Thursday, April 27, 2023

"I wanted to ride this day down into night..."

Christmas 2023I love this poem by Ted Kooser entitled Happy Birthday.

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.

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The Return of the Prodigal Pen

First, a review of my fountain pen ordeal: the discovery of the hairline fracture in the barrel, my brief meditation on repairs, my purchase of a Wingsung 699 as possible replacement and the serendipitous discovery that it's a brilliant pen on its own terms. To conclude this saga, the title of this post is "The Return of the Prodigal Pen."

Custom 823 repair

The transcript:
As promised, I'm writing an update about the repair of my Amber Pilot Custom 823. the pen arrived yesterday through courier. It is now working perfectly. It seems like this is an entirely different pen altogether. The cracks in the barrel and cap are no longer there. The nib writes smoothly. Many thanks to Lloyd from Cosmos Bazaar who helped me with the repair, who oversaw my pen's short trip to Japan for evaluation and minor surgery, and who made sure I received it. I'll be more extra careful now!

On my table (meaning, the dining table, which is where I do most of my work these days):

Custom 823 repaired

See the dark blot of the nib's right lower corner? That's the Parker Quinck in blue-black, one of my favorites. I never have issues with the nurses and the hospital if I sign my orders with that ink. 

Custom 823 repaired


Wednesday, April 12, 2023

What Happened Then

Random moments find me wondering what meeting the Lord Jesus Christ face to face would be like. To a believer, for Whom He shed His blood and died in Calvary, this is one great promise that sustains us: that most blessed reunion when we will, to quote a phrase my mother often mentions, "fall into the loving arms of Jesus." 

Meditating on Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection, I got to read Paul Mariani's poem, "What Happened Then." Here, through the vivid language of poetry, we experience Christ's appearing after the cross, and we relish His peace descending through that His physical presence in the room. Perhaps this is how our reunion with the Lord will be. After the toils of this world, the struggle with sin, the longing for holiness, an otherworldly calm will touch us. Our unbelieving eyes will dissolve in tears as we behold Him.

“What Happened Then”
by Paul Mariani

Do we understand what happened then?
The few of us in that shuttered room,
lamps dimmed, afraid of what would happen
when they found us? The women back
this morning to tell Peter what they’d seen.
Then these two back from Emmaus.
And now here he was. Here in the room with us.
Strange meeting this, the holes there
in his hands and feet and heart.
And who could have guessed a calm like this
could touch us. But that was what we felt.
The deep relief you feel when the one
you’ve searched for in a crowd appears,
and your unbelieving eyes dissolve in tears.

For this is what love looks like and is
and what it does. “Peace” was what he said,
as a peace like no other pierced the gloom
and descended on the room.

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Monday, April 10, 2023

Blackwing Palomino Pearl

Palomino Balckwing Pearl

New pencil: Blackwing Palomino in Pearl!


The love which suffers is the love which saves

From the Church of Scotland’s Book of Common Order:
Glory be to you,
God, our strength and our redeemer.
The vacant cross and the empty tomb
vindicate your claim
that the love which suffers
is the love which saves.
Thank you, Jesus Christ! Because You live, we can face tomorrow. Because You live, we will live, too!


Sunday, April 9, 2023

Holy Week: sea, food, and song


Manong booked us all tickets to a quiet resort in Glan. My travel plans got cancelled, and I had nothing else to do. With us were Sean and wife, Hannah: their first time to visit the resort after their wedding there a few months ago. The other Hannah, the nurse-cousin who grew up with us and who'd leave us soon for the States, decided to go with us at the very last minute, despite some urgent online work she had to do. "On Holy Week? You're seriously working on Holy Week?" we said. We assured her there was internet connection along the shore. Her eyes sparkled at the thought of the calming white noise of the waves by the beach.

And so it happened that on Wednesday, I waited for the family in my clinic in General Santos. Because I wouldn't have in-person consultations until next week, I still saw a couple of patients in the morning. The overhead lights were turned off in my clinic, and if you barged in my office in between 12 noon to one o'clock, you'd have seen me sleeping on my desk, my ears plugged with my wireless Jabra, whispering to me some calming music.

The gang left Marbel after lunch and picked me up in the clinic's parking lot—a stifling, humid day with some ephemeral, overhanging clouds that left us wondering if it would, in fact, rain. Our plan was to have an overnight stay on Wednesday, then drive back to Marbel on Maundy Thursday, so we'd be home on Good Friday, in time for the church's scheduled day of prayer and fasting.

I slept through the ride. My brother Sean, the most careful, skillful driver I know, navigated through the coastal towns with the giddiness and speed felt by people who lived far from the sea. When we were children, the promise of a beach vacation would render us sleepless. The sea was the subject of many of our dreams, and there was a time when my brothers and I wondered if we could dig a deep-enough crater to usher the salt water from Sarangani Bay to our backyard.

There's something healing about the sea that uplifts the spirit and expands the mind. The waters were calm, and the resort was quiet when we arrived. Some cottages were occupied by visitors who weren't planning on staying the night. Some rooms, though, were occupied. There was a young couple who liked taking selfies: the man had abs and tattoos, the woman had curves and sunglasses. Their four-year old son was busy watching cartoons in an iPad. People from the city were also around: familiar faces from elementary school with sonorous accents that reminded us of home. A gray-haired woman waded in the waters, while her grandchildren played with salba bida. A young father, who sported the beginnings of a promising muffin top, ushered his daughter to the shore. "Hello, little girl!" we said, and the young lady waved at us, ecstatic. We also met the nine-year old Timmy, a Danish-Filipino boy, and his Ilongga mother, who wanted to make great memories of the Philippines for her son. Timmy enjoyed the sea but also wanted to swim in the pool, which we had access to. We told him he could use it.

After dinner, Manong gathered us for prayer. Our bodies sore from all the swimming, Manong and I requested for a massage. The therapists, who came from the town center, arrived after 30 minutes and were dressed in green scrub suits. Kristine was in the middle of crushing the lamig on my back—one of the most wonderful massages I've had—when I heard peals of thunder. It was nine o'clock. "How are you going home?" I asked. Kristine said there was a sidecar waiting for them. (If you're ever at Anvy Resort, get a massage and request for Kristine!)


In the morning, Sean treated us to a boat ride that brought us in the middle of the sea. There were sandbars we walked on, and there were areas where we could no longer see ground beneath our feet. Never mind the sun. The view was God's painting and landscape—the trees that grew from cliffs, the random growth of sea grass, and nooks and crannies by shores. It seemed like human intervention would only ruin the landscape, as it often does.

Then it was time to go home. The guests were slowly checking in. We were told that the resort was fully booked from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. We packed our bags and made our way back. Hunger pangs, for it was already lunch time, forced us to look for a place to eat in Glan. We saw a carinderia filled with locals and decided to eat there. Who was it who told me that they key to finding where the good, clean food places are, you must look for long queues and, preferably, tricycle drivers—the most discriminating food critics there are? It's sound advice.


The food at Triple J was unbelievable. Get the pork humba, africana, paksiw, adobong pusit, bopis, and Bikol express!

Pork humba AfritadaPinaksiwFood in Glan! 

What a blessing to be with family on Holy Week! Today is Easter Sunday. Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed!

I know that my Redeemer lives 
What hope this sweet assurance gives 
That he who gave his life for me 
Arose with healing in his wings 
He lives, the tomb is empty still 
Redemption’s promise he fulfilled 
No condemnation now remains 
The stone of death is rolled away

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Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Hand soup

hand soup

In a hospital restroom. 


Sunday, April 2, 2023

Going nowhere is going somewhere

Pico Iyer on the art of stillness:
Except, as you all know, one of the first things you learn when you travel is that nowhere is magical unless you can bring the right eyes to it. You take an angry man to the Himalayas, he just starts complaining about the food. And I found that the best way that I could develop more attentive and more appreciative eyes was, oddly, by going nowhere, just by sitting still. And of course sitting still is how many of us get what we most crave and need in our accelerated lives, a break. But it was also the only waythat I could find to sift through the slideshow of my experience and make sense of the future and the past.And so, to my great surprise, I found that going nowhere was at least as exciting as going to Tibet or to Cuba.

I'm not going anywhere for the long weekend. My travel plans got cancelled, perhaps for the better. I'll be staying at home, meditate on Christ's death and suffering, and find quiet moments for reading and writing. 

I also have a copy of Pico Iyer's book, Video Night in Kathmandu, where he writes about his travel to the Philippines. I might also read that.

What are your plans?


Once my father took me ice-skating, then forgot me, and went home

Mary Oliver Upstream

Over the weekend, I immersed myself in the first section of Upstream, Mary Oliver's collection of essays. In "Staying Alive," she gives us glimpses of her childhood.

Once my father took me ice-skating, then forgot me, and went home. He was of course reminded that I had been with him, and sent back, but this was hours later. I had been found wandering over the ice and taken to the home of a kind, young woman, who knew my family slightly; she had phoned them to say where I was. 

When my father came through the door, I thought—never had I seen so handsome a man; he talked, he laughed, his movements were smooth and easy, his blue eyes were clear. He had simply, he said, forgotten that I existed. One could see—I can see even now, in memory—what an alleviation, what a lifting from burden he had felt in those few hours. It lay on him, that freedom, like an aura. Then I put on my coat, and we got into the car, and he sat back in the awful prison of itself, the old veils covered his eyes, and he did not say another word. 

A piece of fine writing. Many details are withheld. Her mature, deliberate silence amplifies the unusual, tragic father-daughter dynamic. 

2023 is becoming a great year for reading, and Mary Oliver—her prose, and especially her poetry—is one of my greatest discoveries thus far.


Saturday, April 1, 2023

Thought begat thought

Value of writing - Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau on keeping a journal:

Perhaps this is the main value of a habit of writing, of keeping a journal,—that so we remember our best hours and stimulate ourselves. My thoughts are my company . . . Having by chance recorded a few disconnected thoughts and then brought them into juxtaposition, they suggest a whole new field in which it was possible to labor and think. Thought begat thought. 

I argue that this, too, applies in blogs.


God's beautiful creatures

I arrived early for a meeting. There was time for a small chit-chat. The subject of dogs came up. A colleague from the university said his dog died three weeks ago. He showed me photos in his iPhone. The beagle looked sideways, camera-shy, his ears drooped, and his eyes contemplative. I forget the dog’s name now, but I remember his face, like a creature who looks harmless and who you'd be tempted to bring home, but who would chew off your shoelaces if you weren’t looking.

“A bad case of babesiosis. It was pretty far advanced,” my colleague said. The beagle was in the hospital for many days and eventually passed away. I did not have to be told that the master missed his loyal, faithful, good friend of many years. Because isn't that what dogs are?

I brought up the dog poems by Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets, hoping it would comfort him. The book is a celebration of the brief life of dogs. It is tender and joyful and heart-wrenching at the same time, evoking all these emotions especially in humans who have loved and have been loved by God’s beautiful creatures.