Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Good night and thank you, Teacher Man

A decade before the crew of Apollo 11 landed on the moon, he stepped inside a New York classroom for the first time and began an odyssey whose length, breadth, and distance would span thirty years and spawn legions of learned individuals, opening their eyes to the wonders of literature as well as his life in Limerick. He was the quintessential Teacher Man, Frank McCourt, who passed away on July19th, at the age of 78.

I first came to know about Frank McCourt as he unraveled his life in the book Angela’s Ashes and its film version shown in the late 90s. I remember seeing the dank, dreary days of his life in Ireland that made me rethink my then half-wishes to be Irish, thanks to the popularity of Boyzone. But I digress.

His life, as portrayed in the movie, is a study in doggedness. “…(N)ot as glamorous as ambition or charm,” he says about doggedness, “but still the one thing that got me through the days and nights.”

That same doggedness helped him revitalize the minds and hearts of hundreds of students across four high schools, many of whom have been written off as “unteachable,” if not unreachable, as he chronicled in his 2005 book Teacher Man. (I found a hardbound, pristine copy in a second-hand book store in the US at a fraction of its original cost- which made me feel pleased at such a find but at the same time troubled me, given the quality of his thoughts and writing.)

It is an easy read but I didn’t finish it until several months after; teaching got in the way (haha) To anyone who’s read it and is in the same profession as he was, one can’t help but feel that *affinity* to the stories he’s told. About the jocks, damsels, “mouths,” eager-beavers, shy violets, geeks in EVERY class. On the perennial struggle between being the students’ friend to gain their respect or being the personification of monstrosity to gain their respect. That whatever emanates from the teacher’s mouth bears the stamp of being gospel-truth… which can bite the teacher’s behind when s/he contradicts it in the future.

I have not attended his creative writing or English class, but reading Teacher Man has allowed me to sit in his accidental class for teachers in particular and humans in general. He embraced and celebrated his past through stories that highlighted the good and forgave the bad. He was creative, honest, patient- and nurtured these among his ward. He never forgot that inasmuch as he was seated behind the teacher’s table or standing in front of the blackboard, he remained a student, on the constant quest for self-improvement and liberation from self-doubt.

The bell has rung. The class is dismissed. At the end of it all, Mr. McCourt may not have journeyed to the moon but he gave thousands a boost so they can reach their own stars.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: For full-blooded fans only

We just watched Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (HP6), the sixth installment of the seven-part story of The Boy Who Lived, originally penned by JK Rowling, and brought to life in the big screen by David Yates. HP6 is a wonderful departure from the usual CGI-burdened films (read: Transformers 2), filled with humanity, humor, and the beginnings of horcrux hunting.

(Spoilers, rants, and raves follow, FYI =])

The film is really for fans. It is not a stand-alone film that those living as castaways in the Antarctic with nary an idea about Harry Potter can just come in from the cold and watch (pun not intended). I must admit that for the first 10 or so minute, and every so often during the film, I had to sort through my mental filing cabinet and recall plots, characters, and nuances from the book, with aid from past movie versions. It’s a fun exercise though to connect this with that, to recall what the Room of Requirement is, or see the Pensieve in action.

The film, thankfully, is not a visual extravaganza. Real fans have had a good dose of that already as they read the book or saw the first five films. My sister and I are delighted to have more of the humanity (muggle-ity?) of the characters brought to the fore; the actors portraying the characters do not disappoint. The silliness of being lovesick, the fury of being scorned, the comfort of friendships, for me, add more dazzle to the film. I think only full-blooded fans will appreciate the necessity of such coming-of-age storylines; they make the characters more relate-able, and hopefully stronger, as they get ready to face the fight of their lives.

But to give credit to where it is due, the scene where Dumbledore saves Harry from the Inferi and they escape from the cave they retrieved a horcrux from is an AMAZING sight to behold. I think it’s the best part of the film, effects-wise.

The darker mood of this current film is a perfect setup for the battle royale and revelations Book 7 contains. As my sister says, it’s a respite, a regrouping film, a film that allows the characters to mature, and the fans to, well, breathe. But the film wasn’t the least bit boring: the humorous interjections, the constant yet subtle references to items in the five past storylines (Ollivander’s torched! Where will I get my wand now?), the wacky exploits of the Weasley twins, the unfolding love story of Hermione and Ron / Ginny and Harry- they all provide fodder for the HP-starved fans.

It’s sad that many have left the cinema disappointed. (On a more personal note it was infuriating to hear the snoring of the young ‘uns seated in the row in front of us!) Maybe expectations were set too high, maybe the standard they used was HP1. I think it’s a Herculean task to match HP1- seeing Quidditch played or seeing the opening reception meal for the first time is just unmatchable.

Be that as it may, HP6 forms a vital cog in the wheel unraveling the story of The Boy Who Lived versus He Who Must Not Be Named, as the characters solidify their stance, their real values come to the fore and the fight of good against evil is decided on an arena of a higher plane.

All is well. *wink*

Friday, July 17, 2009

UP Manila - Ayala Recyclables Fair: July 21, 2009


Reduce ! Reuse! Recycle!

UP Manila - Ayala Recyclables Fair will be held again on July 21, 2009 from 8am to 3pm at the Philippine General Hospital basketball court, Taft Avenue, Manila.

The following can be bought, sold, or disposed of:

Used paper and posters, old newspapers at magazines, obsolete books

Plastic bottles, sando bags

Plastic furniture, Tetra Pak cartons

Aluminum cans and tin cans

Used lead acid batteries

Non-working electronic appliances

Betamax, cassette tapes

Old TVs, CPUs, monitors, etc.

Toner and ink cartridges

Tarpaulin streamers, household batteries, Styrofoam, mobile phones, chargers

For inquiries, please get in touch with Angeli Guadalupe, email angelgwen24[at]yahoo.com.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Recollection, reunion, resuscitation

I was having dinner with my internship groupmates Sunday evening and so I decided to attend the 5pm mass at the PGH chapel before meeting up with them.

The hospital's chapel was a place was that was all too familiar to me. With my big backpack and tackle box in tow, I'd hurry to the chapel to say a quick prayer before I go on duty or as soon as I emerge from one. I remember repeating a simple personal prayer of humility and surrender before I proceed to the wards, OR, or emergency: it's showtime, Lord, and You're the Star.

While the mass was ongoing, I was shaking my head mentally: I still cannot believe I survived medical school in the UP and internship at the Philippine General Hospital. I recall all the grueling tasks, long hours, stress, fatigue, weight loss, weight gain, time away from family and I am amazed I didn't crack due to the sheer magnitude of med school and internship. It is by God's grace alone that I made it and that I am now at the other side of the teacher's table.

The Gospel last Sunday was a great reminder as well of this loving grace from God, when Mark recounted the send-off of the apostles to help fulfill Jesus' mission on earth. I am blessed because with just our bare hands, stout hearts, and willing minds, my internship groupmates and I were somehow, no matter how minutely, were responsible for having helped cure, care for, or at least comfort a whole bunch of people under our watch. And I must admit I could not have done it without them. They have ministered not only to our patients but to me as well.

I'll always be grateful.

Then (2004) =]

Now (2005) =]

Lizz, Kate, Les, Ai- great to see you again! Ogg, Em, Jul, Tin, How - you guys are missed! See you all again next time!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Top 1000 Awesome Things

Crisp. Concise. Intelligent. Intuitive. Gutsy. Silly. Benign. Heartfelt. Witty. Normal. Profound. Keen. Hilarious. Contentious. Cheesy. Gross. Imaginative. Intriguing. Natural. Interesting. Childlike. Green. Raw. Pensive. Grateful. Gratifying. Warm. Simple. Cool. Human. Awesome.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Cue: Handel

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said-

If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.


My sister is no street sweeper, but heaven knows how much of my earthly and figurative mess she has taken care of. For that and the myriad other blessings God coursed through her for our entire family, she deserves a lengthy celestial standing ovation coupled with rapturous hoots, applause, and choral singing.

Happy birthday to my favorite sister (by default, no competition)!

I love you dearly.

(Pierce Brosnan and Ces Drilon extend their greetings as well.)

Monday, July 06, 2009

Not just Ninoy's widow, not merely Kris Aquino's mom


The news media have been abuzz as of late because of the latest developments in the battle of former president Cory Aquino versus colon cancer. Because of her illness, made known to the public in March of 2008, Mrs. Aquino has spent a considerably less amount of time on the political radar. Just recently, though, she last lent her voice in the rally in Makati City against Con-Ass via the statement read onstage by her grandson. And people seem to still listen to her words, regardless of whose mouth they emanate from.

I was a little over six years old when the Aquino presidency began but I hardly remember the nitty-gritty of her administration. We used to memorize names of her cabinet members when we were in grade school; oddly, I still recall that Fulgencio Factoran was an Environment and Natural Resources department secretary during her time in office.

I recall the 1990 killer earthquake. I recall the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. I recall the Ormoc City flashfloods. I recall the various attempts to take over government. I recall being pissed at Gringo Honasan for the December 1989 coup that cut short our country’s streak of months and quarters of almost double-digit GNP growth. I AM still pissed at Gringo. Honorable my *ss.

I recall the magazine covers and newspapers headlining Cory as she reviews the troops alongside then Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos. I recall her salute that warranted respect inasmuch as she was showing respect to the men and women in uniform before her. I recall her presence before the joint session of the United States congress. I hope I recall correctly that she flashed the “L” sign for Laban during that appearance abroad.

I recall my sister’s unabashed adulation for Kris Aquino, most famous of the presidential children. I recall the Aquino family shunning the excesses of life in Malacanan Palace.

I recall Cory Aquino singing a parody, that she’ll never run again, pang-snap elections lang ako, she declares. I recall a time when a president made a promise to not run and kept it, unlike somebody we all know. I recall Cory Aquino joining the ceremonies for the inauguration of Fidel Ramos as Philippine president. I recall Cory Aquino stepping down from power, still wielding a moral compass, referred to in times of political uncertainty.

But there are things about Cory Aquino that I do not recall, details I never knew in the first place. Her website, CoryAquino.ph contains interesting tidbits about her personal life and the paths she’s taken to Malacanan and beyond. The site likewise contains the best of what her administration endeavored to bequeath to the country while she was president- an online presidential library of sorts for those looking to the Aquino years for inspiration- or as a scapegoat.

I plan to swim through the pages of her website to sharpen my recollection of her as well as to somehow celebrate what the Philippines achieved through her. Regardless of what our collective memory of the Aquino years will look if it were painted on a canvass, I’m absolutely confident it will be so much better than what we can muster to condure to represent the Arroyo years.

May God grant her and her family healing, comfort, and peace.