Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A favorite hang out place

By "favorite," I mean a quiet place where I can sip coffee, read books, and hear my own breathing.



I love this charming restaurant in Tomas Morato called Uno. I go here on Thursdays, usually before my cell group in church.  The staff are kind and cheerful, and they leave me pretty much alone unless I ask for the bill or for a glass of water.


Sunday, November 25, 2018

Death at 26

A life well-lived is how I would call John Allen Chau’s story—a 26-year old American missionary who was killed off the coast of India. He “attempted to share the gospel with the most isolated tribe in the world.”

News like this gives me hope. To the rest of the world’s eyes, this is a waste. From a spiritual perspective, this is just the opposite. John Allen Chau’s death has adorned the gospel. He loved the Lord Jesus Christ so much that he chose to preach the gospel of salvation to the unreached, choosing this path in life over the comforts of a first-world home.

May the Lord use his example to remind us that there are many people groups in the world that have not yet heard of Jesus.

(Photo: Daily Mail)


Morning routine

Bagyong Egay

My body is jolted into wakefulness at 4 am, around the time my bladder signals that it’s time to pee and get ready for work—my natural alarm clock. These morning wee hours are the most precious—the time I use to write on my journal, pray, read the Bible, meditate, and read some more. Tim Challies wrote in his book on productivity that one must work on the most important things first. A favorite song from Sunday School had lines that went, “Read your Bible; pray every day.” This morning habit I largely derived from Tatay, who woke up before everyone else did and head over to my room, turn the lights on, read his Bible aloud, and some passages from a book by AW Tozer, his favorite. This used to irritate me, but now that he has passed on, I miss it—it was as if he was reading for me passages about the sovereignty of God.

If I have extra time, before I catch my 6 am train, I read the news, go to The Old Reader to check if the blogs I follow have posted new things, eat a quick breakfast, brew a nice cup of Sultan Kudarat coffee (still the best, a soothing reminder of home), and say goodbye to my brother, Ralph, who usually leaves later. I try to stay away from social media unless there’s an important announcement to watch out for—like cancellation of work. As if, of course, it matters. I also check my phone to see if I have new in-patient referrals to see, to read messages from patients who email me their lab results from time to time, and do my best to reply to them during the train ride. Sometimes I just ignore the phone and come to terms with its existence as soon as the train arrives as Pedro Gil Station at 7 am, or thereabouts—there’s too much uncertainty because you know how trains in Manila are: as unpredictable, and occasionally as disastrous, as the weather.

I hope I encourage you by writing about my morning routine. Doing my quiet time, sometimes forcing myself to do so, has been a fruitful investment for me. It aligns my mind and heart to the day ahead. It exposes my fears and anxieties to the comforts and reassurances of God. I fail many times in this respect—sometimes I forget it entirely, in light of the many things I need to do for the day—but, as in most aspects of the Christian life, I need to carry on. God’s mercies are new every morning.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Mr and Mrs Ferrolino

As you all know, I don't relish attending wedding ceremonies but take particular exception to invitation from close friends. Imagine my surprise when Brian (whom I still, after all these years, refer to as Aljur—a long story), asked me to join his wedding entourage because someone else, his cousin, as I recall, could not make it to the ceremony. Aljur is a quiet, kind, and introverted man who was part of our lunch group in med school. Over the course of many years, I've worked with him on several cases, especially head and neck tumors; he is about to finish residency in otorhinolaryngology (ORL) this year. Mayi is a fascinating specimen of a human being with so much energy, grace, and joy packed in a petite frame. Talking to her is comparable to a satisfying shot of espresso. Our internship blocks had many overlaps in the rotation, and during downtimes, I enjoyed stories of her extraordinary and accomplished family and her love of books. She is now doing residency in OB-Gyn. Brian and Mayi, now Mr. and Mrs. Ferrolino, had a beautiful wedding in Tagaytay. I wish and pray for them a beautiful and joyful life, and I'm grateful for their friendship.


Monday, November 19, 2018

Looking back

Sinclair Ferguson on what he would say to his younger self.

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Meditation on God's love

I've been quoting FB Meyer unabashedly. His book, Love to the Uttermost, is a compilation of his preachings on the Book of John. It is a masterpiece of good writing and good theology. It has been a blessing to my soul, as it has proven useful material for my daily devotion.

This Sunday I'd like to encourage you with FB Meyer's vision of God's love. This is the concluding statement of his preaching on John 18:4, "Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, 'Whom do you seek?'"

If it moved Him to endure the Cross and despise the shame, is there anything that it will not withhold, anything that it will not do? His love is stronger than death, and mightier than the grave. Strong waters cannot quench it, floods cannot down it. It silences all praise, and beggars all recompense. To believe and accept it is eternal life. To dwell within its embrace is the foretaste of everlasting joy. To be filled by it is to be transfigured into the image of God Himself.

I've long since resolved to read Christian literature, especially classic literature, more intentionally. After a year, I've finished John Calvin's magisterial work, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, and am also now plowing through Stephen Charnocks's The Doctrine of Regeneration. As I do this, I take to heart my cell servant's exhortation to our Bible study group, "Read Christian books!"


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

We're now the Philippine Cancer Center

Senate OKs bill on national integrated cancer control program, reported by GMA News:

Voting 18-0, the Senate approved on third and final reading Monday a bill seeking to institutionalize a national integrated cancer control program... 

The bill will establish a National Integrated Cancer Control Council whose sole focus is to implement programs that will not only provide comprehensive, accessible and affordable cancer treatments for all cancer patients, but will also work on minimizing the incidence of preventable cancer cases...

The bill shall also mandate the establishment of the Philippine Cancer Center, under the control and supervision of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH), for the treatment and accommodation of cancer patients. The center shall also initiate research, in collaboration with other universities, hospital and institutions, for cancer prevention and cure...

Likewise, regional cancer centers shall be established nationwide for the treatment and care of cancer patients. The center shall also undertake and support the training of physicians, nurses, medical technicians, pharmacists, health officers and social workers on good practice models for the delivery of responsive, multidisciplinary, integrated cancer services.

This is a step towards quality care of patients with cancer in the country.


Birthday poetry

This moves me. A Happy Birthday by Ted Kooser.

This evening I sat by an open window
and read till the light was gone and the book
was no more than a part of the darkness.

I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride this day down into night,
to sit alone and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand.


Monday, November 12, 2018

The world's hatred

From F. B. Meyer, "Love to the Uttermost":

It is not difficult, therefore, to go through the world and escape its hate. We have only to adopt its maxims, speak its language, and conform to its ways . . . Ah, how many pleading glances are cast at us to induce us to spare ourselves and others, by toning down out speech, and covering our regimentals by the disguising cloke of conformity to the world around! “If you do not approve, at least you need not express your disapproval.” “If you cannot vote for, at least do not vote against.” If you dissent, put your sentiments in courtly phrase, and so pare them down that they may not offend sensitive ears.


Thursday, November 8, 2018


My package from Amazon arrived, the first of its kind I've received. It's a pair of chukka boots, my early Christmas gift for Manong. Another one is arriving next week, also a pair of chukka boots (same brand, different leather color) for Sean. I have the same pair of shoes, too. We dress the same way, my brothers and I, and share many interests. Over the years they've become fans of automatic wristwatches, fountain pens, and eyeglasses. When I met the UPS delivery guy at my building's lobby last night, I felt, upon receipt of the box, like it was "Christmas morning." I remember my friend Rac, who calls happy days "Christmas mornings." The chukkas and the wristwatches were due to my friend Carlos's rabid interest in their items, a fascination that infected me throughout these years I've known him.


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Pakô salad

Salad greens picked from the backyard

I'm not impressed by farm-to-table restaurants. I suppose that's because I grew up eating vegetables plucked from the farm, our neighbor's garden, and our own backyard, that I find the concept ordinary. For lunch at home, we had the pakô salad—picked from Auntie Lisa's farm—drizzled with vinegar, and to which mother added slices of fresh mango. This wasn't the main dish; for that, we had tuna pangá and a mouth-watering serving of rice (store-bought, not from our farm. The harvest season won't be until a few months).


Tuesday, November 6, 2018



Kung ano ang bigkas, siya rin ang baybay. Pomme frites stall at Golden Valley Memorial Garden, Koronadal City, South Cotabato.


Monday, November 5, 2018

Books that fit in one's hand

Dwarsliggers–these are called. They are developed in the Netherlands and will be adopted by Penguin, targeting the young. I'm no longer as young, but whatever gets me reading, I will try at some point. The design makes sense, and I'm excited to try one of these books as soon as they become available locally.

Glad to read this quote from Carl Sagan:

“A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic . . . It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years.”

It goes without saying that I've been doing most of my reading in my Kindle (I named it John Ames—one has to during device registration) because of storage limitations where I live. I still read paperbacks, especially old ones, because I like how they smell.

Photo credits: NYT


Sunday, November 4, 2018

November adventures

I took the earliest flight to Gensan. I was at NAIA at 2 AM. Traffic from Mandaluyong to Pasay was light. There weren't long queues at the airport. I read a book on my Kindle, did some academic reading in my laptop, and slept throughout much of the flight. It was the perfect arrangement.

Flying over Cotabato City, dawn

My kid brother Sean picked me up from the airport on November 1 at 6 AM. In my family, apart from my father who had already passed away, he remains the only one who can get behind the wheel. We passed by the fruit stands in Tupi, where we bought papaya, mangga, pinya, and melon, to give to mother.


We visited Tatay's grave at 8 AM and chatted with old friends and acquaintances. Nanay hosted a party for close family and friends that evening. November 1 felt a lot like a family reunion.

The next day, Sean drove Manong Ralph to Auntie Lisa's property in Banga. Manong spoke at the church's youth camp, exhorting the participants, who used to be in Sunday school (how times flies!), to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Sean and I roamed around Auntie Lisa's beautiful property. Praise be to God for her hospitality and generosity.

Huge dog house

Rice paddies


I spent my third day at home watching Season 6 of House of Cards. Sean drove us around the city and treated us to afternoon snacks.

Today, we're going to church in the morning. Sean is driving me to the airport for my 3 PM flight to Manila.

Thanks, Sean! What would your brothers do without you?


Saturday, November 3, 2018

Less is not more

Here's a helpful comment by Drs. Filho and Burstein.

The PHARE, HORG, and SOLD studies also failed to demonstrate non-inferiority. To date, only one of 5 trials of shorter vs longer durations of adjuvant trastuzumab – the PERSEPHONE study of 6 vs 12 months – has demonstrated non-inferiority for a shorter regimen. All the others showed a measurable 2-3% reduction in recurrence risk with the longer duration of trastuzumab therapy.

The conclusion is that, for Her-2 positive breast cancer, 12 months of trastuzumab is still better than a shorter duration of giving the said drug.

But based on the data in Short-HER2 and four other trials of treatment duration, we believe that 12 months of trastuzumab, including 3 months of concurrent administration with taxane-based chemotherapy, remains the standard of care and the optimal duration of therapy. Lesser durations of trastuzumab maintenance treatment appear associated with a greater risk of disease recurrence.

The article's final statement is well-worded.

One year is a long time, especially when getting treatment for breast cancer. But for most women with HER2 positive tumors, that looks like time well spent.


Friday, November 2, 2018

Superlative blessedness

F.B. Meyer's Love to the Uttermost has been used by the Lord to encourage me in my daily devotions. In his preaching, "Heaven Delayed, but Guaranteed," he expounds on John 13:36:

"Simon Peter said unto Him, Lord, wither goest Thou? Jesus answered him. Whither I go, thou canst follow Me now; but thou shalt follow Me afterward."

To celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us, this is an assurance of heaven, where God is. The presence of God makes it so. It is the love that Christians long for. F.B. Meyer erupts in praise of this love.

There is no love like His—so pure and constant and satisfying. What the sun is to a star-light, and the ocean to a pool left by the retiring tide, such is the love of Jesus compared with all other love. To have it is superlative blessedness, to miss it is to thirst forever.

Read Love to Uttermost for free here.

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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Love is quickest to detect failures

F.B. Meyer, in Love to the Uttermost: Expositions of John XIII - XXI, writes:

The highest love is ever quickest to detect that failures and inconsistencies of the beloved. Just because of its intensity, it can be content with nothing less than the best, because the best means the blessedest; and it longs that the object of its thought should be most blessed forever. It is a mistake to think that green-eyed jealousy is quickest to detect the spots on the sun, the freckles on the face, and the marring discords in the music of life; love is quicker, more microscopic, more exacting than the ideal should be achieved. Envy is content to indicate the fault, and leave it; but love detects, and waits and holds its peace until the fitting opportunity arrives, and then sets itself to remove, with its own tenderest ministry, the defect which had spoiled the completeness and beauty of its object.