Friday, September 29, 2017

Hymns versus modern worship

The Babylon Bee is brilliant. This cracked me up: Hymns vs. Modern Worship.

Hymns: A hymn is a song that’s typically broken up into four or five verses, but no one ever sings the second verse. Hymns usually use lots of words no one knows the meaning of anymore, like “interposed” and “Ebenezer.” What the heck’s an Ebenezer, people? Why are we singing about the Scrooges? Above all, each hymn must fully articulate a point of doctrine as well as a systematic theology book might, without ever once pricking the singer’s emotions, since he doesn’t know what the words mean anyway.

Modern worship: Modern worship songs tend to be written only by qualified theologians. Haha, just kidding. They’re written by high schoolers, scribbled down on the back of napkins at night clubs when the inspiration strikes. CCLI rules also dictate that the modern worship song must contain one bridge repeated as many times as necessary to evoke the desired emotional response, but may have no more than four words in the entire song. It’s a delicate balancing act.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

I wish I were home

My younger brother Sean told me he’d get me new shoes as a present. “Just let me know when you’ve picked something. I’ll send you the money,” he said, laughing, over the rare telephone conversations we have—given his schedule.

Since working as a municipal dentist in a nearby town, Sean has taken on more serious roles in the household. According to my father, Sean buys the groceries, pays the bills, and has even contributed to my mother’s new project of bathroom renovation. He runs the errands which likely involve rearranging the plants in my mother’s small garden during the weekends.

My parents were on their way to the Leddas for a birthday party; they're never late. Sean decided to stay at home, waiting for Manong Ralph, who was coming from Davao for a speaking engagement. When they’re not about to sleep, my parents are in one of these places: (1) in church, for the Bible study, (2) at funerals, (3) at birthday parties. I realized I was the only one missing, as the case has been for so many New Years and Christmases and important occasions.

He is, according to him, quite single. (As far as I know, he used to have a girlfriend.) I don’t know how else to respond but to say, “Aw, that’s too bad,” then move on to other topics. I wish him well—he knows that—but I just don’t have the right words.

I wish I were home.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Manila sunrise

Manila sunshine
Photo is taken by Racquel B who celebrates her 30th birthday this month. She enjoys a calming, detached view of the Manila skyline from where she lives.

Have a blessed Sunday, everyone!


Saturday, September 23, 2017

The clarity of loneliness

Weekend reading: Marilynne Robinson's When I Was a Child I Read Books, a compilation of essays on faith, American generosity and liberality, and many more.

Ms. Robinson writes about her upbringing in Idaho, where solitude was considered a virtue rather a moral failing. This stands in contrast to the prevailing suspicion that a person who likes to be alone must be depressed.

She writes:

It seems to me that, within limits the Victorians routinely transgressed, the exercise of finding the ingratiating qualities of grave or fearful experience is very wholesome and stabilizing. I am vehemently grateful that, by whatever means, I learned to assume that loneliness should be in part pleasure, sensitizing and clarifying, and that it is even a truer bond among people than any kind of proximity. It may be mere historical conditioning, but when I see a man or a woman alone, he or she looks mysterious to me, which is only to say that for a moment I see another human being clearly.

I remember my introverted friends and how I like to torture them with unwanted attention. So far they have not punched me in the face. I still see them clearly.


White on white


My brother asked which color of Kindle I preferred. "White," I said, knowing my potential to misplace things, especially this device that doesn't produce any sound. So there goes your hipster photo of the day.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


After four years, I'm finally done with The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. The collection includes stories from her other books.

Break It Down (1986)

Almost No Memory (1997)

Samuel Johnson Is Indignant (2001)

Varieties of Disturbance (2007)

Dana Goodyear's profile of Lydia Davis is worth reading.

One recent morning, Davis sat at her kitchen table with a pocket-size black notebook and a hardcover novel by a popular writer, whom she asked me not to name. “I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, and I don’t like to knock other writers as a matter of principle,” she said. Though enjoyably soap-operatic, the novel, that month’s selection for her book club—local women, wine, family talk—was full of mixed metaphors. “I’ve gotten very alert not just to mixed metaphor but to any writing mistake,” she said. “A little bell goes off in my head first. I know something’s wrong here. Then secondly I see what it is.” She opened the notebook and read a sentence about an acute intimacy that had eroded into something dull. “Acute is sharp, and then eroded is an earth metaphor,” she said. She read another: “ ‘A paper bag stuffed with empty wine bottles.’ I thought about that. You’d think he could get away with it, but he can’t, because ‘stuffed’ is a verb that comes from material. It’s soft, so it’s a problem to stuff it with something hard.” There were sentences about camouflaging with a veneer, and girding with an orb, and boomeranging parallels. “Whenever I read this kind of thing, it tells me the writer is not sensitive to the full value of the idea of comparison,” she said.



Color blind, 66-year old William Reed sees colors for the first time. After putting on the special glasses, he loses it. His reaction is priceless. There are lots of hidden metaphors here somewhere.

I'm reminded by 1 John 3:2.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

As we behold Christ finally, we shall be transformed (2 Corinthians 3:18).

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

I'm excited for that day. Meanwhile this world remains a dark, troubled place, but God is sovereign: in control of governments (Proverbs 21:1), climates (Job 37:12-13), and everything else that happens in this side of eternity.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Writers from Cotabato

I'm thrilled to have my work published in Issue 13 of the Cotabato Literary Journal. The issue features excellent works of literature—poetry, fiction, and non-fiction—and I'm honored to be published alongside writers I've admired, even as a high school student. Many thanks to the editor, MJ Tumamac, himself an accomplished writer and storyteller in Filipino, for considering my work for publication. Read his introduction to the September issue.


Happy birthday, Trisha!

Happiest birthday, Trisha!
Jay, my research co-author, and Trisha, at a hipster restaurant in Hong Kong

On our last day in Hong Kong, hours before our return flight to Manila; Trisha, friend and schoolmate in elementary, toured us around the old areas of Hong Kong, brought us to one of the oldest temples in island, and talked about home and travel. We spent at least an hour in a hipster restaurant (I forget the name!) with friendly, young waiters who spoke good English.


Happiest birthday, Trisha! I pray God continue to bless and prosper you in all your endeavors.


Thanks for sharing your time with us. See you in Marbel.

Ode to coffee shops


Congratulations in advance to our (former) interns who've finished taking the Medical Boards yesterday. Here's a story that appears in Lydia Davis's collection, "Varieties of Disturbance"—an interesting take on coffee shops, where they've spent much of their time studying.

(Listen to James Wood, book critic of The New Yorker, read the story, if your eyes are tired.)
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Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Dinner at Sarsá was memorable. The food reminded me of home. The disposable coasters were fascinating.

Chicken, a staple meat source of Ilonggo cuisine.


Don't know who she is, but I'm a fan of newsprint designs.


Philippine heroes, of course, including Apolinario Mabini, said to be the greatest president our country never had.


I'm going back, for sure.


Had photos with the Chef. Quite famous, Kuya John said. He even has an Instagram account.

Waiters were quick and unobtrusive. Good acoustics: we could hear each other. A family place: my mother, who eats nothing but Filipino food, will love it here. Try the sweetened balingon.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Ten thousand snares

Something to encourage you this week. I love the Puritans!
Ten thousand snares are mine without and within,
defend thou me; 
When sloth and indolence seize me,
give me views of heaven; 
When sinners entice me,
give me disrelish of their ways; 
When sensual pleasures tempt me,
purify and refine me; 
When I desire worldly possessions,
help me to be rich toward thee; 
When the vanities of the world ensnare me,
let me not plunge into new guilt and ruin. 
May I remember the dignity of my spiritual release,
never be too busy to attend to my soul,
never be so engrossed with time
that I neglect the things of eternity;
thus may I not only live, but grow towards thee.

—Excerpt from the "A Christian's Prayer," In: Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayer, compiled by Arthur G. Bennett


13 years and a new layout

You’ll notice that I’ve changed the blog’s layout once more, the nth time I’ve done something like this.* I still like the last one, a Wordpress-inspired theme of one of my favorite blogs, but trying something new, I thought, wouldn’t hurt. So here it is. Bold colors; no overarching header image; friendly serif font for the text; sans-serif, italics, for the blockquotes (which I’ve been using a lot); single column; small, drop down header; easy navigation. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Last week I was asked to deliver a ten-minute talk on blogging during one of our lunch conferences. Instead of the usual journal appraisal, which has been enlightening and entertaining, in a geeky kind of way—words I’d use to describe our Adult Medicine mentors, too—Dr. Tony Dans spoke on effective presentations. He lives by the tips he told us—if you can’t make it simple enough, you don’t understand the topic enough.

Under the limelight, I told them that my blog is now older than most children (it’s 13 years old!); that it used to be a way to tell friends I’m still alive; that it has evolved to become a medium for me to write about Christianity, literature, medicine, and friends/family; and that throughout these years, I’ve had a few memorable experiences.

Thanks for sticking it out with me.

My blogging resolution no. 6 reads, "Resolved, to resist the urge of frequently redesigning and reorganizing my blog, at the expense of doing more important things."

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

The nearness of God is our good

Contemplating Revelation 4:4, CH Spurgeon wrote:
Let believers on earth imitate the saints in heaven in their nearness to Christ. Let us on earth be as the elders are in heaven, sitting around the throne. May Christ be the object of our thoughts, the center of our lives. How can we endure to live at such a distance as our beloved?
He describes the believers in heaven.

They shall all be near to Christ, all ravished with his love, all eating and drinking at the same table with him, all equally beloved as his favorites and friends even if not all equally rewarded as servants.
I pray the same can be said about us, believers, while we're still on earth: ravished with Christ's love, forever worshiping him in our thoughts, words, and deeds.


Hello from the Other Side



Students get extremely competitive during Jeopardy, our twice-monthly (we do our best) quiz show of sorts, patterned after the classic American TV show of the same name. Taking the lead from previous Gen Med seniors who've already graduated, we hold this contest to review students about basic concepts in Medicine, prepare them for the board exam, give incentives for reading up on the cases they handle at the wards, and give them a fun, albeit loud, time learning. Mervyn Leones heads this committee. He's deeply passionate in teaching students and, as one of the members of the Undergraduate Committee, he knows almost all students by name and can recite them from memory. He comes up with "themes." This morning, for example, was "Board Exam," with many of the questions being famous for their popularity as items in the boards. It goes without saying that today is the start of the Physician Licensure Examination. (For this, we wish our graduates the best!)

I was tasked to operate the PowerPoint. JC Feliciano helped with the making of questions. Nico Pajes manned the scoreboard. Racquel Bruno monitored the buzzers. Mervyn was on a roll, like the seasoned game show host that he is!


I remember that, as a student, I had enjoyed Jeopardy, too, and that our former seniors--Sir Joey Duya, Ma'am Abby Uy, Sir Pao Vergara, Sir Jonray Magallanes--used to take the time and effort to make all these slides and formulate all sort of pakulo to make IM memorable. It is in this spirit that we make the same sacrifices as well.

We were so encouraged to see our students answer, "INH Toxicity" (in the symptom salad category), enumerate five purely transudative causes of pleural effusion during the Final Jeopardy, and identify "spider angiomata."

Lots of boo-ing and cheering were involved, too, even from the service seniors, especially now that each service can make use of "action cards," including the option to take points from a leading competitor with the highest points. But all were in good faith.

See you all next time!


Friday, September 8, 2017

Last oral exam in residency

My dilemma with the oral exams came from the fact that, days before the test, I wasn’t feeling stressed at all. I was almost indifferent; I had just wanted to get past the almost-three hours of dealing with complicated paper case vignettes, of enumerating obscure differentials to otherwise common chief complaints, and of making sure I wouldn’t miss out on acute coronary syndrome as a differential for a diabetic who presents with abdominal pain. I’d done this many times, once as an intern (we had a case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), then twice as a medical resident, but the gnawing feeling of thinking on the spot, in front of mentors I’ve looked up to even as a student, would not go away, like the discomfort of a shard of meat stuck in between one’s incisors.

One can always argue that this should come easy, thinking and charting being the theme of our lives, after all. We have spent much of my waking hours in the hospital, dealing and managing problems of real people, making sense of their laboratories as they became available, and so on. Real life is more difficult, true, but the challenge of the paper case is different. The urgency to generate a working impression just by skimming through a long case, the ability to retrieve a gazillion differentials from one’s memory bank without a second to spare, the disappointment with one’s self for hearing the bell (“time is up!”) without finishing the discussions on the ideal management plans—these put a lot of pressure in someone.
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Monday, September 4, 2017

Productive delays

Glad to have Frances, dear friend and sister from church, come over and share a cup of coffee (her treat). I had an excuse, at least for tonight, to postpone any studying I should be doing. I know, I know, I'm thirty, and I'm still thinking of passing tests. One of the greatest joys in this life is the privilege to meet souls who long for the Lord and are passionate for Him. To see Christ reflected in the lives of friends--that's something.


Sunday, September 3, 2017


John Calvin’s The Institutes now occupies a special part of my reading life. I’m now on Book II, entitled, “On the Knowledge of God The Redeemer In Christ, Which Was Revealed First To The Fathers Under The Law, And Since To Us In The Gospel.” Here he argues for the complete and total depravity of man, the doctrine that states that man is evil, by nature and by choice, and is therefore destined for eternal destruction. This goes against the prevailing notion that something good dwells in man, so he can earn his salvation anyway—a falsehood that Calvin, using Scripture, so eloquently and comprehensively refutes.

“These two things therefore should be so distinctly observed; first, that our nature being so totally vitiated and depraved, we are, on account of this very corruption, considered as convicted and justly condemned in the sight of God, to whom nothing is acceptable but righteousness, innocence and purity.”--Book II, Chapter I, VIII

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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Down memory lane

The Anatomist: A True Story of Gray's Anatomy

Written by Bill Hayes, (Bellevue Literary Press, 2009)

Anatomy wasn't my favorite subject. I under-performed, which is another way of saying I had failed an exam (by a half point!) and had to take the finals. While my classmates excitedly peeled the skin off  Big Bertha, I struggled with the entire process of naming each part. On hindsight I think it was at this point when I had realized I wasn't meant for surgery. I survived because of physiology, which pulled my grades up. I still like physiology; it's the backbone of Internal Medicine, where the Lord had brought me.

The book is the writer Bill Hayes's account of the otherwise quiet life of Dr. Henry Gray and his illustrator, Dr. Henry Vandyke Carter. One realizes that the second Henry deserves the authorship as much as the first. Both were ambitious and excellent physicians at a time when the study of medicine did not yet possess the same structure that it does now. Dr. Gray died in his early thirties (smallpox), while Dr. Carter suffered family conflicts (his wife had left him) while serving in India.
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Reunions—at bedside and over dinner

I’m writing this in my brother’s old computer, a powerful HP machine that runs on Intel. I like the sensation of typing in another keyboard, the unfamiliarity it creates. If keyboards were extensions of ourselves, then this machine feels like a different self.

Last night’s 24-hour shift was leisurely—I had almost complete bed rest, if not for a last-minute referral at the Neurosurgery ICU (NSSCU). The patient was about to be intubated by Mark, who’s in Anesthesia; all the final calls were being issued by Mairre, who’s in NSS; and I was there, too, the internist, to support them in whatever they did. “Ikaw na bahala sa antibiotics,” Mairre said.
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