Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Monday, May 13, 2019

Sunday afternoons

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I'm asked what I do on Sunday afternoons after worship service. I take a nap, wake up refreshed, catch up on my reading, and work on stuff for Monday. The to-do list is hardly ever empty. Once in a while, I get to experience sweet Christian fellowship, which feels like drinking from a fresh stream after a long journey across the desert. Consider yesterday, for instance, when I ate solo at a restaurant along Timog Avenue. While sipping my americano, which I had ordered in advance, Pastor Caloy, Ate Berns, and their daughter Abby came in, looking for a space to eat. We ended up eating at the same table. The lunch was filled with stories of God's grace and faithfulness, that inexhaustible topic of those who believe and treasure Jesus Christ. We were all too engrossed in our company that we failed to immortalize it with a photo.

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I was headed home for a nap (how much more middle-aged can one sound!) when I saw my dear friends Paul, his wife Jac, and the High King of Wales, Kuya Dave, riding the escalator to the exact restaurant where I had just eaten. They are like family. I joined them but did not order anything else; I was full. By that time my stomach still hadn't churned up the chorizo with glazed onions and fried rice. It was refreshing to be called "Lovely Boy" by Kuya Dave, who was instrumental in my growth as a young Christian. He shared God's Word to Yakal Christian Fellowship faithfully, on Thursday nights, with an emergency lamp and photocopies of his typewritten (with a typewriter) sermon outline. He remains as sharp as ever. He remembers our house in South Cotabato, then still being renovated, where he had stayed a few years ago. I love him dearly.

Jac Paul and Kuya Dave

I finally got my long-awaited shuteye, and I woke up just in time for Kuya Bobby's surprise 60th birthday party. The preparation was elaborate and well-thought out. There were photos of him on every table; at some point in his younger years, he looked like an action star. He never had a clue about the surprise being concocted for him. We from Pilgrim Cell were asked to prepare for a dance for the program. My participation involved horizontal movements, and I couldn't have been more grateful for Marky and Joey who showed their moves in the front row. It was a refreshing time to hear God's transforming grace in the life of Kuya Bobby, who still hadn't fully grasped what was happening in his party. Happy birthday, Kuya Bobby!

Happy 60th, Kuya Bobby.

Happy 60th, Kuya Bobby.
Pilgrim Cell, still incomplete at this time, with Kuya Ilyong, Ogie, Nerwin, Kuya Dean, Marky, and Kuya Ferdie.

Happy 60th, Kuya Bobby.
The theme was vintage cars, Kuya Bobby's favorite hobby.

Happy 60th, Kuya Bobby.
Dance practice, which lasted for two minutes.

Happy 60th, Kuya Bobby.
Kuya Bobby, younger versions. 

Happy 60th, Kuya Bobby.
BJ and Jotham, wonderful emcees last night.

Pilgrim Dance
My Bible study group, Pilgrim, brothers who encourage me with their love for the Lord and His Word. From left: Kuya BJ, Kuya Arnie (back), myself, Kuya Ilyong (back), Kuya Ferdie, Kuya Dean, Kuya Noel (back), Joey, JC, Kuya Vance, Kuya Bobby, Jason , Marky, Kuya Jess (back), Ogie (middle), Kuya Danny (middle), and Kuya Moncie, with his son Teo, who's probably looking for his twin, Rio.

That was how my Sunday went.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Cancer Institute on a Saturday

First photos with iPhone 6

I like making rounds on weekends. Mark Ando, the new oncology fellow from Cebu, went with me. It was his first time to go on duty. On my way home, I passed by the unkempt gardens at the Cancer Institute. I saw two white butterflies hovering over the grass. My work is a blessing.

A year after

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Exactly one year ago, an assassin murdered his father in broad daylight. The camera footage would show a gunman firing predetermined shots to a car; the said gunman would whisk away in anonymity, leaving a man dead in the front seat. His sisters, who were in the car, would recount the events as if it were a movie.

My friend was at work that afternoon, scheduling an MRI for a patient with spinal cord compression. “Para akong first year resident ulit!” he would tell me, his statements punctuated by laughter. We had only begun subspecialty training then, barely understanding the ropes of chemotherapy. It was the most harrowing day of his life. He would rush to the hospital, hanging by the railings of a public-type jeep, his face soaked in tears, his soul drowned in anguish.

A week later, my own father passed away.

Death sneaks upon us unannounced, but at least we can, for the most part, plan when we would cry. Roger and I said we would schedule our moments of “depression.” But we could only go so far with our plans—often, as I have experienced, the tears come during moments both expected or otherwise. I had a pair of glasses tinted so I could cry all I want during commutes without anybody noticing. I was congratulated for being fashionable, but that was the eye wear’s main utility. The tears have become less frequent, and there are days when I don’t even think of my father. But there are various reminders of him everywhere.

Today, it’s his father’s death anniversary. What do I tell Roger? What does one tell those who have lost precious loved ones?

Trust in the sovereignty of God, who knows exactly when we will be born and when we will be taken away. Let the tears fall. Grieve. Take time to be alone. Get enough sleep. Speak to your soul. Look to God, as the Psalmist did.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:5)

It does get easier with time. The darkness does lift eventually.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Monday, April 29, 2019

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Reading backlog



For the past years, I've been reading books in my Kindle. It saves me space. I've been particularly drawn to printed books, however, and can't seem to get over them. Whenever I come across book stores, I am drawn to spend a few minutes to browse through the novels, short story collections, and works of non-fiction. Like any bibliophile, I smell the pages and read a few passages. It is hard to ignore this compulsion, and I almost always end up buying one or two. My threshold for a purchase has grown rather high as I've grown up, but I can't pass the chance to buy an Elena Ferrante, James Salter, or Mavis Gallant, among many, many authors I turn to when I want to daydream. How I will ever find time to read them, given my massive backlog of readings in oncology, remains a mystery to me, but I somehow squeeze non-academic reading in my life. These books end up on my bedside table, or, for this stack, on the dining table. My brother, whom I live with, often protests and chides my behavior, but he devours some of these books and forgives me anyway. A huge pile of backlog is something I am grateful for.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Coffee and the Christian

The reason why I identify myself as a Christian is that the Christian worldview makes so much sense. It appeals both to reason and emotion. It offers a logical, comprehensive, and satisfying explanation as to why things happen the way they do. It does not shy away from miscellany—consider coffee and other caffeinated drinks, for example.

My morning reading was David Matthis's interesting essay on the Christian and caffeine.

The Scriptures do not mention caffeine, but they do give us all we need to observe, learn, and wisely decide how we, as Christians, can faithfully use (or abstain from) caffeine for the glory of Christ — namely, for our pursuit of Christ-exalting joy for ourselves and others. As with other powerful substances, whether naturally occurring in creation or stemming from human cultivation, God made us to search out the prudent, life-giving (rather than life-diminishing) use of his created world.

My first cup today was a kapeng barako given by a patient. I might have another cup during the day. Ma'am Cherith, who works at the Onco office, brews delicious coffee all day!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Thursday, April 11, 2019

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On National Siblings Day



Eight days after Tatay passed away, my brothers and I tried to make sense of our grief by visiting the fruit stands along the highway, where Tatay loved to buy pineapples, papayas, mangoes, and watermelons for Nanay. I see so much of my father in my brothers, Manong Ralph (@arveecee) and Sean (@seancatedral)—his pot-bellied tummy, self-deprecating humor, extreme adherence to punctuality. I am grateful to have grown up with them.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

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Genes turned on

The field of developmental biology answers the fundamental question of how cells make decisions about what kind of cells they will become.

Scientists from the Sloan Kettering Institute studied the mouse endoderm, the germ layer that forms majority of our internal organs. This paper is published in Nature. Using single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq), where single cells are isolated and the messenger RNAs in them are fully sequenced, scientists could see a snapshot of the actual genes that are turned on during development.

Their findings were as follows:

Trajectories of endoderm cells were mapped as they acquired embryonic versus extra-embryonic fates, and as they spatially converged within the nascent gut endoderm; revealing them to be globally similar but retaining aspects of their lineage history.

From the MSK website:

They found that cells that come from extra-embryonic tissues and those that come from the embryo are 99% identical regardless of origin, yet there is a set of genes whose activity is different between them. What’s more, the investigators were able to decipher some of the signals that help cells make their earliest fate decision: whether to become part of the embryo or part of the extra-embryonic structures. The team also pinpointed the earliest time when cells with organ-specific endoderm can be identified. It is far earlier than previously believed.

What does this mean?

The study adds to our current understanding of how cells develop. It shows that certain genes are crucial in determining the fate of a cell. This research inevitably leads to more investigations: how are those genes activated, for instance? How do those genes affect the cells, the organ, and the body, in all stages of development? The answers may be useful to our understanding of developmental biology and, hopefully, of cancer.

Reference:

Nowotschin S, et al. The emergent landscape of the mouse gut endoderm at single-cell resolution. Nature (2019). Link here.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Spirituality and cancer

Puchalski et al (2019) reviewed the scientific literature on spiritual care in oncology.

The authors recommend that "all clinicians who develop assessment and treatment plans should assess patients for spiritual or existential distress and for spiritual resources of strength and integrate that assessment into the assessment and treatment or care plan." Another take-home message from the paper is that "clinicians are responsible for attending to the suffering of their patients." This is a tall, albeit reasonable, order.

The authors also put forth recommendations for integrating spiritual care in medical training:

  • All oncologists and clinicians practicing in oncology settings should be trained in spiritual care. This training should be required as part of continuing education.
  • Clinicians should be trained in spiritual care, commensurate with their scope of practice in regard to the spiritual care model.
  • Healthcare professionals should be trained in doing a spiritual history or screening.
  • Healthcare professionals who are involved in the diagnosis and treatment of clinical problems should be trained in the basics of spiritual distress diagnosis and treatment.
  • As part of cultural competency, all clinicians should have training in spiritual and religious values and beliefs that may influence clinical decision-making.
  • Training should also include opportunities for all members of the clinical teams to reflect on the role of their own spirituality and how it impacts their professional call and their own self-care.

Spirituality is "an important component of health and general well-being of patients with cancer, and that spiritual distress has a negative impact on quality of life of patients with cancer. This makes the implementation of spirituality-based interventions essential in order to support the spiritual well-being of patients with cancer. Spirituality and spiritual well-being have been proven to have a positive effect on patients with cancer."

I am interested in doing a study on whether Filipino oncologists are able to integrate spirituality into their practice. I wonder if similar studies have been done locally. Given the massive patient load and the myriad physical problems that cancer patients have, it is a challenge for physicians to look beyond the physical aspects of malignancies and view the patient as a person with a body and soul.

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Puchalski CM, Sbrana A, Ferrell B, et al. Interprofessional spiritual care in oncology: a literature review.  ESMO Open 2019;4:e000465. doi: 10.1136/esmoopen-2018-000465

The waters of baptism

When I attended water baptism on Saturday morning, I was refreshed. Men and women from various ages and backgrounds spoke of lives changed, hearts softened, priorities altered. No wonder why, in his exhortation that morning, Pastor Bob called water baptism one of his favorite duties in the ministry. It is not that baptism saves any one; it is a declaration of one's faith in Jesus Christ.

Stephen Charnock, in his comprehensive and voluminous treatise, The Doctrine of Regeneration, wrote, "What am I now? Here is a new light in my understanding, new inclinations in my will; I can now look upon God with pleasure and run his ways with delight. Christ is my only joy, and Christ is my only gain. My old nature is wearing away, my new nature is rising higher and clearer; now I am freed by the blood of Christ from my filth."

That a Puritan preacher from the 1600s and modern-day Filipinos speak of the same personal spiritual experiences and truths is nothing short of a miracle. It is the supernatural work of God alone: this change in the very nature of men and women who were once lost but now found (Ephesians 2).

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Breast surgery in patients with stage IV disease may increase survival

The ASCO Post, explaining the results of a study by Ross Mudgway (a medical student!) and colleagues:

To assess the impact of primary tumor resection on survival in patients with HER2-positive stage IV breast cancer, they conducted a retrospective cohort study of 3,231 women with the disease, using records from the National Cancer Database from 2010 to 2012.

...

The researchers found that surgery was associated with a 44% increased chance of survival, assuming the majority of patients also had systemic treatment.

Read the abstract here, first presented at the AACR Annual Meeting in the USA.

Few things I find interesting:

1. The primary author is a medical student. How cool is that!

2. There's a working database that's a minefield of research possibilities, even for those who are in their early stages of their medical careers. In the Philippines, there's an urgent need for a   comprehensive cancer registry.

3. Patients who have metastatic breast cancer I'm meeting for the first time would invariably ask me if they, too, can have surgery. Unless the patient's breast mass has secondary infection, I would refer to surgery for toilet mastectomy or debridement. This study shows that there is surgical benefit for those whose breast cancer profile is Her2 positive. I hope this makes its way to our guidelines eventually.

(HT: Dr. Dennis Lee Sacadlan for sharing the link, via Facebook)

Why critics are important

A.O. Scott, writing for the NY Times:

No reader will agree with a critic all the time, and no critic requires obedience or assent from readers. What we do hope for is trust. We try to earn it through the quality of our writing and the clarity of our thought, and by telling the truth. The truth, in this case, about what we thought about what we saw, read or heard.

That's true.

I turn to critics I trust to help me sift through the many options of films, movies, plays, and books. I also ask my close friends and family for such advice. I don't take all of them seriously. I leave room for experimentation and discovery.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Matchy-matchy



The title comes from a comment by my friend, Racquel Bruno, when I posted the photo on Instagram.

My good friend, Roger Velasco, the brilliant and compassionate oncologist who holds clinics next to my cubicle, gave me the olive-green bag. Some of Mari Kondo's philosophy rubbed off on him. The bag did not spark joy in him, apparently.

I've been using this bag daily. My laptop, phone charger, ink bottle, a hardbound novel (in this case, a short story collection lent to me by my mentor, Dr. Ding Fernando), and a few sheets of paper, fit inside.

Thanks, Raj!

Saturday, March 30, 2019

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Flora

I enjoy doing weekend rounds: no out-patient clinic to rush off to, enough time to look around and actually say hi to my patients' families. I snapped these photos this morning. There's beauty in random spots of the hospital—only I don't notice it enough.

Vine, Out-Patient Department

José Rizal at the Out-Patient Department

Nurses' Home

Tree at the Blood Bank

Sunday, March 24, 2019

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Laconic

Last year I was required to attend the Department of Medicine ceremony that welcomed new fellows into the fold. There was naturally an introduction of sorts, which involved answering two questions forwarded to me by Paulo Vergara, the chief fellow. My replies were laconic.

New fellows in the block

I'm writing this now because, sooner or later, the new oncology fellows will have to answer the same, or even cheesier, questions. I am looking forward to working with them starting tomorrow.

If you had asked me these questions today, I'd still answer the same way, but I'd much rather say "love" than "like," and I still sleep early, preparing to hit the hay as the clock strikes 8 pm.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Graduating oncologists



We’ll miss you at CI 107. To Ozzie, Crizzy, Norms, Bobby, and Papau, the clinics will never the same without you. You modeled for us compassion, humility, kindness, selflessness, academic thirst and rigor, and the right balance between stress and fun. Thanks for making my—our—first year of clinical fellowship memorable.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Spotting F. Sionil Jose and Mavis Gallant

I finally saw F. Sionil Jose, the Filipino novelist, in his bookstore, Solidaridad, along Padre Faura Street, a stone's throw away from PGH. He was handing out books that had just been delivered to his assistants (I saw When Breath Becomes Air), telling them to which section they should be displayed.

F. Sionil Jose

I got Mavis Gallant's Overhead in a Balloon for Php 250!

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Deborah Treisman, the fiction editor at the New Yorker, wrote this about her:

Gallant was sometimes unforgiving, but also compassionate toward the characters she inhabited. I came to her as a reader years before I had any idea that I might one day know her. For a young woman, reading secondhand copies of the collections “From the Fifteenth District” and “Home Truths” was a revelation. Gallant’s characters were so interior one had the sense that they were almost trapped inside their own minds, peering outward through two circles of light. The degree of self-knowledge was painful, the understanding of the moods and motivations of others astonishing, but the moments of real connection heartbreakingly rare. There was isolation, and then there was the acceptance of isolation.

She is a "writer's writer."

Friday, March 15, 2019

Saturday, March 2, 2019

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Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered

Completing my census relaxes me. It requires nothing more than quick eyes, steady hands, and a computer plugged to electricity. It is best accomplished with some music. Kristin Chenoweth's version is beautiful. Do listen.



Love's the same old sad sensation
Lately, I've not slept a wink
Since this silly situation
Has me on the blink
I'm wild again, beguiled again
A simpering, whimpering child again
Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I

This song has been playing in the background as I kill the afternoon writing my census, about a hundred or more pages of entries at size 10, Arial. I am "bewitched, bothered, and bewildered" at the opportunity to have taken care of this many number of patients. I don't remember everyone on the list, but I can recall most faces.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Happy birthday, Nay!

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Nanay celebrates her 63rd birthday today. After having been diagnosed with cancer, she did not think she would last this long. She had clear instructions to Tatay as to how her funeral service was going to be, which flowers we were going to pick, which songs we were going to sing, and so on. Tatay wouldn't have any of it, as he could not imagine life without my mother. God's plans turned out differently: He called my father home first. I texted Nanay on the way to church after making rounds at the Cancer Institute, just in time to catch the 9 am Sunday worship service. I wrote that she is the best mother I could ever hope for. Because she never says "I love you" back (it makes her cringe), she replied, "[I'm] Always happy because of the four men in my life. You are my joy, my pride, my satisfaction next to Jesus." It occurred to me that she has never called us her babies but has always treated us as men, even when we were little kids, giving us responsibilities, holding us accountable, ensuring that we behaved accordingly. She didn't care much that we got good grades (although she made sure we made our best efforts in school, particularly scolding me for reading novels instead of textbooks), but she always prayed that we would walk in the fear of the Lord. I thank God for giving me a mother I can never deserve.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Homeland, Season 7

I am a fan of Homeland, largely because of Mandy Patinkin who plays Saul Berenson. I dress like him most times—rolled up sleeves, dark trousers, leather shoes, glasses—this I now realize. Clare Danes is spectacular as Carrie Mathison, her child Frannie now already grown up. I have loved this series and has streamed this even before the advent of Netflix. Season 7 is about the Russian interference in US politics. President Keane is being removed from office by a well-orchestrated narrative perpetrated by social media, to which opposition politicians fall hostage to. It is fascinating, almost like a commentary of the present day. In the final episode, the US President addresses the nation and cites the Philippines (the last in her list) as one of the countries where democracy is dying.

Monday, February 18, 2019

The purity of God's Word and its impact on my life

I had the privilege of sharing a short testimony during the church's anniversary. I'm sharing it here.

There is so much suffering in this fallen world. Just this week, I met a 19-year old girl with salivary gland cancer, a 30-year old man with an advanced facial tumor, a 50-year old single mother with stage IV breast cancer, a 60-year old farmer with prostate cancer who could no longer afford his medications. These, and many more.

It is exhausting.

By four o’clock in the afternoon, my mouth is dry, my throat is painful, my hands are numb, and my heart is tired. There have been times when I would rather have just walked out and gone home to sleep it all off. But it is during these moments of exhaustion when the neediest patients arrive, and the urge to become distant and mechanical is the strongest. It is, after all, easier to think of them as pieces of DNA that have undergone mutations or as human bodies whose cells have become dysfunctional, instead of as human beings who have souls.

I need to turn back to God’s Word—and this I need to do daily. Jesus, in His earthly ministry, must have been exhausted. Matthew wrote that “they brought [Jesus] all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and He healed them” (Matthew 4:24). Jesus was an internist, a neurologist, a rehabilitation specialist, a dermatologist (He treated leprosy)—the best physician that this world has seen. It makes sense, therefore, to turn to this Great Physician’s Words: He knows all things, controls all the cells of the body, and knows exactly what I need.

How has the purity of God’s Word impacted my life?

God’s Word reveals what is lacking in me. I realize that I lack compassion and love for others. The Bible presents the loftiest example of love: that of Jesus Christ, who died for a sinner like me. The Bible is a clear lens through which my otherwise selfish eyes see my sins. It allows me to see God’s highest standard of holiness, which I could never achieve apart from His grace.

God’s Word fills me with compassion and joy. What I lack, God graciously fills up. He is the wellspring of life, the infinite source of compassion and love. I am refreshed and renewed when I behold Him. His words are a balm to my soul. His promises give me hope. When my mind and heart and saturated with His word, they overflow in my dealings with my patients, my family, and my friends. I love how John Piper described love—“the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others.”

God’s Word transforms me daily. God sanctifies me to become more Christ-like. It is often a painful process. Understanding this truth makes me realize that no patient interaction is accidental. Will He give me an opportunity to exercise sacrificial love and selfless compassion to this patient who is about to die? How may I glorify Him the most? As a result, I am drawn to share the gospel by way of gospel tracts or short conversations during multiple consults, to pray at bedside, and to emphasize the reality of eternity, to my patients and their families. The Christian hope, after all, is unlike any other. In this aspect, I am a work in progress.

In what seems like a never-ending battle against pain and suffering, God’s Word settles my heart. In Him alone I find rest.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The hassles and joys of printed books

Last Saturday I came across the Powerbooks book sale at the Upper Ground Floor of SM Megamall. I got three hardbounds for less than Php 1500! The acquisition of too many books (the Japanese have a word for it: tsundoku) poses a subject of conflict between Manong and me--probinsiyanos who live in a small rented space in Metro Manila. Before going home I could almost hear my brother ask me in a serious tone, "Where will you store those?" He wasn't too pleased when, a few days ago, I brought home five volumes of De Vita's Oncology textbook, 11th edition, and stacked them on the dining table. The lack of space is the main reason why I've mostly turned to Kindle for my leisure readings and my iPad for my academic readings (journals, textbooks, and so on). Most of the books I've accumulated since 2004 have been shipped back to Koronadal, where my mother had an entire cabinet installed to house them. (My late father carefully packed them in neat boxes, some of which still exist, bearing his neat and careful handwriting.)

Thus far, the transition to digital has been seamless. I've discovered that I read more slowly with printed books; I'd much rather use my iPad to read DeVita, for instance. It uses the same amount of concentration but less muscular ability: plus, I can read in the dark, which is really how I study. A pillow propped behind my head, my body in a supine position, with comfortable pajamas. Some would call it "getting ready to sleep." The physicality of the reading process is more pronounced when I leaf through actual pages, being able to smell them, crumple them, and write little notes on the margins. Other than that, I haven't had many issues. The blogger Tim Challies said he endeavored to transition to ebooks completely. Just don't remind me of Michael Dirda's Browsings, that beautiful account of a biobliophile whose main hobby is collecting first edition prints of books. After reading Mr. Dirda's essays (in my Kindle, ironically), I had a shopping spree with my fellowship allowance money, where I bought all copies of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels and some more. They're in one corner of the dining table.

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I'm reading David Lebovitz's l'appart, his account of buying a space in the 11th arrondissement of Paris and renovating it. I've enjoyed my time in Paris in 2017 and look forward to going back.

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I got Bulfinch's Mythology for my brother. This pacified him and even excited the English major in him.

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The page edges are in gold. I hope that I can spend entire days with these stories.

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Viet Thanh Nguyen, who wrote the masterful novel, The Sympathizer, edited an essay collection. The pieces are written by refugee writers. What does it mean to be taken away from one's home to live in a foreign land, with a different culture and value system? I always think of Christianity as a life of refugees in a land both foreign and familiar: in the world but not of it. Our home is in heaven, which we will see someday. I'm not sure if the book resonates themes of longing and homesickness (it can be, I expect, extremely political), but I hope it does.

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If you have time, visit SM Megamall. I saw unopened comic books, children's books, and even Stormy Daniel's account of President Trump on sale. No Christian or theological books, unfortunately, but there are many places for those.
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Over-sharing

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I met my friend Paul, now a citizen of New Zealand, over lunch yesterday. The subject of my blog popped up, Paul having seen me in 2004 start mini-website at an internet cafe near the UP Shopping Center. (There wasn't internet connection in Kalayaan Dorm yet, and this was the time when only Paul Balite and Luther Caranguian had laptops, which made them extra-cool.) "I'm sorry I sometimes forget to check it," he said, issuing what I still feel is an unwarranted, misplaced apology. Some friends think I oblige them, wherever they may be in the world, to read this little space of the web.

I told him I'm glad my phase of over-sharing--which included taking photos of all the food I've eaten, writing about how I felt about this or that film or movie--is of the past. I was, in a sense, social media savvy even before social media gained traction in Filipino culture. The closest thing to a social media in 2004 was blogging, now considered dead by some, but something that I continue to enjoy working on.

I'll meet him, Lord-willing, in Australia by the end of the year. He promised to drive me around. Paul, if you're reading this, I'll hold you accountable!
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