Portal Opened

When I started blogging 10 years ago, I was happy if I would have 10 views per day on my site. As time goes on my readership increased, that in the past couple of years this blog has been averaging 200 to 250 views per day. Sometimes it would garner more than 300 views a day, which I think is a decent number of hits provided that I don’t link this blog to any other form of social media or platforms.

But last week something happened which I don’t have an explanation for. It is as if a portal was opened.

My daily views spiked, that few days ago it soared way beyond 1000 and yesterday it reached more than 3500 views in a day, without me posting a new entry. (At the time of writing it looks like today’s visits will even be higher.) Of course that is still nothing compared to other popular blog sites. Definitely not still in a category that you would call “viral.”

I really don’t have a reason for the increase viewership all of a sudden. Maybe some readers shared it. Maybe an avid reader keeps on visiting this site more than 3000 times a day. Or maybe this blog has bolted beyond Earth’s blogosphere and it is now being read by the Martians.

image from futurism.com

This increased hits sounds like “ka-ching.” Should I take a leap and open this site to advertisements since I am getting lots of traffic now and make a few cents out of this blogging? Maybe I could be an “influencer?”

On second thought, I guess not. I’m sticking to no ads, no commercials. Still doing this just for the fun of writing.

For my new readers, I am grateful for your interest and welcome to my site. And for my previous followers, thank you for your continued visit.

Chicago (Bull)Horns

We have been to Chicago several times before, perhaps ten times or more, yet we were there again last Valentine’s weekend. It’s not that Chicago is a particularly romantic place, but we were there for a different reason.

The 2020 NBA All-Star weekend was in Chicago during that time, but we were not there for that reason as well. Though I wish I could have watched the NBA All-Star games. (This post has nothing to do with the NBA team Chicago Bulls.)

We went to Chicago to see a concert. Whose concert? It’s a group that our daughter introduced us to, and she’s a big fan of them. She is a music major and a classical pianist if you have not known that already, and I would say that she has a good taste for music. But we did not watch an opera, for I don’t think I could really appreciate that kind of music genre. The concert that we watched was of a group of three young tenors that are classic-pop crossover who fondly call their music “popera.”

The concert we watched

Many of the songs they sang were in Italian, like “O Sole Mio” and “Grande Amore,” though they have some cover of old polular songs like Frank Senatra’s “My Way” and Barbara Streisand’s “People.” I told my daughter that at least I could understand 1 out of 2 songs that they sang.

We also have relatives from the Philippines that are visiting us here in Iowa so we brought them along for the drive to see Chicago. Even though it was too cold to roam around yet we were still able to show them some of the famous spots of the city. Is the Jollibee restaurant a part of that famous location for a Filipino tour? Of course!

We also took our guests up the viewing deck at the 103rd floor of Willis Tower (previously known as Sears Tower). It took us almost 3 hours to get to the top, not that we have to climb the stairs, for that would be much faster. It was the line of people waiting to go up that was really long. Definitely a painfully long time to wait for an elevator ride.

View from the skydeck of Willis Tower

We booked rooms in a hotel in downtown Chicago at the heart of the city’s bustling traffic. Nearby our hotel was a fire station. So you could imagine the street noise that we could hear even if we were already on the 12th floor of the building. Sure enough it was hard to sleep at night due to the sounds of wailing sirens and cars honking. No wonder they provided ear plugs as part of their amenities.

I am not used to hearing car horns already let alone hearing them almost continuously through the night. I thought the beeping would only last during rush hours, but no it did not stop. People were honking their car horns even at the unholy time of 3 o’clock in the morning. Unless they consider that rush hour still, or perhaps these people were drunk or just plain rude. Well, it’s Chicago’s bullhorns!

Don’t get me wrong, I like the city of Chicago and I have been exposed to noisy environment in my life as I grew up in Manila and I also lived for a few years in New York City. But I have been in Iowa now for 16 years and have adapted to peaceful rural living.

But we’re back in Iowa now. I’m back to the quiet nights where the only noise I could hear when it gets dark is the rare hooting of the illusive owl and the deafening sounds of my thoughts.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Sa Ilalim ng Tulay

Isang tinadhanang umaga, pahanon ng tag-ginaw,

Sa lugar na kinikilalang lungsod ng nagmamahal,

Ay may isang magsing-irog ang doo’y nagsumpaan,

Na sila ay mag-iibigan anuman ang kapalaran.

Sa kabila ng mundong mabangis, malupit at malamig,

Walang makakahadlang sa kanilang wagas na pag-ibig,

Doon sa may tulay at sa may rumaragasang tubig,

Silay nagpasyang tumalon, upang magtagpo sa langit.

Nguni’t huwag malungkot sa kuwento ng magkasintahan,

At huwag ninyong isiping, sila’y tumalong nagpatiwakal,

Sila lamang ay napalundag dahil puso ay umaapaw,

Sa pag-ibig at galak na hinding-hindi mapupukaw.

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Maligayang Valentine’s po sa lahat ng umiibig.

**********

(*photo taken during our wedding anniversary trip)

The Hero Who Told The Truth: A Tribute

The Wuhan coronavirus, also known as 2019-nCoV, has claimed its ultimate victim. Chinese doctor, Dr. Li Wenliang, the first one to raise the alarm of the spreading epidemic, died on Feruary 7 from the virus that he tried to warn the world about. Instead of heeding his warning, the authorities tried to silence him, as back in December last year, he was arrested for being the whistle blower who is ‘spreading rumors’ about a mysterious virus. Now we can only speculate if the course of the epidemic could have been different if his government had listened to him.

Dr. Wenliang continued to care for patients in Wuhan until he himself got infected with the virus and paid the ultimate sacrifice for his work.

I found a poem in Chinese that was translated in English circulating in the internet, claimed to be penned by the doctor himself. Though I cannot confirm its authenticity, yet I’m sharing it here in honor of Dr. Li Wenliang.

“The Hero Who Told The Truth”

我不想當英雄。
我還有爹娘,
還有孩子,
還有懷孕臨產的妻,
還有許多的病人在病房。
盡管正直換不來善良,
盡管䢛途迷茫,
可還是要繼續進行,
誰讓我選擇了這國這家,
多少委屈,
等打完這仗,
垂淚如雨仰天遠望。
“I don’t want to be a hero.
I still have my parents,
And my children,
And my pregnant wife who’s about to give birth,
And many of my patients in the ward.
Though my integrity cannot be exchanged for the goodness of others,
Despite my loss and confusion,
I should proceed anyway.
Who let me choose this country and this family?
How many grievances do I have?
When this battle is over,
I will look up to the sky,
With tears like rain.”

我不想當英雄。
只是做為醫生,
我不能眼看著這不明的病毒,
傷害著我的同行。
還有那多無辜的人們,
他們盡管已奄奄一息,
可眼睛裏總望著我,
帶著生命的希望。
“I don’t want to be a hero.
But as a doctor,
I cannot just see this unknown virus
Hurting my peers
And so many innocent people.
Though they are dying,
They are always looking at me in their eyes,
With their hope of life.”

誰成想我競死了!
我的靈魂分明在天上,
望著那張白色的病床,
床上分明是我的軀體,
軀體上還是那熟悉的臉龐。
我的父親母親在哪?
還有我親愛的妻子,
那當年我苦苦追求的姑娘。
“Who would have ever realised that I was going to die?
My soul is in heaven,
Looking at the white bed,
On which lies my own body,
With the same familiar face.
Where are my parents?
And my dear wife,
The lady I once had a hard time chasing?”

天上有一道光!
那光的盡頭是人們時常說起的天堂。
我寧願不去哪裏,
我寧願回到武漢我的家鄉。
那裏有我新買的房子,
每月還要還貸的賬。
我怎能舍得,
我怎能舍得!
沒有兒子的爹娘,
該有多麽悲傷;
沒有了丈夫的寶貝,
該如何面對這未來的滄桑。
“There is a light in the sky!
At the end of that light is the heaven that people often talk about.
But I’d rather not go there.
I’d rather go back to my hometown in Wuhan.
I have my new house there,
For which I still have to pay off the loan every month.
How can I give up?
How can I give up?
For my parents without their son,
How sad must it be?
For my sweetheart without her husband,
How can she face the vicissitudes in her future?”

我分明死了。
我看見他們把我的軀殼,
裝進一個袋子。
在袋子的近傍
有許多死去的同胞,
象我一樣,
在黎明時分,
被推進火的爐堂。
“I am already gone.
I see them taking my body,
Putting it into a bag,
With which lie many compatriots
Gone like me,
Being pushed into the fire in the hearth
At dawn.”

再見了,難舍的親人。
永別了,武漢我的故鄉。
但願你們在災難過後,
還記得曾經有人,
努力地讓你們盡早知道真相。
但願你們在災難過後,
學會正直,
不再讓善良的人們,
遭受著無盡的恐懼,
和無奈的悲傷。
“Goodbye, my dear ones.
Farewell, Wuhan, my hometown.
Hopefully, after the disaster,
You’ll remember someone once
Tried to let you know the truth as soon as possible.
Hopefully, after the disaster,
You’ll learn what it means to be righteous.
No more good people
Should suffer from endless fear,
And helpless sadness.”

“那美好的仗我已經打完了,
應行的路我已行盡了,
當守的道我守住了。
從此以後,
有公義的冠冕為我留存。”
《聖經》提摩太後書4.7
“I have fought the good fight.
I have finished the race.
I have kept the faith.
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness.”
2 Timothy 4:7

Wild Goose Run

January and February are usually the coldest months here in Iowa. It is too cold to run outside, at least for most people. The last time I went out to run was back in December, and it was actually Christmas Day as we had a spring time weather that time.

But today is different. By the way, it is 02 02 2020, how neat is that? Even though it is February, our temperature is above freezing (40º F), which is unusual for this time of year for us.

So I decided to go out for a run.

It is a sunny day and our big pile of snow is starting to melt. It may take several days of “warm” days like this to melt them all down though.

Then I met some flocks of wild geese. They usually fly south for the winter, but I am seeing more and more of them staying here in our place even for the winter months.

These geese are equipt for the cold anyway, as they have down feathers which we even use to insulate our jackets. In fact goose down jackets are one of the warmest jackets you can get and has the advantage of being lightweight. But I know they can be expensive.

Here’s more geese coming for a landing.

There is more cold weather forecasted for this coming week, and we will be back to subfreezing temperature, and more snow as well. But for a day, I enjoyed going outside with the wild geese.

A wild goose chase? Maybe.

my shadow selfie with the geese

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Hospital, Cafeteria, and Sanctuary

I was in charge of the ICU that day and it was quite busy. Though it was not that up-to-my-eyeballs hectic for I still had time to go down to the hospital’s cafeteria for lunch. Many times I would grab meal to-go and head back to the ICU work station and inhale my food while doing some computer charting. That day I had the luxury of eating my lunch more leisurely in the cafeteria itself.

Our hospital’s cafeteria is by no means a fancy place to dine in. It is after all a cafeteria serving hospital food. Nothing against hospital food, but if I have time to spare, I will eat somewhere else. Our cafeteria though has a section that has glass wall and ceiling that gives you an atmosphere of being outside. Yes it is still winter and there’s snow on the ground, but the sun was shining that day, so I went there so I could soak up the sun for a change.

However if the hospital cafeteria is as inviting as the photo below, once I settled there they have to pry me like a barnacle from my seat for me to go back to work.

(photo taken in the Philippines at Manila Bay, a few years ago)

Besides the obvious of getting food to eat, there is another reason I stay a while in the cafeteria. That is, it gives me a chance to be away, even for a short time, from ICU work and from the constant hounding from the patients, residents, nurses, and other doctors. Though almost always, when I’m on a lunch break that is when I am called to the Emergency Department for a new admission.

But that day was different. I was enjoying my lunch alone and my phone was unusually silent. I guess the cafeteria gods were smiling at me. I consider these lunch escape my sanctuary – away from the chaos and the harsh reality of the ICU.

The hospital has a chapel too. But that is not the kind of sanctuary I am talking about here. I just needed a place to take a breather.

Then while I was savoring my food, but more so my silent interlude, a man approached me at my table. How dare him interrupt my break time? Who was he to disturb my lunch? Of course I did not react that way and instead I looked up and gave him a smile. It may be forced, but a smile nonetheless.

The man introduced himself and said that he recognized me from a previous ICU encounter. I learned that I took care of his mother in the ICU several months ago. After he gave me some details, I remembered her mother – she had cancer and became septic after receiving chemotherapy. She got very ill very fast and stayed in our ICU for several days. But she recovered.

The man then pointed to his mother, my previous ICU patient, who was sitting in a table a few paces away. They have an appointment with their oncologist at the Cancer Center and that’s why they were in the hospital.

How many patients have we taken cared of in the ICU who was as sick as she was, and have a chance to meet them later after their discharge and were doing relatively well? Sadly to say, that is a rarity. For many of them even if they get out of the ICU, they were never the same. And some don’t even get out at all, I mean not to the world of the living.

This man just stopped by to thank me. It was an interruption that I would appreciate after all.

Then when I was about to leave, a man that I met in the ICU earlier that day sat in a table near me. He was absorbed in his thoughts while eating by his lonesome. Like me he was also taking a break. Perhaps the cafeteria was his sanctuary too, an escape to the sobering truth in the ICU.

Though this man’s predicament was much different than mine. His daughter was our patient in the ICU, and she was not doing well. She had a tumor in her brain that was surgically removed, but even after more than a week post surgery, she remained on life support. Her life was hanging in the balance with uncertain future. Worse part is, she was only 20 years old.

It is very understandable for her family to be heartbroken. No wonder her father rarely leaves her bedside, except for a brief cafeteria break. As a father who has a daughter with similar age, I can only imagine the agony he’s going through.

I needed to go back to the ICU. We needed to help this young lady and her distraught father.

Tracing Vicki Belo’s Wedding Trail

We Filipinos are fond of fairy tales. The wedding of celebrity doctors Vicki Belo and Hayden Kho in 2017 was nothing short of a fairy tale. At least in the place and setting where it happened.

(above photo taken from the web)

I was waiting for my invitation to that great event but I think the mailman misplaced it. On second thought, maybe I was not really invited.

So I did the next best thing, I visited the place where the wedding reception was held. It was in the Opera House in Paris, or also known as Palais Garnier.

This 19th century architectual masterpiece was built by Charles Garnier and opened in 1875. Today, it is home to Paris Ballet, and besides being a venue for great art performances, it is also open for visitors to tour. Well, I guess it can be rented for a wedding reception too.

It was almost closing time when we got to the Opera House, and so we did not have much time to roam, but just enough to get a feel of this grandiose place.

Here’s the majestic staircase where Belo and Hayden did their magical wedding dance.

Of course I had to climb up those steps as if I’m in a fairy tale story too. My wife and I did not dance though on those stairs for we might stumble and fall, and end up in a tragic tale instead.

Here’s the grand foyer (photo below) where the wedding banquet and tables were set up. The newly wed couple and their guests dined under these intricate painted ceilings and opulent lights.

As I said, this is an Opera House, so here’s the auditorium that can sit 2000 people and where the real magical performances are happening.

Below is an interesting Christmas tree made up of ballet shoes which was displayed during our visit. I have no idea what the golden tractor tires are for.

There is also a mystery surrounding the construction of this palatial edifice that facts and fictions are blurred. The famous tale of the “Phantom of the Opera,” a classic novel by a Frenchman, Gaston Leroux, a story that was retold in so many ways was inspired from the history of Palais Garnier.

We roamed around the halls perhaps looking for traces of Belo or perhaps searching for the phantom, until a lady with a bell called everyone still inside the opera house announcing that it was time to close. We were among the last ones who exited the place that night.

The Phantom?

I know this place was already enchanting even before Belo rented this place. Maybe someday I’ll have my birthday bash or a wedding anniversary here. Alright, I’ll dream on.

From Belo’s wedding reception place, albeit two years too late,

Pinoytransplant.

(*photos taken with an iPhone at Palais Garnier, Paris)

10 Years of Blogging: Making A Landmark

Over the history of mankind, people have built structures that have become landmarks. They are a testament of the people who constructed them. Here’s a few that I have visited.

There are landmarks that are enduring and have lasted the passing of time.

Petra, Jordan

There are landmarks that are flawed, but that only make them more endearing.

Pisa, Italy

There are landmarks that symbolizes what a nation and its people stands for.

Washington DC

And then there are landmarks that are very popular and have become cultural icons.

Paris, France

I am not saying that I have created a monument of such significance as of the structures above, for that will be delusional. However I am proud to say that this blog is now 10 years old which I consider an achievement, for that is way more than the average life span of a blog site. My writing has flaws and is far from perfect, but I am still a work in progress.

This blog represents my personal ideas and nobody else. Moreover, I stayed true to my original purpose to keep this blog for the mere joy of writing – no ads, no commercials. If you should know, I still haven’t made a single cent from blogging.

I have posted more than 900 posts and this site has garnered more than half a million views. I know that is really not considered a very popular or a viral site that can have million of views a day. Yet I hope that like a landmark, I am leaving an impression in this blogging world in my own little way. I owe this though to you my dear readers.

And as long as I am enjoying this journey, I will keep on blogging. Thank you for your continued visit.

Sakit sa Balakang, Sambong, at Badjao

Isa sa pinaka-mabentang artikulong inilathala ko sa blog na ito ay ang “Question and Answer: Sakit sa Balakang” (posted Sept 2016). Hanggang ngayon ay mahigit sa 100 tao kada araw pa rin ang sumisilip sa artikulong ito. Marami talaga yatang may masakit na balakang sa ating mga Pilipino. Bakit kaya?

Dahil marami pa rin ang nagtatanong tungkol sa sakit sa balakang, at dahil halos magkakatulad naman ang mga katanungan ay tumigil na po akong sagutin ito ng isa-isa. Pero naglathala naman ako ng aking pang-finale na sagot, “Sakit sa Balakang: Final Answer” (posted Aug 2018).

May natatanggap pa rin akong mga tanong sa sakit sa balakang hanggang sa ngayon, pero dedma na lang po ako. Pero noong nakaraang ilang linggo ay may nagtanong na hindi ko yata kayang palampasin lang, dahil maraming anggulo ito. Kaya’t heto na naman ako, sasagot muli sa isang katanungan.

Ito ang tanong ni Rowena (last name witheld).

Good day po.

Dati po bewang ang medyo masakit na parang ngalay sa akin ng mga nakakaraang araw. After ilang days sumakit po balakang ko sa bandang kaliwa lalo na pag nahakbang ang kaliwa kong paa. Nag pa-check up po ako at may UTI daw po ako. Niresetahan ako ng antibiotic at sambong. Pero kinagabihan lalo tumindi ang sakit.

At bago po nangyari ang lahat, meron po kasing nanghihingi ng limos na babaeng Badjao na may dalang bata. Hindi ko po s’ya nabigyan dahil wala akong barya. Para po siyang nagalit. Bago umalis tinapik po niya ako sa kaliwang bahagi ng balakang.

Nalilito na po ako at nahihirapan. Kaya po nag-search ako at baka may makatulong sa akin. Maraming salamat po.

Dear Rowena,

Sa iyong pagpapahayag ng iyong sintomas, sa aking tingin ay may kinalaman sa galugod (spine) ang dahilan ng iyong sakit sa balakang. Lalo na kapag gumagapang ang sakit sa hita at paa, at kung tumitindi ito kapag naglalakad. Maaring naiiipit ang ugat (nerve root) sa galugod kaya’t sumasakit at parang nangangalay.

Paki-basa na lang ng buo iyong artikulo kong Question and Answer: Sakit sa Balakang para sa mas kumpletong paliwanag at iba pang sanhi ng sakit sa balakang.

Kung ito ay UTI o kaya’y bato sa pantog o daanan ng ihi, maaring makaranas din ng matinding sakit, ngunit ang sakit ay hindi dapat gumagapang hanggang paa. Kung may iba pang gumagapang o nang-gagapang sa iyong hita, eh baka pulis na ang iyong kailangan.

Hindi ako pamilyar sa sambong, kaya’t ni-research ko pa kung ano ito. Ito ang aking napag-alaman tungkol sa sambong:

Ang sambong ay isang mabangong halaman. Ang scientific name nito ay “Blumea balsamifera” o “Blumea camphor.” Ito ay may medicinal properties. Isa rito ay ang diuretic effect – ito iyong nagdudulot ng pagpapaihi. Maari itong makatulong sa UTI o kaya para mailabas ang bato sa daanan ng ihi.

Dahil ang sambong ay mayroong methanolic compounds, ito ay nakakatulong din sa ubo at sipon. Ito rin ay may antibiotic properties dahil ito ay naglalaman ng cyptomeridiol at ichthyotherol acetate. Hindi naman siguro dahil sa sambong kaya’t lalong tumindi ang sakit ng iyong balakang, maliban na lang kung tumungga ka ng balde baldeng tsaa ng sambong ay maari itong makasikmura.

Tungkol naman sa mga Badjao, sila ay isa sa mga diskriminadong katutubong lahi ng tao. Sila ay kilala na “Gypsies of the Sea,” dahil sila ay nakatira sa mga kubo sa dalampasigan o kaya’y sa mga bangka na matatagpuan sa Sulu Sea. Ang kanilang kabuhayan ay ang pangingisda o pagsisid sa mga perlas.

Dahil sa digmaan, politikal na mga isyu, diskriminasyon, at komersyalisasyon ng pangingisda, sila ay natataboy sa kanilang tahanan sa karagatan. Marami sa kanila ay umaalis sa kanilang tradisyonal na lugar at nakikipagsapalaran sa mga barrio at lungsod.

Photo of a Badjao girl that went viral (image from Rappler)

Alam kong may mga Badjao na gumagala-gala sa mga siyudad at humihingi ng limos. Hindi ko alam kung ginagamit pa sila ng mga sindikato. Ngunit huwag naman po sana natin silang paratangan na mayroon silang dalang sumpa o kulam sa mga taong hindi sila napagbigyan, o mga taong hindi nila nagugustuhan.

Una sa lahat, hindi po ako naniniwala sa sumpa ng Badjao. Pangalawa, hindi na nga natin sila matulungan, napag-iisipan pa natin sila ng masama at inaakusahan na nais nila tayong saktan.

Rowena, alam kong naghahanap ka lang ng kasagutan sa iyong nararamdamang sakit, ngunit ako’y nakatitiyak na walang kinalaman ang pagtapik sa iyo ng Badjao. Pero kung sinabi mong hinambalos ka o tinadyakan ka ng Badjao, ay ibang usapan na iyon, at maaaring mo siyang paratangan na sanhi ng iyong sakit sa balakang.

Hanggang dito na lamang po muli, at salamat sa patuloy ninyong pagtangkilik.