Tuesday, March 24, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 12

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Getting my dose of morning sunshine as I rewrite an excerpt from "Peril," one of the Puritan prayers in the Valley of Vision. (For the curious, the pen is a Platinum 3776, inked with Diamine Chrome. Notebook is a Victoria insert, which fits snugly in a Midori Traveler's Notebook.)

I imagine that poems and stories will be written about this episode in our lives. As more and more people die in Italy and elsewhere in the world, including these shores, people are attempting to make sense of what's going on. This is the value of words, of literature.

I suppose Dr. Raul Jara was fond of poems: he read one of his during the inauguration of the garden in front of Ward 3, what used to be old patch of land that surrounded the Gastrointestinal Clinic. He was my college professor, one of the foremost cardiologists in the Philippines. He passed away. I never had the chance to be under his General Medicine service, but I had several opportunities to sit in hemodynamic conferences in Cardio on the sixth floor. The fellows would shake in terror when they discussed their echocardiographic findings with him: he had a stern, academic, no-nonsense presence. During lunch, they would laugh together as if nothing happened. He was a great mentor, a giant of a man young doctors have looked up to.


Joti Tabula penned a poem to remember the death of the young cardiology trainee.

MARSO 21: ARAW NG TULA
—para sa pumanaw na batang-bata pang manggagamot sa Filipinas sa panahon ng pandemiko ng coronavirus

Pinakamalungkot na buwan itong Marso.
Umaambon ng tula sa buong daigdig
Ngunit hindi ko mapanghawakan
Ng lakas at pananampalataya ang salita.
Bakit kailangang mauna ang mahal na anak
Na manggagamot na magbitiw sa mundo
Ng hulíng hininga at hindi akong ina
Na nagluwal sa kaniya? Napairi muli
Ako sa hilab ng pagdadalamhati.
Nagluluksa ang aking mga súso at matris
At walang mapagpahingahan ang aking isip.
Búkas wala nang ipagtitimpla ng kape
At wala nang ipagsasangag nang alas-siyete.
Nakakandado ang pinto ng klinika
At blangko’t walang pirma ang mga reseta.
Nakapahinga ang panukat ng presyon
At mabibingi ang istetoskop maghapon.
At ako? Nakatitig sa palábang buwang
Nakalambitin sa bukang-liwayway.
Naroroon ang aking pangungulila.
Hindi ako handang malasahan ang Marso,
Ang magkahalong luha ko
At berso ng mga makatang estranghero,
Ang talinghaga ng pagiging ina ng manggagamot,
Ang ligamgam ng alat-tamis ng sanlitrong dekstros

I enjoy reading Sir Joti's writing (I can't shake off the "Sir"--he was my in senior in internal medicine). If I could only write well in Filipino, a language so rich, romantic, and heartwarming! My favorite is PAG-ALAALA KAY PAPA (20 MAR 1956 – 3 MAR 1997). Here he relishes vague memory of his father. Without our memories, who are we, anyway?

Madalas at lalong-lalo na ngayong nása Burnham Park muli at tigulang na, pílit kong inaalala ang yapos ng aking ama at ang hawakan ng aming mga kamay nang muling nagkita sa parke. Gayumpaman, wala akong maalala. Musmos pa ngang marahil ang aking gunita.

Memory, death, and poetry today. The pandemic has brought us back to basics.

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