Husband-and-wife team strikes ‘green gold’

The award-winning Lauat Hair Treatment Shampoo is RRDI’s best-selling product and is being exported abroad.

The Rainiers Research and Development Institute (RRDI) started as a backyard business of husband-and-wife team, Dr. Rainier Villanueva and nurse-wife Victoria, who formulated their own herbal shampoo made from lawat leaves: the Lauat Hair Treatment Shampoo.

A neurosurgeon, pharmacist, and medical technologist all rolled into one, Dr. Villanueva was drawn to the idea of marrying the traditional herbal treatment with modern medical practice. He conducted intensive researches and experiments to process the raw ingredients and turn them into a more convenient form meant for daily usage.

RRDI executive vice-president Victoria “Vicky” Villanueva holds a pack of lawat leaves, the main ingredient for the company’s best-selling product, the Lauat Hair Treatment Shampoo.

The shampoo is composed mainly of the leaves acquired from the lawat plant which is indigenous in the Visayan region, particularly in the island of Masbate. RRDI sources the raw ingredients used in its products directly from the province which, in return, provides livelihood to the locals.

Dr. Villanueva developed the fascination with the all-natural, traditional body treatments in his home province of Masbate. “In the early days, people in Masbate used lawat leaves to treat their hair and scalp problems such as dandruff and hair fall. These leaves are crushed and turned into a gelatinous form and applied directly into the scalp,” explains Victoria “Vicky” Villanueva, executive vice-president of RRDI.

Through word-of-mouth advertising, the Lauat Hair Treatment Shampoo became widely known not only locally but also internationally. From the shelves of local supermarkets, the shampoo eventually reached retail shops in foreign shores and even clinched a prestigious award in the 27th Salon International Des Inventions in Geneva, Switzerland way back in 1999.

‘Tawas’ roll-on deodorant by Lauat.

RRDI manufactures and distributes personal care products made of all-natural ingredients. Lauat Hair Treatment Shampoo is notably the first non-medical product distributed by Zuellig Pharma, a Swiss pharmaceutical company based in the Philippines. This helped build the company’s strong branding presence in the market. It is now being exported abroad, to countries such as the US, Norway, Germany, Australia, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, Korea, and Malaysia where there is a captive market.

Handcrafted soap bars by Lauat.

From its humble beginnings as a simple husband-and-wife business endeavor in 1989, RRDI grew to be one of the pioneers and recognized Philippine companies in the field of herbal and natural products such as shampoos, conditioners, soaps, deodorants, and other herbal treatments. The company has then developed more personal care products made from all-natural ingredients like lawat, gugo, akapulco, virgin coconut oil, carrot, calamansi, and tawas.

These all-natural RRDI products were showcased in the recently concluded 63rd Manila FAME, a trade show which showcases finely crafted products covering the home, holiday and gifts, and fashion sectors crafted in the Philippines for the global market. RRDI’s participation in this trade show has allowed the company to expand its market reach even more.

RRDI was one of the select companies featured in the Department of Agriculture (DA) Pavilion, which showcased a wide range of food gifts, body care and wellness products, manufactured by local communities supported by the DA-Agribusiness Marketing Service (DA-AMAS). The company’s partnership with DA and the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), organizer of Manila FAME, gave Manila FAME trade buyers and visitors a welcome opportunity to get to know up close RRDI’s product lineup of carefully formulated herbal products.

AT THE 63RD MANILA FAME. RRDI’s executive vice president Victoria “Vicky” Villanueva (center)) with production manager Violeta Ferrer (left) and research and development head Rodel Atiga at the RRDI showcase at the DA Pavilion. (Photos by Jasfrey Carandang/CITEM)

From a simple backyard business, RRDI has become a full-fledged manufacturing company that positions itself as a one-stop service provider in the areas of R&D, raw material sourcing, product development, toll manufacturing/private labeling, product testing, and packaging development.

“If you want posterity and a continuation of your legacy, you have to have your own brand,” concludes Villanueva, who shares that RRDI also has a CSR program that involves sending several underprivileged youth to school and granting them part-time employment. (With reports from KSGuerzon)

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When the show can’t go on

United Press International (UPI) reported yesterday a rather shocking story of an ice-skating Russian circus bear that killed a trainer during rehearsals for a “Bears on Ice” show by the renowned Russian State Circus, which was on tour in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. The circus bear was later shot dead by the police.

The report reads:

Dimitry Potapov, 25, was dragged across an ice rink by the bear during a rehearsal for a show in Bishkek, the British newspaper The Sun reported. The bear caused critical injuries to an assistant, Yevgeny Popov, 29, who tried to help Potapov.

An eyewitness said the bear “tore Potapov’s neck and legs to pieces.”

The act was part of a Bears on Ice show by the Russian State Circus. Trained bears riding motorcycles, skating and even playing hockey have long been a part of Russian circus tradition, and fatal attacks are unusual.

Police shot the 5-year-old bear.

While the attack took place during a rehearsal, a large crowd was watching, the Novosti news agency reported.

The reason why the 350-kilo circus bear named Senya attacked and killed the trainer has not been made clear. But a closer look on how these bears are forced to ice-skate, play hockey, dance the tango, ride bicycles and motorcycles, and do acrobatics, may give us a hint on why this particular ice-skating Russian circus bear lost its temper.

Well, it is a no-brainer for animal rights activists and animal lovers alike: According to them, these bears, as well as other “working animals” in the circus scene, are not meant to be taken out of their natural habitat and be coerced to act like clowns in the name of entertainment. This exploitation of captive bears for commercial reasons is “sick” and “evil,” says one passionate commenter on YouTube.

Another disgusted US-based YouTube user reacts: “Trying to strap ice-skates on a multi-hundred pound carnivore goes against the natural order. The bear deserves to live in the damn woods, and not get enslaved and dressed up for our silly amusement.” His argument is not without basis: Bears — and other wild animals in ‘commercial captivity’ — are not supposed to be performing all sorts of ice-skating stunts in the first place. It is so unnatural for these wild animals. Unfortunately, such circus practice remains, and is actually popular among circus-loving crowds.

While in captivity, these Russian circus bears have to undergo rigorous training to do those complex circus tricks at such a young age. And what unsuspecting circus-goers do not realize is, these circus bears suffer a great deal of pain, inflicted by their trainers, in order to perfect those human-made routines. Each performing bear comes with a back story of trauma.

According to reports, these overworked circus bears, who live in very small cages, perform mainly out of fear of their masters. During their painful training, they are slapped, punched, kicked, whipped, and beaten with metal rods, while remaining malnourished. And, in some instances, their paws are burnt to force them to stand on their hind legs. Chains and pins are reportedly used to bind their lips, hands, and feet to make them learn certain tricks and obey the trainer. Alas, these helpless animals have become doomed slaves of the circus industry.

Senya, the Russian circus bear in question, must have snapped due to psychological distress caused probably by years of torturous training and overfatigue in an unnatural environment. Surely, there must have been some stimuli that triggered this unforeseen bear attack (rumors have it that the Russian circus is notorious for how badly they treat their bears). Alas, its killer instinct has prevailed; a “resignation letter” has been drafted in blood.

This sad incident should prod people behind the circus industry to rethink their career options. Animals in the wild are meant to be free and not kept in captivity to fuel a million-dollar entertainment industry. While some can be completely tamed, others can go berserk under extreme pressure.

In the end, Senya got shot for following its natural instincts and trying to end what could have been a miserable existence as a circus captive. So much for fulfilling its “duties” as a circus performer. Perhaps, in the general scheme of things, it is better off dead. Meanwhile, the show goes on for all the other circus bear entertainers on tour.

*****

TIDBITS: Click “Read more” to view a short film on the dancing bears in Europe (circa 1924). The film clip shows the extreme suffering of very young cubs, snatched from their mothers’ den, as they go through a rigorous “dance training program.” Without the benefit of any kind of anaesthetic, holes are pierced through their lips, nose or palate and with a chain or rope attached to control their dance movements — a very painful procedure. Bears-for-entertainment history has not entirely changed for the better; maybe it is even worse now. The story of the dancing bears is a truly a bitter one. It is good that some animal rescue organizations work hard to save some of these trapped bears from a life of torture. (Note: Links to web videos on dancing bears in India, Pakistan, Turkey, and Europe included.)

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Death of an artist’s artist

The Philippine showbiz industry lost a great musical icon just recently.

Master rapper, composer, TV host, photographer, designer, blogger (a Free Mind), and all-around artist Francis Magalona passed away on March 6, seven months after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

A true patriot best known for the monster hit song “Mga Kababayan Ko” (My Countrymen), Magalona was just 44 when he succumbed to cancer.

He, with his wife Pia‘s help, chronicled his tough battle with the Big C on a Multiply site titled Happy Battle, created to update his loved ones and followers about his health condition. Many religiously visited the site and even left encouraging messages.

When Magalona’s demise was announced rather surprisingly on the popular Philippine noontime show Eat Bulaga, the whole nation grieved with his family and friends. Hundreds of comments flooded the comments box of Magalona’s personal blog, offering prayers and sympathy to the Magalona family, as soon as the heartbreaking news was out.

The overwhelming outpouring of support was not at all surprising.

The former break dancer and teen actor was often described by his peers and fans as “pioneering,” “intelligent,” “profound,” “classy,” “articulate,” “sweet,” “maloko (humorous),” and a “true gentleman.” His children — eight of them — had said he was a “great dad,” who was very supportive and not stingy with his “I love you’s.” His blog entries on a Free Mind can attest to this.

Admired and respected for his deep love for his country, Magalona was also an entrepreneur with a nationalistic flair. His FrancisM Clothing Co. manufactures the in-demand 3 Stars & A Sun shirts, the design of which was primarily based on the Philippine flag (there are also other designs as well).

Francis M shall be sorely missed. He might not be around now, but his art will live forever.

His story: Barack Obama and ‘the moment’

They came, they watched, they cheered — and cried. For millions of Bush-weary Americans, Jan. 20, 2009 was the moment: Barack Obama, 47, was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States and the first African-American president.

It was on this wintry day when teary-eyed Obama supporters felt a renewed sense of hope amid tough times. Obama himself was hope personified — probably regarded by many as the ‘human Messiah,’ who can save the US and the world in four years.

As expected, Obama quickly rose to the occasion and, in his 18-minute inaugural speech, he reassured the American people with words of hope…unity…and change. The project in hand: Remaking America.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

The inauguration of Obama as US President was clearly a historical one — and the whole world knew it. Millions of people around the globe took some time off to watch last Tuesday’s inaugural ceremonies, glued to their television sets or computer screens for hours.

CNN.com cites a report made by Akamai Technologies, Inc., the company that handles the Internet traffic for more than 150 news sites worldwide, that around 7.7 million people logged on and watched the inauguration on the Net all at the same time last Tuesday. And according to a CNN spokesperson, nearly 27 million people watched the streaming video on the CNN.com Live website throughout the day.

The leading news network also partnered with Facebook, a top social networking site, to give curious news consumers an online platform to post their commentaries while the inauguration was taking place. Facebook would later reveal that there was an unprecedented traffic during the event — as expected — with the site averaging 4,000 status updates per hour Tuesday morning. The updates per minute reportedly reached 8,500 during Obama’s inaugural speech.

Indeed, the collective feeling now is, it’s cool to be an American — and yes, black — in this Obama era. National pride, it seems, has been restored almost instantly.

“I’m so proud to be an American today!” has become the ubiquitous statement of countless Americans backing Obama. Such remarks would have been hard to say during the George W. Bush days, when anti-American sentiments in other nations multiplied by the day in the aftermath of the former administration’s aggressive “war against terror.” (Note: Bush supporters had stressed out that it was extra challenging to be the US President when you have unexpected incidents like the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina on your clock.)

It appears that the US (well, at least the majority of the population) and the rest of the world love Obama, charismatic as he is, as much as they hate Bush. (Incidentally, Bush got his share of heckling from the spectators, who packed the National Mall during the presidential inauguration. A veteran political commentator later remarked that the booing was “really in bad taste in such an event.”)

Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell said in last Tuesday’s CNN interview that Obama, whom he earlier described as a “transformational figure,” got elected not because he is black, but “because he can do it.” Meanwhile, multi-awarded film director Steven Spielberg told CNN’s White House correspondent Ed Henry that Obama was an “amazing force.”

Clearly, Obama’s avid supporters see him as the right man to lead the most powerful nation on earth in this time of socio-economic troubles. But critics and political analysts alike say that this remains to be seen, citing his obvioius lack of political experience and the country’s unprecedented financial crisis, respectively. And they do have a point.

However, amid all these endless media discussions deconstructing the new US president, whose historic election has inspired millions, the Obama mania goes on. ‘Obama love’ is everywhere — in newspapers, TV programs, and, yes, even in the fishing village of Obama, Japan.

But, as they say, the honeymoon is not yet over. Just like in marital affairs, we just have to wait and see how things will pan out.

One thing is sure, though: Obama’s presidency has proven once again that anything is possible in America, where democracy still reigns supreme. (Photo taken from CNN.com)