Thursday, July 09, 2020

Getting fit at 50 and beyond

By Karen Galarpe

Up. Down. Up. Down. I watched my friend Anna Carlos-Alegre lift what looked like four liters--two liters on each side--of water or vinegar or cooking oil. She did it effortlessly, and I couldn't help watching her do it again and again.

"Been NEAT-ing to keep moving lately, and mostly in the garden. Today was a cooler, windy day and it was perfect for a quick lunch workout!" she wrote on her Instagram post.

So there she was doing this in her garden during her lunch break, lifting liters of suka and water. Under the noonday heat. At 50-plus years old. She's my FITspiration!

"That's actually 4 gallons plus 20 lb barbells in my hands. hahaha," she told me later.

Anna, who was my classmate in UP grad school, in an email interview shares she wasn't really your healthy kid growing up.

"I was a fat kid, and for the most part, I didn't mind. When I became a teenager, my mom gave me a book about fitness. I forgot the title, but it was a diet book. haha. That just tells you how concerned she was about my figure," she said.

That got her thinking about the importance of eating healthy and working out. At 14, she got into aerobics and started watching what she ate. At 18, a doctor told her she had scoliosis. "It was slight, but the doctor advised me to do a few back strengthening and stretching exercises," Anna said.

She then enrolled in a weight training class for P.E. in UP Diliman and "got hooked." Thus began a regular exercise routine of a combination of cardiovascular activities (kickboxing, spinning) and weight training at the gym.

"For diet, I did portion control, and for the longest time, that was how I controlled my weight," she said.

Anna moved to the US in the 90s and worked as a grade school teacher in California. In 2000 though, she took a break from teaching to go into fitness training. "Why not? It was always part of my life," she said. Anna then became a certified fitness trainer with the International Science Sports Association (ISSA). She also worked for two gyms in Los Angeles. 

After a year though, she went back to teaching grade school students. "I missed it too much," she said.

In 2012, Anna and her husband moved back to Manila. She continued with her work in education, at one time heading a preschool. Today she works for an international organization committed to education.

Before she turned 50, Anna discovered she was prediabetic. She then became more serious about getting fit and eating well.

"I went on a ketogenic diet and have moved on since to a low-carb and non-processed food way of eating," Anna said.

How she became a recertified fitness trainer is a story worth sharing.

"In 2017, I was on a plane and sat beside two brothers who came from the USA and were on their way to Bacolod. One of them was an online coach, and the other, an Olympian! So we talked about--what else--fitness and pursuing dreams. I told them that I was thinking about getting recertified but I was 49. And the coach said, 'Do it. If you fail, so what? At least you won't look back on your life regretting that you didn't even try.' So I did! And I passed! I got certified by Fitness Edutraining Asia and ACE (American Council on Exercise)," Anna said.

I've always wanted to ask Anna why it's hard to lose weight, can one get fit after 50, and many other questions you might have too, and so here's my Q and A with her. Hope this would inspire you as well.

Q: Why do people gain weight? 

Anna: There is not one reason why people gain weight, but, barring medical conditions, it is generally this: Calories in, calories out. If you take in more calories than you burn, you gain weight. If you burn more calories than you take in, you lose weight.

It gets harder to lose weight when you're older because around the age of 30, men and women will lose half a pound of muscle a year, especially if they have a sedentary lifestyle (not having any sustained, intense exercise for more than 30 minutes a day or at least 200 minutes a week).

Q: Please share your 5 best tips for people to lose weight and get fit in mid-life -- tips you yourself have followed and proven true.

Anna: These are what have worked for me for the past 3 years. I have never kept my weight off AND stayed this healthy (my family has diabetes and cardiovascular disease on both sides):

1. I lift heavy weights to fight the natural loss of muscle and bone density.

2. Even without the gym, I try to incorporate the 'big five' movements every day for at least 30 minutes: pushing, pulling, lunging, squatting, and strengthening my core (people usually say 'abs' but abs are made in the kitchen). 

There are 35 muscles that give you core strength: the abs is the most superficial one. The rest are back muscles, trunk muscles, and hip muscles. All those muscles keep you stable and resistant to injuries. When they're toned, they also make you look lean.

3. I found the way of eating that works for me: low carb, IF (intermittent fasting) on weekdays. 

I began with keto to lower my triglycerides and bad cholesterol, and my blood glucose, but it fixed a lot of things, including my craving for carbs.

Abs are made in the kitchen. You can do 300 situps a day and plank 5 minutes, but those muscles will only come out if you lose both visceral fat (the kind that surrounds your organs and is more dangerous, especially to the liver) and subcutaneous fat--the one under the skin.

When you cut excess carbs and calories, the very first to go is visceral fat. That's the fat that makes your belly area big or thick. Subcutaneous fat or that jiggly fat under the skin, is harder to burn. That's where a lifestyle of exercise and healthy eating is essential. 

4. I try to move around a lot to be in 'NEAT' -- Non-exercise activity thermogenesis. It means all the energy burned for everything that is not sleeping, eating or exercise. So when I walk, I walk briskly. When I sweep and mop, I do big, fast movements. During ECQ, I began gardening. Rakes are amazing NEATers! hahaha

5. I stay accountable. I post my progress, my failures on social media so that if I succeed, I succeed publicly. But if I fail, it's more embarrassing because I also fail publicly! And I pass on my knowledge to others. But I can't teach if I don't live what I teach, so it's a wonderful cycle. =)

So there, getting fit even beyond 50 is doable. We may not get to lift weights as much as Anna does (well, I can't, haha), but we can take little steps to put in at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. Here's to good health!

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm reading now this little book Kain Tayo! by Beng Alba-Jones, which I bought at the @omflit bookshop at Il Terrazzo when I had to wait for someone and realized I had no book to read while waiting. I bought it because it was cheap, lightweight, and easy to read. Well it turned out to be a fun read too since the author shared little anecdotes revolving around food (her hard-as-rock first cake ever, her being called rice lady in the US, among others). There are heartwarming words of wisdom as well and recipes too.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!" Psalm 34:8

Monday, May 18, 2020

Going offline

By Karen Galarpe

Note: I wrote this back in September 2012 and only saw this recently in my inbox, still unpublished. Well, here it is, seeing the light of day. :)

It's 9 p.m. as I write this, my bedtime in fact, but I have yet to log off on my Twitter and Facebook accounts, my personal and work email addresses, and close the tabs on my browser. 

Let's see. I've been off work since 4 p.m., but I was busy working on something, and subsequently clocked out at 5:20 p.m.

When I got home before 6 p.m., I checked our website and my emails just to see if there's nothing urgent in case of the latter, and nothing erroneous in the articles I edited and posted online during the day.

From there, it was a quick hop to Facebook and Twitter, and when I saw someone post a story pitch in our group on FB, I went back to check our website to see if we had covered it already. Indeed we had.

But what are the new stories posted on our site? I click the archives, read the headlines, read stories.

Soon I remembered something and wrote an email about work.

So now it's 9:20 p.m. and I am still up.

"But how do you go offline?" my friend asked me last summer after I answered his question about my work.

I stopped in my tracks. How indeed do I go offline?

The truth is, I hardly go offline.

Going online is just a way of life. In the morning, I check the news sites and social media to know what's happening. When I need to contact a friend, I check first if she's online, and if not, that's when I text her. At work, instead of hollering to someone across the room, I use the chat function on Gmail. Looking for a recipe? I turn to a food site. Need directions to get to a place? There's Google Maps. And if I feel like trying out something new for lunch, I look up food blogs.

The downside to this, though, is that going offline can be jarring, especially when it's involuntary.

Three weeks ago, when the habagat flood inundated Metro Manila, our Internet service at home got cut. And many other subscribers also experienced it, as reported by the recorded message played on the hotline of my ISP.

It took two weeks before service was fully restored, but our router is still not working, so that makes it 3 weeks now.

I had no choice but have no access to the Internet outside the office, unless I go to a Wi-Fi place or an Internet cafe.

At first it was unsettling, but later on I learned to enjoy my off-duty hours reading a book (print version), lying down, resting, and even cooking.

And I realized going offline can be relaxing.

When do you go offline? I heard one IT exec saying he turns off his Blackberry after work so he can enjoy time with his family, and he did realize that work can wait til the next day.

Sometimes we have made going  online our default mode that we forget the joys of an offline life. Let's not miss out on those.

And I realized going offline can be relaxing.

When do you go offline? I heard one IT exec saying he turns off his Blackberry after work so he can enjoy time with his family, and he did realize that work can wait til the next day.

Sometimes we have made going online our default mode that we forget the joys of an offline life. Let's not miss out on those.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm still reading Anthony Bourdain’s “A Cook’s Tour” which I started before the ECQ. For 30 minutes, over lunch, I feel like I’m in Vietnam eating pho, in Spain having tapas, and in Portugal eyeing the cozido even if I’m just having Korean ramen or homemade egg sandwich in Manila.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom (NLT). Psalm 90:12

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Q&A with millennial songwriter Raffy Cabristante

A few years ago, we had an eager young man on our social media team at GMA News who seemed to never run out of energy. Raffy Cabristante, who hails from Dumaguete City, would do his job well even at odd hours, contribute articles even when it's not required of him to do so, and pester me often in hallways to ask if we had a job opening for a news reporter.

Off duty, he would do some jamming with a band he formed with friends.

It was no surprise then when I read from one of his Facebook posts that a song he wrote (lyrics) got recorded by his friend named Kyle Juliano. This was "Malapit Pa Rin."

I messaged him to congratulate him and ask, um, how does that Spotify link to his song he posted work? Do I need to subscribe or download an app?

Patience seems to be one of his virtues and so he advised this non-techie tita of Manila what to do.

So that's how "Malapit Pa Rin" became one of my most played songs on Spotify. Raffy also told me he had another song (music and lyrics are his), also recorded by Kyle Juliano, entitled "Crashing." He said this was the song that is most personal for him.

Anyway, so the other day Raffy posted on Facebook that "Crashing" just got 3 million plays on Spotify. Congrats, Raffy!

I asked him before about songwriting and all that stuff, and thought you might find this interesting too. Here's our Q and A:

K: Tell me something about yourself.

RAFFYI'm 25, born in Manila but raised in Dumaguete. I work as a community journalist based in Dumaguete City, but I also work on music from time to time.

K: Have you always been into music? What can you remember doing when you were younger?
RAFFY: I've been into music since fifth grade, when I started writing lyrics and poems on my notebook in between classes. My interest in music grew as I learned the drums and guitar (partly through lessons but mostly self-taught) when I was in the sixth grade. It was only when I knew how to play instruments that I set the lyrics into music. I first fell in love with music when I joined our church choir as soprano when I was a kid... and later bass when I grew up (big drop haha). 

K: Tell me about your music career. RAFFY: I feel fortunate that I spent my teenage/high school years in the 2000s when interest in rock music (particularly OPM rock) was so high. Since I already knew the guitar and drums at the time, I would frequently join different bands in high school. Most of the time, we did covers of hit rock songs at the time (like songs from Callalily, Kamikazee, Parokya ni Edgar, Bamboo, Hale, and other OPM bands)... but we also wrote songs. I was so passionate about music that I ended up leaving my studies behind. I was a freshman then at the Ramon Teves Pastor Memorial - Dumaguete Science High School, a prestigious public science high school with a minimum grade requirement of 85 (at the time). Because I focused more on music than studies, I didn't meet the requirement and I was advised to transfer to another school. Funnily enough, the school that booted me out because of music also invited me (and my present band The Chill Pills) to do a gig in a major school event. Ironic, but funny. Haha! My passion for bands continued until college, when some friends I met at NSTP got together to form a band called TetraPack (a reference to the packaging brand). The band was quite short-lived because we were too busy with academics, but we did land a gig at a fun day at the Silliman University College of Business Administration in 2010. Hehe! It was in 2011 when a song I wrote finally got public attention, when I became a finalist for that year's Valentine Songwriting Competition, one of the most well-known songwriting tilts in Dumaguete and Silliman's version of "Himig Handog." The song was about heartbreak called "Slowdown." It didn't win, but hey, being a finalist in a competition as well-known as VSC was already enough for me then. Through the following years, I was so busy with school and with pursuing my other passion of journalism. When I was still working with GMA News in 2015, I managed to form an acoustic band with college classmate (and erstwhile GMA News SMT teammate) Katrin Arcala, jamming together during our days off in BGC and a studio in Makati. I played the guitar, Kat was the lead singer; pina-MYMP. We would make short videos of covers then; it was really more of a way for us to unwind from the daily grind of our individual jobs. We called ourselves "The Chill Pills" (Kat and I made up the first lineup). The name was inspired by Alma Moreno's viral TV interview then, when she blurted out "Pills!" It also took inspiration from the expression "take a chill pill," which pretty much described the music we were making back then. The present lineup of The Chill Pills is Kyle Juliano on vocals and rhythm guitar, Jon David "JD" Garcia on lead guitar, and myself on drums and percussion. We got together late 2016 after I tapped Kyle (a churchmate of mine) to sing a song I was working on called "Malapit Pa Rin." Kyle and JD were bandmates during their high school years; Kyle called JD in when we were recording "Malapit Pa Rin" at a friend's indie home studio on December of that year. Even though Kyle is already based in Manila as a solo artist for Universal Records Philippines, we still jam together from time to time as a band, especially when Kyle comes home to Dumaguete. Most of the songs I wrote were performed by Kyle. 

K: What are your compositions? How did you come up with each of them? RAFFY: Here I'll only discuss my notable published compositions: a. Malapit Pa Rin - a Filipino adaptation of the hit Indonesian pop song "Dekat Di Hati" (Close To My Heart) by the group RAN. I wrote the Tagalog lyrics in 2016 and talks about long-distance relationships. We released the song independently on radio and online on Valentine's Day 2017. Later the song was discovered by Universal Records. After getting the proper permission from the original Indonesian artists, the song was re-recorded by Kyle and was released on August 2017. It became a viral hit on Spotify Philippines; it peaked at #10 at the "Viral 50 Philippines" chart. Kyle also performed the song with Piolo Pascual on ASAP on July 2017.

b. Crashing - This is perhaps the most personal song I've ever written. I wrote the song when I was still working as an online journalist in Cebu during the summer of 2017, based on real-life experiences. It's a ballad that tells the all too familiar story of a hopeless romantic, who first gets his hopes up when he falls in love with someone but later finds out that it was all for nothing after a rejection. At first, I didn't really intend the song for public release as it was only a way for me to deal with pain at the time. But I realized that I can't pass up on the opportunity of it going published and it was later noticed by Universal. It was recorded by Kyle and was released as a single on December 2017. "Crashing" has topped several different radio charts all over the Philippines; its lyric video is the most-viewed among Kyle's singles. It has also been nominated for "Pop Song of the Year" at the 2019 Wish 107.5 Music Awards. My favorite line in the song is this: "And I pray to God to give me strength / Cause your beauty makes me weak" c. The Boy I Used To Know - Written only a month after "Crashing," this is the only song I wrote that was not performed by Kyle. It was originally "The Girl I Used To Know," but the gender was changed after the song was given to a female artist. It was first recorded by Dumaguete-based singer-songwriter Jamie Kay Roa, and we released it independently on Facebook. It was later re-recorded by celebrity singer Angelina Cruz and released as one of the tracks of her debut extended play (EP) on July 2018, under Universal Records Philippines. d. Unta Single Na Ka (Sana Single Ka Na) - This is perhaps my most notable Cebuano pop song. Kyle, JD, and I first recorded the song as a rough demo in March 2017. It later gained attention after it became one of the finalists for the first Kanta Kasingkasing Bisaya songwriting competition. It was a worldwide songwriting competition, with the finals night held in Cebu City. The final version of the song was performed by Dumaguete-based artists Zach and Zeph Buenavista. It's a song whose theme was inspired by "Kung Ako Na Lang Sana;" it's a message from a guy who's in love with her girl best friend, the girl only comes to him to open up and when her relationship runs into problems. It was released under Kasikas Records and Viva Records. e. Take Control - An upbeat urban cool pop song where the singer asks a girl to take a chance on him, even if they're both hurting from their previous relationships. Its sound takes inspiration from the electronic pop music of indie bands LANY and The 1975 (which Kyle and I are big fans of). The song is a collaboration of myself, Kyle, and upcoming urban music singer-songwriter-producer Fern. (Fern Tan). "Take Control" was released as one of the tracks of Kyle's debut EP on September 2018, under Universal Records. K: Any advice to other young composers?

RAFFY: Well, to my fellow young composers, here are two pieces of advice. First, keep writing. Never stop. Write about anything, write about everything. There's no other way to keep the fire alive other than fanning it. Our love of music and songwriting is a fire, and by continuous writing, we let our talent grow and we keep it alive. Second, be yourself. Even if they don't know the songwriters personally, people can easily feel the raw, authentic emotions of a song that's honestly written. Most of the hit songs out there (like MercyMe's "I Can Only Imagine") were inspired by real events, real people, real feelings, and real experiences. Madaling nakukuha ang loob ng tao sa pamamagitan ng kantang may malalim na pinaghuhugutan. I experienced this first-hand when "Crashing" became a radio hit and people came to me saying they felt the emotion of the song. Keep it real, and the emotions will simply come out in the songs you write.

Thank you, Raffy. Keep on writing!

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Have you heard of the book "When Breath Becomes Air" by Paul Kalanithi? Ay grabe. Excellent prose, touching story. Kalanithi is a neurosurgeon who wrote about how he struggled to treat others when he himself needed healing from cancer. 

VERSE OF THE WEEK: By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me -- a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:8

Monday, May 20, 2019


Driving to work this morning at around 4:45 a.m., I was mesmerized by a beautiful sight in the sky. The moon. A beautiful moon. A beautiful round full moon glowing down at me.

I looked at it while waiting at a stoplight and told myself to take a picture of the moon when I get to work.

Because I parked maybe 4-5 blocks away from my workplace, it took maybe another 5-10 minutes to get to the office. By then the dark skies have become a bit brighter as sunrise was just a few minutes away.

I looked again at the moon and made a mental note to arrive at the office earlier tomorrow -- earlier than 5 a.m. -- so as to be able to take a photo of the moon against the background of a dark sky.

Thank you, Lord God, for the moon, I whispered a prayer.

May we not be so busy that we fail to see the beauty around us and to give credit to the Creator.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm reading "How To Make Disease Disappear" by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee. I read health books and fitness/diet articles online because I believe that  if I bombard myself with tons of health stuff, I will actually be brainwashed into pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Dr. Chatterjee's book is simple to understand yet is very practical and helpful. The advisory in a nutshell: Relax. Eat. Move. Sleep.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "How blessed is he whose help is in the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the LORD his God." Psalm 146:5