So far, so good

What for should I ask more

Saturday, June 23, 2007


(Most of us are familiar with the original version, in English, by Max Ehrmann. But like many things- romantic movies, bad words or spaghetti- the Filipino version just *hits* the spot better...)

Salin ni Pete Lacaba

Lumakad nang mahinahon
Sa gitna ng ingay at pagkukumahog, at alalahanin
Ang kapayapaang maaaring makuha sa katahimikan.

Walang isinusuko hanggat maaari,
Pakitunguhan nang mabuti ang lahat ng tao.

Sabihin ang iyong katotohanan nang tahimik at malinaw;
At makinig sa iba, kahit sa nakayayamot at mangmang;
Sila man ay may kasaysayan.

Iwasan ang mga taong mabunganga at palaaway,
Sila'y ikinaiinis ng kalooban.

Kung ihahambing mo ang sarili sa iba,
Baka yumabang ka o maghinanakit; sapagkat laging
May lilitaw na mas mahusay o mas mahina sa iyo.

Ikalugod ang iyong mga tagumpay at saka mga balak.

Manatiling interesado sa iyong hanapbuhay,
Gaano man kaaba; ito'y tunay na ari-arian
Sa pabago-bagong kapalaran ng panahon.

Maging maingat sa iyong negosyo;
Sapagkat ang daigdig ay puno ng panlilinlang.
Subalit huwag maging bulag sa kabutihang makikita.
Maraming nagsisikap na makamit ang mga adhikain;
at sa lahat ng dako,
Ang buhay ay puno ng kabayanihan.

Maging tapat sa sarili. Higit sa lahat, huwag magkunwari.
Huwag ding libakin ang pag-ibig:
Sapagkat sa harap ng lahat ng kahungkagan at kawalang-pag-asa,
Ito'y lagi't laging sumisibol, tulad ng damo.

Tanggapin nang mabuti ang mga payo ng katandaan,
Buong-giliw na isuko ang mga bagay-bagay ng kabataan.

Pag-ibayuhin ang lakas ng loob,
Ito'y pananggalang laban sa biglaang kasawian.
Subalit huwag ikaligalig ang mga haka-haka.

Maraming pangamba ang likha ng pagod at pangungulila.

Bagamat kailangan ang sapat na disiplina,
Maging magiliw sa sarili.

Ikaw ay supling ng sanlibutan.
Katulad ng bituin,
May liwanag kang taglay.
At anupaman ang iyong gawin,
Itong sanlibutan ay narito
Sa paligid mo.

Kung gayon, pakisamahan ang Panginoon,
Anuman ang pananaw mo sa kanya.
At anuman ang iyong pinagkakaabalahan at minimithi,
Sa maingay na kalituhan ng buhay,
Pakisamahan ang iyong kaluluwa.

Sa kabila ng lahat ng pagkukunwari, kabagutan,
at gumuhong pangarap,
Maganda pa rin ang daigdig.

Mag-ingat. Sikaping lumigaya.


Maligayang kaarawan sa aking nanay, matapat na katuwang ng Panginoon sa pagsasakatuparan ng aking mga minimithi.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Four years, eight months, sixteen days, eight hours


Well, I’ve got to hand it to SMS for making the world smaller and for being the conduit of late-breaking news. Congratulations on your forthcoming wedding. It's been a while since I've awoken to such joyous announcement.

I am happy for you. Really. Aside from you two, I am arguably the next happiest person for you. I am not HAPPY per se; that’s a different matter altogether. But if you ask me if I am happy for you- yes I am. New beginnings always excite me.

Do you remember ours?

Yeah- what great changes a decade brings. I can still remember Biology class, where I would be stealing glances at you, half of me hoping you wouldn’t notice, while 90% of me begged God to make you look my way. I guess the more than year-long courtship where in I must have sent a hundred or so love letters convinced you enough that I was with the sincerest of intentions. Ironically, a similar group of love letters would signal the demise of our relationship.

Above everything else, you were- are- one of my best friends. I remember our hours-long conversations about anything and everything- family problems, worries in school, minor and not-so-minor love skirmishes. I had my own friends, you had yours. But at the end of the day, we had each other. I would like to believe that over and above being boyfriend-and-girlfriend, we were the best of friends. I would like to believe that that made it easy for us to have that “reunion” lunch a year or so after we broke up. Whenever people ask me how we are, I proudly say we “communicate regularly” and things are always “as if we just talked yesterday.” I know I will always have a home with you. Rest assured you are always welcome in mine.

Distance did take a toll on us, didn’t it? You were just a bus ride away but I drifted away- way out into an ocean that is bigger and wider and deeper than the two of us could ever swim in or fathom. Out of your sight, I assumed the role of a released convict sans the sentence and the shackles. Being distant from you physically, emotionally, and psychologically freed me. However, gaining my so-called freedom ironically sealed my fate- casting me into what is brewing to be a life best lived alone.

You were not supposed to know of my indiscretions. I was shielding you from the pain of my lapses of judgment. God knows how many times I have wrestled with my vile internal fiends, struggling to exorcise the last stumbling block from rekindling what was once our promising love relationship. God knows how many times I’ve gone to confession, purged my life of any remnants of unworthiness so that before Him and before you I will be fit to be part of your life so we can begin to build our life together. But I drew an unlucky hand. I failed you. The house of cards fell and with it any chance for you and I.

Our relationship of four years, eight months, sixteen days, eight hours just had to come to an end.

After that I constantly prayed to God for just two things: that He will grant you the happiness that will surpass by a million million billion-fold the pain that I have caused you and that you will find it in your heart to forgive me.

It was the second prayer that He granted first. If somebody did to me what I did to you, I would have hacked that somebody into pieces so tiny that person would have been good as cremated already. But thank God you aren’t me. You are so much better than me. I am torn to pieces, indeed, not by your vindictiveness but by your graciousness and magnanimity. I know you often reprimand me for still apologizing despite bestowing your forgiveness on me; I just can’t believe that a person with such a kind and loving heart truly exists.

That’s why I was getting a bit anxious when my first prayer wasn’t getting answered.

And now, I believe God did answer my prayers when He answered yours. I’m sure this one that God gave you- He’s not pitching you a curved ball anymore. I pray that he truly be the real deal. He’s a kind soul, I can tell. And the way you talk about him, I just feel it’s going to be great. The best even. I’m rooting for you both! Worth the wait, he is.

That’s why you will never get to read this. You will never know that you will always be loved. You will never know that there isn’t a day that passes by that you aren't missed. You will never know that each and every relationship I’ve had or attempted to have after ours is measured against the standard you’ve unwittingly set. You will never know how much I pray for you. You will never know that I pray my damnest for you to the point that sometimes I forget to pray for my family or for myself. You will never get to know any of these.

You do not have to know. What good will knowing these trivial matters bring to your life? It is not as if there are still embers of our past in your heart that are still worth stoking into a conflagration- are there?

No. I’ve caused enough misery and ruin into your life. You now have a new man to make new memories with. I feel you are happy now, happier even. That is all that matters.

Yours truly,

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Ready to get started with the business of moving the nation forward? CGE!

Re-posting this entry from the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan blog. Ready to get started with the business of moving this nation forward?


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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Monday, June 18, 2007

Where Ian has been

Traveling has always been a source of tremendous joy.

I am blessed to have parents who have understood its value, first as a parenting tool - from appeasing my pre-school heart with a short drive around our block before they leave (me at home) for work in the morning to rewarding good academic standing with a weekend out-of-town-er to restoring my med school-weary body. Second, they have unwittingly employed traveling as a very effective medium for learning practical things, from how NOT to pack 3 pairs of shoes for a four-days, three-nights vacation to being a streetsmart tourist in Hong Kong to soaking up quality family time through a joint experience of historical places and the personalities who go with these. Fortunately, even if my parents are abroad and my siblings and I are captured, willing slaves to our places of work, there are many "work-related" traveling involved in our careers.

While rummaging through the uber-cool and popular blog An Apple A Day, I came across this ingenious rendition of the Philippine map where one's erstwhile whereabouts can be plotted. I just followed the links, and voila! Here's the LAKBAYAN map of where I've been.

My Lakbayan grade is C+!

How much of the Philippines have you visited? Find out at Lakbayan!

Created by Eugene Villar.

And I must say, I'm a bit sad that I still haven't even visited- what- 1/4 of the Philippines! Here's to hoping that I'd raise my Lakbayan Grade to B+ in a year's time =]

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

The F Word

While waiting for our carwash boy to finish with his job, my sister all of a sudden popped a very serious question:

Natatakot ka bang tumanda mag-isa? (Are you afraid of growing old alone?)

Without thinking for a second I replied, Oo naman. Of course.

Probing why she asked, she recounted a recent meeting with a very good friend of hers.

Her friend holds a senior position in a very prominent company. He stays in a condo unit in the Makati area during the week and he goes home to his rest house somewhere in the south during weekends. He pretty much lives on his own, with no other family member or spouse to take care of or care for him. For some time now, he was pondering whether to adopt a kid or not. He was cognizant of the myriad issues that go with such an endeavor but the answer to his dilemma soon arrived to him.

One day, he inadvertently sideswiped a vagabond. After having her minor injuries treated, he took the child home since the kid apparently had no family members to care for her while DSWD was closed due to that particular long weekend. He tried to take care of that girl that best way he could but he soon discovered that he had no fathering instincts. He eventually brought the child to a halfway house for streetchildren where he visits every so often, acting as an ‘uncle’ to the kid.

My sister soon after asked me if I, too, thought about my possible future of living alone and solving that ‘situation’ by having kids. It isn’t the first time I’ve been confronted with this question. And the number of times I’ve thought about it is equivalent to the number of times I’ve decided for or against having kids- only to change my mind the next time I’d see either a tender father-son moment or kids racing down the path to hell.

But what I told my sister is this:

I am too selfish to be a dad. I am too selfish with regard to my time, my money, my future. For starters, the nature of my current occupation involves working odds hours, driving to distant locales at a moment’s notice. My patients are not just an individual or two; rather, I practically take care of communities. The little I earn are *just enough* to makes ends meet. And I’m praying to God that I don’t live beyond sixty. In my life’s map, kids practically don’t have space.

Plus, in the course of the last five years or so, I’ve discovered that I’m not a ‘kid’ person. I’m not the huggy-feely-lift-a-kid-i-just-met-off-the-ground-or-take-him-from-his-mom-so-i-can-cuddle-him kind of person. Having said that, though, I think I make a cool uncle or an older cousin. Not a dad definitely. I think I tend to be overly indulgent which is fatal if applied as a parenting tactic.

The obverse side is my fuse at times can be terribly short. And when kids get too rowdy or go hungry or thirsty all the time, at odd times or they have no concept of personal space or they ask too many questions or they get to be too honest- I’m sure my patience will only get shorter.

I still have commitment issues to resolve within me as well. From mere piano lessons to taking care of aquarium fish to doing daily exercise to staying in med school- each was a challenge that often pushed me to the brink of just giving up on them just like *that*. So having a kid is a no-no- unless kids have a ‘can-be-returned, can-be-exchanged’ tag sewn on them.

Then again I see kids and dads in their Kodak moments- priceless moments of pure joy only a child can bring to his father.

Whenever I would corner a friend of mine who at my/our age already has a kid, my most favorite question to ask is if their kid could really make all their day’s aches and pains go away. They’ve unanimously testified that indeed their kids make EVERYTHING worthwhile. (Wow- maybe them kids would put doctors out of business!)

The little antics they showcase either on cue or when you least expect them. The toothy/toothless grin they flash just when you’re scolding them. The hand-made cards complete with misspelled words and frizzy blue hair that’s supposed to be yours. Glowing comments made by his teachers and the parents of his classmates. Medals you harvest each recognition day ceremony. Wet kisses and lung-squeezing hugs when you get home. Crazy forwarded emails and text messages at odd hours of the day. Willing listener to the (tall) tales of your youth. Ever-ready driver to the mall or church. Giver of sound advice, fashion consultant, ardent fan, pillar of strength, source of love, inspiration for living, prayer partner.



At the beginning of writing this, I was SO sure that I’d rather not contribute to the population growth of the planet. Now I’m not so sure…


Thank God my parents chose to have me. And I thank God that my father, in particular, isn’t as fickle as I am. If I will be equivalent to just 1/10th of how good you, Pop, have been to us, God would not have created me in vain…

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Seven things I learned in Indonesia

Thank you, Ia, for tagging me, thus providing the impetus for me to write things that would otherwise have never seen the light of day.

But rather than reveal secrets that I may have still kept from you all the 15-odd years we’ve been friends, allow me to detail the top seven things I learned from my recent trip to Indonesia. In no particular order:

1. If its adherents whom I have met are the sole measure, Islam is a wonderful, wonderful religion.

They have numerous masjids- mosques or main prayer centers- in every town or city we pass through. More interesting still is that they have mushollahs- smaller places of worship roughly equivalent to Catholic chapels- in every place imaginable: malls, airports, even in gasoline stations and tourist spots. And the faithful actually pray in these areas, replete with the rites and rituals that accompany the act of praying.

I have to admit that initially I am wary about coming to a predominantly Islamic country, being of the Christian faith. However, I was blessed to have encountered international Islamic colleagues who are assertive but conscientious not only in the professional sense but also in how they talk about their religion. They gamely discussed and enlightened me with knowledge about their faith, ranging from jihad to polygamy to the wearing of veils. This was, for me, the real learning experience, traveling to another country, exploring their faith and way of life, understanding their worldview vis-à-vis how they are portrayed in media, and taking home with me a more profound respect for their humanity and more fervor to be a better Christian.

(Below: With Dr. Joey Abary of the Philippine Bureau of Fire Protection and Dr. Bastaman Basuki of the Department of Community Medicine of FKUI at a mosque in Kota Gede, Yogyakarta; With Dr. Agus of Petronas, Malaysia; with other seminar participants from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines at the Mt. Merapi Observation Post.)

2. There is a lot of money available for community development work.

This is the happy problem of Spain: that they have money for community development work but there is a dearth of project proposals for funding. And so, for people in the same field as I am, or if you know of anyone who may have health-related initiatives that need financial support, you may approach the following Spanish entities:

Agencia Espanola Cooperacion Internacional or the Spanish International Aid Agency and

Fundacion para la Cooperacion y Salud Internacional Carlos III or the Foundation for Cooperation and International Health Carlos III -

University of Oviedo – Emergency and Disaster Research Unit – for those whose interests are in disaster preparedness and emergency response -

(Above: With the facilitators from Spain, at the main staircase of the Faculty of Medicine Building.)

3. I will not be a successful Pinoy Big Brother housemate.

Given eight Pinoys, plucked from various corners of the country, made to live together practically for 24 hours a day for 10 days- surely something’s got to give. I mean team Philippines got along so well that participants from Malaysia were incredulous when we told them that we Filipinos just met for the first time in Indonesia. But our individual idiosyncracies would skim the surface time and again and some of the others’ peculiarities are a bit grating to the soul. So I am REALLY thankful that our Indonesian . sojourn ended when it did, before I actually reached my threshold where Mr. Hyde takes over from Dr. Jekyll.

4. I learned how to haggle and bargain.

For whatever reason- pride or pity or procrastination- I never learned or found the use for haggling or bargaining in marketplaces. Sure, I would haggle and bargain in the university’s academic committee just when they are about to mete out punishments for erring classmate- but with regard to consumer goods, I am a greenhorn. I always pay what’s on the price tag: there’s this tug in my heart whenever I bargain, as if I’m robbing the saleslady of their livelihood. But in Indonesia, I learned to be a wiser buyer, else I would have spent too much money on souvenirs and become the laughing stock of our team. (Below, Malioboro Street in Yogyakarta, bargain hunters’ shopping haven.)

I learned to take a look at items and appear to be cool and mildly interested. I’d ask what the price of this shirt or figurine and if the salesperson quotes an exorbitant price, I put the item back- MAHAL!- and begin to walk away. Often they would call me back-

Hallo! Sir! Escuse me! Sir! Hallo! What price you want, sir? Give your price sir!

I then quote a REALLY low price- 15,000 rupiah for an item that initially quoted to cost 40,000 rupiah ($1 = 8,700 rupiah, 1 rupiah = P0.005)- Which would piss them off somewhat. A sort of bidding war would ensue: 16,000… 17,000… 20,000 rupiahs. Sold!

5. People are really, really, really kind and generous, if only we give them the opportunity to do so.

From four-star generals and hospital directors acting as our photographers (where they have to take our group photos using the camera of every person included in the photo op whose number may range from 2-25) to honest money changers to owners of earthquake-devastated homes allowing to poke through their living spaces- generosity of the spirit abounds. (Below: at the home of Col. Udug and his family, Philippine Military Attache to Indonesia.)

6. Pericardium-6 really works.

We arguably had the worst flight of our lives the night we traveled from Jakarta to Yogyakarta last Friday, June 1st. The plane wildly swung from side to side, up and down for a good fraction of the time we were in mid-air. As is wont to happen, the contents of my stomach were churned like crazy and they rose to a most uncomfortable level, so much so that if I spoke I’d puke a la Mt. Merapi. And it didn’t help that I was seated beside the very outspoken main facilitator of the seminar, the preeminent Dr. Bastaman Basuki. I tried to sleep but I was just too darn nauseous. And so I employed what I learned from Dr. Jimmy Tan’s alternative medicine class- applying pressure on the area of the body labeled as Pericardium-6 to combat dizziness. After pressing on the site for about 5-10 minutes, I really felt better. I even managed to smile and pose after the harrowing 50-minute flight.

Here’s an online resource on how it works.

7. I’ve seen the rustic and the metropolitan versions of Indonesia and I must say it is a very beautiful country, rich in culture and history. (From top to bottom: the Nasional Monumen; fountain along embassy row; the Yogyakarta Palace; scene from the Ramayana ballet staged at the Pambranan Temple; at Borobudur.)

But there’s still no place like the Philippines. From our country being peppered by lesser disasters (look closely at the side-by-side volcano tops peeking from among the clouds in the aerial photo below) to our immensely better command of the English language to our (I am not kidding!) bluer skies and despite our political rollercoaster and the economic malady- I have a million reasons to yearn to be home!

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Should you wander into this, my abode

Should you wander into this, my abode

You will see that a shrine for you it is

Where days begin with the joyous lilting of your voice

Where gold and silver embellishments pale in comparison to your delicate face

Where meals whose taste is akin to soggy wooden planks become grand feasts as your playful candor graces the dining room

Where the days’ aches and scratches are healed by you, human apothecary, as you lay your head on my shoulder or grasp my arm, for just a thousandth of a second

Where nights are capped by the vision of you bidding me good night…

Only to be wonderfully awoken by your laughter, diamond, slightly rough around the edges, but with a million million fascinating facets to behold…

For whom this humble shrine is.


Excuse me as I remove the cobwebs from my rusty, crusty poetic muscles and exercise them a bit with the entry above.


I know *you* won't get it unless it was told to you straight to your face but I'm too much of a wimp to do that.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Terima Kasih*, Indonesia! (Jakarta 2)

In my mind of minds, a visit to Borobudur would not have been complete if I didn't pose the way I did above. Then again, Borobudur, located about 41 kms north of Yogyakarta in Central Java (which is about 50mins by plane from Jakarta), is said to be the largest Buddhist temple in the world- and the contortion above evokes a more Hindu-related imagery, doesn't it? I ought to have just sat down, lotus position, THEN my pose would have been more appropriate- bulges and yellow shirt and all...


That I guess summarizes my 10-day stay in Indonesia. It was a learning experience for me in so many levels, especially with regard to my profession, my faith, my sense of nationalism, and about humanity in general, as i sort through then debunk pre-conceived notions, biases, misconceptions, and misinformation. I acquired life-changing information, among which are: that 1 out of every 25 human beings on this planet is devastated each year by a disaster and that the lingua franca is neither English nor Chinese, but haggling (especially in the shops along Malioboro Street in Yogyakarta). My parents would be proud.


Indonesia exudes charm unimaginable that no culturati can resist. It has a mix of the old and the new, the modern and the mystical. In so many aspects it is so much like the Philippines, in some aspects it does appear to fare better. Nevertheless, I am glad- SO GLAD- to be home.

This is my own independence day. From chili.


*Thank you, Indonesia! More thoughts and pics to be posted next time.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Kontonjensi: Jakarta (1)

We just ended Day 2 of our 7-day course on disaster management held at the Fakultas Kedokteran Universitas Indonesia (FKUI); I know I need not translate. Main proponents of the course aside from FKUI are the Spanish International Aid Agency, the University of Oviedo – Unit for Research on Emergencies and Disasters, the Office of the Surgeon General – Indonesia and various other Indonesian and Spanish government and non-government agencies. Twenty-five participants from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam involved in the different aspects of disaster management and emergency preparedness in our respective countries. The main facilitator is Dr. Bastaman Basuki of the Department of Community Medicine, FKUI

The Philippine contingent is composed of myself representing the UP and a non-government organization Gawad Kalusugan; Dr. Rex Prudente and Dr Rolly Rivera from the V. Luna Medical Center and Office of the Surgeon General, respectively; Dr. Chito Mendoza, Provincial Health Officer of Albay and one of his staff in the PHO, Ms. Elvie Alejo, RN; Dr. Joey Abary from the Bureau of Fire Protection; Dr. Sally Espeleta from the Department of Health – National Capital Region; and Dr. Des Jimenez, Chief Resident of the Department of Emergency Medicine, UP-PGH.

In the photo above at the lobby of the Sari Pan Pacific Jakarta Hotel where we’re staying:
Dr. Rex, Dr. Sally, Dr. Rolly, Dr. Chito, Dr. Des, Maam Elvie, and Dr. Joey.

There are four Spanish resource persons and about a dozen Indonesian experts whose depth and breadth of experience come from stints in Sarajevo to Sumatra to Southern Leyte, dealing with earthquakes, wars, and yes, tsunamis. What we’ve covered so far are general trends and patterns in disaster management statistics (deaths and injuries according to disaster types), the learnings of Spain from its current emergency medical system, and the learnings of Indonesia from the 2 Bali bombings, the last Yogyakarta earthquake, the 2007 Jakarta floods, and the 2004 tsunami which hit Aceh. There were special segments detailing the role of the Indonesian military in the delivery of much needed assistance during the critical period following the disasters, including its presence in Guinsaugon, Southern Leyte.

In the photos below: Dr Arcos delivering his lecture; with participants from Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

I asked Dr. Pedro Arcos of the University of Oviedo – Unit for Research on Emergencies and Disasters, one of the resource persons from Spain, how extensive their disaster management course was in their medical school. He said that disaster management occupied one week in their six-year curriculum for poly-health professionals. I told him that disaster management as a separate lecture was an innovation in the UP College of Medicine and I was lamenting the fact that we only had 2 hours for the topic, versus his one week. To which he responded that it took twenty years for them to include disaster management in their curriculum. I am both grateful and optimistic: In my capacity as a teacher, it is heartening to note that what we’re imparting in the university to third year medical students in the form of a two-hour lecture over the last academic year is a rather nice distillation of what we’ve taken up since Monday.

My interactions with my fellow Filipino delegates are a source of immense joy as well. From where they are coming from, I am learning much about the disaster management situation in our country, outside of the official National Disaster Coordinating Council annual reports online. One cannot help but feel something warm and fuzzy as they detail their extended hours doing orthopedic surgeries for war vicitims, wading in waist-high waters in Legazpi City, tours of duty with firefighters sans decent pay, the continuous efforts to update tertiary hospital care in the Philippines in anticipation of imminent disasters in our country since we are embroiled in unending socio-political strife; we are blessed with 22 active volcanoes; we are residing over restless tectonic plates; and we are the doormat of typhoons entering Asia from the Pacific and leaving Asia from the South China Sea.

Hopefully, I’ll get more ideas on how to establish a community-based disaster management program for urban and rural poor communities, the most vulnerable and at risk when calamities strike. As of late, the facilitators have focused on the macro level of governance and action with rather little time allotted for community empowerment strategies. Hopefully, as well, Cooperacion Espanola will choose the Philippines as a pilot site for a multi-center disaster management program they are setting up in Asia. Fingers, legs, and eyes crossed!


If ever I would experience The Twilight Zone, it would be now, in Jakarta.

It’s Manila’s twin city, replete with hordes of motorcycles, Starbucks branches, shanties propped against the walls of gated communities, enterprising sidewalk vendors, San Miguel and Chippy in the supermarket and very Filipino-looking fellow human beings. As an exclamation point to this observation, the bus which was transporting us from the seminar venue to our hotel suddenly stopped because a public utility vehicle made a sudden U-turn and narrowly missed hitting us (or being hit by us!). I thought to myself- Wow, Indonesians do know how to make one feel welcome, even simulating the prayer-inducing driving techniques of Pinoys…

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Of prayers and passports

There are days...

When you have a major presentation for work which you toil the whole week for…

And your alarm clock fails to wake you up at the appointed time on the day of the presentation…

For which you rush to the taxi stand to get a cab to take you to the office…

Where you wait for at least half an hour…

Until you finally land in one whose driver is even outpaced by a snail…

Whom you have to endure for an extended period of time because all traffic lights at all intersections turn red five meters before you are supposed to go through them…

Eventually arriving at least an hour late in the office disheveled, pale, and drenched in liters of sweat…

To be informed by your boss’s secretary in her usual nonchalant demeanor- that he took the day off because of his sick kid and that the presentation is postponed until further notice.

O joy.

It was during one of the rare times I surfed the UP Manila website that I saw the invitation for the Advanced Seminar On Applied Techniques On Public Medicine And On Emergency Situations For Asian Experts: The Indonesian Experience sponsored by Cooperacion Espanola (AECI)- the Spanish Aid agency. Immediately, I thought this would enrich the module I teach for third year medical students and it will also benefit our Gawad Kalusugan work since we are slowly taking on disaster management and emergency preparedness as an advocacy. What a blessing for me to stumble upon this invitation!

It was a Thursday night and the deadline for submission of application + other requirements was the following Monday. Great! I still had Friday and that Monday to accomplish all paperwork. I knew I can make it. My planner revealed a relatively light sched for those two days.

But no. Activities in GKal came one after the other- including hours-long meetings and shooting for our documentary. Before I knew it, 5pm of Monday has come and gone. The next day, I rushed to accomplish all requirements after calling the Cooperacion Espanola office in Manila and getting their nod for a late submission of my application. Simply put, I was able to send them the materials at around 3pm of Tuesday, the day after the application was due.

A week passed- no phone call, no email from AECI Manila. I even activated my voicemail service so I wouldn’t miss their call should I be in class or my battery be drained. Another week passes. Feeling antsy two Thursday after I submitted my requirements, I called the
AECI here in Manila to inquire about the status of my application.

- Sir, you didn’t get our email yesterday?
- No, I didn’t.
- I’m sorry you weren’t included in the list because we prioritized doctors from disaster-prone areas like Bicol…
- Oh ok. Thanks very much.

The end. Or so I thought.

The following day, Friday, I went through the usual activities for the day. I went to our Lingkod prayer meeting and got home at around 11pm. I checked my email. And to my delight, sitting in my inbox was an email from Spain, containing my acceptance letter to the June 3-12 course, an all-expenses-covered course, including airfare, hotel accommodations, hotel transfers, meals, and travel insurance. Surreal but definitely nice.

Sampai Jumpa! (See you later in Bahasa)


Indeed the Lord works within the desires of our hearts. I am a firm believer that what we ask for in earnest, earnest prayer, He will grant. This Jakarta trip is proof of His faithfulness- should there be days that I ever be in doubt of it.

But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Off to Jakarta

Rushing, rushing to finish everything in my proverbial work inbox before I leave for a seminar-training in Jakarta and Yogyakarta June 3-12.

More details next time!

I *excite* =]

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