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Showing posts from December, 2019

Welcome, 2020!

This is my last entry for 2019. What a year it has been! I've traveled far and wide , interacted with patients, caught up with friends, made new ones, read books, watched films and series, ate to my heart's content, swam a number of laps, became more health-conscious, experienced God's greatness and goodness in both the big and small details of life—mine and my family's. It has been a good year for blogging. Not the greatest year, but I have enjoyed updating this quiet space in the internet. I must admit that there have been days when I forgot the blog even existed. A consequence, I suppose, of my on-going desire to curate my online presence, my love-hate relationship with the idea of sharing my life in this semi-public sphere. Plus I had my notebooks and fountain pens; in such analog materials I would express my emotions, articulate my prayers, and outline my plans. I resolve to blog more consistently for 2020, not because I have to, but because I want to. Bottle

Dispatches from Portugal

I saw photos of Portugal posted by Rich King, colleague in oncology and a dear friend, in his Instagram stories. Impressed by the quality of photography, I asked if I can feature them here. What an eye for good shots! I hope to visit Portugal someday!

Dr. Pingoy's Naming Our Wounds

Dr. Noel Pingoy in his introduction to Cotabato Literary Journal's special 40th issue, "Naming Our Wounds," writes about the value of language and communication in the art and science of medicine. Espousing abstracted language was part of enlisting into the medical guild and served its goal of shorthand transmission of knowledge among professionals. Such communication was once regarded as absolute and all-encompassing and was conveyed with noble intentions. But all too often it was ambiguous to a layperson and carried out to abbreviate or even cease more discussion. It also worked to curtail a doctor’s scrutiny of the values and beliefs of people before him—the patient and family members—individuals seeking an explanation that made sense to them as people, not merely cases. Doctors needed to explain what this technical information meant not only for their hearts and lungs or kidneys and liver but also for their soul. The diagnosis and treatment were just doorways to a


Colorful windows at Chinatown, Singapore. I was supposed to meet Roger for afternoon snacks here. He appeared on time (no, five minutes late, but that can be forgiven) and did not get lost. I knew he will go places as long as he's connected to Google Maps.

Grave in the Hills and Farewell

Book highlights from Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa, continued (here are parts one and two). Loc 43484, The Grave in the Hills What they really remembered in him was his absolute lack of self-consciousness, or self-interest, an unconditional truthfulness which outside of him I have only met in idiots. Loc 4448, The Grave in the Hills He had taken in the country, and in his eyes and his mind it had been changed, marked by his own individuality, and made part of him. Loc 4469, The Grave in the Hills I often drove out to Deny’s grave. In a bee-line, it was not more than five miles from my house, but round by the road it was fifteen. The grave was a thousand feet higher up than my house, the air was different here, as clear as a glass of water; light sweet winds lifted your hair when you look off your hat; over the peaks of the hills, the clouds came wandering from the East, drew their live shadow over the wide undulating land, and were dissolved and disappeared over the Rif

Palaces and castles

The Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand Gruyère Castle, Switzerland Castello Sforzesco , Milan, Italy Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul, South Korea

Reflections on Africa and the people who have lived there

Book highlights from Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa, a continuation. ( First part is here ). Location 319, A Native Child Here on the plain he looked extraordinarily small, so that it struck you as a strange thing that so much suffering could be condensed into a single point. Loc 720, The Savage in the Immigrant’s House The prestige of the Christian religion in Africa was weakened by the intolerance that one Christian church showed towards the other. Loc 1054, A Gazelle I know a song of Africa,—I thought,—of the Giraffe, and the African new moon lying on her back, of the ploughs in the fields, and the sweaty faces of the coffee-pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Would the air over the plain quiver with a colour that I had on, or the children invent a game in which my name was, or the full moon through a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or would the eagles of Ngong look out for me? Loc 1118, The Shooting Accident People who dream when they sle

Things you need to know about Roger

Roger, too, celebrates his birthday on December. Challenged by the lovely Ma'am Ginger in a random Facebook comment, here I am, writing yet another birthday post, and as I click away and words form into sentences, I'm beginning to feel like an unpaid, overworked member of the class's yearbook committee, using up all the adjectives in my limited thesaurus, digging up my memories subconsciously tagged as "funny" or "hilarious." But the last part is only partly true. Having worked with him for five years, give or take, it is easy to conjure memories of Roger—I call him "Raj" when I ask him to get me a cold glass of water on hot days. He has a heart of gold and is "a man for others," depending on the time of the day. Calling him a dear friend has been a great privilege of my life. Some things you may, or may not yet know, about Roger: 1. He likes having his photos taken in front of walls. I took a long time orchestrating this scene ju

Highlights from The Ngong Farm, the first chapter of Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa

Although I never really grew up in a farm, it holds a special place in my existence. (Related note: A few years ago, my brother surprised my father with an article in the Philippines' largest newspaper, his surprise for Father's Day .) It was with a distant familiarity that I read Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa , definitely one of the best books I've read this year. Under a pseudonym, Baroness Karen Blixen, who was born and raised in Denmark, wrote of her life in Africa. She would live there for many years, even after her divorce from her husband who was unfaithful to her and, at some point, gave her syphilis. This is never mentioned in the book; the silent parts are just as important. The reader will marvel at Baroness Blixen's restraint, a rare jewel to be found in the age of Facebook oversharing. Inspired by Jason Kottke , I'm posting book highlights from the first chapter, The Ngong Farm, as they appear in my Kindle. I will be posting some more highlights in

Meet and greet

At Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli , Milan, Italy. One of the dogs was named "Olivia."

Happy birthday, Freddie

What can I say about Fred Ting ? We fondly call him Freddie, and he celebrates his nth birthday today. He is a year older now, as if it matters in the greater scheme of things. After all, Fred is the oldest young man we've known. He has geriatric interests: his idea of travel is sitting quietly in a café with a good book or a good conversation with an actual human being in the flesh. When I stand beside him, I look like his teenage son. He doesn't mind. If I wrote a novel with Fred as a character, I would describe him as a perpetually punctual and rabidly organized, gracious man who sports light-colored long- or short-sleeved polos, black slacks (I've never seen him wear a pair of jeans), and black leather shoes; except during the rare instances when he finds himself in the gym with his charming wife Kat. Knowing and working with him has been a blessing to me, and, I speak for everyone else in the Division, to all of us. I've traveled far and wide with him because h

Camel ride at Anna Bay, New South Wales, Australia

The loveliest of lovely old Japanese couples

Lee Chapman of Tokyo Times , one of the oldest photography blogs I've been following, has released his list of the top photos for 2019 . Even by recent standards, this year has been an absolute shocker, but in a world seemingly gone mad, photography has once again been an incredible source of joy, and to a certain extent, escape. The gift that without a doubt just keeps on giving. What’s more, the constant desire to photograph the city, and indeed the country I live in, has taken me to all sorts of places, and in doing so, allowed me to meet all sorts of different people. I love how Mr. Chapman captures the every day life of Japanese society, and his photographs aren't of the touristy type. I especially like his posts on bars and restaurants , which remind me of the Netflix series Midnight Diner . I would love to visit Japan this year.


On our way to Gruyères, Switzerland, where it started snowing. We had four minutes to transfer to another platform in order to catch the train to Palézieux. I still argue, however, that we have the best train systems in the Philippines. The LRT and MRT, during rush hours, are the best places to experience the warmth of the Filipino spirit.

Trisha's burger

After having my facial warts removed in a dermatology clinic, I determined to eat at Trisha's along Alunan Avenue. This locally grown fast food chain still serves one of the best burgers in the world. You can disagree with me, of course: the patty is thin and massively laden with oil, the cheese isn't spectacular, and so on. The Trisha's cheeseburger probably tastes like those sold at Burger Machine, which in the early 2000s enjoyed the same popularity as the milk tea shops do now. But growing up, Trisha's was as close we could get to a Jollibee. We would troop here, my high school friends and I, to treat ourselves during afternoon snacks with our meager daily allowance whenever there were athletic events at the nearby SMRAA, or whenever there were competitions at the nearby DepEd South Cotabato compound. (We usually won: go, KNCHS!) I no longer recognized the lady at the counter. I did not recognize anyone at all. I ordered the usual ham, cheese, and egg sandwich,

Camels at Anna Bay, New South Wales, Australia

Kids and snow

Gruyères, Switzerland

Eyes are opened

"Why, he is not intelligent, Mother. Merciful heavens, do understand, Mother, he is stupid!"—protestations of Nadya Ivanovna to her mother, Nina, after she realizes she does not like her fiancé, Andrei Andreyich. This is from Anton Chekhov's "Betrothed," the last story in the NYRB collection, "Peasants and Other Stories."(Related reading: my trip to Solidaridad Bookstore, where I got my copy. ) I love reading the Russians: they often sound like Pinoy soap-operas! It's too assuming and pretentious of me, but I hold a familiar connection to Chekhov: he was both a doctor and a writer. Took me a while, to be honest, to like Chekhov , but I'm resolved to read as much of his works as I can.

Kuya John's Reading Year 2019

Kuya John gave me the green signal to repost an excerpt of his Reading Year . It is a joy to read—Kuya John writes beautifully! (Related reading— a post from 2007, on Kuya John's birthday !) When I visited him in Sydney this year, I was able to sample his well-curated library. As with most people I know, he still prefers the printed book rather than the Kindle. One afternoon, after work, he—like the gracious big brother that he is—took me to Newtown, where we visited one of his favorite bookstores, Elizabeth's Bookshop . *  *  * Instead of the usual Top 7 list, here I present the titles I’ve rated 5 stars! As with last year, I give ratings based solely on how I felt towards a book. Because while details escape you, feelings linger . (Emphasis mine.) Here it goes. 1. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr Short, sharp sentences form into short paragraphs into short chapters and surprisingly unfurling into a lengthy novel. I've always been drawn to Worl

Matt Harmon and Elizabeth Taylor

Stephen Colbert is a fantastic host. His interview with Mark Harmon is a joy to watch. It will become one of my favorites. Stephen listens, taps the table in fascination, and lets Mr. Harmon talk about Elizabeth Taylor. What a fascinating story.

Merry Christmas!

Full day with family today to celebrate Christmas. The celebration involved an early morning visit to Tatay's grave, lunch and afternoon snacks with family at our Marbel home, and a lot of laughing, reminiscing, and eating in between. Praise God!

Old people

There's a passage in Anton Chekhov's Peasants that illustrates the struggle of old people. For this break, I've alternated between Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa (via Kindle) and Chekhov's Peasants and Other Stories (NYRB Series, which I had bought at Solidaridad ). I've been meaning to begin driving lessons, after my brother Sean convinced me it's a life skill and I couldn't rely on him always to drive me around. I don't mind taking the tricycle to get me places, to be honest. But I called the driving school, it requires a lot of paperwork, I left all documents in Manila. I suppose I will just ask Sean to take extra patience in teaching me: he has a tendency to get irritated at my lack of manual dexterity, in the same way that I am prone to make harsh, often unnecessary critiques of his written paragraphs.