Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, and the scary thing about carnivals and childhood

The last time I got this scared reading a book was with Stephen King's It. The clown that killed the stuttering boy chasing the paper boat on the street gutters during a hard rain made a deep impact on me that I never thought of them (clowns) the same way again. Unfortunately I never got to finish the book, one of the thickest paperbacks in our little library, probably because at the time I was itching to start on new ones. But I'm determined to read it later. Certain stories are best read with maturity.

But what I really want to write about is Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, a story of two boys who like going on adventures. Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway are next-door neighbors, playing, running together—the best of friends.

Tattoos

As I was switching channels on cable TV, I chanced upon a UFC fight involving two Caucasian men kicking, clawing and punching each other—and don't they always do?1


One of the players had tattoos all over his upper body. His biceps and triceps had snakes on them. Or whether they were dragons, I couldn't be sure. On his body, too, were indelible sketches. A little above his T4 dermatome was a statement written in black Gothic letters. I wanted him to win.

Four months

Below is an excerpt of the reflection paper I had written three days before I left Bethel Baptist Hospital.

Searching
I came here four weeks ago. I was in search of a refuge, a place to take a breather from the hurly-burly of Metro Manila. I felt spent and tired after three years of med school. My ideas of what it means to be a doctor were distorted. I wanted to be reminded that there is a place somewhere in this planet where the sick are treated like real people, with a compassion and love overflowing from Christ who had first loved us. I was in search of an ideal, or even an imperfect facsimile of it.



Comparisons
All at once, I noticed a world of difference. Making comparisons was inevitable.

The hospital was smaller. The hallways were cleaner, decorated with timeless reminders of preaching the Word and healing the sick. The emergency room wasn't foul-smelling, the beds were covered in mattresses, and there were hardly any patients rushing in. The air was cold and refreshing, even inside the building. I realized I was going to enjoy it here.

The Cold Light of Day for a whopping Php 50

Whenever I go home, I make it a point to watch at least one movie in cinema. KCC Mall is nearer and has four cinemas. If the movie houses there are packed (which rarely happens), I go to Gaisano Grand Mall (formerly FitMart Mall), which is nearer the new city hall site. The movie houses are not as huge as those in, say, SM North Edsa, but they are clean, not too crowded, with good movie and sound quality.


Tickets are sold cheaply in this part of the country. Forget the fact that the screening is one or two weeks late. Php 50 is still way cheaper than the usual Php 150-ticket price in Manila. If I go to GenSan, I can watch a 3D film at Robinson's Mall for Php 120. I know. Life is fun here.

My first film this break: The Cold Light of Day.

White water rafting adventure in Cagayan de Oro

I already planned on doing the white water rafting adventure in Cagayan de Oro, but I had no idea how that would push through. Thankfully, Faye (whose love for adventure is similar to that of Frances and Jil Bocobo) arranged a trip, scheduling it a day after I'd be done with my elective. I immediately said yes when I got the invitation.

With scalpel and the sword

Dr. Troy del Mundo, medical director of Bethel Baptist Hospital, required us to read With Scalpel and the Sword: An American Doctor's Odyssey in the Philippines, an autobiography by Dr. Lincoln Nelson, who established the hospital in 1955. The exercise was meant to give us a deeper appreciation of Bethel and its roots.

And I didn't mind at all. I've always liked the idea of being forced to read books; at least I had an excuse to finish yet another piece of non-medical literature.

The book begins with a chapter entitled, “Pigs is Pigs,” which tells the story about a Manobo hunter who was gored by a wild boar. After a four-hour drive and more than an hour of hiking in the jungles, Dr. Nelson's team reached the hunter's dwelling. There they saw the man—his wound bound up by cloth, chewed guava leaves plugged into his chest cavity, and bystanders crowded into the room. He wrote,

I cleared away the debris, thoroughly cleaned the wound and closed with layers of stuture. After the chest was closed, I withdrew most of the air trapped in the cavity through a large syringe. We didn't dare leave a chest tube in place to drain off any further collection of fluid or air as is usually done. Who would follow up on its care? We injected a generous dose of penicillin intramuscularly and bandaged the chest with a sterile dressing. We asked the Lord to spare his life, then returned him to his mat in the corner.

CS Lewis' The Last Battle: the end of a masterpiece. But the stories will never die.

For the longest time I'd been postponing reading The Last Battle, the final book of CS Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. As with all good books, or even TV series, I wanted Narnia to be perennially existing in my mind, to know that the stories that rekindled the childlike wonder in me have not yet ended with finality, that I have something else to look forward to. I thought finishing that last book would be like swallowing that last slice of delicious chocolate cake on the fridge: once I take that last bite, I will never taste anything like it again.

I climbed a rock wall!

UPDATED May 16, 2012: With rappelling pictures!

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Yesterday we went rock climbing and rappelling in Barangay San Jose, Quezon Municipality, about two hours away from Malaybalay. Faye Aribal, organizer par excellence, also invited other nurses and their friends to join. I met Jamez, her would-be husband, who was a cheerful and hospital man.

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Thankfully, our kind mentors here in Bethel agreed to excuse us from hospital duties. I love how they remember that this may well be among the last getaways we'll have for the next couple of years.

The trip went smoothly, and when we had arrived, we saw this—a highway practically devoid of traffic, with lush vegetation beside it, and a long bridge supported by metallic bars. The bridge, of course, looked ideal for suicide.  

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Dahilayan zipline—under the rain

A surreal experience: having Mr. and Mrs. Dom and Tina Cariaga for lunch here in Bukidnon. They're good friends of mine from Manila. We go to the same church. We belonged to the same student organization in med school (Agape Christian Fellowship), though not at the same time. They studied at UP-PGH, too: Dom is an eye doctor; Tina eventually quit because medicine wasn't her calling. We live on the same street. They feed me sometimes.

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Before coming to Malaybalay, they had spent three days in Camiguin. Their second honeymoon. When they learned I was going to be nearby, they said they'd be coming over to visit. They wanted some company for the ziplining.

Housekeeping

Two days ago I had the entire day off after my 24-hour duty. I was inside the old house, tucked in between my sheets, relishing the cold, cloudy day that I have come to love in Malaybalay. I alternated between reading a book (I have, after years of postponing, finally decided to read the last of the Narnia books) and watching movies on my laptop (I tried finishing One More Chance, patiently trying to understand why some friends loved it, but 15 minutes into the film, I was getting irritable, so I ditched it). I was mostly alone, except for Abby who just dropped by to eat lunch.

In the afternoon, Ate Dina came. She is the tall, dark lady who visits the guest house once in a while to do our laundry, Abby and mine. She is also the first person to realize that we aren't domesticated creatures — at least, not domesticated enough — so she has offered to cook for us. We give her a list of things we want to eat. She comes up with a budget. She goes to the market, and she magically makes these delicious food appear in the fridge, enough to last us for three or four days. "What would we do without you, Ate?" we would often tell her.

The hike to the Matigsalug-Manobo community

We didn't see it coming. Dr. Allan Melicor invited Abby and me to join a medical mission trip to the Matigsalug-Manobo community at Sitio Basak, Sinuda, Kitaotao Municipality, about three hours away from Malaybalay City. Despite our utter lack of hiking gear—I didn't even have a backpack—we were excited.

We were ready to go by 5 am, but we had to wait for the medical-dental team from Cagayan de Oro City. We left Bethel at around 6 am.

The trip was uneventful, except for the restroom signage at the Maramag Central Terminal that required everyone to pay Php 3 for urination and Php 5 for defecation. "Eh paano kung sabay?," Dr. Allan asked, "Php 8 na ba agad 'yun?"

We arrived safely in Kitaotao, but we had to take a 5-km hike to reach Sitio Basak. This worried some of our more mature companions. I say that lovingly.

When I saw this boy riding a huge horse, I knew I was about to enter unfamiliar territory.

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On my twenty-fifth year

What did I think of 25-year olds when I was 12? They were a different set of people, more mature than my playmates, and I couldn't imagine being like one of them. They spoke in deep voices, had facial hair they occasionally shaved, and laughed at jokes I didn't get. They were old and tall and could unscrew bottle covers singlehandedly.

You see, as a child, I didn't think I'd ever reach 25. Either I'd die early or, worse, go insane. My greatest fear then was that I'd lose my sanity by the time I got to high school. This paranoia began when a dirty, insane man walked across the street, and one of my aunts warned me that if I didn't get enough rest from studying or reading or scribbling—the presumption was that too much intelligence led to certain psychiatric disorders—I'd turn out to be just like him. I was relieved because I was still able to preserve my mental stability by the time I graduated in high school. My worries eventually melted away when I got to University, where insanity was hailed as a virtue rather than an illness.