Showing posts from 2023

Handwritten: Louise Glück's "Vespers"



Here's I Went out Walking by Grace Paley, page 56, in her collection, Fidelity . Bought this book at National Bookstore in Mandaluyong for Php 200! I envy Ms. Paley here. The only walks I take these days are along the hospital corridors. The mountains I climb are flights of stairs to take me to the fourth floor.

Death of plans and expectations

Stacie Schmidt on the Pharisees' plot to kill Jesus after He raised Lazarus back to life:  When confronted with Jesus, we all find ourselves in that place where we understand that Jesus’ power and call to believe means the death of our plans and expectations. 


I'm on the lookout for good places to eat, so I know where to bring my friends whenever they come visit. I wrote previously that deciding to where to eat—or meet—is a perpetual dilemma. Compiling a list of restaurants and establishments in Marbel, Gensan and South Cotabato that serve anything that can be eaten would probably make these decisions easier.  So here's the first restaurant I've tried: Juego , on the way to Agan Homes in Koronadal. My cousin Hannah told me about an good place that serves good chicken wings. It's a walkable distance from the house. She said, "You won't notice it. It's on the second floor, like a hole-in-a-wall thing." I learned that it's a hip place to go to. There's a live band that plays music until late at night.  We tried it out for early dinner.  I was with my brother and cousins, Hannah and Alyza. To discover new and exciting places, one must seek the wisdom of youth.


The internet, for all its evils and flaws, can be a wonderful place to discover things. Reading Biola University's The Lent Project devotionals , I click a link that takes me to Jayne English's Substack and find an essay on silence .  She begins this way. I hear it first thing in the morning. Though it's not really silence. There's the whir of the fan, the slowly ticking clock. It's not so much the absence of sound that defines silence, but a moment when the second hand slows the spinning Earth and creates an expansiveness of time. Not just on the borderlands of waking and sleeping, we cross the threshold into this broad space more often than we realize. Usually artists take us there. She offers the reader a poem by Suzanne Cleary, Elm Street , which will go down as one of my favorites. You see, I've been reading more poetry now, usually in the mornings before I go to work. Poems force us to slow down. Poems demand silence,

Tree 1

There's this tree in the hospital's parking lot that goes unnoticed. Its leaves are bright green. When they are about to fall off, the leaves turn into a yellowish color. The tree offers shade from heat. Because it's right smack in the middle, it runs the risk of being cut down, as people in my community often do to pave the way for "development." Like road-widening or the creation of a concrete parking lot.  Many trees—old acacia and narra trees—have been cut down in South Cotabato because of road-widening. The sight of fallen trees saddens me. Maybe I should take pictures of them before they are felled. Sounds like another blog project.


I read Alice Munro's Jakarta on this Saturday afternoon after my nap. It's the second story that appears in her collection, Family Furnishings (2014). As with most of her stories, a brief summary is difficult to formulate. There's the part where Kent—a pharmacist, who lives a normal life soaked in capitalism—visits Sonje, her ex-wife's bohemian friend many years later. Kent has a new wife, younger than his daughter, and together they drive across the country, visiting family and friends. Auntie Alice Munro's skill in storytelling is exceptional (I consider her to be in the same level as Tita Mavis Gallant, who writes shorter sentences), as she demonstrates in the insight she shares through Kent's experience.  With every visit he had made on this trip, there had come a moment of severe disappointment. The moment when he realized that the person he was talking to, the person he had made a point of seeking out, was not going to give him whatever it was he had come

Places where I eat

My friend Keth, fresh from fellowship training and who's about to start a nephrology practice in the city, gave me an idea: write about good food places.  Where to eat in town is a perpetual dilemma. I understand this issue comes with a lot of privilege because not everyone can afford to eat out, or even eat at all. But this problem resurfaces many times a week, and much more frequently during seasons when friends and family come over, or when people need to be met and fed, for work or pleasure or both. "Diin kita mag-meet man? Ano namit nga karan-an diri?" leave me dumbfounded. My personal default reply is to have lunch and dinner at home. Auntie Nanic's cooking is marvelous. She is a gift to our home. But she makes a truly good job in the kitchen that I now suspect that her main purpose in doing so is to ruin my diet. Although homecooked Ilonggo food is regenerative to the body and soul, I also enjoy variety. Recently there has been an explosion of new restaurants i

Devastated by the ending of The Mirror and the Light

Finished Hilary Mantel's The Mirror and the Light yesterday in a parking lot yesterday. Devastated by the ending, even if I knew—as history would have it—that Thomas Cromwell would die. Remembered that Mantel cried when she knew she had finished writing the books: Cromwell was a character so interesting you would remember him randomly. Skipped the second book in the series (Bring Up The Bodies); reserving it for long vacations when I could re-imagine the 1500s, undisturbed. 

Kindness and love of God

Working on my chapter title assignments for Titus for the New Testament survey class in a few hours.  Paul's reminder to young Titus, and to us, in chapter 3, verse 4, is my Saturday morning meditation.  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life (NIV). The "kindness and love of God our Savior," "not because of righteous things we had done," "mercy," "poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior," "justified by his grace," "heirs," and "hope of eternal life." These phrases, strung together, make my soul glad! Plants growing in Auntie Cecil's farm.

Long exposure

After bowling, my cousins and I had pork sisig in a restaurant at EMR, Morales, Koronadal. The band was good. My phone was in automatic long-exposure mode, and the result was surprising.  (I took bowling as my PE in 2004; I got a good enough grade that I was asked to represent my class in the inter-class finals in Diliman. I was okay, to be honest, but I wasn't as good as the other players. Even the bowling balls in university had minds of their own.)

Take care

Met and comforted several grieving families these past weeks. Death never comes easily. My job is made more difficult when I remember that entire families suffer after each loss, their lives changed, their homes bereft of familiar voices they had grown up with. Robert Bagg's poem, "Take Care," from Horsegod, iUniverse Inc, Bloomington Indiana, 2009, resonates deeply with me. 1975 After she’s spoken her last word my sister and I question Mom’s still-open eyes. One tear slides halfway down, waiting for us to notice before moving on. Mother had grown feather light. Two men from the funeral home carry her out …… on their aluminum gurney . . . . . each using two fingers of one hand. 1992 My father was still talking when he felt suddenly strange. He had just asked a question: “Son, what is happening to me?” Before I summoned the courage to lie or just tell him the truth, he was gone. So was my chance. Take care. Life goes so fast it makes what you’re composing yourself to say,

With Thoreau on weekends

I reserve Henry David Thoreau’s journals for quiet moments during the weekend, such as this afternoon, which finds me alone in the living room. The inverter air-conditioner is on full blast and hums with the reading voice in my brain, which is soaked in imagination, meandering, and travel.  Soon my cousin Hannah, who was up last night for online meetings, will emerge out of her nap, or Nanay will ask me to drive her to her friends’ houses, or Manong will get ready for his tennis sessions. (He has become a favorite in the city’s tennis club. They call him “attorney.”) The neighborhood is quiet. Paul is outside, enjoying the afternoon heat.   At 34 years old, Thoreau takes long walks. He “perambulates.” His diaries record what he sees: the willows, the red maples, the swamp white oak. It is like Instagram but without the temptation to impress and show off. As for me, I wish I could take on nature walking regularly. We have plenty of nature in South Cotabato. Yes, I can do that. Some doct


Wednesdays mark the mid-week for me. During moments of quiet, such as this morning, when everything is calm and my coffee is hot, I have the gift of a few precious minutes for reading and prayer. My meditation takes me to 1 Timothy, Paul's letter to a young man who is leading a new church. In chapter 3, Paul writes about qualifications for church leadership. Overseers and deacons have similar but distinct qualifications. As I ponder on the context and meaning of these passages, I remember and thank God for pastors and church leaders and Bible teachers who demonstrate the qualities Paul had outlined. Being above reproach, faithfulness to their spouses, being temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, gentle and not violent, not quarrelsome, not lovers of money, able to manage their families well, possessing good reputations, and have been long in the faith . Through their lives and teaching/preaching, our pastors and Bible teachers

Dog at Le Sélect, Montparnasse

I remind Paul to behave like this dog I saw in Paris last year. 


I'm enrolled in an online New Testament survey class which asks us to write paragraph titles for each book of the Bible. 1 and 2 Thessalonians were our assigned reading for the past two weeks. Here's a draft of my chapter title assignment, which I then encode in a Word file and post to the online learning portal. After I met a patient whose right arm had to be amputated because of a massive tumor, I've been practicing writing with my left hand. A Palomino Blackwing pencil is ideal for these writing assignments. 

Augustine's encouragement for accountability

Confessions by Augustine is one of my favorite books, recommended to me by an agnostic professor, but one that brings delight to my soul each time I read it. As with most great books, rereading allows me to learn something new I hadn't realized before. In the passage below, Augustine revisits his motive for testifying to the work of God in his life—a heartfelt and encouraging argument for church accountability. Would they share my joy when they hear how close, by your gift, I am lifted up to you, and share my prayer when they hear how far, by my own dead weight, I fall off from you? If so, to such I will open myself. For it is not a trivial help, God my Lord, to have "many give thanks for me or for many to pray for me.' I hope that a brother in spirit will love in me what you show him is lovable, lament in me what you show is lamentable—a brother, not a stranger, not 'a race of strangers, the speech of whose mouth is void of meaning, the work of whose strong hand is b


Repairs fascinate me. So do people who attempt them or make them possible. In his newest blog post, the writer of La Vie Graphite meditates on restoration . I read everything in this blog. I may disagree with his theology, but I love the elegance of his writing and the quietness of his life. I’ve always admired restorers of objects, structures, and historic artifacts. Gratefully, my speed-dial numbers include my typewriter repairer, fountain pen restorer, camera technician, and auto mechanic. These individuals are also esteemed friends. When any of us talk shop, we’ll often note the parallels between their crafts and mine as a bookbinder and conservator. The purposes of our respective restorative work is to keep things in fine operational order.  The part about pen repairs resonates me with me.  Pens present their own forms of mechanical puzzles. While rinsing a much-loved Reynolds fountain pen from one of my many sojourns in France, I watched the ring from the nib section roll across

Monogrammed pen case

The pens I take for the day—usually a fountain pen plus a ball-point or pencil—are housed in an elegant leather pencil case, monogrammed with my initials. The gracious and kind Nikki Gonzales-Ho, my co-faculty in Biochemistry, gave this to me. Many thanks to you, dear Nikki! 


I praise God for Matt Redman, Matt Boswell, and Matt Papa—all Matts !—for composing this joyful anthem about God's lovingkindness ! A blessed Sunday, dear friends.  Let praises now awake the dawn We’ll greet Your mercy with a song  Your people stand and sing for all Your lovingkindness  You’ve carried us in faithfulness  Upon the paths of righteousness  Our gracious King  You’ve crowned us with Your lovingkindness

Wingsung 699

I ordered a Wingsung 699 through Amazon, hoping some parts could be replacements for my Pilot Custom 823 Amber. The Chinese pen closely resembles the Japanese Pilot: the same size, feel, and elegance. The main difference lies in the nib quality: Custom 823's gold nib is superior to the 699's steel. But I was surprised how fantastic the Wingsung is. It's worth every peso! A wet writer that carries a substantial amount of ink, I've decided to use it as an everyday pen. The nib glides smoothly, albeit with minimal friction on rough hospital paper. I don't mind that, at all.  Because Wingsung 699 is a great pen on its own right, I've decided against swapping its parts with the Custom 823. (If you're curious: swapping is possible.) Pilot Philippines hasn't responded to any of my emails. If I happen to be in Manila, I might drop by Cosmos Bazaar to check if my Custom 823 can still be repaired. Here's how I write. This is the first "writing video&q

Faber-Castell Loom

Grateful for the gift of my high school classmate Greggy Granado and his wife Joanne: a new fountain pen. It's Faber-Castell Loom, in medium nib. The piano black variant looks so elegant.  It's a smooth writer, as most German pens are. The ink flow is perfect. I like how it fits perfectly in my hand. I'll include it in my every-day-pen rotation.  ( No response yet from Pilot regarding the Custom 823 . I ordered a Wingsung 699 through Amazon. I'll try switching the barrels and see if Wingsung's can replacement the cracked 823 barrel.)

A pestilential presence in your library

David Bentley Hart, in The Lamp Magazine , writes about the elegance and evolution of language and, in doing so, offers a tongue-in-cheek, hilarious critique of Strunk and White and George Orwell, known to many of us as the go-to book references for English grammar and style. (In the blockquotes below, the emphases are mine.) In fact, if you own a copy of The Elements of Style, just destroy the damned thing. It is a pestilential presence in your library. Most of the rules of style it contains are vacuous, arbitrary, or impossible to obey, and you are better off without them in your life. And the materials on grammar and usage are frequently something worse. Some of them are simply inherited fake rubrics—“however” must always be a postpositive, “which” must not be used for a restrictive relative clause, and other nonsense of that kind—all of which are belied by the whole canon of English literature. Others, however, are evidence of surprising ignorance. It is bad enough that the manual

Reflective Writing for Internists

If you're an internist and have some time to kill this weekend, join us for a few hours via Zoom. I'll be with Dr. Joti Tabula, poet, author, and publisher. It's going to be fun and worth your while.  I don't know how to divide myself because there's a university research workshop that will happen simultaneously, as well. Ah, the things I get myself into!   You are invited to a Virtual Workshop! The Philippine College of Physicians in cooperation with the PCP Medical Humanities presents: Reflective Writing for Internist: A 55-Word Story Writing Flash Workshop (Session 5) When: 14 January 2023, Saturday @ 10:00 AM Via Zoom meetings Register for free:

Hairline fracture

I refilled my Pilot Custom 823 (Amber) with ink early this morning, but I noted that the ink wasn't seeping through. On close inspection, there's a hairline fracture in the barrel, likely causing the problem with the piston-filling mechanism. I'm reaching out to Pilot Philippines for this. This is an on-going saga. I really love this pen and hope it gets repaired.

"I dream of letting the wind / accede to my whims..."

I celebrate the start of the weekend by reading Dr. Elvie Razon-Gonzalez's poem, Toxic Positivity , which appears on her collection, Vignette of voyages by Kasingkasing Press. Her words take me to a quiet, meditative place.  Here's an excerpt.  I dream of letting the wind accede to my whims, to take me out of this disquietude nestle in the warmth of the Alps into her maternal expanse that lead to praying hands.

Friendships and getting older

On friendships and getting older , an excerpt from Rethink Ageing: Lessons In Ageing From the Bolder and Older Generation by Nidhi Chawla and Reshmi Chakraborty, a book I hope to read soon. When we ask Chandrika Desai how she stays connected to people, she has a hearty laugh. “It’s my personality,” she says. Desai is a jovial 74-year-old who epitomises how important social engagement could be. But like she tells us, passively becoming part of a group is not the only way to do it. You need to be active at your end, too. Every morning, Desai sits with a list. She has a large network of family and friends, and each morning she calls different people. “I make an effort to reach out,” says Desai who lives on her own, leads her own life but is deeply connected to her two children who live overseas. This article cites the Hold-Lunstad study on the power of human relationships. While pursuing a PhD in Health and Social Psychology. Holt-Lunstad tried to find the answer to the question, do soc

Where do you find yourself today?

Meditating on Luke 2:7-20, Dr. Berry Bishop invites us to quiet introspection . Where do you find yourself today? Are you in a season of desperation or sadness? Or are you in an equally, if not more, vulnerable season of joy? What does worship look like for you? Is it loud and excitable like the song for today, or is it full of longing and wishing like the poetry reading for today? Is the season you are in inviting you to a posture like the images we are looking at? Or, is it moving you to your knees, or even a fetal position? I ask (and will ask) myself the same question this year. I'm grateful to the Lord for so many things, and may the year 2023 be a year of worship and prayer.