Sunday, June 28, 2015

This is what our world has become

THE LEGALIZATION of same-sex marriage in all of the United States is the biggest news these days. It didn't come as a surprise that it happened at all—that the Supreme Court would issue a decision so final about an issue so divisive—but when I saw the news, my heart was filled with sadness. So this is what our world has become.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

James Salter, 90

Photo by Jill Krementz, published in the NYT.

JAMES SALTER has died. He was 90. Considered a writer's writer and the "greatest writer you've never read," he has written novels, short stories, and essays that have brought me delight and inspiration. Not a lot of people, even avid readers, know about him. His books are a rarity in bookstores. I only find them in thrift or second-hand shops.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Happy 25th birthday, Sean!

WE CELEBRATED Sean's birthday yesterday at our favorite ramen place.

Happy birthday, Sean!


Luther and Mau. Photo by Mike Tan, not the UP Diliman chancellor. 

TWO MONTHS ago I hurriedly finished my rounds to catch a quick bus ride to Tagaytay. My dear friends, Luther Caranguian and Maureen Estacio, were getting married in a few hours, and I couldn't afford to be late. I was part of the entourage as one of the groom's men, which explained why I was in a white polo barong, carrying a well-made wedding invitation with the couple's caricature in the cover. If you had sat beside me on the bus, you would have noticed that I intermittently looked at the address, complete with the exact latitude and longitude (Luther's suggestion, I'm sure), lest I get lost. I knew it was going to be held at Sonya's Garden, a beautiful events place that serves flowers for salad. The dressing, I would later discover, would be heavenly.The wedding was to start after lunch. It was almost 11:30 AM. My friends, especially the ones who brought their cars, were already there.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


Roddy Doyle's The Snapper

THE SNAPPER, Roddy Doyle's second novel in the Barrytown trilogy, is about a middle-class family in Dublin trying to cope with an unexpected pregnancy of the 23-year old daughter, Sharon. Living up to his title as the virtuoso of casual, conversational dialogue; Doyle spins a masterful tale about the noisy Rabbitte family. They almost sound like the typical Filipino family—so bonded together that someone's business becomes everyone else's.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Meditations on a fine, cloudy morning

I WAKE up to a cloudy morning—a little cold but not hot, like most mornings the past months. It rained last night. The soil has been dry, the air extremely humid, and the people irritable—we needed the rain. The room is dark and quiet, save for the clickety-clack I make on my keyboard. I haven't drawn my curtains yet. In a few minutes I will head to the bathroom, don my stethoscope, and make rounds. I have a few ECGs to read, too, so I mustn't forget that.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bedside friends

ON MY BEDSIDE (and study) table are books that keep me company at night. When I have reached my daily quota for human interaction for the day, I retire to my bedroom and read my books, one of the few moments when I'm quiet.

Sagip is featured in this month's Health and Lifestyle magazine


MY ARTICLE on Sagip Buhay Medical Foundation is featured in the June May issue of Health and Lifestyle magazine. Many thanks to Abi Roxas for giving me the chance to write for Sagip, a go-to place for us, internists, when we're faced with patients who have absolutely nothing inside their pockets. Grab a copy, and learn how you can help our patients at the Philippine General Hospital.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Get the green one


THIS PESTO-FLAVORED ramen is proof that weird food combinations work, like tomato ketchup + soy sauce, or banana + peanut butter. Never mind that it looks like vomitus; it's a work of gastronomical art. I will keep coming back.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


Excited by the new Harrison's edition, the way only books can excite me.

HERE'S the first personal investment for I had for my career: the new edition of Harrison's, the ultimate textbook in Internal Medicine, the source of most of our monthly exam questions, the reason why I am now Php 5,700 poorer.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Ode to our clerks and interns

I REMEMBER the morning when I did rounds earlier than usual. I am a morning person, and I like the peace and quiet of the wards at 6 am, still devoid of the usual crowd of fellows and residents looking for the same charts. I saw one of my clerks pushing our patient's stretcher. I learned that he came in at 5 am to make sure the patient didn't miss the cranial CT scan schedule. I was so moved by his dedication, realizing I wasn't like that at all when I was a medical student.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

At night, when everyone is asleep

24-hour shift at the Pay Wards

WHILE CATCHING my breath after two flights of stairs, I looked out the window from the 7th Floor and saw the Central Block Atrium from a distance. I have come to terms with the fact that my life will never be the same as everyone else's. Whereas the rest of humanity sleeps and dreams around this time, I wander along the dimly lit corridors of the Philippine General Hospital, shooing away the angel of death by making sure the patients are all chest pain-free, able to breathe optimally, their hearts still beating, ready to face the new day. The life of a doctor is almost poetic.


I HAD THE privilege of finally dining at Uno, a small, quiet restaurant in Tomas Morato. It looked like one of the hang out places I saw in Amsterdam: intimate, dimly lit and inviting, devoid of noisy crowds fresh from the office or school.


Just him

JUST HEARD the news. My brother, Sean, qualified for the Oral Surgery externship program of the UP - PGH Dentistry Department. Praise be to God! He took a qualifying exam, both theoretical and practical, and underwent an interview. Sean! An interview! My brother refuses to speak a word of English when we're together, probably to distinguish himself from his articulate and pretentious—sometimes, overly so—brothers, so it's both a relief for me to know he made it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Waiting on God

“Make me know Thy ways, O Lord;
Teach my Thy paths.
Lead me in Thy truth and teach me,
For Thou art the God of my salvation;
For Thee I wait all the day.”—Psalm 25:4-5

King David's plea shows how desperately needful he was of knowing more about God and seeking His will. It is as if without God's direction, he, already the most powerful man in Israel, couldn't do much else. David was expectant, looking forward to hearing God's words and decrees, knowing fully well that it is “Thy truth.”

Saturday, May 30, 2015


Quiet spot at the Philippine General Hospital.

The month of May has passed me by. While I charted my patients at the ward; my brother Ralph turned 30, my parents came over to visit, a friend got married, and the world moved on. I suppose I have finally adjusted to the Life in Training, a tough road that began with the acceptance that I cannot do it alone. Apart from God's strength, I am nothing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mother and son

He cried like a baby, and maybe that was what he was, in his mother's eyes.

With her eyes closed, she looked like she was sleeping. On her arms and limbs were multiple bruises; they started appearing just six months ago, like random pencil blots on a skin canvas. Then came the pallor, unexplained weakness, and a feeling that something wrong was going on. She couldn't put a name into it until months after her descent into being bedridden, just around the time when her doctor, after seeing her lab tests, told her she had leukemia.

The boy was 14, but he had the eyes of an old man who has been through a lot. Her cared for her mother, brought her to the hospital for intermittent sessions of blood transfusions, put up with the long queues at the Blood Bank, and even pleaded with the Social Services staff to give her free antibiotics.

On Mother's Day, he was still a boy—soft wisps of hair just starting to grow on his arm pits, his voice barely beginning to crack—but already mother-less. Her mother's blood infection was so profound that even the strongest antibiotics were almost powerless against the battle. Her platelet count was too low as to graciously permit spontaneous bleeding to happen anywhere in her body: her eyes, her lungs, her brain. That was what killed her: a ruptured vessel, perhaps, that decided to snap in her cerebrum. She was gone in minutes.

As he grieved and sobbed and wished that this was all but a dream, IV lines were still attached to her mother's veins, made fragile by chemotherapy. Medications meant to raise her blood pressure to the bare acceptable minimum were still flowing in futility.

It was just another day at the hospital. He had to bring her body home. He had been through a lot, surely he could handle her mother's funeral, too.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

By the lake

BATANGAS is the farthest we've all been to, my batchmates and I, since residency had begun. This weekend we had our first outing at a lakeside resort, allegedly made famous by the fact that it was the venue of a celebrity's wedding—the celebrity's name escapes me. All in all, it was a welcome respite from the endless charting and patient interaction and code-ing and social work-ing—not that we minded doing those things. It's just that, at some point, we've all gotten beaten down.

batch 2017 internal medicine residents, pgh.

Friday, April 24, 2015



TWENTY-EIGHT is what I now tell my patients when they ask me--usually with fascination, occasionally with suspicion--how old I am. It never fails: I barge into a private hospital room, auscultate a patient’s chest, and a relative, usually an elderly lady, tells me how smart I must be, still so young and already a doctor. This explains why I always carry a stethoscope around my neck even if I don’t do rounds, or why I wear long-sleeved shirts even on temperatures that leave most people dehydrated after sweating (plus the fact that I'm in Internal Medicine, where tucked in, rolled-on shirts are the norm).

Monday, April 20, 2015


In what I would consider as the closest thing I've had to a two-day weekend, I witnessed friends from church share their conversion testimonies during baptism. The venue was a private pool just blocks away from the church building. A colorful tarpaulin shielded the rest of us from the intense morning sun. We must've looked like a family on a reunion, or an outing—the look of anticipation and excitement on our faces must've been unmistakable. The baptism ceremony is something I personally look forward to year after year, if only to remind myself of my own coming-to-Christ narrative.