Showing posts from January, 2018

Leprosy in the Philippines

Dr. Belen Dofitas, my mentor during medical school and a woman I'm proud and honored to know, talks about leprosy in the Philippines. She is featured in this month's issue of MIMS . Aside from a leprosy patient’s continuous battle with the disease, they also experience social isolation and emotional distress—all because of the many misconceptions about the disease. For example, many Filipinos still think leprosy is highly contagious: “Around 95% of the population has good resistance against the leprosy bacteria and can clear it when it enters the body.” Another false belief about leprosy is that it causes certain body parts (fingers, toes, etc.) to fall off, for which Dr Lardizabal-Dofitas explained: “Leprosy invades and damages the nerves that supply our limbs. When the nerve damage is great, the tissues of the fingers and toes cannot grow normally anymore and sort of wither and shrink, much like a tree’s branches when the roots are damaged. The fingers and toes most ce

Ursula Le Guin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness.” She was brilliant.

via Instagram I'm also reposting my Goodreads "Reading Progress" notes for the book. The entries are summarized in a timeline as soon as one is finished reading. It's a great feature, like a book diary. You should get a Goodreads account, if you haven't yet. I call it the Facebook for readers. Follow me there .

Giving birth in a Rohingya refugee camp

Rojinessa labored through the night and gave birth to a baby boy around dawn. Her mother delivered the baby. No doctors were present. No midwives. No beeping machines. Rojinessa became a mother in a tent with a bare concrete floor, a plastic sheet roof, and no running water. She is a Rohingya refugee, living in Ukhia, Bangladesh, with more than 650,000 other refugees who have fled the grotesque and incomprehensible genocide ravaging her people in Burma. This was her third baby. She was accustomed to the harsh realities of motherhood in a life in poverty. But I wasn’t. Firen Jones, a midwife from America, writes about the harsh realities of women giving birth in refugee camps. In the Philippines, midwives constitute a major force in healthcare. Pregnant women who don't have access to a physician, let alone an obstetrician, are accorded medical care through the midwives. I can say this from experience because the midwives I've worked with in Maasim are great!

“Laban lang, Sir,” the barista told me.

"Thanks," I said. When he handed me my espresso—which I always take in the afternoons when I resume my studying after a post-lunch nap—I checked my hair and realized I'd just gotten out of bed, and my hair looked like it could use some combing. I've grown my hair for more than two years, but I still keep forgetting all about it. I haven't spent this long in Koronadal for a very long time; I was hardly ever home when I started studying and training for Medicine. It's good to have comforts of home.

An objective way to measure adherence?

Adherence to medications is a hard but important thing to emphasize to patients. As an internist, I have patients with chronic illnesses that will likely be with them until their very last on earth. A valuable information I want, and need, is how adherent they've been as regards their medications and lifestyle. A new development in medicine is the digital health feedback system (DHFS), a device " already being used in clinical trials to monitor adherence and will probably soon be combined with other chronic disease medications. " For doctors, this means an objective way of knowing whether, say, a patient has been taking his/her antihypertensive medications daily. How DHFS ultimately affects adherence is still uncertain, but a small randomized controlled trial showed that patients with diabetes and hypertension in whom DHFS was used had better control of their conditions. Read Swallowing a Spy — The Potential Uses of Digital Adherence Monitoring . An excerpt: For t

The beauty of short prayers

Here's a wonderful piece by David Mathis to encourage you this Sunday. We are free to abandon our empty, evangelical stock-phrases, and free from needing many words, extending our requests to a certain length to impress, because in Christ, we already are known, loved, cherished, and secure. We are not unknown citizens approaching a distant dignitary, but children drawing near to “our Father.” The collection of Puritan prayers by Arthur Bennett has been a blessing to me, too, and I turn to it when I don't feel like praying. An exerpt of " Worship ": Let me live wholly to my Saviour, free from distractions, from carking care, from hindrances to the pursuit of the narrow way. I am pardoned through the blood of Jesus — give me a new sense of it, continue to pardon me by it, may I come every day to the fountain, and every day be washed anew, that I may worship thee always in spirit and truth.

"Forest bathing" may help with stress

Shinrin-yoku means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” The term was coined by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in 1982. Does “forest bathing” impact health and wellness? Some Japanese scientists—curious people who ask all sorts of questions and conduct all sorts of fascinating studies—did various field experiments in 24 forests across the country to determine if environment, in fact, plays a role in health. How this study was designed is interesting: In each experiment, 12 [normal male university] subjects (280 total; ages 21.7 ± 1.5 year) walked in and viewed a forest or city area. On the first day, six subjects were sent to a forest area, and the others to a city area. On the second day, each group was sent to the other area as a cross-check. Salivary cortisol, blood pressure, pulse rate, and heart rate variability were used as indices. I would’ve enrolled in that study, if I had the chance. But back to the results. The f

Do you call your AI a "he," "she," or "it"?

I agree with Tim Carmody on this. This is one reason why I am at least partly in favor of what I just did: avoiding gendered pronouns for the voice assistant altogether, and treating the device and the voice interface as an “it.” He continues. An Echo or an iPhone is not a friend, and it is not a pet. It is an alarm clock that plays video games. It has no sentience. It has no personality. It’s a string of canned phrases that can’t understand what I’m saying unless I’m talking to it like I’m typing on the command line. It’s not genuinely interactive or conversational. Its name isn’t really a name so much as an opening command phrase. You could call one of these virtual assistants “sudo” and it would make about as much sense. Many drivers I met referred to Waze as " siya ," a Filipino pronoun used to refer to human beings. Situations like that make me want to remind them that they're taking orders from a phone app. Of course I don't bother with the correction

Being alone is not painful at all

Haruki Murakami on solitude and introversion: It might be a little silly for someone getting to be my age to put this into words, but I just want to make sure I get the facts down clearly: I'm the kind of person who likes to be by himself. To put the finer point on it, I'm the type of person who doesn't find it painful to be alone. I find sending an hour or two every day running alone, not speaking to anyone, as well as four or five hours alone at my desk, to be neither difficult nor boring. From an excerpt from his book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running . I sure can relate!* Follow me on Goodreads . It's like Facebook for readers. * It's not lost on me that friends refer to me (openly) as a "trying-hard introvert." My reply: "But I am!"

Social media is making us dumber

Jesse Singal writes about how social media twists our understanding of things. Case in point: Harvard professor and intellectual Steven Pinker who, in a clip, was shown to refer to “the often highly literate, highly intelligent people who gravitate to the alt-right” as “internet savvy” and “media savvy.” But this wasn't actually the case. Singal argues: The idea that Mr. Pinker, a liberal, Jewish psychology professor, is a fan of a racist, anti-Semitic online movement is absurd on its face, so it might be tempting to roll your eyes and dismiss this blowup as just another instance of social media doing what it does best: generating outrage. He unpacks his observation: But it’s actually a worthwhile episode to unpack, because it highlights a disturbing, worsening tendency in social media in which tribal allegiances are replacing shared empirical understandings of the world. Or maybe “subtribal” is the more precise, fitting term to use here. It’s one thing to say that left

Waiting for my bus along the National Highway in Maasim, Sarangani

After my shift at Maasim Municipal Hospital, where I attended to all sorts of patients and functioned as a community doctor—as an obstetrician, pediatrician, surgeon, and internist, all in one—it was time to go home. My patients were fishermen and farmers who lived in distant barrios. Most of them belonged to the indigenous people (IP) groups, and I had to have the nurses beside me to translate their complaints to Bisaya. My bus arrived an hour after this was taken, and I slept through the entire ride, tired and fulfilled. The last time I'd been here was in 2014 , a fresh graduate, and I had just finished my pre-residency in Internal Medicine. The hospital staff's reaction when I came back three years later: "Tambok na ka!" (You've gotten fat!). They said I looked better, too.

Ursula Le Guin has died at 88, and the meaning of refusing and receiving awards

Urusula K. Le Guin has died. She was 88. From the New York Times : Ms. Le Guin’s fictions range from young-adult adventures to wry philosophical fables. They combine compelling stories, rigorous narrative logic and a lean but lyrical style to draw readers into what she called the “inner lands” of the imagination. Such writing, she believed, could be a moral force. “If you cannot or will not imagine the results of your actions, there’s no way you can act morally or responsibly,” she told The Guardian in an interview in 2005. One of these days, I'll reward myself by reading The Left Hand of Darkness (published in 1969). Le Guin received many awards in her lifetime, but she wrote about refusing a prize once , which speaks a lot about her principles. I refused a prize once . . . It was in the coldest, insanest days of the Cold War, when even the little planet Esseff was politically divided against itself. My novelette The Diary of the Rose was awarded the Nebula Award by

There's a hidden metaphor here somewhere.

Taken at General Santos International Airport.

I listen to this Wes Anderson playlist on Spotify as I review for the diplomate exam

Photo credit: IMDB I'm always on the lookout for good music while I read or study. I like the songs subdued and not too distracting. Depending on my mood, I may prefer songs with or without words. There are days when I'd rather not listen to anything. These past days I've been listening to " From Bottle Rocket to The Grand Budapest Hotel ," a Spotify playlist created by Michael Park . . . bringing together 172 of the songs included in Anderson's eight features so far, coming to over nine and a half hours of immaculately curated, 20th century counterculture-rooted music, from not just the Stones and Bowie-via-Seu Jorge but Horace Silver, the Kinks, the Vince Guaraldi Trio, Elliott Smith, Yves Montand, Nick Drake, and the Velvet Underground. (via Open Culture ) You'll need to download and register for Spotify (and you should , if you haven't yet. The free account, which I have, dishes the occasional ads which don't bother me at all. In fact,

Patronize locally grown coffee

I've been able to score good coffee in Soccsksargen. In Koronadal alone, where business is booming, cafés have opened, some of them owned by people from my childhood! In fact, a new coffee shop has opened near the house, and that's where I plan to spend most afternoons as I study for my diplomate exam. The espresso is good, the airconditioning is sufficient, and the place is quiet but gets a bit crowded in the evenings. I bring earphones just in case it gets noisy, and I plan to go home early anyway. At home my kid brother Sean has a steady supply of Kulaman coffee . The flavors are rich, a little nutty, with hardly any acidity. He gets it from a person he knows at a discount, likely one of his patients. Last week an aunt gave me Mt. Matutum coffee (Greentropics) , which is slightly acidic, less nutty, and stimulating: it keeps my mind from getting headaches in the morning. Greentropics is a local company that trades, processes and markets coffee sustainably harves

The bahay kubo has a peculiar charm to it.

Though slightly dilapidated, this house, now used as a storage space of a flower farm we visited, completes the iconic portrait of the countryside.  via Instagram

Sunday mornings are for church

Sunday mornings are the busiest in the household. We wake up early to prepare for Sunday worship service. We're not allowed to stay up late on Saturday nights. We're reminded that our clothes should have been set aside the night before; our shoes should have been polished by then. (I've been guilty many times of not obeying these instructions.) My father reprimands us if we dilly-dally. Still sleeping at 7 am is almost unthinkable. At this time we should be taking a shower or eating breakfast already because the worship service begins at 9 am—and we shouldn't be late. My father used to remind us that we should give the Lord the best of our everything; if we arrive at our meetings for work on time, we should do the same—or even better—for when we meet with the Lord and His people. I associate Sunday mornings with church. While I'm thankful for afternoon services (during residency, I had to report to work until 12 noon to do rounds on patients or had to stay for 24

Couchsurfers' stories

Gabriele Galimberti features 100 stories of couchsurfers he has met for two years. CouchSurfing is the act of trading hospitality, practiced by the over 14 million members of the CouchSurfing network present in 230 countries worldwide. He continues: I traveled around the world with CouchSurfing for more than two years in order to discover this young, diverse, multicultural, multiracial global community. I have CouchSurfed on all the five continents and has hosted dozens of CouchSurfers in his house in Tuscany. I have slept on a bed worthy of a 5-star hotel in a fairytale villa in Texas and in a room ten square meters in Sichuan, which he shared with 3 generations of a Chinese farmer family. In Ukraine I was hosted by a couple that welcomed him naked, informing him they are “house nudists” and in Botswana by a young man training to become an evangelical pastor.  Olena, 22 years old, is a committed naturist. "I don't like to wear masks or, when I can avoid it, clot

Cimetière de Montmarte, a good place to think and rest while in Paris

Graveyards are peaceful places to visit. I went to Cimetière de Montmartre the last time I visited Paris. I was tired from all the walking and decided to go to a quiet spot. Famous people buried there include the neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot , the founder of modern neurology who discovered Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and Charcot disease; Dalida , the famous singer; Alexandre Dumas , the novelist and playwright; Jacques Offenbach , the composer; Émile Zola , the writer; Georges-Fernand-Isidor Widal , bacteriologist who invented the Widal test for typhoid; and François Roland Truffaut , the filmmaker who ushered in the French New Wave. [(Read my ruminations on Les Quatres Cinq Coups (translated The 400 Blows.) ] I wrote about graveyards because, by the time you read this, we will have buried Lola Gló. The cemetery is nowhere near as beautiful as this, of course—just a patch of land with green grass and a small tombstone—but Lola has gone home to be with the L

Precogs, telepaths, and the reversal of time

Ubik  By Philip K. Dick Published 1969, Doubleday The first Philip K. Dick novel Iv'e read is Ubik ,  first   published in 1969. The story is set in 1992. Special powers exist. Technology has advanced such that the dead can be put in a state of half-life; they can communicate with the living until the signal dies. (I wonder if that's a good thing.) A group of inertials—men and women who have the special ability to negate powers of precogs and telepaths—is killed by a blast. The survivors go through a time warp and are subjected to rapid deterioration themselves. The panacea is a special spray called Ubik. I admit I'm not the biggest fan of science fiction, but I was so drawn by this story that I'm resolved to read one of Mr. Dick's novels soon.  Here's Mr. Dick describing how longing feels like:  He [the protagonist Joe Chip] gazed at the girl Pat, with her black, strong hair and her sensual mouth; in him he felt unhappy cravings arise,

How Uber evades the authorities

Uber’s Secret Tool for Keeping the Cops in the Dark , published in Bloomberg. An excerpt. From San Francisco, Uber routinely protected foreign offices from police raids by rendering computers unusable, often shielding evidence from warranted officials. This method is called Ripley . It sounds like those things we see in the movies. When I'm in Manila, I prefer Grab than Uber. The cars arrive earlier, and the fares are generally lower. When I'm running late, or if I have a plane to catch, I hail the regular cab.

Background on The Crown, especially if you're a fan of the show

The Crown is the most expensive Netflix series to make. My family and friends love it, even those who don't care much for royalty. Prince Philip is, of course, my favorite character in the show—I find his political incorrectness hilarious. Who's yours? Anyway, what will interest you is the BBC documentary, " The Coronation ," which features a rare interview with Queen Elizabeth, now longest running monarch in history, whose recollection of her coronation was the fact that the crown was very heavy indeed. The Crown Jewels , which is also shown in the documentary, is the only working European coronation regalia, and is considered the largest in the world. Photo credit:  United Kingdom Government - Illustrated magazine, 13 December 1952, p. 14  (via Wikipedia) Update . The Youtube video is now blocked. Sorry.

Gloria Catedral, 90

Lola and Lolo, circa 1980s. Gloria Catedral, Lola Gló to us, has come home to be with the Lord in heaven. She was 90. She was hospitalized the day I got home . She died peacefully tonight. We visited her most times of the week, singing her favorite hymns, especially " Great Is Thy Faithfulness ." She battled severe infection in her lungs. Prior to that she has had a stroke and has mostly been wheelchair bound. I'm comforted with Resurrection , one of the Puritan prayers in the Valley of Vision, compiled by Arthur Bennett. O God of my exodus, Great was the joy of Israel’s sons when Egypt died upon the shore, Far greater the joy when the Redeemer’s foe lay crushed in the dust! Jesus strides forth as the victor, conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might; He bursts the bands of death, tramples the powers of darkness down, and lives forever. He, my gracious surety, apprehended for payment of my debt, comes forth from the prison house of the grave free, and tri

A new continent, which includes the Philippines, to be added "shortly" to the world

Sunday Magazine features articles from the Sunday New York Times "from exactly 100 years ago." Here's a story from September 25, 1910, A New Continent May Be Added Shortly To The World , which features the Philippines.

Chapter by chapter, text by text

Why We Believe In Systematic Expository Preaching , a beautiful essay by Andrew Roycroft. An excerpt: I believe that the Bible is not a metal-tweezered promise box from which we can select our favourite passages and promises at random. I believe that the pulpit is not a stable in which I get to show off my favourite hobby horses to a weary congregation. I believe that the authority of the preacher is always secondary to the authority of Scripture as revealed by God. I believe that the Scriptures are God breathed in their entirety, and that their structural integrity is part and parcel of how we come into contact with what God has said, and how God has said it. I remember listening to Sunday preaching on the Gospel of John for all of my college life. What a feast for the soul it has been. May the Lord prepare your hearts and minds for His Word faithfully preached this Sunday.

Brighter side of 2017: a list

To most of us, 2017 has been dismal, but there have been great developments in public health and medicine that we haven't heard of. Angus Hervey listed 99 Reasons 2017 Was A Great Year . A few resonate with me. 2. Cancer deaths have dropped by 25% in the United States since 1991, saving more than 2 million lives. Breast cancer deaths have fallen by 39%, saving the lives of 322,600 women.  10. In July, UNAIDS, revealed that for the first time in history, half of all people on the planet with HIV are now getting treatment, and that AIDS deaths have dropped by half since 2005.  13. Thanks to better access to clean water and sanitation, the number of children around the world who are dying from diarrhoea has fallen by a third since 2005.  14. Leprosy is now easily treatable. The number of worldwide cases has dropped by 97% since 1985, and a new plan has set 2020 as the target for the end of the disease.  16. And on the 17th November, the WHO said that global deaths from t

Redesign 2018, version 1

I'm pleased with the website's new look, thanks to this interesting repository of Blogger templates . I picked tdSimple, designed by Taras Dashkevych, for its elegance. It has a minimalistic design: single column, with a readable serif font. The side bar can be accessed through the "+" sign on the upper right hand corner. Its blockquotes are indented, in italics, in a gray background, just the way I want them to be. There's a new About Me page, featuring a photo of myself taken by my friend Racquel during a trip to Taiwan. This redesign also comes with a new direction for this blog. For this year, I want to talk about myself less (a resolution that's probably antithetical to the new tagline, "Minutiae of my every day since 2014 2004") and therefore become more curatorial. I hope to feature links and stories that interest me and you—topics along the lines of evangelical Christianity , literature and books , medicine and techno

To the beach!

Gumasa , an area in the coastal town of Glan, Sarangani, is two hours away from Koronadal. This was the first place that came to mind when I asked my family if we could go to the beach. Sean had to go to his clinic and didn't go with us. Much of the town's land area is considered protected area by DENR. We reached Gumasa just before sunset. The drive was scenic. At Isla Jardin Resort. View of Sarangani Bay. The waters were clear. We woke up early to have our morning stroll and swim. We were warned that the waves could get brutal and strong, but we were greeted with calm waters. Praise God! Auntie Net, our family's version of the Khaleesi. It was Auntie Bebet's first time in the area. This was my second. I still remember the first time we went here: dirt roads, no electricity, but, ah, white sand! The star fish we caught! The sea urchins that stung us! Great memories of childhood. Tatay and Nanay. Our hearts were full.


The coffee machine at Isla Jardin Resort wasn't functional. The manager emphasized it by using "N/A," i.e., not applicable, and gubá, which is Bisaya for broken. I opted for three-in-one Nescafé—just enough caffeine to keep me headache-free until lunch time.

Asleep on New Year's Eve

Planning to blog more regularly this year, but I also plan to write some more in my journals, like what the artist Austin Kleon recommends . A photo of my notebook seems a reasonable compromise. I used a Perkeo Kaweco Pen, medium nib, with Lamy turquoise ink.

"Feelings women rarely share"

I found this book in my grandmother's house in Banga. What might be these feelings she's hesitating to tell us? Lola, Nanay's mother, is 80-plus but still has good memory. She recounts stories of childhood, family, and romance when we drop by. She relates these stories in Kinaray-a, which is similar to Hiligaynon but the vowels are more constricted and the intonation less sonorous. She complains that she falls asleep after TV Patrol, only to wake up at 1 AM, then unable to sleep afterwards. We assure her that's normal for people her age. From her room, one can see the basketball court, formerly the "dryer" where palay and mais were sun-dried after the harvest. The bathroom beside her room has been renovated to make it easier for her. Her room smells of old furniture, its walls decorated with old calendars she doesn't want to take down. These remind me of my childhood, when my brothers and I came over during summers. She used to have a sari-sari s

One second every day in 2017

I had a lot of fun with this project. I took one second of every single day of 2017 (I started in December 2016, when my friend David Francisco installed the app in my phone). I published a monthly clip of videos and photos—most of them taken at the very last minute—in Instagram. Things happen quickly, and I'm quick to forget them. My poor ability to recall of events is why I document my life. So many things, in fact, happened in 2017: this is a snapshot.

Koronadal to Banga conversations

Drive from Koronadal to Banga, where most of our Garcenila relatives live. I'm talking to Sean here.

On the first day of 2018: lunch at the farm

On the first day of 2018, we had lunch at the farm with my mother's side of the family. This farm is located in Surallah town, some 15- to 20-minute drive from Banga. The roads are paved for about three-fourths of the way. As one reaches New Antique, one encounters the dirt road: dusty, bumpy, but full of greenery on both sides. I haven't been in this farm for about a decade. Everything looked smaller. Our potluck lunch was beside the fishpond where my cousins attempted to get a decent number of tilapia. My brothers and I went along with Tatay to visit the mahogany he'd planted years before. He was hoping to grow them for the time when we'd need wood for furniture, should we have houses of our own. I don't really buy corn in Manila because we plant them right here. Bamboo. Durian. Marang . We saw ripe banana hanging from the plant and decided to harvest it by cutting the stem to bring the fruit down to the ground. We took home wit