Sunday, June 7, 2020

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Friday, June 5, 2020

Thursday, June 4, 2020




Dropped by the mall today. Relieved that physical distancing measures were in place. The lady guard was impressed when I shooed my brother away. "Social distancing! One meter! Move back!" I said. Then Manong treated me to Japanese takeout. Been craving for meat cutlets. Episode one of Midnight Diner Season 3 was about a singer whose husband loved pork cutlets. Not a good idea to watch it at night before sleep; you will feel hungry.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Monday, June 1, 2020


I did not go out, not even for a morning walk on the eighth floor. Instead, I watched a series of online videos, including great speeches by American presidents, like President Obama's address to the British Parliament. It made me wonder why our nation's leaders don't give good speeches anymore. I watched a video of former President George W. Bush during the unveiling of his White House portrait. It felt like a lifetime ago when decency, respect, and kindness were celebrated. I also finished Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy, and devoured the third chapter of James Wood's The Nearest Thing to Life, a collection of intelligent, engaging essays.

In the afternoon, I did some online catching up with close friends. Mike, who is based in Australia, shared a photo of the sourdough he made. My initial response was shock, followed by awe. I asked if he made the starter himself; he said yes. I asked further if he had a Dutch oven; he said he improvised. It was a Pinoy oven, then. I also did some catching up online with former work colleagues-turned-friends, with the usual string of nonsense and updates regarding our future plans. "What will we do now?" was our main topic. 

For the past 80 days I have written short entries in what I initially imagined was going to be a short Journal of a Lockdown, inspired largely by the writer Jessica Zafra, who did the same in her website. The lockdown evolved into many versions. There came a point after the first month when I stopped counting the deaths and new cases. I did not write about Covid-19 anymore. I was not disinterested; I just did not want to add to the noise. 

If you can read this, it means you're still alive after the ECQ and MECQ. It is something to praise God for. What has the pandemic taught you? 

In my case, it has taught me to trust in the sovereign purpose of God. My career plans are on hold. I don't know what will happen in the future. Will there be a second wave of viral infections? Will I be able to go home to the province to be with family? What will happen to our country?  

There's this beautiful hymn we sing in church: "Because he lives, I can face tomorrow / Because he lives, all fear is gone / Because I know he holds the future / And life is worth the living / Just because he lives." I pray that the song will point you to Jesus Christ, in whom there is eternal assurance.

The Journal of a Lockdown No. 80 is the final entry of this short quarantine project. Thank you for dropping by. 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Friday, May 29, 2020

Thursday, May 28, 2020


Journal of a Lockdown No. 77

Wife-Wooing by John Updike. Parker Duofold Slimfold, inked with J. Herbie “Verte Empire”

There are days when the right words escape me.

This is from a line in "Wife-Wooing" by John Updike. Another vintage pen is featured here: a Parker Duofold Slimfold, inked with J. Herbin “Verte Empire.”

* * *

I know of two people who have the right words to say.

Dr. Elvie Razon-Gonzalez, who holds clinics in Iloilo, writes about the barter system in this personal blog entry.

In three hours, I am about to meet a stranger to trade my aloe vera on a Groot pot for a signed copy of F. Sionil Jose’s “Poon."

Last week, I traded Lang Leav and Michael Faudet for a copy of Mary Oliver’s elusive “A Thousand Mornings.” Two days before that, I exchanged my son’s extra copies of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books for alcohol and other protective essentials.

This ancient barter system was recently revived by Ilonggos through the Iloilo Barter Community (IbaCo) page in Facebook. With this platform, one can trade anything for another without having to spend: a cashless, non-cryptocurrent transaction. One uploads a picture of the item he wishes to barter, with a detailed description of it and the list of things he wants to swap the item for. In the comments section, people then offer their items and the person who uploaded will then choose from the various offers. Once a deal has been sealed, the barteristas will then proceed to sending each other private messages and to meet in person.

Here are the lessons she has learned through participating in the barter.

The community quarantine binds us to our homes and brings us simple sources of joy that need not require a lot of cash: reading poetry, planting vegetables in our backyards, baking banana bread. Their restorative and transformative power in our lives is beyond measure. Suddenly, the world is ruled by bakers, gardeners and readers from all walks of life.

I met Dr. Elvie online, during an informal course on creative non-fiction organized by Joti Tabula (himself a physician-poet, who included my short piece in his heartwarming book, From the Eyes of a Healer). I'm glad to have stumbled in her blog. I will definitely subscribe to this!

*  *  *

Fred's essay appears in this issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology's Art of Oncology.

This was when I met Rose, a 32-year-old mother of three with stage IV breast cancer. Her breast mass had started as a coin-sized lump 6 years earlier. Why did she seek assistance only now when she was so short of breath and unable to sleep as a result of generalized pain? It turns out she lives on a remote island, 18 hours from my clinic by boat and by land, a place where people live a simple life: no restaurants, no malls, no movie theaters, no cell phone service. Unfortunately, this isolation also meant no access to local or regional health care.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 76


I received sad news this morning, just as I was having my morning devotions on Colossians 3. My patient passed away at home. She was a Christian and was active in ministry. The daughter of a retired pastor, she updated me with the Lord's moving in their local church during her chemo sessions. Last year she took the news of cancer progression with the sure hope that there is a better life waiting for her in Heaven. I shouldn't play favorites, but there are patients who carry with them fans that revive the tired embers of compassion in me. She was one of them: a saved soul, redeemed sinner, salt of the earth. It has been the joy and honor of my life to have been her doctor. I pray that God's comfort be upon her family.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020


Journal of a Lockdown No. 75

From John Updike’s “Unstuck,” written with a vintage Parker Vacumatic (ca. 1940s)

At some point during the day, I toy around with fountain pens. I have a humble collection, just enough to fit in a small pencil case--which is to say that there aren't a lot of them. (I know of collectors who have hundreds. I follow some of them in Instagram, which has a vibrant fountain pen community). Included in this collection are vintage pens. These pens--such as this emerald pearl Parker Vacumatic blue diamond, double-jewel--are sturdy, elegant, secretive. I got them from vintage stores online, and only at bargain prices. I will probably never know who owned them or what the first owners had used the pen for. Could it be that this Vacumatic was owned by an English teacher in England? (I got this pen from a kind and welcoming dealer in London).

The passage above is an excerpt from John Updike's short story, "Unstuck." (Link to a Google Books screenshot).  It's a story of a husband and wife who drive their cars out of the gutter after a night of heavy snow. You will see smudges in the careless and carefree handwriting, blurring the first two paragraphs. I was excited to take a photo of my notebook (a Veco sketchpad, very fountain pen friendly!) and I forgot that the ink had not dried up yet.

Parker Vacumatic (1940s)

Monday, May 25, 2020

Journal of a Lockdown No. 74


On the way to buy groceries, I saw yellow flowers by the sidewalk. I remembered Matthew 6:28b - 34.

...Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Sunday, May 24, 2020


Journal of a Lockdown No. 73

Jonathan Edwards, “A Farewell Sermon.” Vintage pen: Schaeffer 500 Balance (1930s), 14K solid gold No. F nib.

I love Jonathan Edwards. I first heard about him through the sermons and works of Dr. John Piper, who quoted the Puritan author extensively. This Sunday morning, let me share with you a line from his preaching, "A Farewell Sermon," which appears in Selected Sermons of Jonathan Edwards.

This is my handwriting in capitals. I'm using a vintage pen, a Shaeffer 500 Balance (ca. 1930s). It has a 14K solid gold fine nib. The filling mechanism no longer functions, unfortunately. But while I'm not a fan of fine nibs (I like my handwriting to look thick and wet), this Shaeffer's nib looks so elegant. I dip it in a vial filled with ink (in this case, Lamy Turquoise mixed with another shade to make it look dark) and write with it until the ink dries up. I like the ink smudges on my fingers. I think they're scholarly, but my friends think they just look plain dirty.

Jonathan Edwards, “A Farewell Sermon.” Vintage pen: Schaeffer 500 Balance (1930s), 14K solid gold No. F nib.

Have a blessed Sunday, everyone!

Saturday, May 23, 2020


Journal of a Lockdown No. 72


Weekend treat: morning coffee and Mavis Gallant's "Forain," which appears in her collection, Across the Bridge. This line, where she describes the impoverished writers and scholars from Eastern Europe who are working in Paris, is a testament to her skill and insight into the human condition. I compare her prose to those rare human beings who only have muscle and no excess fat: they are beautiful and strong and will probably outlive us. "To deeper loneliness and cheaper rents"--very few can write phrases like that.

If you're interested, the pen above is a Kaweco 70's Soul with broad steel nib, inked with Diamine Oxblood (my favorite red), which looks like the blood of extracted from someone with polycythemia vera, except that it has good flow (a long, run-on sentence best divided into short sentences for clarity, I know). The grid notebook is a faux Muji I bought for Php 50 apiece in a garage sale in Timog last year.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Journal of a Lockdown No. 71


Totally out of context, but this line from an Alice Munro story captures what I want to do with this blog: a public space that few know about. Thanks for those of you who drop by.

May is ending. I'm cooped up in my little space with books and prayer, pen and paper, laptop and Kindle. Yesterday I finished the series Trying on Apple TV+. It's about a couple who undergo the process of adoption after failed attempts to conceive. Loved the music. Characters were lovable. Story was uncomplicated. I want to go to Camden.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

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