Showing posts from December, 2021

Hearkening back to an earlier time of self-expression and community

Tom Coates of on his excuses for not blogging, and his reasons for coming back after seven years of silence . And hence the second answer to the question, why have I started again? Well, first up, I don’t know that I have. This could be the only new post I ever put up here. But if it is, it won’t be because I’m writing lots elsewhere. We live in a new time of isolation and fear. Twitter feels too urgent and anxious and tense right now. There’s no space to think or breathe. Facebook is filled with all the angst and pain and fury people are feeling. It’s overwhelming. Instagram is filled with people performing a perfect family lockdown experience interspersed with adverts for masks. And suddenly, I find myself hearkening back to an earlier time of self-expression and community. The crowds have gone. There are no hordes of people waiting outside for a new post to emerge. There’s little to no pressure. Everyone’s not looking. It’s just the relics from an earlier era, postin


Spent the night in Kabacan, Cotabato Province (not "North" Cotabato, as I was corrected) to visit Kuya John's family. It's a university town whose heart is the University of Southern Mindanao. Students will return for limited in-person classes on January. When we passed through, we only saw gardeners, farmers, and security guards in campus.  This is, I'm ashamed to admit, the first time I'm setting foot in North Cotabato. You'd think that North and South Cotabato (which decided to break off from the Cotabato Empire in 1966) would be beside each other, but they are not.  It's no small grace to catch up with Kuya John, now based in Sydney, and Ate Gladys, their parents, and Ate Gladys' kids. 

Revisiting old haunts

With some free time for myself this Christmas season, I revisited blogs I used to subscribe to. These websites flourished in the days when the internet was kinder. Most of them are now dead or dying. I was in college when I started blogging. The year was 2004. The place was an internet café past the parking lot of the UP Diliman Shopping Center. I did not own a personal computer. At 16 years old, I had many ideas. I wanted to tell the world about them. I was an English major, fresh out of high school from a quiet town most people in the big city never heard of. Realizing I could never start a newspaper column for national syndication, owning a small patch of land in the Web thrilled me. The design and coding, the posting, the linking to other websites fascinated me that I did them all for free. The process was the reward. That seems like ages ago. This blog is now 17 years old—older than my inaanaks. I am now a doctor, more mature in my faith and thinking, more circumspect in my posts

My Reading Year 2021

Did a lot of reading this year. Expected a higher number in my “Read” books in Goodreads, the Facebook for readers. Turns out I only finished eight books for 2021. Must be because of my reading pattern: a little bit of this and that. On a given day, have various books in rotation, mostly short story collections. Tita Mavis Gallant’s words are comforting and instructive: Stories are not chapters of novels. They should not be read one after another, as if they were meant to follow along. Read one. Shut the book. Read something else. Come back later. Stories can wait. Maybe a “currently reading” list will be more appropriate. Hope to finish two or three of these next year. Ticking them off in Goodreads helps me keep track. Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans by Robert Elmer. Perfect for days when I don’t feel like praying. For isn’t it true that, overwhelmed with the cares of this world, we must look on to Jesus. A beautiful line from a song keeps playing in my head, “And the t

Waking up to Christmas morning

Waking early on this cool Christmas morning, I had the living room all to myself. I looked out the window and saw our overfed, charming dog Paul sleeping on the cold tiled floor on the porch, just beside the potted cacti. On the dining table were sourdough chocolate chip cookies and unfinished layers of cakes, to be served for dessert later, for when my mother’s side of the family arrives. Manong Ralph and my cousin-chef Em have been hard at work in the kitchen since four days ago, checking the handwritten menu tacked on the fridge—meticulously crafted to impress and discover. How will our uncles and aunts—farm-folk, many of them, with orthodox, almost dogmatic notions of food—react to mango-turmeric chiffon cake, bibingka cheesecake à la Wildflour, coconut-basil and honey-lavender homemade ice cream? Hearing them ask for seconds, asking “ Ano ini? Kanamit! ” will be reward enough for our family cooks, sending them to bookstores and Amazon looking for recipe books. Yesterday, after l

Why Keanu Reeves Is Lonely

Something came in the mail today, a book of poetry sent by a favorite poet-friend, Prof. Marj Evasco . Simeon Dumdum, Jr.'s Why Keanu Reeves Is Lonely And Why The World Goes On As It Does  (Milflores Publishing) is a wonderful addition to my growing collection of poetry. I love the title and I looked for the immediately. I love it, too. Of course, I remember the photo of Keanu Reeves  and the memes it launched. To read Prof. Marj's clean and beautiful handwriting is another source of joy.  Thank you so much, Prof. Marj! And that you, Mr. Dumdum, for your words! 

Sunday interruption

Phone in pocket buzzed in the middle of the preaching. A call from the emergency room. Excused myself quietly and answered it in the parking lot. The patient, whom I hadn't seen before, was a 20-something man who had a massive tumor in his thigh. Had a feeling this wasn't a simple case from the get-go. BP was palpatory, breathing was labored, body was cachectic. Decided to see him in the afternoon, after church, but via phone call added strong antibiotics and urgent instructions to the doctor on duty.  Normally, Sunday drives relax me. The roads are empty. The afternoon shadows cast by trees that line the highway are a thing of beauty. But that Sunday, the ER call felt like an interruption. Been looking forward to rest, you see, as if I deserved it—an afternoon nap, a quiet time with a book, a steady anticipation of my brother's announcement to the household that the cookies are ready. Asked the Lord for forgiveness at my selfishness as I drove for an hour, praying for this


December in Marbel means cooler nights in the porch after dinner. The neighborhood is lit, almost festive. Two carolers—middle-aged women from a far barangay—sang O Come All Ye Faithful (I don’t remember it, exactly) yesterday, by the red gate. Paul, refusing to bark, looked on with disinterest. Nanay asked them if caroling is allowed without permits. She gave them a generous tip. Err on the side of generosity, Tim Keller said. Be radically generous. The women seemed desperate. Time flies, I tell friends. They realize it when they can’t remember if something happened in 2020 or 2021. Memories merge and blend into homogenous months. Thankful I keep a journal, but must do so more consistently. Markedly fewer blog posts this year, but I don't have much to say. 

Faith in the face of death

Pastor Tim Keller, whose sermons I listen to on the way to work , has been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer . His essay, Growing My Faith in the Face of Death , published in the Atlantic, testifies to God's peace that surpasses all understanding.  When I got my cancer diagnosis, I had to look not only at my professed beliefs, which align with historical Protestant orthodoxy, but also at my actual understanding of God. Had it been shaped by my culture? Had I been slipping unconsciously into the supposition that God lived for me rather than I for him, that life should go well for me, that I knew better than God does how things should go? The answer was yes—to some degree. I found that to embrace God’s greatness, to say “Thy will be done,” was painful at first and then, perhaps counterintuitively, profoundly liberating. To assume that God is as small and finite as we are may feel freeing—but it offers no remedy for anger. Sorrow and rejoicing as

December update

Woke up with discomfort at 2 am: borderline fever, a vague sense of fatigue, and some throat dryness. Side effects of Pfizer booster, 48 hours later. Queue was short in the hospital last Friday. When it was my turn, nurse Karen asked if I’d like my photo taken. I said, “Sure, as long as we’re in it together.” Dragged other people into the frame, so my small arm wouldn’t get all the attention. Can’t remember my dream tonight, but it was comforting, not apocalyptic. Turned on the lights in the kitchen to make some coffee to warm my stomach. Should do me a bit of good. Fired up my old MacAir to write this in the dining table, my workspace these days. Might do some light reading to lull myself to sleep again, in time for Sunday worship later. Paul still asleep in the porch outside. Paul, who has brought much joy and laughter to the house these past seven days. Paul, who sleeps, belly on the cold floor, most of the time. Paul, who now comes to us when we call his name—a derivative of the H

Kiamba, Sarangani

Many thanks to Auntie Jo for hosting us!