Sunday, November 24, 2013

Our Pediatrics rotation in black and white

CLERK MARK Bitong celebrated his birthday days ago. He's a big boy now.

Mark Bitong
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Saturday, November 23, 2013

David McIntyre's The Hidden Life of Prayer: a jewel-strewn tapestry for the serious Christian

THE HIDDEN Life of Prayer by Scottish pastor David McIntyre is a masterpiece of Christian literature. Published in 1981, it deals with an important area of the Christian life where a lot of believers struggle with—prayer.

McIntyre writes, "Prayer is the most sublime energy of which the spirit of man is capable. It is in one aspect glory and blessedness; in another it is toil and travail, battle and energy."

So many books have been written about prayer—how to pray, why we must pray. Biographies of prayerful men and women also abound. The sheer number of published works on this subject shows that the struggle is great, and believers are looking for encouragement and instruction.
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Friday, November 22, 2013

Remembering CS Lewis' 50th death anniversary

CS Lewis

CS LEWIS died 50 years ago today. He is one of my favorite authors. He has shown me that the life of the mind and of faith are not incompatible—they complement each other. A Christian thinker and apologist, he was also a world-renowned professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature. He was a voracious reader, an excellent writer, and from what I've heard over the Internet, an engaging radio show host.

I read Mere Christianity in 2004. My friend Paul Balite gave it to me as a present. I could not grasp him at first—his sentences were short and crisp, but they were so packed with meaning that I had to pause and reread entire pages and sections again. Following his thought process humbled me—Jack, as he was fondly called, was a brilliant man. That he was a faithful Christian excited me even more; that he was seriously joyful about Christ made my heart explode in excitement.
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Thursday, November 21, 2013

The only exercise I ever get

AFTER I WOKE up from my nap I felt my neck hurt. And my arms, too.

The code, which lasted for 20 minutes or so in the early morning, had me do the chest compressions with the Pediatrics resident. The patient was a 16-year old girl with a malignant tumor. The family had long known the prognosis—a dire one—but her mother kept wailing in the corner, crying out for help, while her father looked dazed, as if hypnotized, wondering if it was all just a dream.
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Monday, November 18, 2013

Stalking and Dante Alighieri

THE OTHER DAY I went to my neighborhood's second-hand bookstore after dinner. I was browsing through the new titles with the other customers. Some were leafing through magazines, which I don't give a fig about. Others were looking at thick academic books—no, thank you: I have enough medical books to read for a lifetime. But there was one customer who caught my eye, a man in corduroy, with thick glasses, carrying a notebook containing a list of Books to Read. He was already carrying a hardbound James Salter novel, something I'd been looking for since I'd read Light Years and A Sport and A Pastime. I stalked him, followed him in various corners, and a part of me wished he'd drop the book and pick something else. But he went on to buy the Salter anyway. It devastated me at first, but I later wished him well. That book wasn't meant for me.
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Julian Barnes' The Lemon Table: stories of the old

SOMETIMES I wish I were older, living a steady and quiet life, devoid of youthful passions, haughtiness, and pride. I like talking to old people; I learn a lot from them.

My great-grandfather Lolo Otim was a nonagenarian before he eventually succumbed to an infection that got the better of him. He regaled my brothers and me with stories of the war and talked about the drinking sprees he had with his friends. His humor often escaped us. We were too young to understand the nuances of some of his stories, but we wouldn't forget his hearty laughter as he clutched on to his wooden cane.

That was the picture I had in mind while reading Julian Barnes' short story collection, The Lemon Table. Barnes ruminates on how it feels to be old—looking back at love that could never be, regretting one's unfulfilled ambitions, philosophizing on what makes the old irritated, leaving a decades-long marriage that was never really a happy one. It is a vignette of experiences by random people—fictional characters but they may well exist in real life. The old are misunderstood, and their sentiments are echoed by the narrator in the story, The Silence: "I merely repeat and insist: misunderstand me correctly."
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Tuesday, November 12, 2013



From right (seated): Drs. Charlie Clarion and Richson Chy*. From right (back row): myself, Drs. Migz Catangui, Agnes Custodio, Bernie Cid, Franco Catangui, and Joseph Castillo.

MANDATORY block photo at the Sick Child Clinic, Out-Patient Department, Philippine General Hospital, to commemorate this day. Not the best day of my life, but one for the history books. The photo is to be called a selvie—photos of our selves. A selfie should only involve one person—him- or herself. If this word makes it to the dictionary, then I'll be glad. We're shifting out of the clinics and going to the wards tomorrow. It scares me.

*SLO (solo liaison officer) in activity.

UPDATE: The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is selfie, defined as "a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website."

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Block F at Mak Chang


MAK CHANG is a Korean restaurant along Adriatico Street. It's one of those places where you have to grill your meat to perfection, so expect to smell like your food when you go home. Shouting is the norm—come to think of it, the waiters shout a lot. They shout when someone comes in. They shout when customers give their orders. They shout when they talk to each other. Despite all the shouting, though, people can still hear each other. I like it. It's a truly happy place.
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Friday, November 8, 2013

The Duel and Other Stories, and my serendipitous discovery of a new favorite writer by the name of Anton Chekhov

Portrait of Anton Chekhov by Osip Braz (1898)

I'M ASHAMED to admit that while I'd heard of Anton Chekhov—the great Russian short story writer, the gold standard against whom contemporary writers are compared—I haven't read him extensively yet. I was browsing the Web at random last night when I came upon an intriguing Wikipedia page that whetted my appetite for his works.

Chekhov has most of the qualities that I find irresistible in any writer of literature: he was a physician (treating patients was his day job), he was Russian (after Tolstoy, I've found Russian authors intriguing, not to mention depressing), and he was a writer of short stories, my favorite literary form—yes, more than novels or poetry. And he had super-cool eyeglasses.

Last night I determined that I should read at least one of his short story collections. I'm glad his works can be downloaded for free at Project Gutenberg. I picked The Duel and Other Stories; the translation is by Constance Garnett.

I've just finished The Duel which appears first in the collection. It's a novella about a man who lives with a married woman in the Caucasus region, far away from St. Petersburg, where society was bound to judge them more harshly. I should write about it soon, but now I have to head back to the Pediatric Clinics and deal with the howling Little People. There's nothing like being greeted by hysterical children to jumpstart one's day. I wonder if Chekhov liked Pediatrics, too.
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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Anita and Arnold Lobel's On Market Street: a pediatric guide to capitalism

FOUND AT the Sick Child Clinic today: On Market Street by Anita and Arnold Lobel. It's a picture book that illustrates the alphabet in beautiful shapes, patterns, and designs. Truth is, it's also an introductory lesson on shopping hoarding.

The story begins this way:

Picture book
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Monday, November 4, 2013



MY MORNING meditation was on 1 Thessalonians 4:3, "This is the will of God, even your sanctification." I'm sharing Oswald Chambers' beautiful words on this subject. I can make a poster out of this!

All that Jesus made possible is mine by the free loving gift of God on the ground of what He performed, my attitude as a saved and sanctified soul is that of profound humble holiness (there is no such thing as proud holiness), a holiness based on agonizing repentance and a sense of unspeakable shame and degradation, and also on the amazing realization that the love of God commended itself to me in that while I cared nothing about Him, He completed everything for my salvation and sanctification.

Have a great week ahead, dear friends!


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory: a priest in hiding

IN MEXICO the government has ordered that the Roman Catholic church be abolished. Priests have renounced their faiths. Some of them have married. The church bells have not pealed for years. Public prayer has been outlawed. The people have not had confessions.

An unnamed priest—the only one living—is in hiding, drinking whiskey and wine, trying to save his life. As he goes from village to village, disguising as a regular man in tattered clothes, riding a mule to get to another town; he is flocked by faithful Catholics who risk their lives to hear Mass and be given penance. The lieutenant, whose chief end in life is to capture the priest and bring him to trial, goes on an almost merciless manhunt. Hostages are taken from each village where the priest may have gone, and people are killed along the way.
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Friday, November 1, 2013

Why kids hate me

THE NORMAL reaction of two- or three-year olds at the sight of me is fear. They cry for dear life. They struggle, fling their arms, and run amok.
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