Thursday, September 24, 2009

PCIJ at 20

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Opinion/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
This week the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) is celebrating its 20th anniversary. How time flies. The past 20 years have indeed been colorful, dangerous years for this journalistic endeavour which is an Asian first and which continues to be not only investigative but innovative as well in its reporting and use of new forms of media technology.

Part of the celebration is a seminar for Asian journalists. The theme is “Peace, Human Rights, Good Governance: East Asian Democracies at the Crossroads.” Why this theme? In the next three years, PCIJ explains, a number of countries in Southeast Asia will witness strategic shifts in leadership through elections and parliamentary processes. General elections were recently held in Indonesia. The Philippines will hold its first national automated elections in May 2010. Parliamentary elections in Cambodia are scheduled to be held in July 2011. Thailand and Malaysia have recently witnessed changes in political leadership, while other nations in Southeast Asia continue their evolution into fuller, more stable democracies.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stem cells from me, for me

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Opinion/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
AVOIDING BEING MAUDLIN, I say, this is as straightforward as I can get:
Few people knew about what I went through from October 2007 to May 2008. During that time I was quietly battling a dreaded threat: cancer. I had lived a relatively happy, healthy lifestyle for many years. And then for some strange reason, I was going “lo-batt.” An enemy had struck. As I had disclosed earlier, I found myself next door to the pre-departure area. (See my four-part series on stem cell therapy, Inquirer, p.1, Sept. 14-17. This column piece is the side bar to today’s Part 4.)
God is the ultimate healer, one of my doctors reminded me. Yes, God worked through close family and friends, and in an amazing way, through persons of science, medicine and faith.

(PART 4) Stem Cells: Regenerative medicine--Hope or just hype

Human Face column: Stem cells from me, for me

 (Part 4-Conclusion)
Philippine Daily Inquirer/Special Report/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

IS THIS THE HOLY GRAIL of medicine in the 21st century? Is this new emerging field going to provide dramatic changes in the way diseases and injuries are studied and treated?

Stem cells and regenerative medicine are the new catch words in health care. Scientists have discovered the stem cells’ amazing characteristics and therapeutic potential.

But stem cell therapy in the Philippines is not without its skeptics for a variety of reasons. It could be a threat to drug-dependent therapy.

Doctors will have to get out of their comfort zones to learn new ways. It is still very expensive and labor intensive.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

(PART 3)Stem Cells: Lab nerd tweaks tiny particles to renew life

(Third of a series)

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Special Report/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
MANILA, Philippines—Physician, lawyer, chemist, molecular biologist, Ph.D. and MBA holder, professor of medicine, cancer director in US hospitals, leading figure in stem cell research, cancer therapy and bioregenerative medicine. Cancer survivor.
“Before I became a medical doctor,” says Dr. Samuel D. Bernal, “I was a hard-core chemist.” As a lab nerd, he poked, coaxed and tweaked the smallest particles of life. He then segued into medicine. His specialization: Stem cells in regenerative medicine and oncology, or the treatment of cancer. But he never really left behind the amazing world of molecules.
This Filipino-American doctor is a moving force in the regenerative medicine department of The Medical City (TMC) where he holds clinic when he’s not abroad.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

(PART 2) Stem Cells: From science fiction to reality

Read Part 1: Amazing healing power within our bodies
Read side bar to Part 1: What are stem cells?
Read Part 3: Lab nerd tweaks tiny particles to renew life
Read Part 4: Regenerative medicine: hope or just hype
Read Human Face column: Stem cells from me, for me

(Second of a series)
Philippine Daily Inquirer/Special Report/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
IN THE PHILIPPINES, a name that has become synonymous with stem cells, and in a bigger dimension, with molecular and regenerative medicine, is Dr. Samuel D. Bernal. 
“Molecular medicine,” Bernal proclaims, “is now, the present. Not the future. In this era of molecular biology, we are now recognizing even more that personalized medicine involves analyzing the molecular characteristics of a patient.”
The Filipino-American doctor is a cancer survivor who applied on himself his knowledge of regenerative medicine and stem cell therapy when he was thought to be dying nine years ago. He stresses that the body holds a potent army for healing that needs to be harnessed and trained to recognize the enemy.
Bernal holds clinics at The Medical City (TMC) in Pasig City when he is not treating patients in Los Angeles or Prague. (More on Bernal tomorrow)

Monday, September 14, 2009

(PART 1) Stem Cells: Amazing healing power within our bodies

Read side bar: What are stem cells?
Read Part 2: From science fiction to reality
Read Part 3: Lab nerd tweaks tiny particles to renew life
Read Part 4: Regenerative medicine--hope or just hype
Read Human Face column: Stem cells from me, for me

(First of a series)

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Special Report/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
MANILA, Philippines—Who’s afraid of stem cell therapy?

Not me. I went through it—with the use of my very own adult stem cells. It was part of the therapeutic package—radical, immediate and customized—meant to battle a life-threatening health condition that I faced in late 2007. I was next door, so to speak, to the pre-departure area.
I underwent surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy—the so-called “slice, poison and burn” procedures—plus stem cell therapy, which was the most customized and personalized and the least invasive.
My doctors and I believe stem cells had helped significantly not just to reduce the impact of the three radical procedures, but, more importantly, they played their own independent role in targeting the enemy without collateral damage. They helped restore my health and made me hit the ground running again, go out to sea, climb hills, travel far. From “on the verge” to “very clean.”

What are stem cells? (Side bar to Part 1)

STEM CELLS ARE the primary cells in the human body from which all other tissues “stem” from. They could be programmed in the laboratory to potentially become any other kind of cell and could be used to repair damaged tissues and replace diseased organs.

Stem cells are found in most, if not all, multicellular organisms and are characterized by their ability to renew themselves into a diverse range of specialized cell types. The field developed from the findings of Canadian scientists Ernest A. McCulloch and James E. Till in the 1960s.

There are two broad types of mammalian stem cells: Embryonic stem cells that are isolated from the inner cell mass of blastocysts, and adult stem cells that are found in adult tissues.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Stop poison rain, foreign experts ask PGMA

Two hundred signatories from 44 countries, among them, noted scientists and health experts, have asked Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo “to end poison rain” or the aerial pesticide spraying of banana plantations in Mindanao.

“We are writing to register our support for the ongoing effort of rural poor communities in Mindanao, Philippines to stop the aerial spraying of agrochemicals in banana plantations,” the signatories said.

“In the spirit of global citizenship,” they added, “we state our solidarity with the women and men of the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (Citizens Against Aerial Spraying) and many other people’s organizations from the various banana-growing provinces in southern Philippines who are asserting their inherent right not to be harmed by aerial pesticide operations.”

Thursday, September 3, 2009

RM Awardee Antonio Oposa Jr: RP lawyer uses law to protect Mother Nature

Phiilippine Daily Inquirer/Feature
IF HUMANS IN NEAR-DEATH situations need CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), ailing Mother Nature also needs CPR (conservation, protection and restoration/rehabilitation).
That’s according to environmental lawyer Antonio Oposa Jr., who uses medical jargon to call attention to the alarming state of the Philippine environment. But more importantly, he uses the law to protect LAW (land, air and water).
The play on words and meanings is vintage Oposa, one of this year’s six recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award who were honored on Aug. 31 by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation for their various contributions to society and for embodying that special RM factor—“greatness of spirit.”
The foundation hailed Oposa, 54, “for his pathbreaking and passionate crusade to engage Filipinos in acts of enlightened citizenship that maximize the power of law to protect and nurture the environment for themselves, their children and generations still to come.”

Batangueña refuses to pay taxes

A good friend of mine, Emma Alday, refuses to pay her taxes. She has not paid a cent for four years now. Emma is a guardian of the environment and has worked very, very hard to clean up rivers and other waterways in her hometown of San Jose , Batangas. I have seen for myself the efforts she has put into her advocacy.

A former nun, Emma is an NGO worker who has received a number of citations for her work among farmers. She runs Casa Rap, a small garden-restaurant that serves organically grown food plus art from nature’s excess. She is also a former municipal councilor who fought to get the local government and the citizenry to act on environmental issues, among them the severe pollution of rivers by poultry raisers.

I have written several articles to highlight the issues that plagued that part of Batangas. And so did many others in both print and broadcast media. The problems remain.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Burma's Ka Hsaw Wa: RM Awardee fights for human, nature's rights

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Feature/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
MANILA, Philippines—ONLY A SCAR remains on the right arm of Ka Hsaw Wa where there used to be a tattoo of the word “zeal” in Burmese. When he became a hunted man, he scraped it off his skin. Not many people have gone through the suffering and dangers this man went through in his youth. He has lived to boldly tell the tale and more importantly, he has made it his goal to make life better for those who continue to suffer.
Ka Hsaw Wa was only 18 when he had to flee the oppressive rule of the military junta in Burma (Myanmar). As a freedom activist, he experienced detention and torture. He later took to the jungle in order to continue the struggle.
Armed resistance was an option. But he realized there were other paths he could take and nonviolent means he could use. This was by taking up the pen, record what he had seen and bring them to the attention of the world to effect change.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

RM Awardee Deep Joshi of India:Using head and heart to fight poverty

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Feature
by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
MANILA, Philippines—“IF ALL YOU HAVE are bleeding hearts, it wouldn’t work. If you only have heads, then you are going to dictate solutions which do not touch the human chord.”

Words to remember from India’s Deep Joshi, one of the six recipients of this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Award.
Development workers, civil society advocates, and social activists take heed. You need both head and heart in order to truly serve. You need both empathy and knowledge in order to be effective.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation is honoring Joshi, 62, “for his vision and leadership in bringing professionalism to the NGO movement in India and in truly combining ’head and heart’ in the transformative work of rural development.”