Monday, February 27, 2023

Tree 1


There's this tree in the hospital's parking lot that goes unnoticed. Its leaves are bright green. When they are about to fall off, the leaves turn into a yellowish color. The tree offers shade from heat. Because it's right smack in the middle, it runs the risk of being cut down, as people in my community often do to pave the way for "development." Like road-widening or the creation of a concrete parking lot. 

Many trees—old acacia and narra trees—have been cut down in South Cotabato because of road-widening. The sight of fallen trees saddens me. Maybe I should take pictures of them before they are felled. Sounds like another blog project.

Saturday, February 25, 2023


I read Alice Munro's Jakarta on this Saturday afternoon after my nap. It's the second story that appears in her collection, Family Furnishings (2014). As with most of her stories, a brief summary is difficult to formulate. There's the part where Kent—a pharmacist, who lives a normal life soaked in capitalism—visits Sonje, her ex-wife's bohemian friend many years later. Kent has a new wife, younger than his daughter, and together they drive across the country, visiting family and friends. Auntie Alice Munro's skill in storytelling is exceptional (I consider her to be in the same level as Tita Mavis Gallant, who writes shorter sentences), as she demonstrates in the insight she shares through Kent's experience. 

With every visit he had made on this trip, there had come a moment of severe disappointment. The moment when he realized that the person he was talking to, the person he had made a point of seeking out, was not going to give him whatever it was he had come for. 

Have I been disappointed with friends I hadn't seen in a while? Surprised, yes; but disappointed: never. 

Friendships are forged at particular moments of one's life. When friends part, the cloud of divergent experiences thins out. With the separation comes the inevitable change in their outlook, status, vocation, and interests. But I like to think that their core—who they truly are inside—remains the same. Reunions offer me a chance to appreciate those changes, as I thank God for people He has caused me to meet at some point in my journey.


Places where I eat

My friend Keth, fresh from fellowship training and who's about to start a nephrology practice in the city, gave me an idea: write about good food places. 

Where to eat in town is a perpetual dilemma. I understand this issue comes with a lot of privilege because not everyone can afford to eat out, or even eat at all. But this problem resurfaces many times a week, and much more frequently during seasons when friends and family come over, or when people need to be met and fed, for work or pleasure or both. "Diin kita mag-meet man? Ano namit nga karan-an diri?" leave me dumbfounded.

My personal default reply is to have lunch and dinner at home. Auntie Nanic's cooking is marvelous. She is a gift to our home. But she makes a truly good job in the kitchen that I now suspect that her main purpose in doing so is to ruin my diet. Although homecooked Ilonggo food is regenerative to the body and soul, I also enjoy variety. Recently there has been an explosion of new restaurants in Marbel and Gensan, some of them worth coming back to. I also realize that I'm able to maintain my weight more if I eat out. The portions are controlled, since there's a price to pay for each cup of extra rice ordered.

So I eat out, perhaps twice or thrice a week, mostly out of necessity. Hunger finds me in random places, usually on the road when my glycemic levels are low. And I avoid doing take outs—I think that's depressing. I'm reminded of long hours of hospital duty during training when I'm locked inside ward, anticipating strokes and heart attacks. Or the mandatory 14-day lockdown in the hotel after I'd flow in from Manila during the pandemic. All I had was Foodpanda delivery.

I have lunch at Alfonso's Café after clinic hours, highly recommended by Dr. Noel Pingoy, who eats there regularly. I have post-lunch coffee at Brewpub in Tupi town when I get sleepy and hungry on the road. The waiters are used to seeing me at 2 or 3 PM, napping, my head on the table, as I wait for my americano. I have snacks at Organikian, where healthy meals and juices are served. Manong Ralph supplies the sourdough there. Recently my cousin Hannah praised the chai latte at Café Abuela along Balmores Street.

So I look forward to posting some more food places. I still enjoy reading the old entries in Walk and Eat blog, but, as with most blogs, it has gone silent, too. I'll pattern my posts after it.

I'll label my food posts under "eating."


Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Devastated by the ending of The Mirror and the Light

Finished Hilary Mantel's The Mirror and the Light yesterday in a parking lot yesterday. Devastated by the ending, even if I knew—as history would have it—that Thomas Cromwell would die. Remembered that Mantel cried when she knew she had finished writing the books: Cromwell was a character so interesting you would remember him randomly. Skipped the second book in the series (Bring Up The Bodies); reserving it for long vacations when I could re-imagine the 1500s, undisturbed. 


Saturday, February 18, 2023

Kindness and love of God

Working on my chapter title assignments for Titus for the New Testament survey class in a few hours. 

Paul's reminder to young Titus, and to us, in chapter 3, verse 4, is my Saturday morning meditation. 
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life (NIV).

The "kindness and love of God our Savior," "not because of righteous things we had done," "mercy," "poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior," "justified by his grace," "heirs," and "hope of eternal life." These phrases, strung together, make my soul glad!

Christmas 2023 Plants growing in Auntie Cecil's farm.


Friday, February 17, 2023

Long exposure


After bowling, my cousins and I had pork sisig in a restaurant at EMR, Morales, Koronadal. The band was good. My phone was in automatic long-exposure mode, and the result was surprising. 

(I took bowling as my PE in 2004; I got a good enough grade that I was asked to represent my class in the inter-class finals in Diliman. I was okay, to be honest, but I wasn't as good as the other players. Even the bowling balls in university had minds of their own.)


Take care

Met and comforted several grieving families these past weeks. Death never comes easily. My job is made more difficult when I remember that entire families suffer after each loss, their lives changed, their homes bereft of familiar voices they had grown up with. Robert Bagg's poem, "Take Care," from Horsegod, iUniverse Inc, Bloomington Indiana, 2009, resonates deeply with me.

After she’s spoken her last word
my sister and I question Mom’s
still-open eyes. One tear slides
halfway down, waiting for us
to notice before moving on.
Mother had grown feather light.
Two men from the funeral home
carry her out …… on their
aluminum gurney . . . . . each using
two fingers of one hand.

My father was still talking
when he felt suddenly strange.
He had just asked a question:
“Son, what is happening to me?”
Before I summoned the courage
to lie or just tell him the truth,
he was gone. So was my chance.
Take care. Life goes so fast
it makes what you’re composing
yourself to say, late. Even if it’s only
I love you or goodbye.


Saturday, February 11, 2023

With Thoreau on weekends

Christmas 2023

I reserve Henry David Thoreau’s journals for quiet moments during the weekend, such as this afternoon, which finds me alone in the living room. The inverter air-conditioner is on full blast and hums with the reading voice in my brain, which is soaked in imagination, meandering, and travel. 

Soon my cousin Hannah, who was up last night for online meetings, will emerge out of her nap, or Nanay will ask me to drive her to her friends’ houses, or Manong will get ready for his tennis sessions. (He has become a favorite in the city’s tennis club. They call him “attorney.”) The neighborhood is quiet. Paul is outside, enjoying the afternoon heat.  

At 34 years old, Thoreau takes long walks. He “perambulates.” His diaries record what he sees: the willows, the red maples, the swamp white oak. It is like Instagram but without the temptation to impress and show off. As for me, I wish I could take on nature walking regularly. We have plenty of nature in South Cotabato. Yes, I can do that. Some doctor colleagues take the weekends off to hike, bike, go to the beach, or play with their children: why shouldn’t I? Some days, I might do something like bird watching, or take the weekends off to eat in struggling restaurants (such as in the Netflix series, The Road to Red Restaurants), or drive and see where the road leads me (such as in the HBO series, Off the Grid). 

Thoreau’s walks are not always enjoyable. In his September 26 entry, he writes:

Since I perambulated the bounds of the town, I find that I have in some degree confined myself—my vision and my walks. On whatever side I look off I am reminded of the mean and narrow-minded men whom I have lately met there. What can be uglier than a country occupied by grovelling, course, and low-lived men?

But I like his characterization of Minott, the “most poetical farmer” he knows. In his October 4, 1851 entry, he registers his observation. 

He does nothing with haste and drudgery, but as if he loved it. He makes the most of his labor, and takes infinite satisfaction in every part of it. He is not looking forward to the sale of his crops or any pecuniary profit, but he is paid by the constant satisfaction which his labor yields him. 

I can make the argument that the same applies to any vocation, not just farming. There are days, however, when work feels like work, but drudgery and indifference must be resisted. In the words of young Thoreau (August 17, 1851): 

I thank you, God. I do not deserve anything. I am unworthy of the least regard; and yet I am made to rejoice. 

Keep Reading


Wednesday, February 8, 2023


Wednesdays mark the mid-week for me. During moments of quiet, such as this morning, when everything is calm and my coffee is hot, I have the gift of a few precious minutes for reading and prayer. My meditation takes me to 1 Timothy, Paul's letter to a young man who is leading a new church. In chapter 3, Paul writes about qualifications for church leadership. Overseers and deacons have similar but distinct qualifications. As I ponder on the context and meaning of these passages, I remember and thank God for pastors and church leaders and Bible teachers who demonstrate the qualities Paul had outlined. Being above reproach, faithfulness to their spouses, being temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, gentle and not violent, not quarrelsome, not lovers of money, able to manage their families well, possessing good reputations, and have been long in the faith. Through their lives and teaching/preaching, our pastors and Bible teachers and church leaders in Metro Manila and Marbel have served the church well and encouraged us to keep the faith and carry on. May the Lord bless them and their families.


Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Dog at Le Sélect, Montparnasse

Dog at Café Le Sélect, Montparnasse, Paris

I remind Paul to behave like this dog I saw in Paris last year. 

Labels: ,



I'm enrolled in an online New Testament survey class which asks us to write paragraph titles for each book of the Bible. 1 and 2 Thessalonians were our assigned reading for the past two weeks. Here's a draft of my chapter title assignment, which I then encode in a Word file and post to the online learning portal. After I met a patient whose right arm had to be amputated because of a massive tumor, I've been practicing writing with my left hand. A Palomino Blackwing pencil is ideal for these writing assignments. 


Sunday, February 5, 2023

Augustine's encouragement for accountability

Confessions by Augustine is one of my favorite books, recommended to me by an agnostic professor, but one that brings delight to my soul each time I read it. As with most great books, rereading allows me to learn something new I hadn't realized before. In the passage below, Augustine revisits his motive for testifying to the work of God in his life—a heartfelt and encouraging argument for church accountability.

Would they share my joy when they hear how close, by your gift, I am lifted up to you, and share my prayer when they hear how far, by my own dead weight, I fall off from you? If so, to such I will open myself. For it is not a trivial help, God my Lord, to have "many give thanks for me or for many to pray for me.' I hope that a brother in spirit will love in me what you show him is lovable, lament in me what you show is lamentable—a brother, not a stranger, not 'a race of strangers, the speech of whose mouth is void of meaning, the work of whose strong hand is baneful,' but one who feels joy at what he approves in me, sorrow at what he disapproves, but feels love in both his joy and his sorrow. To such I will open myself, to those who feel relief for the good, grief for the bad, to be found in me.

Having friends and family to rebuke and encourage us in this pilgrimage is one of life's greatest blessings. May we open our hearts to brothers and sisters who will help us see Christ and behold His glory.



Repairs fascinate me. So do people who attempt them or make them possible. In his newest blog post, the writer of La Vie Graphite meditates on restoration. I read everything in this blog. I may disagree with his theology, but I love the elegance of his writing and the quietness of his life.

I’ve always admired restorers of objects, structures, and historic artifacts. Gratefully, my speed-dial numbers include my typewriter repairer, fountain pen restorer, camera technician, and auto mechanic. These individuals are also esteemed friends. When any of us talk shop, we’ll often note the parallels between their crafts and mine as a bookbinder and conservator. The purposes of our respective restorative work is to keep things in fine operational order. 

The part about pen repairs resonates me with me. 

Pens present their own forms of mechanical puzzles. While rinsing a much-loved Reynolds fountain pen from one of my many sojourns in France, I watched the ring from the nib section roll across the kitchen sink and irretrievably down the drain. As with the toolbox mentioned earlier, a study of the pen showed me how the ring was more than decorative trim- it actually provided the needed margin of space to allow the pen to be tightly capped by pushing the nib section into the mechanism that snaps it closed. I set the disabled pen on my desk, not sure what to do with it. One night, while writing and listening to the radio (a supply-line of culture itself), I stopped to look at the poor old Reynolds and an empty yoghurt cup I used for calligraphy. That curved rim got me thinking, and it occurred to me that perhaps if I could slice the plastic just right, I’d have a replacement part. Using my narrowest bookbinding mat knife, and masking tape to hold the container in place, I sliced thin strips of the plastic. It took a few tries, as I saw how exact the fit had to be, to get the pen to snap closed with the same click as it did before with its former metal ring. After getting the precise breadth and length, I sliced an extremely thin slice of archival plastic tape for the inside of the replacement ring. It worked perfectly, and I was able to use the pen as before- albeit sporting a white yoghurt container ring. 

I've had my own challenges with repairs. I sent my MacBook Air to Jeff for a battery replacement; it's working like it's fresh out of the store. Cosmos Bazaar, the official seller of Pilot products in the Philippines, reached out to me and gave me instructions to send back my Pilot Custom 823 in Amber. The pen has now been safely delivered to Manila, and will be brought to Japan, for repair. 

Ours is a broken world where material things are destined for eventual deterioration.