Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Adding to the unfinished pile of books


Reading Martin Amis these days, starting with his non-fiction works. He's a terrific essayist. Dwight Garner and Jason Zinoman, along with host Gilbert Cruz, talked about him with fondness and admiration that I just had to discover his writing myself. This adds to my list of books I'm currently finishing, along with Alice Munro's A Wilderness Station, David Sedaris's Festival of Snackery, Thoreau's journals, Mary Oliver's Upstream, and the poetry collections in between. What I didn't include: Harper's Biochemistry, Lippincott's Biochemistry, and Albert's Molecular Biology of the Cell. Also: Thomas Constable's commentary of Revelation and Tim Keller's book on suffering (which I'm rereading). There's no virtue in reading for me; I like doing it.


Sunday, May 28, 2023

Lola Alice's book did not get burned in the Great Post Office Fire!

Alice Munro A Wilderness Station

My copy of Alice Munro's A Wilderness Station: Selected Stories, 1968-1994 arrived in the mail three days ago. It was literally through the mail—the PhilPost, not through FedEx or LBC—just around the time when I had come to terms with the real possibility that the parcel may have been burned in the Great Manila Post Office Fire. The postal man rang the doorbell and thereupon caused Paul to welcome him with a bark, jolting the neighbors who were perhaps resting after their morning ritual of sweeping dead leaves on the street. The Il Postino (a great Italian film, by the way) brought the secondhand—rather pre-loved—copy from Thriftbooks, via Amazon. I had placed the order last March but I was repeatedly notified that the delivery was going to be late, as in most cases with secondhand books. I have pre-loved, loved, and will post-love this copy. (I imagine that Kuya John D, who was initially lukewarm towards Lola Alice, will be amused at my ghastly play of words.)

Alice Munro delights my soul deeply, for she does things with words that no one can quite replicate. What I also like about her is her love and curiosity for all things small town and country and rural. She writes:

"The reason I write so often about the country to the east of Lake Huron is just that I love it . . . I am intoxicated by this particular landscape, by the almost flat fields, the swamps, the hardwood bush lots, by the continental climate with its extravagant winters. I am at home with the brick houses, the falling-down barns, the occasional farms that have swimming pools and airplanes, the trailer parks, the burdensome old churches, Wal-Mart, and Canadian Tire. I speak the language." 

You can read the entire page (p. xv) of her introduction to the book below.


I never cared much for the stories in big cities. I have lived in one for half my life. But it is the countryside that intrigues and captivates me. Underneath the morning greetings for neighbors and the seemingly simple joys of friends and families are many conflicts that can be subjects for Munro-esque stories! Just listen to the local radio.  

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2 Cor 3:18 Blackwing Palomino

I love the imagery of transformation to Christlikeness that the apostle Paul allows us to behold in 1 Corinthians 3:18. For such is the goal of the Christian life: to be more like Christ. The transformation is enabled by the Holy Spirit, who indwells every believer and pushes forward the process of sanctification. But there is another sense in which the believer must exercise spiritual disciplines, trusting in God for strength and wisdom, to reach that end. In this passage, Paul alludes to the fact of our incomplete knowledge of God's glory, as if saying, "God is infinitely more glorious that you can ever think or imagine." I love the translation of the New King James Version here that I had to rewrite it using a Blackwing Palomino (Pearl) that Sean and Hannah gave me. 

I therefore begin this Sunday by reminding you of the exciting prospect for God's children. We will behold His glory soon, and each day brings with it experiences, interactions, problems, and joys that will make us more Christ-like, through the enabling of the Spirit.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2023

At Davao International Airport


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Sunday, May 21, 2023


Lights in mother's garden

In the morning, you can hear birds singing in the front porch. These creatures do not have a care in the world. They enjoy making nests and playing around before high noon, when they would rest under the shade. Why worry about life, then?


Ah, the weekend!

Kids swimming

Pure, child-like wonder along the shores of General Luna, Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte. 

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Saturday, May 20, 2023

Tim Keller, 1950-2023


Last night, Manong asked, "Did you hear about Tim Keller?" Tim was one of our favorite preachers. He was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. He had been doing fairly well and had even published a book in the interim. Until recently, the cancer had made a comeback. A Twitter update mentioned that Tim was transferred to hospice care. 

This morning, I wake up to the news of Dr. Tim Keller's passing. I mourn the loss of a friend and mentor, although I never got the chance to meet him face to face. 

I've been listening to Tim's preaching on my long drives to work. I follow the Gospel in Life podcast and listen to at least two episodes weekly. I can recite to you the opening and closing spiels, even the short commercial segment that interrupts the preaching. Tim's exposition from the pulpit, recorded from many years ago when he was senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, mined the inexhaustible riches of God's Word. I'd describe his preaching style as simple but not simplistic. His gift and skill was to talk about the glorious truths of Jesus Christ in accessible, sometimes poetic words that speak to the mind and heart. He pointed his New York City congregation and his listeners from all over the world to the Lord Jesus Christ always. He defended the Christian faith against atheism, post-modernism, and similar worldviews. He solidified my belief that Christianity is a faith that requires, and has undergone and withstood, deep intellectual scrutiny through these years. I'd end up grateful for having my mind and heart opened to the powerful, soul-saving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. 


His book, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, ministered to me deeply during my father's passing. To this day I reread and study and profit much from it. He wrote in page 308: 

Suffering puts its fingers on good things that have become too important to us. We must respond to suffering not ordinarily by jettisoning those loved things but by turning to God and loving him more, and by putting our roots down deeper into him. You will never really understand your heart when things are going well. It is only when things go badly that you can see it truly. And that's because it is only when suffering comes that you realize who is the true God and what are the false gods of your lives.

I grieve and celebrate at the same time. His last words were, "There is no downside for me leaving, not in the slightest." 

I will miss you, Pastor Tim. But I believe, in my heart of hearts, that I will see you soon, in that great, grand reunion of God's sons and daughters whose sins have been washed by the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross.

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Thursday, May 18, 2023

Multidisciplinary tumor board tonight

Ovarian cancer MDT

I'll be a panelist/reactor in tonight's virtual multidisciplinary tumor board organized by the Cancer Commission. I'm a firm believer of multidisciplinary management: it improves and facilitates care. Tonight's case is challenging. I look forward to the group's consensus. The amazing Dr. Myra Maduramente, gyne-oncologist in General Santos City, will be moderating. If you're a healthcare provider and you have time to spare, please drop by. 

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Lovely rainstorm

What I'm grateful for:


This phrase is taken from Rebecca Baumgartner's piece on gratitude. I love how the words are perfectly strung together here. A "lovely' rainstorm, the "breaking up" of the "scorching heat"—what a sight for the tired, parched soul living in the tropics.

In case you're wondering: that's the handcrafted Banwa pen inked with a Parker Quinck blue-black. The notebook (Shenshi stationary) was a giveaway, but the cream-colored pages soak the ink beautifully.


Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Fountain pen by an Ilonggo craftsman

Here's an elegant fountain pen handcrafted by Nonoy Vallejo, an Ilonggo craftsman who specializes in wood. His works were on display during an oncology convention. The pen has a medium iridium nib that writes smoothly. The body and cap are made from a 100-year old molave wood repurposed from an old house in the city. His charming wife is from Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat—which is almost an extension of Marbel. Kasimanwa ko. They lived for a few years in Davao. I fall for stories like those and bought pen right away. 

I asked Nonoy about his motivations for making fountain pens. His wife loved pens and calligraphy, but the pens manufactured abroad could be expensive. Why shouldn't he make one to please his wife? He was good with his hands and had a knack and interest in woodworking. He gradually learned the craft of fountain pen making. I suppose he made his wife happy and, figuring there was a market for these pens, decided to start a business. 

His pens, which bear artistry, history, and provenance, and which are really just good, working pens, could make great gifts. Some of his pens were sold out, but he's able to arrange for shipping. (You may purchase your pens from Nonoy, too. Visit his Facebook and Instagram and place your orders.)

More power to you, Nonoy!

Banwa pen

Banwa pen


Monday, May 1, 2023

An extra Sunday in Iloilo

In Iloilo these past days. Lots of things to be said about this beautiful, charming city: the wide roads, clean streets, safe bike lanes, and bustling community beside the river. It bears an uncanny resemblance to my home. The food, the surnames, the language. Like most people in my hometown, I trace my roots here.

Had an extra day to spend. Met Tito Bert and Auntie Hearty who took me to Baptist Central Church in La Paz district. Lunch was in a quiet restaurant in Mandurriao. 

Took a nap in my hotel room. Sunday naps are refreshing, wherever you are in the world. Joined Ahmad, Brylle, and Cy—new, promising medical oncologists—on a DIY walking tour in the late afternoon, when the sun was less harsh.

First stop: Jaro Cathedral

Jaro Cathedral

Couple hanging around the courtyard. 

Around Jaro Cathedral

A family doing a tour. 

City tour with Ahmad, Brylle and Cy

My companions were Brylle, practicing in Tacloban City. He was my intern when I was training in Internal Medicine. 

Extended trip with Ahmad, Brylle, and Cy

Ahmad, from Marawi City, was also this year's Mr. PSMO, an award reserved for the select few who were coerced to don an extravagant costume, parade on-stage, participate in a Q and A. Who gets to join the pageant reminds me of Shirley Jackson's morbid short story, "The Lottery."

City tour with Ahmad, Brylle and Cy

Cy is based in Cagayan de Oro. I told him to submit a piece for a writing workshop. 

Extended trip with Ahmad, Brylle, and Cy

Across the street was Molo Mansion. Had coffee al fresco—satisfying. Save for Brylle, whom I had known years ago, I hadn't had much opportunity to get to know Ahmad and Cy until that afternoon. Their struggles about starting a new practice and discovering the real world outside the safety of medical training resonated with me deeply.

Molo mansion

Extended trip with Ahmad, Brylle, and Cy

Walked towards the Esplanade, a celebration of the possibilities of wide open spaces. People looked happy, sweaty, and healthy.

Extended trip with Ahmad, Brylle, and Cy

Extended trip with Ahmad, Brylle, and Cy

Extended trip with Ahmad, Brylle, and Cy

Level Up Iloilo!

Extended trip with Ahmad, Brylle, and Cy

Extended trip with Ahmad, Brylle, and Cy

Twilight found us hungry. Dinner was at Punot, which was packed with joyful families and friends celebrating.

City tour with Ahmad, Brylle and Cy

Had KBL (kadios - baboy - langka), pansit molo, chicken wings, grilled seafood. Capped the meal with buko halo-halo.

City tour with Ahmad, Brylle and Cy

Then it was a Grab ride back to the hotel. Grateful for the afternoon to spend with these young cancer specialists in a city that's full of possibilities. I pray for their success and happiness.

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