Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Happy birthday, Dr. Noel!

With the Medical Humanities Committee of the Philippine College of Physicians, headed by Drs. Noel Pingoy and Joti Tabula (back row, from left). Front row: myself, Drs. Elvie Razon-Gonzalez and Will Liangco. 

Dr. Noel Pingoy celebrates his birthday this month. I can say many great things about Dr. Noel—he insists I call him "Noel" and I try—but among my favorite things about him are his wise and beautiful essays about our hometown, Koronadal. His essays add a depth to my understanding of what it means to live in this quiet place of this world. His sentences give me pause. They are so rich and melodious, entertaining and devastating, with a cadence borne out of a life of careful reading and playing with words. "Tuod gid man, 'no?" I would say, when he writes something like this

I often discover this when I go home on weekends to be with family. Despite the six-lane highway, friends often stop, wave, and smile when they recognize you. They ask you how the parents are. They tell you how this friend has gout and yet won’t stop his daily dose of beer, or this former classmate whose blood pressure is way up the stratosphere but won’t quit smoking. They tell you how they met old teachers who haven’t aged a bit. They offer you turon kag bandi. They welcome you to their homes like a long-lost brother. They share triumphs and heartbreaks, secrets and anecdotes. Of course, the constant question about marriage and spreading of genes [smiley].

This is the sort of kasimanwa (town mates) I grew up with and got to stay connected after many years.

Summers then were quite punishing in Marbel. I remember the times when brownouts were frequent; we had to stay outdoors often, under the trees, beside a brook, or at my uncle’s farm in Barrio 8. But the start of the rainy season was a welcome relief; the heat was more tolerable, and the constant pouring in the afternoon was an invitation to run around in complete abandon. Since most roads then were unpaved, we had individual puddles in the middle of the street that became exclusive wading pools.

Happy birthday, Dr. Noel! What a gift you are to the world. 


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