Showing posts from November, 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