So far, so good

What for should I ask more

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Und ein Kind führt sie... Obacht zu geben*

A group of journalists from Germany visited Gawad Kalinga BASECO yesterday. The team went around, interviewed residents, and got a real glimpse of nation-building and heroism at work. The 12- person contingent represented various media entities including dailies, radio, and tv networks including DW TV. The searing heat of the midday sun was no match to the warm welcome accorded by the GK BASECO family.

While our participation in the event was miniscule compared to what the prime movers had to organize, we were nonetheless part of the pre-event hustle. But what more than made up for the busy-ness of the day was this presentation from the SIBOL kids, children aged 3-6 years old enrolled in the pre-school program of GK. Too bad my camera ran out of memory space… I managed to capture a part of their presentation, though…

*And a child shall lead them… to give care-

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Healing the nation (1): PARAISO

The CFC Home Office staff and full-time workers were recently treated to an advanced screening of the Gawad Kalinga-inspired film, PARAISO. The movie showing last Friday at the Promenade in Greenhills was made possible thanks to a special permit exempting it from the COMELEC ruling disallowing the exhibition of TV programs and films which star candidates running for office.

The movie is a composite of three tales of lives which made 180-degree turns thanks to Gawad Kalinga: rebuilding from the physical and emotional devastation of a calamity in Liloan, Southern Leyte; how a family becomes whole because of an uber-mischievous orphan, and; a husband’s healing process from the loss of his wife in the 9/11 attacks. The tales are woven together by the love and faith in action of devoted GK volunteers, resilient village residents, and generous partners, given life by a complement of superb actors, most notable of which are Maricel Soriano and Cesar Montano. (This movie is more than enough reason for me to campaign for Mr. Montano to STAY AWAY from politics and STAY IN show business: to me- he delivered the most credible acting in the movie.)

The movie speaks to the heart as well as to the mind. To those who have never heard of GK or are newly initiated to this great movement- it provides an overwhelming impetus for a deeper involvement. To those already in the GK loop like myself- this movie fortifies my resolve to keep the faith and continue working with those who are the least, the last and the lost among our fellow Filipinos.

Do watch the movie. PARAISO is already being shown in key U.S. cities while the Philippine premiere is on June 12th.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Of doctors and dreamers: leaving, loving and longing

Time capsule marker of our class, due to be opened in 2030.A recent conversation thread in our class egroup focused on the disturbing phenomenon of healthcare professionals’ migration and the switching of RP medical doctors to the nursing field in the US.

My foray into the conversation began with a rather sour statement (which in hindsight I wish I can take back). I said- Before, I hated people in class who either have plans of leaving the country or who have left the country altogether. Hated. Past tense. But I opted not to belabor the point in our egroup. Rather, I’d just post an entry here to explain my feeling before and my subsequent enlightenment. (Marvin, I hope this suffices.)

I entered medical school believing that all of us doctors should stay in the country. I already told my parents that I want to practice in far flung communities: to my mind then, Basilan was the place to be in. I just warned my mom that, yes, I’d gladly bring her along (she volunteered to be my medical secretary) but she must not diagnose my patients’ problems before I do. Nope she’s not a medical doctor herself, but we all have Dr. Moms in our midst, don’t we? You know what I mean: how our moms would diagnose our aches and pains as simply caused by eating too many mangoes or staying too long under the sun or lamig. But I digress.

To my mind, it was unthinkable to leave the country. What was more unthinkable was that not everyone thought the same way. I maintained this rather myopic view of the medical profession up until third year in medical school when, after a series of enlightening events, I began to fully understand the realities of life in general and the reasons why many doctors (have to) leave the country.

My current view of regarding doctors and migration is summed by the following:

Before, I wanted all my classmates to stay in the Philippines- we provide excellent training here anyway. But I’ve realized that we don’t have the monopoly of great doctors and clinical material here. Many of the consultants in the PGH did have international exposure and because of them, the excellent training is available. Why should I deprive my classmates and their eventual patients the access to the latest technologies and know-how?

Before, I wanted all my classmates to stay in the Philippines- we have very many opportunities to earn here anyway. But the stark reality is, doctors in the country- the younger, start-up ones at least- are overworked and underpaid. Contrary to the popular notion regarding medical students, not many are born into moneyed clans. That they begin earning a decent living after medical school is imperative, so it is incumbent upon them to choose career paths that will fill the mind and the belly the soonest time possible. Why should I rob my classmates and their families the right to have a comfortable life by insisting that they stay here?

Before, I wanted all my classmates to stay in the Philippines- the need is here and now, especially in distant provinces and lower class municipalities. But becoming privy to some financial matters, alumni (from) abroad do send a whole lot of assistance to the Philippines to and through the College which, circuitous as it may initially seem, eventually benefits the underserved Filipinos through medical-surgical missions, provision of scholarship for the education of community-oriented MD’s-to-be, training of professors, etc. Why should I fast-forward certain process in exchange for pittance when waiting will yield more dividends in the future?

I cannot train them. I cannot provide for their needs. I cannot fulfill their dreams for them. Only they can accomplish these things. They may have the chance to accomplish more if they are let go.

But please, do not forget your fellow Filipinos. Return to the Philippines when you can.

When I speak to medical students, I have a schema through which I challenge them to be better Filipinos.

That they become excellent community doctors in the Philippines.

If that’s not their inclination, may they become excellent clinicians in the Philippines.

If that’s not their plan, may they become excellent doctors abroad.

If that doesn’t pan out, may they become excellent nurses, musician, bankers, housewives, painters, broadcasters, pilots, hospital administrators etc

Yes, let us all be excellent in whatever career path we choose to take WITH THESE FOREMOST IN OUR MINDS:

That we never stop hoping for our country
That we never stop caring for our people
That we demand greatness from ourselves as Filipinos
That we become an inspiration to other people.

In whatever form or capacity, regardless of the prevailing economic and political climate, with or without signs of gratitude from the recipients- we must give back. Let us channel blessings into our country. Let us open doors of opportunities for each other. Let us not just pray with each other but be the answer to each other’s prayers.

Before, I wanted all my classmates to stay in the Philippines; to leave meant betraying our people. But we all have our roles to play. And these roles may not necessarily have to be fulfilled while one is in the Philippines. One does not even have to be a doctor! We just have to maintain and always be mindful of the needs of humanity in general and Filipinos in particular, inspired and guided by the finest example of love and healing given by the Great Physician Jesus Christ.

So, my dear classmates and friends, whatever the language you may find yourselves advising a patient in, whatever the race or species s/he/it whom you are helping belongs to, taking care of them wearing whatever color or type nameplate, please don’t forget the Philippines.

Because we will never forget you.

Our fellow Filipinos are counting on you.

They are counting on us.

I and along with a good number of our classmates are happily holding the fort while you are gone. We eagerly await your return.

SHINE 2005!

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Love radio

My pets: Tongtongtong and Pakitong-kitongAside from the perpetually happy crustaceans who never cease to lift my spirits, arguably the best company while enduring traffic jams in the city is one's trusty radio.

My choice of stations- DZMM and RJ 100.3- often elicit not a few comments from those who hitch a ride with me, from classmates to workmates to brothers and sisters in the community. They always kid me that they feel like they were in a taxi, since the only persons they've known to listen to the AM band are drivers of public utility vehicles.

So why do I?

First, I want to stay informed- be it regarding traffic updates or issues in the world of politics or be the first to hear about a showbiz scoop.

Second, while most people prefer the FM stations which play the more contemporary songs, let's just say i find solace in songs played by RJ 100.3. With a variety of songs which include hits the Beatles to Engelbert to the Carpenters to the occasional Eric Benet and Maroon 5 sans the crass, grating commentaries of the newer breed of DJs, they really do air less talk and more music. It's an acquired taste from my father; we used to listen to RJ ALL THE TIME, especially during the Sundays he went with me to ROTC in Diliman. More than the music, listening to RJ somehow brings him back into the car with me.


On my way to work, traffic along Meralco Avenue. Meralco Building ahead.I was tuned in to DZMM last week when Korina Sanchez began to practice reading a piece she intended to read the following day using the voice of Lola Ising, one of the characters she assumes- alongside Ted Failon’s Lolo Roger- when they stage a bit of radio play cum political satire. But the piece she was reading piqued my interest because of it contained practical, contemporary, and logical statements in the form of advices from a learned person talking to a younger brood. Here it goes:

Text by Jose F. Lacaba

Mabuhay ka, kaibigan!

Iyan ang una't huli kong
Tagubilin at habilin: Mabuhay ka!

Sa edad kong ito, marami akong maibibigay na payo.
Mayaman ako sa payo.

Maghugas ka ng kamay bago kumain.
Maghugas ka ng kamay pagkatapos kumain.
Pero huwag kang maghuhugas ng kamay para lang makaiwas sa sisi.
Huwag kang maghuhugas ng kamay kung may inaapi
Na kaya mong tulungan.

Paupuin sa bus ang matatanda at ang mga may kalong na sanggol.
Magpasalamat sa nagmamagandang-loob.
Matuto sa karanasan ng matatanda
Pero huwag magpatali sa kaisipang makaluma.

Huwag piliting matulog kung ayaw kang dalawin ng antok.
Huwag pag-aksayahan ng panahon ang walang utang na loob.
Huwag makipagtalo sa bobo at baka ka mapagkamalang bobo.
Huwag bubulong-bulong sa mga panahong kailangang sumigaw.

Huwag kang manalig sa bulung-bulungan.
Huwag kang papatay-patay sa ilalim ng pabitin.
Huwag kang tutulog-tulog sa pansitan.

Umawit ka kung nag-iisa sa banyo.
Umawit ka sa piling ng barkada.
Umawit ka kung nalulungkot.
Umawit ka kung masaya.

Ingat lang.

Huwag kang aawit ng "My Way" sa videoke bar at baka ka mabaril.
Huwag kang magsindi ng sigarilyo sa gasolinahan.
Dahan-dahan sa matatarik na landas.
Dahan-dahan sa malulubak na daan.

Higit sa lahat, inuulit ko: Mabuhay ka!

Maraming bagay sa mundo na nakakadismaya.
Mabuhay ka.
Maraming problema ang mundo na wala na yatang lunas.
Mabuhay ka.

Sa hirap ng panahon, sa harap ng kabiguan,
Kung minsan ay gusto mo nang mamatay.
Gusto mong maglaslas ng pulso kung sawi sa pag-ibig.
Gusto mong uminom ng lason kung wala nang makain.
Gusto mong magbigti kung napakabigat ng mga pasanin.
Gusto mong pasabugin ang bungo mo kung maraming gumugulo sa utak.

Huwag kang patatalo. Huwag kang susuko.

Narinig mo ang sinasabi ng awitin:
"Gising at magbangon sa pagkagupiling,
Sa pagkakatulog na lubhang mahimbing."
Gumising ka kung hinaharana ka ng pag-ibig.
Bumangon ka kung nananawagan ang kapuspalad.

Ang sabi ng iba: "Ang matapang ay walang-takot lumaban."
Ang sabi ko naman: Ang tunay na matapang ay lumalaban
Kahit natatakot.

Lumaban ka kung inginungodngod ang nguso mo sa putik.
Bumalikwas ka kung tinatapak-tapakan ka.
Buong-tapang mong ipaglaban ang iyong mga prinsipyo
Kahit hindi ka sigurado na agad-agad kang mananalo.

Mabuhay ka, kaibigan.
Mabuhay ka.


Driving home over the past few months, Virginia, the DJ on the 9pm-12mn slot over at RJ 100.3, would play this particularly haunting love song. I would catch the entire song, but I would miss the part where she’d mention the title of the song and its singer- either because I have to go down from the car already or I have switched on too late. I got lucky last week though. I finally found out the song and its singer. Please don’t ask me to sing it, but I’ll share the lyrics to you instead.

John Denver

Just to look in your eyes again
Just to lay in your arms
Just to be the first one always there for you
Just to live in your laughter
Just to sing in your heart
Just to be everyone of your dreams come true

Just to sit by your windows
Just to touch in the night
Just to offer a prayer each day for you
Just to long for your kisses
Just to dream of your sighs
Just to know that I'd give my life for you.

For you all the rest of my life
For you all the best of my life
For you alone, only for you.

Just to wake up each morning
Just to you by my side
Just to know that you're never really far away
Just a reason for living
Just to say I adore
Just to know that you're here in my heart to stay.

For you all the rest of my life
For you all the best of my life
For you alone, only for you.

Just the words of a love song
Just the beat of my heart
Just the pledge of my life, my love for you.


Thanks, Mom and Pop, for all the tagubilin and habilin for me. Nakikinig man ako or hindi hehe

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

End-of-school daze (2)

The thought of me being through with school came rushing back when I chanced upon the blog of Sir Martin, an Asian Studies teacher at the Philippine Science High School.

Sir Martin reminds me of my own Social Studies I teacher in MaSci, Mrs. Joy Torcuator, a most inspiring teacher who helped fuel my love for learning and in particular history, trivia, and I’d like to believe love for our country. I can still recall her tales about the encounters of her father with the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II- replete with her animated gestures. She eventually became the head of the Social Studies Department; I was her alter-ego during the Boys and Girls’ Week. She was very supportive of our endeavors in the UNESCO - Social Studies Club when I was the club’s president, including what was arguably the first-ever philatelic exhibit to be held in our school showcasing the students’ collections. We students are lucky we have Sir Martins and Mrs. Torcuators around.

Like what I said in the comment I left in Sir Martin’s blog, after parents and siblings, teachers are my next most favorite humans on the planets. Doctors come in at a close fourth.

Taken last March 8 at the San Pablo Health Center in Pasay City. I'm with my 3rd year students and the health center staff and barangay health workers whom the students trained over the last academic year. Interesting also is the fact that this same group of health workers were our group's own students when we were still in medschool, back in 1992.Maybe it is because I’ve practically spent my whole life in school: 2 years of preschool + 6 years of grade school + 4 years of high school + 4 years of college + 5 years of med school + 1 academic year of teaching for a total of 22 years or 81% of my 27-odd years on earth.

But, yeah, teachers trump doctors. Even if I am a doctor myself and I see the miracles the latter perform on a daily basis.

Most doctors, though they deal with very serious, life-changing conditions that happen in a patient’s life, they deal with one patient at a time. But with teachers- it’s usually a bigger crowd- hanging on to every word you say which can potentially make or break their lives and their spirits.

Before I get myself too caught in the web of which-profession-is-more-noble-and-has-the-most-impact-in-people’s-lives, I’ll just express my profound gratitude to God Almighty for letting me wear these two hats of being a healer and an educator.

I learned this prayer from my Tita Vicky, a nurse in New York City. It has undergone some modifications in the course of the years that I’ve said it. It’s a prayer which I can say when I’m either in my teacher mode or my doctor mode. But more often than not I just pray to God using these words, regardless of the hat I’m wearing, since I can’t separate them anyway.

Lord as I carry about my duties as Your instrument of healing and learning here on earth

Please keep my mind alert

My eyes keen

My ears piqued

My tongue patient

My heart compassionate

My tummy cooperative

My hands steady

My knees sturdy

And my feet quick.

May I see You in all the people I will meet today and may they see You through me.


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End-of-school daze (1)

We’re in the homestretch of the academic year. Come next Friday, we say goodbye to Academic Year 2006-2007 and face head on the not-so-welcome task of grades computation.

The UP Medicine Class of 2007 already is counting down the days till they depart from the College and PGH altogether, albeit temporarily for many (I hope!). In about five weeks’ time they’d be F-I-N-I-S-H-E-D with med school. Congratulations!

While in the thick of preparing for our own board exams, it dawned on me that same realization- that I was through with school! And the embodiment of that realization was the eternal Bugs Bunny cartoon where he chanted No more classes, no more books! No more teachers’ dirty looks. And so, Dear Bugs, here’s that June 2005 entry from my old blog in case you missed it:

Dear Bugs,

I can’t believe it. This is the first June since 1984 that I am not in school. I’ve practically spent some 88% of my life reading, writing, taking exams, traveling to and from school, reciting, mingling with fellow students, quarreling with fellow students, ranting about teachers, raving about authors, braving storms and rallies and sports activities, cooking inedible creations, steno-writing, connecting electrical wires, falling in love, falling out of love, worrying, praying, begging, crying, dating, graduating from one level into another- year after year after year. For the last two decades. And now- the rituals of June shall never be…

No more back-to-school shopping riots. No more purchase of white polo uniforms, white socks, meters and meters of plastic cover, and tons of textbooks/ workbooks/ notebooks. No more pencil case that doubled as a piano. No more pencil case-slash-Swiss-Army gadget: multi-leveled beauty with sharpener, ruler, magnifying glass, among other thingamajigs, and enough space to contain ten Mongol pencils and a couple of erasers.

No more first-day-of-school jitters. No more fake throwing up just before the school bus arrives. No more fake diarrheas so I can stay home and wallow in denial while capturing the last fading rays of summer as it gave way to the torrential rains of June. No more craziness about “missing” school. No more excitement in meeting new and old classmates. No more use of the humongous nameplates for a good week (or month). No more election of class officers. No more making of Cleaners for the Day schedule.

No more morning rush so that I will not miss the school jeepney service. No more watching of service-mates while they were drooling while sleeping. No more watching of service-mates while they were sleeping with their mouths open. No more pretending to shoot three-point shots using small rolled bits of paper into the mouths of service-mates while they were sleeping with their mouths open. No more smell of ginisa or prito that adheres to all our uniforms on most mornings. No more finishing of homework assigned yesterday while on the way to school today. No more rattled nerves while listening to the radio enroute to school on obviously stormy mornings awaiting the usually belated announcement of Nilo Rosas that classes were suspended. No more sidetrips to Harrison Plaza when classes are suspended.

No more chance to lead in the singing of Lupang Hinirang in front of the entire school- from pre-elem to high school. No more chance of being asked to be the conductor (mag-beat baga) of the ensemble as they sang Lupang Hinirang. No more uttering of Panatang Makabayan, singing of the school hymn, saying the morning prayer. No more finishing of homework while in the flag ceremony. No more skipping the flag ceremony while finishing homework.

No more monthly and periodic exam printed, nay, typewritten and mimeographed on brown recycled paper. No more singing of Pass Your Papers after an exam. No more anticipation of what was packed in your lunchbox for recess. No more communal prayer before recess. No more buying of scramble or sago’t gulaman during recess. No more recess. No more communal prayer after recess. No more jotting down of who was Noisy and Standing while Miss was out. No more standing up when you recite. No more graded recitations.

No more Nutrition Week, Linggo ng Wika, United Nations Day celebrations. No more Intrams, College Days, Rector’s Day, Foundation Day celebrations. No more Parol-Making Contest. No more inter-section singing, dancing, sabayang pagbigkas, CAT competition. No more CAT. No more ROTC. No more logging in at DMST. No more making fun of officers. No more scouting. No more camping. No more jamborees. No more quizbees. No more Science Club. No more Teachers’ Day, Araw ng Maynila, Feb Fair. No more Science Fair. No more field trips to the Planetarium, Coke plant in Pandacan, pencil and crayon factory along South Super Highway. No more field trip to the Ayala Museum dioramas. No more field trips to Ciudad Mystica in Banahaw. No more yayas tagging along during field trips. No more field trips.

No more cutting classes. No more sneaking Penthouse, Playboy, and Abante into school premises. No more playing Mataya-Taya, Moro-Moro, Langit-Lupa, Monkey-Monkey-Annabelle. No more playing 10-20. No more sending of cheesy love letters to a classmate you’ve had a crush on since prep. No more 10-peso roses for your crush on Valentine’s. No more JS Prom.

No more receiving report cards. No more parent-teacher associations. No more final exams. No more posting of top ten students. No more recognition ceremonies. No more graduation ceremonies.

No more semestral vacation. No more Christmas vacation. No more summer vacation to prepare for the next school year. No new school year.

But the learning goes on.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Last Wednesday I was at the Eastern Bacoor National High School upon the invitation of the local Couples For Christ community. They requested me to give a short talk as part of their GKareers series. I was tasked to share about my work as a doctor in Gawad Kalinga. I received the invitation more than two weeks ago but up until I was driving to the venue, I hardly had anything to say.

Well the truth was I had SO many things to say. It was just that they were swimming in so many directions and the waves and ripples tossed me from one thought process to another. With about half an hour to spare, I finally put something together, sensible enough to make the talk a worthwhile experience for the students.

I reflected on the most valuable lessons I’ve learned over time.

1. We always have a choice. We always have options. Even if we think that are backs are against the wall, we can always maneuver over, under, through, and around obstacles. The key concept here for me is Perseverance.

2. If there seems to be really no choice despite our best efforts, we must trust that nothing is impossible. In the most difficult of circumstances where hope does not even have the slightest chance of seeing the light of day, we must remain Hopeful.

3. Despite persevering, despite remaining hopeful our prayers and aspirations remain unrealized, we must learn to accept that things happen for a reason. This may not be revealed now, maybe not ever, but things always happen for a greater purpose. We just have to Keep the faith.

4. And when keeping the faith does not seem to guarantee the good life, the perfect life, the peaceful life, the bountiful life we work so hard for, we always have a choice. We always have options. Even if we think are backs are against the wall.

I wish I had someone talk to our high school class the way someone was talking to that bunch of incoming seniors and the graduating batch itself. Not that I am the bearer of the panacea to the world’s ills through my talk. But I just wish someone from the greater outside world cared enough to share his/her two-cents regarding life after high school…

I’ve almost forgotten how high schoolers acted in their natural habitat- but this group of 200-odd teenagers made the memories of my own high school life inundate my senses yet again. In the course of my talk held in an open-air gymnasium, I had to slug it out with jeepneys and tricycles, plus the usual cacophony of adolescent chatter. Not a few listened intently though; I prayed that somehow I contributed to making them a tad better as humans.

I let out a barrage of humor-coated eternal one-liners, still part of my continuing education in the university of life (and I’m not talking about the ULTRA):

That we should always listen to our parents. No matter what.

That everyone is special, that God does not make junk, that a hundred pesos would cease to be if one peso is missing.

That all persons have a story to tell, if only we’d care enough to listen and maybe learn a thing or two from them.

That heroes are more valuable alive than dead.

That taking school seriously will only make greater things happen in our lives.

I recounted to them bits and pieces from my own life and how it molded me to become the way I am now- not that I’m a paragon of virtue or a living saint. From the economic struggles of my grandparents and parents to the challenges and rewards of attending the public school system. From the fact that I still receive allowance from my parents because they believe in the work that I do despite its lack of monetary reward to the affirmation from God that I am doing His work by fulfilling my heart’s desire and answering for my daily needs through Game KNB?

As I ended my talk, I encouraged them to dream and work hard to reach the moon and the stars, because by doing so, even if we fail to snag the latter, at least we reached the sky… Imagine if we just aimed to reach treetops and failed- our feet would have hardly left the ground…

I asked them if they believe that if they believe that a senator will emerge from among them. More than a handful willingly volunteered themselves, if not their classmates. I wouldn’t be surprised if come 2034 or 2040, as I read the biodata of a presidential aspirant, I’d see that one or two would be alumni of Eastern Bacoor National High School.


Not to sound self-deprecating or solicitous of pity and/or praise but I initially doubted the wisdom of having someone as ordinary as myself share words of inspiration to impressionable minds such as theirs. It’s not as if when they listen to Ian Gomez speak, their interest will be piqued. Ian who?, they might even ask.

But I soon realized that my ordinariness actually makes me special, if only to give them hope that one can actually rise from the ranks and be somebody enough to be trusted to witness to God unending grace and faithfulness.


To Allan, Ia, and the rest of our HS batchmates- tis been 11 years last Monday since we officially left MaSci. I wonder how Mrs. Banta is... Arnel- missing you much!

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Close encounters with the Kris Aquino kind

Photograb of my day 3 appearance on GKNBYes, she’s really beautiful.

Yes, she’s awfully fair-skinned, with just a sprinkling of freckles on her shoulders.

No, she may be the star of the show but she seemed well-liked by the staff.

Waiting for the taping to beginYes, she’s really sharp. She easily spotted that an assistant writer sports a new hairdo, for which she teased her no end (“May date ka ‘no!). She was kind enough to remind me that I seemed not to be swiping at the sensors correctly. She noted that she’s seen me swipe ahead of the rest of the contestants but it’s not registering. After that, my answers did get through- so much so that I reached three million-peso jackpot rounds. She made the team re-tape a segment because of a hardly-noticeable factual/grammatical error (“This may just be a game show but we have the responsibility to give correct information to our audience” or something to that effect).

Courtesy of MaBelle, photograb from their tiny TV in BoracayNo, she’s actually quite pleasant, gracious, engaging me in short conversations during commercial breaks. She seemed genuinely interested in the things you say. She was concerned-slash-curious why I was apparently melting despite the blasting cold air in the studio. She repeatedly asked me if I’m feeling okay considering that, according to her, I’ve become ashen. She applauded my decision to become a community doctor and she said the country needed more people like me.

My PrecioussssssI was sending SMS entries almost everyday for more than a year and a half- the entire time we were doing internship in the PGH and even after that- before the series of fortunate events brought me to Studio 2 of ABS-CBN. Yes, I did recoup my 18-month text-vestment, several times over. But at the heart of the matter is, I would have gladly joined, even without the promise of a million pesos.

Haaaaay. Reward enough this is.Many people would attest to this: To test my trivia-answering skills would earn me lots of bragging rights but at the end of the day, to see her would have been enough.

And so I greet you a happy first anniversary of our encounter. I wish you well. I wish you all the best.

Till we meet again.

Game na!

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Vincible (2)

AFP/Getty Images/File/Matthew Stockman from Yahoo! SportsRoger Federer’s bid for immortality was frustrated by the victory of a lucky loser.

The current number one tennis player in the ATP Tour, Federer is so far ahead of his nearest competition that he can choose not to play for two years and he’d still be number one when he comes back. And to underscore his mastery of the game, even if second ranked Rafael Nadal wins all the tournaments he enters the Spaniard will still not overtake Roger.

With a 41-game winning streak- meaning his last loss came in August of 2006 in Cincinnati- and a four-peat already a given in Indian Wells- Federer has really set himself up for greatness. This greatness comes in the form of toppling the decades old record of Argentine Guillermo Vilas who was unbeatable in 46 straight games. (Each tennis player has to win anywhere from 5-7 games to win a particular tournament. It means Roger has won about 6-10 tournaments over the last seventh months to create that 41-game series of invincibility).

But now, the counter has been reset. By another Argentine. Another Guillermo. Guillermo Canas, lucky loser.

I went to the Pacific Life Open website and looked for the profile of this giant-slayer Canas. In the field of 90 or so men, Roger was at the top of the heap, world number one that he is. Guess where Canas’s name is located: polar opposite from Rogers. Dead last in the list.

Canas is what they termed as the lucky loser. He was the highest ranked player to have lost in the last stage of the qualifying round for the Pacific Life Open; in reality, he did not qualify. But a withdrawal from the main field of players opened a slot for Canas.

And the rest is history.

Canas is now an answer to a trivia show question lurking in the foreseeable future: Name the tennis player who stopped Federer’s winning streak thereby denying him the chance to topple the decades-old record of another Argentine and another Guillermo, Guillermo Vilas…

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Vincible (1)

Inside St Catherine's Church, Bamban, Nueva VizcayaWe had a small group discussion with some first year medical students yesterday afternoon. Their new curriculum entailed that they study the entire normal spectrum of human life from womb to tomb in the course of this academic year. And since vacation’s about to commence, the topic today was about death and dying.

As part of the facilitators’ kit, I got a handout detailing what a good death is. According to Steinhauser et al, the components of a good death that doctors, nurses, social workers, the clergy, the patients, their family, and palliative care service volunteers must know appreciate are the following:

1. Pain and symptom management- that the anxiety and stress of a painful death, especially among those who are with long-term illness, should be eliminiated

2. Clear decision making- that patients should feel they are empowered to participate in making decisions with regard to their treatments options to avoid costly confusion in the middle of treatment which may reign among family members

3. Preparation for death- that the patient knows more or less the course of the illness, its prognosis, plus all the inevitabilities that follow their demise like the will, the funeral, obituary contents, etc and their families accept these and carry them out as wished

4. Completion- that patients and their families realize the formers’ worth, conflicts are resolved, issues are settled, the remaining time is well spent, goodbyes are said, and religious/ spiritual matters are taken care of

5. Contribution to others- that the dying patient is able to bequeath or the plan to bequeath all that s/he has to their rightful recipients is set in place and the family is able to commit to carry this out

As part of the discussion, we all made our If-I-Just-Had-48-Hours-To-Live-What-Will-I-Do List. The students came up with a nifty list. Among the oft-repeated items, in no particular order, were:

Spend time with family
Write letters to friends and loved ones
Say I love you to all who need to hear these
Camp out on the beach
Scuba dive and/or skydive
Pray and go to confession

And the, more unique tasks were:

Karaoke marathon
Get even with all those who wronged him by kicking them in the crotch
Ensure that her egg cells are preserved for posterity
Clean her room

I made my own list:

Go on a road trip with my family. Visit as many churches as we can, preferably old, historic churches. Takes TONS of photos. Make a video blog. More long drives and long talks. Until we reach Lamon Bay in Quezon. Where my ashes will be scattered.

That’s what I call a good death =)

I reminded the students while they were making their own list that they should write legibly, and not to forget to put their names. Somewhere before we ended the session, I made them keep their lists.

I had no use for those.

My fervent prayer for them is that they get to do all the things that they felt and thought will facilitate a good death for them. May they tick off all the items in their list. May I tick off things from my own list as well.

Because I realized, death may come even before I finish this sentence.

Only when we come to terms with the fact that death is just around the corner will we truly live and savor life.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Lingkod Manila Lenten Retreat 2007 - UPDATED!

Retreat photos!
The rolling hills with nooks for contemplation, Villa Sta. Luisa

Brothers and sisters and guests who joined the retreat.

With retreat master, Fr. Willy Villegas, SVD


Retreat Venue Map [Posting this for Nina and Elmer]

Magandang araw, mga kapatid!

We will be having our Lenten retreat from Saturday to Sunday, March 17-18, 2007 at Villa Sta. Luisa in Tagaytay City. Please click on the map on the left for directions.

Retreat fee is P700.00 which covers Saturday’s lunch, PM snack and dinner plus Sunday’s breakfast and AM snack. Sunday lunch and transportation to and from the Tagaytay is not covered. Fare is approximately P100 one-way.

Meeting place for everyone is at the Manila Central Post Office / Liwasang Bonifacio fountain area at 7.30am. We are all very, very highly encouraged to be there at the appointed time so we can leave by 8am.That will give us ample time to get to Tagaytay in case we get caught in traffic due to the South Luzon Expressway construction.

For those with work on Saturday, a smaller second batch of brothers and sisters will meet at the Manila Central Post Office / Liwasang Bonifacio fountain area at 6.30pm. Please contact Anna B and Errol if you will go to Tagaytay with this group.

All brothers and sisters who will be commuting- either AM or PM batch, please contact Tony/ Mimi/ Nina/ Elmer/ Dante when you are near the Tagaytay Rotonda area so they can pick you up at the Tagaytay bus terminal.

In preparation for the event, please take note of the following:

1.) We are highly encouraged to go to confession prior to the retreat.

2.) Let us continue to pray for this undertaking, for our retreat master Fr. Willy, all servants and participants. IPT holds a daily “12nn habit” common prayer time wherever we maybe especially for the retreat.

3.) There will be no leaders’ meeting this Friday.

4.) Please bring-
your Holy Bible
writing materials (pen/paper/notebook)
holy rosary
Sunday attire for mass
Toiletries (soap/ shampoo/ toothpaste/ toothbrush/ toilet paper/ feminine products, etc) jacket
Off lotion, personal prescription medications, personal emergency medicines (Loperamide, Paracetamol, etc)

Optional items
Food to share: candies, boy bawang, nuts, etc
cd of meditative songs

Again, brothers and sisters, let us pray with each other that God may bless our activity, fix all our schedules, take care of all our temporal needs, keep our bodies and souls safe this entire week and always.

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Off to Finland

View of Tampere, FinlandNot for good, of course.

I’ve been blessed to be among the four Pinoys chosen to attend the Fifth Global Health Course in Tampere and Helsinki, Finland from August 13 to September 14, 2007. The other three are also alumni of the UP College of Medicine, including 2 very, very good friends- Johann Leonardia, my med school roommate for four years and Lester Geroy, my perennial groupmate since 1st year med. The fourth Pinoy in the team is a Pinay, Yas Villanueva, from UP Med Class 2002. All of us come from the public health sector: Johann is with Doctors to the Barrios in Iloilo, Lester is with the City Health Office of Malaybalay City in Bukidnon, and Yas is Municipal Health Officer of an island municipality in Quezon. We will join 24 other health professionals and students from Chile, Finland, and Tanzania.

*cartwheel cartwheel cartwheel!*

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Why I am staying in the Philippines (4): Ang Kapatiran campaign updates

For those interested how the media is tracking the Ang Kapatiran campaign, those looking for alternative candidates for the May 14 senatorial elections, those who want a change in the politics of our country, please feel free to click on the links below. Please share these also to family and friends.

Previous summary of links related to Ang Kapatiran

Official Ang Kapatiran Political Party Blog

PDInquirer: Comelec includes Ang Kapatiran in list of non-nuisance candidates

ABS-CBN Interactive: Sen Jovito Salonga pabor sa Ang Kapatiran candidates

PDInquirer: Ang Kapatiran, New Hopes for the New Year

Official website of the Social Weather Stations: with link to the results of their Feb 24-27 survey for the Senate race

PDInquirer/ Letter to the editor: On voting for alternatives

…Kapatiran is a whiff of fresh air blowing into our polluted political environment. I call on the Filipino electorate to vote for these three if only to spite our present crop of so-called political leaders.

Perhaps, there is something good we can still derive from the coming democratic exercise…

PDInquirer/ Opinion: Conrado De Quiros - LOSERS

…a miracle was about to happen in this country. Who knows, he said, we may yet work a quiet revolution before these elections are over. Well, the way Kapatiran is rapidly pricking media’s and the public’s attention, who knows indeed. My mind harked back to a mission someone undertook a couple of millennia ago. The mission seemed far more impossible. That was the ridiculous quest of a carpenter’s son and his 12 fishermen alalays to change the world. The spectacle they offered sent the important men of the time scoffing and laughing their heads off.

But, lo and behold, those “losers” did change the world.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Why I am staying in the Philippines (3)

I recently visited PINOY.MD after not having done so for several weeks. While swimming through the dozens of forums, my eye was caught by a section which heralded PINOY MD RUNNING FOR SENATOR. Of course I had to click the link, being a quiet but keen amateur political observer in our country.

I have not heard of this Dr. Martin Bautista. He practically escaped my political radar. But when I read through his blog… his open letter to fellow doctors… on closer scrutiny of this seemingly Quixotic endeavor… He’s earned my vote

I’m just trying to imagine what if Couples For Christ and Gawad Kalinga volunteers gave up, at the outset, on the idea of rebuilding our nation because of the sheer magnitude of the problem of poverty in the Philippines… then we would remain to live in infamy, as the land of Smokey Mountain and corrupt, selfish people… But look at what GK has done now. GK’s the new People Power.

I’m encouraging my family and friends to at least consider allotting spaces in their ballots for Dr. Bautista and his partymates Zosimo Paredes and Adrian Sison. In my eyes, they are more worthy to be in the senate than the ASO trio.

If you want to know more about the party Ang Kapatiran and Dr. Bautista, please click on the links below.

Dr. Bautista’s personal blog

Ang Kapatiran’s official website

PDInquirer Headlines/Nation: Senate bets run on God-centered politics

PDInquirer Opinion/Conrado De Quiros COURAGE
At about the same time that Team Unity opened its campaign in Cebu City last weekend, to much fanfare and confetti, several relative unknowns were going quietly about their business, apprising anyone interested enough to listen about their senatorial bids. Such a one was Martin Bautista, who shook hands with fellow shoppers at the Greenhills "tiangge" [flea market] and told them that he was running for the Senate. He is one of three doing so under the banner of Kapatiran, the anti-"trapo" [traditional politics] party, and if by some miracle he does make it, he says, he plans to abolish the pork barrel, uplift the lot of the poor and bring back decency to government...

PDInquirer Breaking News/ Kapatiran’s election campaign is gathering steam

PDInquirer Opinion/Conrado De Quiros LAST LAUGH
It confirms what I’ve felt for some time: that now more than ever is the best time to run as an independent, or at least not as a candidate of the administration or opposition parties, not as a candidate of Team Unity or GO.

PDInquirer Headlines/Nation: Kapatiran campaigns slowly, surely, profoundly

ABS-CBN Interactive: Katrina Legarda
In Martin Bautista’s words... “It is better to aspire for a perfect world rather than remain content in patching up our imperfect house… If we don’t actively resist then we have no business to complain and whine…”

New Inquirer articles and other information regarding Ang Kapatiran can be found here.

Please spread the word and spread hope for our country! Because of people like Dr. Bautista, there is enough reason to stay in the Philippines.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Today's special: Pride chicken and humble pie

It’s interview season now in the College of Medicine. Students of various shapes and sizes, thickness of eyeglasses, length of skirts and color of long sleeved shirts have flocked to the campus to vie for just 120 slots for Medicine Class of 2012. I see them mask with nervous laugh and chitchats the all-consuming jitters that accompany waiting for the interviewers to call them into the room.

Seven years ago, Wednesday, March 1st 2000, was the day I was interviewed. I can hardly remember the details other than fact that I introduced a gaping hole on the side seam of my new pants no thanks to a protruding metal part of the elbow rest on the seat on the bus on my way home. Thank God it happened on the trip home.

Thinking about it now, I believe that interview was a slam dunk. I believe that was the reason I got into medical school. While my college grades were so-so (imagine being just one of the 12 or so students who DID NOT get to graduate with latin honors in a class with about, oh, 100 seniors) and my NMAT scores were quite okay, in my mind of minds the interview sealed my fate. Imagine an interviewee who, when asked what was the most selfless thing he’s done within the year prior to this medical school interview, responds with- I donated blood. That’s the equivalent of “World peace” in beauty pageant parlance. The best part of it was- I did donate blood months before the interview.

I remember so little about the interview. I remember they asked which part of the newspaper I read first- the comics of course! I remember they asked me what I thought about the hot issue then of the Erap presidency, to which I believe I responded that the problem was moral ascendancy and credibility. I remember being asked about my faith, my family, my lovelife…

But what remained with me all through the years was my personal prayer at that time: that God grant me a good balance of pride and humility. I prayed for Him to allow me to be proud enough to showcase what an amazingly blessed life I have, and with equal measure, to instill in me the humility to recognize that the amazingly blessed life I have comes from Him.

Often we tend to downplay our blessings and gifts so as not to appear smug or brash to the point that we downplay God’s goodness in our lives. During that interview in med school, I would like to believe that sharing a short litany of my accomplishments and talents is being a witness to how faithful God is in my life so long as it is tempered by humility that sans God, I am nothing.


Seven years after starting medical school and just a little less than two years after graduating, not in my wildest imaginings have I conjured an image of myself sitting in a college council meeting, the assembly of the 600-odd faculty members of the college. Equally awe-inspiring was the second part of the morning’s activities- the recognition ceremony for faculty achievers eg those who received local and international awards (including two TOYMs), got elected to key leadership positions here and abroad, and finished specialty courses within the university. It was an experience to be in their company, if only for the fact that I am in the same room as the major movers and shakers and decision makers in almost all aspects of the medical profession are.

Makes me humbly proud all over again.

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