I'm going to have a hard time this week

I can only surmise that this week will prove the hardest in this semester.

On Friday, I have a practical exam in Physics 71.1 and in Arnis (PE 2). On Saturday, I have written exams in Physics 71.1, Physics 71, and Chem 16.

People who read my blog frequently (if their existence could indeed be proven) would observe that I've been ranting about the unique difficulty of this semester . Maybe it's my new course. My classmates would say, "Ang layo naman ng pinanggalingan mo." They're right. From English Studies, I had taken a leap of faith to Molecular Biology. I sometimes comfort myself with the thought that the two courses are really related--the relation is just not conspicuous. The relation is that both courses use language. Hahaha.

My adjustments, my pains, my joy, my disappointments, and my victories would make an interesting entry, but now is not the time to write about them.

Don't worry

The semester is coming to an end, but we know that during this time of the year, the exams will come rushing through us like giant waves, practically knocking us out of our wits! For those who do not have Christ, this is cause for great anxiety: how will I pass my exams? How do I get high grades so as not to get kicked out of my college? Will I be able to finish my requirements so I could pass them on time? These questions are not unsual at all. But as Christians we have a living hope, and that hope is written in Scriptures to encourage and remind us of the Lord's faithfulness in providing even for the simplest of our needs. Let's turn to Matthew 6: 25.

THEREFORE I SAY TO YOU, DO NOT WORRY ABOUT YOUR LIFE, WHAT YOU WILL EAT OR WHAT YOU WILL DRINK, NOR ABOUT YOUR BODY, WHAT YOU WILL PUT ON. IS NOT LIFE MORE THAN FOOD AND THE BODY MORE THAN CLOTHING?

Jesus went on to say that God even provides for the needs of the birds of the air, so how much more will He provide for our needs, His children?

Jesus's words are comforting indeed. We should not worry. When we do, we are underestimating His power to supply for our needs. We know that He is more than able to help us, and we know that He is willing to help us. And so I encourage you not to worry, for there is no point in worrying.

Born again

This is a short story I wrote which is inspired by the preaching of Pastor Bob last Sunday. I shall improve on this later on. So far, this is the draft. I hope you too will be blessed.

About five hundred kilometers away, people were dying every minute as guns were fired and bombs were dropped.

The young soldier named Mallinson, only in his seventeenth year, did not expect to see so many men with such careless hate, men willing to kill even the innocent to forward their wretched ideologies, so after sustaining a gunshot wound in his left arm, he knew that he would not live long. He had lost a great amount of blood, and the infection that occurred was almost incurable according to the doctors who treated him in the make-shift hospital ward. The pain he experienced was both physical and emotional, and it was something that no person could take lightly. Mallison was not an exception.

The boy could practically see death coming towards him, but he would not succumb to it because he felt a need for something. He called for Mr. Andrews, the wardmaster.

The wardmaster was in his late 50's; his face was wrinkled with stress, but he had a grin that made Mallinson smile even for a second. Mr. Andrew's presence comforted the boy.

"Sir." The boy tried to get up to show respect. Mr. Andrew told him it was okay and that Mallinson should not tire himself any more. "Sir, I know I'm going to die moments from now, but I feel that something is missing in my life. Do you know how I can be born again?" The boy's voice was very tired and pained, a voice that showed nothing less than resignation.

"Oh boy. I'm really sorry, but I don't know how," the wardmaster replied. 'Why do you ask, my boy?"

The boy's breathing was becoming heavier every minute.

"I read an old book--the Holy Bible, I was told--that told of a story of Nicodemus who asked Jesus how a man could be born again. I want to be born again, wardmaster, Sir. So please get me a chaplain so he could tell me how I can be born again," Mallinson said, almost in a whisper.

"I will, my boy, I will."

Mr. Andrews knew that Mallinson had lost too much blood to survive for the next two hours. His promise was empty--he didn't call for any chaplain because he believed that the boy was going to die anyway.

When he did his rounds in the ward, Mr. Andrews was surprised to see the boy alive. He went near the bed, and the boy opened his tired eyes, and said, "I am about to die, wardmaster, and I need to be born again. Can you please get a chaplain for me to explain to me how I can be born again? My father abandoned us when I was a child, and so I lived with my mother and sister. We've all lived miserable lives, but I know that if I can be born again, my life will change. Somehow, it will, wardmaster. I know the Lord will help me." The boy's voice, though resigned, sounded with firmness and resolve.

Mr. Andrews said he would call for a chaplain.

Moments later, they boy was still alive, and Mr. Andrews already felt fondly of the boy. Mallinson's breathing was heavier now, he looked paler, and the wardmaster knew for sure that he wouldn't live long. Mr. Andrews approached the bed.

"Where is the chaplain, wardmaster? I need to be born again."

"There is no chaplain, my boy. I am sorry." Mr. Andrews was sorry indeed. He had tried to find someone who knew how to be born again, but the war was raging like fire and it was difficult to find a chaplain in the middle of the war. While watching the boy, he wondered why a person who was about to die would want to talk about being born again. Mr. Andrews, after all, had become an agnostic throughout all these years.

The boy looked very disappointed. It was his last request before he'd die. He had so wanted to be born again, but he didn't know how. What he knew was that he had wanted to go to heaven, to be with God, and not to be in a wretched, horrible place like Hell. Mr. Andrews looked at him with sad eyes--he felt a strong attachment for the boy, for he was a kind soul whose ways were still gentle despite the looming death.

"I may not be able to find a chaplain to tell you about being born again, but I can tell you what my mother had told me when she was still alive. Oh, how I miss her--if anyone knows something about these matters, she would be the one! She lived a happy, simple, prayerful life," the wardmaster told the boy who was getting weaker every minute. "She told me that to be born again, I should accept the Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. She told me that it's only by the grace of God that man can be saved, not through works but...but...by faith--yes, I think that was what she taught us in Sunday school. She also said something about eternal life--ah, I remember. When someone who had born again dies, he will have eternal life."

The boy thanked him, pleased with what he had heard. Mallinson closed his eyes and mumbled some words which were he alone could understand.

"It works, wardmaster! It works!," he told Mr. Andrews. Mallinson's gladness was too great to bear...despite his situation, he had still managed to smile. "You should try it, Sir. I am born again." The boy, now weaker than ever before, had the look of death in him, but his eyes were moist with tears--not of pain, but of inexpressible joy. He had been born again, and his joy could not be contained.

"Sir, in a few minutes I will die, but I have one thing to ask of you. Please tell this to my mother and sister. I hope to meet them someday in heaven.They live near the bakery at York Street. Please tell them about Jesus. It works!"

"I will, my boy, I will."

"It works! It works! It works....."

The decrescendo of his voice accompanied the halting of his breathing and for a moment, Mr. Andrews had a hard time digesting everything that had happened. Tears swelled from his eyes, for he had learned to love the boy, only 17 years old but showed more wisdom than him.

He too desired to be born again.

UP fight!

I had to see the UAAP Cheerleading Championships at the Araneta Coliseum to cover up for my pentiful absences in PE. Ms. Peneyra, my kind arnis instructor, will give incentives--like erasing some absences from her record--to those who'd be watching the competition. Besides, it's a yearly event that every loyal UP student looks forward to.

"So why have you been absent anyway?" you may ask. Let me answer that question.

You see, Physics 71.1 (the laboratory part) is every Friday from 2 to 4pm. Our classes are held at the new building of the National Insitute of Physics near Katipunan road. My arnis class is scheduled every Tuesday and FRIDAY at the UP Vanguard Building where you can overlook the Commonwealth Avenue. The University of the Philippines is a horribly big campus (400-something hectares), mind you, and it is this very reason that has led to the compounding of my absences: it takes me 15 to 20 minutes to hop from one building to another through the Toki jeeps which can, at times, get wretchedly slow I'd wonder whether they're moving at all!

But the cheerleading competition was fun, except of course that for the fourth strait year, the UP Pep Squad has not emerged the champions. UP placed second to the defending champions of last year, UST.

The Big Dome was already jampacked with students from the eight participating schools by the time we had gotten there. Outside, the queue for tickets was as long as those here in UP during enrollment. Unfortunately, there were no more available tickets so those people who had lined up had to leave and go home and get some rest. They should have watched TV because the competition was televised in Studio 23.

UP's performance this year is a far cry from last year. Their stunts were amazing and left us all in awe. "Could humans actually do that? Can I do that?," I asked myself ten times. I don't know, maybe I can if I try hard enough. But then again, that's as impossible as seeing our congressmen doing their jobs as they ought to.

The door has been opened

Just a few months ago--February 12 to be exact--I had my first dose of what they deem to be the most exciting part of a UP dormitory life, the yearly Open House (at least, it was yearly in Kalayaan). It's an event that all dormers look forward to because, once in a blue moon, outsiders (the dorm jargon for non-dormers)get the chance to enter the otherwise locked doors of the residence halls.

Now that I'm in Yakal Residence Hall, the experience takes a different beat. The reason why I'm writing about dormitories and open houses must have been made evident already, dear readers (if you do exist).

It's Yakal's Open House today.

And I've been out of the hall all day, in the wide expanse of the campus, listening to lectures, wondering at times when I'd be back home to celebrate with my dormmates.

Real food. 18th birthdays.

At last. Food. Real food.

Shean (a high school classmate studying in UP) and I have just arrived from Rowena's birthday party in Cubao. The party and the people made me feel as if I were in Koronadal, my home sweet home a thousand miles away, because almost everyone spoke Ilonggo, that charming, familiar vernacular, and the atmosphere was so, uhm, "home-ly" that somehow I had a hard time reconciling conflicting thoughts: I studying in molecular biology and I eating tuna from General Santos.

I saw familair faces in the party. Rowena's mother, for one, told us too many things about KN (which is Koronadal National Comprehensive High School--my high school), and how things are changing so fast there.

It was bliss to forget that I still have a class tomorrow, to pretend that I'm in Koronadal, to talk to familiar faces, to hear wonderful news from home, and to eat until my stomach hurt.

Transport strikes. Tenth place.

My Chem Lab classmates, a few minutes ago, have been too optimistic to hear an announcement that classes for today would be postponed. In my mind, I thought, "Why not?" There was practically no jeepney in sight--the drivers went on a transport strike, I was told, to show their protest against the ever-increasing oil prices (I mean, what else is new?). My classmates--Vienna, Don, Princess, and most of them--were busy discussing how they were going home; commuting was the only means, so how were they to do that without jeepneys?

The announcement came, of course, otherwise I wouldn't be here to write this entry. We were too ecstatic--Rachel was shouting her vocal cords out, especially when we heard that Sir Acy Yago passed the Chemistry Board Exams with flying colors. Tenth placer. I wasn't really surprised. Si Sir Acy pa?

Congratulations, Sir.

Lazy Sundays in UP


Sunday afternoons in the University of the Philippines (UP) have something different in them--a lazy quality perhaps--that makes people want to doze off for a few hours. Sleeping is utterly irrestistible, but there are times when you've got to oppose the urge to "drift away" especially when you have exams the next day. By God's grace, I will most certainly enjoy this time of sleep.

UP does look wonderful, even under the heat of the scorching Philippine sun. Why I said that, I don't know, but one thing's for sure: to live in a forested area like UP campus is, in effect, a far better privilege than to inhabit polluted places like Philcoa (which, by the way, is still in UP).

And so, dear readers (if you do exist), excuse me for I shall now sleep.

Sighing as sembreak looms

I still couldn't believe my ears whenever I hear people around me say, "Yey! Patapos na naman ang sem." For one, I still have lots of things to do before that; second, my mother told my brother and I that we will not go home to Marbel during the break; third, I couldn't feel it in the air.

Time just flies so fast, don't you think? And the more you think about it, the more you get baffled by what you've done with your life. I, for one, ask myself questions like, "What have I accomplished this sem? What do I need to improve on?"

I don't know...my thoughts just drift from place to place, so forgive me, dear readers (I sometimes wonder if I'm the only person reading my blog--if that's the case, it's perfectly okay with me), if you couldn't get something important in this entry.

I can only sigh a sigh of relief whenever I hear people sighing like the way I do.

Lessons learned in panic

Today I’ve learned another lesson—in a way, it’s a reminder—and the more I think about it, the more beautiful it becomes.

I studied hard last night in preparation for my math exam, the fourth one. I spent quite a few hours studying it—I started at 4:00 in the afternoon and ended at 30 minutes past midnight. Don’t get mistaken: I had breaks in between, for meals, for bathing, for tooth brushing . . . need I elaborate? But the fact is, I’ve studied.

Hard.

I woke up at 5 am the next morning. I knew I had to be early so as to salvage the time: Sir Vry comes quite early during exam time and I knew I couldn’t waste even the extra 15 minutes, a bonus for people who come early. I walked all the way to Math Building (from Yakal) because there was no Toki jeep in sight. It was still too early that everything still felt sleepy. Still I charged on.

And then the exam…

When I browsed through each of the questions, I said, “Thank you, Lord. It looks easy.” It really did look easy…I knew I had studied every bit of it.

The first parts of the exam was breezy; everything went on as planned. But come test three, I knew I was losing my hold on it. We were asked to graph the function, find the asymptotes (vertical, horizontal and oblique, if they exist) and determine the relative extreme values. I think I must have spent more or less 30 minutes in that part: I still solved for the first and second derivatives. “Why is this so difficult?” I asked myself because I couldn’t get the right answer.

And then, through careful browsing of the test paper, I was jolted out of my wits: the first and second derivatives were already given: all I had to do was find the critical numbers, the possible points of inflection, and then determine the signs, etc. 30 minutes na lang ang natira, and I still had to answer twenty or so questions.

I panicked.

Man cannot understand the entirety of God’s mighty plan for His life. I can only thank Him for doing what He does best.

Dreamlike temptations

The clock read 1:03. His gasping was the only sound that could be heard, for everything seemed at peace at this very wee hour of the morning. He sat on his bed…his night clothes soaked with cold sweat; his palms were moist. The dream was too vivid that his mind replayed it over and over again.

The reality of the dream was too tangible for imagination.

* * *

There he was, holding hands with a seemingly-innocent girl. He felt something else…something utterly indescribable that made him feel as though he was doing wrong, that he was offending someone. It was an uneasy feeling, and he wanted to tell the girl about it, but he couldn’t muster enough strength to do it.

He didn’t want to be branded a coward.

“Let’s do it…” The girl motioned him to come inside a room. She clutched his hands, now cold and sweaty; she had this power to command him to do everything she wanted him to, and though he hated it, he couldn’t do much but give in.

They spent a hour and a half inside the room, and when they went out,  the girl, satisfied, said something that made his spine tingle, his heart beat a hundred times faster, and his conscience troubled.

“I didn’t take any pills.”

* * *

But dreams remain in that wide expanse of thinking. He felt like going back to sleep—he has a seven o’clock class later. What made him sleep was the fact that the Lord might never allow this to happen. His restraining hand is a testimony of His wondrous mercy that is renewed day after day after day.

When he woke up, it was already 8:34.



UP, UPCAT and life

Dr. Butch Dalisay, member of the distinguished faculty of the Department of English and Comparative Literature of UP's College of Arts and Letters, writes this interesting piece about UPCAT, his pride in having passed it eons ago, and his thoughts on the current circumstances in the University.

Excellence and equity, revisited
PENMAN By Butch Dalisay
The Philippine STAR 08/29/2005

My recent piece on my mom remin-ded me that it was she – a 1956 BSE graduate – who brainwashed me very early on about the absolute necessity of getting into UP if I was to be worth anything in my adulthood. She managed this by the simple expedient of playing a 78 rpm record of Push On, UP! – flipsided by UP Beloved – on our phonograph for what seemed to me like morning, noon, and night, even before I was old enough to tie my shoelaces. Soon I was playing the record myself, oblivious to its lyrics but happily agitated by the perkiness of the fight song. And there were, of course, the 1948 UP Highlights Yearbook and the 1956 Philippinensian that survived the 15 house moves we made in 30 years.

These memories crossed my mind several weekends ago, when the UPCAT (UP College Admission Test) was administered to about 70,000 hopefuls around the country. Droves of high-school seniors descended on Diliman and UP’s other campuses, torn between the anxiety brought on by the exam and by the thrill of reconnoitering corridors they might soon inhabit. It didn’t seem that long ago when I, too, sat in one of those halls – the auditorium in Benitez Hall, the College of Education – with pen in hand, writing my future in an answer sheet.

It’s that very same auditorium where the policy-making University Council meets. There’s a move among some well-meaning members of that council to give underpaid and overworked UP professors a little boost by according plus points (what we call a palugit, which comes into play at certain stages of the selection process to account for such affirmative-action beneficiaries as students from the poorest regions and members of cultural minorities) to the children of UP teachers in the UPCAT.

Some of my colleagues might strangle me for saying this, but I think it’s a terrible idea. Except for clearly marginalized and disadvantaged sectors – whose presence on campus helps make UP a truly national university – no one, not even and not especially our children – should gain special entry into UP. We can grant similar privileges for admission into UP’s elementary and high schools – which after all were conceived to be, and remain, pilot schools, teaching laboratories for our College of Education. We can vote ourselves pay raises (if and when we find the money for them, and if Congress musters enough sense and focus to let us do it). But we shouldn’t privilege ourselves to the detriment of others when it comes to college admissions, or we might lose the very moral authority we fall back on when it comes to criticizing corruption in other branches of government.

One of the things I felt proudest of when I was serving UP as Vice President for Public Affairs not too long ago was to be able to say "Sorry, but no…" to the entreaties of high government officials seeking special favors for their wards, especially post-UPCAT. No one gets into UP for being the son, daughter, relative, or protégé of a senator or congressman, no matter how highly placed, and no matter if they control UP’s budget, which we need to defend annually in Congress.

That was matched only by the pride I felt, many years earlier, of having my daughter Demi pass the UPCAT purely on her own account. UP parents – whether faculty members or not – ought to be able to savor that pride without feeling that their kid got in with a little help from a system meant to serve not insiders, but the people at large. I hope the new UP administration finds the wisdom and the will to nip this misguided initiative in the bud.
* * *
Speaking of the UPCAT (and following through on a piece I wrote about it in May last year), other steps are underway to review how well it has worked, and to determine if it remains relevant to our needs and realities. Such periodic reviews are fine – indeed, essential in a world, society, and educational landscape that have changed much over the past 30 years.

Students are going to college more poorly prepared than ever, in terms of basic skills (science, math, and language) and of "cultural literacy" – an awareness of (leading to an engagement in) the backgrounds, issues, and elements of our nationhood. When critics (and even professors) bemoan what they see as a deterioration in the quality of our college students and fresh graduates, they often forget to note that these problems began much earlier – in ill-equipped elementary schools, poorly-trained and underpaid teachers, and yes, parents who expect teachers to shoulder the task of education 100 percent, to whom glancing at their kids’ report cards and dispensing their baon is duty enough.

And when we range our graduates’ performance against those of other universities in the region and the world, we also con-veniently forget that we "cheat," in effect, by requiring only 10 years of elementary and high school education before shoving our kids into college. (Compare that, for example, to 12 years in the US and India and 13 years in Norway. Of course we’ll argue that we Pinoys can’t afford to pay for the extra years, and besides, we’ve all managed to get by – which is exactly where we are, just getting by while our neighbors have been moving on.)

That said, what’s the nation’s leading public university to do?

As in the past, much of the debate that will inevitably attend the review will have to do with the competing claims of "excellence" and "equity" – code words both for sharply defined and emotionally charged positions. "Excellence" would mean the survival and progression of the intellectually fittest – the university would take in and educate only the very cream of the high school crop, with no considerations given to such factors or qualifiers as economic status and geographic origin. "Equity" on the other hand would give some importance to those very factors, applying weights and counterweights to ensure a more democratic mix and achieve socially desirable objectives. It’s easy to see how both positions can be defended – and overplayed.

"Excellence" recognizes the fact that however you look at it, a university is an intellectual enterprise, whose business is the production of an intellectual elite. That elite can then – if it so wishes – help uplift the lot of others. Excellence is efficient and cost-effective. You’ll expend less time, effort, and money educating someone who’s already smarter than most to begin with. With just so much to spend on public higher education, the government could gamble its stash on those students most likely to succeed – and on the university most likely to help them succeed. For professors, it’ll be a pleasure dealing with students who can absorb anything you say in an instant.

"Equity" would be the battle cry of those who believe that, as a publicly funded institution, a state university has an inalienable responsibility not just to the pursuit of knowledge but also to the promotion and practice of democratic ideals. That includes a conscious effort toward some degree of fair representation – if necessary, through affirmative action–for the country’s regions and ethno-linguistic groups as well as economic classes, with an emphasis on helping those already minoritized and disadvantaged for having been born poor and far away from the best elementary and high schools. It will take more work and resources to bring these students up to par with their thoroughbred peers – but if we don’t go the extra mile for them, they (and the majority of our people that they represent) will only be left farther behind.

Speaking as a UP alumnus and professor, I’m convinced that a combination of both factors – not necessarily a 50-50 proposition – should serve the university and our people best. A compromise might be achieved, for example, and as had been earlier proposed by some quarters, by applying purely "excellence" factors – UPCAT scores – to the first 1,000 or 2,000 (out of 6,000) passers, and additional "equity" factors to sort out the rest.

While I have to admit to a personal bias for equity considerations, I seriously doubt that democratic representation alone will achieve anything substantial (and our Congress is the best proof of that). There are state colleges and universities in practically all our provinces – way too many of them, in fact – that can meet the needs of most of our students where they are, as they are. Can the nation – and even the poor – best be served by holding back the academic potentials of its leading university in the name of pluralism?

On the other hand, "excellence" can very quickly become a euphemism for more than an intellectual form of elitism, for turning UP into a haven for the sons and daughters of the rich, who would have had the best preparation for the UPCAT in high schools blessed with all computers and library books anyone could wish for. If no equity factors were to be considered, UP would be filled in no time with Metro Manila-based PSHS, Ateneo, and La Salle graduates – the parents of many of whom, ironically, could very well afford to send them on to top-flight private universities for ten times the tuition they would pay in UP. You’d have to wonder if this is what the government allots UP P4.5 billion a year for (less about P1 billion for the Philippine General Hospital) – money contributed by ordinary taxpayers all over the country.

We’re not quite there yet, thanks to the UPCAT’s present observance of equity considerations. As far as I know, we’ve been able to maintain a rough 50-50 ratio between public and private schools among UPCAT passers. When last we looked, based on self-reported family income (and dispelling the notion propounded by some politicians that UP has already become a school for the rich), less than 4 percent of UP students come from families with incomes of more than P1 million – not a lot these days.

That could change if we pull out all the stops altogether, and I for one hope that doesn’t happen. Sure, it takes more effort and it’s often plain frustrating to teach the poorly prepared – but that’s the mission I feel I signed up for, in the hope that these people will make more of a difference to their families and communities than another well-scrubbed boy from Greenhills. The day UP truly becomes a rich kids’ school is the day I leave it – for Ateneo or La Salle, to at least be commercially recompensed for what I’m doing (although I doubt there’ll be a place in either school for this stubborn agnostic).

Looking back

This is an email I sent to friends on November 8, 2004. I was just reminded of how faithful the Lord truly is—day in or day out. I hope you too will be reminded of that precious truth.

It is finished.For three agonizing days, I have been enrolling.

For students in other schools, this must be an exaggeration; here in UP, it is as normal asseeing protesters demanding for Gloria's resignation.

For three days, I have lined up for queues just to get the subjects that would interest me. These queues are long; the processing ofdocuments and the like is so slow you'd wonder if there's progress at all. For three days, I have rushed to and fro the large, wide campus that is Diliman.

There's always the adrenaline rush when I hear that subjects are still open for pre-enlistment.

"Saan? May open pa bad'un?"

"Ilan pa ba ang available?"

"Magpe-petition ba kayo for EnviSci?" Oblivious to everything else, I would follow the flow of people; again, lining up for the nth time for my turn. Often, my actions would end in futility. It was as if I was going to have a nervous breakdown. "Isang MST nalang." I was, in fact, relying on my efforts, not entirely dependingon the One who sovereignly controls everything. I texted my brother tohelp me; he replied: Lance, patience is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Trust in the Lord. I remembered the things I studied in my quiet time the night before: The Lord engineers all our circumstances; the events that happen are ordained by Him. Or, as Kuya Lito puts it, "He directs the steps and stops." He does this to test our faith, so that trusting Him would be as natural as breathing.

Why don't we trust in Him? Is it because we are, in fact, underestimating His power? Are we thinking so low ofHim? Today, I write this as a person convicted of the sin of doubt. Not just once, I doubted the Lord. I have so many things to be thankful for, especially this: I am enrolled, at last. "Welcome to UP," they tell me. But more than this, it is my prayer that someday, my faith will become like Martha's. "Do you believe this?," Jesus asked her. She said,"Lord, I believe you." Praise be to the Lord!

Sore, sore throat

I have sore throat, and unless you were born in another galaxy, you’d be able to relate to this wretched pain I’m going through. There’s one thing I’d like to say: second to toothache, a sore throat is the worst physical pain practically all humans normally experience.

Okay, so maybe that’s not as painful as, say, having a brain tumor or having your right limb cut off—just like that beautiful character, Sophie, in Kill Bill 1—but you do get my point: the pain is unnerving, intolerable, and  almost omnipresent; it has to be cured immediately.

I called up home to ask what to do. Tatay told me to gargle hot water with rock salt. I did just that, and the pain subsided, albeit for a while, but it came back after a few hours. My friend, Paul, told me to buy Deflam (like Strepsils) because, he says, his mother once had sore throat, and that product was so effective that she was immediately cured.

Once in a while, I still dissolve Strepsil candies in my mouth.

This has led me to learn the following lessons:

1. The ability to swallow painlessly is a skill that we ought to be thankful for.
2. Tap water doesn’t really taste that bad.
3. When someone talks too much, there’s always that possibility of incurring something like—a sore throat.

I’ll sleep early tonight. It has been a tough day.