THERE'S something about this photo that makes me sad and tired and comforted—a typical scene of Pedro Gil Street that one encounters after long, tiring moments at the hospital, a reminder that the day is almost over, and one can retire to one’s bed and read a good book or maybe have dinner with friends or go to church for Bible study. Every day ends, and regardless of how long it is, it comes to a full stop at some point.
THE SMELL of something burning brought us all out of the Second Year Call Room. I think it was a Thursday, and I was sleeping inside my dorm room when I got the text pass: vacate the call room now. It was later traced to a defective electrical wiring inside the bathroom. The Call Room has been declared a fire hazard.
Since the weekend we've been sleeping, rather comfortably, like refugees at the AVR Conference Room, where Mang Dan made a homey place for us to lounge around as we wait for the next referral.
JASON Enriquez, my college roommate in Kalayaan Hall, still looks the same after all these years—save for the fact that he now sports more subcutaneous fat, his hair peppered with white strands of hair, his orbits barricaded by metallic frames that look comfortable on his face.
“Nearsightedness,” he told me. “Laging nasa harap ng computer.”
His fourth finger now bears a minimalist silver ring.
“How does being married feel like?” I asked.
“Masaya,” he said in perfect Tagalog.
He has been married for at least two years now, a ceremony I had missed because I was in the hospital, attending to my patients—a tragedy I have repeatedly come to accept. It wasn’t the only time something like it had happened.
I met Jason two nights ago, at 9 PM—a time of the day that, after all these years, he still remembers as the beginning of my descent into sleepiness. It was the only common time we had for his brief foray in Manila: a business trip in between which he planned to squeeze meeting family and friends before he goes back to Kyoto with his wife.
ON RAINY nights such as the ones we’ve had for the past days, I wish I were curled up in bed, reading a good book, the blues playing in the background1. But routines are meant to be disrupted, especially with well-meaning, insistent friends.
True enough. A few days ago, friends from work insisted that we study elsewhere. The weather was perfect for walking—the winds were just beginning to howl, the clouds were starting to pile up on top of Manila Bay, the way crowds in concerts do before any singing happens. I wasn’t too tired, so I gave in.
YOU'LL notice that I've switched fonts. From Helvetica Neue, which I have enjoyed immensely, given its neat, modernistic feel; I've moved on to Bitter, developed by Huerta Typogràfica, an Argentinian foundry. I discovered it through Google Fonts. The site bears a tutorial on embedding the code to one's CSS. The transition took me less than 15 minutes.
I like how reminiscent it is of Caecilia, the font used in Kindle. Bitter is a beautiful slab serif-typeface. It looks contemporary but also academic, and isn't distracting at all. I hope it adds pleasure to your online reading experience here, assuming you haven't realized that you may have wasted your time.
WE HAVE too much water in this country—a fact I’ve come to terms with after three days of almost-incessant rain in Manila. It’s something we forget: we have easy access to water, unlike, say, our friends in Syria or Ethiopia for whom water is, literally, life-giving.
Israel has just opened a new desalination plant, “the largest reverse-osmosis desal[ination] facility in the world and we are staring at Israel’s salvation. Just a few years ago, in the depths of its worst drought in at least 900 years, Israel was running out of water. Now it has a surplus. That remarkable turnaround was accomplished through national campaigns to conserve and reuse Israel’s meager water resources, but the biggest impact came from a new wave of desalination plants.”
MY BEDSIDE reading material is C. S. Lewis's Miracles, a short, albeit meaningful book about whether miracles are possible in the world. It's not a very easy, breezy book to read, but C. S. Lewis makes very strong arguments, dividing the world's thinkers into Naturalists and Supernaturalists. I admire his restraint and economy of words. I admire, too, the depth of his thinking, which, on the surface, seem simple but are actually profound. His analogies are funny, witty, and accessible.
SilverI WOKE up to news of Hidilyn Diaz winning the country’s first silver Olympic medal after a 20-year drought. The sport is weightlifting, where she competed in the 53-kg division. She thanked God after her win. I had goosebumps. Onward, Hidilyn!
This is yet another proof that we need to focus our efforts on less popular sports, as opposed to basketball, our nation’s favorite past time. We’ve never really excelled in the sports arena—a combination of our natural physique that renders us at a disadvantage compared to our taller, bigger Caucasian counterparts; or our lack of resources for training because sports never gets the government funding it deserves; or perhaps we compete in the wrong sports events—but we’ve always been good at the arts and beauty pageants and Math quiz bees. I don’t know what my point is.
On the latter half of my Neurology rotation, all of the hospital's CT scan machines have broken down. They have all snapped after months of being overworked, their scheduled maintenance procedures interrupted by serious pleas of oily residents handling many patients at the brink of death: bleeding brains, complicated abdominal masses, and you know what. It couldn't have been more timely.
This breaking down of the machines could have been a metaphor for what I was going through at the time; I wasn't a machine, though, but I wondered how it would have felt to have a clone—there were so many things to be done. My rotation made me appreciate my friends who are training in Neurology: they must really love what they do to be able to do it excellently day in and out.
PART OF ENJOYING one’s travels is retrospection, when one recounts the things that have happened, the places visited—a process made easier by the advent of camera phones and social media.
On this long weekend (yesterday was Araw ng Maynila—ah, Forward Ever, Backward Never!), I shall indulge myself in this exercise because I haven’t written much about the second half of my break, which I spent with family and friends in Koronadal, the place I still consider home.
— THESE days I struggle with the lack of things to write about. Five years ago, I could turn the mundane into a decent blog post, complete with photos and quotes and links to random websites. Now that the world has changed, and the divide between the public and private has almost disintegrated, I tend to overthink. Will the things I write about merely contribute to the junk that’s already out there in the open? Do people really need to know this about me? While this is a private space, and only friends and a few strangers know of this website (the plan is to keep it this way), I still entertain the possibility that I might be wasting time—mine and those of my readers.
AFTER MY MORNING coffee at my favorite diner, I spotted construction workers on my way back to the hospital. ICC painters! Must they be referred to Infectious Disease now?
The men spotted me taking a photo of them. I was, after all, in the middle of the street. They did awkward poses, while looking at my phone. “Pre, makikita na tayo sa YouTube nito.”
Sean and Tatay share a light moment.
I CAN write about my father all day.
He has been with me since the day I was born. He cooked me breakfasts and made me swallow everything on my plate—never mind the fact that I was full and already 10 minutes late for my first class. He reprimanded me for staying up late on Saturday evening and for taking so much time sleeping on Sunday morning. He has never been late for church. He is the most charming, humorous man I know. And I thank the Lord every day for him, my Tatay, whose body habitus I inherited.
But I know some friends didn't grow up with fathers. A few of them harbor hatred, indifference, or contempt for their fathers. Most of them miss their fathers even years after they had passed on.
Despite these, the Bible says we have a Father in heaven, Someone greater and better than the best fathers on earth.
"Behold what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure," says 1 John 3:1–3.
Pastor Scotty Smith's prayer for Father's Day is worth reading.
That God has allowed me to enjoy the past two weeks is something I thank Him for. The theology of rest is that as God has rested on the seventh day of Creation, so should we—we of finite and limited strength and abilities. We can only go so far in our work if we do not give our bodies enough leeway to recuperate, our cells to regenerate, our sleep to take flight.
Yet there is a kind of rest that only God's children—His elect, His chosen ones—can enjoy. It is the rest of the soul after striving to earn its salvation and desperately failing to do so. It is, as Saint Augustine has written, the ultimate rest of the restless soul. After it has tasted this world and its promised rewards, the soul yearns for peace, healing, and assurance. Above all, the soul yearns for God Himself, whose very Person transcends yet embodies the very things He provides. For hasn't He promised that He will give rest to those who are heavily laden?
Have you experienced this rest?
I'M NOT the biggest fan of dogs, but I like watching them. There's a reason why they're called man's best friend.
— At Stanley Beach, where they were in a sort of courtship.
— At the Stanley Market, where one dog looked too indifferent and tired—just the way I happen to like dogs best.
— At the Po Lin Monastery, where they kept guard.
I was surprised to know that Benjamin, our spitz, still recognizes me despite my two-year absence from home. He looks so grown up now, but is still extremely movable and hysterical.
AS WITH most of my trips before, my going to Hong Kong was largely unplanned. I originally wanted to go to Vietnam to get a feel of what I was reading (The Sympathizers by Vien Thanh Nguyen), a book set in the 1970s during the US war with the Viet Cong. It was a toss up between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. But three weeks before my scheduled leave, it was already too late to score cheap flights. My brother, always the optimistic planner when I felt I had nowhere else to go to, figured we could go to Hong Kong—it's not too far away, it's not expensive, and it's convenient.