Pagmumuni-muni sa Bubong na Yero

Umaakyat ka ba sa bubong ng inyong bahay upang doon tumambay? Sabi nila pusa at mga kalapati lang daw ang umuupo at lumalagi sa bubong. Pero bakit si Spiderman o si Batman, laging tumatambay sa bubong?

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Hunyo, 1987.

Mahigit isang linggo pa lang nagsimula ang pasukan. Unang semestre at unang taon kong tumapak sa medical school. Masasabing punong-puno ng pag-asa ang aking hinaharap. At ako rin nama’y punong-puno ng pangarap.

Ngunit isang gabi, nang ako’y umuwi, ay mayroon kumosyon sa amin. Hindi lamang sa aming bahay, kundi sa aming magkakapit-bahay sa lugar namin sa Maynila.

Akin napag-alaman na may sunog daw sa malapit sa amin. Ngunit kahit sa kabilang kalye pa ang sunog, dahil sa dikit-dikit na parang mga posporo ang mga bahay doon sa amin sa Sampalok, ay madaling kumalat ang apoy.

Hindi ito ang unang sunog na aming naranasan. Mahigit isang taon lang ang lumipas bago ang sunog na ito, nang magkaroon ng sunog sa mismong kalye namin. Dalawang bahay lang ang layo mula sa amin. Lumikas na nga kami sa aming bahay. Buti na lamang at naagapan ng mga bumbero at hindi masyadong kumalat ang apoy. Gayon pa ma’y isang bata ang namatay noon, dahil hindi ito naitakas.

Kaya nang magkaroon ulit ng sunog sa aming lugar nang gabing iyon, hindi maiaalis ang takot sa aming puso. Ako’y inutusan ng aking nanay na tanawin kung gaanong kalayo ang sunog, upang malaman kung kailangan naming mag-alsa balutan.

Paano ko tatanawin ang sunog? Wala namang tore doon sa amin. Hindi rin naman pwedeng akyatin ang poste ng Meralco. Kaya’t walang pinakamagandang lugar para makita kundi sa bubong ng aming bahay. Kahit pa ba dalawang palapag lang ang aming bahay, kapag nasa bubong na, ay malayo na rin ang matatanaw.

Maraming beses na rin naman akong umakyat sa bubong ng aming bahay. Nariyan ‘nung mag-palipad ako ng saranggola kasama ng aking tiyuhin sa aming bubong. At minsan din ay tinulungan ko ang aking tatay na magpahid ng vulcaseal sa aming mga yero dahil tumutulo ito kapag umuulan.

Ngunit lahat ng pagkakataon noon ay sa araw ako umaakayat sa bubong. Ngayon lang ako umakyat nang gabi. Pero hindi ako miyembro ng “akyat-bahay.”

Matapos kong tanawin ang sunog, ay aking natanto na malayu-layo naman pala ito sa amin. Siguro, tatlong kalye ang layo. Akin ding naobserbahan na ang ningas ng malalaking dila ng apoy ay dahan-dahan nang humuhupa. Siguro dahil na rin sa pagsisikap ng mga bumbero.

Pagkatapos kong isigaw at ipaalam sa aking pamilya na malayo naman pala ang sunog at hindi naming kailangang lumikas, ay nanatili at tumambay pa muna ako sa bubong ng aming bahay. Habang ako’y nakatanaw sa nagliliyab na apoy, ay akin ding tinangkang tanawin kung ano ang bukas para sa amin.

Sa katunayan, galing lang ako sa ospital ng gabing iyon. Sa ospital kung saan nakaratay ang aking ama. Aking kinuha ang mga plaka ng kanyang CAT scan mula sa isang lugar kung saan ito isinagawa, at inihatid ito sa ospital kung saan siya ooperahan.

Isang malaking tumor sa utak ang hatol sa aking ama.

Mapanganib daw ang gagawing operasyon. Hindi rin kayang isiguro ng duktor kung magiging tagumpay ito. Ngunit operasyon lang ang tsansang meron kami, kung gusto pa naming madagdagan ang buhay ng aking tatay. Siya ay singkwenta anyos lamang.

Totoo, hindi ang tinatanaw na sunog ang pinakamalaking nagbabadyang panganib sa aming buhay noong gabing iyon. Hindi apoy na maaring tumupok sa aming bahay ang aking kinakatakutan, kundi isang sakuna na papatay sa apoy ng aming buhay at aming mga pangarap.

Paano kung hindi kayang lunasan ang sakit ng aking ama? Paano kung hindi magtagumpay ang operasyon? Buhay niya ang nakasalalay dito. At buhay rin naming pamilya ang magdudusa.

Ngunit habang ako’y nakamasid sa apoy na tumutupok sa mga bahay, ay isang katahimikan ang sa aki’y sumukob. Ang aking takot at pangangamba ay pawang inalis at isang kasiguraduhan ang aking nadama.

Hindi ko man batid kung ano ang hatid ng bukas, ay batid ko naman kung sino ang may hawak ng bukas. At ipinangako ko rin sa aking sarili, na anuman ang mangyari, ay hindi ako bibitaw sa aking mga pangarap.

Pagkalipas ng tatlong buwan matapos kong magmuni-muni sa bubong ng aming bahay, ay pumanaw ang aking ama.

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Enero, 2016.

Ako ay muling nakatanaw mula sa isang mataas na lugar sa Maynila. Sasabihin kong mas mataas pa sa bubong ng aming bahay noon ang aking kinalalagyan. Muli akong tumanaw sa lugar ng Sampalok kung saan minsan isang gabi, maraming taon na ang nakaraan, ako ay tumanaw at nagmuni-muni.

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overlooking Manila area and the Sampaloc PLDT tower

Ngunit walang nagliliyab na sunog akong tinatanaw. Wala ring nagbabadyang panganib akong binabantayan.

Kahit pumanaw ang aking ama, sa gabay naman ng Maykapal, at dahil na rin sa pagsusumikap, ay nakaraos din ang aming pamilya. Ako’y napagkalooban ng scholarship na siyang nagtuguyod na magtuloy ako sa aking pag-aaral. At kahit pa laging maliit at minsan ay kulang ang aking baon, ay naigapang naman at nakatapos rin.

Ngayon, ako’y  nanumbalik sa aking unibersidad doon sa Maynila, upang dumalo sa aming 25th graduation anniversary mula sa medical school.

Mula sa mataas na lugar na iyon, muling nagmuni-muni at nagpasalamat. Wala mang sunog akong tinatanaw, ang apoy naman ng mga pangarap ko’y patuloy pa ring nagliliyab.

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(*Photo taken during my last visit to Manila, January 2016)

 

Empty Room

As parents, there are events in our child’s life that are happy moments, that we are proud of and we celebrate.

Events like their first spoken word, or their first step. Or maybe it is their first goal in the kids’ soccer league, or their first medal in the youth swim meet. Or maybe it is their first piano recital or perhaps their first role in their school play.

Or perhaps it is your child’s first visit to the principal’s office. What? Oh my mistake! We defintely are not proud of that, and don’t celebrate that event.

However, there are also events in our child’s life that are supposed to be milestone, but somehow we are sad that that day has come.

One of those events is when they enter college. Especially when the university they are going to is more than a hundred miles away, and that means they are leaving home.

So the day that we are preparing for, and also dreading for, but know that it is coming, has come.

Our little girl is off to college! Where did time go?

my daughter’s school bag evolution: from elementary, to high shcool, and college

As we sent her off to college the other day, I was having some difficulty bringing her stuff and things down the stairs to load in the car. It was not that her stuff was heavy, like her teddy bear. Or maybe a little bit, like her drawer. But it was more so that my heart was heavy. I can’t seem to let go.

We want her to stay home. Perhaps just to be with us for a little longer. But we also know that it is time. Time for her to pursue her chosen career. Time for her to follow her dreams. Time for her to go out there, and make her own mark in this world.

As I passed my daughter’s room this morning, something have drawn me to enter it. Perhaps I was hoping that she’s still there, sleeping in her bed. Perhaps I was wishing to find someone there that I would nudge out of bed, and tell her to go hop into the shower, for it is late. Perhaps I was just missing someone to greet good morning, and remind her that I love her.

We are definitely not washing our daughter’s bedsheet, pillow cases, and blanket. We will leave her bed as is, as she left it. Until she comes back home for a visit.

 

 

University by the Bay

My alma mater have seen renovation and updates in its structures and facilities over the years. After all, a more than 400-year-old establishment needs to keep up with the changes of time.

Earlier this year, when I revisted my school, I have noted some changes in the campus that were not present when I left its portals 25 years ago.

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If you enter the campus through the España entrance, the first structure that will welcome you is the Arch of the Century.  Somehow adding this low wall bearing the university’s name (photo above) at the side of the arch, gives this archaic landmark a fresh look.

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In front of the Main Building, which is arguably the most recognizable building on the campus, there is now the huge “UST” letters, as well as a growling tiger (above photo) prowling on the university’s grounds.

Even the plaza where the statue of Father Benavidez stands, got some modern framework around it giving it a contemporary look (photo below).

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I believe many of the makeover and updates in the campus were constructed right before the 400th year celebration 5 years ago.

Below is the landmark commemorating that event.

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Even the walkway that I passed everyday during my time in the university, has a different look. I don’t even remember that it was named Burgos Lane (photo below). I also like the “No Smoking” sign, which I hope is being followed and enforced.


Besides the changes inside the campus, there are also noticeable changes around and outside the campus. For sure the skyscrapers towering around the university campus were not there during my time.

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Then a couple of days ago, somebody posted a photo of my alma mater. I would say that this is the most ambitious and spectacular update to date that I have ever seen.

They added an ocean to the campus!

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Now it can claim to be called the University by the Bay.

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P.S. On a serious note, I pray for the safety of all who are affected by the heavy rains and flooding in the Philippines.

(*Photos I took and processed with an iPhone, except for the last picture which was taken by Michael Angelo Reyes and I grabbed from the internet.)

Gunita Sa Makulimlim Na Umaga

Noong isang araw, ako ay lumabas para maghehersisyo. Makulimlim at mahamog ang umaga. At habang ako ay tumatakbo, ang gunita ko naman ay nagliliwaliw at tumatakbo rin. Ito ay napadpad sa isang nakaraan. Sa isa ring makulimlim na umaga………

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Sariwa pa sa aking isip ang araw na iyon. Bagama’t tanghali na ay binabalot pa rin ng dilim ang umaga. Makapal at maiitim ang ulap na tumatabing sa sikat ng araw. Bumubuhos din ang napakalakas na ulan. Para bagang tumataghoy at tumatangis ang langit. Nakikiramay kaya ito sa aking nadarama?

Dahil sa kailangan naming dumalo sa isang tinakdang pagtitipon at dapat makarating sa tamang oras, ay napasabak kami sa napakalakas na ulan. Aming sinuong ang bumubuhos na delubyo. Nakarating naman kami sa aming paroroonan.

Matapos kaming makarating sa gusali ng pagtitipon, ay aking pinagmasdan ang mga taong pumapasok sa bulwagang iyon. Lahat sila ay pawang mga basang sisiw na nilublob sa tubig. Kulang na lang ay magsabon na rin sila. Pormal at magagara pa naman ang bihis nila. Buti na lamang at may dala kaming payong. Ngunit gayon pa man ay basang-basa pa rin ang aking sapatos at pantalon.

Kahit na makulimlim at bumabagyo noong araw na iyon, at kahit pa basang-basa ang karamihan dahil sa sinugod nilang lakas ng ulan, ay maaliwalas at maligaya ang napupulsong damdaming sa loob ng bulwagang iyon.

Hindi ko alam kung bakit ko piniling magsuot ng itim noong araw na iyon. Ako ba’y nagluluksa? Ako ba’y dadalo sa libing?

Sabi nila ang araw na iyon ay isang kaganapang tinatanaw.  Sabi nila ito raw ay kasagutan sa isang inaasam na pangarap. Pangarap na maraming tao sa iba’t-ibang lupalop ng mundo ang nagkakandarapa na makamit. Sabi nila ito raw ang katapusan ng mahabang paghihintay. Para sa akin, mahigit dalawampung taon ang inabot.

Sabi pa nila ito raw ay masayang okasyon. Ito raw ay araw ng pagdiriwang. Araw na dapat ipagbunyi. Ngunit bakit may kurot ng lungkot akong nararamdaman? Oo nga’t may tuwa sa aking puso ngunit bakit may bahid rin ito ng lumbay?

Matapos makapasok sa malaking bulwagang iyon ang lahat ng kinaukulan at maupo kami sa tinalagang upuan para sa amin, ay nagsimula na rin ang hinihintay naming seremonya. Tumahimik ang lahat, at kulog at ugong na lang ng malakas na ulan ang aming naririnig.

Pumasok na ang hukom. Ito’y nagbigay ng isang masayang pagbati.

Hindi na nagtagal kaming lahat ay pinatayo. Ako, kasama ng maraming tao, mula sa iba’t-ibang lahi at bansa. Ipinataas sa amin ang aming kanang kamay, at kami’y pinabigkas.

At habang ako’y nanunumpa sa harap ng dayuhang bandila, habang umiiyak ang mga alapaap, ay nangingilid naman sa aking mga mata ang luha………

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Halos isang taon na rin pala ang lumipas mula nang aking ipagluksa ang aking inang bayan. Mag-iisang taon na pala ang nagdaan nang aking isuko ang aking pagkamamamayan sa lupa kong sinilangan.

Namatay at nalibing na nga ba ang aking pagiging isang Pilipino? Huwag naman sanang mangyari.

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(*isinulat para sa pagunita ng buwan ng wika)

(**Photos taken with an iPhone, one foggy morning)

 

Mysterious Weed

After being away for a few weeks, we came home and was pleasantly surprised that our garden was still in full bloom. We had lots of rain this summer, plus we asked our friend to water our plants if needed, while we were gone.

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Not just the flowers, but the vegetables as well were blossoming, like the tomatoes and the pepper.

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But besides the flowers and vegetables, the weeds have also grown tall. There are areas that the weeds are crowding the other plants, that it even started to look like a weed garden. No, I’m not talking about the illegal “weed.”

When we looked closely to a patch of our garden with overgrown weeds, a peculiar plant was among them. We thought it was just a tall weed, but it wasn’t.

It was corn!

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It’s kind of puzzling how those corn plants got there, for we definitely did not plant them.

We know that a corn field is not too far away, could the wind blew some seeds when the farmers were planting their crop? Or maybe a bird drop a corn kennel there? Or maybe the chipmunks? Or could it be the leprechaun that planted them? Who knows?

After clearing the weeds, we decided to keep the corn and not pull them out. After all, they have ears of corn on them already.

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Maybe next year, we’ll plant corn in our garden on purpose. This is Iowa anyway, the corn center of the entire USA, and perhaps the whole world.

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Not too long from now, we’ll be harvesting our own corn. Unless the leprechaun (lepre-corn?) get to them first.

 

Country Drive

Last month when we were driving in Montana, we encountered something in the road that reminded me of the following story:

There was a city driver that wandered in the countryside, so the story goes.

As he was navigating the narrow winding road, an old beat up truck came around the bend where he was heading, and was driving towards him.

When the truck passed by him, the farmer rolled down his window and shouted, “Cow!”

The city driver felt insulted. How rude can this country driver be, and how dare him call him a cow!

So the city slicker angrily shouted back, “Pig!”

Feeling triumphant that he was able to retaliate at the “rude” farmer, the city driver approached the narrow bend, and made the sharp turn.

He then drove smack into a cow.

Back to our Montana drive, we indeed saw road signs warning of cows crossing. Luckily we did not crash into cows. But this is what actually stopped us.

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Not cows but horses! Horses with no riders.

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I did not honk my horn, nor revved my engine to scare them away. I just let them be and passed by them slowly.

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Have a good day horse! (*Who are you calling horse?*)

Return to Yosemite

 

Five years ago we visited Yosemite National Park (see previous post). It left such an impression, that it deserves another visit. So we did.

Here are the photos of our return to Yosemite earlier this month.

This time around, we were able to reserve a housing just a few miles outside the park. We stayed at Yosemite View Lodge, a resort located at the edge of the majestic Merced river.

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Below is the gorgeous view from our room. Yes, we are lull to sleep with the sound of rushing water.

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Water falls are arguably the most notable feature of Yosemite National Park. So here are photos of the falls on this park.

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Above is the Upper Yosemite Falls. Below are the Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls as seen from afar.

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A much closer view of the Lower Yosemite Falls.

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IMG_3320Besides the water falls, Yosemite is also known for its mountains and rock formations.

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Below is “El Capitan,” the largest monolith granite in the world.

IMG_3304Another distinctive rock formation rising from the valley floor is the Half Dome, an iconic landmark of Yosemite.

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With breathtaking views like these, I would say that a second visit is well worth it.

From Yosemite,

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(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Long Beach, a Gala, and an Electromagnetic Lecture

Part of our big summer trip few weeks ago was going down to Long Beach, California. Long Beach is a city in Los Angeles County at the pacific coast of the US. It is 24 miles away from the city of Los Angeles, but that drive can take more than an hour due to terrible traffic.

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We went to Long Beach to attend my medical school’s sponsored event. It was the 24th University of Santo Tomas Medical Alumni Association of America (USTMAA) Grand Reunion and Medical Convention.

The Hilton Long Beach was the site of the event, and that’s where we stayed for a couple of days.

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Only a few blocks away from the hotel is the ocean and the Pine Avenue Pier. One early morning, I went out for my 2-3 miles run, and I wandered down to the pier (above and below photos were taken during my run).

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The Pier was lined with prime restaurants, so I guess you won’t get hungry if you stroll there.

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Here’s the marina with some of the boats docked there.

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There’s even a lighthouse at that Pier.

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Back to the USTMAAA event, since the event is billed as a Grand Reunion, many medical alumni from different batches attended. The oldest batch represented in the gala night was from medical class of 1951, though he was a lone attendee of his class. He was probably in his 90’s or nearing 90, yet he still looked strong and springy.

One of the biggest contingent was from the class of 1966, who were celebrating their 50th (Golden) anniversary. I tell you, those “old” folks can still dance the night away.

The “youngest” (the term ‘young’ is really relative) batch in that reunion was our class – from year 1991, which in my estimation was the biggest group represented. We were celebrating our 25th (Silver) anniversary.

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Above is a photo I grabbed from USTMAAA website, showing our batch during the parade of the different classes at the gala dinner. Though many of my other classmates who went to Long Beach did not attend the gala, but came for the other festivities and the medical conference.

To be honest, I am not really a fan of galas and pageantries, so it that was not the main reason I attended. Sad to admit, I can’t even dance. Of course seeing my old friends and classmates was enough motivation to attend.

But the biggest reason I came was, I was invited to give one of the lectures during the medical convention, which I considered an honor and a privilege. Many of the lecturers, including the keynote speaker, was from my batch.

The theme of the conference was “Current and Interesting Topics in Medicine and Surgery.” Below is an ‘official’ photo (grabbed from USTMAAA website) of me giving the talk.

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The title of the lecture I gave was: The Lung and Winding Road (my apologies to the Beatles): Current Trends in Lung Cancer Screening and Diagnosis.

A portion of my talk was about Electromagnetic Navigational Bronchoscopy, a relatively new technology using GPS-like guidance with videogame-like images, when doing bronchoscopy and lung biopsy (see previous post about this topic).

Are you wondering what was the slide projected on the screen on the photo above?

Here is that specific slide on my presentation:

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For readers who are not familiar with the above character, this is Voltes V. He is an anime super robot, aired as a TV series in the Philippines in the 1970’s. One of his weapon was the “electromagnetic top.” We definitely are not the first ones to use the “electromagnetic” technology.

After the lecture, many attendees approached me and told me that they enjoyed my presentation very much. Maybe they were all Voltes V fans.

I had a fun time in Long Beach. I hope to be reunited with my classmates and other alumni in the next UST event. Borrowing the battle cry from the Voltes V team, “Let’s volt in!”

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P.S. Voltes V is now forever profiled in the USTMAAA website.

 

 

Empty Bench Revisited

I made a video 5 years ago and posted it here on January 5, 2011. It was titled “The Empty Bench.”

This bench at the front yard of our home, was the favorite place where my mother and my mother-in-law would sit, especially early in the day to catch the morning sunshine, whenever they came to visit us here in Iowa.

My mother passed away November 2014, and my mother-in-law passed away a week ago. I’m reposting this video in their loving memory.

Thank you both for the love and the memories.