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Showing posts from 2022

Homecooked meals

Something to ponder in church today: James 2:1-4:  My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Whenever I visit a church for the first time, I'm always amazed at the warmth of the welcome extended to me. Hospitality is one of those rare, precious, often underestimated gifts that draw outsiders to the body of Christ. I was in Bangkok a few years ago when I was invited to a potluck lunch at a Filipino church. They do this to all visitors, regardless of status. The after-church fellowship over home cooked meals may be a key to t

P's wake

P's wake was at a funeral parlor along the highway. When I arrived at 7:30 in the evening to pay my respects, the parking lot was full. I turned right, parked by the sidewalk, and braved the steady rain with my jacket on. She was in the smallest room that could fit her casket, three wooden benches, and a small table at the back where packets of instant coffee and snacks were offered. I saw P's parents, sister, and some of our classmates I've not seen for years. We had our photo taken in front, careful to cover much of the casket and to show only her radiant wedding photo in the background. There was small talk and laughter. The only way to honor the dead is to bring them up in memory. I asked permission if I could tell the story of P's diagnosis, the difficulty of finding the right concoction of chemotherapy, the joy of seeing her respond favorably to treatment, the disappointment of learning the cancer had come back much stronger. Enyek, Yaya M, Pretty Shean, Dans, and

San Francisco, Camotes Island, Cebu

Rough translation:  Don't use the (toilet) bowl because it's clogged. Thank you for understanding.  Please don't leave your dirt in the restroom. Where should I urinate, if the bowl is off limits? 

Brief life update

Can't believe it's been a while since I'd last updated this site. Must tell myself to let go and let the sentences flow. This is, after all, a blog, where errors are expected because there are no external editors, no second pairs of eyes to read through the entries—the outputs are overflows of my thoughts.  A cloudy Monday today. No clinics today but must do rounds. Hoping to finish early so I can have the afternoon free. Been reading Ted Chiang's short stories and Thoreau's journals over the weekend.  Feeling under the weather, but God's strength sustains.

Radio interview and a classmate's death

Got off a radio interview yesterday. Forced myself to go, even if I was feeling down with something. Had already committed to do it weeks ago in behalf of the local medical society. The interview took place at the Brigada studio at 8:30 AM. Brigada Arjean asked pointed and smart questions. I talked about cancer and how to prevent and screen for it. My Hiligaynon needs work. Could do better if I listened to local radio more.  During the program, I thought of my high school classmate P who died early that morning. Metastatic breast cancer. She fought hard, with her everything. We’d been through different lines of chemo. Her family wanted to do everything. Saw P’s mother and sister, settling bills and arranging for the transfer to the funeral parlor. They said, “Thank you, Doc. At least we extended her life for two years.” Threw away all caution and hugged them. 

Those who work much do not work hard

Henry David Thoreau on work-life balance: The really efficient laborer will be found not to crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure. There will be a wide margin for relaxation to his day . . .  Those who work much do not work hard.  Always on the lookout for the most efficient way of doing things, I read about productivity tools and skills more often than most people I know. But there came a point when my responsibilities and the tasks that went with them crowded my day, forcing me to sacrifice regular lunch times, even sleep. My recent trips, and Thoreau's journal entry when he was 24, remind me once again to take it slow. I remember the Freestyle song, which may not be appropriate to the context I'm referring to, since the song pertains, on closer textual analysis, to tensions of erotic love.

Moving out

After my week-long trip, Sean will have moved out of the house. All of a sudden, my kid brother, who's more mature than me in the practical ways of life, will no longer be a constant presence in the house. Among my brothers, he is the one who reminds me the most of Tatay. They share the same humor. They like constant company. They think of coming back as soon as they step out of the gate. They always bring back something—a loaf of bread or some random pasalubong —when they return.  A few weeks ago, I joined him and the wonderful Hannah to look for an apartment, where they will start a new life. It is a few blocks away from St. Gabriel and is near the vet and our favorite car wash place. On cooler days, it is reachable by walking. There is ample parking space, with a wide view of the mountains that surround the valley. The street is quiet, since it leads to a cul de sac. Vehicular and foot traffic are minimal such that it offers a feeling of isolation from city life.  I have an op

He who teaches learns

Went with Sean and his wife, Hannah, to visit an apartment they'd been eyeing to rent. Loved the place: a studio type arrangement, with yellow walls, plenty of parking space, and with just the right distance to their workplaces. Asked if I could take a photo of the landlady's shirt. She was happy to indulge. Oh: we're wrapping up the end of the first academic year of MSU Biochemistry. Met with the team last night. Ended the meeting on a high note. I still owe them dinner.

Flowers in Surallah

My mother's photos are automatically uploaded to my Flickr account. I ask her permission if I can post some of them here. 

National Heroes Day

My mother’s high school friends are coming over for dinner. On this Saturday evening, they will eat at 6 before they visit their classmate’s wake. It’s going to be a simple dinner, she assured her Notre Dame batch who didn't want to impose. Earlier today, however, Manong, Sean, and I got our instructions to buy a tub of ice cream, prepare lasagna at the last minute, and make sure the house is spotless. We have thrice the amount of food we need. Clearly this will be a party. There have been many deaths this week, Nanay observed. A dentist she knew from another town passed away. Her distant nephew, who was my age, died in his sleep. I told her that a thirty-something doctor also died because of stage four cancer. She internalizes these news with, “Nauna pa sila sa akon.” To escape the Batch 73 crowd, I am in the neighborhood café where I reviewed for the internal medicine board exam. I’m rarely here, because the place reminds me of my late father—a weird term to call Tatay, who w

Gentle and lowly

Reading several books this season. One of them is Dane Ortlund's Gentle and Lowly. Beautiful words from the first chapter: But all Christian toil flows from fellowship from a living Christ whose transcending, defining reality is: gently and lowly. He astounds and sustains us with his endless kindness. Only as we walk ever deeper into this tender kindness can we live the Christian life as the New Testament calls us to. Only as we drink down the kindness of the heart of Christ will we leave in our wake, everywhere we go, the aroma of heaven, and die one day having startled the world with glimpses of divine kindness too great to be boxed in by what we deserve.

Ministers of the Word

Spent the early morning meditating on 2 Corinthians 6:3-13. Remembered pastors, Bible study teachers, and campus ministry workers who have labored hard for the gospel so I, and others like me, could grow in the love and knowledge of Jesus Christ. I miss them. Have not seen many of them in years. I treasure and cherish them dearly, and continue to pray for their health, protection, provision, and progress in their spiritual walk and ministry. Matthew Henry writes: They were slighted by the men of the world as unknown, men of no figure or account, not worth taking notice of; yet in all the churches of Christ they were well known, and of great account: they were looked upon as dying, being killed all the day long, and their interest was thought to be a dying interest; “and yet behold,” says the apostle, “we live, and live comfortably, and bear up cheerfully under all our hardships, and go on conquering and to conquer.” They were chastened, and often fell under the lash of the law, yet not


Sean's wedding is a few days away. He is my first, and perhaps only, brother who will be getting married. It is a small beach wedding in the afternoon, along the shores of Glan, with close relatives and friends expected to attend.  I have no idea how to plan for weddings and largely leave that to others, in the same way I do not interfere with cooking lest the gas range explode. So I was amused to overhear Nanay talk to her friends at 4 am that we—Manong and I—don’t contribute ideas. Because she and her friends meet every day, except Sundays, through Facebook for Bible study and prayer; the upcoming wedding continues to be a concern being lifted up to God. What would we contribute then, except a few typographical checks in the program print out and some food tasting notes for the reception? And there’s the invisible but palpable brotherly support—which really means letting Sean and Hannah decide, until they specifically ask us to do something. Preparations are underway. Last we

Forty days

Lola's lansones trees ( Lansium parasiticum ) showed up with fruits that left many visitors for her 40-day death remembrance awestruck. We miss Lola Ugol and still look for her when we drop by her home, now silent and solemn, the way houses become when their owners leave them for good.

Reflections at 4 am

At 4 am, working in the living room with only my laptop illuminating the darkness. Windows wide open to let the morning coolness in. Birds chatter and sing outside, like housewives on the street catching up on the latest news. What are they talking about? Their plans for the day? Their dreams last night? Their excitement for the weekend? Sing this with me. This is my Father's world And to my listening ears All nature sings, and round me rings The music of the spheres  This is my Father's world The birds their carols raise The morning light, the lily white Declare their maker's praise And also:  This is my Father's world Oh, let me never forget That though the wrong seems oft so strong God is the ruler yet

A beatific smile on his face

From Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson, p. 61: What a line. Definitely off-topic but still related: I picture Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian church, as smiling, as he was stoned to death, slowly being welcomed into the arms of his Savior. 

Currently reading: Kate Atkinson's Behind the Scenes at the Museum

Was hungry the other day, looking for restaurants for lunch. The less people, the better. There was a graduation nearby; people flocked to the mall to celebrate. While going around, saw Kate Atkinson's novel displayed at National, on sale! Forgot about my stomach pangs and snatched it right away.  The author's foreword: If you were to ask me what the book is about (which is the most loathesome question you could ask—why bother write the thing if you have to explain it? It is what it is) and if I were forced to answer, I would say, "It's about things." The book is a repository for the past: for mine, for other people's, for the city's, a place of safekeeping for the fragile.

Bursting in tears

In the final chapter, The Train to Tibet , Paul Theroux writes:  An early European explorer to Tibet burst into tears when he saw one lovely mountain covered with snow. When I saw the landscape of Tibet that did not seem to be an odd reaction. The setting is more than touching—it is a bewitchment: the light, the air, the emptiness, the plains and peaks . . . It is a safe and reassuring remoteness, with the prettiest meadows and moors buttressed by mountains. It was, somehow, a mountain landscape with a few valleys—a blue and white plateau of tinkling yak bells, and bright glaciers and tiny wild flowers. Who wouldn't burst into tears? This is one of the best books I've read, and I will likely get back to this piece of art and history soon enough.  It goes without saying that this chapter, too, resonates deeply with me. My hometown, a piece of paradise inhabited by proud, happy, and smiling people, may disappear soon. A huge mining project in a nearby town has been approved. That

The rain began to leak into my soul

As I return to Paul Theroux's Riding the Iron Rooster on this cool Saturday morning, the feeling of calm-after-the-storm descends upon me. After a tiring week of my kind and gracious grandmother's passing away, I can go about my day without anything urgent floating in the air. I want to tell you more about Lola Ugól, of course. I can start with the story of why nobody—not even her children—knows why she was called Ugól when her real name was Trinidad Zamora Garcenila. But not today. Of course, there are patients to see and faculty work to be done, but those can wait until 10 am.  For now, I want to savor this moment: the possibilities of a weekend. A quiet morning in the porch, the vanilla-smell of old book pages, the exquisite gray strokes of my Blackwing Palomino, the minimalistic design and engineering of my MacBook Air. These small things and habits allow me to both dwell on and forget about grief. The running joke in the family is that May is a particularly harrowing time

Paul makes a wise choice

It's too bad that, as a canine, he is perpetually disenfranchised from participating in democratic exercises.

A day in contrast

Driving at 6 AM along the Gensan-Polomolok border, I see a tricycle on the outer line. It is jam-packed with five people, excluding the driver. As I inch closer, I notice that a motorcycle, propped up vertically on one wheel, is strapped on the tricycle's metal sidecar. Yellow ropes keep the motorcycle from falling off the road. The men reinforce the motorcycle to the tricycle with their arms. In their late twenties, wearing shirts and denims, they grin, smile, and laugh. Are they bringing home this brand new vehicle at home? If that's the plan, why don't they ride on it? Perhaps I'll never know. In the meantime, an olive-green Vios, which I'm presently trailing, slows down. A window opens. A teenager, her hair tossed by the wind, emerges with a camera phone. Realizing they are being recorded, the men wave in the light, intermittent rain. They are having a great time. As soon as I arrive at home, in time for the Sunday service, I receive a text message that M has di

Glory in the ordinary

My high school classmate and friend S dropped by my clinic to have her blood pressure checked. Told her she was a newly diagnosed hypertensive. It runs in her blood. These past months, she could only count the nights when she's had a good night's sleep. How could she if, at any given moment, one of her daughters would cry? Her maternal instinct does not allow indifference; her reflex reaction is to land on her two feet to be with her children. Mothers are amazing. I thought of S when I read this passage from  Glory in the Ordinary by Myra Dempsey: Even in life’s mundane tasks, God is shaping us into a people who beautifully reflect his glory to the world. Left to our own devices, we will never naturally drift toward holiness. We rely totally and completely on God to rewire us and re-mold us, making us more like his son, thereby making us more and more holy. Because he loves us so perfectly and immensely, there isn’t a moment of our existence that he won’t use to accomplish jus

"Life is surely muted and compromised...": on the pandemic life

From a blog I've just subscribed to, La Vie Graphite : an eloquent  meditation on pandemic life : Enduring these months is a learning experience of what to eliminate or change. There are shortages and there are pinched resources. Less money, in the face of inflation and reduced pay, but less to buy. Three full tanks of gas in my car, in six months. Having less causes a discipline of needing less. As the workplace began requiring a weekly on-site workday, I’ve simply treated my department like a quarantine: A straight-out eight-hour day, with granola bars and thermos of coffee. There are no places to go for lunch, anyway. Then it’s become two days on-site. More granola bars for the perpetual motion. I just want to get the work accomplished, plain and simple. Perhaps it’s an imposed austerity, but the workplace is the place to get work done; there is no more socializing, and it’s hard to tell how much longer the situation will last. I’ve noticed myself working faster and more strateg

A surprise visit

A teacher from high school dropped by the clinic yesterday, just as I was about to close shop. She was surprised that turned out to be a medical oncologist.  "I thought you took up neurology," she said. "But why 'Bottled Brain' then?" Ma'am T said she visited my blog daily until her phone was stolen. She couldn't access it anymore.  I'll help her bookmark this page the next time she visits.  The Hiligaynon word for the day is ma'éstra . It means "teacher or instructor."

Sun-kissed in Camotes Island

Sane and wonderfully tender

I often get asked how I deal with patients who cry in the clinic. There are no easy answers. But I assume that most of my patients and their families know more than what they'd be given credit for. They might not know the nitty-gritty details of treatment and prognosis, but they carry with them a vague, often accurate, idea that what they have is "not good." When they enter the consultation room, I don't immediately get into the details. I warm them up with questions of where they're from and what they do. I establish a connection. Where I practice, that involves asking if they know a common person. It helps that I speak the vernacular for a more nuanced, intimate back-and-forth. They hardly get surprised when I break the news: that they have cancer. But my speaking to them confirms the fact of their disease. They cry, usually quietly, grappling for a handkerchief or tissue paper. I have a stack of napkins on my desk that I offer to them in a few minutes of silenc

On blogging

I stumbled upon Alan Jacobs’s blog . I’d been there before, but I hadn’t read it with sufficient curiosity to keep me going. Until now. An author, university professor, and blogger, he writes about c ultivating his blog as a kind of a garden . He uses his blog to “generate and try out new ideas, get feedback from readers, develop the ideas a little further…” He writes about blogging as someone who seeks to understand this medium . Reading him is inspiring and instructive. Part of me wishes I’d thought blogging through. When I published my first post in 2004, I didn’t think Bottled Brain would live long—at least, long enough to be older than high school students. Had I been a wiser 16-year old in that internet café in the row of houses near the UP Shopping Center, I should’ve planned out what content to put out. I could’ve chosen to write about a niche topic rather than post flotsam and jetsam about books, pens, faith, family, travels, and medicine. I could’

A Blackwing Pencil (Palomino)!

Snapshot of a page from my journal, currently a Midori Traveler's Notebook (Passport): I turned 35 last April 22. I went on a short trip to visit my godmother. My aunt and Nanay were with me. I could tell you many stories, but the short of it is: we had a blessed time. During the tour, I found my grail pencil, something I've been meaning to buy but I never had the chance to—until this trip! It's a Blackwing pencil (Palomino). This is the favorite writing instrument of Mary Norris , the New Yorker copy editor, and Austin Kleon, the book author and blogger .  I adore the writing experience! Praise God for this blessing—and for 35 years of His goodness and faithfulness.

Christ is risen!

Woke up to a rainy Sunday morning. Drove Nanay to Rizal Park to buy flowers she subsequently arranges for the pulpit. She couldn't bear the sight of a flowerless pulpit, especially on Easter, the most joyous of all Christian celebrations. Christ is risen! What a glorious, marvelous, and comforting truth!  Meditating on the centrality of the resurrection to the Christian life, Dr. Albert Mohler writes : As Paul well understood, Christianity stands or falls with the empty grave. If Christ is not raised, we are to be pitied, for our faith is in vain. Those who would preach a resurrectionless Christianity have substituted the truth of the gospel for a lie. But, asserted Paul, Christ is risen from the dead. Our faith is not in vain, but is in the risen Lord. He willingly faced death on a cross and defeated death from the grave. The Resurrection is the ultimate sign of God's vindication of His Son. He quotes Dr. John A. Broadus: It was the signed manual of the Deity, it was the seal

Moderating a class forum from Lola's garden

The coming-home ritual

Coming home from work, where two lovely patients had just died, I am welcomed by Paul in the garage, his nose toward me, his body crouched near the ground, just as I open the car door. I give him a belly rub, which leads him to roll over, enjoying the sensation of human contact. "How are you, my boy?" I ask. He responds by choking on his saliva, his tongue wagging. After two minutes of this welcome, he follows me as I enter the house. Distracted by the clanging sounds in the kitchen, he leaves me and bothers whoever happens to be there. Paul's love language is bothering humanity. Dogs are God's gift to us. Despite the nightly destruction of Nanay's cherished plants and cacti and the tearing away of shoe laces and chewing of electric cords, Paul brings to our home a youthful joie de vivre, a reminder to not take things too seriously.  Now—where is he?!

How to manage chemotherapy side effects: a guide to general internists

Yesterday I talked to some 1,200 internists from the Philippines on how to manage cancer-related treatment side effects during the Bootcamp of the Philippine College of Physicians. In that talk, I argued that, in an era where cancer is set to become the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in the world, general internists—and non-medical oncology specialists—can take part in the care of patients with cancer. One of those opportunities is the management of treatment-related side effects. I wish I had more time to speak about immunotherapy-related adverse drug reactions, but, with my 20 minutes, I focused mainly on chemo- and targeted-treatment-related side effects—hypersensitivity reactions, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, mucositis, and many others. Dr. Julie Gabat-Tan—or Madame Julie, as I call her, because she was my first ever senior resident during my internal medicine residency—moderated the Q and A. It felt like being on rounds again at Wards 1 and 3. I'm sharing my slide s

Do not make premature judgments

I love this line from the concluding pages of the chapter, The Fast Train to Canton , which appears halfway through the book, Riding the Iron Rooster , by Paul Theroux. It made me think that you never really know anyone until you have traveled 10,000 miles in a train with them. I had sized them up in London, but they were all better and worse than they had seemed then, and now they were beyond criticism because they had proved themselves to be human.  

Notebooks and first chemo sessions

It's appropriate that my first entry in my new notebook is about my remarkable patient, a woman around my age, who gave it (and a few others) to me today. I love composition notebooks. In fact, I love notebooks in general. I use a Traveler's Notebook (passport size) for my personal journals. I use composition notebooks for my consultancy and faculty work. The wide lines are great for jotting down first drafts of my stories, many of which will never see the light of day. The pages are fountain pen friendly. See my writing sample below. I used a Pilot Custom 823 (Amber) with the classic blue Pilot ink owned by my brother Sean.

Innovative ways of disseminating research: an argument for blogs and podcasts in cancer research

I talked to Filipino medical oncologists about innovative ways of disseminating cancer-related research information last Saturday. I argued that, as part of knowledge translation/mobilization, it is important that researchers, clinicians, and people involved in knowledge generation and dissemination must creatively, proactively, and intentionally think about how to share their knowledge more effectively to their colleagues and the public at large. I talked about blogging—academic blogging—as a tool to accomplish that. I also spoke about podcasting—using recorded audio to tell stories—and conducted a workshop on how to record and edit audio files using Audacity. I've never done anything like this before—much less through an online interactive platform. Many thanks to Merck and to Dr. Mary Manalo, my boss in the research committee of the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology, for the opportunity to talk about a topic so very close to my heart. I love reading blogs and listening to p

Summer fruit

The mango tree bears much fruit this summertime. Nanay snapped this on Sunday morning, 30 minutes before the start of the worship service, when the church parking lot was not yet packed. (It has been a long time since I had last shared Nanay's photos in this site. You see, years ago,  I synced her phone to auto-upload photos in my Flickr account , an arrangement that gives me access to the goings-on in her life, which mostly revolves around family, friends, and church.) I love mango trees, not just because of their fruit but because anywhere they are planted, they offer a comforting shade and coolness, a respite from the tropical Mindanao heat. I look forward to see this mango tree grow up and flourish. The Hiligaynon word for the day is búnga , which means "fruit."


Since my brother Sean got serious in his coffee hobby, I haven't been to the coffee shops as often as I used to. I could get the same, even better, kind of coffee at no cost at home. Sean knows coffee growers from Kulaman, Sultan Kudarat and helps these farmers by reselling the beans. (If you're interested, drop me a message; I'll relay it to Sean.) He likes the process of grinding the beans, measuring them by the gram, and experimenting with various methods of coffee-making.  If I have lunch in malls, I drop by the café chains to stave off sleepiness. I visited Coffee Bean at SM Gensan recently. I got a swirl card so I could access the wifi. The password was Ephesians 2:8. "This is one of my favorite verses," I told the lady behind the counter.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— The Hiligaynon word for the day is grásya , which means grace or blessing. Postscript: I dropped by Coffee

Booksale on a Saturday

I try not to see patients on weekends, but this Saturday, it was inevitable. I had scheduled an urgent chemotherapy, which went well. On the third floor, I gave discharge instructions to a patient—a friend's father—just before he left for home. I drove to Gensan to see a few more patients. I had hoped I'd finish just before lunch time so I could make it back home and perhaps join my brothers in watching a Netflix World War 2 documentary. But it was 11:30, I was hungry, and I had an intense craving for a decent burger. I dined at Army Navy in Veranza. Sleepy after the meal, I went to Booksale, this paradise of pre-loved books, the only one of its kind in Region 12, to my knowledge.  The lady at the counter was oblivious to my presence. The silence was a relief; it was almost like entering a library at lunchtime. Outside the store, the crowd was massive. The mall's parking area was packed. People lined up in restaurants. Fathers and mothers car


Mike, miles away, reminds me I haven't posted anything new here. I said I've been preoccupied. It's not that I haven't written anything, but most of what I write these days land in my journals, which end up inside the baul Nanay had commissioned to be built for me. The trunk, which doubles as a coffee table in the living room, is made of old mahogany. Nobody suspects that it houses my journals, laptops, and paperwork. People in the house complain that my things land everywhere. I have a general idea of the  geographical location of where, say, I left my bottle of ink, or my copy of a Michael Chabon novel. It becomes problematic if people attempt to clean them up for me. My geolocation then fails. The solution: create a single space where I can dump my things, out of everybody's sight. The baul is the perfect solution. What else have I been up to?  Yesterday, I saw my students in the flesh for the first time. We met for their in-person long exam for biochemistry. The


Sean, making coffee at 6 am, says, "It's 2-22-2022 today." He pours hot water onto the ground Kulaman coffee beans, nestled in white filter paper. Black water, fragrant and stimulating, drips into the Hario glass container, and stops when the level reaches 300 mL. The coffee is for me and Manong Ralph. This is our breakfast. We forgo morning meals to lose weight. Breakfast is easier to let go than, say, a scrumptious dinner. Meanwhile, Paul snuggles on the white couch in the living room. He is forbidden—at least, he was, a few days ago, when his nails were pointed and could potentially damage the furniture. It is a cold morning; our dog does not want to wake up yet. Why is he so tired when he should already be up and out, demanding belly rubs and licking our feet to gain attention? Did he destroy Nanay's flowers last night? Did he chew the leaves off the most treasured plants in the garden? We will never know until Nanay makes her rounds in a few minutes. She will reb


"Where do you want to go next month?" asks Auntie Bebet as we soak in the warm sea of Sarangani Bay, meters away from the coastline of Kitagas. The water is neck-deep. The waves are gentle. It is still early, by regular standards, but we are nearing the end of the narrow timeline that allows enjoyment without being sunburned. It is no small mercy to see thickening clouds from afar, showing incoming signs of rain, perhaps in a few hours: the perfect weather. As people of the tropics, we are tired of the sun and hide from it if we can. We are in Kiamba, an hour's drive from General Santos (and two or three hours from Koronadal), for an end-of-the-month celebration. There is nothing specific to celebrate. The next birthdays are in February; the most recent birthdays have already been celebrated. There are no deaths or anniversaries, too. What has trigged this beach overnight escapade is my cousin Hannah's wish to visit the sea. Working in Manila for many years, she hasn&


We had lunch at my aunt's farm in Banga, some 30 minutes away from Marbel. A tributary of the Banga River flows through this property.  When we were children, we would traverse the waters, but only when it was safe. The river could rise to dangerous levels during heavy rains. Our cousins told us of carabaos, farmers, and children drowning to their deaths.  We visited this farm during summer breaks from school. Our slippers would be trapped in the fine, dark sand underneath, but losing our footwear and walking barefoot to Auntie Cecil's house was part of the fun. She had spare slippers waiting for us, with a warm meal of tinolang manok (free-range, "native" chicken), adobo and vegetables fresh from the garden.  The Hiligaynon word for the day is subá . It means river . Ink: Vinta Sea Kelp 1944. Pen: Platinum 3776 Chartres Blue, medium nib. Paper: Bazic Premium Composition Notebok, quadrille ruled.


I woke up to Paul's crying at 1 AM. I turned on the lights in the living room and, in my pajamas, went out to the garden to look for him. The night was dark but alive. I could hear fireworks and car horns from distant neighborhoods. I imagined families drinking beer with pulutan after a hearty salubong meal, enjoying the happy times, which, in the past years, have been few and far between. Sean met me in the living room. Paul, tagging along with my brother, wagged his tail. I was surprised to see him in a playful mode; normally, by that time, he'd be curled up in the porch, relishing the coolness. He was in Sean's room all along, safe from the human noise and activity. Nanay and Manong could not be bothered to wake up. Sean returned to bed, telling Paul, "Hindi magsinabad ha? Tulog na kita." Minutes later, I turned off the lights, went back to bed, and dreamt of an adventure I could no longer remember. It is 2022. Praise be to God for His goodness and mercy.  Th