Showing posts from April, 2013

Ode to PGH interns

AS I WAS walking around the campus this morning, I noticed a sign beside the medical library. "1 day to go!" it read—one day before my internship begins; one day left before  their  internship ends. Photo credit: Intern  Ma'am Chubby via Twitter. I'm merely hours away from donning my white coat and resuming the old life I was happy to leave about a month ago. And although I'm grateful for many things, I want to take this time to thank the 2013 interns I had the privilege of meeting and working with—both from UP and from other med schools. As of the time of writing they're now relishing their precious moments of freedom. I can imagine them waking up tomorrow with no thoughts of updating that long ward patient census. What freedom!

Songs before the battle

AFTER MY MORNING reading ritual I listened to Wes Montgomery's Round Midnight at 5 am.

Four days before internship

HAD DINNER at Wai Ying in Binondo. I always eat there when I'm in the area. Never mind the fracas caused by customers who can't find their seats—the place is always packed. And understandably so: the food's really good. So I was surprised there weren't too many people on a Saturday night.

Was it an island?

WENT out of town today. Island Cove in Cavite—heard of that before? The weather was perfect for an outing: sunny with no possibility of rain.

I finished Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier at Hizon's Restaurant

Hizon's in the 70's. Nothing much has changed. Photo taken from the store's Facebook page . AFTER my haircut I had afternoon snacks at Hizon's , located at J. Bocobo St. corner Arquiza Street, Manila. I always order the special cheddar ensaymada. It's best served grilled, but you have to explicitly instruct the waiter. I like it there because it's quiet and homey, devoid of noisy college or medical students. You want to finish a book in relative silence? That's the place to go to.

My laughter fix: PG Wodehouse's Jeeves in the Offing

YOU CAN READ the transcript below. I DIDN'T KNOW A BOOK can make me howl in laughter until I had read P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves in the Offing . The characters act as if they'd been pulled out of Dolphy's films, but the humor is unmistakably British.  I would've preferred Pinoy comedy anytime—the world has never heard a more hearty laughter than that of a Filipino's—but local scriptwriters always feel the need to elaborate or explain the joke, which is the surest way to kill it. Wodehouse never commits that mistake.

Timothy Keller's Counterfeit Gods: when something/one other than God sits on the throne of our hearts

IDOLS are things, ideas, people, or entities we value more than God. We're all idolaters in our own ways, satisfying our lives with money, sex, power, good works, and, yes, even religion, instead of God Himself.


HEARING MY FRIENDS testify of God's moving in their lives makes my heart burst with thanksgiving. Last night I met with Jil, my pastry chef friend who bakes the most amazing cakes, pies, and treats whose names I can't pronounce or spell correctly. She's training at a world-class culinary school, with French chefs and all, and is having the time of her life. Just about year ago she asked us (her friends) if we could pray for her: intent on enrolling at the said institution, she had to undergo a rigorous interview and therefore needed wisdom on how to go about it. Now she's almost done with her requirements—with flying colors at that, although she'd never admit to it.

On my 26th year

APRIL 22 was the day I was spewed out of my mother's introitus, something she refers to as an experience comparable to the run-of-the-mill constipation. I was a small baby, the smallest of us three, a little above 2 kg. Nanay didn't have a hard time getting me out. And I think, 26 years later, that it wasn't just because of my size.  Maybe I was too bored to be playing with my placenta and too excited to see the real world. Here's proof.

Stephen J Nichols' Heaven on Earth: Capturing Jonathan Edwards's Vision of Living in Between

MAYBE IT was the archaic language which had felt inaccessible to me years ago, but I remember reading portions of one of Jonathan Edwards's sermons in the church library and feeling sleepy minutes later. John Piper had written about and quoted him in many of his books. What was so special about Edwards was a question that bothered me.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby: the story from the West Egg

"EVERY ONE suspects himself of at least one of his cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people I have ever known," says Nick Carraway in Chapter 3 of The Great Gatsby , considered by critics as a "Great American Novel" and arguably F. Scott Fitzgerald's greatest work. I don't know if I'll agree or disagree with that—this is his first story I've read. (I did get to watch The Curious Case of Benjamin Button based on the short story he wrote, but that doesn't count, does it?)

Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin: a novel within a novel

YEARS AGO my friend Dianne asked me if we could swap books. I'd lend her Different Seasons by Stephen King in exchange for her copy of Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin . She called it one of her favorite novels, having confessed that she immediately reread it as soon as she had finished it.

Swamped with material

SO MANY good books, so little time. I borrowed my brother's Kindle. He's leaving for vacation this weekend and, intent of getting as much of the sun instead of burrowing himself in a book, lent me his reading device for the meantime.

The color gray

I ALWAYS underestimate the effect of brewed coffee. This morning I ordered a cup that came with my breakfast. Minutes later I was palpitating, my hands were shaking, and I was reading non-stop. Without feeling sleepy I was able to read halfway through Rilke's The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.  Why do depressing books somehow make their way into my reading list?

Michael Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road: a little adventure

THE GENTLEMEN of the road are two wanderers in the year AD 950. Two men couldn't be too different: Zelikman the Jew is pale and wiry; Amram the Abyssinian is dark and huge. The first chapter begins with a scene in the caravansary. They pretend like they're killing each other, to the excitement of the crowd who gives outrageous bets as to who wins. Until one of them gets killed, of course—or so they like it to appear—in which case they will have collected all the money they need before anybody finds out the truth. The fight is but a show. Their lives take a different turn when they meet Faruq, a young Khazar prince whose throne has been usurped by his father's political enemy. The boy has a foul mouth, has outrageous demands, and is so stubborn they have to bound him. What do Zelikman and Amram do with him? They will take him back to his homeland where they will be rewarded with gold. Faruq has plans to take revenge against the usurper Buljan, but the gentlemen of the


AREN'T YOU curious how writers write? I  waste  spend my time online reading about my favorite novelists' habits, my curiosity comparable to the old wives' fascination with Sunday showbiz gossip. My favorite haunts are the  Paris Review interviews , Writers at Work , among other random websites. The conclusion I've come to is that each writer has different preferences. Some type everything directly in the computer, others use the ancient typewriter, and some like to write on paper.

Günter Grass' Peeling the Onion: the loudest narratives are the ones untold

READING Günter Grass's autobiography, Peeling the Onion , is like listening to my maternal great grandfather Otim's stories of the Japanese war. The prose is simple, the details sketchy, the tone apologetic and full of regrets, but brimming with wisdom and tempered drama that only old people can weave.

Who I want to look like when I grow old (1): Vladimir Nabokov

VLADIMIR NABOKOV referred to himself as "an obscure, doubly obscure, novelist with an unpronounceable name." He was mistaken, of course. When he had published Lolita , he was thrust into the limelight because the novel was disturbing, which was his intended reaction. The narrator was a man named Humphrey Bogar t Humbert Humbert. He had a sexual obsession with pubescent girls he called his "nymphets." In his eyes Lolita was superior to them all. The novel's first few lines illustrate his worship of her: "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta." I became Nabokov's fan after I had read Lolita . An academic like himself channeling the thoughts of a disturbing character like Bogart would bring attention to his state of mind. Publishing that book took courage—and a lot of good faith from his wife.


I'M BLESSED to have two brothers. I can't imagine growing up without them. Sure, we had our share of quarrels—about toys, TV programs, which spoon belonged to whom, who should wash the dishes—but that was to be expected. Familiarity breeds contempt; we had to hurt each other somehow. Only when we had lived separately did we realize we sort of missed one another.

Scheming politicians, Russian spies, and a doctor who eats human organs

WHICH TV SERIES to watch during a three-week rationed break is a major decision medical students need to make. TV series are good sources of entertainment sans the irritating commercial ads. They are more fast-paced and require less concentration power compared to reading a book. But they consume time, both in the watching and the downloading. On the average, one season has about 10 episodes, each episode lasting for 30 minutes to an hour. Depending on the internet speed and the number of "seeds," a 300 MB file can be downloaded from 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Beating the summer heat

I SPEND most of my afternoons at the mall. The heat is too hard to beat, and I could use the free air conditioning. I can always stay at home, turn the AC on full blast for the entire day, but my roommates will blame me for the spike in the electric bill.

On the run: thoughts on Geoffrey Household's Rogue Male

A RICH, aristocratic Englishman attempts to shoot a dictator from a Central European country. He misses. He is hunted and caught but manages to escape after fooling his captors that he is dead. On the run, he disguises himself but finds it difficult to conceal his bad eye. He is able to go back home--that is, England--only to realize even his own people are looking for him. He cannot go to the police; he'll be jailed and branded a traitor. He cannot live his previous life; the dictator's men are after him still. So he goes to the far countryside, digs himself a home, and lives there in obscurity. He meets Asmodeus, a cat, his constant companion in solitude. Can he live like that forever? The thrill is so understated it's too palpable to be ignored.

When you should take pictures

BEFORE THE ADVENT of digital cameras we had to exercise restraint in capturing moments lest we waste the Kodak film that cost about P100 or more, depending on how many shots were available. We had to make sure the film wasn't exposed. Cursed was the man who left the double-A-battery-operated camera under the sun.

Behind every man

I WANTED to write about something profound today, but I'm afraid I have nothing else to say except this: I had my haircut today. "It's still too short," friends told me when I mentioned my plans for the afternoon. I couldn't disagree with them more. My hair, already about 2 cm in length, felt unbearable. I don't randomly barge into any barbershop in Manila; I go to an unassuming place along Maria Orosa Street, in front of the Court of Appeals. I don't even know its name, but I can point you to where it is. I am a Filipino, after all; I give directions by pouting my lips.