Showing posts from 2017


The flight was delayed. It meant that I’d miss lunch. I ate a cinnamon bun I intended to give as pasalubong to my parents for when they’d meet me at the airport. I slept through most of the flight. I gazed outside my window and saw that the sky was blue and the sunlight glaring. I closed the shades until the flight attendant asked me to lift it fully. My aunt was crying over the phone just minutes before I boarded the plane. My grandmother, Lola Gloria—90 years old, the most organized woman I know, the matriarch who saw that my father grow up to be a good man—was dying. The picture of her lying unconscious on the bathroom floor struck me. I replayed Tita Beb’s panic-stricken hysteria. It made me uneasy. I dragged my bags from the conveyor belt. Tatay helped me carry them. Nanay waited inside the car. We decided to visit Lola in Polomolok, the same house where she installed swings, see-saws, and a slide for us, cousins, her flesh and blood, whom she fed breakfast, lunch, and dinn

Lunch and snacks—forgive this title

Meeting friends can be exhausting, a trait I probably got from Carlo, my friend since med school, and whom I met for lunch today. Friends leave indelible marks on a person, and this newfound introversion—a fake construct, say my other friends—I largely attribute to my hanging out with Carlo. I would drag him to dinner or to coffee shops, away from his comfort zone: his privacy. Things always make sense when I talk to him, as friends are meant to do: giving us clarity by helping us see many things as they are. He gave me a fountain pen as a graduation gift. I should probably do the same when he finishes his radiation oncology fellowship in two years. He's a fine physician, and his dedication to his work and his patients always inspires me to do better myself. For coffee and afternoon snacks, I met Jo Lucero and Rac Bruno at a quiet, unassuming café called Commune in Makati. Jo is the out-going chief resident of IM; Rac is her executive officer. I'm glad to the call these women


My TWSBI Eco Pen, with the 1.1 mm nib, and Tom's gift, which couldn't have come at a better time, since my wallet is in its final stages of dilapidation (taken from my Instagram:  @bottledbrain ) I mostly lived at Quisumbing Hall (Residents’ Dorm 5) for the past three years. It has been a place of respite, quiet, and sleep, largely owing to my roommate Tom—a ( former —ah, the finality of it!) neurology resident—whose presence reassured me that there were, in fact, people more tired than I was. As I packed my things this Christmas morning—a ritual of beginnings and endings—I saw Tom’s gift on my table ( see above ). Yes, Tom, I loved Fargo (the series and the film), and I’ll miss the late night talks that almost doubled as entertainment and therapy when training got the better of us. What should I watch next? Nothing with John Lloyd please.

Taiwan: people

I didn't imagine how traveling with a large group could be fun and grueling—and possible. For our proverbial last hurrah, just a few days before the end of residency, my friends and I went to Taiwan, where the streets are walkable, the air clean, the pervading feeling calm—even during rush hours. The signs are readable. Public transportation is functional and is easy to figure out. The locals don't speak English, though, a difficulty surmounted by Google Translate, a must-have for travels to foreign lands. We spent three full days in Taipei, the capital, and neighboring cities, Keelung and Shifen. I've come to a point in my life where I don't have to take pictures of all the things I see, mainly because my friends are doing it anyway. I did take intermittent snaps with my iPhone. Here are my favorite portraits of friends and short descriptions of them. I will miss them. Here's Bea Uy just as we had left the Sun Yat Sen Memorial to look for a decent cup of coffee

Reading for Taipei

I'm headed to Taipei today with friends and colleagues from Internal Medicine. It's our proverbial last hurrah before we part ways towards the end of the year. As always, part of the plan is determining which book I'll bring. I'm all set to reading George Saunder's Lincoln in the Bardo  and Christopher Isherwood's The Berlin Stories .

Team B Christmas Party

My OPD forever-mates! I'll miss them. What a riot that night was.

Christ, our treasure

Since we see that the whole of our salvation, and all the branches of it, are comprehended in Christ, we must be cautious not to alienate from him the least possible portion of it. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the name of JESUS, that it is in him; if we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his unction; strength, in his dominion; purity, in his conception; indulgence discovers itself in his nativity, by which he was made to resemble us in all things, that he might learn to condole with us; if we seek redemption, it will be found in his passion; absolution, in his condemnation; remission of the curse, in his cross; satisfaction, in his sacrifice; purification, in his blood; reconciliation, in his descent into hell; mortification of the flesh, in his sepulchre; newness of life and immortality, in his resurrection; the inheritance of the celestial kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; protection, security, abundance, and enjoyment of all blessings, in his ki

The search for the perfect blue-black

My new-found fascination with fountain pens has taken me to the discovery of various ink choices. My favorite color for writing in medical charts is blue-black: it's more black than blue, but can pass as the former, should the elderly nurses in the hospital do random spot-checking for hospital standards. (I was criticized once for using sky blue ink, and I had to rewrite my prescriptions with a darker shade of blue--an incident that made me ask how blue should blue be.) My choice of blue-black is the Pelikan 4001. It's more expensive (around Php 400-plus for 62.5 mL) and harder to find. I'm glad I found a bottle at Scribe, a cool store in EDSA Shangri-La Mall. The salespeople there are used to newbies and would gladly help them pick the best choices for beginners. Last week I tried Pilot blue-black, which I got for less than Php 200 at National Bookstore, but a colleague told me one can get it for around Php 135 (30 mL) at Cosmos Bazaar in Binondo Area. It's Pilot'


Writing with Diamine Merlot is like dipping one’s pen in wine over dinner. Thanks to my former clerk, Walter Cheng, for ordering this for me.


We were taking selfies before "selfie" even became a word*. My good friend Wegs Pedroso owned a portable blue Sony digital camera that she brought with her everywhere, especially during lab classes where she took photos of slides straight from the microscope then uploaded it in Multiply, a terrific photo-sharing site before the Facebook era. This was the camera's primary utility, but Wegs also used it to take photos of ourselves, while picking samples of Dieffenbachia , or eating at CASAA (already burned down, to our dismay, as the place sold delicious turon ), or hanging out at Albert Hall in between PCRs. Her primary subjects were me, Dianne Deuna (who's doing further studies in marine biology--so cool!), Juanchi Pablo (who's based in the States, married, with a smart kid, but still balding), and our other block mates in molecular biology. This is my personal history of the selfie. How we managed to get everything done still escapes me! But when did this pheno

10 years of Kindle

The Kindle celebrates its 10th year. Amazon's Chris Green says, "We can never be better than paper, but we can be as compelling ... We really didn’t want any bezel or bling or even page-turn buttons — everything we’ve done over 15 generations has been to reduce it to basically a piece of paper.” Take a look at the different versions of the Kindle through time . I still like reading books on actual paper, but I don't have much physical storage space and have pretty much settled with Kindle, a remarkable device! It was a smooth transition. I bring my Kindle everywhere (I named it John Ames --the device actually requires you to), and have finished many books, as in Ernest Cline's Ready Player One , on the train and cab rides, or during long waiting times at the grocery cashiers, and so on. My mind drifts everywhere when I don't have a book with me, a sensation that leaves me more tired at the end of the day. I also can't stand or sit still without doing anyt

Increase tobacco tax now

My professors and mentors in med school share their poignant stories of how smoking had affected them and their families. Dr. Tony Dans, whom I look up to (he meets us weekly during lunchtime to appraise studies on therapy), writes My Dad was an amazing man. He taught us discipline, integrity, love for God and love for country — not by words, but by example. When I was young, I thought his greatest fault was that he was a heavy smoker, and all his kids were exposed to this habit. He had a stroke at 67, and died of lung cancer when he was 69 years old. Both are considered self-inflicted tobacco-related diseases. But now I understand. He was a victim, not a perpetrator. Smoking was not his fault. Dad, this fight against tobacco is for you. Smoking is not a choice, increasing tobacco tax IS. This article is a response to the disappointing response of Senator Angara and Secretary Dominguez to increase tobacco tax. Failure to do this is, I suppose, tantamount to allowing 150,00


Got myself a carbon black ink today but later learned that it can potentially clog the pens. I’m still on the lookout for the perfect blue-black. It helps that I live most times of the week near a fancy pen store. From left to right: blue Lamy ink, J. Herbin in vert, and Plaisir black (in cartridge).

Counting the days

Walter, Agnes, and Micah.  Tyson and Walter. Jon.  Each month, depending on where we rotate, we read a pile of ECG tracings. The ECG room is on the first floor of the PGH Main Building, beside the section of Medical Oncology, just on one's way out to the Out-Patient Building. I can't imagine being as great as Dr. Ramon Abarquez, our professor emeritus and once my service consultant in Service 1, who diagnosed obesity or gallbladder stones through ECGs alone. Making sense of the lines inside the tiny red squares was a daunting experience for me as a medical student, but by constantly reading ECGs, I think I've gotten better at them. In first year residency, before I left for home (assuming I could), the ECG room was a haven where I could sit undisturbed inside some of the most powerful air conditioning in the hospital (the chilled air comes from the same machine as the Central ICU on the second floor). I considered it a brief respite from the humidity and noise


I have nothing much to say about the declaration of work holidays, suspension of classes, closure of roads, and narrowing of EDSA to two functional lanes during the ASEAN summit, except that it all looks staged to me, a glorified pretension to impress the world, hiding from the world's most powerful the stark reality of the every day. Ambeth Ocampo, whose column I always read in the Inquirer, writes about Filipino hospitality , basically saying that we've always been welcoming as a people, and even history attests to that. Documentation on three royal visits to Manila are available, namely: the Duque de Hedimburgo in 1869, and the Duque de Genova and the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia in the 1880s. Manila played host to only one king, Norodom I of Cambodia, who visited in 1872, months after the execution of the priests Gomez, Burgos and Zamora. Archival material is so detailed with individual receipts for all the expenses for the visit: materials for triumphal arches, cloth fo

Pens and inks

I've been reading about fountain pens these past days after my friend Mervyn had convinced me to get one. The second year IM residents have taken a strong liking to it: never mind that their ink runs dry, literally, after a 24-duty shift at the emergency department. If using a fancy pen makes their ED stint any easier, why should we stop them? Their chart entries look like photographs of journals from the past. I joined the bandwagon a few days ago when I realized I didn't really like blue or black ink but a combination of both. I was curious: people who've converted to fountain pens never seemed to look back, as if using ballpoint pens were heretical, if not entirely malicious. But these people, good friends and colleagues in the hospital, were never snobs: try it; it suits your handwriting, they said. They also said that it may turn out to be more cost-effective in the long term. I learned that with fountain pens, one can combine ink colors. The opportunity to personali


Today marks the 500th anniversary of a German priest, Martin Luther, famously nailing his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. He had encountered God in fresh ways, and sought to reform the church by calling people back to a teaching that we receive grace freely from a generous God rather than earn it stingily from a reluctant one. In the process of sparking debate and pushing for change, however, the political and religious movements of the day carried his ideas into a massive fracturing of Christianity. Much good ensued, such as Bible translations into heart languages rather than only Greek and Latin. Much pain, warfare, and division also followed. Having grown up Protestant, however, one hardly notices the word root is "protest." Our narrative feels more like the true faith standing firm in the face of unreasonable opposition than like the vilified footballers taking a knee, or civil rights protestors marching through southern towns. Can faith and protest go

Soft wisps of hair

View of Sarangani Bay, taken from the veranda of Sarangani Highlands (2016) To introduce my piece for this issue of the Cotabato Literary Journal , MJ Tumamac writes , in eloquent Bisaya, Apan ang mga doktor gayod ang usá sa mga gadeklara sa kamatayon sa mga tawo. Pipila na kahâng kamatayon ang ilang gideklara ug nasaksihan? Sa anekdota sa doktor nga si Lance Isidore Catedral nga nag-ulohan og “Mother and Son,” gisaysay ang kamatayon sa usá ka inahan pinaagi sa pagtutok sa gibati sa anak: “On Mother’s Day, he was still a boy — soft wisps of hair just starting to grown on his armpits, his voice barely beginning to crack — but already mother-less.” Ginapasayod niining pagpapaila sa “pagbalhin” sa anak gikan sa pagkabata paingon sa pagkabinatilyo nga kauban sa kamatayon ang dakong kabag-ohan sa kinabuhi sa mga nabilín sa mga namatay. Gadugang pod ang klinikal nga deskripsiyon sa kamatayon sa inahan sa pagpabatî sa atoang magbabasa sa sakít nga pagdawat sa anak. Thanks, MJ, for kee

Celebrating the 500th year of the Reformation

Five hundred years ago, on October 31, 1517, it's said that Martin Luther posted his 95 theses in protest against the doctrines and practices of the ruling Roman Catholic Church. This ushered the momentous event in world history known as the Protestant Reformation, a movement that led Christendom back to its roots, to the purest form of God's message of salvation: grace alone through faith alone. This movement changed the world. Along the way, it introduced intellectual and spiritual giants—Martin Luther and John Calvin, among them, who were persecuted for standing up to Rome. The printing press was born as an inevitability and necessity. The renewed understanding of God's sovereign and unmerited grace was due, in part, to the distribution of Bible translations in the people's lingua franca. For the first time ordinary folk, who likely did not understand Latin, could read and understand God's Word for themselves. With their eyes opened, the Gospel freed them from th


Paris, France (April 2017) I woke up to cloudy, after-rain weather, a welcome treat for someone like me who doesn't like the sun a lot. I've lived in the tropics all my life; moments like these break the monotony of humidity and warmth. In order to complete the picture-perfect moment, I should've had a warm cup of freshly brewed tea, a good book, windows open to let the fresh breeze in, and the joyful kind of solitude; but the truth is that I dozed off after a day at work without an after-thought, my nap dreamless, only to be awakened by the sound of my brother's utensils as he made dinner--a healthy broth of fish and vegetables. There's a tinge of selfishness in my indifference, sometimes indignation, at knowing about the minutiae of people's lives--the strongest argument supporting my avoidance of Facebook--but here I am, writing about mine.

Read, listened to, and watched

Inspired by Jason Kottke , here's a quick review of the things I've read, listened to, or watched for the past few weeks. Good Witch . A small-town drama where love and truth always triumph and people are nice to each other. It's also perpetually cold. Best feel-good series I've watched in years. (A) Doctor Who, Season 5, Episodes 1 and 2 . Hilarious. Scenes of the English countryside fascinate me all the time. (B+) Madam Secretary Seasons 2 and 3. My dose of some White House action. (A) World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Tom Brooks. Ambitious, but the tone was inconsistently off. (B-) The War Against Pope Francis . So many controversies in the Catholic Church. (B+) The Foreigner. I'm a Jackie Chan fan, though nothing much happens here. Pierce Brosnan with the Irish accent was a surprise. (B) Fargo, Season 2 . The Kansas City Mob! Clever, ambitious. The series made me crave for coffee. I recommended this to my roommate T

Popular Bookstore

New haunt: Popular Bookstore along Tomas Morato. Too bad it closes at 6 PM. Great book selection, featuring Filipino publications. Got myself a copy of Jose Garcia Villa's short story collection (Ateneo de Manila University Press).

Soul comforts

I CAN'T overestimate the encouragement I've derived from listening to good music. Nothing quite comforts the soul than song. This one is Compassion Hymn by Keith and Kristyn Getty , among my favorite Christian songwriters. Through this I'm reminded to "show to the world [God's] compassion," especially as a physician—this, even during hard times. There is an everlasting kindness You lavished on us When the Radiance of heaven Came to rescue the lost; You called the sheep without a shepherd To leave their distress For your streams of forgiveness And the shade of Your rest. And with compassion for the hurting, You reached out Your hand As the lame ran to meet You And the dead breathed again; You saw behind the eyes of sorrow And shared in our tears, Heard the sigh of the weary, Let the children draw near. CHORUS What boundless love, What fathomless grace You have shown us, O God of compassion! Each day we live An offering of praise As we

Mistrust without a cause

Expounding on 1 Samuel 27:1 [1], CH Spurgeon wrote: He [David] should have argued from what God had done for him, that God would be his defender still. But is it not the same way that we doubt God’s help? Is it not mistrust without a cause ? Have we ever had the shadow of a reason to doubt our Father’s goodness? Have not his lovingkindnesses been marvelous? Has he once failed to justify our trust? Ah, no! Our God has not left us at any time. We have had dark nights, but the star of love has shown forth amid the blackness; we have been in stern conflicts, but over our head he has held aloft the shield of our defence. While my coffee was brewing this morning I took on the mindset of a skeptic and squeezed my memory for episodes of God's failing me, as Spurgeon so challenged. I did my best. Was there, in fact, any instance, when God had left me on my own, when He had left me fend for myself, when He failed to be my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, just as He had promised? The a

Quiet and windless

I spent my weekend in Cabangan, Zambales with my IM family. After a brief medical mission at San Ildefonso, Bulacan; we took a five-hour drive to Zambales, a place we picked because we had wanted a taste of the beach. In our van were the Mondragons: Sir Alric and Karen and their daughter Monay (Alessandra to most, but she'll always be Monay to her Uncle Lance) were seated in the middle row. The little lady hardly cried during the trip. Her default reaction was a smile. She didn't mind being tossed around, carried by her childless titos and titas, all of them entertained by her calm, quiet composure. We arrived in Cabangan at dinner time. Everything was pitch dark. Bea asked where the beach was. "There," someone must've mentioned to her, pointing to the wide expanse of emptiness. Then we could  hear it—the steady hush of the waves. It was a quiet, windless evening away from the metro. Psalm 8:4 came to mind, "What is man that you are mindful of him, and th



Productivity, Statistics and Lit, Essays

At any given time I read three or four books at a time. I get bored quite easily. Maybe that's just me. I say "bored" here not as a negative connotation but as way to express that some works need some to be read for prolonged periods, with intermittent moments of rest in the interim. To help me get past lengthy, revered works of fiction, I read collection of short stories, non-fiction, or short contemporary novels. Too much Cormac McCarthy makes me suicidal and despairing; too much Mindy Kaling turns me light-headed. A change of view increases my appreciation for each book I read. Multiplicity does not diminish the delight. Last week I finished three books, all read in my Kindle (which I've named John Ames , because the device, in fact, asks the owner to give it a name). I enjoyed the books thoroughly. I recommend them to you, if you have time to spare. (You have time to spare. What's your excuse? Teddy Roosevelt finished Anna Karenina while chasing thieves

Hymns versus modern worship

The Babylon Bee is brilliant. This cracked me up: Hymns vs. Modern Worship . Hymns : A hymn is a song that’s typically broken up into four or five verses, but no one ever sings the second verse. Hymns usually use lots of words no one knows the meaning of anymore, like “interposed” and “Ebenezer.” What the heck’s an Ebenezer, people? Why are we singing about the Scrooges? Above all, each hymn must fully articulate a point of doctrine as well as a systematic theology book might, without ever once pricking the singer’s emotions, since he doesn’t know what the words mean anyway. Modern worship : Modern worship songs tend to be written only by qualified theologians. Haha, just kidding. They’re written by high schoolers, scribbled down on the back of napkins at night clubs when the inspiration strikes. CCLI rules also dictate that the modern worship song must contain one bridge repeated as many times as necessary to evoke the desired emotional response, but may have no more than four wo

I wish I were home

My younger brother Sean told me he’d get me new shoes as a present. “Just let me know when you’ve picked something. I’ll send you the money,” he said, laughing, over the rare telephone conversations we have—given his schedule. Since working as a municipal dentist in a nearby town, Sean has taken on more serious roles in the household. According to my father, Sean buys the groceries, pays the bills, and has even contributed to my mother’s new project of bathroom renovation. He runs the errands which likely involve rearranging the plants in my mother’s small garden during the weekends. My parents were on their way to the Leddas for a birthday party; they're never late. Sean decided to stay at home, waiting for Manong Ralph, who was coming from Davao for a speaking engagement. When they’re not about to sleep, my parents are in one of these places: (1) in church, for the Bible study, (2) at funerals, (3) at birthday parties. I realized I was the only one missing, as the case has be

Manila sunrise

Photo is taken by Racquel B who celebrates her 30th birthday this month. She enjoys a calming, detached view of the Manila skyline from where she lives. Have a blessed Sunday, everyone!

The clarity of loneliness

Weekend reading: Marilynne Robinson's When I Was a Child I Read Books , a compilation of essays on faith, American generosity and liberality, and many more. Ms. Robinson writes about her upbringing in Idaho, where solitude was considered a virtue rather a moral failing. This stands in contrast to the prevailing suspicion that a person who likes to be alone must be depressed. She writes: It seems to me that, within limits the Victorians routinely transgressed, the exercise of finding the ingratiating qualities of grave or fearful experience is very wholesome and stabilizing. I am vehemently grateful that, by whatever means, I learned to assume that loneliness should be in part pleasure, sensitizing and clarifying, and that it is even a truer bond among people than any kind of proximity. It may be mere historical conditioning, but when I see a man or a woman alone, he or she looks mysterious to me, which is only to say that for a moment I see another human being clearly. I