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Showing posts from April, 2020

Journal of a Lockdown No. 49

Here's a view of the Metro Manila skyline to cap this last day of April.

Journal of a Lockdown No. 48

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

Journal of a Lockdown No. 47

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.

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 wit

Journal of a Lockdown No. 45

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

Journal of a Lockdown No. 44

On my way to The Giving Café.

Journal of a Lockdown No. 43

Pre-Lockdown, a person posted an essay on capitalism along Taft Avenue, Manila. It was too eloquent to ignore.

Journal of a Lockdown No. 42

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

Journal of a Lockdown No. 41

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

Journal of a Lockdown No. 40

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&#

Journal of a Lockdown No. 39

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.

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

Journal of a Lockdown No. 37

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.

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 els

Journal of a Lockdown No. 35

Read a book during the lockdown!

Journal of a Lockdown No. 34

Vegetable market, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila. Don't forget to eat green, leafy vegetables during the Lockdown!

Journal of a Lockdown No. 33

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 techn

Journal of a Lockdown No. 32

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

Journal of a Lockdown No. 31

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

Journal of a Lockdown No. 30

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.

Journal of a Lockdown No. 29

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

Journal of a Lockdown No. 28

"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: pe

Journal of a Lockdown No. 27

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 ne

Journal of a Lockdown No. 26

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,

Journal of a Lockdown No. 25

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 wok

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.

Journal of a Lockdown No. 23

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

Journal of a Lockdown No. 22

(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 dyn

Journal of a 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 ultra

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 hea