Thursday, April 30, 2020

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 48

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Clasped hands at the MRT.

Each morning, before I get up, I transition with a few minutes of silent prayer. Sometimes, when the world's cares are too heavy to bear, I am unable to utter words—just painful groanings or lonely sighs. And it's amazing how Jesus, the Great High Priest, knows exactly what I'm going through. He intercedes for me; He knows what I will ask of Him before I even come to Him. Such is the comfort of God's children. In moments when I don't know what to pray for, I turn to the Psalms, or to the Valley of Vision, or to prayers of those who have finished the race of faith. I also turn to music.

Your Will Be Done is at a song that encapsulates a believer's trust in the Lord in these troubled times. Please listen to it.



Words and music by
Jonny Robinson and Rich Thompson
CCLI no. 7149566

Your will be done, my God and Father
As in heaven, so on earth
My heart is drawn to self-exalting
Help me seek Your kingdom first
As Jesus walked, so I shall walk
Held by Your same unchanging love
Be still my soul, O lift your voice and pray:
‘Father, not my will but Yours be done.’

How in that Garden he persisted
I may never fully know
The fearful weight of true obedience
It was held by him alone
What wondrous faith, to bear that cross!
To bear my sin, what wondrous love!
My hope was sure, when there my Saviour prayed:
‘Father, not my will but Yours be done.’

When I am lost, when I am broken
In the night of fear and doubt
Still I will trust in my good Father
Yes, to one great King I bow!
As Jesus rose, so I shall rise
In ransomed glory at the throne
My heart restored
With all your saints I sing:
‘Father, not my will but Yours be done!’

As we go forth, our God and Father
Lead us daily in the fight
That all the world might see Your glory
And Your Name be lifted high
And in this Name we overcome
For You shall see us safely home
Now as your church, we lift our voice and pray:
‘Father, not my will but Yours be done!’

CityAlight also has a letter, which is so beautiful and scriptural.

Dear World,

We write to you from the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. We are at a loss in so many ways, unsure of what to do, unsure of what to say, and unsure of what the future holds.

But there is a prayer, however, which can be prayed when our own voices fail us. It is a prayer that our Lord Jesus prayed as his own world seemed to be falling apart – an innocent man praying alone in the garden, abandoned by his friends, betrayed by those he trusted, and awaiting his death.

Even at his lowest point, Jesus was able to pray, ‘Father not my will, but yours be done’, because he knew that, in the chaos, his Father loved him and that his Father’s will was always good. If there was any plan that Jesus trusted in that dreadful hour, it was his Father’s.

We offer this simple song, simply played, in the midst of this present trial, so that you might be able to pray these words along with our Saviour. There is a God who is still ruling on the throne, and He is our good and loving Father. If there is anything in which you can put your trust at this uncertain time, let it be the will of your loving Father.

Church, in the chaos – in bedrooms, living rooms, hospital rooms, and virtual rooms – let us lift our voices in prayer and sing, ‘Father, not my will but Yours be done!’

Yours in love and solidarity,

CityAlight

And let me quote this here again, to pacify my worries and ease my anxieties.

There is a God who is still ruling on the throne, and He is our good and loving Father. If there is anything in which you can put your trust at this uncertain time, let it be the will of your loving Father.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 47

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I took this photo a year ago. So much has changed, even in the small details of life. My mother, who has never been to the grocery store for years (buying groceries for the household was Tatay's favorite activity, his excuse to chat and see people, the people-person that he was), was with Sean, my younger brother, at SM Gen San. This has been their bonding activity of sorts, something they do after church on Sundays. I'm grateful to have brothers who know their way around grocery stores and market places. They have come to terms with the fact that I almost always pick the first item I lay my hands on.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Journal of a Lockdown No. 46

I'm not the best person to talk about pen hygiene. I don't follow all the rules. As long as I drain enough old ink and put in the new one, I'm good. This isn't the way to go. Fountain pens, designed to last a long time, need some tender-loving care, a ritual that includes regular rinsing with water and careful and intensive removal of old ink residues during exchanges.

Whenever I get the chance to go home, I bring some pens with me so that Sean, my kid brother, who has turned into a fountain pen enthusiast a few years back, can clean them. I get the usual reprimand from him—that if I'm not too careful, the ink will clog in the piston filling mechanism; that I'm careless with things. Sean resembles my father in this fascination for working with his hands and tinkering with objects, tearing things apart and putting them together. But Sean gives my pens their holidays in the spa anyway. He is my walking fountain pen hospital.

Fountain pens are things I play with. I scribble non-sense notes, figures, and lines on random sheets of paper as I try out new inks. It's a great way to spend the time. Occasionally I clean the pens, which can be cathartic and relaxing.

Let me show you how I do it, but I'll begin with a story.

I decided to include my Kaweco 70's Soul in my pen rotation this month. I got it from Singapore, in a store called Fook Hing inside the Bras Basah Complex. I remember that I was with Fred, who was dying to buy a Sailor from another store that had closed down temporarily, much to his dismay. I had never seen him so disappointed. It was nearing closing time but we were so resolved not to get back to the hotel without buying any writing material. We ran and just arrived on time. Then I saw this thing of beauty. I had enough money with me. I loved how then pen fit in my hand.

Kaweco

I did not buy a converter. For this pen, I have used the disposable Parker cartridge (the size is compatible), replacing the ink using a 2-cc syringe. My mentor, Dr. Arik Strebel, whose handwriting is a beauty to behold in the charts (he uses a broad nib), also uses syringes for ink refills. This technique is less prone to mess. I like doing it because it marries my love and medicine with fountain pens.

My pen cleaning kit looks like this: a tissue paper (I reuse them because I love how the mixed colors look like paintings), a syringe, and clean, running water.

Kaweco

I remove the disposable cartridge, soak it in water, and remove the residual ink. I dab it with tissue paper. I aspirate 1-2 mL from the ink bottle (I'm using Diamine Oxblood, one of my favorite red inks) and introduce the amount to the empty cartridge.

Kaweco

I replace the cartridge back to the fountain pen. Voilá.

Kaweco, re-inked with Diamine Oxblood

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Journal of a Lockdown No. 45

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Father, mother, and kids were seated. The MRT was not packed, to my surprise. The kids, with colorful shoes, were noisy and asked many questions. It was probably their first time to ride the train. Their mother told them to be quiet. It was as normal as any Filipino family portrait can get. I took the photo months ago on my way home from work, when public transportation was still operational. I wonder how they're doing now.

Because we're in the tail end of April, the heat has gotten more intense, especially in the afternoons. I'm certain there are worse places. At least our place gets the morning sun. In the afternoons, it's considerably cooler, and the breeze enters the living quarters when we open our windows. After lunch, we stay in the balcony to get some reading or work done. In between these rituals, we get short naps, only to awaken at around four for the afternoon coffee (or tea, if our stomachs get too acidic). At five, we head back to the balcony and join the residents in clapping and cheering for frontline workers, a ritual that has been going on for weeks now. As far as I know, it's the way people in our neighborhood realize the day is ending, the brief moments when we can see, apart from the unit owners who exercise religiously, who live inside those walls.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Friday, April 24, 2020

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Journal of a Lockdown No. 42

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Thursday Bible studies. Photo taken last year.

Kuya Vance talks over Zoom and expounds on various points on why we should pray. The second reason is "to have fellowship with God," quoting Psalms 42 and 63, passages where King David longs for the presence of God.

My notes:

Lockdown

To glorify God. 
To have fellowship with God. 
To ask for our needs.
To ask for wisdom. 

Lockdown

To ask for deliverance.
To ask for freedom from fear and worry.
To express gratefulness for past blessings.
To confess sins, ask for forgiveness and freedom from guilt of past sins.
To ask for salvation of the lost.
To ask for spiritual growth. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 41

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The longest haircut I've had.

I turn 33 today. I never expected to spend my birthday in a lockdown, but here I am: still the same old me but not quite. Just a year older, and, I like to think, hopefully wiser. Clearly a work in progress, with so many rough edges, but living, as it were, by grace upon grace. Every breath, in this period of death, suffering and uncertainty, bears testament to God's undeserved lovingkindness. And I rejoice.

I had a bit of trouble sleeping last night as I thought of Jesus' earthly ministry. He was 33 years old when He was crucified, later to rise again and reign forevermore. He was around my age when He was mocked by the religious leaders, when His hands were pierced with nails, when His head was crowned with thorns. He did not have to. Yet He chose to.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5
My Lord and Redeemer has been foremost in my thoughts. Why did He have "to save a wretch like me," as John Newton penned in Amazing Grace? Why did He even bother to look at me, and think of me, and, without hesitation, died for my sins so I could be adopted into His Father's household? I burst with gladness and joy, with a peace that transcends all understanding, at these recollections.

There are days when I wonder what I else I could have done in this life—unfulfilled dreams, ambitions that become unreachable with each year, unchecked items in my overall action plan. All things work for our good, for my good (Romans 8:28)—including the things that God gives, removes, and withholds. Thomas Watson's words are a loving rebuke to me.
We may hold to the world as posy in our hand, but it must not lie too near our heart. We may use it as an inn where we take a meal, but it must not be our home.
So I am weaned from wordliness and discontent. My eyes look upward. Because the I am the Lord's and He is mine, what else—truly, what else—can I ask for?
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25–26)
Thank you for your greetings and prayers. They have meant a lot to me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 40

Lockdown walk to coffee shop

Running low on coffee, I message the neighborhood café and ask if they deliver coffee beans. The kind lady, Agnes, tells me they do. She directs me to thevault.ph for the selection. Overwhelmed with the choices, I ask her what she recommends.

"Try the The Hippie," she says. I arrange for a pick up instead of paying an additional Php 150 for delivery. The store is five minutes away by walking. Pre-lockdown, I used to hang out there after work—a great place to get some writing and reading done when it wasn't crowded. She tells me the ground beans will be ready for pick up after an hour.

With the quarantine pass, I walk towards the café. "Ay, si Dok," says the barista, who recognizes me despite my mask and cap. The store is technically open, but I'm not allowed inside. I write my orders on a piece of paper outside; the sekyú brings it to the staff. I tell them I'm only picking up the beans. I'm directed to the green gate at the back street. I'm happy the staff is okay. I suppose the cats are, too, although I don't see them yawning anywhere. I can't imagine the economic slump that businesses face—The Giving Café, particularly, whose business operates as a social enterprise program.

The coffee comes in a box. The packaging features frames I wear.

Lockdown walk to coffee shop

I take the longer route as I head home. It's the closest thing I get to an exercise.

I run into people carrying grocery bags—their weekly supply.

Lockdown walk to coffee shop

This photo is interesting for a few reasons. It seems to tell me to watch some more shows on Netflix. The man looks like my friend Rey T whose son, by the way, really looks like him.

Lockdown walk to coffee shop

The entrance to the hotel has red ribbons, in support of frontline workers. Outside the poster invites people to its unlimited breakfast and lunch buffets. This business, too, must be in a slump.

Lockdown walk to coffee shop

The streets are quiet.

Lockdown walk to coffee shop

And I am home. This is the fortieth entry since I have begun this short-term journal. Trips like this—short-term excursions that don't last more than an hour—are the closest I have to travel. It's still such a blessing from the Lord to have a home to spend time in, coffee beans to brew, and a day to enjoy. I hope you're well.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Journal of a Lockdown No. 39

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I took this photo sometime in January, when I had no idea that the world would come to this. I mean—who knew? What was I thinking then? Perhaps, around this time, after I had finished fellowship training, I would be at home in Marbel, reviewing for the board exams scheduled in July, working part time in a hospital or a chemo unit. In between review sessions, I would swim at the SMRAA pools, spend the afternoon weekend at Sean's dental clinic, and maybe take driving lessons.

On that hot January day, I took the train from the hospital to Central Station. It was the fastest route, and I only had a short window to claim my new 10-year passport. There were no people in masks. I did not get paranoid when I stood beside someone who coughed. I needed a new passport for my trip to India, which pushed through in February, and to Japan, which never materialized. The DFA at SM Manila was efficient, thorough, polite: I felt, for the first time, that I was not dealing with the government.

Meanwhile, the board exam has been cancelled indefinitely. Stuck at home, I have finished books and series and films. When the Lockdown had gun, I was still itching to get out. I like to believe I have come to accept this new normal, and the closest thing to my trips outdoors is the weekly trip to the grocery or wet markets.

In the absence of pollution, Metro Manila hides, in unexpected corners, indications of her past beauty.  I have old photos to remind me of that fact.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 38

Sunday worship in front of my laptop. The preaching is entitled "Moorings of Grace." I sing along, pray with, and listen to Pastor Bob, imagining I'm in seated in church. Not being able to see my church family, I pray that the pandemic will soon be over.

Manong and I have breakfast and coffee. I read All Things for Good by Thomas Watson, as recommended by Tim Challies, in the morning. It is a balm to the soul. I have derived much blessing and encouragement from manuscripts of old. I love the Puritans. This is the first book of Thomas Watson I have ever read. Why have I only discovered him now? He writes beautifully. His words, derived from and formed by rigorous study of God's counsel in Scripture, are balms to my personal worries and pains.

Take some time off social media and read his book (free PDF from Monergism). I have highlights in most pages in my Kindle.

I'm sharing some of them for your encouragement.

He who loves God and is called according to His purpose, may rest assured that every thing in the world shall be for his good. This is a Christian's cordial, which may warm him—make him like Jonathan who, when he had tasted the honey at the end of the rod, "his eyes were enlightened" (I Sam xiv. 27). Why should a Christian destroy himself? Why should he kill himself with care, when all things shall sweetly concur, yea, conspire for his good? The rest of the text is this. All the various dealings of God with His children, do by a special providence turn to their good. "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such keep his covenant (Psalm xxv. 10). If every path has mercy in it, then it works for good."


How is a weak Christian able, not only to endure affliction, but to rejoice in it? He is upheld by the arms of the Almighty.


The goodness of God is a spiritual sunbeam to melt the heart into tears. Oh, says the soul, has God been so good to me? Has He reprieved me so long from hell, and shall I grieve His Spirit any more? Shall I sin against goodness?


The goodness of God works for good, as it ushers in all blessings. The favors we receive, are the silver streams which flow from the fountain of God's goodness.


Image from Wikipedia 

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Journal of a Lockdown No. 37

Lcokdown

Tim Challies asked: God promises to work all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. This includes even, and perhaps especially, the difficult things. What are some of the surprising ways you have witnessed or experienced God’s goodness in this difficult time?


I can think of many things, but mainly these:

1. God's protection towards my friends and colleagues in the hospital.
2. Opportunities to speak of God and His promises to my colleagues and patients.
3. Constant provisions of food, shelter, and clothing.
4. More time for leisure and study.

Friday, April 17, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 36



Since Aylmer, whom we fondly call Merck, told me that everything tastes great when dipped in hot coffee, I have taken on the habit. Early this morning I walked to the nearest bakery that sells the best Spanish bread in the area. This bread is also my Manong's favorite, but we have discovered that it tastes even better if it is dipped in a hot Barako blend. Its sweetness is neutralized by the coffee's bitterness. I haven't gone as far as soaking rice in coffee soup, which Aylmer frequently does. Who knows? Maybe someday I will.


* * *

I write about buying bread or walking in the neighborhood or getting fresh vegetables as if these things were special. The truth is that I look forward to days when I get to do them. Doing the groceries, replenishing the household supplies, has become the highlight of my week. Early in the morning, I don a mask and bring the SM grocery bags, careful to be at least one meter away from the nearest person in the elevator and pretty much elsewhere. I volunteer to do this, even if I'm not good at it. Manong gives me a checklist, which I follow; otherwise, I'll just grab whatever is nearest. Kangkong -- check. Rice -- check. Fish -- check. Fruit juice -- check. Worcestershire sauce -- I couldn't find it.  I asked the kind Ate at the grocery where it was; after pronouncing it in many different ways (the correct way: WORS-ter-shir), she still didn't get me. I spelled it out for her, which further confused her. "Sauce ba 'yan, Sir? Doon po ang mga sauce." I gave her my profuse thanks for her patience and wished her well. "Ingat po kayo, Sir."

If you are prone to being intentionally rude to the staff in the grocery, do a heart check. Your attitude reveals so much of what is in your heart.

Pen is a TWSBI Eco Rosegold inked with Diamine Oxblood mixed with Waterman Black. Paper is a Best Buy A4 bond paper.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 33

Lockdown Ephesians 3:20-21

The breeze is cool outside. The clouds are darkening. It might rain this afternoon. I never would have imagined a month ago that I would have time to even look at the clouds after a hearty homecooked meal. My plans are on hold, and I live daily. I remember Paul's letter to the Ephesians: "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think...." It is my meditation. God is in control.

The thought of an afternoon nap while it's raining outside thrills me. I'll get ready for bed now.

* * *

So happy I got to watch Whisper of the Heart today, a story of childhood love and ambition. The Japanese landscapes and cityscapes are beautiful; if not for the Covid-19 pandemic, I should've gone to Japan for a two-week trip last March. But there were more important things to do--i.e., staying at home

* * *

Months ago I gave Nanay my old new iPhone, and she has since discovered the joy of FaceTime. She used to be indifferent to technology, but she can navigate FaceTime (she now clicks the videocam icon, instead of the phone icon, a lesson that took her months to master), Viber (she video-calls her friends Auntie Inday and Mimi intermittently), YouTube (she watches documentaries on flowers and gardens). Valuing her privacy, she refuses to have a Facebook account.

My mother doesn't care much for phone conversations with her children. We tell her that some mothers always want to hear their children's voices. "Don't you miss us at all?" we would ask; her answer would be a standard "Of course!" But she would abruptly end our calls if her amigas (Auntie Cecil or Jojo or church friends) arrive for afternoon chitchats or if some new show on Netflix or YouTube takes her fancy. She was never a fan of sentimentality. We torture her by being sentimental. Our mother fascinates us to no end.

During afternoons, Manong and I would check up on her. Yesterday, she couldn't be bothered: she was watching Parasite with Sean. (Nanay is a film lover; her friends in dental school would tell stories of how she watched almost all films in cinema during her break time. Her allowance was spent largely on moviehouses. Now it's Netflix or whatever Sean manages to download.)

 I called her today and she said she loved the film but she felt sorry for the rich couple, calling them "good people." She also loved the house in the film.

"Nay, are you sure we don't have a secret basement at home?" I asked, which gave her fits of laughter.

Tonight, she and Sean will be watching 1917. She is partial to war films, love stories, Turkish dramas, Korean soaps, anything with Vilma Santos on, but she has no patience for cartoons and sci-fi, calling them "futuristic." She also loved Game of Thrones, The Handmaid's Tale, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy--so she doesn't hate all fantasy, after all.

When I call again tomorrow, I'm sure she'll ask me what I think of "When Heroes Fly," an Israeli drama series she has been telling me to watch. I will tell her the series seems too heavy, and that I only watch feel-good films these days. My logic escapes her. She insists I watch it anyway. "It's really good--you should watch it!" she would say.

* * *

Lockdown

Coffee and tonic water, my afternoon drink today. So refreshing.

Monday, April 13, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 32

Coffee and tonic water

I'm past the 30-day count for the Journal of a Lockdown, an idea inspired by Jessica Zafra, one of my favorite Filipino writers in English. Since our home confinements, the world has undergone massive changes, but there are reasons to celebrate. I'm still alive, and if you have the time to read this, I suppose that you are, too. A friend from church, diagnosed to have severe Covid-19 infection, is now extubated. My family is safe. Thank you for asking. I pray that you are well.

From a public health standpoint, we have increased the number of people who've been tested, clinical trails to search for cure are under way, social distancing measures are being implemented, and, although still the exception rather than the rule, there are now emerging trends that indicate the eventual flattening of the curve in some parts of the world.

What I initially thought was going to be a short-term blog project will likely become a semi-permanent fixture. I'm running out of things to say about the coronavirus and have begun to talk about myself. What topic could be more boring? But I carry on. Setting aside a few minutes a day to write, throwing my thoughts out into the void, has been therapeutic for me. I encourage you to start blogging, or resume the habit, if you dabbled with Blogspot and Wordpress URLs in the past. Your writing doesn't have to be perfect, just truthful.

Other than the New York Times news briefings that are emailed to me each morning and the blogs I subscribe to, I don't know much else. This is a small price, and yet a bigger reward, for social media distancing, a survival strategy to keep the fake news away, and the anger and frustration it can lead to. I have felt so much better.

After my refreshing afternoon nap, I sat in the small balcony to spend the afternoon. I watched some more episodes of Parks and Recreation as I sipped my concoction of espresso and sparkling tonic water, inspired largely by this recipe. At five o'clock, I heard clapping and shouting in my neighborhood—a show of gratitude to health-care workers and people in the front lines.

These days I am so easily moved.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 31

Man with child
Father and son, Zambales, Luzon, 2019

Easter Sunday worship services remind me of gatherings with other local churches as a young boy in Marbel, just as we beheld the sunrise. Like many friends in Sunday school, I waited for the preaching to be over so I could have pan de sal served with a hot cup of instant Milo, the quintessential breakfast. But the meaning of Easter has changed as I grew older, as most concepts often do. I uphold this truth—this sweet and profound doctrine—as man whose life has been supernaturally turned upside down, his soul regenerated into newness of life.

So Easter is a big deal in evangelical Christianity. It does not have the illustrious and extravagant pageantry of Roman Catholic celebrations, but it is special. In my church, the pastor would say, "Christ in risen," and the congregation would respond, "Christ is risen, indeed." What Easter Sunday represents is the basis for all that I believe in: God's holiness, my depravity and inability to save myself, God's unconditional love demonstrated by Jesus dying for my sins, trusting in Jesus alone for my salvation through faith alone (and not my works), and the promise of adoption into God's fold, the certainty of eternal life and communion with the Triune God. All of these hang on Jesus' resurrection.

The apostle Paul could not have minced words when he wrote:

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. — 1 Corinthians 15:14

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. — 1 Corinthians 15:17-19

Without Jesus coming out of the grave and effectively conquering death, Christianity may as well be like the other world religions or philosophies—centered on man trying to improve himself, approaching and appeasing a deity or multiple gods through sacrifices or good deeds, or performing rituals to achieve some other superior spiritual and mental state.

So Easter is a celebration. And I celebrate with God's people in my quiet corner of this small city, in front of a computer monitor. This separation is temporary, just as this sorrow-ridden pilgrimage on earth is. Yet the day will come when we will be reunited—believers and saints of old, family and friends who had passed on ahead, and people from every nation and every tongue—to sing of God's goodness and mercy, so tender and personal that it has brought forth life to our souls. But even in our separation, I celebrate with the household of faith the victory through Jesus' death and resurrection.

Join me as I sing one of my favorite songs that we sing in church, See What a Morning, by Keith and Kristyn Ketty.



See, what a morning, gloriously bright,
With the dawning of hope in Jerusalem;
Folded the grave-clothes, tomb filled with light,
As the angels announce, “Christ is risen!”
See God’s salvation plan,
Wrought in love, borne in pain, paid in sacrifice,
Fulfilled in Christ, the Man,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!

See Mary weeping, “Where is He laid?”
As in sorrow she turns from the empty tomb;
Hears a voice speaking, calling her name;
It’s the Master, the Lord raised to life again!
The voice that spans the years,
Speaking life, stirring hope, bringing peace to us,
Will sound till He appears,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!

One with the Father, Ancient of Days,
Through the Spirit who clothes faith with certainty.
Honor and blessing, glory and praise
To the King crowned with pow’r and authority!
And we are raised with Him,
Death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered;
And we shall reign with Him,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!

Christ is risen. Christ is risen, indeed!

Saturday, April 11, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 30

Aliwagwag Falls
Aliwagwag Falls, Davao Oriental, taken by mother on her trip with church friends, 2019. The scene roughly looked like the scene in the Bridge on the River Kwai. 

In "Eagleton" (Season 3, Episode 12 of Parks and Recreation), Leslie Knope (played by the lovely Amy Pohler) surprises her boss Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) with a private viewing of the Bridge of the River Kwai. It is one of the three films that Ron has seen in his life, as will later be revealed in Season 5, Episode 13 (I am still in Season 3).



Inspired by Ron, who has become one of my favorite TV characters of all time, I watched The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). It is beautiful and tragic. It is about leadership, honor, and pride of country. It ends with the words, "Madness, madness...", an eloquent commentary on war uttered by the military doctor who saw the wooden bridge destroyed with the dead bodies of British, Japanese, and American soldiers on the river bed.

Friday, April 10, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 29

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Brewed coffee at Midtown Diner, along Padre Faura corner Bocobo Streets, Ermita, Manila. I miss Kuya Ruel, Ate Angel, and the staff there.

I often think of the hours I whiled away in cafés. When sufficiently quiet, they are good places to think, pray, and read--even to get some writing done. These days I subsist on kapeng barako gifted to me by a patient. Whenever I make a fresh serving a few minutes after waking up, I remember the faces I met on the opposite side of the consultation room. My work never really leaves me; it hovers around me like a perpetual bittersweet reality. The ritual is like a silent meditation. The coffee, ground finely, has a gritty and powdery texture. I scoop portions of it using a plastic spoon my brother otherwise uses for baking. I use a stovetop espresso. It is also called a moka pot, a term I refrain from using due its association with an internet channel synonymous with fake news--let us not go there, I want to enjoy this cup.

Espresso is, for me, the best way to savor the hints and flavors of coffee. I don't claim to be an expert, but after years into the habit, I can at least tell whether a certain brew is acidic, earthy, and so on--and aren't these adjectives about the soil that, when confidently applied in a sentence, can give the subtle air of expertise? The espresso is not the most popular way to drink it, even among my friends, but it is the most pretentious. It took me a while to appreciate that bitterness is also a flavor.

"Double-shot espresso, please," I would tell the lady at the counter.

"Maliit po 'yan, Sir, ha," she would say.

"Okay lang po." I would appreciate her concern. I imagine that previous customers had ordered espressos served in demitasses and complained that it was not worth 100-plus pesos.

Most of the time I can't tolerate milk or sugar in my coffee, but there are days when I fall into the sugary trap of the Filipino tastebuds. But, hey, to each his own.

My friend, Racquel, adds a tinge of milk and sugar--most of my friends are like her. Fred and Mervyn, too. A little sugar and a sprinkling of milk to counter the bitterness. Paul B. ovewhelms the coffee flavor with milk and cream, much like how Kris Aquino likes hers (yes, I follow her Instagram): I don't know how Paul B. will appreciate the simile. And then there are black coffee drinkers in my circle: LH (Harold, his actual name, but it's a long story), who likes a hot americano; my brothers, who also like americano and feel strongly about Kulaman coffee sourced from Sean's patient who has a coffee farm in Sultan Kudarat;  Luther, who is now into espressos after his trip to Milan. He sufficiently warned me not to order capuccinos during lunchtime; otherwise the Italians would give me incredulous looks. I heeded his advice.

During my ER posts as a second-year resident, I subsisted on instant coffee, iced, from the ER Kiosk worth Php 15; it was served in transparent plastic cups. I can't imagine the number of lives Kopiko Brown helped us save because of the artificial sustenance we derived from each sachet. Those were simpler, safer times.

What's your coffee story?

Thursday, April 9, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 28

Lcokdown
"Break agad? 'Wag, SPACE muna." Signage at the Boni MRT, closed since the Lockdown.

Russell Moore's Reading in Exile has been a joy to watch during the lockdown. In a series of continuing video diaries, Pastor Russell, author, theologian, and pastor, talks about the books he likes. Included in this list is Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, a novel that has created a lasting impact in his life. In a podcast published in 2018, Pastor Russell interviews Miss Robinson.

If you've been reading this blog long enough, you probably already know that I love Marilynne Robinson. I don't always agree with her theology, but I'm such a fan of her writing (always have been--no one else writes quite like her) that I named my Kindle "John Ames," after the reverend in Gilead. Having read most of her published work, including all her novels and most of her essay collection, I have discovered that she loves John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and the Puritans: people so generally misunderstood that they are automatically thought of as uptight, too alt-right, and rigid. A careful reading of their works and lives reveals that they are the most joyful of people.

You're still thinking of things to do? Tim Challies writes that this is the best time to start a blog.

In other news, my media/pop culture consumption includes La Casa De Papel (Money Heist) and
Parks and Recreation, Season 1. And the stories by John Updike and Butch Dalisay. Pastor Russell said he loved Augustine's City of God. I'm thinking of embarking on a new reading-the-Christian classics project.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 27

Moon on Lockdown

From the balcony, I gaze at the moon. It is bright and round, like a light bulb in my arm's grasp. As a kid growing up, I used to talk to the moon and whisper my wishes to it. Now it is an object of fascination, a fact I normally ignore until it appears in this way.

I have, to be honest, nothing much to write about. Tethered to my room, I've had three cups of coffee, one cup of tea, a glass of fruit juice, and three square meals. I don't have fever, headache, or diarrhea. These are basic yet important things: I feel well. My family members do, too. I'm grateful to the Lord for another day He has given, even if I had spent all of it at home.

It might not interest you to know that after a week, I've finally passed Level 16 of Alto's Adventure, having executed the triple backflip in that sharp slope. The trick, I now realize, is to grow the scarf so that my character's jumps are higher and flips are swifter when the wooden ramp appears. I'm nowhere near as good as this guy, but this is how the triple backflip works.



To get Level 20, where I am presently, I will need to do two triple backflips. It might take me a month.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 26

Lockdown
Strict reminders to wear the appropriate PPEs in various areas of the Philippine General Hospital.

1917 is one of the best films I've seen. It resonated with me in a way because I kept hearing "frontlines" in the dialogue, and what I thought of were my friends and colleagues in the proverbial war against COVID-19. Here's an excerpt of an email I wrote to a friend:

The most poignant scenes in the film include the banter between Tom Blake and Will Schofield—Tom tells the story of a man whose oily ear was bitten by a rat; he talks to Will about cherry-picking; in his last breath, he engages in conversation. I suppose good stories form the foundation of lasting friendships.

Another scene that moved me was Will inside the truck. The men surrounding him were laughing, as if they did not have any care in this world and that death was at bay. The scene was shot in a way that Will seemed to have been swallowed by the noise—but there he was, nursing his grief in silence, reeling from the death of his friend. There was comfort in isolation, but the proximity of human friendships eventually made the pain easier to bear.

I’d read previously that the filmmakers were intent on creating the illusion that the movie was filmed in one take, with no edits in between. I never really understood what that meant until now—in watching the film, I felt that it was I who held the camera. Or that I played the computer game, Counterstrike (which I was never good at). I held my breath when Will jumped over the waterfalls and floated in a river where the petals floated with the corpses.

And then he had arrived. Will saw a group of men listening to a bard singing “Wayfaring Stranger.”


“I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger
Traveling through this world below
There is no sickness, no toil, nor danger
In that bright land to which I go”

Isn’t this the fact of life—that we are but pilgrims in this dark world? That moved me, too.

* * *

The Lockdown is extended to the end of April. I don't know what to feel exactly, since the science behind this is sound. As with everyone else I have a nagging desire for things to be normal.

Monday, April 6, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 25

Untitled
Old house-turned-restaurant in Quezon City that I had stumbled upon while walking alone last year. I miss walking around. 

I'm running out of things to write about but intend to keep writing daily for the whole duration of the Lockdown which, I understand, will likely be extended. The evidence seems to point to that end: more time apart will lead to a better flattening of the curve. I'm not sure what it's doing to my curves, on a personal level. When I gain weight (and I've been snacking in between meals to pass time, since my brother loves the Spanish bread from the neighborhood panaderia), the first manifestation is an increased abdominal girth. I can feel my flabs now.

I had some technical writing done, watched a few episodes of Money Heist (or "La Casa De Papel," its Spanish title, which my friend Mervyn has been egging me to watch since our last Bangkok trip), and a restful afternoon nap that brought me to a kind of floating consciousness when I woke up. Sleep has been catching up on me (or I have been catching up on sleep--whatever! I love it, either way, as long as I'm caught), as if my body is eagerly compensating for the lack of sleep of years past.

I've effectively, but not completely, detached myself from social media. If I need to know something, my friends will tell me about it or it will be the topic of discussion of my chat groups. I get my dose of verified news from legitimate media sources. I subscribe to the New York Times Morning Briefing newsletter and to Jason Kottke's Noticing for curated news articles and other miscellaneous items. I sometimes post on Twitter but mostly assume the role of a quiet lurker. I check my feed once in a while, but I don't stay there for long. It has become like Facebook: an angry, angsty place full of people with opinions on every issue. But that's Freedom of Speech for you, the hallmark of a healthy democracy. Everyone has a right to self-expression: yes, even student writers for their school papers. That also means I have the right to step away.

My advice to people in general is that they start a blog if they need to express themselves more fully. Or write in a notebook. I do both. Writing allows me to process my thoughts more fully. During my quiet times, I write down passages of Scripture with a good fountain pen. Blogging, too, has done wonders for me. And not just during the lockdown. It has provided me a sweet spot--the proverbial best of two worlds--between publicly sharing my life and preserving my privacy. I love that this website is largely unknown to much of the world. The traffic has markedly decreased through the years, and my readership has been reduced to lurking friends who occasionally write comments or email me. Some of these emails contain corrections to my grammar, suggestions to improve my sentence construction, and mostly encouragements and kamustahan. Haven't I been blessed with an amazing readership*?

Thank you, dear friends, for sticking it out with me for these past years.


*I'm not sure if readership is the right word, as it alludes to a huge audience when the fact is that the constant blog readers can fit nicely in a small kindergarten room.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 24

Perhaps it is during Sunday mornings when the pain of separation hits the hardest. Christianity has always been in the context of the Church, God's redeemed people. During Sundays the Church is called to gather to worship, to fellowship with one another, to encourage one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

That we have the internet to connect us virtually is a blessing during these extraordinary circumstances. But online worship services are not quite enough. Tim Challies, one of my favorite bloggers, writes:

Watching a church service online was novel the first couple of weeks. And while I’m grateful it’s an option, three weeks in I find myself grieving the necessity of it, and longing to be back with the people I love.

Dr. Albert Mohler, in this beautiful essay, carefully distinguished listening in from listening among.

No Christian should believe that meeting online offers the same spiritual benefits as if we met together physically, in time and space. Nothing can replace the people of God in one room, praising the Father, Son, and Spirit together in song; nothing can compare to the physical gathering of God’s people who together receive the preached Word. There is no substitute for this kind of gathering.

[...]

But there is a crucial distinction—indeed, a crucial theological distinction—between listening among and listening in. Listening in is a gift of God’s common grace. To be able to listen to thousands of sermons and theological lectures online is indeed a wonderful treasure for Christians. But listening in on these gifts is not equal to what happens when we listen among God’s people, physically present together as we praise God and hear his Word proclaimed.

Last week Tim asked his friends all over the world to document their private worship spaces. There are photos! It's beautiful and touching—a reminder that believers all over the world sing songs and listen to God's Word preached in various languages and contexts.

Sunday mornings are precious to me and my family. My parents gave a particular premium to honoring the Sabbath Day (and rightly so)—my father, especially, who was set on coming to church on time; punctuality, he said, was showing how much God was important to us. This meant that growing up, we should be sleeping early on Saturday nights (not a problem for us), wake up extraordinarily early on Sunday mornings (not a problem for us, either), and take showers earlier than usual (a problem for us, for which, among my brothers, I received the most number of reprimands).

As in the past three Sundays, I worship in the living room. I sing to familiar music. They're among my favorite songs in church. The preaching is streamed online. I imagine that I'm seated with Manong in the central row on the Third Floor of ESNA Building. I'm taking down notes; I memorize the week's passion verse (usually at the last minute!) lest Pilgrim Men, the Bible study group where I belong, will be called to recite. As I head out of the church building to find a good place for lunch in the Timog Area, I'm greeted with handshakes and hugs, small talks (mini-praise items, prayer requests), medical inquiries, and invitations to church seminars and events.


Pastor Bob's preaching is on Genesis 22:1-14, "On the Mount of Testing: God Tested Abraham."

Here are my notes from today's sermon.*

Lockdown No 24 Preaching Notes

Lockdown No 24 Preaching Notes

Lockdown No 24 Preaching Notes

Lockdown No 24 Preaching Notes

Lockdown No 24 Preaching Notes

How did your worship go? Do let me know through email or comments. I hope to see you, dear reader, soon—hopefully in better circumstances.


*For the curious, paper is from a random pharma-generated writing pad I found lying at home; pen is a TWSBI Eco Rose Gold Medium Nib inked with 25% Diamine Chrome and 75% Waterman Black.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 23

Lockdown
Stray cat I saw today when I went out for groceries.

For All Mankind reminds me that I'm better off confined in my home on Earth instead of being stranded at the Jamestown Base on the lunar surface.

The series, produced by Apple TV+, is set in the background of the Cold War, in a revised history. I finished all 10 episodes in a span of a week. The space race between the USSR and the US is getting heated. Much to the horror and disappointment of the Americans, it is the Soviets who send the first man on the moon. NASA is under pressure to catch up. We learn of risk and ambition. We wonder if all the efforts to discover space is worth it.

But we continue watching. We observe the astronauts' private lives. We experience the anguish that their wives experience whenever they are sent into missions. We see the look of longing in their children's faces because they have been gone a long time. I'm sure parallelisms can be drawn between astronauts and healthcare workers in today's COVID-19 pandemic.

I find space movies particularly relaxing during moments of prolonged isolation. (I watched Ad Astra during a long-haul flight, for instance.) As with most of my peers, I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. It did not take me too long to realize that I could not. My aptitude in math was average at best, and I did not find physics fascinating.

* * *

The series' soundtrack is amazing.

Friday, April 3, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 22

Lockdown April 3
(Pop) culture diet for the day.

There are days when I forget I'm on quarantine. Today is one of those days. It's a privilege not everyone gets to have. I delude myself that I have nothing much to do to. The truth is that I have a number of important things that need my attention: studying for my diplomate exams, writing my research papers. You know the drill. But I set aside every care in the world for a few episodes of a Netflix series only to be interrupted by multiple intermittent naps--a welcome distraction. There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. I realize I should snap back to a state of productivity. That should happen sooner rather than later.

As we spend our lives in our confines, the world carries on. People look for ways to feed their families. They work shifts in grocery stores, they act on our Grab deliveries, they attend Zoom meetings in their private living spaces-turned-offices. The world is changing and with it the dynamics of human interaction. The pandemic, experts believe, can last for months. It may no longer be appropriate to shake hands again. At this point, who knows?

The lockdown has freed up my time for private prayer and meditation. To make full use of this time is a daily challenge. I must "pray without ceasing."

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV).
This was the passage we discussed in my Bible study group last Thursday, the same message alluded to by a friend when she asked me how I was. "We really have no excuse not to pray," she said as a reminder to herself. It was a message I needed to hear.

2020-04-03 23:13:51
Notes during the Bible study.

You'll notice that I've been taking photos of my notebooks. I haven't gone out (I shouldn't), and there aren't any subjects left to shoot.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 21

Lockdown No. 21

Lockdown No. 21

Lockdown No. 21

I love the cheap paper contained in this Miniso notebook that I often use as a scratch paper. I buy notebooks for no apparent reason; I just like the thought of having an unlimited supply of writing paper.

Writing on paper—this was, and remains, one of my favorite ways to pass the time. I'm posting this now because I seem to have all the time in the world—an illusion, I will soon find out, because I have a significant backlog of actual technical papers to write, edit, and publish.

I suppose I am inspired by Jason Kartez (Instagram: @jkartez) who has been posting his cartoons and handwriting since the beginning of the pandemic. You may want to check his feed and give him a follow—if that's ever a legitimate phrase to use!

Been reading the preachings of Jonathan Edwards, one of my favorite American thinkers and preachers. Finished watching the four episodes of Unorthodox in Netflix, a moving series about a 19-year old Hasidic Jewish woman who decides to flee her ultraorthodox community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. Started watching Parks and Recreation and have instantly fallen in love with the hyper-optimistic character of Leslie Knope!

Been trying to distance myself from Twitter and social media, in general. If anything good has come out of this pandemic, it is my newfound fascination for privacy and silence and expressing myself in longform—that is, blogging.

I hope you and your family are well. Let me know how I can pray for you. #


*  *  *

In case you're wondering: this is my scratch notebook. Pen is the TWBSI Echo Rosegold (inked with a combination of Waterman Black and Diamine Chrome).

Lockdown No. 21

* * *



I cheer my colleagues on!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

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Journal of a Lockdown No. 20

In a private chat group with my brothers, the topic of "What's Cooking for Dinner" came up. I was in a hotel then, my supposed mandatory self-quarantine, and it was the kind of accommodation that did not have room service. Even if it did, I would not be able to afford it. To get something to eat, I could head to the nearby 7-11; beside it was Ministop. While my brothers were sharing pictures of their culinary concoctions--Manong's pininyahang manok, Sean's pork humba--I salivated at the thought of a home-cooked meal. In front of me was reheated fried chicken from the convenience store and four cups of sliced peaches in syrup for dessert. Growing up, we did not have family traditions around the kitchen. We ate whatever Tatay thought of cooking for the day. And he was particular that we had a good dose of fruits, vegetables, and fish. For lunch, we'd usually have anything sinabawan (with soup): my parents operated on the belief that anything with sabaw was healthy--never mind the fact that oil was floating above it, or that salt was dissolved in it.

To have brothers who know their way around the kitchen is one of my life's greatest blessings. As I enjoy what they prepare, I am bombarded with reminders, such as, "You should learn how to cook; it's a life skill." Sean, three years younger than me, would say something like, "You're too old and you don't even know how to use a stove." Which is true. I am afraid of exploding stoves, largely because of a patient I cared for in clerkship. His wife and four children died after their gas range exploded. His wife was pregnant; the baby died, too.

But I'm not entirely useless. I am the designated taster. As he adds the seasoning as the final touch, Manong would tell me to come over, "Here, try this."

"Add more salt," I would say, to make his killer adobo even more delicious. I know how dishes should taste; I don't know how to create them. I am, in a sense, a passive culinary Machiavellian.

Sean would rather shoo me away. I disturb his process.

I have pininyahang manok for dinner. I reheat it using the steam from the sinaing, the closest I get to actual cooking.

* * *

Food doesn't run out for the healthcare workers, thankfully. Filipinos are wonderful. They are gifts that keep on giving. During my hospital stint, I was able to have free lunch thanks to an anonymous donation by a colleague's aunt. The staff at the Cancer Institute distributed the food packs to nurses, nursing aides, manongs and ates, and the admitted patients and their families.

Lockdown

* * *

And yet there are the poor and needy who are most affected by this pandemic.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 1) — Twenty-one protesters demanding food and other assistance were arrested Wednesday in Quezon City for staging a rally without government permit, police said.

The Quezon City Police District in a statement said the protesters, who are residents of Sitio San Roque, were arrested at a portion of EDSA in Barangay Bagong Pag-asa around 11 a.m.

A video posted by DZRH on Twitter shows the violent dispersal of protesters conducted by the QCPD. One of them can be seen being dragged by authorities, while being berated for participating in the protest.

They were protesting because they were hungry. Feed, not arrest, them.

*  *  *

It's day one of April. Thank you, Lord, for taking us this far.
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