Showing posts from 2023


I overheard my mother's friends praying over the speakerphone as I did a third round of review of my suitcase. It usually takes me three iterations to trim my clothes to the bear minimum. I'm a light traveler. The past days have been crazy. I won't bore you with the details of the commitments I've gotten myself into—a hospital's tumor boards, a small group discussion in med school, a lecture on the coagulation pathway for biochemistry, a research collaboration, and many personal matters, such as the death of a high school classmate, my reunions with friends I haven't met in a while. Nanay and her friends meet on Facebook Messenger at 4 am daily, except Sundays, to pray. Auntie Cecil, who's like a second mother to us, thanks God for people who are arranging my quick trip to Davao City for a research contest for doctors that I'm judging today, the safety of my flight tomorrow and the health of the passengers around me, and all the small details I forget to

The Person with tHis Ability: Rehabilitation from Prehabilitation

I am usually awake on the 3:20 am flight from Manila to Gensan. I can't stop reading Dr. Brent Viray's book. I had met him the night before. He was one of the writing fellows this year. We shared the same table during the closing program of the Creative Non-fiction Writing Workshop for Doctors. Before he left, he gave me a signed copy of his memoir.  Unless you read his book, you wouldn't notice that he had a huge stroke. Out of the sheer grace of God and a lot of willpower and the help of friends and rehabilitation, he pushed the limits of what was possible. His recovery has been nothing short of miraculous. He is back at what he does best—surgery.  I recognize a lot of names in the book. I can imagine the operating room and the hallways of Philippine General Hospital. The book hits very close to home. The brevity of life, the way dreams can vanish with a brain bleed. Despite these, Brent, who's one of the kindest surgeons I know, with a special calling to serve the un

In good company

This is a copy of my closing remarks as panelist that I delivered during the closing program of the 4th National Creative Nonfiction Writing for Doctors by the Bienvenido N Santos Creative Writing Center of the De La Salle University.  In 2020, in a small condo unit in Mandaluyong, isolating from the world that was confused and broken, I received an invitation to join a Zoom writing workshop for Joti’s mentees. These were young, bright-eyed medical students. Dr. Elvie Gonzalez was in that crowd, too. I was unemployed. I had just finished my medical oncology fellowship, with plenty of time in my hands. I had a blast. That would be the start of my involvement in being a panelist of the creative nonfiction workshop for doctors by the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center. Through God’s providence and grace, I found myself in the company of like-minded, curious, kind people who like words and stories and books. In a sense, I have the experience of two worlds: being a participant and

Flowers during my rounds


There's the Rub and bookstores of childhood

I woke up thinking of Conrado de Quiros for no reason, then a quick Google search brought me the news: he passed away on November 6 . I grew up reading There's the Rub, his opinion column in the Inquirer, and I loved how he weaved words and phrases. Because of him, I wanted to own my own column, too, thinking I would have the energy and words for it. I'm now looking for copies of his books. Amazon and the online retailers indicate that this books, including "Flowers from the Rubble," are out of print. Please send me a note if you have any leads where I can get them.  Ambeth Ocampo's column in the Inquirer is about bookstores .  Looking back, my earliest memories of bookstores were of Popular Bookstore on Doroteo Jose which was the carrot my father dangled to get me into a dentist’s chair. Popular Bookstore didn’t have children’s books, but I liked just being in it as my father browsed the latest engineering texts for his classes in Mapua and University of the Phil


Resumed my piano lessons after more than a month of hiatus. Ma’am Deborah, so gracious and accommodating, understood why my performance was sub par. The twenty-year old electric keyboard borrowed from Tita Beb’s house is broken. Was not able to to practice at home. Ma’am Deb is generous enough to say I’m a fast learner. Either that’s true, or that her benchmark is the eight-year old pupil who takes the slot before mine on Monday afternoons.

Remembering October

I revisited Des Poticar-Biboso's excellent photography  (I wish she'd resurrect her blogs) and remembered that there was a time when I used to take so much pictures to share in this space. October was a colorful month for me. To write about the month-that-was in the past tense reminds me how time flies quickly, how everything passes before our very eyes if we don't pause and look and look back.  Paul adds so much happiness in our home. Now an indoor dog, he considers it his birthright to sleep inside the house. His spot is behind the white couch beside the bookshelves. At midnight he barks and awakens everyone—by everyone, I mean Manong Ralph, the lightest sleeper—so the doors can be opened and he can urinate outside. After a minute, Paul returns to his nook, preparing for his 6 am walk in the neighborhood. He is the sweetest, most considerate, and most compassionate dog. He leaves some of his food for the frogs, which he kisses and licks gently when he meets them. Rizal S

Friday night

Met Willie, Mayche, Katty and her little boy Mark last night for dinner. Small pockets of reunion are ideal for catching up with my high school circle. Willie lost his Uber privileges because a driver in a small town in America gave him a low rating because he charged his phone in the car without asking permission. Stuck in an outlet store miles away from his hotel, he booked a taxi instead which cost more. After her extended yoga session, Mayche spouted theories about interracial marriages but says she's not getting married soon. We didn't get too much into politics, but Mayche's eyes were fiery when the subject of confidential funds was brought up. Katty remembered the times when we were the ones left at Precious Child Learning Center because our sundo, Manong Elvic, was late again because his tricycle broke down. Katty proudly shared that Manong Elvic eventually did send his children through college. What I remembered most about him was his extraordinary kindness and his

Let the kids play

Russel Moore's newsletter (Moore to the Point) which arrived in my inbox on October 20, 2023 is entitled Let the Children Play: Their Lives Depend on It. He writes: Most people know that something is going badly awry with the next generation. It’s not often that an executive summary from The Journal of Pediatrics ricochets around the internet. But this week we saw just that with the findings of a study from three researchers entitled “Decline in Independent Activity as a Cause of Decline in Children’s Mental Well-Being: Summary of the Evidence.” The broad thesis is that, while many factors have led to the national emergency we are seeing with adolescent mental health, there is one major factor that is insufficiently recognized: the decline in unstructured, unmanaged, and unsupervised play. He continues: It turns out that play and exploration are essential for what it means for us to thrive as human beings. And by play, I do not mean organized sports or hobbies (while those are imp


I took my brother Sean and sister-in-law Hannah to the airport yesterday morning. My brothers, especially the Third Born, take punctuality to a whole new level. If Sean says their flight leaves at seven, we should be on the road by 4 am. Never mind that they were checked in online and had no bags to drop off. Yesterday we arrived on time, with plenty more to spare. One thing you should know about my family: we are hardly ever late. We got it from our father, who, contrary to the prevailing culture at the time (that's changing now), was conscious of time. My mother doesn't like the feeling that people are inconvenienced because they are waiting for her. Preparing to go out of the house is clockwork, chop-chop, paspasanay . Anyone left behind, dilly-dallies, nagapadugay-dugay , invites criticism. It baffles me how some people, who are not celebrity and who have not  massive strokes or disabling neurological diseases, can take hours just to shower and put on clothes and arrive lat

Dog in Zambales


Keep on going

There are days when I think about shutting down this blog. Nobody reads blogs these days. I prize my privacy. I have rediscovered the pleasures of keeping a prayer journal in pen and paper, which has its own advantages: I can write anything I want without anybody reading it. I have become rather critical of my own writing—which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the time of day. I cringe when I reread what I have written. So often, I forget that I have written anything about a subject at all. But I realize, too, that writing for a potential audience here has been a habit of many years. Whatever I post here is meant to flex my writing muscles. Blogging helps me metabolize my thoughts and experiences for the reading pleasure—I hope—of others. I hardly edit my posts. The process I employ in writing a blog is different when, for instance, I submit a piece for an anthology or magazine. Those instances rarely happen. I do not blog as frequently as I used to. Maybe I should.

Narrative medicine

I spoke at and moderated a lunch symposium of the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology (PSMO) annual convention. Credits to Kgel Bebero—wellness advocate, world traveler, medical oncologist from Trento and Tagum—for the catchy title. Soul-scription—Writing for Our Well-being . With me on stage were Drs. Honey Abarquez, no less than the conference organizer herself, Will Liangco, bestselling author whose book, Even Ducks Get Liver Cancer , is selling like hotcakes (where are the hotcakes my father used to buy from palengke—yellow, doused in margarine, and sprinkled in refined sugar?), and Joti Tabula, whose gift is not just heart-expanding poetry but the generous encouragement to doctors and opportunities to share their stories. We were thrilled that the medical humanities and narrative medicine were given the time of day—at a prime time slot at that—in a prestigious meeting that normally features lectures on new data about treatments for cancer. That people stayed until after lunch t

Arturo Rotor as Doctor-Writer and the Growing Field of Narrative Medicine in the Philippines

Congratulations to Dr. Elvie Razon-Gonzalez for winning a Palanca this year. This evening I'm moderating her talk on Arturo Rotor as Doctor-Writer and the Growing Field of Narrative Medicine in the Philippines. There will be a  livestream on the Facebook page of the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center of De La Salle University . 

Typecast 11: Hermes Baby

The Hermes Baby has arrived. Mr. Gerald dela Cruz , typewriter restorer-extraordinaire, allowed me to receive this machine from his workshop in Comandante Street, Quiapo. It is a solid machine. He did not need to do repainting because it is well-preserved. It comes with the original case bearing instructions on how to change ribbons or which parts do what. This brings my collection of working typewriters to four:  the Smith Corona, which I used to write my entry for the Rotor Awards the Erika-Weinrich, a remnant of the Cold War, and  the Underwood Universal, which sounds like a character in a Netflix series (Frank Underwood, of course, from House of Cards!). What a great addition to my growing collection. This typewriter is truly portable. It is very light and does not occupy too much space. Reach Gerald through Instagram .

Med onco family—my batchmates edition

Extremely proud of what they are doing and who they have become! Roger, Rich, Freddie, and Kmomsh Karen. There are days when I wish I had them around the clinic, seeing their own patients in the other cubicles, so I could shoot them questions, discuss my diagnostic and management dilemma, and occasionally have a fun chitchat and share a hearty laughter, which was how we had coped during training. (Photo taken during the annual Philippine Society of Medical Oncology convention, where we were all assigned to speak on-stage at some point.)

Embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope

Typed using my Underwood Portable .

Nicole Kidman, Melbourne Central Station



Fireflies along the river (Maribojoc, Bohol). Photos taken by the internist-medical oncologist-hematologist-writer-photographer-renaissance-man Noel Pingoy.

Bohol Diary: Day Two

Successfully squeezed myself into the travel plans of Drs. Elvie, JP, and Rey. Was welcomed with open arms to join their day tour of the island. Woke up at 4 am and waited for the beginning of daybreak before heading out to sea. Young and old men in small boats hauled fresh fish to the shore. Overheard friendly banter and the chorus of dogs, as if in conversation. I imagined that, after the ritual of fishing and sailing, the men would all be home with their wives and children, on dry land, waiting for the next sunrise. The waters were calm. Had to walk many meters from the shore to approach deeper waters conducive to swimming. Carefully stepped on sea grass, which felt ticklish on bare feet. Was far out into sea, yet the water was below my knees. Decided to head back and swim in the pool. Alone, I realized everyone was sleeping, or transitioning to wakefulness. It was 6 am. Breakfast was ready. Had danggit and coffee. From my vantage point, it seemed like a good day to meander: not

Bohol Diary: Day One

Left Marbel before daybreak. Drove to Gensan airport. Saw fishmongers' trucks on their way to the fish port, men and women in pajamas walking their dogs by the road, bikers and joggers in Spandex: my kind of people, they who think and work best in the morning. Manong with me in the car. As soon as I'd drop myself to the airport, he'd drive the car back to Marbel, alone. Driving makes him anxious. He refuses to drive and makes all sorts of reasons not to. He had no excuse today. Mount Matutum, geological landmark of South Cotabato Land, air, sea travel today, taking me through the country's major island groups. Connecting flight to Manila at 7:30 am, then Cebu at 11:30 am. Ferry ride from Pier 1 to Tagbilaran port for 2 hours. Expected to be in Bohol at 5:30 pm, just before sunset.  Cebu-Cordova bridge, seen from Pier 1 Brought a printed New Yorker magazine issue, which I'd almost read from cover to cover. The short story is &quo