our second year to attend. Like last year, there was a generous spread of food and drinks, especially those yummy barbecued beef hotdogs. There were games for children and adults like the sack race, tug o’ war, and the piñata. Also, most of the young and young at heart like me patiently lined up for the face painting by the friendly and creative artist Joanna. I requested her to paint planets on my right cheek. We also met Joanna last year, when it was my Mom who had her face painted with a Batman-like web, meant to be a bit scary.
If you’re wondering who is which, let me assure you right now: my mother is the caregiver and I am the patient. I have been living with bipolar disorder for half of my life now. I have gone through a lot of personal challenges because of it, and I admit that I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I have learned to have the grace to thank the heavens for this mixed blessing, and I have empowered myself and others with this idea: “There is no shame or blame in mental illness.”
Back when I was still living in the Philippines, I established the very first support group in the country for people with manic depressive illness, schizophrenia, and schizoaffective disorder in August of 2000. In effect, my Biopsychosocial Support and Interaction Group (BISIG) was the very first support group in the Philippines for outpatients with mental illnesses. We have formed bonds that last to this day. I am proud to note that most of the current members are doing well on their regimen of medications, doctor’s visits, support group involvement, and of course, their faith in God. I know that the Philippine General Hospital and the Makati Medical Center also have mental health patient support groups which were inspired by BISIG’s pioneering example. If you think that you or your loved one needs to be screened for a mental illness, please seek the advice of a licensed health professional. Remember: no shame or blame.
Now I would like to share with you this piece of flash fiction that I wrote for a contest that required only 300 words per entry. It didn’t win any prize, but let me just put it out there in celebration of the spirit of “May is Mental Health Month.” Enjoy!

Scaling the Tower of Babel
By Blesilda R. Carmona

That’s when the hurting began.

When the rough-textured restraints bit into her wrists, the pain told her where she was. She was in a psychiatric basement somewhere south of Manila. Last night, upon admission, burly orderlies tied her up to the corners of her bed because she was yelling and thrashing. A whole week ago, the hallucinations and delusions began, fueled by lack of sleep.

The young woman heard every single voice weighing in. All of her immediate and extended family members had an opinion. Together, the discordant voices reminded her of the tower of Babel. But it was very quiet inside her head. This is what she knew: her evil powers had destroyed the world in a fiery apocalypse and dinosaurs had begun walking the earth again. This is what she believed: her sin is dabbling in the occult and she is being punished by a cruel god. She was at a loss to fully explain why she is having a psychotic break again. As someone with bipolar disorder, she had been regularly taking her medications and seeing her doctor. Now she realized that despite her due diligence, shit can still happen. And that hurts.

Above the disorderly din of the voices around her, it was quiet inside her head. But what her family heard were her tortured screams. They rushed her to the hospital last night. Today, her psychiatrist told the nurse to release the cloth restraints. The young woman felt free, flexing and moving her wrists and ankles. She knows that she’s not out of the woods yet. But her psychiatrist’s presence and soothing words really encouraged her. The young woman sighed and told herself that she has no choice but to get well and try again.

That’s when the healing began.

Find Blesilda44 at, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings, email me here: pilipinasblitz@gmail.comImage