08.4

Hanging in my room

  • It's the first day of Feb—how fast time flies!
  • Had a blessed time in church today.
  • Delicious lunch at Razon's in Timog Ave.
  • Soon-to-be-doctor Ate Michie told me she'd be praying for me as I prep up for the med school interview.
  • I realized that some petty things make my life easier—like an internet connection in my room.
  • Wegs' approval of me coming to her place for free wifi use because the dorm internet won't be restored until tomorrow.
  • The sense of helplessness at the enormous tasks ahead for this week. It leads me to depend on God alone.
  • Good health. All my roommates now suffer from sore throat, flu, and fever. I'm experiencing the initial symptoms, but I thank God I'm not yet completely bogged down.

08.3

At the edge

  • The Great Gatsby (F Scott Fitzgerald) which I started reading this afternoon.
  • God's traveling mercies.
  • The rest—had a good one today.
  • The French songs I've been listening to.
  • The reminder that I am not in the center of God's will—Christ is. Ephesians 1:9-12
  • The reminder that I must live so that others will see God's glory reflected in my life.
  • The prayers of Christian friends as I seek for God's wisdom in choosing which path I'd take after graduation.

C'est un amour de collège un fantôme du passé



I've been listening to a number of French songs lately. From this playlist, Aldebert's Carpe Diem stands out as an easy favorite.

It is a song of reminiscing the past with a sense of regret. I especially like chorus:

C'est un amour de collège, un fantôme du passé
Qui vous r'vient au p'tit dej, une icône du lycée
Le temps fait des siennes et reprend ce qu'il sème
Carpe Diem
English translation:
It’s a high school love, a ghost from the past
That comes back to your mind while you’re having breakfast, a high school icon
Time is out of control, time takes back what it sowed.
Carpe Diem
I play it over and over again. It's one of the songs you never get tired of listening to.

(HT: Lyrics Mania and ann_amorphose)

08.2

Afternoon

  • I qualified for the next step in the application (i.e., interview), and so did my friends.
  • Ate a delicious meal during this afternoon's NIMBB Pasta Party, a first in history.
  • Consulted with my thesis adviser who gave constructive advice and encouragement.
  • Did rather well during the quiz because I had time to prepare for it—thank you, Lord!
  • Had fun with UP SOX during the Kalye Kultura at Tres Marias, Lagoon Area.
  • Had a chance to encourage a friend to continue walking with Christ, despite her confusion. Mark 9:24
  • I'm thankful I use Linux. At the very least I don't have to worry about viruses anymore. Ate Xy-za had been patient with me when I consciously plugged my USB stick in this afternoon.
  • Had a chance to pray for Christian ministries and ministers, that they might flee from wrong teaching and living.

08.1

Work

Katrina Alvarez tagged me. For the next eight days, I'm posting eight things that made me happy.

  • Early morning breakfast. I devoured pritong bangus at UP Coop.
  • Socsci1 exam. I thank God for the time he gave me to prepare for it adequately.
  • Lunch. At UP NISMED, I ordered tuna pasta, banana cupcake, and ice cream.
  • Laughter. Had a great time with Wegs, Arielle, and Carlo.
  • Two-hour afternoon nap. I feel stronger and more relaxed for the long night ahead.
  • The referendum. Had a chance to exercise my democratic rights—in this case, having my say on the process of selecting the Student Regent.
  • Peace of mind. That which transcends all understanding. Philippians 4:7
  • We're All Gonna Die. Found this website, a reminder of the frailty of human existence, and the need to smile while walking. You never know if someone's taking a photo of you.

"Count your blessings, name them one by one," says one familiar hymn. May God grant me a thankful heart indeed.

"Point!"

Chair

Being in disagreement has never been this fun.

From normal scientific reporting, we shifted to the Asian parliamentary debate, modified slightly to accommodate the needs of the class (MBB 197: Special Topics in Molecular Biology).

This was a brainchild of Dr. Jay Lazaro who—I can't stress this enough—transformed the class into what feels like a courtroom full of tension, argumentation, and fun. The series of debates we've had so far has been a learning experience. It taught us to see errors in logic, to evaluate arguments objectively, and to follow the dynamism that envelopes the intellectual interaction.

The fun part is that nobody is exempted—even the most reserved in class. It's exciting to hear my classmates sound so stern, overflowing with conviction at the points they're raising.

Among the more interesting topics discussed so far were:

  • Which is worse: an invasive species or a new virus that destroys it? (Our group debated on this).
  • In times of conflict, it is best to trust in fossil records alone. (The counter-argument was the use of molecular clocks for dating).
  • The bacterial flagellum arose because of Intelligent Design. (The counter-argument: the theory of evolution).
The participants would usually dress up in corporate attires—long-sleeves, slacks, skirts, and closed shoes. Prepared with their points, they would come up the stage, with hands shaking for the first few minutes, and with a look of victory at the end.

Our group is debating again next week, this time concerning whether RNA is the first genetic material. Joe Poblete, who's from the opposing group, jokingly said, "Lance, beware—we have strong arguments."

I replied, "Joe, watch out—we have strong personalities."

This is going to be fun.

Social lives

Balls

People go out on Friday nights, so don't take it against me if I did. It's a ritual to welcome the weekend—a two-day break from backbreaking work, and for students, a window of opportunity to recover from academic pressures.

I went out with Yeyen Waga, Monchi Goce, and Wegs Pedroso. Like a pack of hungry wolves, we devoured a serving of large pizza plus pasta served with humongous meatballs.

Yeyen was insistent that we document everything. Rare are the times when we leave the lab for social duties. We figured we shouldn't let this pass unnoticed in history.

When you're bogged down during the week, the two days of weekend you used to ignore become so . . . precious.

First time

I stayed up late to finish an experiment. Exhausted, I wanted to go home, with a kind of desperation that led me into thoughts of curling in bed with the fan blowing full-speed.

When I went out, there wasn't a single soul to be seen. The silence was only occasionally disturbed by the passing taxis or the howling of stray dogs. It was 1 am—what do you expect?

I normally ride the jeep from Albert Hall to Yakal, but, this time, I wanted to try walking. The night was cool, the air was crisp, and the possibilities of me getting maimed, robbed, or kidnapped was high. It sounded like fun.

So for the first time, I walked alone. I passed through University Ave, walked past the Theater, turned right to Melchor Hall, and before I knew it, I was home.

As I got ready for bed, I realized how blessed I am for the chance God gave me to do what I enjoy—not just early morning walks, but the experiments I'm doing, and the things I learn from them.

Ah, Colossians 3: 23! Suddenly all exhaustion vanishes when one realizes he's done it for God.

Lord, teach us to number our days aright



Just got word that may favorite science teacher in high school has passed away. Days ago, my friends were planning on visiting her in the hospital. Death comes as a surprise—we were too late.

Ma'am Nona has been my third year class adviser (III Mercury), my chemistry teacher, and my trusted coach during inter-school competitions. We'd spend hours poring over books, sample exams, and tricks in solving problems quickly.

She is the reason why I fell in love with chemistry, and, until now, whenever I'd calculate molarity, I'd often remember that bloody quiz we had one afternoon in 2003.

When I got high grades in Chem 16, I texted her, "I couldn't have done it without you, Ma'am." When I'd drop by K-N to visit the school, I'd come to her room where she'd break the latest news, ask me how I am, and feed me.

But life is a vapor. The people we love—those we hold dearly—can vanish at the flick of a finger.

Nothing humbles man like death does. As I write this, suddenly all my cares in the world vanish—my grades, prospects after graduation, the dSLR I want to have. Life is too short to be wasted.

As I pray for Ma'am Nona's family, I also pray for myself: that God may put some sense in me to pursue only the things with eternal signifance and to regard my every day as a blessing I do not deserve.

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12

Progress

One of my most embarassing moments is the time when I was asked to represent the class for the Impromptu Speaking Contest in Filipino. It was Buwan ng Wika, and everyone in KNCHS was looking forward to the culmination event.

I was surprised that I was picked out, of all my classmates who spoke the language better than I did. I had difficulty speaking in Filipino because in Koronadal, we never speak it. It's off—it just sounds off, like the screeching of tires on pavement.

So, there I was, sitting on a monobloc chair on-stage, waiting for my turn. I picked my topic a minute before I was to begin. The unfolded the piece of paper read, "Ano'ng masasabi mo tungkol sa administrasyon ni Joseph Estrada?"

I had no clue.

I came near the microphone, rattled my introductions, and I started saying something. It was one of those moments when silence was torturous, and I just had to say anything, no matter how unrelated, as long as the words were in Tagalog.

A minute after I started I regained my thoughts, but just as I was about to go on my second point, I totally blanked out. Tabula rasa. My brain was as clear as Absolute drinking water.

Forgetting how "progress" was translated in Tagalog, I said the following words that would scar me for dear life:


Dapat isaalang-alang ni Pangulong Estrada sa kanyang mga programa na ang Pilipinas ay dapat mag-progress.

Good job, Lance. And in case you're asking, I placed last.

Dinner with Youth Workers' Cell

Thirsty

Tonight, I had dinner with the Youth Workers' Cell at Carlo's Pizza (Tomas Morato Extension) to celebrate Kuya Lito's birthday.

I thank the Lord for Kuya Lito whose life has been a real encouragement to me. His God-given wisdom and insight have helped me make decisions that brought me closer to God instead of bringing me away from Him.

Photobucket

I also thank the Lord for this fellowship that He provides to pray for and encourage me in my Christian walk. If not for them, things would've been harder to bear.

So tonight, I forgot—albeit temporarily—my schoolwork, and enjoyed good food for the body and the soul.

HT: Ate Meann for the group photos.

The cold

The streets are cooler than air-conditioned rooms. It's the first time this has happened in Metro Manila's recent history. Elsewhere, Baguio temperature plummeted to 7.5 C—a record low—and two people died of cold in Tuguegarao.

Could this be due to global warming?

Really, it's gotten very cold. Most of the time I like the feel of it, except in early mornings when I shower. In campus, everybody wears jackets. In the dorm, few turn their fans on.

Manila is giving me the chills—literally. Pero sana magka-snow.

Categories

I've finally shifted from manually tweaking my CSS/HTML to Blogger's drag-and-drop customization feature. Like a true minimalist, I like to keep things neat, crisp, and simple.

I've started putting the previous entries into 13 categories.

  • blogging includes changes I'm adding to this blog.
  • christianity includes my meditations on God and lessons I've learned from Bible reading.
  • commentary includes my take on issues.
  • doodles + sketches includes my drawings and scribbles.
  • family + friends includes experiences with the people I love.
  • ang filipino ay naglalaman ng mga entring naisulat ko sa Filipino.
  • journal includes my daily experiences and entries I can't exactly categorize.
  • less than 50 includes short entries—less than 50 words.
  • nablopomo includes entries written for the National Blog Posting Month.
  • photography includes photos I took.
  • reading includes my take on books I'm reading and recommending.
  • watching + listening includes my review of movies, shows, and songs.

If needed, I might consider adding more. This blog is a work in progress.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button—the movie, this time

The movie adapted the general theme of the original short story but took a different plot altogether. But I wasn't disappointed. It was well worth the time.

My favorite part was the narration of Daisy's accident, coupled with an interplay of scenes. I thought it was pure genius. That sealed the movie for me.

That said, Cate Blanchett (Daisy) remains among my favorite actresses. She's too natural, and it shows in the dance movements and the Southern American accent which didn't sound fake at all.

I'm happy with Brad Pitt's (Benjamin) acting, proving he is an actor first before being Angelina Jolie's lover.

This is the first movie (on wide screen) that I've watched for the year, and what a blast it's been.

Reversed process

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is F Scott Fitzgerald's short story that makes you think, 'What if the growth process were reversed?"

Benjamin Button looks 70 when he is born. He thinks like an old man, older than his father. Years later, he looks at the mirror and sees his white hair turning into brown. He's getting younger, and he feels greater energies and passions. He marries, joins the army, and when he gets back, he notices his wife has gotten older. He feels silly when he's beside his wife, who now looks fifty while he looks twenty. The story ends with Benjamin as a baby, playing with his grandson and learning new words.

The crazy story fascinates me.

Society has expectations of people: they must act according to their age. Any decent man you meet on the street will not give the same treatment to a 12 year old than he would, say, to a 50 year old. One is identified by one's age.

I remember this one time when I watched a movie with my mother. As she was choosing the seats on the computer, the cashier asked, "Ma'am, ilang taon na po siya?" (Ma'am, how old is he?). I was 20, and the movie was R13.

Age—in this case, looks—does matter.

Heaven exists

A friend asked me if I believe in heaven—if there's really such a place.

"Yes," I said. No doubt about that.

"But nobody's ever come back from the dead and reported its existence," she said.

"In the same manner, nobody's ever come back and reported it doesn't exist," I said.

"Then how can you prove it?"

I paused, collected my thoughts, and briefly looked at the pocket Bible I laid on the table. "I believe in the Bible, and it says Heaven exists."

There was my proof.

Any philosopher would've dismissed me as stupid, but belief requires faith—not sight.

On my way home, I thought, "Surely those Christian martyrs didn't just die for nothing—they knew heaven existed and they were going there."

Heaven isn't a place where blue eyed angels in white robes play the harp nestling on a cloud. Heaven is what it is because it's where believers will fellowship with the Lord for eternity.

I'm going there when I die—and if you're not sure where you're headed, there is a way: Christ.

Tito—or Uncle—Lance?

So far I'm not getting any used to being called tito—what Filipinos lovingly call their uncles.

When I went home last Christmas, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of kids brought into this harsh, unforgiving world by my childhood playmates and extended family members.

To remind myself that I'm getting older, I only have to look at this emerging younger generation and realize how long it's been since I had been inside a crib. Sooner or later, they will come at my doorsteps and plead, "Tito, where's my gift?"

But, kids bring such joy. First, they transform the household into a busy office of diaper changing and milk-making. And they run wild and free, destroying century-old vases or the latest electronic gadgets—they don't really care.

Despite these, they bring laughter, fulfillment, and many wonderful photo opportunities for anyone holding a camera.



Like this one from Jared, son of my cousin, Ate Bing. That kid, I tell you, has the best speaking voice for a child I've heard. I tried coaxing him into saying "amazing" but he could only manage "mama" for now. I pray he'll grow up in the love of the Lord.

And, self-absorbed that I am, I haven't completely resolved whether Jared should call me Tito Lance or Uncle Lance.

Japanese tranquility

A curtain of rain, dense cedar forests, tiny villages—ah, Japanese stories make me tranquil.

If a writer lives in a quiet, solitary place high up in the mountains where he sees early morning mists covering the mountains when he wakes up in the morning, it's not surprising that the serenity hovering around him would reflect in his writing.

Yasunari Kawabata must've lived like that—in peace and quiet where he could hear his own thoughts as loud as the chirping of a bird nearby.



My speculations may be wrong, but “The Dancing Girl of Izu,” his short story and one of the most enduring works of Japanese literature, gave me just that: a moment of peace.

It's a story of a young man who follows a group of itinerant performers from village to village. After some time, he eventually gets to know them. He falls in love with a little girl, the one who dances to the beat of the drums. The man is filled with longing for her, that which borders on anxiety—“to be loved and to love what may be unattainable.”

The short story reflects the main themes that would occupy this Nobel laureate's later works. It also bears the writer's style which he is known for: brevity.

I appreciate how Kawabata weaves his story with the fewest words possible without compromising, even for a bit, the complexity and depth of his ideas.

A master with words, Kawabata writes stories that probably take less than an hour to read but, beware—they stick to your memory for weeks.

---

Available online for free: The Master of Funerals, the second story in the collection. I am just blown away.

Happy First Day of Classes!



Carlo Timbol's text this morning read “Happy First Day of Classes!”

Amused, I twittered it, as if it were a public holiday along the ranks of Pi Day. It had a nice ring to it.

“Should I be happy going to classes again?” I asked myself. A part of me was excited, another was curious. For instance, have my classmates, having promised not to eat more than a cup of rice for every meal this holiday season, gotten . . . bigger?

For the most part, however, I was apprehensive. With the pile of things-to-do I had set aside before I flew on that plane home, I knew coming back won't be as relaxing—back-breaking would be more like it.

But I'm going back to school—that's enough reason to celebrate. Not everyone gets the chance.

As for my apprehensions, I was immensely comforted by David in Psalm 16:8—“I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.”

If you're studying or working, how was your "First Day"?

No Reservations in Mexico!

A scoop of the fresh new episodes of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain:

It's in Mexico this time. He's treated to the "best tortillas ever," together with a quaint cantina in Mexico. The highlight would be Tony's drinking of a suspicious-looking fermented cactus sap. That guy eats everything.

It airs on Monday, January 5th at 10pm ET on the Travel Channel. Here's the promo video.

I follow his blog closely, too: I think it's well-written, carefully thought-of, and unlike any other.

On coming home

That I should write about leaving home again when I had barely slept at the house where I grew up and lived most of my life is a tragedy. But, this is how it works. There’s a time for everything—hellos and … goodbyes.

I spent my Christmas break mostly at home—99 percent of it (maybe 98; you get the point). I barely went out, except to run errands, go to Church, attend family gatherings, and meet friends. Like any home buddy, I turned down invitations for dinners and parties because I preferred staying with the family, lying down with a good book or a TV show I hadn’t seen in ages.

Nothing feels like home. To finally hear my father’s snoring during his afternoon nap and to succumb to my mother’s requests to rub her scalp (because of allergies incurred from dyeing her hair) are to feel that, after 12 months of being away, I’ve finally come back. And the thought of leaving so abruptly makes me sad, not only because I have to do many things when I get back in Manila, but because it will be months again before I’ll be seeing my family—the rest of them.

I tell my friends in Manila how blessed they are to come home to their families every night. Yes, they have to put up with some nagging, restrictions, and prohibitions that parents impose on their kids these days. But, in exchange, they’re able to eat home-cooked meals, go to church together, and quarrel with their siblings—things I only get to do once or twice a year.

I comfort myself that this is a small price compared to the experiences I’ve had so far. When I think about it, being away from home for about five years now has taught me to things I wouldn’t have learned otherwise—like monitoring my laundry or checking if I have enough money left.

But, I’m resigned that if this is how things work, it’s pointless to wish that things were different. If I had my own way, I’d like to study and go home to my family each night, but a plane ticket now costs Php 5000. We’ll starve.

So I’ll pack my bags, return to Manila, go to class, and hopefully come back soon, knowing full well that when I do, I’ll be having the time of my life.

Oh, it's Two-Oh-Oh-Nine!

Since I started blogging, I’ve welcomed the New Year with a year-end summary.

There’s nothing spectacular with my memory, of course, so it helps writing things down. Nothing’s changed much this year. 2008 hasn’t been as life-changing as, say, 2004 when I first entered college. I’m pretty much the old me but not quite the same—if you know what I mean.

So how do I go about this? I say, a list of the things I’m thankful for. I mean, how can I not be thankful?

This gratitude isn’t a feeling one has toward a “good force” or “luck” or whatever it is that people believe in these days. Mine is toward God. Jesus Christ died for me when I should’ve been the wretched sinner hanging on that cross. He’s given me eternal life, but he’s also sustained my daily needs and given me joy.

What I am and what I have I owe to him.

Here’s the list:

1. Spiritual growth
2. My local churches—I have two, actually: Higher Rock in Manila and Marbel Evangelical Fellowship in Koronadal
3. My family and friends—what encouragement they’ve been
4. Good health—I was only down with fever once
5. My lab (Laboratory of Molecular and Cell Biology), especially my thesis adviser
6. My affiliations in UP
7. The prospect of finally graduating this April and what comes after that

I can go on and on with this list. I realize that if we only count our blessing and name them by one, we end up content and thankful for what we have, despite our wants—even needs.

A pen and paper—in this case, a computer connected to the Net—is more reliable than the best memory.