Sunday, December 31, 2017



The flight was delayed. It meant that I’d miss lunch. I ate a cinnamon bun I intended to give as pasalubong to my parents for when they’d meet me at the airport. I slept through most of the flight. I gazed outside my window and saw that the sky was blue and the sunlight glaring. I closed the shades until the flight attendant asked me to lift it fully.

My aunt was crying over the phone just minutes before I boarded the plane. My grandmother, Lola Gloria—90 years old, the most organized woman I know, the matriarch who saw that my father grow up to be a good man—was dying. The picture of her lying unconscious on the bathroom floor struck me. I replayed Tita Beb’s panic-stricken hysteria. It made me uneasy.

I dragged my bags from the conveyor belt. Tatay helped me carry them. Nanay waited inside the car. We decided to visit Lola in Polomolok, the same house where she installed swings, see-saws, and a slide for us, cousins, her flesh and blood, whom she fed breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with snacks in between. She did not take no for an answer.

I kept watch over her the entire night. The nurses were kind. The hospital staff treated us well. Lola used to oversee the housekeeping there. No wonder why, in her Lantana home, no window was left unwiped, and the vision of dust was a blasphemy. I checked her labs, made sure her antibiotics were given on time, but didn’t realize that at around 5 am, she pulled her nasogastric tube, a fact that surprised me. She was, after all, finally moving.

But the DNI/DNR remains on her chart. We visited her after church service today. We prayed for Lola before we left. Manong said the prayers because Tatay's voice was faltering. “Lord, may you give her comfort, and if you decide to take her home, usher her into Your Kingdom.” Tatay kissed her on the forehead and whispered something to her ear. Was he saying his goodbyes? He changes topics, takes long walks, or does household chores, but he never talks about it. We saw him just like this when two of our aunts, his sisters, died. After dinner tonight, I sat beside Tatay as we sipped tea in the veranda. “Are you okay, Tay?” I asked. I handed him the honey and gave him a piece of piaya.

Lola’s favorite hymn was “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Even in dying, the Lord remains faithful.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Lunch and snacks—forgive this title

Meeting friends can be exhausting, a trait I probably got from Carlo, my friend since med school, and whom I met for lunch today. Friends leave indelible marks on a person, and this newfound introversion—a fake construct, say my other friends—I largely attribute to my hanging out with Carlo. I would drag him to dinner or to coffee shops, away from his comfort zone: his privacy. Things always make sense when I talk to him, as friends are meant to do: giving us clarity by helping us see many things as they are. He gave me a fountain pen as a graduation gift. I should probably do the same when he finishes his radiation oncology fellowship in two years. He's a fine physician, and his dedication to his work and his patients always inspires me to do better myself.

For coffee and afternoon snacks, I met Jo Lucero and Rac Bruno at a quiet, unassuming café called Commune in Makati. Jo is the out-going chief resident of IM; Rac is her executive officer. I'm glad to the call these women my friends. I've been honored to have served the Department with them.

So this must be how it felt like to be back front-stabbed. (There's a backstory here: I sneaked underneath the table, which amused them.)


The grocery in front of the café was called Wang Wang.


We talked about friendships, plans, humility, and childhood—an afternoon well spent, and I didn't feel exhausted at all.

Monday, December 25, 2017


My TWSBI Eco Pen, with the 1.1 mm nib, and Tom's gift, which couldn't have come at a better time, since my wallet is in its final stages of dilapidation (taken from my Instagram: @bottledbrain)

I mostly lived at Quisumbing Hall (Residents’ Dorm 5) for the past three years. It has been a place of respite, quiet, and sleep, largely owing to my roommate Tom—a (former—ah, the finality of it!) neurology resident—whose presence reassured me that there were, in fact, people more tired than I was. As I packed my things this Christmas morning—a ritual of beginnings and endings—I saw Tom’s gift on my table (see above).

Yes, Tom, I loved Fargo (the series and the film), and I’ll miss the late night talks that almost doubled as entertainment and therapy when training got the better of us. What should I watch next? Nothing with John Lloyd please.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Taiwan: people

I didn't imagine how traveling with a large group could be fun and grueling—and possible. For our proverbial last hurrah, just a few days before the end of residency, my friends and I went to Taiwan, where the streets are walkable, the air clean, the pervading feeling calm—even during rush hours. The signs are readable. Public transportation is functional and is easy to figure out. The locals don't speak English, though, a difficulty surmounted by Google Translate, a must-have for travels to foreign lands.

We spent three full days in Taipei, the capital, and neighboring cities, Keelung and Shifen. I've come to a point in my life where I don't have to take pictures of all the things I see, mainly because my friends are doing it anyway. I did take intermittent snaps with my iPhone. Here are my favorite portraits of friends and short descriptions of them. I will miss them.

Here's Bea Uy just as we had left the Sun Yat Sen Memorial to look for a decent cup of coffee. It was her second time here. A consummate traveler, she took me with her along Shillin and Keelung night markets where I was introduced to candied strawberries, which will go down as one of my favorite desserts. I'll miss her generosity, fierceness, and joie de vivre.


Roger charges his phone at our Airbnb near Ximen MRT. Sometimes lost but was always found, Roger had to endure our fast-paced itinerary and the intermittent reminders ("Bilis! We're late!") which must have exhausted him. The combination of personalities made it interesting. There were people who though two minutes late was equivalent to the end of the world. There were those whose idea of punctuality was waking up when they felt like it. Most of us were somewhere in between.


Doc A with best friend Bea at Shillin Market—a very unlikely friendship that fascinates me to no end. Doc A has worked with me in the Undergraduate Committee, and I couldn't imagine going through it without her. She navigated the train stations like a local. She reprimanded us when we congregated in the middle of the station during rush hour, an incident where the slogan, "Doc A is the new Type A," was coined.


Team Auntie leads his pack! Jay Magbojos, Carlos Cuaño, and Racquel Bruno talk about where to go next, just after we had a hearty lunch of thick noodles, fried pork chop, and dumplings with noodles. For dessert, they had a generous serving of milk tea. I passed. The afternoon was chilly but comfortable, so reminiscent of spring in Vienna.


Roger Velasco, Mervyn Leones, Racquel Bruno, and Carlos Cuaño pose for a photo at Campus Café, just beside the University. When this photo was taken, Rac and I just got back from a 1.2 km walk from GuangHa Digital Plaza, where she got her boyfriend a smartwatch. The selfie was sent to our Taiwan 2017 Viber group to tell the rest of the pack that we were alive and happy. The rest were still in Shifen to check the night lanterns. In this youthful coffee shop beside Taiwan, I finally scored a good cup of espresso.

Campus Café

Mervyn Leones, the most social media savvy person, snaps a photo of the group as we waited for the train. One thing I had to endure during this trip was having my photos taken so many times. My objections were overruled by my friends who insisted that I join, lest we don't move on.


Here's Doc A whose sophistication was in stark contrast to the trash bin beside her. Single pa po ito!

Doc A

A morning stroll—one of the best pleasures of this livable city.


In this photo, Mohan, David Francisco's son, talks to me about how he has enjoyed the travel so far. "David, he has your people skills!" I said, to which David responded, "Ang ingay nga eh." Here we were about to enter the Confucian Temple. David brought his mother, wife, sisters, and Mohan for  this trip. We've all seen Mohan grow up for the past three years, and being recognized by him (he called me "Uncle Lance" whenever his father prodded him) was pure joy.


Racquel Bruno and big boy, Jeremiah Vallente, pose at the Taipei Main Station, minutes before our bus ride to Shifen. I'll miss these two: the only people who, when they ask me to do something that I find objectionable (like a group selfie), say, with frustration, "Ang daming arte na naman nitong si Catedral."

Taipei Main Station

Roland Angeles, the man responsible for our itinerary, met us on the second day. He just came back from his cousin's wedding in Singapore. His flight was delayed, but the short of it is that he found us anyway. He is one of the most gracious and diligent people I know. He's like Martha Stewart in terms of cooking (have you tasted his squid pasta?!) but with bulky muscles.


Carlos Cuaño celebrated his 30th birthday during our trip. Here he dons an old US Military-issued jacket in Shifen—he's into history and processes. I'll miss his political incorrectness, his take in life, his interests in whiskey, watches, and now, fountain pens, and so much more. I'm glad I got to know him as one of my dearest friends. He's getting married soon, and I can't wait to tell his future kids how well behaved their father was—and how he never cursed.

Carlos's 30th

Chevs (Everly to most) Ramos figures out where to go next. This is classic Chevs when she's on game mode. She's our incoming chief resident, a post where she'll flourish and be happy in. She's one of the best internists I know and is now in the habit of writing travel reviews when she finds time. I'll miss tormenting her.


Danes Guevara, who doesn't get tired of topping our monthly exams, walks along Keelung Night Market. We normally see Danes posing excitedly for the camera, but I picked this because he looks so calm in his thoughts, savoring the moment without the pressures of social media.


This is so classic Mervyn! Chevs is directing! Open a photography shop already!


More on our Taiwan trip soon.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Reading for Taipei

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

I'm headed to Taipei today with friends and colleagues from Internal Medicine. It's our proverbial last hurrah before we part ways towards the end of the year. As always, part of the plan is determining which book I'll bring. I'm all set to reading George Saunder's Lincoln in the Bardo and Christopher Isherwood's The Berlin Stories.

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Team B Christmas Party

Team B Christmas Party

My OPD forever-mates! I'll miss them. What a riot that night was.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Christ, our treasure

Since we see that the whole of our salvation, and all the branches of it, are comprehended in Christ, we must be cautious not to alienate from him the least possible portion of it. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the name of JESUS, that it is in him; if we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his unction; strength, in his dominion; purity, in his conception; indulgence discovers itself in his nativity, by which he was made to resemble us in all things, that he might learn to condole with us; if we seek redemption, it will be found in his passion; absolution, in his condemnation; remission of the curse, in his cross; satisfaction, in his sacrifice; purification, in his blood; reconciliation, in his descent into hell; mortification of the flesh, in his sepulchre; newness of life and immortality, in his resurrection; the inheritance of the celestial kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; protection, security, abundance, and enjoyment of all blessings, in his kingdom; a fearless expectation of the judgment, in the judicial authority committed to him. Finally, blessings of every kind are deposited in him; let us draw from his treasury, and from no other source, till our desires are satisfied. For they who, not content with him alone, are carried hither and thither into a variety of hopes, although they fix their eyes principally on him, nevertheless deviate from the right way in the diversion of any part of their attention to another quarter. This distrust, however, cannot intrude, where the plenitude of his blessings has once been truly known.

--John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book II, Ch XVI

I read in bed for much of the afternoon. John Calvin's work never fails to inspire me. Its breadth is outstanding. His interpretations of Scripture cut deep into the heart. Here he argues that Christ is our all in all. I mustn't forget that he was only about my age when he'd written this.


Friday, December 1, 2017

The search for the perfect blue-black


My new-found fascination with fountain pens has taken me to the discovery of various ink choices. My favorite color for writing in medical charts is blue-black: it's more black than blue, but can pass as the former, should the elderly nurses in the hospital do random spot-checking for hospital standards. (I was criticized once for using sky blue ink, and I had to rewrite my prescriptions with a darker shade of blue--an incident that made me ask how blue should blue be.) My choice of blue-black is the Pelikan 4001. It's more expensive (around Php 400-plus for 62.5 mL) and harder to find. I'm glad I found a bottle at Scribe, a cool store in EDSA Shangri-La Mall. The salespeople there are used to newbies and would gladly help them pick the best choices for beginners. Last week I tried Pilot blue-black, which I got for less than Php 200 at National Bookstore, but a colleague told me one can get it for around Php 135 (30 mL) at Cosmos Bazaar in Binondo Area. It's Pilot's official distributor in the country. The shade is lighter, so my colleague, who goes by the name of Dr. Berbi Berba, told me he'd mix black ink with the blue-black to get his desired intensity. Part of enjoying the ink is the risk, and thrill, of combining colors. I'm using Diamine Indigo now: I'm not the biggest fan, but the strokes look fine nevertheless. So far, no complaints from the nurses.