Night out with my lunch buddies

FINALLY, we have proof that Casti Castillo is alive. Thanks to Carlo de Guzman who organized the meet up, I've reunited with some of my lunch pals during med school. How this group was formed is a mystery to me as well: perhaps it started one day in 2009 when, disinterested as we were in joining fraternities, we decided to eat lunch together, gathering at the BSLR Lobby to go to Chicken Charlie or Wham Burger at Robinsons. They were voracious eaters, fun to be with, and such great people that it did not take long for me to call them friends.

To CBC or not to CBC?
Lunch at Midtown Diner (ca. 2013), where Bon, Casti, and Brazy were discussing whether requesting a CBC was appropriate. We seemed to have all the time in the world then.

On Honor Thy Father

Honor Thy Father takes us to the northern city of Baguio, the country's summer capital, where people wear sweaters because of the cold. The scenes mostly depict pine trees, mountains covered in deciduous vegetation, houses on steep slopes—not the usual Philippine setting for films, yet they are familiar, reminding us of childhood vacations, of Burnham Park, and of strawberry jams.



Many controversies hound this Eric Matti film, but I had only learned about them about an hour before I went inside the cinema. Although still qualified to join the Metro Manila Film Festival, Honor Thy Father has been disqualified from the Best Picture category because the producers allegedly failed to disclose to the screening committee that it had been entered into a different film festival early this year.

We learn the story of a once-struggling family who are finally making it big in business, that which involves collecting money from local people, promising that the money go to big investments.  Edgar and Kaye attribute their success, their rise to financial freedom (and excess), to this business. They had once hit rock bottom when Kaye lost her second child and Edgar was penniless, but Yeshua answered their prayers through this money-making scheme based in Pampanga, operated by Kaye's father. Their testimony is unimpeachable; as such, Edgar (John Lloyd Cruz) and Kaye (Meryll Soriano) excel at what they do. In the first few minutes of the film we see them organizing a birthday party, which later turns into a conference of sorts. People are wary of the consequences: is the offer not too good to be true? Where will the money go? That scene felt real.

Manila is empty on Christmas morning: a documentation of our post-duty walking tour

AFTER NOT BEING able to sleep last night—there were few admissions, but they were difficult, complicated cases—my friend Jeremiah Vallente and I hurriedly rushed out of the hospital after the morning endorsements.

"So what do we do now?" we asked ourselves after we deposited our bags in our rooms.

"Let's find a good place to eat eggs," Jere said. Eggs are his favorite.

"I just need a good cup of coffee," I said.

Christmas at the ER

Christmas
Philippine General Hospital, Central Block—not the ER.


I'M ON 24-hour shift at the Emergency Room Department today, stationed here as the Physician-on-Duty. It also happens to be Christmas Day (in the Philippines, it has been Christmas season since September). This is the third year that I've spent it away from home. It's okay; we don't have established Christmas family traditions anyway: usually just a special dinner at 7 PM, with my mother's fruit salad as the dessert, something she has perfected in the past 10 years or so—salads, because she can't cook. The rest we order. We then sleep the night off, occasionally interrupted by worried calls from Auntie Elsie Dizon or Auntie Norma Cobrador, our neighbors, where they invite us over to their Noche Buena and karaoke sessions.

Stethoscopes

MY FIRST stethoscope was a Caribbean blue Littmann Classic II (3M), bought in 2009 at a sale of a local sorority. That special day in 2009 was a milestone: me, a would-be doctor, donning my first stethoscope on my way to the Neurology Ward, where I was to have my first preceptorial with Dr. Leonor Cabral-Lim. With bated breaths, my classmates and I waited for her to arrive; save for what we had read in DeMyer, we hadn’t had any idea what to expect. We were to demonstrate what we learned on the art and science of the physical examination. Yet we carried our steths—as we liked to call them—proudly, like a thick necklace. I remember trying mine out with my seatmates, the Catangui twins. I asked them to breathe deeply—ah, bronchovesicular sounds, no crackles, no wheezing. They, in turn, listened to my heart beat, alternating between a bell and a diaphragm to make sense of the S1 and S2.

My Reading Year 2015

Unlike my brother Ralph who finishes at least one book a week—at most three, he tells me—I didn’t even reach the 20 book count mark this year. Residency happened, you see; and since the start I’ve resolved to read more academic and medical books, less of fiction. But fiction keeps me sane and grounded. I undertook long reading projects, many of them remain unfinished, and chose short story collections to pass the time.

2015 has been a great year for reading, nevertheless.

1. My Struggle* by Karl Ove Knausgaard. I discovered the Norwegian journalist and writer through The New Yorker, where he was interviewed by Deborah Treisman, the magazine’s fiction editor. His work reads like a long, extremely well-written blog. Critics say that it’s funny to read the thoughts of a Scandinavian, an otherwise laconic, introverted people-group. I don’t know if that’s true. He takes us through his childhood, his drunk father, his friends, his discovery of writing. Why we keep on reading when the book is really all about the mundane—the author’s daily life—is a mystery, but they key is the great writing. I’m more than halfway through Book Two: A Man In Love. It deals with his relationships—his first and second (the current) marriages. I love the scenes when he meets with his writer-friend Geir, and they talk about philosophy and about other people. Knausgaard still cries a lot—in the vernacular, “mababaw ang luha.” The fourth volume has already been translated into English, released for distribution. I still have a long way to go, and many volumes to look forward to.

2. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. This year I was introduced to the Naples-based Ferrante, whose real identity we don’t know. What we know is that she’s female, has been divorced, and is intent on keeping her anonymity. Let the books speak for themselves,the author is unnecessary, she seems to say. This book is the first in the Neapolitan novels, which star Elena and Lina—two characters who both hate and love each other. They consider each other best friends. They grow up in a small, provincial town. Elena is the studious student; Lina the deviant, but, to Elena’s mind, even more brilliant. They seem to idolize and despise each other all the same. I love how Italian this book is—when Lina’s father gets mad at her, he throws her out of the window.

Signing out of the wards

MY BATCH, fondly called the iMax for reasons that still escape us, just had a party at our callroom. In the spirit of togetherness, the party planning committee opted to hold it inside the hospital so that the people who were on 24-hour shifts could participate as well. It was a Christmas and Year-end gathering of sorts, and the theme was, “First Years Noon, Second Years Na Later.” After all, tomorrow will see us assuming new posts, new lives in a way—out of the wards, into the colorful, often dreadful world called the Emergency Room.

Second year residency is supposed to be easier, with more opportunities for leisure and rest. The duties are tiring, but they end almost as soon as they begin, and one goes home without the weight of the patient’s fate on his shoulders. This is what makes first year residency overwhelming—the idea that it is a marathon instead of a sprint. At the ER level, it’s enough to work on a reasonable diagnosis, to make sure that the emergent labs have been facilitated, and to find vacancies at the wards. Once the patient is admitted, say, to Ward 1, it is the first year resident who will polish the diagnosis, search for other contributing problems, ensure that the medications are being given, and plan for discharge, which, in some cases, never happens in this life.

A new look + a godly perspective

This site has a new look. The letters and photos are smaller. The posts are shown in two columns. Each post starts with a drop cap—one of my favorite features of this template. I was having trouble creating an archive page, though. The tutorial by blogger Sarah (adapted mostly from jhwilson's script) was particularly helpful.

Thanks for dropping by.

Afternoon meals

* * *

I'M sharing Charles Spurgeon's meditation on Psalm 16.8, "I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved."

This is the way to live. With God always before us, we shall have the noblest companionship, the holiest example, the sweetest consolation, and the mightiest influence. This must be a resolute act of the mind. "I have set," and it must be maintained as a set and settled thing. Always to have an eye to the Lord's eye and an ear for the Lord's voice—this is the right state for the godly man. His God is near him, filling the horizon of his vision, leading the way of his life, and furnishing the theme of his meditation. What vanities we should avoid, what sins we should overcome, what virtues we should exhibit, what joys we should experience if we did indeed set the Lord always before us! Why not?

This is the way to be safe. The Lord being ever in our minds, we come to feel safety and certainty because of His being so near. He is at our right hand to guide and aid us; and hence we are not moved by fear, nor force, nor fraud, nor fickleness. When God stands at a man's right hand, that man is himself sure to stand. Come on, then, ye foemen of the truth! Rush against me like a furious tempest, if ye will. God upholds me. God abides with me. Whom shall I fear?
A great week ahead!

Random scenes from Antipolo

HAVING just arrived from a two-day team building activity, I'm exhausted from the gut-twisting laughing spells (a phrase I've adapted from Racquel Bruno), the non-stop games and meals, and the clean and healthy fun that comes with the company of my colleagues—people I meet day to day, and those whom I now regard, after one year of living and breathing the hospital air, as family.

The place was Punta de Fabian in Antipolo, Rizal. It was overlooking Laguna de Bay.

Teambuilding

Congratulations!

Graduation IM

TODAY my seniors in Medicine are graduating. This day will be filled with celebration, thanksgiving, and remembering. I get emotional with endings, as graduations are often thought out to be, because these wonderful people have taught me and affected me in ways that go beyond making clinical decisions, diagnoses, and treatment. This means I will not be seeing any of them at the OPD anymore, will not be chatting with them randomly for a few minutes to pass time, will not hang with with them over food and videoke as often as before.

December 1

Christmas décors at the hospital

IT IS A minute past midnight. My intern shows me her proposed correction for some deranged electrolytes. She tells me one patient's serum sodium levels are going up. I ask her to compute for the total body water deficit. She scrambles hard for the answer but eventually gets it. I ask the nurses to carry out her orders. She'll make a good internist one day.

Christmas is upon us

Christmas décors at the hospital

CHRISTMAS is upon us, even at the hospital where I work. Here's the makeshift tree at the sixth floor. It's made of empty piperacillin-tazobactam boxes. How very medical.

Just so you know, my brothers and I never grew up with a Christmas tree in December. Our mother felt it a chore to put one up, always postponing, always "next year na lang." When she did decide to finally have one, we were already grown up, out of the house, in Manila or Davao, studying and working.

Now she tells us that her tree looks wonderful. "Yes, Mother, it probably is," we reassure her, as good kids do.

Second chances

My friends convinced me to watch A Second Chance, the movie sequel to the highly successful One More Chance (which I didn't watch completely—I saw parts of it, but couldn't stand it). I'm not too big on romance, and I don't understand it when people, even my close friends, sing their praises for John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo. Their chemistry on-screen is supposedly perfect, like they're meant for each other.

I said I'd give this movie a try; I had nothing else to do but read the chapter on Disorders on Rhythm in Harrison's to lull me to sleep. We watched it last night, after dinner. The crowd was less than I had expected, but the movie house was still full, save for a few rows of empty seats in front. 

I can't give an unbiased review, but the movie wasn't bad. I had a problem with its wordiness, though—it was as if Popoy (Cruz) and Basha (Alonzo) had to recite essays to each other every single time they quarreled. And they quarreled every 15 minutes or so, usually with tears or broken ceramics. The writers were painfully trying to make quotable quotes out of every scene. 

The movie is set seven years after they'd been married. The contrast couldn't have been more stark. Whereas they looked fresh and positive before, this time they look jaded, tired, fat, as if nothing was good in the world. It is a story of marriage struggles and a valuable object lesson that one shouldn't work with a husband or wife, if it can be avoided. Popoy is supposed to be a world-class engineer, Basha an architect, the two of them co-founders of a construction firm. 

Their company starts pretty well in the beginning, but problems emerge when Basha endures a spontaneous abortion. I blame the downward spiral of their lives to their OB-Gyn, who advises Basha to take a year off work because she should rest. The stress in the firm wasn't going to help in her pregnancy, her doctor must've told her. But for an entire year, with no work ups for APAS or other causes of secondary infertility?! As a result, Popoy is pressured to take over the company alone, hiding his failures from his wife, who wonders if it is she who is the problem.  

The film did have some redeeming qualities. I thought the cinematography was nice—Manila didn't look so ugly. John Lloyd and Bea had a certain chemistry; they looked comfortable together. Janus del Prado and his talkative specimen of a daughter offered welcome laughs to interrupt the heavy and verbose exchanges. Clearly Director Cathy Gracia-Molina has perfected the art of making formulaic romantic films that speak to the public—films that always have happy endings.