Saturday, February 29, 2020

Friday, February 28, 2020

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Successful surgery

In my line of work, I get both the good and bad news. Today was good news-day. A dear friend, who had been diagnosed to have breast cancer a decade ago, ovarian cancer a year ago, and ovarian cancer recurrence three months ago, emerged out of a successful surgery last weekend. The little lymph node that lighted up in the scan was taken out. It was a cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving.

Before her surgery, she asked me over lunch what I thought of her case. She listened to me as if she had already accepted what would happen. Her calm was palpable. Her grief was tempered with sure hope. She held on to the Lord's promises. She told me that it was a privilege to be inconvenienced in this way. It was a privilege to suffer. I have loved talking to her: someone whose thought-life is immersed in the wellsprings of God's Word, whose ambitions are aligned toward the Kingdom of God, whose eyes are set on eternity.

I remembered this friend while I studied ovarian cancer for an exam tomorrow. My prayer was full of thanksgiving: Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord. Oncology is deeply personal for me. I have friends and family who suffer from some form of malignancy. Some of them have passed away. I remember and miss them.

Noël aux Bastion, Geneva, Switzerland


Super cool selfie with my good friend Harold when we visited the Christmas market last December. We were in Geneva to present a paper on tumor infiltrating lymphocytes in pancreatic cancer at a big immuno-oncology convention.  Pretty much bumped into the festivities. Had hot sweet wine, sausages, and lots and lots of potatoes. "Daming patatas dito, 'no?" he said.

Good times.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Saturday, February 22, 2020


The Cost of Living

I don't quite yet know what to make of Mavis Gallant's The Cost of Living: Early and Uncollected Stories, except that I loved it, truly loved it with a kind of respect and admiration for a writing talent so formidable but tender, intelligent but entertaining.

Mavis Gallant Cost of Living

Friday, February 21, 2020

About to begin

With tons of academic reading material to plow through, I'm thinking of reading John Updike's The Early Stories.

John Updike, The Early Stories

An update (22 Feb 2020):

The first story, "You'll Never Know, Dear, How Much I Love You," is about Ben who goes to the carnival. He takes his chances but doesn't win. Somewhere in the story are feelings of disappointment and hope, pity and compassion, cruelty and kindness. Made me remember the carnivals in Marbel. The story ends with a punch:

Thus the world, like a jaded coquette, spurns our attempts to give ourselves to her wholly.

I'm loving this.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020


Neil Gaiman and fountain pens

In an interview with Tim Ferris, Neil Gaiman talks "dreamily" about his writing process and his use of fountain pens. Neil seems like a really gracious man who loves what he does!

Tim Ferriss: Are there any other rules or practices that you also hold sacred or important for your writing process?

Neil Gaiman: Some of them are just things for me. For example, most of the time, not always, I will do my first draft in fountain pen, because I actually enjoy the process of writing with a fountain pen. I like the feeling of fountain pen. I like uncapping it. I like the weight of it in my hand. I like that thing, so I’ll have a notebook, I’ll have a fountain pen, and I’ll write. If I’m doing anything long, if I’m working on a novel, for example, I will always have two fountain pens on the go, at least, with two different colored inks, at least, because that way I can see at a glance, how much work I did that day. I can just look down and go, “Look at that! Five pages in brown. How about that? Half a page in black. That was not a good day. Nine pages in blue, cool, what a great day.”

You can just get a sense of are you working, are you making forward progress? What’s actually happening. I also love that because it emphasizes for me that nobody is ever meant to read your first draft. Your first draft can go way off the rails, your first draft can absolutely go up in flames, it can — you can change the age, gender, number of a character, you can bring somebody dead back to life. Nobody ever needs to know anything that happens in your first draft. It is you telling the story to yourself.

Then, I’ll sit down and type. I’ll put it onto a computer, and as far as I’m concerned, the second draft is where I try and make it look like I knew what I was doing all along.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Monday, February 17, 2020

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Saturday, February 15, 2020


The interview

Jhumpa Lahiri interviews Mavis Gallant.

At eighty-six, Mavis remains an elegant woman. Each day she was impeccably dressed in a woollen skirt, sweater, scarf, stockings and square-heeled pumps. A medium-length coat of black wool protected her from the Paris chill and beautiful rings, an opal one among them, adorned her fingers. Her accent, soft but proper in the English manner, evoked, to my ear, the graceful and sophisticated speech of 1940s cinema. Her laughter, less formal, erupts frequently as a hearty expulsion of breath. French, the language that has surrounded her for over half a lifetime, occasionally adorns and accompanies her English. She is a spirited and agile interlocuter who tells stories as she writes them: bristling with drama, thick with dialogue, vividly rendered and studded with astringent aperçus.

I wish I could have met Mavis Gallant in this lifetime, but she lives in her stories, which I read and re-read once in a while. Each time, these tales enrich my existence.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Wednesday, February 12, 2020


Alice Munro's A Trip to the Coast

In between chapters of oncology textbooks, I treat myself to fiction. Such was the case this morning.

"A Trip to the Coast" by Alice Munro appears in her collection, Dance of the Happy Shades. I turn to Alice Munro when I want to escape to the country. In this story, we learn about the girl May who lives with her grandmother: a story of quiet rebellion and outspoken submission.

[May] accepted the rule of her grandmother as she accepted a rain squall of a stomach ache, with a tough, basic certainty that such things would pass.

Alice Munro A Trip to the Coast, in Dance of the Happy Shades Collection

May hangs out with her friend Eunie. They live in what can only be described as a dead town. With nothing much to do, they spend their time in the cemetery.

"We go to the cemetery," May said flatly. They did, too. She and Eunie went and sat in the cemetery almost every afternoon because there was a shady corner there and no younger children bothered them and they could talk speculatively without any danger of being overheard.

Reading about these poignant scenes of provincial life makes me long for home.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020


Typical Tuesday

As I was having coffee, Fred asked if we'd like to attend a conference on cancer and aging. Our good friend, Rich, would be moderating. Of course, we said yes.

Dr. Emmanuel Besa, who was visiting the UP College of Medicine, was inspiring. Having worked as a researcher and medical oncologist/hematologist in the United States, he spoke on his findings on vitamins and aging, focusing on telomere shortening as a central mechanism in carcinogenesis. What struck me was his encouragement to us to keep on learning even after we graduate.

Med Onco 2020

Rich did an amazing job: getting two questions then ending the program quickly. A reserved person who prizes his privacy and quiet, the limelight makes him uncomfortable. This morning, we added to his discomfort by cheering for him loudly, the good batch mates that we were.

Med Onco 2020

My batch mates! (Thanks to Fred for the photo).


After clinic, we had a late lunch at a Chinese restaurant. (Save for Mark Ando, who dropped by the clinic, I didn't see any first year fellow today; they were too busy with their classes for the master's degree.) Karen, who is pregnant with her second child, discovered the spring roll with tofu, devoured a bowl of hot noodles, plus two servings of siomai, and many more. I love eating with pregnant people.

Med Onco 2020

I was so grateful to have had lunch with Roger, who rarely says yes to our invitations. You see, he has other priorities.

Med Onco 2020

Karen and Roger, who both hail from Quezon City and who dream of sharing a group practice in the future (99% Roger's, 1% Karen's), shared a light moment. After all these years, Roger still doesn't know Kmomsh's (we call her that, really) birthday.

Med Onco 2020

Rich, who has to attend to a thousand different things but who makes it looks so easy, took a phone call for an administrative matter.

Med Onco 2020

The call didn't seem to bother him.  What preoccupied him was choosing which dumpling to get. "Get what isn't served at home," I told him. He settled for a siomai, a beancurd roll, a dumpling that looked like samosa garnished with wasabi—it didn't really matter what he ate; he really just came for the chili sauce, which he lathered all his food with. "Matamis at maanghang‚ gusto ko 'yan," he said. Ni hao, Rich!

Med Onco 2020

Med Onco 2020

Roger and Rich are the perfect travel companions for each other. Rich isn't bothered by Roger's pace; Roger loves the company. Roger seems pressured when he's with us—Fred, Kmomsh, and myself, who can proceed with our own lives like clockwork. We also don't have much patience for waiting.

Med Onco 2020

And where was Fred? Still at the clinic. He didn't get the memo apparently. Next time, Freddie.

Even my iPhone's photo app is getting sentimental. It generated the captions for these albums. A few more weeks, and we're done.

Med Onco 2020



I remember my good friend and brother, Mike Tan, who took us walking around this scenic, sleepy, picturesque neighborhood.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Friday, February 7, 2020

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Gratitude, even in the death

I am often greeted by messages like this, like this SMS I received this morning: an update of a death, followed by a message of gratitude. My patient has died of complications from metastatic lung cancer.

In my quiet time today, I read Job 3, where he wished he hadn't been born, if only to avoid the suffering in this world. The personal burning question of pain and suffering remains, but more and more I am convinced that unless I believe in a sovereign God who upholds the universe with his Word, who allows both bad and good things to happen, whose ways are not my ways, I have no choice but to despair. But the reality of God, who loves me and gave himself up for me, is the greatest comfort.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Sunday, February 2, 2020


Colophon: #pilotiroshizuku, #kaweco 70s Old Soul (broad). Dr. @danesacdalan reflects on his memories of fellowship training. This appears in page 20 of Bulawan: Interviews with Filipino Medical Oncologists, edited by Drs. Maria Belen Tamayo, Noel E. Pinoy, and @jatabula.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

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Closed café, Leura, New South Wales, Australia


This was taken after a half-day hike in Blue Mountains, Katoomba, New South Wales. Mike Tan took us to Leura, the neighboring town, which looked like the suburbia in The Good Witch, a favorite feel-good Netflix series. We walked around the neighborhood. Many houses looked empty.

In other news: my cousin Kring and her husband JR joined us (Manong and me) for lunch and coffee today. I love how simple the pizza in Cibo, EDSA Shangri-La, tasted—there was a touch of elegance to it. Wildflour at Podium was where we had dessert and coffee. Today was the first time I tasted tonic espresso—literally, single-shot espresso diluted in tonic water. It was refreshing. I convinced Kring, already the mother of two charming girls, to try it, and she squirmed in disgust. She told JR the story of the afternoon when I scrubbed sili on her nose after convincing her that it would be fun. Ah, I've missed hanging out with Kring, my favorite childhood playmate.

Kring visits
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