Pinoytransplant Goes to Iowa Caucus

Besides corn, there’s another thing that Iowa is well known for: politics. It is a fact that Iowa is the political epicenter and the state of the first major electoral event for the US presidential nomination process, the Iowa Caucus.

So tonight, after living here in Iowa for 12 years, I got to participate in my first ever caucus.

Since we were first time voters, my wife, my daughter who would be turning 18 this year, and I, had to register first and show our identification documents, before we were handed our ballots. I guess no “flying voters” here, just like in the Philippines, where even the dead can vote.

Then we entered this big hall and were given instructions on how this process would go. As I looked around the large auditorium, there were probably 250 to 300 people in that voting precinct. It was noteworthy, that my family and I, stuck out like a sore thumb in that group of people, for we were the only non-white or of a different race there. Not much diversity to speak of here.

Then we were asked to separate to different groups based on our candidate preference. As people went to different corners of the room, there were a few who remained seated. I supposed they were the undecided, or maybe they were just too lazy to stand.

Then each group picked a representative to speak for each candidate’s behalf. While people spoke enthusiastically for different candidates, I was really surprised nobody spoke for Mr. Trump. No one! Fox News should have seen this!

Finally after all the representatives have spoken, we mark our ballots and they were then collected. 

After the all the ballots were cast, most people made their way out the door, and only a handful stayed to witness the counting and the tallying of the votes. Its either they don’t care about the results, or the big snowstorm coming our way in a few hours scared most people to head home.

As I placed my ballot into the collection box, I knew something happened to me. I now can call myself, a true Iowan.

 

 

Back in the City

I am back in my favorite city. A city that I love despite of all its ills and nuisances. A city that I have left so many times, and yet I kept coming back to. This city is no other than Manila.

The following photos I have here of Manila, are seen from a different angle and perspective, at least from the point of view of the Manila I used to know.

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Ninoy Aquino International Airport

“Manila, Manila, I keep coming back to Manila,” says the 1970’s song of the Hotdogs, and that rings true for me as well.  And every time I return, the city warmly (as in hot!) welcomes me back.

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Speaking of welcome, above is the Welcome Rotonda, which marks the boundary between Manila and Quezon City. The photo is facing the Manila side of the boundary, overlooking España Boulevard, though technically I was standing in Quezon City  when I took this picture.

The photo below is an area of Manila that I am very familiar with. The prominent structure is the Sampaloc PLDT tower. So the immediate vicinity is Sampaloc, Manila – the place where I grew up. It is just interesting that I have never looked at Sampaloc before from such a high point of view, since there was no high rise buildings in this area during my youth. Unless I climb the PLDT tower of course.

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The main reason of my short visit back to Manila is to attend my 25th year graduation anniversary (I’ll make a separate post on this) from the University of Santo Tomas school of medicine. Thus several photos are from the UST campus. The different perspective is that I am viewing this campus not as a student but as a homecoming alumnus.

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Arch of the Century at the entrance to the university

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the Main Building of UST

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Building of the College of Medicine and Surgery

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University Hospital

Most of the activities of the homecoming festivities were done in the UST campus, but the big gala night took place in Manila Hotel. Even though I know Manila Hotel is a very old establishment (opened in 1912), and I passed this area several times before, I have never set foot inside of it. Until now.

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Above is the swimming pool at the back side of Manila Hotel. Photo below is one of its beautiful hallways.

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The back of the hotel looks over the marina and Manila Bay, while rooms facing the city side gives a grand view of the walled city, the Intramuros. Honestly, I have never seen Intramuros from this angle before. From this view, you can see the contrast of the old walled city and the new high rise buildings in the distance.

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From Manila Hotel, I still went on foot to see Luneta, a place full of loving and joyful memories from my childhood.

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But there is something different in this place. It is impossible to miss the change in the landscape as you view Rizal’s monument. Definitely cannot ignore the monstrosity of Torre de Manila.

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However, with the right angle and positioning, I can still make the huge eyesore disappear. Look, it’s gone!

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I enjoyed my return to the city of my birth, even for so short a time. And seeing the familiar places albeit in a different point of view is kind of refreshing.

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For now, once more, I say goodbye to you Manila. Hope to see you again……soon.

(*all photos taken with an iPhone)

 

 

Usapang Lasing

Hindi siguro kaila sa karamihan na tayong mga Pilipino ay may romantikong relasyon sa ating inuming alak. Kayang-kaya nating makipagsabayan sa inuman kahit kaninumang mamamayan ng ibang bansa. Sangayon sa isang report mula sa Euromonitor*, ang Pilipinas raw ay isa sa mga bansang malakas komunsumo ng alak.

Hindi naman ibig sabihin nito, na tayo’y bansa ng mga lasenggero. Sabihin na lang nating dahil marami tayong okasyon para uminom. Umiinom tayo kapag may birthday. O fiesta. Kapag pista opisyal at walang pasok. Tuwing kinsenas at katapusan (katapusan na rin ng suweldo!). Kapag may nagbalikbayan, gaya ng aming kapitbahay na seaman, na  alam na alam ko kapag-nagbalikbayan na siya, dahil may maiingay na namang nag-iinuman sa kalye, sa tapat ng bahay nila. At iba-iba pang okasyon.

Ngunit kadalasan walang espesyal na dahilan ang kailangan para tayo’y mag-umpukan at mag-tagayan. Dahil lubog na ang araw, ay sapat ng okasyon para tayo’y mag-inuman.

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Drinking. More fun in the Philippines.

Iba’t iba rin ang ating gustong inumin. Beer, gin, brandy, vodka, at rum. Nandiyan din ang mga katutubo nating inumin, gaya ng lambanog, basi, tapuy, at tuba. Sang-ayon sa mga pagsisiyasat, beer o cerveza, ang paboritong inumin nating Pilipino. At ang pangunahing beer sa Pilipinas ay walang iba kundi San Miguel beer na naging bahagi na ng ating kultura. (Wala po akong komisyon sa San Miguel Corporation, pero baka mabasa nila ito at bigyan ako ng balato.)

Iba’t iba rin ang tawag natin sa ating inumin. Tulad ng lapad, bilog, quatro-kantos, at long neck, sang-ayon sa hugis ng bote nila. Iba’t ibang taglines rin ang nakaukit na sa ating ulirat. “Iba ang may pinagsamahan.” “Inumin ng tunay na lalaki.” “Ganado sa buhay.” At “hindi lang pampamilya, pang sports pa.” Ah…eh….. rubbing alkohol pala iyung huli, ipinapahid lang at hindi dapat iniinom.

marca demonyoNakakaaliw rin ang iba’t ibang logo ng mga alak. Isa sa nakakaagaw pansin ay ang logo ng Ginebra San Miguel, na kilala rin na marca demonio. Ito ay yung arkanghel na si San Miguel na may nakahugot na espada, habang inaapakan niya ang demonio. Ngunit kapag itiniwarik at tinungga mo na yung bote, at iyong titigan si San Miguel – nakapaibabaw na yung demonio!

May mga taong mahilig uminom sa bar. May madalas sa beer garden o mas kilala na “patay sindi.” Ngunit ang karamihan ng mga Pilipino ay sa harap lang ng  tindahan sa may kanto, o kaya’y sa isang sulok ng kalye sa ilalim ng poste ng Meralco, at doon kasama ang tropa ay solb na solb na sa tagay at pulutan.

Tungkol naman sa ating pulutan, paborito natin ang sisig, krispy pata, at tokwa’t baboy. Kung tipid naman ay adobong mani, o kornik, o chicaron ay talo-talo na. Kung walang-wala naman, ay “usa” na lang ang pulutan – “usapan.” At malungkot mang tanggapin, ay kilala rin tayong mga Pinoy sa pulutang “asusena.”

Ikuwento ko lang po noong bata pa ako, ay may aso kaming ang pangalan ay Brownie. Isang hapon ay nakawala ito dahil naiwanan naming bukas ang gate. Dali-dali naming ginalugad ang paligid-ligid at mga kapit-kalye doon sa amin sa Sampaloc, Manila. Patuloy kami sa pag-hahanap hanggang sa kumagat na ang dilim. Hindi namin mahanap ang aming aso, pero may nakita kaming isang grupo sa isang kalye na masasayang nag-iinuman at nagkakantahan. Hindi ko sila pinaparatangan. Ang alam ko lang, hindi na namin nakitang muli si Brownie.

Isang tradisyon ng inuman na aking personal na nasaksihan ay doon sa lugar na pinaglakihan ng aking tatay, sa Norzagaray, Bulacan. Parang Oktoberfest sa Germany ang tradisyon na palasak ang laklakan. Tawag nila rito ay “Lansakan.” Ito ay ginaganap tuwing Mahal na Araw. Sangayon sa tradisyon ang mga tao’y nagpapakalasing gaya ng mga sundalong Roman noong naghihirap si Kristo.

Kaya kapag Semana Santa doon sa Norzagaray, habang maraming mga tao ang nagpapakabanal, habang dumadagundong sa loudspeaker ang pabasa ng pasyon, habang ang mga Santo at Santa ay ipinuprusisyon, sa iba’t ibang sulok naman ng bayan ay ang mga taong nag-iinuman at nagpapakalasing. Tuloy-tuloy ang daloy ng beer, gin, rum, vodka, tuba at lambanog. Sa katagalan ay naiihi na ang mga manginginom sa kanilang salawal dahil sa kanilang kalasingan.

Sabi ng marami, dapat daw kapag umiinom, ay papuntahin lang ang alak sa bituka at tiyan at hindi sa utak, upang hindi malasing. Ngunit sasabihin ko sa inyo, bilang isang medical expert, na ang alkohol na ating iniinom ay pupunta at pupunta sa dugong nananalatay sa ating katawan, at hindi kalauna’y maapektohan nito ang ating pag-iisip.

Hindi naman siguro ninyo itatanggi na maraming mga tao ang kung ano-ano ang kanilang nasasabi, nagagawa, at inaasal kapag sila ay lasing na. Kadalasan, kanilang pinagsisihan ang mga nangyari kapag humupa na ang epekto ng alkohol at sila ay nahimasmasan na.

Hindi ko sinasabing bawal tayong mag-inuman, o sa ako’y nagmamalinis. Ngunit naging saksi ako sa maraming buhay na nawasak at maraming magagandang kinabukasan ang nalusaw sa walang pakundangang inuman. Maraming magkakaibigan ang nag-aaway kapag sila ay “lasheng” na. Ang malulutok na halakhak ay nauuwi sa malulutok na “put*ng ina mo!” At kung minsan hindi lang saksakan ng init ang kanilang pagtatalo, kundi nauuwi pa sa tunay na saksakan.

Marami ring mga pamilya ang nawatak sanhi ng alkohol. Nagiging mas mahalaga ang ating relasyon sa alak at ka-tropa kaysa sa relasyon sa tahanan. Nagiging sanhi rin ng away at paghihirap kapag ang mga pinagpawisang sweldo ay nauuwi lang kay Chivas Regal at Johnny Walker. Nalulugmok tayo sa putik ng walang pag-asenso.

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kinilaw na utak

Ngayon, bilang isang duktor, marami na rin akong nakitang mga taong naging bilanggo ng alak. Kahit anong pilit nilang humilagpos sa mga kuko nito ay hindi sila makaalpas, dahil sa haling na haling na ang kanilang katawan dito. Kahit luto na ang kanilang atay, baldado na ang puso, at tustado na ang utak, tuloy pa rin sila sa pag-inom. Napakarami na akong nakita na nagbuwis ng kanilang buhay dahil sa alkohol.

Alam kong bahagi na ng hibla ng ating pagka-Pilipino ang magtagay-tagay sa anumang pagdiriwang. Ngunit sana naman ay ating  pag-isipan ang mga ito, at hinay-hinay lang po tayo sa ating pag-inom.

Pare, isang tagay pa?

*******

(*report of Euromonitor was published in Philstar and can be read here)

(**photos taken from the internet)

 

 

Amazing Run: 6 Years of Blogging

After 6 years, almost 600 posts, and approaching 190,000 visits, this blog is going strong as ever. In fact, this last year, was my most successful year with regards to the number of visitors.

I know, this is not a race, but still, what an amazing run!

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Thank you for your continued support.

(*photo taken somewhere in Palawan, Philippines, on one of a featured site of the Amazing Race)

 

Freshman

August 1984.

I was waiting inside an air-conditioned office of a very old edifice, the Main Building of the University of Santo Tomas (UST). Barely 2 months since the school had started of my freshman year, and I was already sitting inside the Dean’s office of the College of Science. Just like the notorious mandate, “to the Principal’s office,” this incident was not much different. I was there to drop a class in which I was not welcomed anymore.

Few days before that, I was in the Physical Education (PE) class of about 30 or so male students. It was Gymnastics I, which I really don’t have any interest, but needed to take, as it was part of my curriculum in the blocked section. The instructor was an older, yet still hulking man, whom I suppose was a gymnast in his heyday.

We really did not do a lot of gymnastics as I recall. It was more of running and walking around the grandstand, than rolling in the mat or tumbling on the gym floor. Definitely we did not ride on the pommel horse or hang on the high bar. It was in one of those running sessions around the grandstand that I got into trouble.

We were supposed to run around the UST grandstand for several rounds. Seven times around maybe, I don’t really remember. But as we were running, I felt the urge of nature call. Damn nature call! I have no choice but to answer.

So I slipped out of the ranks and went into the bathroom which was behind the grandstand. After I relieved myself, instead of running back and catching up with the class, I waited for the group to make one round and decided to join them when they come around to where I was. That was my costly mistake.

The instructor noted, that there were several students that broke out of the ranks and stop the group from running. So I was “caught” not in the group and have to run to the place where the teacher ordered the group to stop. The problem was it was not just me who was not in the group. There were five of us. The instructor thought it was a mutiny! Though to be honest, I don’t know any of the other boys, nor did we planned this together.

The teacher was really mad. He said that we were “cheating” and trying to take the easy way out by not completing the ordered number of runs around the grandstand. Instead of letting us run to make it up, he already decided that we were uninvited to join his class anymore. We were told to drop the class. No ifs, and no discussion.

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UST Grandstand

As I was walking away across the field from the grandstand, it started to rain. The song “Crying in the Rain,” a remake by Aha, which was a hit at that time, was blaring loudly in my mind. And like the song goes, I did my crying in the rain.

That’s what brought me in the Dean’s office. No, not the crying, but the “cheating.”

When the Dean of Science asked me what was the reason I was dropping the PE class, I told her the whole story. I understand the consequence that by dropping that class, even how trivial it may be, I would not be eligible to apply for the Accelerated Class in Biology which was what I was eyeing to be in. Dropping a class, would delay me a semester.

The Accelerated Class was an elite group of students taking the Batchelor of Science, Major in Biology, in 3 years instead of the regular 4 years. They do it with increased workload every semester combined with summer classes. This was a fast track to enter UST Medical School. Only the best students with academic distinction were invited to join that class. Now, that opportunity was slipping away from me.

The Dean then asked me point blankly if I really want to drop the class. I honestly told her that I don’t want to, but I really have no other choice. The PE instructor kind of told me it’s either I drop the class while I can, or fail.

The Dean listened to my story intently. She barely knew me, since I was a first year student and the first semester was only 2 months in session. But I think she saw something in me: a 16-year-old lanky kid who needed a second chance.

The Dean then made a phone call to the PE Department. After a few minutes of what sounds like negotiating, she told me with a smile that I don’t have to drop the PE class. But I needed to attend the Gymnastic class regularly and to be in my best behavior. She never have to tell me twice, that was all I needed.

*******

January 2016.

I am back in the UST campus. I decided to drop by at the Main Building, where the College of Science is. I am actually attending a seminar at the Medicine building as part of our 25th year graduation anniversary from UST College of Medicine and Surgery. But I wanted to visit the College of Science as well, and perhaps see the Dean. Though I found out that the one I knew, have long retired.

I was just hoping to let her know that the kid that once sat in her office, who eventually joined the Accelerated Class, and made it to the Dean’s list, has come back to pay homage and give thanks for the second chance he was given.

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UST Main building today

*******

P.S. Maybe I should wander to the PE department too and let them know, that the kid who was unable to complete his run around the grandstand before, is still running. Yes, running half-marathons, even after 32 years since freshman.

(*photos taken during my last homecoming)

 

Sa Iyong Paglisan

Akala ko’y hindi ka na kailangang lumisan,

Akala ko’y hindi mo na ako iiwan,

Akala ko’y nandito na lahat ng ‘yong kailangan,

Nguni’t meron pa rin pa lang kulang.

 

Tanggap kong nag-iiba ang iyong pangangailangan,

Kahit hindi ko man lubos na maintindihan,

Nguni’t tunay na pag-ibig ay hindi hahadlang,

Ang pag-alis mo ay hindi ko pipigilan.

 

Akin lamang pakiusap na iyong tatandaan,

Na narito lang ako at sa iyo’y nag-aabang,

Sige na, humayo ka nang mag-shopping,

Basta pasalubong ko’y aking hihintayin.

 

Steak and Rye

It was late afternoon of New Year’s Eve, and I was rounding on our patients in the ICU. I came to one room and the patient was sitting upright in his bed. On his bedside table was a tray with a large piece of steak on a plate, a drinking glass, and a bottle of rye whisky. What? Is this a restaurant or hotel? Is this the new hospital food?

Most of our patients in the ICU are not awake enough to eat food, let alone have a solid meal like that. We provide nutrition through a tube in their nose that goes to their stomach and they feast on liquid feedings. Or if their gut is not working, we give them “gourmet” nutrition through their veins. In fact once patients can eat solid food, most of the time they graduate out of the ICU.

But what about this patient? A slab of steak? And is alcohol sanctioned by the hospital now? Here’s the story.

He presented to the hospital with worsening shortness of breath. After some imaging work-up, he was found to have a large tumor in his chest. I saw him several days ago when he was admitted in a regular room, not in the ICU. We were consulted for the lung mass and I scheduled him to have a bronchoscopy (a procedure putting a flexible scope to the lungs) and biopsy.

However before the scheduled procedure could be done, he suffered a cardiorespiratory arrest, got intubated, was hooked to a ventilator and was moved into the ICU.

Good thing was despite the circumstances, he improved enough that we got him off the ventilator. Yet we don’t have a tissue diagnosis to confirm that what he has is cancer, even though the signs indicated that it was malignant. But we needed to be sure.

So I proceeded with a bronchoscopy and got a biopsy, and finally established a diagnosis. It was lung cancer alright.

Unfortunately his condition got worse again. He again required ventilator support, though a non-invasive type, which is like a CPAP machine. I told him that the final pathology proved that it was cancer. And based on its extent, plus with his grave condition, he was an unlikely candidate for any surgery, or chemotherapy, or radiation to treat his cancer.

That’s when he decided that he wanted to go on his own terms. His own way. Like Frank Sinatra’s song, “I did it my way.”

He requested that we discontinue the non-invasive ventilator, even though he was struggling without it. He asked to have a New York steak and a bottle of rye whiskey for his last meal. So in between labored breath and heavy heaving, he chomped on his steak and sipped on his rye.

When I came to his room that afternoon, despite his terrible situation, he was even smiling while having his last supper.

After he had his meal, we transitioned him to full comfort care per his request. No more ventilators, nor machines, nor any more interventions. Only comfort medications. And while he was watching TV in his ICU bed, waiting for the ball to drop in New York’s Time Square, he quietly slipped into a blissful sleep.

Just before the old year ended, our patient went out peacefully into the eternal night. He exactly did it his way.

For us who made it through another year, may we find new aspirations, new hope, and renewed zeal for life, as we face this new year.

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Christmas 2015

We are experiencing a seasonably warm December right now. In fact we have more rain than snow this month, that we had flooding in downtown Des Moines these past couple of weeks. Yesterday it felt weird that we even had a thunderstorm, with lightnings and pouring rain this late in the year. Is this Iowa winter?

Come to think of it, if it has been cold enough, with all this moisture in our area, this could all be snow!

I know it’s not just here in the Midwest that we are experiencing the relatively warm weather, but also in other parts of the US. Some friends of ours in New York City even posted in Facebook that it was 70º F today there. I guess there will be no snow in Central Park this Christmas.

Experts said that it is El Niño, the periodic warming of the equatorial eastern Pacific Ocean, accounting for this phenomenon. Or is this global warming?

It’s not that I am complaining, for I’ll rather have a warm day than freeze, but my children have been wishing for snow for Christmas, just like the song “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.” And they may not be the only ones who are praying for snow.

Then today, on this Christmas eve, it came. Santa Claus? No. Snow!

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We will have white Christmas after all.

From our family to yours, may you have a Merry Christmas!

(*photo taken with an iPhone)