Wednesday, November 21, 2018

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Mr and Mrs Ferrolino

As you all know, I don't relish attending wedding ceremonies but take particular exception to invitation from close friends. Imagine my surprise when Brian (whom I still, after all these years, refer to as Aljur—a long story), asked me to join his wedding entourage because someone else, his cousin, as I recall, could not make it to the ceremony. Aljur is a quiet, kind, and introverted man who was part of our lunch group in med school. Over the course of many years, I've worked with him on several cases, especially head and neck tumors; he is about to finish residency in otorhinolaryngology (ORL) this year. Mayi is a fascinating specimen of a human being with so much energy, grace, and joy packed in a petite frame. Talking to her is comparable to a satisfying shot of espresso. Our internship blocks had many overlaps in the rotation, and during downtimes, I enjoyed stories of her extraordinary and accomplished family and her love of books. She is now doing residency in OB-Gyn. Brian and Mayi, now Mr. and Mrs. Ferrolino, had a beautiful wedding in Tagaytay. I wish and pray for them a beautiful and joyful life, and I'm grateful for their friendship.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Meditation on God's love

I've been quoting FB Meyer unabashedly. His book, Love to the Uttermost, is a compilation of his preachings on the Book of John. It is a masterpiece of good writing and good theology. It has been a blessing to my soul, as it has proven useful material for my daily devotion.

This Sunday I'd like to encourage you with FB Meyer's vision of God's love. This is the concluding statement of his preaching on John 18:4, "Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, 'Whom do you seek?'"

If it moved Him to endure the Cross and despise the shame, is there anything that it will not withhold, anything that it will not do? His love is stronger than death, and mightier than the grave. Strong waters cannot quench it, floods cannot down it. It silences all praise, and beggars all recompense. To believe and accept it is eternal life. To dwell within its embrace is the foretaste of everlasting joy. To be filled by it is to be transfigured into the image of God Himself.

I've long since resolved to read Christian literature, especially classic literature, more intentionally. After a year, I've finished John Calvin's magisterial work, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, and am also now plowing through Stephen Charnocks's The Doctrine of Regeneration. As I do this, I take to heart my cell servant's exhortation to our Bible study group, "Read Christian books!"

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

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We're now the Philippine Cancer Center

Senate OKs bill on national integrated cancer control program, reported by GMA News:

Voting 18-0, the Senate approved on third and final reading Monday a bill seeking to institutionalize a national integrated cancer control program... 

The bill will establish a National Integrated Cancer Control Council whose sole focus is to implement programs that will not only provide comprehensive, accessible and affordable cancer treatments for all cancer patients, but will also work on minimizing the incidence of preventable cancer cases...

The bill shall also mandate the establishment of the Philippine Cancer Center, under the control and supervision of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH), for the treatment and accommodation of cancer patients. The center shall also initiate research, in collaboration with other universities, hospital and institutions, for cancer prevention and cure...

Likewise, regional cancer centers shall be established nationwide for the treatment and care of cancer patients. The center shall also undertake and support the training of physicians, nurses, medical technicians, pharmacists, health officers and social workers on good practice models for the delivery of responsive, multidisciplinary, integrated cancer services.

This is a step towards quality care of patients with cancer in the country.

Monday, November 12, 2018

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The world's hatred

From F. B. Meyer, "Love to the Uttermost":

It is not difficult, therefore, to go through the world and escape its hate. We have only to adopt its maxims, speak its language, and conform to its ways . . . Ah, how many pleading glances are cast at us to induce us to spare ourselves and others, by toning down out speech, and covering our regimentals by the disguising cloke of conformity to the world around! “If you do not approve, at least you need not express your disapproval.” “If you cannot vote for, at least do not vote against.” If you dissent, put your sentiments in courtly phrase, and so pare them down that they may not offend sensitive ears.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Delivery

My package from Amazon arrived, the first of its kind I've received. It's a pair of chukka boots, my early Christmas gift for Manong. Another one is arriving next week, also a pair of chukka boots (same brand, different leather color) for Sean. I have the same pair of shoes, too. We dress the same way, my brothers and I, and share many interests. Over the years they've become fans of automatic wristwatches, fountain pens, and eyeglasses. When I met the UPS delivery guy at my building's lobby last night, I felt, upon receipt of the box, like it was "Christmas morning." I remember my friend Rac, who calls happy days "Christmas mornings." The chukkas and the wristwatches were due to my friend Carlos's rabid interest in their items, a fascination that infected me throughout these years I've known him.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

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Pakô salad

Salad greens picked from the backyard

I'm not impressed by farm-to-table restaurants. I suppose that's because I grew up eating vegetables plucked from the farm, our neighbor's garden, and our own backyard, that I find the concept ordinary. For lunch at home, we had the pakô salad—picked from Auntie Lisa's farm—drizzled with vinegar, and to which mother added slices of fresh mango. This wasn't the main dish; for that, we had tuna pangá and a mouth-watering serving of rice (store-bought, not from our farm. The harvest season won't be until a few months).

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Monday, November 5, 2018

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Books that fit in one's hand

Dwarsliggers–these are called. They are developed in the Netherlands and will be adopted by Penguin, targeting the young. I'm no longer as young, but whatever gets me reading, I will try at some point. The design makes sense, and I'm excited to try one of these books as soon as they become available locally.





Glad to read this quote from Carl Sagan:

“A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic . . . It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years.”

It goes without saying that I've been doing most of my reading in my Kindle (I named it John Ames—one has to during device registration) because of storage limitations where I live. I still read paperbacks, especially old ones, because I like how they smell.

Photo credits: NYT

Sunday, November 4, 2018

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November adventures

I took the earliest flight to Gensan. I was at NAIA at 2 AM. Traffic from Mandaluyong to Pasay was light. There weren't long queues at the airport. I read a book on my Kindle, did some academic reading in my laptop, and slept throughout much of the flight. It was the perfect arrangement.

Flying over Cotabato City, dawn

My kid brother Sean picked me up from the airport on November 1 at 6 AM. In my family, apart from my father who had already passed away, he remains the only one who can get behind the wheel. We passed by the fruit stands in Tupi, where we bought papaya, mangga, pinya, and melon, to give to mother.

Untitled

We visited Tatay's grave at 8 AM and chatted with old friends and acquaintances. Nanay hosted a party for close family and friends that evening. November 1 felt a lot like a family reunion.

The next day, Sean drove Manong Ralph to Auntie Lisa's property in Banga. Manong spoke at the church's youth camp, exhorting the participants, who used to be in Sunday school (how times flies!), to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Sean and I roamed around Auntie Lisa's beautiful property. Praise be to God for her hospitality and generosity.

Huge dog house

Rice paddies

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I spent my third day at home watching Season 6 of House of Cards. Sean drove us around the city and treated us to afternoon snacks.

Today, we're going to church in the morning. Sean is driving me to the airport for my 3 PM flight to Manila.

Thanks, Sean! What would your brothers do without you?

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Less is not more

Here's a helpful comment by Drs. Filho and Burstein.

The PHARE, HORG, and SOLD studies also failed to demonstrate non-inferiority. To date, only one of 5 trials of shorter vs longer durations of adjuvant trastuzumab – the PERSEPHONE study of 6 vs 12 months – has demonstrated non-inferiority for a shorter regimen. All the others showed a measurable 2-3% reduction in recurrence risk with the longer duration of trastuzumab therapy.

The conclusion is that, for Her-2 positive breast cancer, 12 months of trastuzumab is still better than a shorter duration of giving the said drug.

But based on the data in Short-HER2 and four other trials of treatment duration, we believe that 12 months of trastuzumab, including 3 months of concurrent administration with taxane-based chemotherapy, remains the standard of care and the optimal duration of therapy. Lesser durations of trastuzumab maintenance treatment appear associated with a greater risk of disease recurrence.

The article's final statement is well-worded.

One year is a long time, especially when getting treatment for breast cancer. But for most women with HER2 positive tumors, that looks like time well spent.

Friday, November 2, 2018

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Superlative blessedness

F.B. Meyer's Love to the Uttermost has been used by the Lord to encourage me in my daily devotions. In his preaching, "Heaven Delayed, but Guaranteed," he expounds on John 13:36:

"Simon Peter said unto Him, Lord, wither goest Thou? Jesus answered him. Whither I go, thou canst follow Me now; but thou shalt follow Me afterward."

To celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us, this is an assurance of heaven, where God is. The presence of God makes it so. It is the love that Christians long for. F.B. Meyer erupts in praise of this love.

There is no love like His—so pure and constant and satisfying. What the sun is to a star-light, and the ocean to a pool left by the retiring tide, such is the love of Jesus compared with all other love. To have it is superlative blessedness, to miss it is to thirst forever.

Read Love to Uttermost for free here.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Love is quickest to detect failures

F.B. Meyer, in Love to the Uttermost: Expositions of John XIII - XXI, writes:

The highest love is ever quickest to detect that failures and inconsistencies of the beloved. Just because of its intensity, it can be content with nothing less than the best, because the best means the blessedest; and it longs that the object of its thought should be most blessed forever. It is a mistake to think that green-eyed jealousy is quickest to detect the spots on the sun, the freckles on the face, and the marring discords in the music of life; love is quicker, more microscopic, more exacting than the ideal should be achieved. Envy is content to indicate the fault, and leave it; but love detects, and waits and holds its peace until the fitting opportunity arrives, and then sets itself to remove, with its own tenderest ministry, the defect which had spoiled the completeness and beauty of its object.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Don't worry about inspiration

Frank Herbert on the so-called writing block:

A man is a fool not to put everything he has, at any given moment, into what he is creating. You're there now doing the thing on paper. You're not killing the goose, you're just producing an egg. So I don't worry about inspiration, or anything like that. It's a matter of just sitting down and working. I have never had the problem of a writing block. I've heard about it. I've felt reluctant to write on some days, for whole weeks, or sometimes even longer. I'd much rather go fishing, for example, or go sharpen pencils, or go swimming, or what not. But, later, coming back and reading what I have produced, I am unable to detect the difference between what came easily and when I had to sit down and say, "Well, now it's writing time and now I'll write." There's no difference on paper between the two.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Keeping God's Word

In our local church we're asked to memorize bits of Scripture. At the end of the Sunday service, a person or a group of persons (such as cell/Bible study groups) is asked to recite the passion verse for the week. Someone had the idea of making Instagram posts out of them—they're beautiful! For instance, the passion verse this week is:



Here are other passion verses. I love the typography, color, and most importantly, the message these convey.

Higher Rock Instagram

Monday, October 29, 2018

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The best of two worlds

Hari Balasubramanian's essay at 3QD resonates with me. It's a beautiful, beautiful piece that brings warmth to my heart and helps me make sense of the things I currently do. Like him, I'm in a very technical field of medicine (one may of course argue that it is both science and art, but the science part takes years of formal training, and a lot of objective multiple choice exams), but I spend a lot of time with the humanities, mostly literature, during my free time.

I’ve always thought of myself as someone who is more drawn to the humanities than to math or the sciences. This can seem very puzzling to someone looks at my career details: degrees in engineering and a career in academia in a branch of applied mathematics called operations research. Even I am stumped sometimes – how did I get so deep into a quantitative field when all my life I’ve held that literature (literary fiction in particular), history and travel are far better at revealing something about the human condition than any other pursuit?

Read the essay here.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Saturday, October 27, 2018

I found Book 2 for 50 pesos!

After church last Sunday, my brother had his shoes cleaned, and I found myself lost in Booksale, the second-hand book store that holds, within its walls, a vortex that traps me and removes all sense of time and place. The short of it is: nawili ako. Imagine the thrill I had when I found a copy of Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert! For 50 pesos!

My friend Juanchi Pablo introduced me to Dune, which I wrote about in 2014. It is a book that opened my eyes to the joys of reading science fiction and fantasy.

Dune Messiah

Paul Artreides's sister Alia is now grown up, a sarcastic, powerful, intuitive Reverend Mother, trained in the ways of the Bene Gesserit. Paul is now called the Muad'dib, the Emperor of the known worlds in the galaxy, and he has to confront opposition, intrigue, and mystery that comes with his powers.

St. Alia of the Knife: from Dune the Messiah

Friday, October 26, 2018

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Where are the great minds?

Dr. Butch Dalisay asks the question many of us often wonder about, when he browsed through copies of printed materials from the 50s: Where have all the great minds gone?

I’m taking stock of my latest acquisition of old books and magazines, delivered to my office by a seller who seems to have hit upon a trove of scholarly materials from the 1950s and 1960s, very likely from the estate of one or two of that period’s leading academics.

They include copies of the Diliman Review, a prominent journal of the University of the Philippines since the early 1950s; the University College Journal, from the early 1960s when UP still had a University College in charge of implementing its General Education Program for the student’s first two years; the Philippine Social Sciences and Humanities Review, established in 1929; and Comment, a liberal quarterly from the late 1950s. There’s a special issue of the Philippine Collegian from 1957 devoted solely to the topic of academic freedom. A unique bonus is a copy of the Golden Jubilee issue of the Diliman Review from 1958—UP’s 50th anniversary—a handsome hardbound volume I didn’t even know existed.

His essay reflects a degree of frustration.

I see that even government bureaucrats then were expected to be literate and to be able to articulate their policies beyond press releases and interviews. The 1958 DRissue includes essays by Amando Dalisay, then Undersecretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, on “Economic Controls and the Central Bank” and by Sen. Lorenzo Sumulong on “The Need for Economic Statesmanship.”

Where have all the great minds gone? They're probably around, and very, very few of them are probably in government leadership positions.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

This earthly suffering, that heavenly comfort

Untitled

A close friend tweeted about his friends who suffer: a brain tumor, a heart condition, an aggressive blood problem. It was a series of tweets about the bittersweet pilgrimage that we find ourselves in. My friend Paul went on to write, "Mortality is sobering. The nature of our stay here on Earth impresses insignificance." But the narrative of his reality brought him to Scripture—where else, after all, could we turn to? He alluded to the two thousand-year old letters of the apostle Paul—one of the most prolific biblical writers who shared the same name—who said that the hope of Christians is Christ Himself.

This series of tweets resonated with someone like me who cares for patients with cancer. What my friend Paul wrote about felt personal; my family and I have experienced a great degree of suffering this year. I also know many who suffer—someone at the ICU, someone recently diagnosed with breast cancer, someone with some form of disease, terminal or otherwise.

Christian theology does not shy away from suffering. We are called to suffer for Christ, but we are also called to rejoice, whatever our afflictions may be. The Bible is clear in the certainty of persecution and suffering once Christ has called one His own.

This morning, I remember my family, my friends, my patients. I pray that Christ's comfort be upon them, and that, if they do not yet know of this comfort, I pray, too that they may find Christ. He is the balm to all wounds, the spring water to all thirst. I still often ask how God could allow suffering even to seemingly good people. Christian theology has an answer to that, a fact that needs humility to be understood: the sovereignty of an infinitely good and holy God. He does what He pleases. His ways are not our ways. He is good and does good. He transforms us into Christ-likeness.

I remember visiting the dying wife of a pastor in her hospital room. I did not know her personally, but I knew she invested her life on heavenly things when she was healthy. I introduced myself and asked when she was going be to discharged. She said, in recurrent bouts of pain brought about by bone metastases, that her home was in heaven, and she was looking forward to eternity. I learned two days later that she had, in fact, gone home.

I remember my father, too, who, after the diagnosis of gastroesophageal cancer, told me just months ago, "Why do you look so sad? Didn't the Bible say, 'Count it all joy?'" Tatay was quoting James 1:2, smiling. He would be turning 66 this October.

What hope they had! What certainty!

Beneath the laughter, the sunny disposition, is an on-going personal and daily struggle to make sense of death and dying. I find so much encouragement in F.B. Meyer's prayer, "I pray for my companions in life’s pilgrimage, for the feeble and the ready-to-halt, for the despondent and the oppressed, for the poor and sick and forlorn. May their valleys of weeping become filled with springs of joy." To that, I say amen.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

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Jessica Zafra writes about Central Europe



Jessica Zafra releases her new book, Twisted Travels Central Europe, by the end of the month. I've been a fan of Ms. Zafra since high school, having read most of her essays in the Twisted series.

Many of the essays here will probably resonate with me. I visited Prague in 2017 through a short train ride from Vienna and found it charming. I stayed at a comfortable hostel with young American backpackers, likely on their gap year. I hadn't been to a lot of places, but Prague stood out. A European tour is incomplete without it. Prague had a historical feel to it as if the brick walls, when goaded, could tell you many stories. Kafka lived in Prague, too, but I didn't get to sip coffee in the café named after him.

Here are some photos during that trip.

Kafka

Mulled wine

Monday, October 22, 2018

Tubo Ko sells delicious sugarcane juice!

Sugarcane juice

Sugarcane juice is a favorite. My brothers love it, too. On his first trip to Singapore, I told my younger brother Sean to taste one. There's not a lot of sugarcane juice in Manila, as far as I know, although Auntie Cecil, mother's best friend and soul-sister, told me it used to be available in Binondo in the 1980s. Imagine my surprise when I found out there's a booth in SM MegaMall that sells sugarcane juice. Tubo Ko is on the Upper Ground Floor, Mega A, near the escalators. The juice is squeezed out fresh from the sugarcane; it is then transferred to a mouth-watering plastic cup with ice. It is delicious, especially on very hot days! It's cheaper here (Php 75 for the large cup) than in Singapore or Hong Kong.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

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Joy and irritation

There are days when irritation gets hold of me rather quickly. The Christian thing to do is to overlook the offense. “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). But I hadn't really thought of overlooking minor offenses—which, to me, includes a person cutting the long queue, whiny children who play with their parents' phones in cafés, a waiter who overlooks my order, a friend who comes late for a lunch meeting—as something that brings joy. Scotty Smith enumerates five reasons why joy is found in overlooking an offense.


  1. When we overlook an offense, we can rejoice that we’re growing gospel sensibilities and tasting true glory.
  2. When we overlook an offense, we can rejoice that we’re starting to acknowledge our own sin.
  3. When we overlook an offense, we can rejoice that God’s grace and Spirit are becoming more operative, transforming powers in our lives.
  4. When we overlook an offense, we can rejoice that we’re gaining freedom from living as approval seekers.
  5. When we overlook an offense, we can rejoice that we’re getting better at forgiving others as we’ve been forgiven in Christ.

I pray I don't grow old to be a grumbling man!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Friday, October 19, 2018

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Lincoln's handwriting

Abraham Lincoln

Image: Lincoln, Abraham. Abraham Lincoln papers: Series 1. General Correspondence. -1916: Abraham Lincoln, January 1849 A Bill to Abolish Slavery in the District of Columbia. January, 1849. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/item/mal0042500/.

I always love a good handwriting, and I'm forcing myself to write neatly and legibly. Abraham Lincoln's handwriting is beautiful.

See more of his writing specimens at the collection of the US Library of Congress.

The papers of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), lawyer, representative from Illinois, and sixteenth president of the United States, contain approximately 40,550 documents dating from 1774 to 1948, although most of the collection spans from the 1850s through Lincoln’s presidency (1861-1865). Roughly half of the collection, more than 20,000 documents, comprising 62,000 images, as well as transcriptions of approximately 10,000 documents, is online. Included on this website in their entirety are Series 1-3 of the Lincoln Papers and the original materials in Series 4. Excluded from this online presentation is a sizeable portion of Series 4, which consists of printed material and reproductions of government and military documents made from originals in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

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On the NELSON trial

I remember that in med school years ago, we were taught that there were no data to support screening for lung cancer. Screening involves detecting the early stages of disease among individuals who do not yet manifest it completely in order to reduce deaths from such disease. Studies have proven effectiveness of mammograms for breast cancer and Pap smears for cervical cancer, but, until recently, no screening procedure was recommended for lung cancer, which remains one of the hardest cancers to treat, given its aggressiveness.

The NELSON trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2011, determined if performing low dose CT scan compared to chest X-rays, actually reduced mortality among men and women at high risk for the development of lung cancer—i.e., at least 30-pack year smokers. It looked into 53,454 persons for many years and looked into the rates of development of lung cancer among these people.

The study highlights the following results:

There were 247 deaths from lung cancer per 100,000 person-years in the low-dose CT group and 309 deaths per 100,000 person-years in the radiography group, representing a relative reduction in mortality from lung cancer with low-dose CT screening of 20.0% (95% CI, 6.8 to 26.7; P=0.004).

That's 20% reduction in deaths—a clinically and statistically significant result.

In an ideal world, we'd request low dose CT scans in these subsets of patients, but in a country where much of health care is shouldered by patients, this may not be done at all, given the cost (at least Php 5000.00). Many questions arise from this trial: how often do we do CT scans? Do we get the same benefit if we screen non-smokers? We expect the answers to these in the coming years.

The best way to decrease lung cancer deaths is, of course, smoking cessation. If you haven't stopped smoking, please do so now—a friendly and urgent reminder.
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Whisperings and impulses to sin



In The Doctrine of Regeneration, Stephen Charnock argues that man cannot do anything to save himself.

Adam had the greatest advantages human nature, in a natural way, was capable of; he was created with a fullness of reason. But how long do we converse with sense, which fastens upon temptations before we come to a use of reason! After we are come to some smatterings of reason, and a growth in it, as we think, what whisperings and impulses to sin do we feel! What an easiness to embrace incentives, a deafness to contrary admonitions! What languishing, velleities, and palsy desires at best, for that which is good; a might most and darkness upon our understandings, irresolution in our wills? How can we with all these fetters be able of ourselves to put into a better state, and act against nature, which is impossible any creature can do but by a superior power!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

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Kid writes

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A boy writes the details on a raffle ticket at my favorite Dunkin' (not Dunkin' Donuts anymore), the branch in front of Taft Avenue where I often have coffee after alighting from the train, before seeing patients. The boy keeps asking his mother what to write; it is likely his first time, and his mother pushes him to write on. I hope he grows up to a smart man with excellent handwriting. Scenes like these warm my heart.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Favorite time of the day

Good morning

My favorite time of the day is dawn. I just took the photo a minute ago, straight from the balcony. An exciting week is ahead, with the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology (PSMO) annual convention beginning Wednesday, culminating in a fellowship night where I'll be dancing to the tune of Masskara Festival music. Praise be to God for another day, another week.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Her father's stories

My friend's sister writes about her father's stories.

That I didn’t know much about my father comes as no surprise—I’m traditionally subservient, and I didn’t grow up asking a lot of questions.

Among my earliest memories of my dad was him coming home from a long flight and handing me a red umbrella as pasalubong. I vaguely remember my mother bringing me to the hangar and my father asking me if I still remembered him. I don’t know how these memories even exist, but they are there, as poignant as the aftershave my father wore that day.

You write beautifully, Ate Kate Pedroso!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Dean Francis Alfar's short story collection


Next on my reading list: Dean Francis Alfar's A Field Guide to the Roads of Manila and Other Stories.

A Field Guide to the Roads of Manila is a map to the worlds of award-winning fictionist Dean Francis Alfar's imagination. The real and the unreal intersect in these fifteen stories of fantasy, science fiction and horror, and celebrate the wonder of speculative fiction.

The Palanca Awards of Literature are out! Dr. Ronnie Baticulon, a neurosurgeon from PGH, won an award for his essay. Congrats, Sir Ronnie!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

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John Calvin shows the beauty of the gospel

After a year, I finished reading volumes 1-3 of John Calvin's The Institutes of the Christian Religion. I mostly read it in my Kindle during my morning commute to work, a ritual that affords me the chance to read works of literature outside of my standard readings in oncology. The Institutes now belongs to my list of favorite books of all time, along with Augustine's Confessions (which was often quoted by Calvin). Calvin's main thesis is justification by faith alone through Christ alone. It is the "alone"--the exclusivity of faith, the rejection of good works (or good works with faith), as a means to salvation--that creates the major doctrinal difference between Calvin's faith and Roman Catholicism. It is so big a difference that Protestantism came into being, a movement that was ushered in by a renewed meditation of what Scriptures had originally meant, a deeper understanding of the love and mercy of God through Jesus Christ, a humbling realization of the uselessness of good works, the depravity of man, and the holiness of God.

John Calvin, this (based on biographies) 27-year old, introverted, serious academic, so consumed with the love for God's Word, wrote thus:

For it states this to be the order of justification; that from the beginning God deigns to embrace sinful man with his pure and gratuitous goodness, contemplating nothing in him to excite mercy, but his misery; (for God beholds him utterly destitute of all good works;), deriving from himself the motive for blessing him, that he may affect the sinner himself with a sense of his supreme goodness, who losing all confidence in his good works, rests the whole of his salvation on the Divine mercy. This is the statement of faith, by which the sinner comes to the enjoyment of his salvation, when he knows from the doctrine of salvation that he is reconciled to God; that having obtained remission of sins, he is justified by the intervention of the righteousness of Christ; and though regenerated by the Spirit of God, he thinks on everlasting righteousness reserved for him, not in the good works to which he devotes himself, but solely in the righteousness of Christ.

That I am saved solely because of Christ, and not because of any good I have done, is the all-encompassing truth on which my life revolves.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Quiet Ones

The Quiet OnesThe Quiet Ones by Glenn Diaz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The book takes us deep into the streets of Manila, its ambitions and dreams, even if it takes a crime to achieve them. The language is masterful, the characters so palpable you can hear them speak. This is a Filipino novel written in English, and a great novel, whichever way you see it.

Write some more books like this, please, Mr. Diaz!



View all my reviews

Sifting through Scripture, a Christmas greeting this September

Pastor Bob has started the series on Matthew called "Oh, Worship the King." It's the sixth lesson on this series, and given the rate at which we progress, it may take another five years to the final sermon. When I began college in 2004, the series on the Book of John was about a year old, give or take, and we would be finished with it by the time I graduated and started medical school. During medical school and my internal medicine residency training, the pulpit series was on the Book of Acts. We just finished with Acts this year.

The Filipino word is himay, roughly translated to sift through--a slow, meditative inspection, analysis, and interpretation of the biblical text. This is what Pastor Bob, and other faithful pastors, are doing in their own local churches. I find it particularly useful in that I am forced to think along the lines of thought of the book's writers (the Bible tells us that these words are ultimately God's), reading the words in their proper cultural context, and so on. All Christians are students of theology, and I feel challenged and encouraged to receive that treatment in church.

I love how there's almost always something new to discover in Scripture. The preaching today was on Matthew 2: the visit of the magi to Jesus. Careful inspection of the text reveals that during the visit, Jesus would have been two years old already, and Mary and Joseph had moved out of a manger, into their own home. It makes our Filipino belen historically false, but I like its imagery nonetheless.

The Christmas story is a beautiful story that cuts right at the heart of the Christian faith. It is a poetic reality of the glorious God becoming man, only to be born in a manger and to die on the cross. It is the harshest humiliation but the most glorious demonstration of love. John Calvin wrote:

“We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ [Acts 4:12]. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else.
If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him” [I Cor. 1:30].
If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing.
If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects [Geb. 2:17] that he might learn to feel our pain [cf. Heb. 5:2]. (emphasis mine)
If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion;
if acquittal, in his condemnation;
if remission of the curse, in his cross [Gal. 3:13];
if satisfaction, in his sacrifice;
if purification, in his blood;
if reconciliation, in his descent into hell;
if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb;
if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same;
if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven;
if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom;
if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge.
In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.” -- The Institutes, Book II, Chapter XVI

With that, and given the fact that we start our celebration early in the Philippines, I wish you a Merry Christmas!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

September is ending

I bump into colleagues during rounds and often get asked if I still blog. My answer is always that yes, I still do, but it's hard to make time. These colleagues are probably too busy with their own lives to even bother reading blogs, let alone mine, and their dose of online presence is probably limited to Facebook, Instagram, and PubMed. Still, it touches me that they remember.

I force myself to remember to write here as often as I can, if only to exercise the habit of organizing my thoughts into words. The reason for my less than frequent posting is that I already spend most of the day writing--but of the more technical kind, as in medical charting or drafting research proposals. More often than not, however, I find that I have nothing to say. Sure, I can write about my life, but will that elevate the level of discourse among my supposed readers?

Nevertheless, I find that writing is therapeutic. This here is a space where I can share my thoughts freely. My thoughts are not necessarily original: I post excerpts of books and websites, and perhaps I should post more about oncology and internal medicine, directed both to the laymen (and -women) and the specialists. The lack of structure, of a general theme, of this blog is intrinsic to its nature. I write whatever pleases me and wish that it pleases the reader as well.

September is about to end, and what a year this has been for me: a rollercoaster of events, both personal and professional. During many moments I wondered if I would ever get through, but by God's grace, I am where I am. New residents are about to join in our fold at the hospital, and I'm just a few months away from the beginning of my final year of clinical fellowship.

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Lord's Prayer is subversive

Dr. Albert Mohler contrasts the Serenity Prayer ("God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference") and the Lord's Prayer.

In many ways, the Serenity Prayer is the model prayer for a post-Christian society. It says nothing about the character of God, the plight of man, the need for redemption, or the nature of the Gospel. The Serenity Prayer is nothing more than a generic prayer for a people with generic religious convictions.

The Lord’s Prayer, however, is doctrinally robust, theologically deep, and anything but serene. The Lord’s Prayer is anything but tame.

Dr. Mohler also calls The Lord's Prayer "subversive."

So, what are we asking when we say “your kingdom come”? We are asking for something wonderful and something dangerous all at the same time:

  • We are praying that history would be brought to a close.
  • We are praying to see all the nations rejoice in the glory of God.
  • We are praying to see Christ honored as King in every human heart.
  • We are praying to see Satan bound, evil vanquished, death no more.
  • We are praying to see the mercy of God demonstrated in the full justification and acquittal of sinners through the shed blood of the crucified and resurrected Christ.
  • We are praying to see the wrath of God poured out upon sin.
  • We are praying to see every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
  • We are praying to see a New Jerusalem, a new heaven, a new earth, a new creation.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

In my mind



Jon Bryant's Carolina is stuck to my head. It's a song full of longing, distance, and detachment, and it's sobering. Days find me wishing I were somewhere else—at home, for example—but reality finds me back and clutches me with the reassurance that I am where I should be. Travel breaks the monotony of daily life, but so does music and books.

In my mind, I'm going to Carolina
Can't you see the sunshine?
Can't you just feel the moonshine?
And ain't it just like a friend of mine hit me from behind?
Yes, I'm going to Carolina in my mind

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Steroids decrease efficacy of PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors in NSCLC

Dr. Matthew Stenger, via The ASCO Post:

In a study reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Arbour et al found that baseline treatment with corticosteroids was associated with poorer efficacy of programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) or programmed death cell ligand 1 (PD-L1) inhibitors in patients with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Furthermore,

The investigators concluded, “Baseline corticosteroid use of ≥ 10 mg of prednisone equivalent was associated with poorer outcome in patients with non–small cell lung cancer who were treated with [PD-1/PD-L1] blockade.”

Baseline corticosteroids were associated with decreased overall response rate, progression-free survival, and overall survival with PD-(L)1 blockade.

What's the clinical impact for oncologists? Must we then avoid corticosteroids entirely? The authors recommend its "prudent" use.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Visiting Nella Sarabia's new optical shop at Acacia Dorm, UP Diliman

Composed September 3, 2018, but I've just only realized it was saved in drafts and not posted publicly. 

My commute to UP Diliman was brief. I took the bus, hailed a UP-Philcoa jeepney, and alighted at what used to be the UP Shopping Center, home to my favorite karinderya and optical shop, a block away from Yakal dorm where I used to live. The karinderya did not survive the fire, but the optical shop did. The new location was right across the street—the new dorm complex, Acacia, at the back of Kalayaan. Gone are the days when I bumped into familiar faces—classmates, groupmates, dormmates, labmates, my tsinelas-and-shorts UP community—busy with the same things as I was. An essay that needed printing, a provincial urge to munch on the acidity of a green mango, half-cut in the middle, dabbed with rock salt and chili.

The area at 2 pm was foreign and familiar. I savored all these, what used to be my every day walk, the treelined streets and the educated banter in the background.

Dr. Nella Sarabi, having emerged from lunch break, greeted me with smiles and a compliment. “Those are nice frames—are those from the shop?” she asked, to which I answered, “Of course.” Going to her shop reminds me of time that had passed since she had introduced me to the world of eyeglasses when I was in second year college. She asked about me and my brother; she remembered our names, picking them from her mental cloud of customers, her smile widening as she learned about the things I do. Cancer. Rounds. PGH.

I visited her to have sunglasses made. I made a shortlist, eventually zeroed in on the metal, bronze frames. Dr. Sarabia approved. I went through the ritual of having my eyes checked. “Read line seven,” she said. I knew the answer, even with eyes closed—D-E-F-P-O-T-E-C.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Why I love being married to a chemist

Cheesy, funny poem by Barbara Crooker. (HT: Jim Culleny, 3QuarksDaily)

Because he can still cause a reaction in me
when he talks about SN2 displacements,
amines and esters looking for receptor sites
at the base of their ketones. Because he lugs
home serious tomes like The Journal of the American
Chemical Society or The Proceedings of the Society
of the Plastics Industry, the opposite of the slim volumes
of poetry with colorful covers that fill my bookshelves.
Because once, years ago, on a Saturday before our
raucous son rang in the dawn, he was just
standing there in the bathroom, out of the shower.
I said Honey, what’s wrong? and he said Oh,
I was just thinking about a molecule.

Because he taught me about sublimation, how
a solid, like ice, can change straight to a gas
without becoming liquid first. Because even
after all this time together, he can still
make me melt.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Monday, August 27, 2018

John Cheever

Next on my list: The Journals of John Cheever.



Dustin Illingworth, writing for the Paris Review.

Cheever is a member of that rare group—Witold Gombrowicz, Anaïs Nin, perhaps Franz Kafka—whose private diaries comprise their finest writing. The route to Cheever’s journals is almost always a circuitous one – first one reads his exquisite stories, some of the finest ever written, followed by his largely disappointing novels, his voluminous correspondence, the memoir by his daughter Susan. One comes to the journals, then, ready for something safe and genial and above all expected, the improvisations of a suburban mystic. How thrilling to discover instead this offhand, extemporizing masterpiece, a storehouse of incomparable lyricism—no one writes light or water or fire better than Cheever—commingled with the greatest index of shame in American letters.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Crown shyness


Photo credit: Dominyka Jurkštaitė, Boredpanda.com

James McDonald explains what crown shyness is.

In certain forests, when you look up you will see a network of cracks formed by gaps between the outermost edges of the tree branches. It looks like a precisely engineered jigsaw puzzle, each branch growing just perfectly so it almost—but not quite—touches the neighboring tree.

Some hypotheses as to why it happens, as summarized by McDonald.

  • Abrasion, which happens when trees rub into one another during a windy day, causes trees to maintain shyness gaps in order to minimize this contact (Putz et al, 1984).
  • But there's no difference between trees in windy areas than in not-so-windy ones (Rebertus, 1988), so there must be other factors that explain this behavior.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Beatles

Notebooks given by Crizzy.

These are fountain-pen friendly, Beatles-inspired, unlined notebooks given by my super-smart colleague, Crizel Uy. Thank you, Crizzy! May you write your own stories, too.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Cancer Institute figures into Glenn Diaz's The Quiet Ones

Untitled

What with all technical papers I need to write and the oncology journals I need to read, I can't get my eyes off Glenn Diaz's The Quiet Ones (Ateneo Press), winner of the 2017 Palanca Grand Prize. It is a masterful work of someone who breathes the English language in Filipino atmospheric conditions. The book is about a call center agent who gets involved in a scam and who scrambles out of Manila to escape the authorities. The details that intersperse the story make the novel riveting: such as this scene at the PGH Cancer Institute. Alvin's mother had pancreatic cancer.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Exhortation to move on

John Calvin's exhortation to live the Christian life begins with the reminder that we can't live perfectly in this world. How beautiful is the Christian faith! It is aware of man's limitations, does not burden him with back-breaking toil for an otherwise unattainable salvation, but offers him the assurance that all he needs is to put his faith not in himself but in God.

I insist not that the life of the Christian shall breathe nothing but the perfect Gospel, though this is to be desired, and ought to be attempted. I insist not so strictly on evangelical perfection, as to refuse to acknowledge as a Christian any man who has not attained it. In this way all would be excluded from the Church, since there is no man who is not far removed from this perfection, while many, who have made but little progress, would be undeservedly rejected.

But the young Calvin turns us back to God's Word, as if to tell us, "I know your frustrations." I wonder how much of The Institutes is autobiographical. I read the passage below and think that this mirrors my own experience: the struggle to worship God amidst the filth and dirt of sin, failing, but moving on, getting closer to the goal of Christlikeness inch by inch, until the time when God calls me home.

What then? Let us set this before our eye as the end at which we ought constantly to aim. Let it be regarded as the goal towards which we are to run. For you cannot divide the matter with God, undertaking part of what his word enjoins, and omitting part at pleasure. For, in the first place, God uniformly recommends integrity as the principal part of his worship, meaning by integrity real singleness of mind, devoid of gloss and fiction, and to this is opposed a double mind; as if it had been said, that the spiritual commencement of a good life is when the internal affections are sincerely devoted to God, in the cultivation of holiness and justice. But seeing that, in this earthly prison of the body, no man is supplied with strength sufficient to hasten in his course with due alacrity, while the greater number are so oppressed with weakness, that hesitating, and halting, and even crawling on the ground, they make little progress, let every one of us go as far as his humble ability enables him, and prosecute the journey once begun. No one will travel so badly as not daily to make some degree of progress. This, therefore, let us never cease to do, that we may daily advance in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair because of the slender measure of success. How little soever the success may correspond with our wish, our labour is not lost when to-day is better than yesterday, provided with true singleness of mind we keep our aim, and aspire to the goal, not speaking flattering things to ourselves, nor indulging our vices, but making it our constant endeavour to become better, until we attain to goodness itself. If during the whole course of our life we seek and follow, we shall at length attain it, when relieved from the infirmity of flesh we are admitted to full fellowship with God. (Emphasis mine.)

Saturday, August 18, 2018

On Mon Tulfo's diatribe at the PGH Emergency Room

The news of Mon Tulfo berating a tired Emergency Medicine resident made my blood boil. Nurses were talking about it when I made rounds yesterday, which was how I had learned about the incident. The journalist Tulfo brought a child who sustained minor injuries to the Philippine General Hospital's Emergency Department; the child was assessed at the Triage and was deemed a non-emergent case. The child was therefore not immediately attended to. Mon Tulfo lashed out invectives, and official accounts report that he even showed the physician the middle finger--all these, while the event was recorded illegally through a camera phone. Many issues surface here--patient privacy, physician-shaming, and so on--and if there's one good lesson to come out of this, it is that you never attack people mindlessly just because you're a media personality.

The issue of rendering service equitably comes to the fore. PGH medical personnel are called to serve the ill and dying, and we do so gladly, passionately, with all our hearts and minds and, when tough times come (and they do come often), even our pockets, even if we're discouraged, nay, forbidden to. How can we muster the strength to not spare our money to pay for mechanical ventilation just so our patients can avail of this life-saving intervention? How many times have we acted, not merely as physicians, but as social workers: looking for sources of funds so our patients get better and stronger? To deliver the best medical care to the steady influx of patients, we need to prioritize who needs help the most the soonest. This was the process that the child injured by Mon Tulfo's car went through: an evidence-based, pragmatic, and effective system called the triage. This was the process that Mon Tulfo, in a horrifying display of hysteria triggered by an inordinate supply of self-importance, wanted to bypass. 

So this is why the Mon Tulfo incident strikes a chord among my colleagues: it is a mockery of our daily struggles against sickness worsened, and even caused, by poverty. We do not have a shortage of compassion in the hospital, even if our hospital beds overflow with occupants. Mon Tulfo's outburst was a short-sighted, anger-laden, ignorant, uncouth diatribe. It is people like him who make our work harder than it already is.

But we carry on.

Friday, August 17, 2018

God's sovereignty and suffering

Cameron Cole on the sovereignty of God and the death of his child.

For me, one of the most comforting things in surviving and recovering from the death of my child was knowing that God was completely and fully in control in his death. Before he created the world, my God had marked the number of days that my son would live.

That means that his life was complete. That means that his death was not random; it was not accidental. That means that it has meaning and purpose.

And it also means that God is in control of my redemption and my healing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Monday, August 13, 2018

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Saturday, August 11, 2018

New day, new coffee

Untitled

I love how the coffee maker mimics the sound of quiet thunder whenever I make a fresh brew at 5 am. I never have much use for alarm clocks, but this ritual of coffee making is part of my slow, graded, and gradual ascent to total wakefulness. Praise be to God for a new day.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Old friends

Untitled

Tears come to me in moments that surprise me: seeing a father walking his kid to school, hearing a blind man sing an old kundiman, and, this afternoon after work, reading Justice Antonin Scalia's eulogy for his friend, Martin Feinstein, then first executive director of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Justice Scalia said:

"It is with the greatest curse of advancing years that our world contracts, as friends who cannot be replaced, with insights into life that are not elsewhere available to us, leave us behind."

His speeches, compiled in the book, Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well-lived, reveal the brilliant mind of a kind person who loved his country, family, faith, and friends. I finished this collection today, after a grueling day at the clinics, with so many patients hoping for another day to dawn. Perhaps this is why I don't mind these packed train rides: I get lost in my thoughts and prayers and books, and in those precious minutes of wrestling with my thoughts and conversing with God and making sense of words in my Kindle, I find rest.

Something dawned on me, too, as I read of Justice Scalia's account of William Howard Taft, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln—excellent leaders who propelled the United States into what she is now (but, as Justice Scalia pointed out, they were not just leaders but above all good men). It is that we lack leaders to whom we can look up to, leaders who inspire and not just command. I don't think we fall short of these kinds of men and women in this country; perhaps they're not just part of this government.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Readings on reading

Michael Dirda on small presses:

All of which said, I want to make a pitch for some works you aren’t likely to find in your local bookstore, no matter how extensive its holdings: small-press titles. In recent years, as trade houses increasingly gravitate to wholly commercial “product,” specialty publishers and independent presses have risen up to make available wonderful books, real books, of all kinds. Let me stress that I’m not talking about those generic print-on-demand titles, most of which are bare-bones ugly and little better than photocopies bound in bland paper wraps. Nor am I talking about self-published work, so much in the news these days. No, I’m thinking of legitimate small publishers with a mission to bring neglected authors back into print and to produce the kind of books that dreams are made of.

His column, Browsings, in the American Scholar is a delight
to read. Reading about reading is makes me want to read more. I just got myself of a copy of the book which is a compilation of his blog pieces.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

My colleagues at the Cancer Institute



This was snapped after an evening lecture, just minutes before our karaoke stint. It amazes me that doctors who work with cancer patients are among the funniest. I count it a great blessing to work with these kind people. They share my fascination for newly approved drugs by the FDA for this or that neoplasm, and they take lunch time orders for cold Serenitea to take the stress and heat off crowded clinic days.

From left: (1) Rich King (his real name; read my post on weird names of my classmates in med school), who sang heartfelt renditions of Michael Bublé and U2. (2) Bobby de Guzman (his real name, too), whose Basang-Basa sa Ulan was a riot—a mashup of L. A. Lopez and Adele. (3) Roger Velasco, who channeled Ariel Rivera. (4) Fred Ting, who knew S2pid Love by heart, and whose repertoire was mostly Filipino rock, which is great to listen to. (5) Ozzie So, who channeled Rihanna. (4) Pau Vergara, the singer that he is, moved us with his Hanggang by Wency Cornejo. (5) Crizzy Uy, guest speaker (a private joke), who also liked old songs, like those of Leonel Richie. This is amazing because she's the youngest in the group. (6) Norm Cabaya, who gave a soulful interpretation of Tootsie Guevara's Kaba! Our song choices dated us. Don't you agree with me that after the 90s, the quality of songs have mostly gone downhill?

A good restaurant experience is more than just the food



Annoyed by Restaurant Playlists, a Master Musician Made His Own by Ben Ratliff in the New York Times.

Last fall a friend told me a story about Ryuichi Sakamoto, the renowned musician and composer who lives in the West Village. Mr. Sakamoto, it seems, so likes a particular Japanese restaurant in Murray Hill, and visits it so often, that he finally had to be straight with the chef: He could not bear the music it played for its patrons.

The issue was not so much that the music was loud, but that it was thoughtless. Mr. Sakamoto suggested that he could take over the job of choosing it, without pay, if only so he could feel more comfortable eating there. The chef agreed, and so Mr. Sakamoto started making playlists for the restaurant, none of which include any of his own music. Few people knew about this, because Mr. Sakamoto has no particular desire to publicize it.

Here's the playlist.

Photo credit: Nathan Bajar of the Times

Friday, August 3, 2018

,

Dr. Butch Dalisay talks about medicine, literature, and what it means to be from UP

Dr. Butch Dalisay, who inspires me to collect fountain pens and write long blog entries, was the commencement speaker during the graduation rites of the UP College of Medicine this year. His speech is worth reading in full. I am inspired and moved by this speech.

Not all doctors can write—although many write prescriptions that can hardly be read. But one doctor who did write, of course, was Jose Rizal, one of my personal heroes whose travels and haunts I have tried to follow around the world from Dapitan, Singapore, and Hong Kong to San Francisco, Madrid, and Barcelona and, two years ago, to his medical studies in Heidelberg. When my creative writing graduate students in their mid-20s sometimes tell me that they have nothing to write about, or are too young and too new to strive for greatness, I remind them of Rizal, who many forget was only 25 when Noli Me Tangere was published. Twenty-five, and already by then approaching the perfect synthesis of the arts and the sciences in the one same person.

Rizal’s example underscores the need to embrace and imbibe art and science as corporal elements of ideal citizenship. To create a viable national community, we need to promote rational, fact-based thinking and discourse over political hysteria and hyperbole, just as we need to actively recover, strengthen, and sustain the cultural bonds that define us as a people.

He is due for retirement in a few months, and he used to opportunity to flesh out what being a UP student (and, extrapolating this further, UP graduate) means.

To be a UP student, faculty member, and alumnus is to be burdened but also ennobled by a unique mission—not just the mission of serving the people, which is in itself not unique, and which is also reflected, for example, in the Atenean concept of being a “man for others.” Rather, to my mind, our mission is to lead and to be led by reason—by independent, scientific, and secular reason, rather than by politicians, priests, shamans, bankers, or generals.

You are UP because you can think and speak for yourselves, by your own wits and on your own two feet, and you can do so no matter what the rest of the people in the room may be thinking. You are UP because no one can tell you to shut up, if you have something sensible and vital to say. You are UP because you dread not the poverty of material comforts but the poverty of the mind. And you are UP because you care about something as abstract and sometimes as treacherous as the idea of “nation”, even if it kills you.

Yes, even if it kills you. Hand me the handkerchief.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Hiligaynon

I'm a fan of Wikipedia, which replicates for me the experience of browsing Encylopedia Americana while I was growing up. I loved that encyclopedia set at home—I still do. My curiosity today brought me to Hiligaynon, my first language, the one I grew up with and which I use to talk to family and friends from home. It is a beautiful language, quite melodic and sonorous, and it warms my heart to hear it from strangers.

The Hiligaynon language, also colloquially referred often by most of its speakers simply as Ilonggo, is an Austronesian regional language spoken in the Philippines by about 9.1 million people, mainly in Western Visayas and SOCCSKSARGEN, most of whom belong to the Visayan ethnic group, mainly the Hiligaynons. It is the second-most widely spoken language and a member of the so-named Visayan language family and is more distantly related to other Philippine languages.

The etymology of Hiligaynon, or Ilonggo:

Historical evidence from observations of early Spanish explorers in the Archipelago shows that the nomenclature used to refer to this language had its origin among the people of the coasts or people of the Ilawod ("los [naturales] de la playa"), whom Loarca called Yligueynes (or the more popular term Hiligaynon, also referred to by the Karay-a people as "Siná"). In contrast, the "Kinaray-a" has been used by what the Spanish colonizers called Arayas, which is most probably a Spanish misconception (as they often misinterpreted what they heard from the natives) of the Hiligaynon words Iraya or taga-Iraya, or the current and more popular version Karay-a (highlanders - people of Iraya/highlands).

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

,

Hotcake

Pancakes

The local crepe is called the "hotcake." It is lathered in margarine, drizzled with sugar, and is best eaten while hot. I remember accompanying my father during this February afternoon. We were about to go home from the mall, but he wanted to surprise Nanay with fresh bananas, so we walked to the nearby market, recently razed by fire. Going to the palengke never felt like chore for him; he liked the back-and-forth of kind words and niceties, the extrovert that he was. He had a community there. In his mind was geographical map of his suking tindahan—separate stores for green leafy vegetables, fruits, and other miscellaneous things. There was, as far as I knew, nothing extraordinarily special about these stalls: he just wanted to the tindera to be warm and smiling. Whenever I joined him, which I liked because it made me felt at home, he'd always take me to the stall of Junie Puada, my classmate from elementary who shared with me his baon of fresh fruit, so I could properly say hi to Junie and his mother.

Our fridge was never full. Unlike other households, we never did groceries to last the week. I guess this was Tatay's excuse to leave the house and visit the palengke.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

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