Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Clinic banter at ESMO Asia 2020

Congratulations to Rich and Roger

Around this time last year, we were in Singapore for ESMO Asia. Karen had to leave after the gastrointestinal cancer preceptorship, but Fred, Rich, Roger, and I stayed. This year, ESMO Asia 2020 has pushed through. True to form, our posters are up, albeit virtually. I have no first-author papers, but my friends—how I miss them—were gracious enough to include me in their research. Browsing through virtual platform, I read the banter between Roger and Rich. These appeared as comments below the e-poster, Utilization of on-site pathology evaluation for lung cancer diagnosis in the Philippines' national university, with Rich as the principal investigator. With my batch, nothing is ever taken too seriously. The guys know how to have serious fun—even in international meetings. Did I tell you I miss them dearly?

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

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Children by the sea

Kids at flea market

While looking for vintage boxes to store my journals, I saw an album in a forgotten corner of the flea market. Black and white photos of a Japanese family on holiday were collated in its thick pages. This portrait of two children enjoying themselves at the beach struck me and made me long for the sand and sea. Here's to hoping that the Sarangani beaches open soon. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

At home

Fifteen minutes after the fact, a friend called me up to tell me that her mother has died. Her mother was my patient. Her parents—kind, gentle, and who at one point told me when their hospital discharge was delayed, "Okay lang kami ah; wala problema maghulat kay senior citizens na kami"—reminded me of my own, which made this death harder to bear. After a short word of condolences, my friend and I talked about specifics: the death certificate, the paperwork, and so on. The consoling will come later, after the embalming and the funeral preparations.

I told my mother the news. She knew them from her hometown. Nanay said, "There's a certain lightness to dying when you know the person was a Christian."

There is. 

And my patient is home with the Lord. I will tell my friend that.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Friday, November 20, 2020

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

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Writing letters

This is one of those days when I'd much rather be at home, writing letters to friends by mail, with a good bottle of oxblood ink and cream stationery. I am, of course, reading The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (George Allen & Unwin, Houghton Mifflin), which encourages this distraction. I might make physical letter-writing a habit soon, but whether this is sustaintable is a different question. It is certainly not practical. It is easier to send emails; they also cost less. But I go out on a limb to say this: the comfort of convenience is over-exaggerated. I need to be inconvenienced once in a while: make time to compose my thoughts, write them by hand with a fountain pen, and deliver the envelopes in person to the post office. Now I'm beginning to understand why my med school friends AAce and Chevs (they are AA and Everly, if you're so curious; I have this strange habit of conferring unique and affectionate nicknames to friends) have taken particular pleasure in sending me letters and postcards from the States. I can't quite explain it, but receiving something by mail stirs up an element of childlike anticipation. Reading my friends' thoughts through their handwriting offers a strangely warmer consolation. The post office is just a few minutes away from the house. It is even within walking distance by my standards. And the thought of licking the stamps—how personal can one get!

Monday, November 16, 2020

Sunday, November 15, 2020

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JRR Tolkien on sex

Tolkien's letter to his son about sex, with commentary from Dr. Al Mohler.
The devil is endlessly ingenious, and sex is his favorite subject,” Tolkien insisted. “He is as good every bit at catching you through generous romantic or tender motives, as through baser or more animal ones.” Thus, Tolkien advised his young son, then 21, that the sexual fantasies of the 20th century were demonic lies, intended to ensnare human beings. Sex was a trap, Tolkien warned, because human beings are capable of almost infinite rationalization in terms of sexual motives. Romantic love is not sufficient as a justification for sex, Tolkien understood.
Fascinated by handwritten letters, I looked up JRR Tolkien's handwriting. He must have used a stub nib in this letter, sold for auction at 8000 dollars. I read in a forum that the English professor used dip pen and ball points. Tolkien's letter -- screenshot

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Filipino

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The script reads like textbook Filipino. I show this to Manong, "Daw hindi gid Tagalog ang nagsulat sini, no?" 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Knocked down

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Strong rain and winds knocked this bird's nest (Asplenium nidus) off its pedestal last month. "The queen fell!," Mother said, then proceeded to give instructions prop her—the fern—up amidst the pouring rain.  Now, the "queen" comes back with a beautiful revenge. These new leaves make us forget her past humiliation. 

It's fascinating to hear my mother refer to her plants with a devoted familiarity. I have not heard her speak directly to them. But when talks about them, she resorts to anthromorphism. If you didn't know the context, you'd think she was talking about her friends. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Restoration

Pandemic 2020

Cast irons at a local flea market. Manong soaks them in 1 part water, 1 part vinegar, and scrubs them with detergent and baking soda. Impressed that the rust flakes off, he says, "See? I know chemistry." In third year high school, he represented the school in a chemistry quiz contest. Not sure if he won!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

On boredom

Dr. Russell Moore on boredom:
The Bible tells us to pray for our leaders—and we should—but all of that is a means to an end, and that end is “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:2). The goal is not that the arena of the state would be ground-zero for meaning in our lives—much less for excitement and interest. When the civic order is going well, we should pay attention to it out of duty—not out of constant existential crisis. Those are not always the times we have, but those are the sorts of times for which we should pray. The point is not that we should hope for a boring decade so that we can be bored. The point is that we should pray for a boring decade so that we can be rekindled with interest and affection and passion for the things that ought to fuel such things—the kingdom of God, the gospel of grace, the love of family and friends and community, the glory of the ordinary, which is where, after all, the best of real life happens. We have all seen that this year. It’s hard to find the joy we need to find in being the church, in being families, when we have to constantly wonder whether a vaccine will be ready in time, whether the next telephone call is that an elderly relative is now in the hospital.

Moore to the Point is one of my favorite newsletters, like blog posts delivered to my email each week.  

Monday, November 9, 2020

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Saturday, November 7, 2020

New vintage frames

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New vintage frames from a Japanese surplus store in Gensan. This may well be my 20th pair. Had the lenses replaced by Dr. Farrofo at the Farrofo Eye Clinic. Who owned these frames before? I may never know, but I imagine that it could have been the Professor whom the dog, Hachi-ko, waited on. My timeline is off, but I'm free to imagine. 

Sana all

Friday, November 6, 2020

Vegetable garden at Barrio 5 and driving

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Auntie Cecil and Uncle Rene, my parents' best friends and practically second parents to us, have relocated to Barrio Singko, about 15 minutes away from the city proper. Beside their property is this vegetable garden maintained by the local government (as far as I know). They get their greens from this patch of land. As kids, we looked forward to the peria in the town square. There we ate cotton candy and pop corn coated with salt and butter.

Got my driver's license yesterday. Felt even more fulfilling than getting a medical degree, in a sense. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I could learn how to drive. My driving instructors, Sirs Jim and Mark, ran me through the process with patience. And there has been my kid brother Sean who is an excellent driver, much too defensive perhaps, who told me I should learn driving because it is a life skill. He suggested that I first learn how to operate a manual transmission vehicle, an idea that I entertained with suspicion—our family vehicle, after all, is an AT. I enrolled in a class a few weeks ago; the feeling to driving manual was akin to getting a stroke. I couldn't figure out how to maneuver the clutch and so on. I gave up. Some things can't be learned. 

It was in Auntie Cecil and Uncle Rene's house in Barrio Singko where I first drove our family car. I remember that it was a Saturday, and it had just rained. Sean closed his clinic. "Let's take you driving," he said. He was beside me, the strictest, most serious instructor. "Don't treat this as a joke, Manong. If you're careless—and you have a tendency to be—you will die," he said in crispy Hiligaynon, reminding me to place my foot on the brake as a default. He taught me the word, serbato, which meant blowing the car horn. Driving opened up a vast vocabulary for me: preno, atras, abante, menór, and so on. Hannah, his charming and gracious girlfriend, also an excellent driver, encouraged me, "Sige lang, Manong, you're doing well."

I suppose I did.
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