Your medical history now comes in a card at The Medical City

Your medical history now comes in a card 
By Walter Ang
December 28, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The Medical City now makes it easier for patients to access their medical information and history through its e-Partner Card, the Philippines' first individual electronic storage card for patients' personal health records.

The card was launched as part of the hospital's 43rd anniversary celebration. The hospital unveiled four major elements that supported its anniversary theme "Establishing the Pillars of Growth and Leadership."

Pillar one was "Building a National Network," which highlighted its 15 satellite clinics and two acquisitions, Great Saviour International Hospital in Iloilo and Mercedes Medical Center in Angeles City, Pampanga.

The e-Partner card was introduced at the unveiling of pillar two, "Promoting the Patient Partnership Philosophy," accompanied by the introduction of the hospital's second corporate website ( which will serve as a supplement to its first website (, as well as its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Pillar three was "Advancing in Product Innovation," which showcased the latest technology the hospital has acquired: a new catheterization laboratory and a robotic surgery system. Pillar four was "Creating a Global Brand," celebrating The Medical City's re-accreditation by Joint Commission International, a global healthcare accrediting organization.

The card is basically a self-contained personal health record USB device. "You simply plug the e-Partner Card into a USB outlet located in most computers and the records are immediately available. With just a click of a mouse, the built-in software program opens and presents all the medical records in an easy-to-use and easy-to-read format," said Margaret A. Bengzon, Group Head of TMC's Strategic Services Group.

The e-Partner Card holds patient identification such as name, age, address, medication records and prescriptions, blood type, immunization records, and organ donor information.

It can also store medical records of procedures and exams that have been performed on the patient such as radiological imaging (like X-rays or MRI scans) and laboratory test results.

"If your medical condition requires detailed histories of multiple medications or just a running record of the latest dosages, your doctor can see what has been prescribed by other specialists that you are also seeing and avoid adverse drug reactions.," said Bengzon.

"This e-Partner Card also keeps your medical records handy and available for first responders and healthcare professionals in case of emergency or when you may be unable to communicate. However, patients have the option to secure the information with a password lock."

Upon every visit to TMC, patients with e-Partner Cards need only submit their cards to the service unit's staff to have their latest records uploaded. "The card also allows patients to enter their own additional information for customized control of their own health care," she said.

Since there is currently no single global system of storing digitized patient information and records, the stand-alone feature of the device is one if its key come-ons. It does not require additional software or any specialized readers, nor does it need internet access, and it can be accessed by any standard computer that has Microsoft Windows operating system.

Business or leisure travelers, OFWs and immigrants will appreciate the card's ability for automatic translation of records into various languages.

"With the e-Partner Card, every TMC patient can now be an even more engaged partner in the attainment of his health goals," said Bengzon. "This power to actively manage one's health information enables patients to communicate and collaborate more actively with their physicians, towards more efficient, effective and customized care."

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Holiday gifts, according to the stars

Holiday gifts, according to the stars
By Walter Ang
December 16, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

For this year, astrologers recommend patience and allowing for delays and snafus when you do your holiday shopping because there is a Mercury retrograde that started on Dec. 10 and will last until the 30th.

Mercury, the ruler of electronics, communications and transportation, will look as if (from our vantage point here on Earth) it's going backward in its path in the sky. Whenever this happens, its "powers" are "reduced," and there's usually a lot of weird miscommunication, weird traffic patterns and weird weather incidents. Also, gadgets tend to go haywire. Computers get virus attacks, fax machines break down, cellphones hang, ATMs and credit card swipers bog down.

You can already imagine how irritated people will be at the malls. By the way, electronics have also been known to drop in prices after certain Mercury retrogrades?so stave off on any electronics purchases.

That advice done with, we have astrology to use as a guide if you've run out of ideas on what to give as gifts. Whether you're one of the inherently thoughtful signs or one of the inherently absent-minded signs, you can pick out certain gifts for each of the signs (including yourself!) based on some general characteristics for each.

Earth signs
Practical and productive (bounty of the earth) but also stubborn as rocks.

Taurus (April 21-May 21)
Creatures of comfort, they like anything that adds to their sense of luxury or security without going out of their comfort zone (their beds). Their favorite piece of clothing is, more often than not, a pair of ratty (but comfy!) slippers. Once they find a restaurant they like, they eat there for life. A gift certificate to their favorite restaurant and a pair of slippers and you're good to go.

Virgo (Aug 23-Sept 22)
They love to be organized but sometimes their secret shame is that they're not really all that clean (it's that connection to earth). They all secretly want to be professional closet organizers. Get them a six-pack of body soap and some of those transparent plastic sock dividing-organizing thingies.

Capricorn (Dec 22-Jan 20)
In a positive light, determined to get to the top; the same trait expressed in the negative extreme equals super obstinate. Give them ten (they like collecting things) mugs labeled with "World's Greatest Boss" (even if they're not the boss yet). Best of all, you can give them the same kind of mug for every other occasion thereafter. "For your collection!"

Water signs
Still waters run deep (ooh, mysterious). But have you ever seen a tsunami (drama queens)?

Cancer (June 22-July 22)
The home is the power base of all Cancerians. There, they get to nurture and tend to everyone. That's also where they retreat (into their shells) when the world gets a little too much. Give aromatherapy candles to help soothe the soul of your frazzled Cancerian friends. Oh, they like red and white gingham tablecloths, too.

Scorpio (Oct 23-Nov 21)
Scorpio is the sign of secrets. They like nothing more than to uncover the truth(s) in their usual intense manner. It won't cost you anything to tell them a secret for the holidays. They'll like that even more than the second-hand Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys paperback you can get them. "Guess where I this book from!"

Pisces (Feb 20-Mar 20)
Their powerful imagination can either be channeled into artistic creativity or into daydreaming in circles. Bodies of water help them relax or focus all those ideas that constantly pop into their heads. Other than a membership to a sports club with a pool, fill a glass bottle with water, drizzle the outside with glue, then pepper with glitter. "I made this water sculpture just for you!"

Fire signs 
Source of life and warmth. And explosive blazes.

Aries (Mar 21-April 20)
Alive, awake, enthusiastic! Always raring to ram the goat's horns against every new thing in town because they see the world through a child's eyes. The newest model of anything will get them excited for sure. Otherwise, comic books or animated movies will be just as fine. If you can get the newest model of something that features a cartoon character, well, jackpot!

Leo (July 23-Aug 22)
Their lion's mane, hair, is super important to Leos (the bald ones are most likely deliberately that way because they'd rather chop off thinning or bad hair than be caught dead with it). A comb, brush, hairband, barette or any hair tool or accessory will win you points. A pocket mirror is okay, too. They'll think of you every time they preen and purr.

Sagittarius (Nov 22-Dec 21)
The sign of the archer, shooting arrows all over the place, though not necessarily aiming anywhere in particular. For them, the journey is definitely more important than the destination. They like to physically do stuff and they like to laugh a lot. Treat them to the amusement park. Or give them a couple of comedy DVDs with the labels covered up. They like surprises.

Air signs
Just like air, can be friendly and easy breezy. And can be all over the place or up in the clouds.

Gemini (May 22-July21)
Their mile-a-minute brains love words: reading words, writing words, saying words, inventing words, etc. They all want to have their own talk shows. You can get them anything they can read or write on. You can get lozenges for the ones who get you into trouble in class because they talk to all the time and your name ends up on the board under the "Noisy" list.

Libra (Sept 23-Oct 22)
They love to meet new people and make new friends, collecting a network of contacts they'll eventually tap when they run for public office. That is, if they can decide fast enough if they really want to run or not after weighing the pros and cons (sign of the scales). A planner-and-directory will help them keep track of deadlines.

Aquarius (Jan 21-Feb 19)
Because they're preoccupied with the future rather than the present, they can either become visionary innovators or they end up forgetting everything that needs to get done today. Something that beeps or lights up with reminders would be nice. A nice comfortable pillow will also be nice for the ones who think so much that they get insomnia.

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International experts to grace green architecture confab

International experts to grace green architecture confab
By Walter Ang
December 13, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Two international authorities, Emilio Ambasz and Francine Houben, will speak at a national architecture symposium on Jan. 21, 2011 to discuss "Global Green Concepts: Evolution of the Built Environment."

The symposium is organized by Architecture Network (Archinet), the University of Santo Tomas College of Architecture's student organization and will be held at Centerstage Theater, SM Mall of Asia.

Archinet planned the 2011 symposium theme to build on issues that were raised in the 2010 symposium that it also organized.

"The 2010 symposium, titled `Asian Green Cities: Visions of the Modern World,' concluded with a cliffhanger and left an open-ended question that begs to be answered," says Archinet president Mesezabel Montano. "What if we change the perception that `building green is something we can't afford' and, instead, embrace the truth that `we can no longer afford to build in any other way'?"

"Indeed, there is no easy solution when it comes to addressing the issue of sustainability," says Dan Lichauco, principal designer of Archion Architects, an associate professor at the college and Archinet's faculty advisor. "Only by asking the right questions will we get the right answers and therefore the right results.

"In this symposium, we hope to dissect the true issues behind the buzz-word `sustainability,' confront the cynicism that inhibits necessary action, and come up with creative concepts on how we can integrate green principles in our design process so that our built environment can continue to evolve into one which not only serves man but also honors nature."

Industrial designer and architect Emilio Ambasz will discuss how to design buildings that are intricately connected to the natural environment and accessible to the whole community.

Ambasz has a Master's Degree in Architecture from Princeton University. He has taught in the same university and has been a visiting professor at the Hochschule fur Gestaltung, Germany.

Projects include MycalSanda Cultural Center, Japan; Museum of American Folk Art, New York City; and Lucille Halsell Conservatory at the San Antonio Botanical Center, Texas.

He won First Prize in the closed competition to design the Master Plan for the Universal Exhibition of 1992 in Seville, Spain. In 1997, Ambasz received the Vitruvius Award from the MuseoNacional de BellasArtes, Argentina for the innovative quality of his work.

Francine Houben, founding partner and creative director of Mecanoo Architecten, Delft, The Netherlands, will present the philosophy behind her architecture, which is characterized
by a strong contextual sense for audience, user, and environment. She will also showcase a selection of her international projects which focus on energy consciousness, sustainability, and cultural value.

Houben has designed buildings in recognition that sustainability is a social responsibility and that buildings must inspire their users to be socially and ecologically responsible.

Houben is one of the few women to have reached a position of eminence in the field of architecture. She is a visiting professor at Harvard University. She lectures all over the world and takes part as jury member in many prestigious competitions. Her views on architecture where published in 2001 in the book "Composition, Contrast, Complexity."

Recent projects include Montevideo in Rotterdam and FiftyTwoDegrees in Nijmegen and Theatre and Congress Centre La Llotja in Llerida, Spain. Currently in development is the National Performing Arts Center in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

"The symposium will address issues and challenges that face a developing nation like the Philippines in light of the current state of the global environment," says Montano. "Architects, designers and planners play crucial roles in offering solutions to these problems facing the nation."

"In addition, the symposium serves as a prelude to the celebration of the UST College of Architecture's 82nd anniversary in February 2011," she says. "The symposium is also a few days prior to the Grand Opening of UST's Quadricentennial Celebrations to be held on January 28, 2011." January 28 is the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, the patron saint of the university.

"Global Green Concepts: The Evolution of the Built Environment" is on Jan. 21, 2011. For details, call 09178966378. Register at

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Saving San Sebastian Church

Saving San Sebastian Church
Text and photos by Walter Ang
December 7, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

San Sebastian Church facade.
Photo by Walter Ang
Bring a refrigerator magnet with you when you join the "S.O.S." (Save Our San Sebastian Church) walking tour. Part of the fun is being able to slap the magnet onto portions of the church that have been painted to look like stone.

Those magnets end up sticking onto everything. After all, the Minor Basilica of San Sebastian is the only prefabricated all-steel church in the Philippines, and, according to some sources, in Asia.

Offered by Old Manila Walks, a walking tour company headed by Ivan ManDy, the tour is equal parts art lessons, scientific facts, historical tidbits, and, of course, the most fun component, rumors of possible scandals.

No spoilers here, but be sure to ask the guides who wasn't at the big party to commemorate the completion of the church. Who allegedly broke some of the stained glass windows? Did Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty fame, really design the church?

Unfortunately, the biggest scandal-in-the-making is the fact that the all-steel structure is rusting away.

All steel
Run by the Order of the Augustinian Recollects or "the Recoletos" and located in Quiapo, the church is the first Philippine shrine for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel as it housed an image brought over from Mexio in the early 1600s.

Three previous churches made of masonry were destroyed by earthquakes from the 1600s to the 1800s. In 1880, Spanish engineer Genaro Palacios rallied the friars to use a very modern (at the time) solution: steel. Stronger, lighter and cheaper than brick, termite-proof and earthquake-proof, pre-fabricated parts would be shipped from Europe and erected in Manila.

Ask the guides why it took a decade to build. Stories of lowest bidders, circuitous delays, stubborn suppliers, dealing with two sets of "management" in separate continents and other misadventures will make for an interesting afternoon.

But side-by-side the stories of bureaucracy are also lovely tales of engineering feats; of human passion and tenacity; of an architectural accomplishment.

"The church is a great mix of art and technology, of devotion and profession, of Europe and Asia. Born of the collaboration of engineers, friars, artists, metalsmiths, glassworkers, sculptors and laborers from six countries," says architectural conservator Tina Paterno, who usually joins the Old Manila Walks tour guides.

Marvels disappearing
Once the structure was erected, celebrated local artists finished its interiors. Lorenzo Guerrero designed the retablos and pulpit. Lorenzo Rocha faux-finished the steel interiors to look like marble and jasper. Rocha was a prizewinning portraitist and royal court painter whose collaborative trompe l'oeil on the church walls are all that is known to have survived of his work.

And even those might not last for long. "Since 1891, the Philippines has had 14 major earthquakes," says Paterno. That the church is still standing is a testament to engineered steel's ability to withstand strong forces, however, it's succumbing to another force of nature. Seeping water has caused panels to warp, rivets to pop off, paint to deteriorate and rust (and resultant holes) to form.

The tour affords views of spaces not usually seen by the public: above the ceiling, through floors of wrought iron staircases that lead to the belfry. Tourists are shown a mural of purgatory in the choir loft that's all but faded away. "The paintings are a challenge because corrosion has formed beneath the paint," she says. "How do you conserve a painting whose `canvas' backing is crumbling away?"

"Save for a few additions, the interior finishes including windows and painted metal, have never been replaced," says Paterno. "The interior space would be very close to what someone would have seen on inauguration day in 1891."

Most alarming and dangerous is that all the surface rusting could indicate the likely concurrent rusting of the church's hidden internal structural supports.

The order has long noticed the church's condition. Recollect Fr. Rene Paglinawan had attended a conservation talk given by Paterno and invited her to see their church in 2008.

The San Sebastian Conservation and Development Foundation, Inc. was formed this year. Fr. Regino, the Prior Provincial of the Recoletos, chairs the board, which includes Fr. Paglinawan, and Fr. Leopoldo Estioko, the parish priest, and Paterno as the executive director.

Paterno has practiced in New York City for over a decade, working on such projects as the United Nations and the Apollo Theater. She has assembled a conservation team that has already begun the first phase of its restoration: investigation and assessment of the problem.

"We have to establish the extent of the damage and its causes before we can formulate a rescue plan," she says. "We're a multidisciplinary team putting heads together to understand it better. The team has found over 50 leaks and many puddles of water inside the church. During a recent storm, they detected one meter of water inside a column. What can possibly be more corrosive to an all-steel church?"

Help in any way
Paterno's dedication and passion have inspired others who have become part of the technical conservation team. A few of the pioneer volunteers include structural engineering company Meinhardt Philippines, architect Dan Lichauco of Archion Associates and his architecture students from University of Santo Tomas, the National Historic Institute , photographer Estan Cabigas, the Corrosion Society of the Philippines, engineering consulting company I-Mat Pro and architectural and engineering imaging company Digiscript Philippines.

The multinational team that constructed the church in the 1880s is mirrored in the team that has rallied around Paterno to assist her, all of whom are volunteering their services: Dr. Robert Baboian, corrosion scientist and key figure for the Statue of Liberty restoration; Noel Ocampo, structural engineer specializing in historic buildings from Robert Silman and Associates, New York; Roz Li, restoration architect and principal at Li-Saltzman Architects, New York; Bakas Pilipinas, a Philippine historic preservation society based in New York; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

"Although the Recollects have invested in the work and Fr. Estioko tirelessly rallies his constituents for the need to keep the church alive for the subsequent generations, additional funds need to be raised for non-volunteer consultants, services and materials" she says. "There is much to do, it's a huge and complex building, any kind of help is always welcome."

"You don't have to be an architectural or engineering expert to help out," says ManDy, who added the "S.O.S." tour to his company's line-up to generate awareness and raise funds (100% of proceeds go towards the restoration efforts). "We can all help by using the skills or talents that we have. Or you can simply join the tour," he says with a laugh. "You can take photographs and post them on Facebook, write or blog about what you'll learn on the tour, tell people about it so that you can inspire others to save our San Sebastian Church."

To donate or volunteer, email For information on the tour, visit

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