Sunday, October 13, 2019

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

No monopoly of greatness

Spot on, Kay Rivera, my med school batch mate and favorite Inquirer columnist! How long has it been since we took the UPCAT? How time flies. She ends her piece with this.

Clearly, UP is not homogeneous. It takes all kinds to make a university. For those who have made it past this weekend’s hurdle, my limited, unsolicited advice is simple: don’t romanticize the university, lest one be prone to complacency; don’t rest on your laurels or belittle the achievements of other universities; don’t buy into the thinking that it’s UP or nothing; and realize that what makes UP, even more than its staff and its professors, are the mettle, passion and moral compass of its students. The expectation shouldn’t be that UP ought to make or break you, but that your actions and choices can make or break a university which is held to a certain standard of freedom of expression, justice-seeking and political awareness. UP is only as good as the students it produces, and to respond to the needs of an ailing nation, you’ll have to be very good students indeed.

One thing I learned throughout the years: UP doesn't have the monopoly of greatness. This is both humbling and comforting.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Sunday, October 6, 2019


Aliwagwag Falls: my mother's adventure


To keep her busy, I've asked Mother to take pictures of her every day. This is a year-long project. I installed the Flickr app on her phone and configured it so that all photos are automatically uploaded to a private cloud. Because of this, I know that she has gone walking, or has met with high school classmates, or has attended yet another funeral—events she can't seem to get too much of, as she wants to encourage the grieving families with God's comfort, as she has been comforted when we lost my father.

She went on tour with our church family from Marbel Evangelical Fellowship to visit Aliwagwag Falls in Compostela Valley-Davao Oriental.




Here's Mother, with Auntie Cecil, her forever best friend who sticks closer to her than a sister (they've shared the same dental clinic for years, until her retirement) and practically a second mother to us.


Nanay takes good pictures, doesn't she? I tell her to take photos of clouds, flowers, moving things, and people. She listens to my advice occasionally.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Quietly extraordinary

week 29 (waitress)

Over breakfast coffee, I talked to my colleagues and friends, Berbi and Marvin, about generation gaps in medicine, sentiments about fellowship training, funny experiences in the clinics, and life in general. I love these conversations. I liken them to well-written systematic reviews because they clarify the meaning of certain life events that have happened during the past week or month, amplify the important lessons in those time periods, and offer future directions.

We talked about our desire to live simple, quiet lives—doing God's work in our little corner of the world. "And maybe that's not such a bad thing," we concluded. Some people are destined to change the world and rally others to do the same. Others are called to carry on the good work quietly: a doctor in his clinic, a mechanic in his shop, a student in his class. It is a meaningful life.

And then I came across a beautiful tribute to a man who worked with medical missionaries in Bundibugyo. I don't know Drs. Scott and Jennifer Mhyers personally, but their blog has become one of my favorite go-to's in the internet. I am always refreshed, encouraged, and moved by their testimony. The man's name was Yosefu Mutabazi.

He was never in a hurry, never demanding, patiently deliberate, dedicated to Scripture and truth and mercy. Perhaps because he began as an outsider he was sympathetic to our neediness. After knowing him for more than two decades we found ourselves entrusting our newest missionaries into his care. I don't think any of us imagined Bundibugyo without him.

This brought to my memory the lesson we had this week in my Bible study and prayer group (Pilgrims) on arrogance (1 Corinthians 13:4–7).

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Yosefu Mutabazi, based on the Mhyers's account, wasn't full of himself, did not consider himself important, but cared for the needs of others. He lived a "quietly extraordinary" life, doing God's work in his little corner of the world.

* * *

Photo above was taken at Midtown Diner in 2011. It remains one of my favorite breakfast places in Manila.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Thursday, September 26, 2019

What to do when the patient starts to cry

This is my every day: breaking the bad news, reminding people of their mortality, and reassuring them I'd do my best to care for them. Dr. Bishal Gyawali's essay reminds us to connect with our patients' humanity. And nothing confronts a person with his humanity as when he is faced with the reality of death and dying.

Dr. Gyawali offers a peculiar insight on the beautiful intricacies of cultural differences in how patients and physicians from Canada, Nepal, and Japan approach bad news.

In my brief medical career, I have worked in quite a few different countries. I went to medical school in Nepal, where I was born and raised. I then went to Japan in 2012 to train in medical oncology. Five years later, in 2017, I returned to Nepal to work as a medical oncologist before moving to Boston, Massachusetts, for a research fellowship in cancer policy in 2018. I now live and work in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, having moved here from Boston in early 2019.

He continues:

Although training does help, the most crucial elements of delivering bad news to patients—having empathy and being sensitive—cannot be trained. Knowledge can be obtained anywhere, but listening to and genuinely caring for a patient has to be built into an individual's character with inspiration from experienced mentors. Protocols and guidelines help, but the richness and diversity of the patients we serve are reminders that we need to be flexible, listen to our patients, and respect their values and the culture that created those values.

Thanks, Alfie Chua, for the heads up on this article.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019



When the going gets tough, I wear sneakers to work. I bought this pair almost at a whim after a long day of walking in Seoul. My feet hurt. I saw a nearby store that sold cheap shoes. They worked wonders.

Monday, September 23, 2019


Lord, have mercy

From Paradox Uganda, one of my favorite blogs, a continual source of encouragement for me:

In Bundibugyo, the Paeds ward is a centrifuge that applies a centripetal force upon all the misery of the world and distills it down into the bodies of dozens and dozens of small people.

This beautiful place, like all others on our planet, has a hidden brokenness. As we round the mountain curves to return home, I see the smooth amazing pavement which has replaced one of the most difficult roads in the world. I see the outlines of palms and the vibrant green of banana trees, testaments to rainfall and abundance. I see songbirds and sunsets, hear laughter, creativity, resilience, commitment.

But spin the globe a few times, and then enter the ward to see what settles out. Malaria, malaria, malaria, and the nurse tells me they lost one last night because the quick-acting and effective artesunate is out of stock. My first patient is a newly admitted 4-year-old, gathered on the floor on a mattress with her mother and little sister. I can see her skin is tortured with scabies (a mite) and her face puffy with marginal protein in her diet. Her baby sister's clothes, her mother's thin-ness . . . I am nearly certain that if we tell them to buy artesunate in a clinic, they won't be able to. We have a national medical store that supplies the district, but our population is large and growing, our malaria progress has stalled, the rain this year never stopped, and the vials of medicine run out too fast. We try giving her an oral dose which she immediately and dramatically vomits out. So I end up driving into the market and finding a private pharmacy where I can purchase 8 vials. 8 lives. $1.67 per life.

Dr. Myhre concludes thus:

Lord have mercy.
Give us wisdom and stamina.

Let's pray for their work and ministry.

Sunday, September 22, 2019


Fictional and technical

Reading fiction facilitates my technical writing—or so I like to delude myself. In this sense, I like to alternate between the two categories of material. I remember that the same method is employed by George Saunders, a fine short story writer who happens to be a geophysical engineer, too! After finishing more than half of the Elena Ferrante novel, I spend my Sunday evening writing the manuscript for a technical paper. It's not an easy process, but it's made easier by my remembrance of Elena and Lina.

Marginalia using broad nib, Pilot Custom 74, Diamine Chrome ink.

Weekend reading

The last time I stayed this long in bed—say, five to six hours, give or take—after waking up was, to be honest, a long time ago. So distant was the memory that I couldn't even remember. Yesterday, however, with the gloom and drizzle outside, and with the recent conclusion of the medical students' oncology module which I helped coordinate, I started my morning at 6 am with a fresh cup of brewed coffee, and, still in my pajamas, grabbed two books from my shameful but proud tsundoku pile. The first was The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume I (Avon Publishers, 1971), edited by Robert Silverberg, lent to me one of my mentors, Dr. Ding Fernando, a few months ago. The second was Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante, book three of the Neapolitan novels, which I also bought many months ago. It was perhaps the closest I've ever gotten to an actual shopping spree—I bought all the Ferrantes at National Bookstore, fearing I may not see them in stock again.


As with most short story collections, I did not read the stories as they were arranged, but picked, without a predetermined plan, the stories at the spontaneous moment of actual reading. I treated myself to these tales after a handful of reading materials in medical oncology which, too, offered an excitement of a more technical kind. Helen O'Loy by Lester del Rey was about men who fell in love with robots. It was tragic but romantic in a way that left me uneasy. Theodore Sturgeon's Microcosmic God was about a scientist who shut himself away from the world and settled in an island, working on experiments made easy by highly adaptable and intelligent organisms he had invented. Isaac Asimov's Nightfall was about the coming eclipse that caused insanity to the entire humanity. Lewis Padgett's Mimsy Were the Borogroves was about toys from another dimension and the children who disappeared after they had played with them. The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke was about monks who believed that the world would end after the nine billion names of God had been written down. The monks commissioned computer scientists to speed up this task. 


Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay was set in 2005, where Elena Greco was a writer and Lina Cerullo was a worker in a sausage company, already with a child of her own. Their friendship was complicated: they adored each other with a certain jealousy and contempt and fondness. Years have passed since I read the last Ferrante novel, but how this anonymous author weaves the stories, creates the characters' emotions, with interjections of humor, frustration, and anguish is beyond me: she is a master in her craft. To my mind, she is at par with Marilynne Robinson and Alice Munro—among my favorite contemporary authors. To understand Ferrante, and to see the city through my eyes, is the main reason why I want to visit Naples someday: so I can set an actual physical picture that will serve as a backdrop of my imagination when I return to her pages. In this sense, travel and reading are, in fact, complementary.


I interrupted this solitary reading confinement with quick walks to a restaurant that served Italian food, both for brunch and dinner. With all the Italian in my head and stomach, I may as well have gone to Napoli.

On my way home, I was almost hit by a tricycle as I crossed the street. It was a dark corner, and the lamppost was about to give up. It dawned on me then: I was, and still am, in Metro Manila.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Saturday, September 14, 2019

On my Twitter accounts

I'm presenting a paper at the ASCO Breakthrough in Bangkok next month. I was asked for my Twitter handle during registration—how cool was that? It will be printed on my badge. This goes to show that social media is here to stay, and it is best that clinicians and researchers make use of this platform. (In case you're interested in all things oncologic, you can follow me at @lanceoncology.)

I maintain two Twitter accounts—@bottledbrain, which is more personal and private, and @lanceoncology, which is technical, academic, and public. I use the first account to follow the news, engage with friends, and write miscellaneous realizations. In my younger days, I may have inserted a few rants. (Forgive the ignorance of my youth.) I use the latter to monitor the current developments in medical oncology, tweet key points of the the conferences I'm attending (it also helps keep sleepiness at bay), and follow researchers from all over the world whom I've met and admired. Establishing this dichotomy has redeemed the personal value of Twitter for me.

I'm glad I listened to Dr. Iris Isip-Tan who has written and spoken extensively about the use of social media to generate one's academic portfolio, to create one's personal learning network, and so much more. Her blog, The Endocrine Witch, is a thing of beauty. How she manages to update it, on top of the gazillion things that she has to do, is admirable! I suggest that you subscribe to it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Favorite group portrait

As I count the months towards the end of clinical fellowship, allow me to share a favorite group portrait during our foray in Seoul where we shared our research findings at the Korean Cancer Association meeting. I’ve been blessed beyond measure to have worked with these men. @k.momdragon, our leading lady, wellspring of compassion, mother of the sweetest girl in Manila, our source of estrogen and testosterone, deserves a separate citation.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019


While watching Weathering With You (天気の子) in cinema, yet another film by Makoto Shinkai—whose masterpiece, Your Name (君の名は), I had just watched this weekend—it was raining outside. I once wrote that I used to love the rain until I lived in Metro Manila, where it translates to massive traffic jams and deadly cases of leptospirosis, but, when I think about it now, I still love the rainy weather. It reminds me of childhood when, trapped inside the house, I would play with my brothers and read the story book, "Who Made the Angels Cry?"—which was about a rabbit who stole a cookie from a jar.

Weathering With You is beautiful. I want to watch it again.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019


On Midori Traveler's Notebook (Passport) and my fascination for pens and paper

Never in my lifetime has my fascination for writing instruments reached this level, not even comparable to my childhood days when I would find any pen and paper to practice on my signature after I had read about John Hancock's curlicues or scribble whatever came to mind, even in the back pages of Childcraft encyclopedia, much to my aunts' dismay. As any fountain pen user would claim, the fascination begins with an entry-level pen—say, a Lamy Safari, still one of my favorite writing instruments—followed by a growing interest in inks and paper. Such is the natural history of this obsession.

A few days ago I ordered a Midori Traveler's Notebook (passport size) through Scribe's online store. After reading about it, I learned that there's a cult following of sorts—an entire community of creative individuals whose passion it is to take journaling to a whole new level. Search for "Midori Traveler's Notebook" or "MTN" in Instagram or Flickr to see what I'm talking about.





I keep mine simple—the passport size makes it convenient enough to bring it around, to scribble for when I need to remind myself of my to-do list, and to eventually use for my daily quiet times with the Lord. For now, I'm still using the old journals and notebooks I had acquired or received as gifts from friends.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Life in the farm on a lazy weekend

I'm writing this using Sean's powerful desktop gaming computer. I'm in his room, with the air-conditioning at full blast. He's asleep, tired after seeing a patient in his dental clinic. The keyboard is a joy to tinker with: the keys are soft, pliant, and make a staccato-like clickety sound that resembles a typewriter's. In the kitchen, Manong Ralph is baking a cake. He saw the surplus of bananas nearing their expiration date; he figured he'd whip up something for dessert. The large oven at our St. Gabriel home , which sits in idleness for most days of the year, was acquired largely to facilitate his culinary pursuits and only comes to life when he is home for the holidays, as has been the case for the past three days.

Auntie Nanic (her real name is Nancy), my mother's younger cousin, lives with us and is presently assisting Manong as he prepares the batter for his banana bread, a recipe he has perfected. These days, her other two children, Lyzza and Dave, are staying at home, too. Their presence adds vibrance to the house, which is too quiet on most days, if not for mother's intermittent trips to the fridge, or her morning gardening. My clasmates who pass by our home say it's like nobody lives there anymore.

Yesterday we visited Auntie Cecil's property in Banga, about 30 to 40 minutes away from Koronadal. She is my mother's younger sister, a chemistry teacher in a public high school who enjoys hosting us during lazy weekends. It was the perfect timing because there was a scheduled brownout from 8 am to 5 pm. Going to the farm seemed like the best way to escape the city heat. Also gathered were my aunts and uncles and cousins from the Garcenila side. We are a family of farmers: my grandfather Mauro took his family from Antique to carve a better future for them in Mindanao. He didn't know much except for farming, and he was quite good at it. He was able to send all his children to college. Such is my family's humble history.

Rice fields

So we are connected to the farm in more ways that you can imagine. Our family conversations always involve fruits and trees and crops. For instance, my aunts and uncles were talking about what they'd do with all the durian and lansones that their fruit trees bore. Our calendars are marked by fruit seasons. During our phone calls, my mother would say something like, "Oh, it's rambutan season already; you should go home!"

It's a shame that I didn't get to learn more about farming as I should have. My brother and I grew up in a small city, and didn't get to play with carabaos or apply fertilizers to fruit trees, for example. And while my father did keep a farm, we only got to visit the property once in a while and only for a few minutes at a time. Farming is a worthwhile pursuit. If the Lord allows, I'd like to have a go at it someday.

Here are some photos.

My brothers, Sean and Ralph.
Brothers in the farm

Sean, in the rice field.
My kid brother, leading the way

Lilies in the pond.
Water lilies (Nymphae) in the pond

A cow feeding beside a tributary of the Banga River.
Cow and river

A beautiful vine growing in the backyard.
Purple flowers

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Speech for Sean, our dentist

I crafted a speech for my kid brother Sean's inauguration as president of the local Philippine Dental Association chapter this weekend. Manong and I are going home for the occasion. We got new barongs. My mother said I should craft the speech immediately, so Sean can rehearse it! So typical of mother to be over-prepared in matters like this. As usual, I have a feeling she will overhaul what I've written, but when I spoke to her through a video call, she said the speech was "good."

It begins with something like this:

Dentists, too, have a unique role to play in society, even if much of what we do is hidden from public eyes. Ours is generally a quiet profession. Our work involves our daily routine of opening shop every day, sterilizing our instruments, checking if we have enough dental supplies, seeing, talking to, and reassuring our patients, and doing the actual dental work that our patients need. At the end of the day, we rest, we take care of our families, and we enjoy our hobbies—all these we do in preparation for yet another day. For each of these vital steps, we endeavor to do good and meaningful work.

I love dentists—there are two of them in the family! The smell of dental clinics brings me back to simpler days of my childhood, while we waited for mother to finish before we can head home, dropping by the Rose Fruit Stand near the Round Ball to get fresh mangoes, her favorites.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

, , ,


The writer Yukio Mishima

Over lunch, I told my friend and colleague, Berbi, that I read a depressing story by a Japanese writer during the weekend. His thoughtful reply: "Why do you do that to yourself?"

I did not know how else to respond except with the truth. "I don't know. I liked it!"

I avoid series or films that feature death and suffering, with particular aversion to those that feature doctors (as if my life weren't enough exposure to all things medical), but I can only evade these things for so long. I deal with the ill, dying, and grieving in real life, so I figured that my media diet should at least veer away from these depressing themes. I entertain myself with Monty Don's Big Dreams, Small Spaces—a Netflix series on gardening—or some episodes of The Good Witch, Mad Men, the Korean Designated Survivor: 60 Days, Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. My friend Rich King (his real name) watches a gardening show in YouTube before he goes to bed; there's something in plants that takes the stresses away, I suppose.

There have been exceptions. I did find myself enjoying the Korean drama Descendants of the Sun (my mother's recommendation), which has a doctor as a main protagonist. It was a cheesy, well-played love story that was enjoyable to watch. Last night I watched 84 Charing Cross Road, which featured the platonic and academic friendship between Frank Noel (played by the young Anthony Hopkins), a store keeper of a bookstore that sold rare secondhand copies of English books, and Helene Hanff (Anne Bancroft), a playwright and writer from New York. Set in 1949, they used typewriters and fountain pens! Part of the thrill of watching the film was figuring out what pens they used: I'm certain I spotted a Parker Duofold.

During the train ride back home, I read the third Yukio Mishima story, The Priest of the Shiga Temple (read Ivan Morris's translation in full here).

The Great Priest of Shiga Temple was a man of the most eminent virtue. His eyebrows were white, and it was as much as he could do to move his old bones along as he hobbled on his stick from one part of the temple to another. 
In the eyes of this learned ascetic the world was a mere pile of rubbish. He had lived away from it for many a long year and the little pine sapling that he had planted with his own hands on moving into his present cell had grown into a great tree whose branches swelled in the wind. A monk who had succeeded in abandoning the Floating World for so long a time must feel secure about his future.

The old priest was changed when he saw the beauty of the Great Imperial Concubine. The ascetic fell in love with her, and the more he thought of her, the happier he seemed, but the farther he felt from reaching The Pure Land. It was a testament to her beauty, to the overpowering hold of the flesh, and to the futility of self-righteousness.

This story was of a man doing everything in his power to enter The Pure Land. To do that, one must empty the mind. This is a worldview that stands in stark contrast to biblical Christianity. The Bible says we can never achieve heaven on our own apart from God: we are not saved by works, by meditation, or by any human act. Salvation is through faith alone. Until God breathes life into our souls, we are dead, unable to grasp heaven or holiness. Whereas other religions exhorted people to empty their minds to achieve peace, Christ says we are to fill our minds with the things of God.

The story was an enjoyable read, but it was ultimately tragic.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Three deaths during the summer

Death In Midsummer is the first story that appears in the short story collection of the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima.

The story goes this way: while Tomoko is sleeping, her three children play in the beach, being watched over by Yasue, her sister-in-law. When Tomoko wakes up, she learns that Yasue has died from what seems to be a heart attack and her two children, Kiyoo and Keiko, have drowned in the sea. Three deaths in one day—and Tomoko blames herself for it.

Life goes on for Tomoko. Her husband, Masaru, does not blame her for the incident. They both try to move on. During their visit to the cemetery, they are described this way:

While neither of them especially thought about the matter, it seemed that the period of mourning, an relievable parade of the dark and sinister, had brought them a sort of security, something stable, easy, pleasant even. They had become conditioned to death, and, as when people are conditioned to depravity, they had come to feel that life held nothing they need fear.

It is depressing. One thinks that Tomoko hasn't really moved on.

She was living, the others were dead. That was the great evil. How cruel it was to have to be alive.

The story is, to my mind, a stark contrast to an actual tragedy that happened in the life of Horatio Spafford. All of his four children died when the ship crossed the Atlantic Ocean and collided with a sea vessel. His response was neither despair or hatred. He was at peace. He then wrote of my favorite hymns, It Is Well With My Soul—a testament to God's peace that transcends all understanding. I sing it whenever tragedies strike or when things don't go my way.

I hope the next stories in the story collection aren't so depressing! The writing is beautiful and haunting; it also brings back a lot of memories of people I know who drowned during beach trips, including my elementary classmate Jed who used to visit the house to play.



Didn't do much this week, save for some household cleaning and working on deliverables for the church's media ministry. I'm sharing this Korean heart-sign, a gesture I initially thought to be related to collecting money.

Here's a beautiful prayer for when interruptions and disruptions happen in our daily lives, yet again from Scotty Smith's Heavenward:

Heavenly Father, I’m sitting here with a confirmed seat on a 9 pm flight for Orlando, but six and a half hours later than my flight was supposed to leave. You know without me telling you, I didn’t exactly receive this delay as “an opportunity for great joy”—to use James’ words. I can give birth to a bad attitude as fast as anyone. I am grateful for your kindness and patience.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Thursday, August 8, 2019

On friendships

What an inestimable blessing to have friends like this, who will not leave our side when the crowd ebbs, but draw closer as the shadows darken over our path, and the prison damp wraps its chill mantle about us! To be loved like that is earth's deepest bliss!

—F.B. Meyer,on John the Baptist's friends who remained with him after he was imprisoned by Herod

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Thursday, August 1, 2019


Manila in the afternoon

Intramuros, Manila: Old City

This was the view from the roof deck of Bayleaf Hotel in Intramuros. From afar, Manila looked calm and peaceful. If only there were more green and open spaces.

Had a great time hanging out with Aylmer, Harold, and Merv—first year fellows who are so well-adjusted they're coming with up various research ideas as early as this year.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019


Decrease, increase

From FB Meyer’s John the Baptist—on humility.

May I decrease, so that Christ may increase—the Christian's prayer. Quite above is from F.B. Meyer's John the Baptist.

Written using my Platinum 3776, medium nib. Ink: Pilot Iroshizuku Bishamonten (100th anniversary edition).

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

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One day

Scenes at the clinic today:

—My patient's sister, braving the Metro Manila traffic to tell me the news: my patient has died. He refused to be brought to the hospital, saying he was tired and wanted to rest. They buried him two days ago. She gave me unused chemotherapy vials (paclitaxel and carboplatin), hoping others could benefit from them.

—A colleague, inviting me to work on a research project. This was followed by another colleague, telling me we already have data to report.

—Some watchers at my research's focus group discussions for my breast cancer screening study, confessing they did not even know what a mammogram was.

—My colleague's mother, diagnosed with breast cancer, for whom I did chemotherapy. We later found out she had another cancer—a large mass in her kidney. She underwent surgery a few days ago. This afternoon she texted me:

Well, this happened the other day: longganisa (sausages) from Lucban, Quezon, a gift from a patient with breast cancer, whose hair has grown. I told her, "Mukhang sosyal!" She beamed.

I had the longganisa for lunch; I cooked it myself: I poured water onto the pan and heated it until the water evaporated and the natural oils came out—a literal case of being cooked in one's own juices. Naparami ako ng rice!


It's been a long day. Praise be to God for the strength.

Friday, July 26, 2019

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Germ Cell Tumors: the UP-PGH Round Table Discussion

The hosting of the round-table discussion (RTD) bookmarks an important event in subspecialty training. Yesterday our Division sponsored the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology RTD. We discussed a case on germ cell tumor. As has always been tradition, the first year fellows took over the organizing, as we did last year.

GCT Poster

Mervyn was picked to discuss the case, and he did so with ease and grace. He spoke with clarity and authority.

Mervyn Leones
Photo credit: Berbi Berba

This did not come automatically, of course. He had to rehearse and study the material.

Mervyn rehearsing

As with most events, the success of the RTD was largely due to the work behind the scenes. Berbi and Marvin, with laser focus, discussed the slide transitions and the LED screen (many thanks to Roche Philippines and Mundipharma for all the help they've extended in giving pizzazz to our stage design).

Medical Oncology

Berbi reviewed the slides and, with the technical team, made sure the sound transmission was good and the images on screen were clear. Weeks before this, the rest of the team members worked on the protocols, highlighted the guideline-based recommendations for management, polished the script, and contributed their ideas.

Medical Oncology

But the brainchild of the RTD, he who made it his life's work to make the event successful, was Marvin. He thought of the raised platform, the LED screen, the lapel microphone, the lights—his mind is a walking events-organizing machine—while remaining gracious and patient. He channeled, he would probably confess later, his inner "Dane Sacdalan."

Medical Oncology

Here were all the training institutions present, with our invited panelists, Dr. Carmela Lapitan (Urology), Dr. Johanna Patricia Cañal (Radiation Oncology), Dr. Rosario (Supportive, Hospice, and Palliative Management), and Dr. Ding Fernando (Med Onco).

PSMO RTD all institutions
Photo credit: Berbi Berba

I'm not joking when I say the the Cancer Clinic is one of the happiest clinics in the hospital. I'm grateful to work with these people. I wish for them success and happiness and more opportunities to touch the lives of people who need help the most. Congratulations, UP–PGH Med Onco!

Medical Oncology
From right (back row): Mark Ando, Harold Tan, Alfie Chua, Marvin Mendoza, Mervyn Leones, Berbi Berba, Aylmer Hernandez—our first year fellows. 
(Front row): Roger Velasco, myself, Rich King, Karen Mondragon, Fred Ting—second year fellows. Photo credit: Rich King
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