Operation Tuli

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Pre-pubescent boys line up, hushed. Their faces looked determined, only to be betrayed by fearful, anxious eyes. One by one, their names are called. They walk slowly, pull their shorts down, and hop on a make-shift table, supine. Like all Filipino children, they have to go through this, a ritual that dates back to Biblical times. If they don't, society will forever brand them as impotent. Sissies.

These children don't know how modern medicine has made it so much easier for them than it was for their forefathers who had to experience the painful agony of the summer ritual. There were no anesthetics then, only guava leaves that were laboriously chewed to distract the would-be men from the pain and the gore. After the cool bath in the stream came the glorious advent of manhood. It was—and still is—a ceremony. The ultimate father-and-son moment.

Thoughts on the Reproductive Health Bill

The Reproductive Health Bill has, for the longest time, been a subject of intense debate, one that involves layers of issues ranging from economics, politics, ethics, morality, and religion. And for something as controversial, intelligent and informed discussion is always welcome.

I'm glad I got to watch RH Bill: The Grand Debate. I thought GMA News TV did a great job with the show. Its format was well-formulated; its execution was well-organized. The debate was divided into three major areas: the RH Bill with regards to poverty, to morality, and to women. Key personalities and speakers were invited, many of whom engaged the audience on an intellectual level, not relying on theatrics to sway popular opinion, as most televised debates are wont to do. A recording of the entire episode is posted online.

I must admit, though, that I watched the show because I was particularly interested in the key arguments of the group against the passage of the bill in Congress. I've already heard the pro-RH arguments in school—the UP College of Medicine is a staunch RH Bill supporter—so I was looking forward to hearing from the other side. I tried to keep an open mind.

God and Man

Given the free time I have in my hands, I've started reading Confessions by Augustine anew. It's a treat for the soul. I haven't really finished it in 2009, but at least I got to the part where Augustine, still in Carthage, was trapped in the erroneous doctrines espoused by the Manichees. He was struggling then with theosophical questions, the answers to which were not being addressed properly by the leaders of the false sect.

Stuffed


It's been a long time since I've done a proper diptych. This one's from Binondo, Manila, home to the Filipino-Chinese known for their vibrant and sometimes noisy businesses. Friends and I go here for the cheap food. In one of the restaurants—I don't read Chinese, so I didn't figure out the name—I ate a serving of noodles with beef innards as toppings. The meal, which cost me only about a hundred pesos, could practically feed an entire family. I came out so full my breath still smelled of noodles when I woke up the other day. The last statement is hyperbole, but you get the point.

Facing the certainty of death

Two starkly different men share the same hospital room and the same fate: they only have six months to live. The cancer has spread. Medical science can't do much. And the haunting question they come face-to-face with is: Now what?

Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman), a blue-collar mechanic who's so smart he always has answers to questions in Jeopardy, grabs a pad and writes his so-called bucket list, things he'd like to do before . . . the end: See something majestic. Laugh until I cry. It's all so sentimental.

Games children play

Road photo

I had my childhood at a time when kids actually played outside the house, in the streets, with real games—not with some digital handheld device.  Although I was a big, sore loser, I enjoyed the experience. (These days, children are so fond of being indoors, playing on their own, such that they've turned out to be fat, sunshine-deprived, socially inept creatures.)

If we weren't playing, we'd be climbing walls, exploring houses, and sharing horror stories, only to be called back home when it got dark.

3 Idiots may well be about Medicine

3 Idiots is about the friendship of three adventurous people who qualify into the best engineering school in India, a tough feat considering thousands from the subcontinent have applied. Movie-going friends have highly recommended it, so I decided to get a first-hand experience. A Bollywood film, the highest grossing in history—this ought to be fun.

The movie brings us to scenes of college life: the dormitory ritual (which reminded me of the one we had in West Wing One of Yakal Residence Hall), the long queue in the showers, the pressures and joys of being in a class of equally intelligent people, and the terrors of having to face a dreaded professor.

In this highly tense learning environment where students have jumped off buildings because they weren't able to submit their thesis on time, we get to know Rancho (Aamir Khan), a curious freshman who almost always stands out. A happy-go-lucky man exuding an an almost careless countenance, he has earned the ire of the dreaded Dr. Viru Sahastrabuddhe (Boman Irani), director of the college, at their first meeting.

Rancho cannot help but live against the prevailing status quo. He goes to school to learn, to satisfy his curiosity, to increase his learning—and these he does believing in the motto, "All is well." (There's a cool, funny song-and-dance number in the movie with this all-is-well mantra, something that makes Indian films endearing).

Chicken. Pox.

I visited my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandmother in Polomolok yesterday. The town, a 45-minute bus ride from Koronadal, still possesses some vestiges of American colonialism: the pine trees, the neat roads, the vast Dole pineapple plantation. The place is also cooler, owing to its higher elevation; Polomolok is at the foot of Mt. Matutum.

Polomolok

I was shocked to see my nephew, Jared, with crusting and vesicular lesions all over his body. The classic  dew-drops-on-a-rose-bud appearance. Varicella. I panicked. I could never recall having chickenpox in my childhood, and my parents are not too sure if I had been vaccinated. I could not afford to have those scars grow on my nose.

Love affairs and the meaning of life: my thoughts on Anna Karenina

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

So goes the first line of the longish novel of soap operatic proportions entitled Anna Karenina, a classic literary work of Russian author, Leo Tolstoy. An old paperback has been in the family library since I was in elementary, but I was perhaps too daunted to read the novel until now. And I have no regrets: it really is as good as people say it is.