Thursday, August 13, 2020


"The books you read are the books you can easily bring with you."

Patrick Rhone, who owns the defunct Minimal Mac, now blogs at Rhoneisms. He published his reading plan for 2019. These are some of what he wrote. I have a few comments below.

Read more paperback books, specifically mass-market sized ones. The books you read are the books you can easily bring with you. And, especially in the winter months here, every coat I own has large enough pockets to easily slip one in.

My Kindle holds 90 percent of the books I've read for the last three years. Occasionally I bring a paperback or even a hardcover. This is the exception rather than the rule. I read more books because of my Kindle.

Replace boredom with books. In the check out line, in the waiting room, while my daughter is in her classes. Assuming I’m good about having a book within easy reach per above, I’ll fill these sorts of times with reading one.

Absolutely. The more I read, the less time I spend in social media, the happier I become. Reading books offers a peaceful distraction, encourages critical thinking, fosters concentration, and cultivates a special relationship reader and author. I read long works through this method (Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Calvin's Institutes, Charnock's Doctrine of Regeneration, for example). 

Bias towards fiction. If you look over my reading list of the past several years, you’ll notice I tend to bias towards non-fiction. The reason is that I’m a curious learner and reading non-fiction fuels that. That said, every time I do read a fiction book for escape and entertainment, I always feel like i should do so more often but then fall back into my habits. The truth is, I read fiction a lot faster and enjoy the escape when I allow it. Therefore, I’m going to intentionally bias towards it and see what happens.

I read anything and everything. I'm biased toward fiction, almost as a default. Fiction allows me to delve into another human's imagination, which I enjoy. Over the years, however, I've discovered some gems in the non-fiction department. William Finnegan's Barbarian Days (on surfing) and David Remnick's biography of Muhammad Ali (on boxing) are some of them.

Read more classics (including ones I’ve read and would like to read again). Not the least of the reason being that many of these are easily available in a smaller, mass-market size where recent paperback are less so (in general, these are trade-sized).

I'm intentional in the classics I read. I'm biased towards works of Christian classics, especially the those of the early church fathers, including Puritan writers. Thomas Watson, Jonathan Edwards, and Stephen Charnock captivate me. St. Augustine uplifts me. There's John Calvin, of course. The language they use is beautiful, almost poetic. They may seem daunting. I admit that they need some getting used to. But my heart is stirred to more love for God, and my eyes look to heaven. They're worth your time!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020


The 14-day quarantine: last day

Quarantine Hotel Quarantine rain Quarantine Hotel Woke up to thunder and rain. Afternoon nap done. There goes my day. 

Used to love rain as a child. Didn’t fancy it too much when I lived in Manila, when it meant leptospirosis, flooding, and higher Grab fees. 

Last day of quarantine today. Yesterday Sean dropped by to hand me food. Greeted him from an open window. He lost weight and looks more like me. Durian was moist, sweet, heavenly. Devoured everything in minutes. Room smelled like coffee and durian. No anosmia! Called mother about durian. She said, “Let me know if you want some more.” My family gets excited about tropical fruits—perks of living in this sun-soaked piece of paradise. 

Outside my window: trees swaying, soil soaked in watery goodness. Amazing is God’s creation. I feel artistic but can’t get my words out. 

Meditated on life of prophet Samuel and Psalm 23. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Spent the morning thinking about this. Prayed for friends and family and myself—career directions, and so on. 

Plan for tonight: watch some episodes of Scams (Japanese series) and Occupied (Norwegian series), pack things, write some emails.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Monday, August 10, 2020

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Friday, August 7, 2020

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The 14-day quarantine, days 3-5

Work, meaningful work, is the antidote to boredom. Must remind myself to quit anything that bores me. 

Yesterday: spoke to friends and family. Tito Bong, my father's close friend, called me up. Felt like talking to Tatay. In many respects they sound the same. Told me that Tatay's gift of charming people rubbed off on me. Everyone knew and liked him, Tito said. In malls and restaurants, people were charmed. Heartwarming story: Tatay and his bike gang passing through chapel named after San Isidro Labrador. Tatay told Tito Bong, "Lance would be angry if I named him Isidro, so I used 'Isidore' instead." Tito said Tatay was always proud of me. I miss him every day. 

Worked on papers. Made me forget I'm in quarantine.

Metro Manila now in MECQ. Government listened to doctors this time, but I feel this is temporary. Doctor-friends relieved but pessimistic. Note to self: limit social media engagement. Atmosphere is anger and hopelessness. Must pray for wisdom for our leaders, who don't have much of it. 

Huge PhilHealth scam irks me. How can thieves do this to poor patients who can barely afford to pay for transpo to clinic, let alone their chemo meds? The depravity of human nature. Trusting that justice prevails in the end. God is just and merciful.

Technology makes quarantine bearable. Tita Mavis's essay on Marguerite Yourcenar intrigues me. Got myself a copy of Memoirs of Hadrian. Tita Mavis on English translations of French work: 

None of the books now available in English reveals anything of the quality and clarity of the French. English and French are not negative-positive images of each other, but entirely different instruments. The two languages cannot be made to work in the same way. A French sentence, transcribed exactly as it stands, means an English sentence with five words too many.

With barely a grasp of French, I'll make do with the English translation.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

I think it's going to rain today

Current LSS: Audra McDonald's I Think It's Going to Rain Today. She's right on two counts. First, kindness is overflowing, despite humanity's depraved nature. Second, I think it's going to rain today.

Broken windows and empty hallways
A pale dead moon in the sky streaked with gray
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it's going to rain today

Scarecrows dressed in the latest styles
With frozen smiles to chase love away
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it's going to rain today

Lonely, lonely
Tin can at my feet
Think I'll kick it down the street
That's the way to treat a friend

Bright before me the signs implore me
To help the needy and show them the way
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it's going to rain today

Monday, August 3, 2020

Sunday, August 2, 2020

ECQ is not yet over

Ate Lei sounds the alarm on increasing COVID-19 cases, reaffirms importance of physical distancing and wearing of masks, and empowers the public--"you are our first line of defense." The advice is firm and compassionate. Listen to her.

Dr Lei Camiling-Alfonso, technical specialist for the Philippine Society of Public Health Physicians, says the Philippines is far from return to normal. Camiling-Alfonso took part in the 'Frontliners for ECQ' online press conference on Saturday, August 1, 2020

Saturday, August 1, 2020


The 14-day Quarantine, days 1-2

Day 2 of quarantine. Cloudy day. Rained all evening. Rooster’s cry woke me at 5 am. Could hear it over closed windows. Turned off the aircon. I get cold easily—an inconvenience in places with snow, but not a problem in Marbel, where it feels like an oven most days. Opened my email, wrote replies. Still dark outside. Before daybreak is the best time to get things done.

Last night, spoke with a couple from Dormitories Christian Fellowship over Zoom. DCF people are the best—bright minds, kind hearts from provinces meeting in the country’s best school. Or so we think. Among my dearest friends are DCFers. Call was a welcome distraction from the monotony of quarantine. Been itching to be productive all day. Getting the hang of online consults. With video, I could see facial reactions at least. So much of doctor-patient communication is nonverbal. Face-to-face consult, in the flesh, is still the best. Ended the call with my heart encouraged by their faith in the Lord. Miss talking to patients. Hoping to start a clinic here soon. Waiting for approval from a telemedicine provider. Doing remote clinics while locked in hotel room—why not?

Mavis Gallant—Tita Mavis, we call her—keeps me company. Paris Notebooks is delightful. They don’t print this anymore. Found a copy from Powell’s Books (Portland, OR). Delivered in post office last February but I picked it up few days ago. So worth the trip. Mother will reprimand me for risking exposure. Miss getting nagged. Tita Mavis writes she was neighbors with a med student. I love her more now.

Touchdown Marbel

Arrived in Mindanao last July 30. Flight was okay. Lady at NAIA checked my documents, stamped them. Remembered A Very Secret Service: “tamponner!” Man at PAL check-in counter asked, “You’ve been abroad, Sir?” He saw my Japan visa. Memory of cancelled trip. Will have to content myself with watching documentaries of Japanese old people. Might rewatch Kimi No Nawa. Throughout trip, wore N95 over surgical mask. Also: face shield. Felt like I had cataracts. Too much? Old med school roommate Bryan Jay wore complete PPE. Better safe than sorry.

Touchdown Marbel

Touchdown Marbel

Plane was 80 percent occupied. Fascinated by kids on board—they didn’t give a care to this world’s problems. Childlikeness, a virtue. Teared up as I remembered God’s goodness to me throughout all my years in Manila. Couldn’t wipe my tears lest I risk getting COVID. Tears dried on their own. Wala muta. Brothers tell me I’m a sosyal crier.

Touchdown Marbel

Nanay texted me, “Welcome home!” Auntie Net: “See you in 14 days!” Manong quite envious he was left behind. Sean asking if everything was okay, he’d bring me a coffee maker. I have the best, kindest, most generous brothers. Filled out some forms. Light snacks on designated seat in LGU bus. Driver started small talk, greeted everyone “good morning” in Hiligaynon. Sounded like one of my father’s friends. Felt like home, at last.

Touchdown Marbel

Touchdown Marbel

At Koronadal City Health Office, got tested. Old lady told me she remembered a speech I gave in high school. Someone from high school announced, “Amo ni ang valedictorian namon.” There went my wish for anonymity. Everyone calls me “Dok” now. Even the receptionist and the man who brings meals to my door. A small world.

Poignant scenes: six or seven-year old boy, before going to the rest room, asked if I could watch over their bags. Mother was away, interviewed by health care worker. The kid acted like an adult; he’ll reach places. In contrast to many kids these days—downright irresponsible, waiting for their overly doting mothers to feed them, while they play on their gadgets. Could be forgivable they had a book. But gadgets? Disastrous.

Another: old people asking the nurse, “Can we feed our dogs?” “Where can we hang our clothes?” “Can I walk around the garden? I have a fence and I live alone.” Nurse told us, “Be creative with your time.” Encouraged us to record Tiktok videos. So eloquent and heartwarming, with a reassuring voice that remind me of ninangs who sniff me during beso-beso.

Touchdown Marbel

Now settled in small hotel. Sean arranged for accommodation. Internet connection is good. Books keep me occupied—Thomas Watson, George Saunders, Tita Mavis, and maybe Hilary Mantel.

Friday, July 31, 2020

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