Sunday, July 27, 2014

Prayer warriors and battling sleep

DURING PRAYER TIME this morning, I talked to a college engineering freshman seated near me. We were prayer partners for 15 minutes. After saying our hellos (it was the first time I spoke to him), I asked that he pray for me as I prepare for the upcoming board exams. His prayer couldn't have been more appropriate. I smiled, grateful, as he prayed with eyes closed, “Lord, tulungan niyo po si Kuya Lance sa kanyang pag-rereview. Sana hindi po siya makatulog.” Thanks, Renzo. I was really encouraged.

A lamentation

DAVID ROBERTSON'S The Dawkins Letters: Challenging Atheist Myths has been an interesting read for me. I just finished it this morning. The book is a calculated, well thought-out, intelligent, and respectful collection of letters geared towards debunking the "myths" espoused by the renowned atheist Dr. Richard Dawkins. Robertson appeals to logic, not to emotion—but he, too, gets emotional, especially when he takes offense in atheism's misconstrued notion of God (or His existence). Towards the end of the book, Robertson wrote:

The Dawkins Letters by David Robertson

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mabini's 105th birthday is today

I LIKE history and how it mirrors many of our country's woes. I follow Ambeth Ocampo's Looking Back column with the interest of a showbusiness fanatic. I have a few friends who are history buffs, as well—for instance, Joseph Brazal who took me to the National Museum when we had nothing else to do in med school; and JP Asong, who, despite being a lawyer now, still has history as his first love.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

David Robertson's The Dawkins Letters: Challenging Atheist Myths

MY NON-ACADEMIC READING for the week is The Dawkins Letters: Challenging Atheist Myths by David Robertson.

David Robertson is a pastor of St. Peter's Free Church in Dundee, Scotland, who posted a comment on Dr. Richard Dawkins's website in the winter of 2006-2007. His comment was on the book, The God Delusion, written by Dawkins himself, who has gained quite a following, mostly from the academia and the so-called intellectual elite. It's also popular in the growing atheist movement in local Philippine universities, especially at the University of the Philippines, where I studied for 10 years. Pastor Robertson received many replies in that website, many of them scathing, insulting, personal attacks against Christianity and the people associated with it. In this short book, Robertson aims to present “one person's response to Dawkins and to do so from a wide and personal perspective.”

Monday, July 21, 2014

I like this pen

What can I say? The pen speaks for itself.

WHAT ELSE can I say? The pen is on my side.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

To help me relax

INTERSPERSED with all the academic reading are novels, films, and TV series that have kept me sane and wonderfully entertained. I do not agree with people who burn themselves out studying—unless, of course, they want to top the exams, an ambition I do not share at all. Burning the midnight candles isn't just a fire hazard; it induces too much stress. And we know where stress leads to: premature aging and death and irritability. Why inflict that on yourself and the entire humanity? Besides, I tell myself, after five years of sleepless nights (no kidding), I should feel a sense of entitlement to undisturbed moments of sleep. This moment is short-lived. When I begin residency training, Lord-willing, it will be back to the same old 24-hour shift grind. The fact that I can sleep anytime and anywhere (but why prefer other places other than the bedroom?) is something I praise and thank God for.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What to read in prison: James Joyce's Ulysses and 1,045 more

SOMETHING TO READ about reading: A Prisoner's Reading List by Alex Halberstadt, published at the New Yorker blog. It's a feature on Daniel Ganis who finished 1,046 books during his ten years in prison. Roughly 105 books a year, or nine books a month. He was charged with theft, which he did badly, according to the blog. Maybe that was why he was caught.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Chef, the fun movie I watched with an actual pastry chef-friend

WATCHED Chef the other day. “Last full show,” Jil Bocobo texted me, because Koji Bulahan still had to attend a cell group in church. With us were the Bocobo family of travellers—with Frances and Jed. I'm serious when I say they're travellers. Just recently their father, Tito Tani, went to Surallah, some 20-minute ride from Koronadal. That family has practically been to all the corners of the earth, save maybe Africa, South America, and Antarctica—and we don't know where they'll go next. I listen to their stories and remind myself that there is, in fact, a greater world out there. Lord willing, I hope I'll be able to visit some of those places in the future, too.

Friday, July 4, 2014


WHEN studying elsewhere, say, in a restaurant, I'm picky about the people seated near my table. I avoid noisy teenagers at all cost. I don't feel comfortable sitting beside families with children playing with their tablets—I have the unfounded (well, maybe not) notion that kids who dwell too much on the iPad will end up dumb and socially inept. I also don't like sitting near glass walls, where I can see the smokers outside. I get distracted because I think about their lungs and how they will look like when they're dying of cancer. And I hope they don't—but medical literature is overwhelmingly unanimous. Smoking is a health hazard. It kills—and I've seen enough "dying moments" to realize it's not an easy death.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

On Nora Aunor and the National Artist distinction

THE PRESIDENT, in a rare press interview I saw on TV around lunchtime, explained why he didn't make Nora Aunor a National Artist: she had a history of drug addiction. As if that should matter. Apparently it does, very much, for the President, who doesn't want to encourage kids to do drugs. Nora just won't do as a role model—and National Artists are role models, President Noynoy seemed to say. Never mind that she was a top choice of the NCCA, CCP Board plus the National Artists themselves. Never mind that Nora has set a standard against whom other actors are compared. Never mind that she was (and is) so good that my mother (a Vilma Santos fan, the only actress who can make her cry) still classifies her high school classmates as Noranian or Vilmanian. Me? I'm all for Eugene Domingo.

Monday, June 30, 2014

My study companion is a kid named Theo

DONNA TARTT'S doorstopper novel entitled The Goldfinch—a doorstopper because it's thick and might take a lifetime to finish—is a happy addition to my pre-board exam reading. I'm also reading Rushdie's Fury on top of my review materials. As if I need more distractions.

So far, so good, though. A terrorist bombing incident, museums, an intelligent bullied kid, New York, Amsterdam—it has all great ingredients of an engaging story.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Old men around

TO MY left are middle-aged men gathered for a Bible study. Their dicussion is on Paul's phrase "the eternal weight of glory," taken from the apostle's  letter to the Corinthians. CS Lewis wrote a book with the same title. Male human laughter is really one of the best sounds on earth (I must qualify, though, that I cannot tolerate male drunken laughter; I find it obnoxious). And that's what these men do—discuss, then laugh, then drink their coffee, then discuss again.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

La vie en rose

MY fascination with pink began a few months ago. I was searching for studying paraphernalia I'd be using consistently for my note-taking, page-marking, and highlighting. I would spend hours roaming around bookstores, killing time trying out pens and notebooks. You're probably guilty of the same obsession.

One day I chanced upon a pink Pilot G-Tec 0.4 mm pen while monitoring at the PACU. When I used it to annotate an Obstetrics book I was carrying, my scribbles jumped out of the page. My notes didn't look obtrusive amidst the surrounding text. They didn't look garish either. "So pink it is," I thought.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


MY COPY of Netter's Atlas of Human Anatomy is open for most of the day, its spine suspended on a wooden bookstand that I carry with me anywhere—in coffee shops, in crowded restaurants, even in libraries.

Leafing through the book reminds me of my first patient, a dead obese lady whom we (my Anatomy groupmates and I) called Big Bertha. My first year in med school was the hardest, and I was most miserable during dissection. It didn't help that she was so huge we had to resort to actual kitchen knives instead of the more sophisticated-looking scalpels. My own copy bears Bertha's juices from five years ago. They no longer smell foul. 

These days I have a newfound appreciation for Dr. Frank Netter, whose illustrations are accurate and elegant. It took me a while to get the hang of the doorstop, but investing in it is worth the time, money, and effort. The atlas is a perfect companion to sleepy pre-board exam days, when the anatomy text doesn't make sense. After all, pictures paint a thousand words—and it's the same thing in Anatomy, I guess.

Monday, June 23, 2014


EAVESDROPPING is impolite, but there are times when it can't be avoided.

Consider, for example, four "tita"-looking women—fat, fecund, and forty—dressed in uniform; they probably work at the City Hall. They giggle like teenagers and speak as if they're on opposite ends of the football field. They sit near my table.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A. W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God: debunking the secular-sacred dichotomy

A. W. TOZER writes beautifully. I hadn't fully appreciated him when I first read him in 2004 (I was 16). Fortunately my father had one of Tozer's books in his meager collection.

Yesterday morning, I reread parts of Tozer's The Pursuit of God: Human Thirst For the Divine. The final chapter is entitled The Sacrament of Living. He writes, "One of the greatest hindrances to internal peace which the Christian encounters is the common habit of dividing our lives into two areas—the sacred and the secular."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Like Daniel

I FINISHED Daniel about two weeks ago; it was the basis of my morning devotions. The lessons I gleaned from my study were precious truths I clung on to, especially as I was starting on my review for the upcoming board exam.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tatay's farm

I WOKE UP earlier than planned because my brother jolted me from sleep. Then he showed me his phone and said, "I'm on Youngblood!"

He wrote the article, which first appeared on his personal blog, to honor our father today. If you have the time, it's a worthwhile read. As for me and my family members, we're going to find an actual newspaper, cut the article out, and have it framed for posterity.

Tatay and my brothers. I practically handpicked all of their eyeglasses to fit them right.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Day trip to Dinalupihan, Bataan

I HAD the nerve to leave my board review materials behind for the promise of a relaxing out-of-town trip. I went to the quaint town of Dinalupihan, Bataan, on June 12. With me were Manong Ralph and Kuya John Dasmarinas, whom I haven't seen for more than a year since he had relocated to Singapore for work. The last time I'd been to Bataan was in 2011, during the Holy Week, when Paul Velasco (who had just flown in from New Zealand) and I ransacked Jason Enriquez's home in Balanga.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Dune by Frank Herbert: my favorite fantasy/sci-fi thus far

IN 2006 I asked my friend Juanchi Pablo what book he liked best. His first answer was Dune by Frank Herbert.

I remembered what he said when I started reading the book two weeks ago, in between study breaks (I'm on my medical boards review). I finished Dune yesterday. I can't wait to start on the next novel in the series—maybe after I finish my academic reading backlog. In August.