So far, so good

What for should I ask more

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Never lost, always found (8): Emmanuel

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.

The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." - Luke 2:8-12

An ordinary night with ordinary sheep and ordinary shepherds. And were it not for a God who loves to hook an "extra" on the front of the ordinary, the night would have gone unnoticed. The sheep would have been forgotten, and the shepherds would have slept the night away.

But God dances amidst the common. And that night he did a waltz.

The black sky exploded with brightness. Trees that had been shadows jumped into clarity. Sheep that had been silent became a chorus of curiosity. One minute the shepherd was dead asleep, the next he was rubbing his eyes and staring into the face of an alien.

The night was ordinary no more.

The angel came in the night because that is when lights are best seen and that is when they are most needed. God comes into the common for the same reason. His most powerful tools are the simplest.

from Max Lucado's Grace For the Moment




The Adoration of the Shepherds by Jacques Stella, French, 1596–1657, Oil on canvas, from the Old Masters Collection of the Bob Jones University Museum and Gallery.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Last day in Manila of MV Doulos

UPDATE March 10, 2009: MV Doulos is back in Manila, from March 5 to 30, 2009. For more details, visit the official website of this floating vessel of knowledge.


Modified from with additional information from the MV Doulos official website.

Good news, MV Doulos - the world's largest floating book fair is now in Manila.

Doulos has visited Manila five times, and during its previous visit in January 2007 people were lining up for hours to have the opportunity to step on board.

Now the bad news: This is the last visit from the world's oldest ocean-going passenger ship still active to Manila.

Doulos has been crossing oceans and building bridges between nations for over 29 years to promote Knowledge, Help and Hope. Over 20 million visitors have come on board. During this visit Manila the one millionth visitor to Doulos this year stepped on board. One of Manila's citizens was the lucky person who stepped up the gangway as the 1,000,000th visitor and received a special welcome.

Books for less cost can be found at the world's largest floating book fair. On offer are over 6,000 titles of books covering a wide range of subjects, such as Science, Sports, Hobbies, Cookery, The Arts, Philosophy, Children's books, etc.

Doulos was originally built as the freighter Medina in 1914—just two years after the famous Titanic— and since then went through different phases of remodeling and employment up to the purchase by its present owner, GBA (Gute Bücher für Alle e.V). It is a non profit charity organization founded in Germany meaning "Good Books For All".

Doulos is more than just a ship - Doulos is about people. It is home for 350 people from over 50 different nationalities. They have left their countries for one or two years to be apart of a cultural exchange program, where they live, learn and work together. They are ordinary people living extraordinary lives. Everyone, from the Captain to the Doctor to the men scrubbing the deck, work as volunteers.

We're all invited to come on board and experience Doulos and her crew. Don't miss it, come visit.

--==+==-- lists the Port Information for the Doulos Visit to Manila as:
at the Manila South Harbour from Nov 30, 2007 to Dec 30,2007 10:00am to 9:00pm


from the, the Port Information for the Doulos Visit to Manila is listed as:

Arrival Date: November 29th, 2007 - 00:00
Departure Date: December 26th, 2007 - 00:00
Opening Date: November 30th, 2007
Closing Date: December 23rd, 2007
Opening Hours: The book fair will be open to the public from November 30 to December 23, 2007. Tue – Sat 10am- 9pm, Sun - Mon 2pm – 9pm. (closed on Dec 10, only)

Sunday, December 23rd from 2-9pm is the last day of MV Doulos in the Philippines!

An entrance fee of 10 PHP is requested and children under 16 are free of charge, but need to be accompanied by parents or guardians.

Entry Fee: PHP 10 for adults
Port Notes: Ship Location:
Gate 1, South Harbor, Manila Pier 13 (Near Manila Hotel)

For more details, please call Doulos at (63926) 702-4342 or email:

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Blog, blag, blah

I haven’t done any Christmas shopping. I have loads of papers to write and check. I have piles of books to read. I have dozens of emails to answer. And so I escape the real world and indulge Ding’s meme.

Anything for shameless self-promotion =]

How long have you been blogging?

I officially started blogging on May 2003 using another platform and I moved to Blogger on September 2006.

What inspired you to start a blog and who are your mentors?

I used to keep a handwritten journal back in medical school. One of the first things I learned in UP Med was that memories not written down have not been experienced at all which was seconded later on by another adage, that memories written down are experienced twice. As I became more religious in updating my online journal, my handwritten journal became a mere back up. But I still refer to it from time to time; it’s interesting to see how my reactions to life’s stimuli then have matured (or failed to do so!) vis-à-vis today.

I have always been surrounded by people and I am not averse to speaking in public, but in reality I am a sedate, solitary type of person, who’d much rather keep to myself. Hence, my love for Lego and blogging. Both allow me to do what I love to do, showcase it to the world, without me having to really offer my self out to be devoured by the world. In short, I am a cowardly show off =]

I only have one idol with regard to blogging, my own version of Sesame Street’s Aloysius Snuffleupagus. We’ve been friends, banter-mates, a most welcome tormentor for a good number of years already. His opinion with regard to my writing matters. He’s a pal because he heaps praises on me with wild abandon hahaha And he has his ways of supporting my Mission: I Heart The Philippines. He’s too self-deprecating though. He’s overdue for a Palanca, methinks. If only he’d be more courageous (than I). But as I am wont to do, I digress.

I often describe my blog as a chronicle of the days in the life of someone who wants to leave the world in a better state than when he arrived on it. I really do pray I stay true to my aim. So far, so good.

Are you trying to make money online, or just doing it for fun?

While I love being a physician and a teacher, there are times I’d like to be able to blog full-time. So yes, I do wish to earn off of blogging- a nifty reward for doing I love doing anyway. At the end of the day, though, blogging is a foremost tool for sharpening whatever lackluster infantile writing skill I am conceited enough to brandish.

Tell me 3 things you LOVE about being online.

I love learning about other people’s world. One of the most memorable lessons I’ve learned in the UP from a Psychology professor is that each person has a story to tell- if only we’d take time to listen. So being online fascinates me no end, to learn about Alex’s life in the PMA or Doray’s travails and triumphs as a city councilor or how a new online buddy Ding merges his love for underserved communities and photography or what Saudi Arabia is like through the eyes and words of Ahmed, a Saudi national.

I love cerebral sparring and mental gymnastics with fellow online denizens- be it putting a controversial political idea across, reacting to a medical update, or bemoaning a showbiz issue.

I love reading and the Pinoy blogosphere is filled with good reads.

Tell me 3 things you STRUGGLE within the online world.

My blog is still searching for an identity.

There are life events worth blogging that I censor given their sensitive nature.

I am beginning to feel micro-pinches of the problems of people taking some of my online outputs, particularly my photos, without permission or at least proper citation.

WITH ALL OF THIS ALREADY SAID, I'm passing the baton to
Aryo the Islander
Carlo the Asker of Ar-wee-der-yet
Benj the MD/Master-Debater, and
Laud Claud.

Read: You guys are tagged!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

On PGH duty: Christmas 2004

Christmas is a big family event in our home, with decors usually up soon after All Souls’ Day, get-togethers left and right. But the changing family dynamics over the last four years (my sister’s marriage and my stay in medical school plus my parents' eventual migration to the US) made this day extra special.

With six days to go before Christmas, nostalgia is an unwelcome guest, especially when the vistas it brings are wistful at best. A most memorable Christmas was in 2004. Here’s another blast from my blog past on why that particular Christmas was special.

And I hope I’d be able to endure this year’s…


December 23, 2004, 10.26 am

With most of my gifts left unwrapped, or worse, unbought; my Christmas cards unmailed, or worse still blank; and with the very cruel reality that I will spend Christmas eve for the first time outside of our home sans my family, and worse, in the hospital! since I am on duty from 7am of the 24th til 7am of the 25th: this Christmas is on the verge of becoming the worst Christmas of my life, displacing the current record-holder- being down with the flu while in Las Vegas last year (2003).

But then again, compared with Mary and Joseph’s constant rejection by innkeepers that first Christmas Eve and then our Lord and Savior eventual birth in a lowly manger soon after . . .

Yes, Virginia, I am Joe’s myopic, selfish, humble-pie-eating ingrate of a brain.

(Thank you, God, for the gift of Jesus, the Greatest Physician, the Most Eloquent Wordsmith, the Most Inspiring Leader, the Most Faithful Friend, the Most Obedient Son, the Most Caring Brother. May I become as close to the example He set as possible in my feeble humanity’s attempt to don these hats He’s worn.)


December 29, 2004 5.05 am

While most times I’d HATE it when I’m wrong, this Christmas, however, shooting way off target gave me immense joy and great relief. And how!

I thought going on duty during Christmas Eve was going to be sheer hell. While it still sucked, the timely apparition of my parents- and bearing food for us imprisoned slaves to boot!- did wonders in lifting my dreary holiday spirit. Just when I thought I’ve “outgrown” my need for parental warmth and affection, I received a megadose of TLC that almost wrung tears from eyes. The thirty minutes or so I spent with them that Christmas Eve was probably the most heartening half-hour we’ve had the past year.

And the food- aah yes- the food. My mom’s cooking was the stuff that made our Christmases at home complete. It was one of the major things I expected to be irreplaceable this Christmas. Nonetheless, our team on duty put together a meager dinner table so that we’ll all be as close to home as possible.

Our “meager” banquet- filled with potluck goodies brought with the idea that they should be enough to feed 30 or so people in mind- ended up as a feast that could have rivaled a Presidential State Dinner. Nope, the caviar and foie gras were ostensibly absent but in their stead, we had four different varieties of noodle dishes; delights from home like caldereta and deep-fried chicken; heaps of artery-clogging and corner-of-our-mouths-smearing pork barbecue; and most importantly- varied desserts ranging from ensaymadas, to puto, to chocolate cakes, and of course, the quintessential leche flan.

We had chow enough for us to come back for a second, third, even fourth round of Noche Buena feasting. We were only hampered by two things: One, that we were STILL on duty; thus we did carry on with our work in between trips to the buffet table. And second, we inevitably consumed all disposable spoons, forks, and plates. Then again, what are these hands for?! The feeding frenzy carried on into the wee hours of the morning.

One key factor that allowed us to observe the traditions of the typical Filipino Christmas Eve (read: stuff ourselves silly) was the relative dearth of patients who sought consult at the ER. There was approximately a 50% decline in the number of women who came to the hospital. We were expecting a deluge of women seeking to get the highly economical gift of co-celebrating their kid’s birthday with that of Jesus. God heeded our prayers: He delayed their labor pains for a few hours, enough for us to celebrate His Son’s coming the best way we could. And as for the babies He did give the honor of being born on the day His Son was said to have joined our party on earth- He gave their moms quick deliveries with just minor hitches here and there. For our entire duty, we didn’t list any morbidity or mortality.

As Ara Mina put it succinctly- you can never can tell. With all the good food, great friends, superb family, and safely delivered babies, I probably- unwittingly- had one of my most memorable Christmases ever.

Just 362 days til Christmas 2005.

I can’t wait.

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Taylor Hicks in Manila: The Glorietta 4 Park Show

The intimate venue, the excited crowd, the excellent musicians led by Louie Ocampo and his honest, soulful showmanship were the key ingredients to an hour-long treat from A.I. Season 5 champ Taylor Hicks.

Here are some snippets of his performance, Takin’ It To The Streets plus an uber-familiar tune. I apologize for the odd cuts and shots: either my hands were getting tired already, my camera was blocking somebody’s view, or my batteries were already giving up…

Yeap, Taylor, you do make the Soul Patrol proud!

If you missed the G4 show, you can still catch Taylor in the following shows:

Greenbelt: December 19, 2007
Greenbelt 3 Park
8:00 PM
Concierge Hotline: (632) 757-4853

TriNoma: December 20, 2007
Activity Center
7:00 PM
Concierge Hotline: (632) 901-3000

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Where I left my heart: San Francisco 2006

My second most favorite city in the US is San Francisco. It's a slower, more cozy version of New York, but equally interesting, with all its historical nooks and crannies, all sights for sore eyes.

We visited San Francisco en route to our parents' place in Greenville, South Carolina last December 2006. It is our first major online planned trip and that yielded good results. When we filed for our respective leaves in the office sometime during August or September, my sister and I swam through websites catering to travelers on a tight schedule and shoestring budget. We used Yahoo! FareChase for easy comparison of flights' and hotels' rates. The flights we ended up booking not online but c/o the travel agency that plans their company's trips. We got a great deal: Manila to the US via San Francisco with free domestic travel from San Francisco to South Carolina and then South Carolina to Detroit to Manila all for less than a thousand US dollars per head. Compared that with the $500++ one-way trip from MNL to LAX via PAL plus the $200++ cost of traveling one way from LAX to Greenville. It really helped that we left on the last day of the off-peak season hence our excellent rates.

The hotel we did book online. We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express near Fisherman's Wharf. Its location was perfect for walking to must-see places, or at least to the transport hubs to get to the other must-see places. Since we arrived in SFO at around 8am, the hotel allowed us to check-in earlier, which allowed us to roam around earlier since we only had three days there. Of course, it helped that the front desk officer was Pinoy.

While still in the RP, we surfed the official government site for travel to SFO, There we found a great tour package, courtesy of the San Francisco Comprehensive Shuttle Tours service. Excellent tour guide, considerate with regard to photo-op-hungry tourists, well thought of spots to visit. We booked a day before the tour- which is not advisable. Good thing there was still space in the tour, given the odd day of the month we were in town.

All in all, it was a great three days in San Francisco. We were combing through the city streets until 6pm of our last day, leaving enough time to get to the airport for 12.30am flight out of SFO. Planning was key, from arranging the date of our departure to get the best airline rates; to patiently rummaging through hotel websites to get the best value rooms; to comparing tour companies to maximize the limited time we had in the city. While it may not sound environment-friendly, we likewise grabbed any and all printed materials and maps we can get our hands on so we'll know how to fill our time with the must-do activities and happily find our way back to the hotel when we chose to get lost in the city's charm notwithstanding the chilly winds blowing into the city by the bay...

Long overdue post. One item in my to do list for the holidays - check!

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Taylor Hicks- in Manila! Mau Marcelo- in Jakarta!

American Idol fans- we're all in for a massive treat this December! Season 5 winner Taylor Hicks will be performing in select Ayala Malls starting next week!

This is the schedule I got from the Ayala Malls website:

Glorietta: December 18, 2007
Glorietta 4 Park
7:00 PM
Concierge Hotline: (632) 752-7272

Greenbelt: December 19, 2007
Greenbelt 3 Park
8:00 PM
Concierge Hotline: (632) 757-4853

TriNoma: December 20, 2007
Activity Center
7:00 PM
Concierge Hotline: (632) 901-3000

Meet & Greet after each show

AND do vote for our Philippine Idol- Mau Marcelo- in the Asian Idol finals this coming weekend! More info from the Asian Idol official website.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Wordsmith and me

I still believe that more than all his works, his most enduring legacy to humanity are his daughters, one in fact I've met earlier on in the College of Medicine and eventually became friends with when we attended the Global Health Course in Finland last August. Yasmin works as a community doctor in a municipality nestled on an island off mainland Quezon. She has, they say, his temperament, no nonsense attitude, and unwavering honesty. They may be working in divergent fields, but they share the same passion and penchant for treading paths uncharted, as a service to Filipinos.


I received a text message from her a week ago, sharing with me the sad news of her father's passing. The message was succinct, in true Yasmin fashion. An oh-my-God escaped from me- knowing all too well how precious Yasmin’s family is to her. With her father’s passing, a Filipino literary giant enters the realm of legend.


One time, we were talking outside the kitchen of our dormitory in Finland. I was telling Yasmin- nagging her even- to write her life as a community physician. Too few stories have emerged detailing the experiences and lessons learned from community development work and public health. She quipped that I sounded like her father, who seemed to always ask her to write. I inquired about her father. She told me he’s also a teacher at the U.P. in the College of Arts and Letters. And then it dawned upon:

Yas, oh-my-God. Tatay mo si Rene Villanueva?!

And as she is wont to do, she replied, Oo. Kilala mo yung tatay ko?

HELLO?! Any kid of our generation should know, nay, pay homage to the-now late great Rene Villanueva. Among the innumerable offsprings of his ingenuity is the well-loved television program Batibot.

I rushed to our other Pinoy classmates in the course to tell them that Rene Villanueva is Yasmin’s father. I was met by blank stares. The name finally rang a bell when I told them that detail about Batibot…

Suffice it to say, I never looked at Yas the same way again. She is Rene Villanueva’s daughter. Whoa. I’m not worthy.


Yas was the one who greeted Johann and I as we entered the Fir Chapel of the Sanctuarium along Araneta Avenue. Yas, Johann, and I plus another MD friend of ours, Lester, went together to the Finnish course. On the table beside the door, surrounding a crucifix and his photo, were a copy of each of dozens and dozens of books he’s written through the years. From that alone, I knew this wake was going to be different.

Yas was talking to a writer- friend of her father, who turned out to be a physician as well. The warm, unassuming guy was Luis P. Gatmaitan, author of numerous children’s books, and, like Rene Villanueva, is a Palanca Hall of Famer himself. He shared with us fascinating quirks and tidbits about Yasmin’s father, many of which she gamely validated, but I still believe should remain private. Dr. Gatmaitan shared his own journey as a physician and published author. After hearing the details, and a lot of his encouraging words, one can’t help but feel empowered to pursue the same track. Paraphrasing him, it’s tantamount to sinning when the talents given a person are not shared and nurtured…


Rene Villanueva, I met at the last day of his wake. We arrived a little over an hour before he was to be cremated. But from the newspaper articles written about him, testimonial from colleagues, stories from friends, the body of work he’s left behind, and the quality family he raised, I know enough for me to say that he really is quite the human being.

His passion for his craft is unassailable. His blog even has an entry right up to the day he was in the hospital, pneumonia notwithstanding.

He was true to his mantra, the one that arguably led him to reach his stature- he just kept on writing.

Gaya ng sinabi ng isang nag-iwan ng mensahe sa iyong blog,
Nawa’y pormal tayong magkita
At magkakilala
Sa langit na nakatawa…

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Farmers for the land, land for the farmers

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007


I know the paper-thin chasm that separates us
We are on either side of a windowpane.
Privy to tears we cause but cannot wipe dry
To silent laughter and mirth-less joy.

And yet
I see every crease and line on your palm
As I struggle to feel its warmth against mine.
Tracing its outline- the map to our future
Running at arm’s length on parallel tracks, never to intersect.

In spite of
The duet we are trying to sing
Different lyrics to the same song.
While swans, they say, keep lifelong mates
I believe I hear the swan song already.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Close encounters with Sumilao farmers

At first glance, there is nothing special about the Sumilao farmers, except for the sunburnt skin coating their obviously tired but still very eager and resilient demeanor.

Health-wise, I looked sicker than them. Actually, I haven’t been feeling well over the past four days, a victim of a bug causing a rather bad bout of upper respiratory tract infection. But I digress.

In what is tantamount to a huge blessing, I was able to join the medical team who looked after the Sumilao farmers as they stayed for the night at the Ateneo De Manila University campus in Quezon City. We came with four of our clinical clerks- 4th year medical students- who are currently doing their community medicine rotation with us. The faculty grabbed the opportunity to expose the students to the plight of the Sumilao farmers as a way of giving a human face to all our talk in the UP about extending healthcare to the marginalized and vulnerable sectors of society.

We came upon the invitation of several UP Medicine alumni who have been working closely with the organizing committees of the Ateneo pit stop of the farmers’ Walk for Land, Walk for Justice – their 1500+-kilometer trek from Bukidnon in southern Philippines to Malacanan Palace to air their grievances to the President come December 10, International Human Rights Day. We were but a small part of the contingent of doctors, coming mainly from the UP College of Medicine, the Philippine General Hospital, the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health, the Medical City, among other volunteers. In all, at least fourteen doctors saw a total of some seventy patients coming from the ranks of the marching farmers.

The marching farmers who are in the Ateneo now actually come from areas as varied as Sumilao, Bukidnon; Calatagan, Batangas; and Catanauan, Quezon- farmer groups who are suffering the same agrarian reform injustice. They have banded together along the route- many in San Pedro, Laguna- just before the main bulk of the marchers entered Metro Manila.

The medical interviews and physical examination and subsequent dispensing of medical advice ought to have taken less than 10 minutes per patient, again given the fact that the patients I saw looked and felt much, much healthier than I was. Really. But I took the opportunity to talk to the marchers, requesting them to share a little about their conditions, weaving their social concerns into the medical interview.

I got the chance to talk to Ate Marilyn, a 33-year old lady from Sumilao. She temporarily left her husband and three children to walk with her fellow farmers. I excitedly shared that I already had the chance to pass through Sumilao en route to Malaybalay. She joked that it was her first time to go to Manila, and never did she imagine that she’d reach the capital on foot. She had minor health concerns, save for her aching feet, which she joked has soles that have become so calloused I could poke them with a very sharp object and she’d most likely not feel a thing. Mabuhay ka, Ate Marilyn!

Then there’s Alwyn a 20-year old fisherman and coconut farmer from Catanauan, Quezon, which he described as about three towns away from Lucena City. He also described their problems with the ownership of their land, which is currently in the hands of a Filipino-Chinese businessman. He, too, suffers from a very minor health condition which I believed warrants immediate medical intervention in case it exacerbates in their town. I asked if there’s a rural health center in their area where he can consult. He says there is- but it was at least 20 pesos away by jeepney… Mabuhay ka, Alwyn!

And then there’s the ever-smiling Augusto, 25-year old farmer from Batangas. They, too, walked from their hometown of Calatagan and eventually rendezvoused with the Sumilao farmers before they entered Metro Manila. The two groups have very, very similar concerns since they were both engaged in a legal tussle with the food and beverage giant San Miguel Corporation. He, too, looked far more well than I, who had to excuse myself several times whenever I can’t keep myself from coughing. As I finished Augusto’s check up, I wished him well and I verbalized my expression of support to their cause. As a sign of my expectant faith, I told Augusto that I will never forget his name since I will invite myself to a free feast in his own hacienda should I find myself in Calatagan- a thought towards which he replied with a face-splitting smile. Mabuhay ka, Augusto!

I usually begin medical interviews and check-ups with Kumusta po kayo? Ano pong nararamdaman ninyo ngayon? (How are you? How are you feeling now?) Invariably, I would get Ok lang, Doc (I’m okay) which usually prompts me to probe further. Or there would be a patient who launches into his or her list of symptoms right off the bat. But a most curious thing happened to me, one of the handful of times that my question- Kumusta po kayo? Ano pong nararamdaman ninyo ngayon?- was met with a most blessed answer:

Masayang-masaya po. Very, very happy.

That they finally got to Manila.

That their grievances will soon find resolution.

The Sumilao farmers and the farmers who walk with them in their collective quest for justice are simple Filipinos. At first glance, nothing seems to be special about them. But that’s also how they describe the birth of this Somebody, some 2000 years ago. And yet we still celebrate His lowly birth up until this time.

Mabuhay ang mga Magsasakang Pilipino! Katarungan para sa kanila! Kalayaan mula sa mapaniil na pagkakatali sa lupa!

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Sumilao Farmers in Quezon City - December 5-6, 2007

I got this email from the organizers of the Sumilao Farmers' Walk for Land, Walk for Justice - QC/Ateneo-leg. Too bad I cannot join the December 5-6 activity (I have a class that cannot be rescheduled anymore). Nonetheless, I'd like to do my part by posting this useful set of information for those who can attend.

Please feel free to inform your friends and colleagues. Let's also pray for their continued safety and the speedy resolution of their land issue. (Photo above grabbed from the Multiply site created for the Sumilao Farmers show the farmers as they cross the San Juanico Bridge a few weeks ago. They enter Metro Manila today!)

Dear Dr. Gomez,

Peace in Christ.

Here is the detail of the March from Cubao to the Ateneo and the Overnight Vigil

Solidarity March:

December 5, 2007 (Wednesday)

2:00PM – 5:00PM

Cubao Expo to Ateneo de Manila University Campus

Place of Assembly:
Blue Eagles Gym

Time of Assembly:
1:00PM (leave for Cubao at 1:30PM)

Overnight Vigil and Mini Concert:

December 5, 2007 (Wednesday) to December 6, 2007 (Thursday)

5:00PM (Dec. 5) – 8:00AM (Dec. 6)

Bellarmine Field or College Covered Courts

Here is also a copy of the program for your perusal.


DECEMBER 5, 2007

Symbolic Welcome of the Sumilao Farmers by Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales and the Ateneo Community

Symbolic March to the Church of Gesu

Welcome Program
Welcome Remarks by:
Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, SJ
President, Ateneo de Manila University

Eucharistic Celebration at the Church of the Gesu
Main Celebrant:
Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales
Archbishop of Manila

Rest Period


Overnight Vigil and Mini Concert at the Bellarmine Field
Video Presentation
Expression of Support
Development Studies Students
Sangguniang Mag-aaral ng Ateneo de Manila
Ateneo Administration Representative

Talk on House Bill 1257
Cong. Riza Hontiveros
BALAOD Mindanao

Yoyong (Sumilao marcher)

Open Forum
Soc Banzuela (PAKISAMA)
Nong Peter Duminghay (Sumilao)
Yoyong (Sumilao)

Short presentation of a theatrical play by Entablado

Prayer Service

Breakout Groups (group sharing and processing)

9:30 PM
Start of Acoustics Night
Indigenous Music
Ateneo Glee Club
Bayang Barrios
Noel Cabangon

DECEMBER 6, 2007

Coffee and Bread for the Sumilao Farmers



Eucharistic Celebration


Final Blessings to be given by:
Bishop Francisco F. Claver, SJ
Bishop Emeritus, Bontoc-Lagawe

Please extend also the invitation to your friends and colleagues. Hope to see you. God bless.

Project Officer for Political Affairs
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

Mobile: 0927-3382282
Landline: 426-6101 local 4331
Telefax: 426-5968

Listen to CGE: Citizenship by Good Example
(An SLB - Radyo Veritas 846 Radio Program)
Every Saturday from 11:15AM to 11:55AM

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Makati show off

It was just an utterly senseless grandstanding by a coward hiding in the shadows of reflected military glory, executed in the guise of selfless promotion of the Filipino people’s interest and future.

Excuse me?!

I don’t remember choosing you to be our hero, Mr. Trillanes.

You failed when you attempted to play the self-appointed Filipino people’s savior holding court at the Oakwood Premiere. And just when they voted you into office, officially and legitimately pegging a part of their hope on you, you have the gall to fail them. I just don’t get you. No matter how you try, you are not and never will be the answer to the Filipino people’s prayers.

And what’s this penchant for luxurious environs as settings for revolt? The Oakwood? The Peninsula? My brother in law is right: if you want to achieve the critical mass you want to mobilize, go to Payatas or Tondo where people are mired in seemingly abject poverty. You might find willing cohorts there. Then again, you might not find any- BECAUSE THEY ARE BUSY TRYING TO SURVIVE AND MAKE ENDS MEET as you squander government money and the people’s trust by your adventurism and insatiable thirst for media attention.

And, say that again, you’re reason for finally leaving The Peninsula is that- you don’t want people to get hurt?! THEN WHY THE HELL DID YOU CHOOSE A HOTEL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FINANCIAL DISTRICT TO STAGE THIS INANE, JUVENILE, STUPID POWER GRAB? If you did not want anybody to be hurt, you ought to have gone to outer space. That’s where your brain seems to have gone.

I am furious with Trillanes et al because what they did is PERSONAL. I am furious because my sister, who works practically just across The Peninsula could have been hurt. I have a very, very good friend who lives one alley away from the now-bulldozed hotel- literally at shooting range. I have students doing field work who I had to pull out from their barangays because they could have been directly or indirectly hurt by this ill-timed uprising. Our parents in the US have been unduly stressed by all of this.

Yes, you have legitimate grievances which we all feel and know first hand and embrace as our own regardless of your presence, but YOUR IMPATIENCE AND IMPERTINENCE REALLY DO NOT MERIT THE POPULAR SUPPORT YOU ARE PLEADING FOR.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Northern sky

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I never felt magic crazy as this
I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea
I never held emotion in the palm of my hand
Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree
But now you're here
Brighten my northern sky.

I've been a long time that I'm waiting
Been a long that I'm blown
I've been a long time that I've wandered
Through the people I have known
Oh, if you would and you could
Straighten my new mind's eye.

Would you love me for my money
Would you love me for my head
Would you love me through the winter
Would you love me 'til I'm dead
Oh, if you would and you could
Come blow your horn on high.

I never felt magic crazy as this
I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea
I never held emotion in the palm of my hand
Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree
But now you're here
Brighten my northern sky.

Northern Sky
Nick Drake
from the SERENDIPITY soundtrack

I've always had this song in a CD compilation burned by one of my bestest friends in medical school from several Christmases past. I've always loved it. It's relevance has increased in the past few weeks. Enough said =]

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Never lost, always found (7): Serendipity... maybe not

As I was watching SERENDIPITY on the Lifestyle Network, I turned a bit wistful as it featured Christmas vistas of New York City. Hmmm Then again- wistful is neither the correct word nor feeling...

Maybe it's the movie's holiday scenery. Or me missing my family in the U.S. Or it's about my class tomorrow and the presentations we need to prepare for the UP Manila Chancellor and Bhutanese health officials on Tuesday. Or maybe it's due to this person-who-shall-remain-unnamed. But who or whatever the reason is- I'm crazy anxious as I type...

In a moment of sheer escapism, I rummaged through my computer's folders and got into pics from our 2006 U.S. trip. New York City is in my top five places I want to see before I die so it's an absolute thrill to have visited there twice. As I swam through the dozens of photos, I chanced upon a picture I took from St. Patrick's Cathedral. It's a prayer posted alongside the giant guestbook near the main entrance of the cathedral.

What a happy, timely reminder for my anxiety-wrapped being. Serendipity? I don't think so. His reassuring love He has shown faithfully, consistently, and without fail for at least 2,000 years. I just had to acknowledge it...

A blessed week to us all, Typhoon Mina notwithstanding-

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Gratitude list 2007

It was too late when I realized that Sampras And Federer Are Practically In My Doorstep.

AP Photo/Kin CheungI spent a good portion of the Tuesday morning daydreaming about the Federer-Sampras match in Macau this Saturday. Daydreaming eventually gave way to frantic rummaging through sites online, to get the best airline and hotel rates for my sojourn to the former Portuguese Asian enclave. But after careful computation of the cost for my planned stay in Macau, I conceded defeat because the amount I had to shell out was more than a month’s salary.

This is one of the rare times that I wished my surname was Hilton…

Later that day, however, I realized that I may have had more than my fair share of the jet-set life, visiting places familiar and spectacular, meeting people as varied as Finns and Chileans, experiencing events that are tremendous blessings to say the least. With still 39 days to go before the new year and 51 days before by birthday, I believe I already have a lengthy list of items to be grateful for, missing the Sampras-Federer face-off notwithstanding.

A cursory, per-month examination of the year that is about to end generated a fine picture of yet-another blessing-filled year:

January: I got to celebrate the New Year and my birthday with my parents and other family members in the US. February: Ang Lingkod Ng Panginoon Manila, the Catholic yuppy community I belong to, successfully celebrated its 7th anniversary (despite my prolonged absence, thanks to my very able organizing committee co-chair!)

March: The school year which saw the initial implementation of our revised medical school curriculum for third year students ended, yielding a ton of learnings for students and faculty members alike.

April: I practically spent the entire April on the road. I revisited Bicol via the GK1MB Bayani Challenge. I revisited Mindanao via the GK Highway of Peace which converged in Lanao Del Norte. I even made a sidetrip to see my very good friend in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon- my first time in this part of the Philippines.

May: The candidates of Ang Kapatiran may not have won seats in the Senate but they have somehow raised hopes again for a better Philippines. I took time out with my siblings for an Intramuros walking tour c/o Carlos Celdran. Several of my classmates and friends got married. And the most amazing thing happened: all the bureaucratic stars fell into place and I finally got my teaching item to become an officially compensated member of the university faculty!

June: I got to spend 11 days in Indonesia to attend a course on disaster management.

July: Christina Aguilera visited us in Taguig City.

August-September: I participated in a five-week course on global health in Finland, crossed over to Sweden for a weekend (to visit, among other places, the Swedish Academy- home of the Nobel Museum below), and spent a two-hour whirlwind tour of Amsterdam while waiting for our flight home.

October: We celebrated the fourth anniversary of the launch of Gawad Kalinga via the GK1World Expo.

November: One of my best friends from high school announced her engagement, my maternal grandparents just celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary, and my current movie is a box office success! harhar

December: Can’t wait for it unfold.

I’m no Hilton and my life’s not perfect- thank God for both!

Life’s a Grand Slam. So far, so good.

What are YOU thankful for in 2007?

Share it to the world via your blog and let’s help lengthen Janette Toral’s list of list of blessings for 2007. Hopefully, we can bring some vicarious collective cheer to everyone and anyone this season.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

One more chance

The story is typical but not plain.

The recipe used, though tried, tested, and already much- touted, still churned out a flavorful experience because of the freshest, almost perfect basket of ingredients.

All Pinoys- all human beings, for that matter- might as well get royalties since the Star Cinema’s film ONE MORE CHANCE seems to be loosely based from any and all of our lives.

My sister didn’t have to ask me twice so I’ll accompany her to watch the latest John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo flick since I am an avowed Kapamilya and I am a firm believer that John Lloyd Cruz and I are actually twins separated at birth. Else, why would my paternal grandmother- God rest her soul- and maternal grandfather be quick to quip that we- John Lloyd and I- look so much alike whenever they saw the former on tv? I must look for that diary that holds our true identity… But I digress.

The movie begins where many a date nowadays ends- in a hotel room, where two drunk people try to get the groove on, so to speak, but because of a five-year commitment to each other couldn’t quite get themselves to do so with other partners. From the ensuing scenes, the story unravels, the main protagonists characteristics are put to the fore, and we begin to see why the TV teasers underscore the basic truths in that stage of their lives: that to find herself, she had to lose him and for him to find true love, he had to lose her.

Thinking about the movie now reminds me of Carlos Celdran. No, not because his faced is splashed all over TV-dom in the new Nescafe commercial. But to anyone who has ever gone through Intramuros with him in his tours would remember his observation about what is common among the halo-halo, jeepney, and San Agustin Church. He says that each is intrinsically plain: crushed ice, a military-issue-slash-dumped vehicle, an adobe box, respectively. But, when the Pinoy weaves his/her flair for embellishments, all touches- minute and gaudy, converts what is intrinsically plain becomes truly more than the usual dessert, transport vehicle, and place of worship.

I think that’s where the movie succeeds.

Yes, the story is typical. But it is not plain because of the way it is narrated- from the pace of storytelling, to character development, to the conflicts’ revelation and subsequently resolution. To borrow and slightly alter McCann Erickson’s motto- fiction well told.

Yes, the recipe used in the film is not the most original, but the ingredients heaped thrown together created a sumptuous sensory and cerebral delight. The film is peppered with subtle, well-thought of touches ranging from witty one-liners to over-the-top cameo of a Sarao jeepney blasting at full volume Jeremiah’s Nanghihinayang. The characters are a complete who’s who of the people in our neighborhood and circle of friends: the brutally frank friends; pensive, peacemaker pals; protective but consenting parents; rowdy but pathologically romantic buddies; consoling comrades. Of course, the lead roles seem to have been created with Bea and John Lloyd in mind. Their on-screen presence screams of a chemistry that ought to extend beyond their reel-life relationship.

Yes, there are overt attempts by the director- successful, actually- to create tension with wise juxtaposition of characters in literally parallel predicaments. But gauging from the audience- including my own- reaction to the movie, what it actually achieved is that it allowed us to juxtapose our own lives to Basha and Popoy’s. By seeing, hearing, feeling bits and snippets of our lives played out on the big screen, the film becomes totally believable and relate-able and consequently liable to pay all of us our share of the movie’s earnings…

At the end of it all, the film is an interesting, recommended, must-try ride, though the attraction seems to be an all-too-familiar-but-still-thrilling relationship rollercoaster. The movie can make you feel some wistful longing within, if you allow it. At the very least, however, it leaves a wonderful aftertaste, of something you know you’ve partaken of before but now served on a better platter, still filling, still heartwarming.

(Special thanks to the owner of Friendster page for the photo I used above.)

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Midnight in the garden of good and evil

Even before I finished training in medical school, I have already felt a calling to work in the world outside the hospital. The promise of attaining better and sustainable health outcomes faster by engaging populations rather than individual patients led me to the world of community development and public health. The overpowering atmosphere filled with sickness and gloom, hospital politics, and stifling routine hastened my footsteps away from hospital work.

But as I've began to spend more time in the university hospital again over the last few days, there's this unshakable nostalgia of my previous hospital-based life: the flurry of activity in the emergency room; the stress of rounds and reports; the need to devour books and journals; the camaraderie among overworked and underpaid fellow health professionals; the adrenalin rush of a toxic duty in the ward; the extremely sound sleep after a toxic duty. What I miss most is the almost unbridled interaction with individual patients, as they and their families put their lives in my hands and they take on the unwitting role of my mentor and teacher.

One of them I will never, ever forget.

He wasn’t the nicest of sights to behold. With his not-thoroughly-bathed elderly scrawny body, yellow to the hilt due to his liver disease, I opted to ignore him during my rounds with patients. He seemed stable and comfortable enough; my presence was warranted elsewhere. And so I went to the beds of the more “toxic-looking” patients who were endorsed to the team for closer monitoring. I thought I can avoid him- until his shaky voice pierced the already rickety peace prevailing in the ward-

Dok, hindi ako makahinga.

I rushed to his bed to check what was wrong. Gasping for air, he looked at me with eyes wide open; it was a plea for help more than an FYI. I calmly reassured him that everything will be okay if he only relaxed. Right. I then whipped out my stethoscope and listened to his chest for any problems with his lungs. His lungs seemed okay so I checked next his oxygen support. There were no kinks on the tube delivering the oxygen to this patient; the oxygen tank was delivering a steady flow of five liters of oxygen per minute. And yet he hollered as if on the verge of death-

Dok, hindi ako makahinga.

And then it got worse. His wife began to cry. I thought it was out of fear that her husband was dying. But no- she was crying out of sheer anger and frustration at having been left to care for her husband all by herself. She lashed out at her sisters-in-law for leaving her to care for her husband, their brother. It was a real circus: the wife seemed more distraught than the patient who managed to bawl out-

Dok, hindi ako makahinga.

Other patients were beginning to stir from their precious sleep; I was worried that those patients much sicker than this wailing couple will turn for the worse because of this undue stress. After I reassured them that everything was okay and that they just needed to breathe deep and easy, I started to walk away from the bed so I can check on the other patients. But then the patient proved his scrawny hands were not as feeble as I thought they were: he grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let go. I eventually peeled his hand off of me, while gently explaining to him that I had to go see all other patients in the ward because the entire ward is under my care. I reassured him that he was ok, that he just needed sleep, that his hollering was an unnecessary expenditure of energy. I adjusted his bed, I checked his oxygen support again, and I instructed his wife to immediately call my or the nurses’ attention should anything go wrong. I was not more than two feet away from the patient when his all-too familiar voice rang loud and true-

Dok, hindi ako makahinga.

Throughout the night we did this sequence around six times. He hollers. I go to him. I reassure him, check his lungs, his tubes, reassure him, ask the nurses to adjust his bed or his O2 support, instruct his wife to inform the nurse or me about any trouble, reassure them that they’re ok. I believe that I handled his “outbursts” pretty well; I managed to bury my exasperation underneath my genuine concern for his well-being.

However, I am human, I err.

After checking him for the sixth time that night (only to find yet again that nothing is wrong with him), I was ready to resume my rounds when he let out that awful, almost deathly moan of


I snapped. I lost it. I shouted back-


Salamat po, was his quiet reply.

Si Dok naman ang biglang di makahinga.

Originally posted in my old blog, October 13, 2003, while doing my clinical clerkship in the UP-PGH Department of Medicine.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Let Marianette be the last child to take her own life because of poverty

Kids, at least biologically, have been programmed by nature to personify quiet resiliency and a great sense of healing. Be it from a fracture of the forearm or evacuating from their homes due to armed conflict, given the proper support and nurturing, their bodies, minds, and spirits will recover and eventually flourish despite the adverse events.

That is why my heart is broken into a million tiny pieces when I heard over the radio that a 12-year old girl took her own because she has apparently lost all hope of escaping from her poverty-stricken life.

I can’t begin to imagine the depth of the despair she was swimming in. Flailing in. Sinking in.

She must have felt so alone and helpless.

My heart aches on how basic and simple the things that would have given her some semblance of hope were: a new bag, a bicycle, P100 for her school project.

And as I juxtapose my own life to hers, I feel so ashamed of the resources that I’ve wasted, opportunities I’ve squandered, blessings that have been greeted with ungratefulness and scorn.

Books that I’ve bought as whims but have remained unread for years.

Value meal upgrades in fast food restaurants despite not being hungry.

Whining about my job, its meager pay, and the air conditioning in the office that at times approximates Siberia in December.

I am ashamed, heartbroken, frustrated, angry, afraid.

Ashamed of my own excesses.

Heartbroken at the loss of a possible future president.

Frustrated at myself and the system that brewed the despair within and around her.

Afraid- that she won’t be the last.

Let’s pray for her- that she finds her way to God’s heavenly abode where the comfort and joy she did not fully experience on earth will embrace her in the next life.

Let’s pray for all of us- that our grief will eventually be transformed into inspiration for collective action so that Marianette will be the last person ever to take his or her own life because of poverty.

As Martin Luther King once said:
We shall have to repent in this generation, not so much for the evil deeds of the wicked people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.

Rather than just feeling sorry for Marianette and the 11 million Filipinos who are said to be living on less than a dollar a day (and cursing the government’s limited efforts), each one of us ought to be acting to alleviate their plight- now.

I’m reposting the suggestions of the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan for Citizenship by Good Example (CGE). Look around, read the profiles, choose which among the partner organizations you think are worth sharing your time, talent, treasure with.

Citizenship by Good Example (CGE) is a united force spearheaded by the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan that intensifies love of country by championing (1) good citizenship, (2) the spirit of volunteerism and (3) socio-political engagement towards a genuine democracy with a preferential option for the poor.

CGE is releasing a double CD celebrating love for the Philippines through passionate music that feature artists like The Dawn, Cookie Chua, Noel Cabangon and Fr. Rene Oliveros, SJ. Its CD booklet showcases everyday people loving and helping this country and presents volunteer opportunities for many wishing to begin or expand their journey of involvement.

CGE partner organizations are:

Center for Positive Futures – CPF is a high school for deserving, underprivileged children that subscribes to the multiple intelligence teaching approach under a Catholic formation program. Located on five campuses in the Philippines, from Montalban, Rizal to Puerto Pricesa City, Palawan, your financial donation can ease the burden on parents who are otherwise allowed to pay tuition and other expenses in cash, services or in kind. For more details, contact Pinky C. Cupino at +632-298-0284 or +632-998-5095 or email at

Gawad Kalinga – Thousands of volunteers support this alternative solution to the massive problem of poverty in the Philippines. Its core programs revolve around the battle cry to provide land for the landless, home for the homeless, food for the hungry, and light to those in darkness. Support GK by committing at least 4 hours of service every month at any GK village around the country. Contact Gawad Kalinga at (632)726-5892, (632)776-7405 or visit

Inigo Corporate Formation Group – These Ignatian Spirituality practitioners spread the spirituality of Ignatius of Loyola to the corporate world by offering formation programs and personal social responsibility modules. Profit, heroic leadership and good corporate citizenship can travel the same path. . Email them at or contact +639228510725 (Aldrie), +639217635086 (Eric), +639278902233 (Ryan)

Pathways To Higher Education – Support this initiative by then Ateneo college sophomores who established a comprehensive program for marginalized public high school students to help them enter and complete college. A financial donation of as little as P500 helps deserving students develop academic and supplementary skills to get them a fighting chance for a better future. Visit for more details or deposit funds directly to Ateneo de Manila (FAO Pathways) through EPCI Bank (Loyola Heights Branch) Account Number 0280-14650-1.

Rags2Riches - Young professionals merge their business backgrounds with the raw talent of the women of Payatas, a depressed community in Metro Manila, to help generate income for their families through rag production. Help the women of Payatas turn their rags to riches by donating in cash or sewing machines and like items to the established cooperative. Email Rags2Riches at or call +63918-9488850.

Sta. Teresita of Miarayon – Help educate children of the indigenous Talaandig tribe situated between the mountains of Kitanglad and Kalatungan in Bukidon, Northern Mindanao. Your donations of cash or kind, will help provide quality primary education for Talaandig children, help maintain the newly erected, privately funded schoolhouse and develop a curriculum designed and implemented in consultation with the tribe elders. For more details, please call RC Batac at (632)426-6001 loc 3440 or deposit funds directly to the Sta. Teresita of Miarayon, Inc. account at the Bank of the Philippine Islands (Ayala-Paseo Branch), Current Account Number 0031-0702-79.

Working Hands Scholarship Foundation, Inc. – Help finance one-year vocational and technical training scholarships for deserving out-of-school youths from financially-challenged families. Conceptualized by the Young Professionals for Peace (Yuppeace), programs inculcate social responsibility and psycho-spiritual growth programs and are provided at Don Bosco Training Centers in the Philippines. Visit for more details or contact (632)725-6671, (632)259-6039 or email them at

For more information or if you want to volunteer, you may contact SIMBAHANG LINGKOD NG BAYAN through the following: (02) 426-6101 locals 3440-3441, Telefax: (02) 426-5968, Email:, Mobile: 0922-8600752 and 0905-3273999 or visit us at the Loyola House of Studies, Ateneo de Manila University Campus, Loyola Heights, Quezon City.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Vincible (4): Red-and-white blackeye, rising

What caught my attention first was the news item declaring that David Nalbandian beat Roger Federer for a second time within as many weeks, the latter losing in straight sets at the third round of the Paris Masters 6-4, 7-6 (3). Nalbandian got himself inducted into an elite group of tennis players who had the great fortune (and skill plus cunning!) of beating the world no. 1 this year- doing it twice to boot. Not that it’s his first time to beat the Federer Express: with his Madrid Masters shield last October 21st and this Paris Masters victory, their head to head match up is even at eight wins apiece. Federer (still) ends 2007 as world no. 1 – for the fourth year in a row; hence, consecutive loses earn him a place among world headlines. (Photo above courtesy of Yahoo! Sports, AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)

But the sadder news, not only for Swiss fans, but tennis followers the word over and me in particular, is Martina Hingis’s announcement of her retirement for the second time.

Whereas her 2002 departure from competition was prompted by a string of injuries that saw her performance wobble with inconsistencies, her November 1st announcement was brought forth in part by the fact (which she is contesting) that she tested positive for cocaine use at the 2007 Wimbledon championship. Apparently, she underwent mandatory post-match urine test after her third round loss to Laura Granville where both the original sample and the back-up sample turned out positive.

Martina vehemently denies ever using drugs. She says she opted to reveal the information to the media and at the same time announce her retirement rather than have her status and performance as a player be shrouded in doubt over the next two years- the length of time the International Tennis Federation (ITF) will likely put her competitive tennis career on hold due to this doping violation. The ITF is said to have a rule wherein they disclose nothing about ongoing appeals to doping charges while the latter is ongoing; information about the circumstances of said appeal will only be made public if the player is exonerated. Meanwhile, Martina cannot play as the appeal is being heard hence her decision to retire. (Photo above courtesy of Yahoo! Sports, MICHELE LIMINA/AFP/Getty Images)

In my mind of minds, I do not believe that the Swiss Miss ever took drugs. I am heartened by the fact that her legal team found several irregularities in the system that examined her for drug use which may have rendered the results suspect. It is also interesting to note that a parallel examination she submitted herself to- this time hair samples were used- yielded no evidence of drug use.

I remember the time when we would stay up late to watch her play in Grand Slam events. Given the huge time difference between Europe and the Philippines, we would eagerly watch her in the wee hours of the morning, Manila time. Even in that early part of her career- 1998, 1999 perhaps- we were already enamored with her tennis tactics. Her quick thinking on-court earned her the privilege of being one of the newer torch bearers of women’s tennis when the like of Navratilova, Graf, and Seles hung their rackets already.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with Martina Hingis or is utterly unconvinced of her tennis prowess, the Wiki entry about her is an excellent resource.

I wish for her the same strength of character and spirit that earned her 15 Grand Slam titles and 43 singles titles- en route to a staggering 548-133 win-loss card. She’s not Laureus Sports Awards’ Comeback Player of the Year for nothing.

It’s Hingis vs the doping charge, with the score standing at 7-6, 6-6. I’ll watch with the keenest interest how this match up will unfold.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Never lost, always found (6): Prayer power, Philippines

I received this from at least two people in the last 12 hours. I thought it's fit to be shared to everyone, today that we remember the souls of our departed loved ones. May their lives be lived not in vain, as we who remain on earth, strive to make this place even better. Please share this with anyone and everyone. Or at least say a little prayer for our country and all Filipinos wherever we may be.

All changes in font size, and changes to words from the original text now in italics and boldface are mine.

by Father James Reuter, S.J.

The signs are clear.

Our nation is headed towards an irreversible path of economic decline and moral decadence.

It is not for lack of effort.

We've seen many men and women of integrity in and out of government, NGOs, church groups & people's organization devote themselves to the task of nation-building, often times against insurmountable odds.

But not even two people revolutions, bloodless as they may be, have made a dent in reversing this trend.

At best, we have moved one step forward, but three steps backward.

We need a force far greater than our collective efforts, as a people, can ever hope to muster.

It is time to move the battle to the spiritual realm.

It's time to claim GOD's promise of healing of the land for His people.

It's time to gather GOD's people on its knees to pray for the economic recovery and moral reformation of our nation. Is prayer really the answer?

Before you dismiss this as just another rambling of a religious fanatic, I'd like you to consider some lessons we can glean from history.

England's ascendancy to world power was preceded by the Reformation, a spiritual revival fuelled by intense prayers.

The early American settlers built the foundation that would make it the most powerful nation today - a strong faith in GOD and a disciplined prayer life.

Throughout its history, and especially at its major turning points, waves of revival and prayer movement swept across the land.

In recent times, we see Korea as a nation experiencing revival and in the process producing the largest Christian church in the world today, led by Rev. Paul Yongi Cho. No wonder it has emerged as a strong nation when other economies around it are faltering.

Even from a purely secular viewpoint, it makes a lot of sense. For here there is genuine humbling & seeking of GOD through prayer, moral reformation necessarily follows. And this, in turn, will lead to general prosperity.

YES, we believe prayer can make a difference.

It's our only hope.

Today, we launch this email brigade, to inform Filipinos from all over the world to pray, as a people, for the economic recovery and moral reformation of our nation. We do not ask for much. We only ask for 5 minutes of your time in a day, to foward this email to your close friends and relatives.

This is the kind of unity which can make a big difference. Of course, if you feel strongly, as I do, about the power of prayer, you can be more involved by starting your own prayer group or prayer center.

We have tried people power twice; in both cases, it fell short. Maybe it's time to try prayer power.

GOD never fails. Is there hope?

YES! We can rely on GOD's promise, but we have to do our part. If we humble ourselves and pray as a people, GOD will heal our land.

By GOD's grace, we may yet see a better future for our children.

GOD bless and GOD save our country.

'If my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sins, and will heal their land.'(2 Chronicles 7:14).

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Afterglow: GK1World

Gawad Kalinga’s GK1World Expo proved to be a massive sensory overload: banners and tents of various shades and hues; a savory array of gustatory and olfactory delights; hugs, kisses, and handshakes from friends and partners- old and new; music and inspiration that fill the mind and satiate the heart. Thousands came to the Mall of Asia to celebrate the 4th year anniversary of the launch of GK 777- everyone awed or awe-inspiring in one way or another.

But one statement stood out, which I heard in our forum on child and youth development and health. It came from a former neighborhood bully in Bagong Silang who dabbled in petty crimes when he was younger. As of late, thanks to the renewed spirit of hope and sense of dignity that resides within him, he is on his way to becoming, arguably, the first Gawad Kalinga resident to become a lawyer.

He pretty much summarized what Gawad Kalinga residents, partners, friends, and workers learn and live by everyday:

Dahil sa Gawad Kalinga, natuto akong maglingkod sa bayan, mangarap para sa aking sarili, at mahalin ang Diyos.

Because of Gawad Kalinga, I learned how to serve my country, dream for myself, and love God.

It excites me immensely how great our country will be if we espouse the same ideals, a day at a time, one Filipino at a time. When we all band together with


Against Poverty.

Thanks Grace for the photos!

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Gawad Kalinga 1World Expo 2007 - October 26-28 SM Mall of Asia

I can't believe it's GK Expo time again! Last year was a fantastic experience! This year, amidst our turmoil- and challenge-strewn path, GK is continuing to help restore the dignity of the poor, one home and community at a time. Photo above from GK Expo 2006. Text and schedule that follow come from the Gawad Kalinga official website where you can get more information about the expo and how you, too, can be a hero for the country.

This month, Gawad Kalinga celebrates its 4th year anniversary particularly the birthing of its vision to build 700,000 homes in 7,000 communities in 7 years or GK777 officially launched on October 4, 2003.

Armed only with great faith in its infancy, GK now finds itself in the middle of its journey towards 2010. We look forward to the fulfillment of the vision along with the growing number of volunteers (GK1MB) who will press on to its realization as the systems and the science are being put in place through the GK Builders Institute.

After a difficult time of growth and transition, it is time for us to celebrate God's faithfulness to our community and country as we hold the GK777 anniversary on October 26 to 28 at the SM Mall of Asia. (South Parking area, just across the Church of Jesus the Way, the Truth and the Life and SMX.)

With the theme "GK1World: One Hope. One Vision. One Global Army against Poverty," the GK expo is a gathering of all GK volunteers, partners and workers - real-life heroes who continue to press on despite the challenges that the work entails.

Our beloved kapitbahayan, the residents of GK villages, will take center stage as they participate in the Kapitbahayan Olympics on October 27 at the MOA grounds. To see their joy is already a great reward for GK heroes who have made a difference in their lives.

GK1World is expected to become a point of convergence as the young and old, rich and poor, Christians and Muslims, Filipinos here and abroad come together to celebrate the vision of a country free from poverty and hunger. Even foreigners who have joined the GK Builders Corps have learned that despite our many differences, we are all one in dignity, and we all hope for a better world.

GK has given the tangible hope that such a dream is not impossible. As of the latest GK statistics reported in August 2007, over one thousand communities and more than 24,000 GK homes have been built around the Philippines. That's thousands of poor families whose lives have been transformed.

The good news is that we have only just begun and there is so much more to be done. Together with our GK partners from the public and private sector, the local and international community, our kapitbahayan and caretaker teams, come and share in the miracle as we all push forward towards GK777.

Come and celebrate our mission and mandate as we push forward in hope and anticipation for greater miracles ahead.

Schedule of activities:
October 26, 2007

Forum : Environment
1:30-4:30pm, GK1World Grounds

Forum : Productivity
1:30-4:30 pm, GK1World Grounds

Salo-salo ng mga Bayani
Cocktails & Entertainment
5:30-830pm, GK1World Mainstage

October 27, 2007

GK1World Bayani Marathon & Morning Aerobics (6am, MOA Grounds)

Kultura “Diwa” Workshop (9am-12nn, GK1World Mainstage)

Healthcare Volunteers Assembly (9am-12nn, GK1World Grounds

KB Olympics & Paraisong Pambata (8am-4pm, GK1World Grounds)

Grand Pinakbet Pakain (12nn-130pm, BayanAnihan Farms)

Forums: Shelter & Environment (1pm-4pm, MOA Cinema)

Forums : Health & Education (1-4pm, MOA Cinema)

Martsa ng mga Bayani (4pm, MOA Grounds)

Gabi ng Parangal (530pm, GK1World Mainstage)

GK1MB Concert (730pm, GK1World Mainstage)

Mass (10pm, GK1World Mainstage)

Breaking of Bread (11pm, GK1World Mainstage)

GK1World Village, MOA Grounds

Bayan Anihan Farms: Model Farms on Display (8am-10pm)
Productivity Fair: GK Home, GKoncepts * Teenpreneur & Bayanihan Challenge (Friday Only) * Ecovillage model * Lakaran sa GK1World Village 9am/3pm (Open to All)* Kalye Kainan (Regional Food Fair) 24 hours

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Living in the land of the lost

I first encountered Sumilao when I went to Bukidnon last April. The bus made a five-minute stop in the town’s central market to pick up some passengers. The whole stretch of the highway- from Cagayan De Oro to Malaybalay (where I eventually rendezvous-ed with one of my closest friends from medical school, Dr Lester Geroy) –was flanked by a seamless array of plantations, hills, and, sparingly, by forests. It exceeded the vision I created in my head, of how nature and agriculture has fused perfectly in this bountiful place to provide for all who live off of it.. This is the reason why the place seemed as peace… Or so I thought.

I was fortunate enough to work two weekends with the secretariat of a training for doctors who will be tasked to render psychosocial response in times of disasters. There I met Jean Llorin, a community organizer from Albay who shared with the attendees some of the basics of social mobilization. She related how they dealt with the double burden of Mayon and Reming in 2006, plus some insights on how doctors can enmesh themselves/ourselves in disaster response. After her talk, I learned that she just flew in from Bukidnon where she saw off the Sumilao farmers who are making a two-month trek, walking from Mindanao to Malacanan, to air their grievance to the President on World Human Rights Day, December 10. Hmmm It seems that all is not well at the homefront.

I gave my word that I’ll do my own bit in making their cause more known. A tad belated, here’s me walking with them, albeit via the Information and not the Maharlika Highway.

I’m reposting below the position paper posted on the Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development site.

Please sign the online petition in support of the Sumilao farmers which I think is equally important to the Desperate Housewives issue.

There are updates available online like this article from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, just Google “Sumilao farmers”.

Also, to follow the progress of their 1000++-kilometer walk, updates are available from the Sumilao March Multiply page. Continue to read please-

Position Paper on the Sumilao Farmers' Struggle for Access to Their Land

Revoke the Conversion Order! Redistribute the Land under CARP!
Reform and Extend the Agrarian Reform Program! Rationalize Land Use!

The Higaonon Indigenous Cultural Communities were the early settlers of a piece of ancestral land in Sumilao, Bukidnon. A portion thereof, 243.885 hectare area of the ancestral land served as the Seat of Government of the Higaonons where the traditional paghusay and pamuhat were conducted by the Higaonon tribal council lead by Apo Manuagay Anlicao and Apo Mangganiahon Anlicao. The ancestral land is a flat agricultural terrain situated in the midst of Mt. Sayawan and Mt. Palaopao, and where Mt. Kitanglad can be seen from afar. It was once termed as pinetreehon by the visitors due to the abundance of pine trees all over the place and its cold temperature. Magbabaya gave this balaang yuta to the Higaonon communities. It was their forefathers’.

Then the Angeles came in 1930s forcibly evicting the Higaonons from their ancestral land and converted the land into a cattle ranch. Later, the land was transferred to the Ilagans. In 1970s, the ancestral land was divided between 2 landowners: 99.885 hectares to Salvador Carlos while the 144 hectares was transferred to Norberto Quisumbing. The ancestral land was eventually leased to Del Monte Philippines, Inc. (DMPI) for 10 years. At this time, the Higaonons became farmworkers of the land they once owned.

With the advent of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law in 1988, the 144 ancestral land was covered for distribution to 137 Mapadayonong Panaghiusa sa mga Lumad Alang sa Damlag (MAPALAD) farmers, all of Higaonon lineage. Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) was subsequently issued in their names making them the owners of the 144 ancestral land. For the first time in several years, the MAPALAD farmers regained their ancestral land. What followed next was a controversial legal battle which sparked national interest involving the sad state of agrarian reform in the country.

In an apparent move to circumvent agrarian reform, Quisumbing applied for conversion of the land from agricultural to agro-industrial before the DAR notwithstanding the fact that prime agricultural lands are non-negotiable for conversion. Quisumbing proudly proposed the establishment of a Development Academy of Mindanao, cultural center, Institute for Livelihood Science, museum, library, golf course, and Mindanao Sports Development Complex, Bukidnon Agro-Industrial Park, Forest Development and Support Facilities including the construction of a 360-room hotel, restaurant and housing projects, among others.

Further, Quisumbing connived with the LGUs of Sumilao and Province of Bukidnon where the latter illegally passed Resolution No. 24 and Resolution No. 94-95, respectively, allowing the conversion of the land despite the fact that LGUs have no power of conversion under the law as the same belongs to the DAR Secretary.

The DAR Secretary denied the application because of its patent invalidity. On appeal to the Office of the President, Executive Secretary Ruben Torres issued the infamous Torres Resolution approving the application for conversion despite its illegality.
Left of no more recourse, the MAPALAD farmers decided to do the only non-violent and peaceful means their forefathers taught them during unpeaceful times – a Hunger Strike. For 28 days, the MAPALAD farmers ate nothing but water in front of the DAR Office in the cities of Quezon and Cagayan de Oro. Their peaceful protest caught the interest of the public: Cardinal Sin, including presidential wannabees Erap, Renato De Villa, and several senatoriables, LGUs and the House of Representatives.

Due to huge public pressure, President Ramos issued the so-called “Win-win Resolution” wherein 100 hectares were to be given to the farmers while 44 hectares to Quisumbing. It was a pleasant victory for the MAPALAD farmers and the whole peasant sector. However, their victory was short-lived.

Quisumbing was infuriated with the decision and brought the same before the Supreme Court. MAPALAD, as farmer beneficiaries of the 144, intervened in the case and raised novel questions such as the validity of conversion of prime agricultural lands which are supposedly non-negotiable for conversion, the power of reclassification of LGUs vis-à-vis DAR’s authority to approve conversions, and the validity of the comprehensive agrarian reform law itself.

Unexpectedly, the Supreme Court evaded the resolution of the substantial issues of the case and found one perfect excuse: reglementary periods. The Supreme Court refused to answer the constitutional issues and asserted that the DAR failed to question the Torres Resolution on time. The Supreme Court skirted merits and yielded to technicalities. The questionable Torres Resolution was reinstated while the “Win-win Resolution” was invalidated. Worst, it denied MAPALAD’s intervention by equivocally saying they were merely “recommendee farmer beneficiaries”, hence, have no real interest over the land. MAPALAD’s dream of regaining their ancestral land vanished in seconds. They lost to numbers.

That was in 1999.

Several years have passed since then yet the 144 hectare land remains idle. Not one of those proposed by Quisumbing ever materialized. The “promises” of economic vitality, employment and increase in income, leaves much to be desired as everything was a “castle in the air”. Apparently, the Quisumbings have successfully fooled the MAPALAD farmers and the peasant sector, local government units, national government, Supreme Court, and the Filipino people in general, by such empty “promises” of development in order to circumvent the coverage of the 144 hectare ancestral land and evade the implementation of genuine agrarian reform in the country.

In 2002, the Quisumbings have once more fooled the MAPALAD farmers by selling the 144 hectare ancestral land to San Miguel Foods, Inc. (SMFI), the biggest conglomerate in the country owned by Danding Cojuangco. SMFI plans to put up a piggery farm on the 144 hectare ancestral land knowing fully that such transaction is a violation of the conversion order as it substantially changed its use.

Hence, the Sumilao farmers lead by 78 MAPALAD farmers together with 90 members of the San Vicente Landless Farmers Association (SALFA) filed a Petition for the Cancellation of the Conversion Order against Quisumbing and/or SMFI before the DAR. The Sumilao farmers maintain that more than 5 years have passed since the Conversion Order yet they failed to initiate any development work on the land. Further, SMFI has grossly violated the conditions of the Conversion Order by changing its use to hog farm. Both actions were made in violation of DAR Administrative Orders 1 and 2, Series of 1990 and other pertinent laws on conversion.

Petition pending before the Office of the President

The Sumilao farmers raised the petition for cancellation of the Conversion Order directly before the Office of the President since it is unable to obtain a favorable response from the DAR Secretary. The Sumilao farmers maintained that the DAR Secretary has exclusive jurisdiction over the petition, and that the DAR should have ordered the cancellation of the Conversion Order because of the violations.

Granting, however, that the Office of the President is the proper office to determine the petition, the more reason that it should immediately cancel the Conversion Order it previously approved since Quisumbing and/or SMFI has grossly violated the conditions thereof. Its willful defiance of the Conversion Order has already been affirmed by the DAR Secretary in its order, hence, the immediate cancellation thereof.

For certain, the cancellation of the Conversion Order will bring light and abundance not only to the present families of the Sumilao farmers but as well as their future generation who really deserved to have a piece of land of their own.
If the land was previously awarded to the Sumilao farmers, it would have been productive and earning income by now. Quisumbing in a sense was ironically right in his bias that distributing the land to the farmers does not guarantee such benefits because no benefits actually redounded to anyone. None to the farmers, none to the communities, none to the local government units, none to the government. All that was attained was the circumvention if not a sheer mockery of agrarian reform laws and agrarian law implementers to evade coverage from CARP.

Expiration of CARP in 2008

Notably, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) is about to expire in 2008, yet, the fruits of agrarian reform remain to be seen, or to put it squarely, now belongs to Cojuangco and his hogs.

The government has reported an accomplishment of a seemingly impressive 6.4 million hectares – or 79.4% of the target CARP
scope of 8.1 million hectares from 1972 to 2005. However, the figures were computed in such a way as to deceive the true situation of agrarian reform in the country. The “accomplishments” include lands with registered CLOAs but these have not been turned over to tenants. There is double counting where collective CLOAs and the individual CLOAs are both tallied. In the most brazen cases, there are CLOA holders who still do not occupy the lands.

On top of that, the government’s original target scope of 10.3 million hectares in 1988 was severely reduced in 1996 to 8.1 million hectares to accommodate large-scale exemptions and massive land conversions. More than 5.3 million hectares of land were exempted outright from CARP in 1996. The reductions in the scope of public land in turn accommodated vast tracts of government land leased or otherwise controlled by big landlords as cattle ranches, export crop plantations and logging concessions. Taken as a whole, there are more than 10.2 million marginal farmers, tenants and farm workers, 70% of whom are still landless even at the
closing stages of CARP.

The recent moves of President Arroyo show that Congress may not likely give CARP another extension: CARP has been lumped with other asset reform programs of the government such as urban land and ancestral domain instead of the usual separate chapter in the recent Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP); the target for land acquisition and distribution (LAD) of private agricultural lands has been reduced to only 100,000 hectares per year; and the legal moves by Congress to stop CARP, to wit, exemptions of big prawn farms, fish ponds and aquaculture areas from CARP coverage, foreign investors’ leasing of private lands for up to 75 years, and the proposed 25-year moratorium on CARP implementation in the Mindanao region. This clearly indicates the Arroyo administration’s total abandonment of the Constitutional mandate on agrarian reform as provided in Section 4, Article XII of the Constitution.

The struggle of the Sumilao farmers will be brought to naught unless the agrarian reform program will be extended beyond 2008 and a genuine implementation of land acquisition and distribution (LAD) shall be had.

No Clear Land Use Policy

Corollary to the issue on the “expiration” of the CARP in 2008, the government seems to have no clear land use policy that ensures that agricultural lands are protected or exempted from conversion into other uses. The problem on massive land conversion is a serious problem for the government to deal with, especially with a growing population, perennial problem of food security and threat to the ecology.

As of the moment, the government has not come up with a national land use policy that it could effectively implement and consequently results in land disputes. Farmers are complaining that their lands are being converted to industrial plants and subdivisions while land developers and landowners insist that such lands are no longer fit for agricultural production. The weaknesses in land use policy, administration and management, inconsistent land policies, inefficient land administration infrastructure, a highly politicized land tax system, an inefficient agrarian reform and housing development programs are affecting the efficiency of land markets, and thus the country’s economic growth potential and equity.

In the case of the 144 hectare land, the same was illegally reclassified by the LGU of Sumilao to an agro-industrial property contrary to policy issuances prohibiting reclassification of prime agricultural lands, and in contravention of the power of conversion of the DAR Secretary. Unless and until a proper land use policy shall be enacted by Congress, the problem on massive conversions of agricultural land will pursue.

At real issue of the case is the right of the Sumilao farmers to regain their long lost ancestral land. The Sumilao farmers have been robbed of their land by unscrupulous landlords and transformed their ancestral land into cattle ranches, pineapple plantations and now, piggery farms – the very same land which the Higaonons perform their sacred rituals and prayer offerings.

Notably, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law is about to end in 2008. Yet, the fruits thereof remain to be seen, or to put it squarely, now belongs to Cojuangco and his hogs.

The 144 hectare ancestral land remains fertile though. Its rich soil awaits cultivation. Mt. Sayawan and Mt. Palaopao still protects the land from unwanted weather conditions and Culaman River runs through the land giving it water from beneath. In the end, the Higaonon ancestors foresee the final “resting” of their ancestral land.

In summary, the Sumilao farmers call the attention of Bukidnon Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer Julio Celestiano, DAR Regional Director John Maruhom, DAR Secretary Nasser Pangandaman and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo through Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, and demand the following:

1. Restore the dignity of the Sumilao farmers!
2. Revoke the Conversion Order!
3. Reclaim the land!
4. Reform and extend CARP!
5. Recognize the need for a National Land Use Law!

The Sumilao Farmers

To follow their progress, updates are available from the Sumilao March Multiply page.

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