Getting in shape, shaping lives with LeBran


They had me at “Moon River,” one of my all-time favorite tunes. It was the warm-up music they used for our trial dance session almost three years ago. I remember even singing silently to the tune as I stretched and flexed some muscles that had been rendered inflexible for years. Towards the end when I was humming the part that says “we’re after the same rainbow’s end, waitin’ ‘round the bend…” I knew that Carewell, my wellness support group, had made the perfect choice in having LeBran DFS as our dance fitness partners.

Except for one thing. Our coaches do not label themselves as dance instructors or DIs, but “shapers.” Brando Balmedina, LeBran President/Artistic Director, and Val Guico, Business Development Consultant, explained why when they introduced the group to us before we started the trial session.

LeBran aims to fulfill a two-pronged mission: to help its clients keep in shape through dance exercises and at the same time provide sustainable income for young and talented but financially challenged dancers in the Philippines. LeBran supports its teachers or shapers not only through dance skills training, but also through personality development, values formation, financial literacy, and business management. Thus, while dancing to stay in shape, LeBran clients also help ‘shape’ young lives.

In the three years that we’ve struggled to keep up with different beats and dance steps, we’ve had a number of shapers weave in and out of our Wednesday and Saturday sessions at Carewell.

Junior shapers Axl, Jeannie, JunRey, Gerry, Maui, Vince, and senior shapers Belinda, Myrone, and Abby, following company rules, had to pass various LeBran certifications and examinations before they were allowed to teach specific dance routines. Many other shapers are currently in college while some have already earned their college degrees. Without any exception, all of the shapers we’ve met are competent, dedicated, well-mannered, and very professional — clearly shaped out of a special mold. They’re such fun to jive with.

Meet LeBran shapers Abby and Axl.

shaper abby.jpg

Abby with some Carewell members and friends from the AIN Society of Singapore who joined a recent dance fitness session.

shaper axl.jpg

Happily, Abby Tinio, our mainstay shaper, seems pleased with how we’ve managed to pick up pace from the Latin cha cha, bachata, and samba to the trickier routines of Material Girl, She Bangs, and Waka Waka, among others. Many of us in our senior years actually found our groove with the music of VST and Co. and Gary Valenciano.  And although some geriatric hips and knees refuse to cooperate, cooling down to the sensuous tune of Bali Ha’i is a cool idea, nonetheless.

As soon as we get comfortable with a routine, teacher Abby uses a different music—a faster one to suit our heightened energy level! And this, I believe, is the real deal.  At a certain stage, we dance not necessarily to try and whittle down our waist sizes to what they were decades ago, but simply to move to the beat and enjoy the moment.

As we loosen up and try to keep up with the moves, we burn calories; but even more important, we have fun. We release endorphins as we join kindred spirits on the dance floor. Minds and bodies relax as stress melts away. The laughter and camaraderie are simply priceless.

Carewell partnering with LeBran is a win-win situation. Even Albert Einstein agrees.

dance einstein



Who’s afraid of hungry ghosts?


By Chinese culture reckoning, August of each year is a month to be very mindful of one’s usual activities. It is the 7th month of the lunar calendar when restless spirits are believed to visit the physical world and make their presence felt. Unless appeased, they could cause many forms of trouble and damage to the living. One way of preventing their negative manifestations is to make incense offering rituals because the spirits are said to “feed” on the aromatic smoke coming from the burning incense.

This year, the dreaded Hungry Ghost Month from August 3 to 31 climaxed yesterday, August 17, the 15th day of the 7th month. On a day when the influence of the hungry ghosts is said to be most potent, I opted to go out and pursue my scheduled activities with my sisterhood at the Carewell Community. Wednesday is our qigong, dancing, and yoga or gong healing day, after all; and what could be a better way of deflecting negative vibes than filling oneself with happy and positive chi instead through these wellness pursuits.

Sheng Zhen Healing Gong yesterday with teacher Roger Simone went particularly well. Truth is, after joining his qigong class more than two years ago, it wasn’t until lately that I started to enjoy its true flavor. The practice grows on its own pace for different people. I’m a “slow” student, but with the patience and resolve of our excellent teacher, plus his inspirational sharing of his thoughts and personal experiences, my belief in qigong has developed firm roots.

After gathering energy for the day, we were all for expending it in an hour-long dance class with our LeBran shapers Abby and Axl. Both are regular staff members of a Latin dance health and wellness provider named after its founder, Brando Balmedina. Teachers are not called DIs or dance instructors but “shapers,” because the LeBran business model provides sustainable income for talented but financially-challenged Filipino dancers. While helping to put clients in better physical shape, the program also helps shape the future of its young and promising talents. Just like qigong, every LeBran session means expelling a lot of toxicity, this time by sweating it out, and cultivating more happy hormones.

Gong sound healing with yoga teacher Rosan Cruz may seem like a passive activity, but it is a great way of achieving a state of harmony and balance. Using soundwaves, it helps clear blockages and enables  deep healing of the mind, body, and spirit. We always end each session by chanting the OM (or AUM) mantra to signify our oneness with everything that is good in the universe.

So, contrary to the belief that everything that could go wrong will go wrong during the Hungry Ghost Festival, it was all good for me and my sisterhood yesterday. To top it all, teacher Roger treated us to a yummy surprise like he would often do. Yesterday’s decadent caviar pie will be talked about for a long while, just like the couscous salad and the banana cake (the best ever!) he had shared with us in the past.


For those who would like to try this caviar pie, visit Mellissa’s Facebook page to order straight from the source. Otherwise, please click on this link  to view how this creamy, sinful treat is made.

Play safe and offer some incense to feed the hungry ghosts. For Carebelles like us (term for Carewell members)  who may not be exactly hungry but are mortals with HUGE appetites, make it caviar, please.


The future is green: Quezon Province eyed as PHL Herbal Capital

(An edited version of this article is in today’s issue of The Philippine Star, Business/Agriculture section.  Posting this full, unedited version with the additional photos not found in the hard copy.)


In July 2014, typhoon Glenda (international name: Rammasun) caused extensive damage to Central Luzon, Mimaropa, Bicol and the Cordillera Administrative Region. Quezon province was among the worst hit with at least 10 persons killed and some P2 billion worth of agricultural crops and both public and private facilities destroyed.

But every cloud, as the saying goes, has a silver lining.

The Quezon provincial government soon initiated a relief campaign, which included a rehabilitation caravan to help survivors by distributing relief packs to thousands of families in badly devastated areas. During this campaign, the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) introduced its Herbal Program as a possible livelihood alternative to residents. Many local government officials responded positively to the concept, having been oriented on the increasing global demand for medicinal plants as an alternative way to health and wellness.

Herbal farming sounded like an economically viable proposition.

Herbalism, then and now

The oldest recorded proof of using medicinal plants to alleviate medical conditions were found in ancient Sumerian writings, estimated at 5000 years old. The illustrations depicted instructions on how to use various plants for treating ailments. Yet even before writing was invented, skeletal remains of Neanderthals aged at 50,000 years found in a cave in northern Spain suggested that prehistoric humans might have resorted to herbal remedies as well. Their teeth samples revealed a diet that consisted not only of meat, but also of some bitter-tasting plants. The conclusion was that because of their unpleasant taste, the plants must have been eaten for reasons other than flavor, most probably for medication.

Since then, there had been descriptions of how Arabs, Romans, Chinese, Indians, and other indigenous cultures, including African and Native American, had used herbs in healing rituals. Traditional herbal therapy systems, such as Ayurveda, emerged. Researchers have shown that in different parts of the world, people tended to use the same plants for healing purposes.

The turning point

Between the 16th and 17th centuries, iatrochemistry, a school of thought that sought to provide chemical solutions to medical ailments, started to drive a wedge between herbalism and science-based medicine.  In the early 19th  century, scientists learned how to isolate and modify the chemicals from plants. Over time, the use of herbal medicines declined in favor of modern drugs. Still, most pharmaceutical drugs were derived from botanicals.

Today, an ideological shift back to the merits of herbal medicine is sweeping both developed and developing countries all over the world.  Widespread dissatisfaction with the high cost and declining efficacy of prescription medications has driven consumers to return to natural remedies. Plant-based health and wellness as well as beauty products proliferate. Alternative health clinics and spas using herbal preparations are flourishing. Studies have shown that herbal remedies can actually complement conventional healing modalities.

There’s money in those plants

A study published in the World Journal of Pharmaceutical Research (WJPR) in 2015 stated that the global market for herbal medicines currently stands at over $60 billion annually. The sale of herbal medicines is expected to get higher at an average annual growth rate of 6.4%. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), herbal medicines are lucrative globally and they represent a market value of about US$43 billion a year. The global market for all herbal supplements and remedies could reach US$115 billion by 2020, with Europe the largest and the Asia-Pacific the fastest growing markets. In another article published in the International Journal of Academic Research in Accounting, Finance and Management Sciences in 2013, the global market growth for the herbal industry is expected to grow at 7% annually from year 2000 to 2050, at which time it is forecast to reach US$5 trillion.

global market value of the herbal industry

The diversity of categories for traditional or herbal medicine products makes it difficult to make an accurate assessment of the actual market size. Still, available figures suggest that the industry is worth big money.

Traditional medicine in the Philippines

Herbal medicines had been widely used in the Philippines long before modern Western medications were introduced. In many rural areas in the Philippines in the past and up until now, the albularyo is a prominent and sought-after person for his ability to cure common diseases. The term albularyo was derived from the Spanish word herbolario, which means herbalist.

There is an astounding variety of medicinal plants in the Philippines. The health advocacy group Alay Kapwa Kilusang Pangkalusugan (AKAP) has been able to list 1,297 plants in the Philippines that are known to have folk medicinal uses. There are reportedly 9,000 different plant species, 60% of which are believed to be endemic to the Philippines.  So far, fewer than 500 of those species have been identified to have medicinal uses.

In 1992, then Health Secretary Dr. Juan Flavier parlayed his decades of experience as a barrio doctor into championing the use of herbal drugs. During his term as Health Secretary, the DOH endorsed 10 Philippine plants clinically tested to have medicinal value. He also co-authored the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act (TAMA) that gave legal recognition to natural healing side by side with pharmaceutical drugs. It was signed into law (R.A. 8423) by then President Fidel Ramos in 1997. The law also created the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care, a state-owned corporation supervised by the DOH designed to promote scientific research on medicinal herbs and plants.

The Quezon Integrated Herbal Industry Program (QIHP)

Against the background of increased awareness of the health benefits of herbal medicines and growing demand for plant-based products globally, the Herbal Program envisioned by the provincial government of Quezon, which was warmly received by local residents after typhoon Glenda, was immediately set to motion. In 2014, Quezon Gov. David Suarez issued an executive order that created the Quezon Integrated Herbal Industry Program (QHIP) Committee composed of different government agencies, academic institutions and representatives from the private sector.

The QHIP Committee drafted the Herbal Industry Development Program, which focuses on five major areas: research and development, enhancement of herbal production, information and education, promotion and marketing, and agro-enterprise development. The Quezon Herbal Program is supervised by the OPA headed by Provincial Agriculturist Roberto Gajo with Mr. Walter Dapla as Program Coordinator.

Before the year was over, the provincial government led by Gov. Suarez conducted its first-ever Quezon Herbal Conference with the theme, “The Prospects of Herbal Plants in Quezon Province” in Tayabas City. The conference brought together municipal mayors, municipal agriculturists, municipal health officers, department heads of the provincial government of Quezon, non-government organizations, academic institutions and herbal health advocates. Participants were briefed on the significance of the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act, the herbal plants found in Quezon Province, global market positioning of the Philippines, processing and manufacturing herbal plants as medicines, and business opportunities in essential oils, among others.

The provincial government identified co-operators (individuals, groups, cooperatives) to participate in the production and processing of selected medicinal plants that have huge market demand. Six towns were initially chosen as pilot areas for the program and were given planting materials. Various forms of assistance were provided to the chosen co-operators, including needs assessment, training in production and product development, provision of equipment and tools, and financial management.

The Quezon Protected Landscape Herbal Pavilion

Last May 26, 2015, Gov. Suarez led the Memorandum of Agreement signing between the provincial government of Quezon, the local government of Atimonan, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region IV-A for the beautification of the Quezon Protected Landscape (formerly Quezon National Park) and developing it as another tourist destination in the province. It also marked the groundbreaking ceremony for the Quezon Protected Landscape (QPL) Herbal Pavilion along the iconic zigzag road known as Bitukang Manok in Atimonan.

Quezon Protected Landscape Herbal Pavilion, Photo courtesy of Neil Alvin Nicerio

The Quezon Protected Landscape Herbal Pavilion (Photo courtesy of Neil Alvin Nicerio)


Along with recreational facilities for visitors, the QPL Herbal Pavilion will have a display center for products made by different organizations, cooperatives and individuals involved in the Herbal Program. It will be a sanctuary for different types of medicinal plants and other species endemic to Quezon province, making it an ideal destination for those who want to enjoy nature and feel its healing power. Gov. Suarez was unequivocal about his vision when he said “I want Quezon Province to be the center of herbal medicine in our country, where all kinds of herbal plants and requirements can be acquired.”  The Governor also sees this initiative as a way of promoting environmental protection and rehabilitation by providing alternative jobs for those who still resort to cutting trees and slash-and-burn activities in the area.

Visitors from the media get a glimpse of ongoing work at the QPL Herbal Pavilion

Participants in the “Experience Quezon: Discovering New Destinations” media tour organized by the Provincial Tourism Office of Quezon get a view of the Herbal Pavilion as a work in progress.


With the targeted opening of the QPL Herbal Pavilion this year, Quezon Province is well on its way to becoming the “Herbal Capital of the Philippines.”






Tacloban, sashimi, pee walk, and other mondegreens*

Only a handful of the usual Qi Gong attendees made it to Carewell last Wednesday, which was April Fools’ Day. It was also the last working day during the Holy Week, so the others must have chosen to stay home or go someplace else.

Or so I thought. But then life at Carewell is much like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.

Around lunchtime, the activity room came alive as the Thursday Group arrived, one member after another, many with FTS (Food to Share, in true Carewell lingo). Within minutes, the table was groaning with a hefty spread: Mila’s pan-broiled bangus, Jane’s puso ng saging dish, Jasmin’s kalamay biko, Femie’s cheesecake, and pomelo from Choochie. Before we could match the chicken, lumpia, pork barbeque and other dishes with their respective providers, we had to join Tatang Doug in saying grace. No need to describe what happened next.

Cynthia's Maqluba

Cynthia’s Maqluba

But there’s every reason to focus on the culinary creation of our dear Cynthia Sanchez, who was set to leave for the US the following week. Not just because it was such a beautiful and flavorful labor of love, but also because its name sounded different. When Cynthia mentioned what it was called, it sounded like baklava, but I knew it couldn’t be that. She had to say the name again and the others went: “Ha, bakla ba?”  Other reactions: “Ano, Tacloban?” and “Ay, parang hukluban!”

Cynthia had to spell it out: M-A-Q-L-U-B-A,  a Mediterranean dish that literally means “upside down” because of the manner it is prepared.

Pray that Cynthia wouldn’t have to spend two years straight in the States, or else it will be that long before we could enjoy this exotic dish again.  For those who’d rather not wait until she returns to savor Tacloban once more, please check out this site.

And dance time with Teacher Trish after lunch? “Sounds like” pa more!

Take this instruction, for example: Step with your left, turn toward your right. Step with your right, turn toward your left. That’s easier done than said.

Ano raw, “bebot?” No.

“Ah, “libot!” Hindi rin.

This last one from Jasmin cracked me up: “Pee walk?”

I wanted to run to the bathroom.

The instruction was for the PIVOT turn as shown in this video.

Another dance step instruction: Step to your right and do chasing steps with your left. That’s called the…

SASHAY? (close, but not quite)

CHASSIS? (sa sasakyan yun!)

SASHIMI? (pagkain na naman!)

Teacher Trish was teaching us how to do the CHASSE (pronounced SHaˈsā).

Please click here to watch how it’s done.

group pic

Group photos grabbed from Lulu Arevalo’s Facebook Timeline


Please click on the link below to watch the Carebelles (and Tatang Doug) putting together the dance steps that afternoon. Yes, we dance to “Winter Wonderland” in the heat of summer. Well, you’ve been warned.


* Mondegreen – a misheard word or phrase

What I learned while attempting flamenco


Yes, I meant ‘attempting’ rather than ‘dancing.’ I admit I was lured into joining the flamenco class of teacher Trish Borromeo primarily by convenience. After fun-filled art activities with teacher Jane Beate in the morning, leafing through wellness books at the well-stocked library, and sharing hearty lunches with my Carewell friends, dancing the rest of the afternoon away seemed like a nice prospect. Enjoying things for the mind, body, and soul—Saturdays couldn’t get better than this at the Carewell Community.

Unlike my group members, however, I didn’t get to raise my moves to performance level. Crazy work requirements kept me away, not only from my flamenco and art sessions, but also from my Tuesday dance and qi gong exercises. I copped out just when I was starting to learn the proper way to flip my skirt and to do palmas or percussive hand clapping. My fellow bailaoras and our sole bailaor in the group had their fitting recital at the Carewell Christmas party, no less.


My beautiful soul sisters and our dashing Tatang Doug


American writer William Arthur Ward said this about teachers: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” At the outset, teacher Trish made us believe we could learn what seemed to be a very complicated dance to us then. Ever so patiently, she made us want to dance not only with our bodies, but also with our hearts.

I read somewhere that flamenco was  influenced by the expulsion of the Moors, gypsies, and Jews from Spain in the 15th century. The resulting flamenco culture thus became an expression of struggle, pride, and hope among the persecuted and the displaced. Pride and hope? Check. 

Through her insights, teacher Trish made me realize that there’s more to flamenco than meets the eye.

Let your body weight lift you.

A cardinal rule in flamenco is to keep your back straight. This gives that feeling of your weight becoming lighter, which allows you to make more graceful body and hand movements. The elongated spine contributes to a healthy posture and is worth maintaining, as we all know. Whenever teacher Trish says, “let your weight lift you rather than drag you down,” what I actually hear is, “let your challenges lift you; don’t let them weigh you down.”

Lead with your chin.

You may miss a step, skip a beat, but as long as you keep your chin up, things won’t look so bad. This is why flamenco dancers have that proud, confident look about them. Teacher Trish would always nudge us to show our long and ‘graceful’ necks and ‘lead with our chins’ which, to me, is a gentle reminder to not be afraid of taking risks. In life, as in flamenco, great strides become possible when we dare to step out of our comfort zones.

Listen and dance to the music.

That’s easier said than done when flamenco is of the choreographed kind. There are steps to remember, beats to count, and stances to keep. Teacher Trish has this seemingly simple tip:  let the music lead you. This, of course, requires good memory and constant practice—things my Carewell pals have, but I don’t.  I have a long way to go, but the lesson is not lost. Going forward, I will remember to find my rhythm, unleash the inner gypsy in my soul, and dance to the healing music of this wonderful life.

Bring out the castanets!

[ Click on the link below to watch the Carewell Saturday group in action]


“Flamenco, flamenco, the stars show

Fortune smiles when love takes the high road.”

– Henry Sullivan and Earle Crooker

There’s something Good about this Project

This one’s a campaign we can chew on. Literally.


I learned about it through an invitation to a bloggers’ event called “Tuesdate with the Good Food” last September 10 at Sev’s Café in Malate. The campaign is a joint project of Oxfam, an international non-profit organization that works with others to end poverty and human suffering in over 100 countries, and Dakila – Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism. The latter is a group of artists, students and other individuals who advocate social transformation.  Dakila means “great” or “noble,” and the group is committed to providing creative avenues to help unleash the inner hero in every individual.

The Good Food Project is the organizers’ campaign to raise awareness about brown rice as the healthier staple food choice while promoting sustainable agriculture and climate mitigation.

In my recent visit to the AANI Weekend Market at FTI, Taguig City, I found this vendor selling organic rice from Mindoro at PhP130.00 for every 2-kilo pack.

During my latest visit to the AANI Weekend Market at FTI, Taguig City, I found this vendor selling organic rice from Mindoro at PhP130.00 for every 2-kilo pack.

Truth is, I’ve been into brown rice for close to a year. I’ve read about its claimed health benefits, but because it is rather pricey, I usually combine it with white rice, which is cheaper. The September 10 event gave me more reasons to stick to the unpolished rather than its well-milled and ‘enriched’ white counterpart. Several justifications were presented that night to encourage the shift to brown rice. The following points, to me, were the most convincing:

Brown Rice is Good for YOU

The bran layer that gives brown rice its unpolished appearance contains essential nutrients that help prevent beri beri and diabetes. It also has anti-oxidant and anti-cancer properties as well as fatty acids that help lower cholesterol levels. These benefits are lost with second or additional millings required to produce white rice.

Brown Rice is Good for the Environment

Because only one milling is needed to produce brown rice, fuel and energy consumption during the milling process is minimized. This means reduced carbon emission into the atmosphere. The organic way of producing brown rice helps eliminate the use of pesticides and other harmful chemicals and thus spare the environment from toxic threats.

Brown Rice is Good for the Economy

The milling recovery of brown rice is 10% higher, which translates to potentially more sacks of rice available locally. In the long haul, if we have sufficient amounts of healthier rice, there will be less need to import from other countries.

The price of brown rice may be prohibitive for most people now, but with increased demand, the organizers are hopeful that this issue will, in time, be resolved. For an ordinary consumer like me, it means pikit mata for now. Pay the price for better health and country—go brown!

Ipat Luna, the owner of Sev’s Café and a brown rice advocate, served us delicious food  using organic rice from the Cordilleras and other locally sourced ingredients. She also shared some insights about food miles and the need to buy local produce. Sev’s Cafe is among the local restaurants that serve organic brown rice in their menu. Sometime later I learned that it is also a community hub or pick-up point for Community Shared Agriculture.  This arrangement allows one to buy farm-fresh organic veggies grown by Tarlac farmers and get them from Sev’s Café on Tuesday afternoons. I plan to explore this option soon.

community hub

As for The Good Food Project, of course I’m in.

Health luck forecast in the Year of the Water Snake

(Published in The Manila Times, February 8, 2013; and posted on Health News Online, February 10, 2013)


WITH easy access to information, more and people are becoming increasingly proactive about the pursuit of better health and well-being. The ancient practice of feng shui offers many ways to increase one’s chances of enjoying good health and quality of life by harmonizing the energies surrounding our environment. These unseen but powerful energies are important for our well-being, and feng shui tells us that we can make them work for our best interests.

At the start of the lunar year, the Flying Star system of feng shui indicates where favorable or unfavorable energies have flown to guide us in our efforts to achieve balance and harmony throughout the year. Among these stars, the one that affects our health is the so-called Black Star No. 2 or the Illness Star, which brings with it not only illness but also sadness, tension and stress, accidents, and other health-related issues. It is important to note that this star has flown in the Southwest sector. It also shifts positions every month, and the combination of the annual and monthly positions creates distinct health prospects for each animal sign.

Following is a summary of the health forecast for each animal sign.

RAT (1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008)
Except for the Earth Rat (65 years old), who has weak health indications, all other Rat categories enjoy good health luck in 2013.  Other indications show, however, that while the Earth Rat needs to be extra careful about health, other Rat-born people must make an effort to protect their wellness.
Be particularly on guard on the third month (April 5-May 5, 2013) and sixth month (July 7-Aug. 7, 2013).

OX (1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009)
The Earth Ox (64 years) should consider placing Wood element energy nearby this year. The Wood Ox (28 years) should also be careful with their health, but all other Ox-born people will enjoy good health.  Be extra mindful of your health condition from May 6-June 5, 2013.

TIGER (1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010)
In 2013, only the 27-year-old Fire Tiger shows weakness in health luck. The 63-year-old Metal Tiger enjoys robust health this coming year. All others born in the Tiger year should have a good year in terms of health. The combination of stars on the fourth month (May 6-June 5, 2013) creates some illness vibes, so it pays to be careful.

RABBIT (1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999)
The 26-year-old Fire Rabbit suffers weak physical health, while the 62-year-old Metal Rabbit will have robust health in 2013. All other Rabbit-born people will experience a good year, healthwise. Watch out on the eighth month (Sept. 8-Oct. 7, 2013) when stress could lower your resistance levels and bring on illness energies.

DRAGON (1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000)
The Wood Dragon (49 years) manifests serious weakness in health luck and is advised to strengthen the Wood element at all times. The other Dragon-born people have no such cause for worry. Still, the prospect of getting sick and feeling out of sorts on the ninth month (Oct. 8-Nov. 6, 2013) looms for Dragons.  It pays to get protected from the effects of the Illness Star.

SNAKE (1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001)
The 48-year-old Wood Snake must be careful and watch his or her health this year. Good health is indicated for the other Snake-born people; still, all Snakes are advised to slow down on the ninth month (Oct. 8-Nov. 6, 2013) when the Illness Star visits your chart and could cause even minor ailments to develop into something more serious.

HORSE (1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002)
The 71-year-old Water Horse will have the best health prospects, in contrast to the 35-year-old Earth Horse who could suffer from waning health luck in 2013. All Horse-born people should take good care of their health especially on the fifth month (June 6-July 6, 2013) when the Illness Star could cause lack of energy and exhaustion making them more susceptible to getting sick.

SHEEP (1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003)
There is an indication of serious weakness in health luck for the Earth Sheep (34 years) who is advised to be careful in 2013. All other Sheep-born will enjoy good health, but it is beneficial to be extra careful especially on the seventh month (Aug. 8-Sept. 7, 2013) when risks of illness and injury manifest in your chart. Avoid hospitals, graveyards and attending funerals as the yin energies of these places could prove too strong for you.

MONKEY (1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004)
The best health luck is in store for the Metal Monkey (33 years),   but the Fire Monkey (57 years) should watch out in 2013. For the other Monkey-born people, it is necessary to place the correct remedy in the Southwest to subdue the Illness Star. There is risk of getting sick or meeting accidents on the fourth month (May 6-June 5, 2013)  and on the seventh month (Aug. 8-Sept. 7, 2013). Avoid staying in the Southwest sector during these periods.

ROOSTER (1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005)
Only the Fire Rooster (56 years) is at risk of experiencing serious health issues in 2013 and must consider placing Earth element nearby. All other Roosters won’t have the same problem, but towards the twelfth month (Jan. 6-Feb. 3, 2014) it would be wise to avoid too much partying as waning energy levels could cause them to succumb to illness more easily.

DOG (1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006)
The Illness Star appears in the Dog’s chart on the eleventh month (Dec. 7, 2013-Jan. 5, 2014), which could cause health concerns. Avoid stressful situations and give more attention to your health by striking a balance in your life. In 2013, the Wood Dog (79 and 19 years) need to be very careful and must take all necessary precautions and install remedies, especially Wood energies near them.

BOAR (1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007)
The Wood Boar (78 and 18 years) may have serious weakness in health luck. It will help to have Wood element energy near you. Other Boars enjoy good health luck this year. Inauspicious energies on the second month (March 6-April 4, 2013) and on the eleventh month (Dec. 7, 2013-Jan. 5, 2014) could prove too much for the Boar as the Illness Star figures in their chart. When this star manifests itself, even small ailments could become more serious if not looked after immediately.

Suggested health luck charms for 2013
1.    The Illness Star No. 2 has flown in the Southwest direction. Avoid too much noise or activities here that may affect the wellness of family members staying in this sector. Subdue this afflicted energy by placing a Longevity Vase in silver or gold and filled with long-life mantras. It will help maintain good health especially for the elder family members.


Longevity vase

2.    Aside from getting enough sleep, eating well and doing some exercises each day, you should also place a Wu Lou by your bedside. You may also wear or carry the Wu Lou pendant or amulet to counter the illness vibes.


Wu lou

3.    A fashionable way to enhance health luck is by wearing clothes designed with the wu lou or antakahrana symbols available in different styles and colors only at WOFS Philippines boutiques.


Antahkarana-designed dress from the Frigga collection

4.    Wear the Medicine Buddha script pendant or the Medicine Buddha moving mantra watch to improve your health luck and boost your energy level. They work not only for physical ailments but also ease out mental worries.


Medicine Buddha script

5.    For those whose health luck is at an all-time low, it is recommended to increase Wood energy around you in the form of leafy plants on your desk. You can also wear the Green White Umbrella scarf to help prevent your health from further degenerating.

6.    When your energies are weak, you feel depressed and demotivated about almost everything. You need to increase the presence of earth element, which in turn strengthens metal energy. Place crystal balls near you, on your work desk, or in the Southwest sector. Crystal balls etched with powerful images are ideal, like the White Umbrella Goddess, who protects against illnesses.


White umbrella crystal ball with lotus stand

(Source: Lillian Too & Jennifer Too Fortune & Feng Shui 2013, personalized horoscope books for the 12 Chinese zodiac signs, available at all WOFS Phils. boutiques)