Friday, October 15, 2021

Old and new

I expected my new laptop—a MacBook Air, space gray—to arrive yesterday. But the delivery man from the courier company couldn’t find my home address; I’d later learn he didn’t ask around. The website thus registered the issue as “The company named in the Company Name field on the transport label is not the entity located at the physical address.” I was supposed to “provide new or updated consignee address.” Another person reading the notice would imagine I lived somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle.

This morning I went to the warehouse facility in GenSan, about 200 meters from my clinic. The security guard asked me to wait outside: they have my package. The laptop was wrapped in a brown box, which was wrapped by a thick transparent plastic. I placed the package in the backseat of the car, thanked the warehouse people, and drove to another hospital to see a patient.

I hadn't planned on getting a new computer. My old MacBook Air, around seven years old, remains functional. Sure, it’s a bit slow at times, when too many tabs are opened, or when I activate Garage Band by accident. There are moments when a restart is required. But the machine gets things done—Zoom meetings, Keynote or PowerPoint slides, Word or Pages, web browsing, and Netflix. I drag it in my clinics and use it for my consultancy and faculty work. It is only about 10 to 20 percent less efficient than when I had bought it at Robinsons Manila with my first salary; this was on my first year internal medicine residency. I remember that afternoon: my friend Racquel Bruno accompanied me after work. She said, “It feels like Christmas morning.” Her MacBook Air, she tells me, is still alive and kicking. We used our Macs on mortality reviews, meta-analyses, and the many paper work and researches we had to submit. 

Colored lines

My old Mac is special to me. It has been with me on my overseas trips for conferences. It has proven a trustworthy company in presentations, lectures, and audits. I wrote papers, essays, blog posts, and stories on it. I recorded my podcasts with its built-in QuickTime player. I used it for my diplomate exam in medical oncology. So it pained me when, on October 5, vertical lines appeared in the screen’s center. Forums in the internet said it could be an LCD error, which requires replacement of the screen. It could also be a motherboard issue, which needs a special restart (it didn’t work). I was forced to get a new one.

I borrowed my brother Sean’s laptop, which runs on Windows, to tide things through. I reached out to a schoolmate from Notre Dame who fixes Apple products at a minimal fee. Just when I was about to meet Jeff, the vertical lines had disappeared. The screen looked normal. MacBook Airs are self-healing, after all.

Mac

I had just finished transferring all files from the old to the new Mac, and I’m writing this post so I could get used to the keyboard. For the file transfer, I used Apple’s Migration Assistant, which clones the old to the new. It took 30 minutes to complete the entire process. Sean made me a cup of lavender tea for the meantime. I also entertained myself with an Elizabeth Bowen story, “Mrs. Windermere.” Sean said, “Daw nami man ang laptop mo, Manong, ah. Nami iya color.”

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Rereading Stephen King's story with fresher, older eyes

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Treated myself to a Stephen King short story on this bright Sunday morning. "All That You Love Will Be Carried Away," which appears in his collection, Everything's Eventual: 14 Dark Tales. Read it first in high school. Now I have older eyes, with a fresher perspective; and I've been driving. A salesman in the American Midwest stops by a motel to kill himself then second-guesses his decision. Ending is open-ended, but I like to think it ends happily. Rained last night. Plants in Nanay's garden are refreshed. Getty hymns play in the background as the family prepares for Sunday worship. Take care, dear friends!

Sunday, September 26, 2021

No-movement Sundays No. 3

Car wet from last night's rain. Roads empty. Fog on the bridge connecting Marbel to Tupi, but visibility was good. Rolled down my windows twice, on the way to the hospital—first, in Polomolok and then in Gensan. Passed through without fanfare. Standard phrase I say is "Maayong aga, Sir. Doktor ako, may pasyente lang nga bisitahon." Don't care much for a putting up a sign ("Medical Frontliner") on the car window; some colleagues do. Military men saluted and wished me well, almost apologetically, for hindering my passage. "Pasensya na, Dok," they said. Overheard one young soldier said, "Daw kabáta pa sa iya ba." Didn't bother telling him I'm 34. On the way back home, noted four dogs playing in the middle of the road when I passed by Palkan. Almost mistook a brown dog for a gigantic poop, or a pile of cardboard. Sleeping on the outer lane as I passed through Judge Alba Street, it seemed satisfied with my driving. Dogs are taking over the roads when humans aren't around.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

A picture of peace

Been working on my assignment for the Old Testament survey class taught by Pastor Allan Luciano of TMAI. This beautiful passage from Dr. Thomas Constable's commentary on Amos struck me. 

If cruelty to other nations makes God angry, it is because His heart is set on kindness. If oppression stirs up His wrath, it is because He desires people to live in peace. If violations of human rights call down His judgment, it is because He longs that people experience happiness and well-being. His sovereign government always moves toward the best conditions for humanity, and He resists what disrupts those conditions. Amos closes with a picture of the world over that God desires and will bring to pass eventually. It is a picture of peace.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Alien versus predator

Alien versus Predator helmet

Just before we passed through the Silway 8 bridge, Sean woke me up. I was sleep in the backseat, and he was driving. Hannah, his girlfriend, was beside him in front. We promised Alyza (Klai, as we call her), Auntie Nanic's second daughter, that we'd treat her to new shoes and dresses after she completed her summer job of scanning old photos from the baúl.

“Manong, look!” 

We saw the man and his wife (presumably), trailing behind us. The wife hid her head under the otherworldly appendages flowing out of the man’s helmet. The couple rode without a care in the world. They were safe; they had helmets. And they were enjoying themselves.

Naturally, I remembered this line from Matthew B. Crawford's book, "Why We Drive":
Life often feels overspecified, fully modeled and determinate, but the road has a dicey quality to it. We usually have a destination in mind, but when we get behind the wheel we expose ourselves to unexpected hazards, as well as unlooked-for moments of discovery. On a road trip, you encounter landscapes and human types beyond the ken of your usual routines, and there is something rejuvenating about this. It reminds you that there are possibilities you hadn't reckoned with, lives you could have lived—or might yet.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

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The birds of the air

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This bird's nest, outlived by its occupants, fell from the kamuning tree. 

The birds visit in the morning. They sing and dance, with not a care in the world. They hide in the canopy during rains. 

Birds remind me of these comforting words of Jesus:
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26)

This has been a tough week so far, but God's word sustains me.  

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

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Death and burial—Calvin's encouragement

John Calvin to M. Falais

Letter CXXXIII—To Monsieur de Falais. Directions for his conduct towards the Emperor Charles V. Geneva, 31st May 1545. An excerpt:

It matters little what we have to endure in this world, considering the shortness of our life. And if length of days should be granted us, it is well that the Son of God be glorified by our sufferings, and we be participators in his glory. Since, for the love of him, you have begun to die to the world, it will be necessary to learn henceforth what it is to be buried. For death is nothing without burial. This is the consolation which it becomes you to take, that you make not deceive yourself, but prepare to endure even unto the end. And yet the cross you bear is very easy compared with that our of Master. When it shall please him to impose a heavier burden on you, he will give you, at the same time, shoulders to bear it.

John Calvin's letters are a breath of fresh air, balm for the weary soul, and encouragement to the heavy heart. 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Tatay's fruit trees

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Two years after Tatay's passing, we still receive fruits from the trees he had planted years ago in the farm. This is guyabano (Annona muricate), or soursop. When we were kids, Tatay would bring home pasalubongkakanin, fruit, snacks—each time he went out of the house. The fruit harvests remind us of him. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Friday, July 23, 2021

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Not an easy story, but wildly enjoyable

Peter Orner on Mavis Gallant (via The Atlantic):
That's why "In Plain Sight" is not an easy story. It's wildly enjoyable to me, but to get to know another person, to really know them, you've got to be patient. That's why I pick up a book, after all. Fiction is one of the few ways I get that slowed-down feeling. Everything else in my life is moving so fast. But when I read, especially when I read Gallant, I pause. What I want to do is immerse myself in someone else for a while.
Gallant says stories are for shutting out the world, this way, for just a moment. "Stories are not chapters of novels," she says. "They should not be read one after another, as if they were meant to follow along. Read one. Shut the book. Read something else. Come back later. Stories can wait."

Thursday, July 15, 2021

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Recording podcasts

Oncology Podcast Series screenshot

Kuya Imay was one of the first people who knew that I was commissioned to record a series of podcasts about cancer. The first episode is now out in Docquity, an app for doctors. 

Many years ago, at the Matulungin apartment, I recorded a few podcasts which would never see the light of day. I turned on my laptop's voice recorder app, brought it near him, and threw at him a barrage of questions in English. "Kuya, this is being recorded. What are you doing now?" He would speak in English at first, but would conclude his statements in Bisaya, and eventually, in laughter. I still have those files, Kuya, so don't you dare cross me. 

Monday, July 5, 2021

Sunday, July 4, 2021

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Weekly update

Guest speaker

Been asked to speak in an online graduation ceremony of my former high school. Initial thought: what have I accomplished in life, really? Agreed to it in the hopes that I don’t get invited again. Perhaps I need to tell the kids I, too, graduated last year in an online ceremony, and I know that not everybody pays attention to his/her screens. What do I know now that I wish I had known when I was younger? Many things. Experience sucker punches youthful boasting. My years outside of high school taught me there are far smarter people than me. Listening to counsel from family and church goes a long way. Read your Bible, pray every day. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not in your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Read and read and, perhaps, avoid the internet, if you can. Study hard. Invest in fountain pens. Find good friends. My message will be recorded this Wednesday, so I’d better start writing. 

Sunday rounds

Drove to the hospital after Sunday service today. My patient, a Christian woman who sings hymns during chemo, was admitted for bacterial and fungal pneumonia five days ago. She feels better today. Told her I was sorry I didn’t see her in the morning. She brushed off my apologies and said, in the most loving voice, “Akigan ta gid ka, Dok, kung gin-una mo ko. Di ba, ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God’ dapat.” My patients are blessings to me. 

Reading extravaganza

E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India. Breathtaking. Glad I was able to visit India before the pandemic. Liked to think my experience created a background for the novel’s sights and sounds. A Passage will end up as one of my favorite novels. Couldn’t wrap my head around it entirely. The language is glorious. 

Alice Munro’s Something I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You has stories that are, in brief, the textual distillations of her imagination. Now on the tenth story of the collection, “Winter Wind.” The stories are so good that I reserve them for later. 

Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential sounded like the TV show host. He wore desert boots, hated vegetarians, loved to cook, kept a close set of friends, was a professional. Book has tips on when to eat seafood in New York. The reading experience was aspirational for me, as I don’t see myself traveling elsewhere any time soon. He wrote about a person he knew who killed himself. Knowing what would happen in the future, it sounded ominous. 

Sunday, June 27, 2021

When I learned about PNoy's passing

I was doing chemotherapy when I heard President Noynoy Aquino has died. The television inside the chemo room was tuned to DZMM Teleradyo. My patients, young women diagnosed with breast cancer, were asleep. I asked Ma’am She, the nurse, what the cause of death was. It was hard to say if I spoke too loudly—with the mask and face shield, I could not calculate my volume accurately—but I must have stirred my patients awake from their diphenhydramine-induced stupor. They had heard about PNoy’s passing an hour ago. I am always the last to know. The 37-year old mother with metastatic disease told me, “You never know when God will take you home. At least I know I will die because of cancer.”

For many months, PNoy has been out of my consciousness. I have not heard from him. I’d later learn he liked to keep to himself. His introversion was misinterpreted as coldness, nonchalance, indifference. But he was keen on details. He remembered the important numbers. He drank Coke Regular and smoked cigarettes and liked Aiza Seguerra. He said his I-love-you's to his favorite nephew, Josh. Later that day, I read Twitter, that marketplace of bright ideas and fake news, cute cat videos and expletive-infused rants. Someone confessed that his Araling Panlipunan teacher used to give them an assignment to write an outline of the President’s State of the Nation Address. “‘Yun ang mga panahong naiintindihan ko pa ang mga sinasabi ng Pangulo.”

I chuckled and mourned.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

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Afternoon rains

With nothing else to write about, I will tell you about the weather.

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Since two weeks ago, it has stared to rain in the afternoons. The clouds thicken at two o’clock. As the cumulus becomes nimbus, a soporific gloominess descends upon the Valley. The streets are quiet. A cool breeze enters the living room, already emptied of people. It is siesta, the lowest point of human activity during the daytime. The occupants are inside the bedrooms. The indoor plants sway with the wind, as in a lullaby. The tropical warmth, accumulated during the morning, is pushed out of the house. Above, the gathering of water vapor—from the southern Philippine seas many kilometers away, the Allah River that cuts through the province, the great lakes in the Upper Valley, the smaller, shallower streams that nourish the farming lands and towns—is gradual but sure. Nobody notices the God-designed chemistry of the water cycle in the atmosphere, save for people on motorcycles who realize they must find shade and shelter, albeit temporarily. There is a general aversion to getting soaked in the rain; it can lead to illness. Those at home, deep in their sleep, may be awakened, dreamless, by the successive peals of thunder, a prelude to a soft drizzle that turns into downpour. It lasts for minutes, sometimes hours. Those inside rush to rescue whatever hangs on their clotheslines. The rain pounds on the roof, waters the plants, wets the dry earth. In these brief moments of respite from the uncomfortable heat, nobody misses the sun. It will be a cool night later.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Alternative meds

Nanay wakes up, distraught, getting hold of a memory that is becoming elusive with every second gone. As she makes her bed, she tells me, "I was telling a group of people to stop taking MX3!"

Friday, June 4, 2021

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First chemo, remembering H

Spoke about this verse to a woman, 62, on her first chemo session. She teared up, told me about how her church family is praying for her back home. She spoke as if she were about to die tomorrow. Patients with cancer realize they can go anytime. She referred to God as her Father. "He knows what's best, though I may not understand completely," she said. Encouraged her with a line that I remember from Tim Keller's preaching—that suffering is never wasted for God's redeemed children; He always has a purpose in mind. I learn so much from my patients. Their stories wean me from my love of this world. I remember the song: "And what can this world offer / when all I desire is You?"

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But this world has so much suffering. Yesterday, woke up to an online thread. My high school classmate, H, has died. H was a newly minted lawyer, was married for 7 months, with a baby on the way. Hadn't spoken to him in years, except with random greetings in a Messenger group chat. H was my classmate in Notre Dame; in high school, we transferred to KN Special Science Class, where we were in the same class for four years. Our hearts are heavy. His child will be born fatherless. May God's comfort be upon his family left behind. Life is a vapor. 
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