Biyaheng Langit

(Eksaktong limang taon ngayong araw na ito ang nakalipas nang aking ilathala ang artikulong Paglalakbay sa Alapaap. Isa lamang pong pagbabalik-tanaw……..)

Paglalakbay sa Alapaap

Alapaap.

Iyan ang aking nakita, sa pagdungaw ko sa bintana. Muli akong nasa himpapawid. Lumilipad. Naglalakbay. Pabalik sa aking lupang sinilangan.

Isip ko ay lumilipad at naglalakbay din. Ngunit hindi tulad ng eroplanong aking sinasakyan na mapayapang tumatahak sa mga alapaap, ang biyahe ng aking isip ay maligalig at matagtag.

Mula nang ako’y lumisan ng ating bansa, dalampung taon na ang nakalilipas, ay maraming beses na rin naman akong nakapagbalik-bayan. At lagi sa aking pagbabalik ay may bitbit itong galak at pananabik. Galak na muli akong tatapak sa lupang tinubuan. At pananabik na makita muli ang iniwang pamilya’t mga kaibigan.

Kahit nang ako’y umuwi noong nakaraang Nobyembre bilang isang medical volunteer para tumulong sa mga nasalanta ni Yolanda, ang naramdaman ko’y hamon na may kahalo pa ring pananabik. Pananabik na makapagbigay ng lunas at ginhawa sa mga kababayang nasakuna ng bagyo.

Ngunit kaka-iba ang pagkakataong ito ng aking pagbabalik. Walang galak. Walang panananabik. Kundi pagkabahala sa kakaibang bagyo na aming sasagupain.

May katiyakan naman ang aking patutunguhan. May katiyakan rin ang oras ng aking pagdating at paglapag sa Maynila. Ngunit hindi ko tiyak kung ano ang aking daratnan. Hindi ko rin tiyak kung gaanong kaikling panahon pa ang sa amin ay inilaan.

Pero ganyan daw talaga ang buhay. Walang katiyakan.

Hindi ko sasabihing hindi ko batid na darating din ang pagkakataong kagaya nito. Ngunit katulad ninyo, ako’y nagnanais at umaasa na sana ay malayo pa ang takipsilim. Sana ay magtagal pa ang tag-araw. Sana ay hindi pa matapos ang awit. Sana ay mahaba pa ang sayaw. Sana……..

Subalit tanggapin man natin o hindi, ang lahat ay may hangganan at may katapusan.

Maraming bagyo na rin naman ang aming pinagdaanan. At kahit gaano kalupit ang hagupit ng unos, ito ay nakakaya ring bunuin. At kahit dumadapa sa dumadaang delubyo ay muli rin namang nakakabangon.

Hindi lang bagyong kagaya ni Ondoy o Yolanda ang aking tinutukoy.

Ngunit kahit gaano pa kaitim ang mga ulap na kumumubli sa liwanag, at kahit gaano kalakas ang sigwa na yumayanig sa pagod na nating katauhan, at kahit gaano pa kahaba ang gabi, ay ating tatandaan na lagi pa ring may bukang-liwayway sa kabila ng mga alapaap.

Atin na lang ding isipin na sa ibabaw ng mga alapaap ay palaging nakangiti ang araw. Sa ibabaw ng mga alapaap ay laging mapayapa. Sa ibabaw ng mga alapaap ay walang nang bagyo. Walang nang pagkakasakit. Walang nang paghihinagpis. Walang na ring pagtangis.

Malapit nang lumapag ang aking eroplanong linululanan. Malapit na rin akong humalik muli sa inang-lupa na aking sinilangan. Muli rin akong hahalik sa mukha ng aking ina na sa akin ay nagsilang.

Sana ay magkita pa kami. Sana ay abutan ko pa siya………..bago siya maglakbay sa ibabaw ng mga alapaap.

**********

Post Note: Nagpang-abot pa kami ng aking ina. Ngunit iyon na ang aming huling pagkikita, sapagka’t dalawang buwan matapos nito, siya ay nagbiyaheng langit at pumailanglang na.

Ebolusyon ng Wika: Tadbalik Edition

Limang taon na pala nang aking kathain ang artikulong “Ebolusyon ng Wika” sa blog site na ito. Marami na rin naman ang sumilip dito. Ngayon, dahil may panibagong interes sa ating katutubong wika kaya naingganyo akong isulat ang sunod na akdang ito.

Ang popularidad ng bagong Meyor o Yorme ng lungsod ng Maynila na may makulay na pananalita ang dahilan kung bakit may ibayong taginting sa ating wikang Pilipino.

Siguro naman ay nakakasakay na kayo sa mga katagang binibitiwan ni Yorme Isko Moreno. Bukang bibig niya ang mga terminong etneb (bente), posam (sampu), takwarents (kwarenta), kodli (likod), gedli (gilid), wakali (kaliwa) at nanka (kanan). Ito’y mga salitang baliktad o kaya’y tadbalik.

Dahil sa lumaki ako sa panahong nauso ang mga salitang kalyeng ito, kaya’t parang masarap muling mapakinggan ang mga katagang ito. Para bagang pagbabalik tanaw na rin sa lumipas na kahapon.

Aaminin ko, hindi po ako mahilig magsalita ng pabaliktad. Siguro dahil sa taga-Bulakan ang aking lahi, mga dugong Balagtas at makakata, kaya’t medyo “purist” o dalisay kaming mag-Tagalog. Hindi naman ibig sabihin ay nag-babalagtasan kaming magsalita sa aming tahanan.

Ngunit sa aba ko, sawing kapalaran,
Ano pang halaga ng gayong suyuan,
Kung ang sing-ibig ko’y sa katahimikan,
Ay humilig na sa ibang kandungan.
(hugot mula sa Florante at Laura ni Francisco Balagtas)

Naiintindihan ko naman po ang mga salitang pabaliktad. Lalo na kapag nasa kalye ako, kagaya nang kapag kami ay nagbabasketball sa kalsada, mariringan ko ang mga kalaro ko na nagbibigay ng direksiyon pagnaglalaro: “Sa wakali mo, sa wakali mo!”

Pero dehins ako magiging tapat kung sasabihin kong hindi ako kailan man nangusap ng salitang kalye. Dahil minsan isang panahon ay naisama rin naman sa aking bokabularyo ang mga salitang ermat, erpat, tsekot, lespu, goli at olats.

Use olats and goli in a sentence: Olats ako sa kagwapuhan ni Richard Gomez, pero tatlong goli lang ang lamang niya.

Sinasambit din naming madalas noon ang salitang tomgu (gutom) o “Tom Jones.” Example: “Pards may makakain ba tayo diyan, kasi Tom Jones na Tom Jones na ako.” Hindi ko po ikakaila, miyembro po ako noon ng isang frat – farating gutom.

Bakit ba mahilig magsalita ng pabaliktad ang mga Pilipino? Meron pa ngang libro na inilathala si Bob Ong na ang pamagat ay “Bakit Baliktad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino.” Baliktad ba talaga ang takbo ng utak nating Pilipino?

“Kung hindi mo alam kung sino ka, paano mo maipagmamalaki ang sarili mo?” (quote from Bob Ong , Bakit Baliktad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino.)

Ang pagbabaliktad ng salita sa aking pagkakatanto, ay nauso noong 1970’s, nang sumikat ang Hippie culture. Dito sumabog ang mga mapagrebeldeng ideya. Tulad nang pagpapahaba ng buhok ng mga lalaki. Pati babae, nagpapahaba rin ng buhok – sa kili-kili. Nagrerebelde sila kaya ayaw din nilang maligo. Hindi po ako nakisali doon. Siguro dahil sa pagrerebelde, kaya pati salita ay iniiba nila. O kaya nama’y gusto lang nilang gawing mas makulay ang ating wika.

Noong panahon ding iyon nauso pati mga kantang may salitang pabaliktad. Pumatok noon ang kanta ni Mike Hanopol na “Laki sa Layaw, Jeproks.” Ang Jeproks po ay baliktad ng salitang project. May kanta rin si Sampaguita na pinasikat noon, ito ay ang “Nosi Balasi” na ang ibig sabihin ay ‘sino ba sila.’

Mga ilang dekada ang lumipas, pero may mga baliktad pa rin mga pananalita. Noong 1990’s ang Eraserheads naman ay naglabas ng kantang Bogchi Hokbu – na baliktad ng Chibug Buhok. Ito po ang sample ng kanta, tignan ko kung masasakyan ninyo:

Wanga tenants ng reksli,
Toing takans na toyi,
Napha oyats ng nengmi,
Nananakirima,
Bangbangbangalalala,
Tastastasbobona,
Bogchi Hokbu.

Pero hindi po henerasyon ng mga Hippie ang pasimuno ng pagbabaliktad ng salita. Kasi, panahon pa ng Kastila ay binabaliktad na ng mga Pilipino ang salita o pangalan. Hindi kayo maniwala? Siguro naman ay kilala ninyo ang isa sa ating bayani na si Marcelo Del Pilar. Ang kanyang ginamit na pen name ay Plaridel, na galing sa Del Pilar. Petmalu si Del Pilar ano po?

Maliban sa mga salitang baliktad, meron ding mga salita sa bokabularyo ni Mayor Isko Moreno na pamilyar sa akin dahil naging bahagi rin ito ng aking wika noon at kahit hanggang ngayon. Isa rito ay ang salitang ‘tolongges.’ Nasaan na kaya ngayon ang mga tolongges kong kabarkada noon? Kung inyong aalamin, noong 1981, ay may isang pelikula si George Javier na ang pamagat ay “A Man Called Tolongges.”

Pero meron din namang mga kataga is Yorme na ngayon ko lang narinig. Ngayon ko lang nakilala is ‘Eddie’ at si ‘Patty.’ Pero ang mga ‘Spiderman,’ dati ko na silang kilala. Sa katunayan tatlong tiyuhin ko noon ay mga lineman ng Meralco, kaya galit sila sa mga Spiderman.

Hanggang dito na lang po muli. Lodi ko si Yorme, at bilib pa rin ako sa ating wika, talagang astig pa rin ito. Sana more werpa sa atin na nagsasalita ng wikang Pilipino. Mabuhay! O haymabu?

(*inilathala para sa Buwan ng Wika)

Bugging Critters

Since it’s summer, I have been spending some time outside sitting in our front porch. In fact, that’s where I prefer to read as I prepare for my Boards (read previous post). I am taking advantage of the warm season while it last.

But while I am studying, I have been distracted by some critters, and I cannot help but take photos of them.

One morning, I was bugged by this little bunny (above photo). I thought I heard it say, “Hey, what’s up doc?” Maybe it was only in my head as I was thinking of another famous “bugs” bunny.

Moments later, another rabbit passed by the driveway and he seems to be exchanging stories with the squirrel (photo below). Maybe they were discussing what they want for breakfast: “I crave for a 24-carrot delight,” said one. “I go wild for nuts!” said the other.

There were also lots of birds, and they were noisily chirping around as if they were intentionally disturbing me. It was alright by me for I can’t hush them anyway. “Ssshhh, this is a study area.”

Here’s a cardinal at the bird bath. He seems to be contemplating if the water is cold and if he should take a bath. “To bathe or not to bathe.” But he did eventually.

Below is a mother deer and her fawn. The fawn was taking a drink at the bird bath, “Mmmm, taste like a cardinal punch.” “Oh, don’t drink that!” warns her mother.

I took the photo before I got out to the front porch, but they scurried away the moment I opened the door.

Lastly, there were other critters that were buzzing around me, including bugs that bite. Bzzzzz….”Ooohh, happy meal!” They left their marks on my legs, which I am annoyingly scratching now.

Damn critters!

Rx: Sleep

This year is quite hectic for me. Besides the load at work and other responsibilities, I also have to renew 2 of my 3 board certifications. That means I have to study and pass my board exams to keep my certifications.

The governing bodies of Medicine wants all the practicing physicians to be updated and competent in their field of expertise. After all the discipline of science and medicine is ever evolving and what may be true some years ago, may not be applicable today. That’s why doctors have to take regular scheduled exams to maintain their qualifications.

Most of the medical specialties need re-certifications every 7 to 10 years. But now, they are introducing an option of taking the test every 2 or 3 years. More frequent test, oh fun!

The first exam I had to re-certify for this year is for my Pulmonary boards. I am relieved to say that it is past and done. I took my re-certification exam last May, and for 4 months before the boards, I devoted at least 30 minutes a day for review. It must have been worth the efforts for I’m proud to say that I passed it. I’m good for another few years on this sub-specialty.

The next exam to tackle is this coming November. It is for my Sleep Medicine boards.

I took a break in studying the month of June. But this July I’m back to the books again. I’m allotting half an hour (or more) every day for study.

Come to think of it, this might eat up some of my time for training for the annual half-marathon that I do in October. Should I just skip the half-marathon this year? Though I think I should still do my regular 2 to 3-mile run to keep me from getting too flabby.

Should I take a break from blogging too? Nah! Blogging is actually my relaxation.

I was on 24-hour duty the other day, and it was a busy call. It was not until 2 o’clock in the morning that I went to bed in our hospital call room, only to be called several more times during the remainder of the night, or should I say early morning. One particular ICU patient that I admitted around midnight was so sick, that he died 6 hours later despite our best efforts to keep him alive.

By the way, my other sub-specialty is Critical Care (ICU Medicine) and my Critical Care boards re-certification is due next year. That means I will be studying again for next year. Who said you’re done taking test after you graduate from school?

Anyway, I was off the next day after my 24-hour call. I decided to do some “light” reading to prepare for my Sleep Boards. My brain may be half-awake, but I was resolute to stick to my schedule. But do you know that according to research, dolphins can have half of their brain asleep while the other half awake? Maybe I was trying to be a dolphin.

It so happened that when I opened my reviewer, the chapter I was about to read was about sleep deprivation and its ill effects on our health. Wasn’t it so ironic? I was studying about the bad effects of sleep deprivation, and I myself was sleep deprived!

I stopped reading. I put down the book and did the best thing. I went to sleep.

(*photo from the web)

The Unconquered Hill

There are places that are hard to conquer because of their natural physical barrier. Like the Masada in Israel, a fortress on top of a rock plateau 1400-feet high. This was the last foothold of the Jews against the Romans. Or the Maeda escarpment, which is a 350-foot high ridge in the island of Okinawa, Japan. The Americans lost hundreds of lives trying to capture this place, a story featured in the movie Hacksaw Ridge.

But I am not really going to talk about battles or wars today. The unconquered hill that I was alluding to was a hill in a bike route. Yes, no shedding of blood here, only sweat for it’s just a bike ride.

I participated in the RAGBRAI*, which is a popular annual week-long bicycle ride across the state of Iowa. This was my second time to join this event.

Before you really get amazed on my undertaking, I want to let you know that I only rode for one day, and not for the whole week. And I chose the day with the shortest route too, which was only 40 miles. I say only 40 miles, because on the other days, the course ranges from 60 to 88 miles.

see my shadow taking photo?

I did not train much for this bike ride. Since I run at least 2-3 times a week and can run 3 miles comfortably, plus knowing that I have finished several half-marathons in the past, I was confident that biking 40 miles should not be a problem at all. After all, I am reasonably fit, right?

When I run for the half-marathon, I usually train for at least 2 months. But the only preparation I did for this bike ride was I performed a 5-mile exercise in a stationary bike at a gym a week before, and I rode a 10-mile road test 2 days before the real event.

That was a mistake.

My cardiopulmonary function may be alright, and my determination is like titanium, but I overlook one thing. Riding a bike uses a different set of muscles than running.

So on one of the steep uphill climb, I felt my quadriceps muscles cramping and almost giving out. They were not trained to pound on the pedal for that long. As you probably know, running uses more of the hamstrings and calf muscles, not so much in cycling.

We stopped for a while after that grueling hill, and sat at the side of the road to give my cramping quad muscles a break. This bike-ride is not a race anyway. You can do it at your own pace, and can stop several times if you want. In fact, stopping to sample the foods being sold along the way and hanging out in the small towns we passed through was encouraged.

bikers and bikes taking a break

I made it through the 40 miles ride in one piece, and without keeling over. No bruises, no fractures. Only fractured confidence.

On the bike course of that day, the last leg was a couple of hills. I don’t know why they chose a steep hill for a finish after already pedaling 40 miles and passing so many hills. But since we were already within the vicinity of what was considered the end of the route, we skipped the last hill climb and called it a day.

the last hill of the course

We then phoned for our ride to fetch us at the street before the last hill – the last unconquered hill.

**********

(*RAGBRAI- Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa; photos taken with an iPhone)

Salin-wikang Tula: A Challenge

Noong makaraang araw, isang Pilipina blogger, si Jolens (read post here), ang nag-post ng mga banyagang tula na kanyang isinalin sa ating sariling wika. Ika niya, ang pagsasalin-wika ay magandang pagsasanay upang mahasa ang ating husay sa lenguahe.

Siya rin ay nag-alok ng hamon (hindi po ham, challenge ang ibig kong sabihin) sa mga ibang blogger, kasama na po ako dito, na magsalin din daw ng tula sa ating wika. Aking malugod na tinanggap ang hamon na ito.

Akin pong pinili ang isang classic at tanyag na tula sa Ingles. Ito ay isinulat ni William Ernest Henley.

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Heto naman po ang aking pagkakasalin sa ating wikang tinubuan, at kahit hindi man salita kada salita, ay pinilit kong mapanatili ang saloobin ng buong tula:

Invictus

Mula sa gabing sumusuklob sa akin,
Pusikit na gaya ng balong napakalalim,
Anumang mga diyos, sila’y aking pinasasalamatan,
Sa kaluluwa kong hindi magagapi kailan man.


Sa pagkakalugmok sa mahigpit na kalagayan,
Hindi ako humikbi o tumangis man,
Sa kabila ng hataw at hagupit ng kapalaran,
Ako’y taas noo pa rin kahit na sugatan.


Sa ibayo ng lupain nitong poot at luha,
Mga anino ng lagim na laging nagbabadya,
At anumang panganib ng mga taon na lumipas,
Bahid ng takot sa aki’y hindi namalas.


Gaano mang kakitid ang aking daraanan,
Hitik man ng parusa ang sa aki’y iniatang,
Ako pa rin ang panginoon ng aking kapalaran,
Sa aking buhay, ako ang Kapitan.

**********

(*Invictus means unconquered in Latin; above photo is of the Colosseum, taken during our visit to Rome)

Maynila, Ikaw Ba Yan?

Sa ating buhay, may mga bagay na mahirap makita. Kahit hanapin mo pa, hindi sila basta basta lalantad.

Isa na dito ang mga multo at maligno. Kahit sabihin pa nating maraming Pilipino ang naniniwala sa mga ito, hindi lahat ay nakakakita sa kanila. Sabi ng iba, kailangan mo ng pangatlong mata (third eye) para sila makita. Para sa akin, dahil hindi ako naniniwala, kaya ayoko na lang silang makita.

Isa pa sa mga hindi nagpapakita ay ang mga taong may utang sa atin. Hindi ko nga alam kung saang lupalop sila nagtatago, pero asahan mo, mahirap silang matagpuan. Buti pa minsan ‘yung multo, nagpaparamdam. Pero ang mga taong may utang sa iyo? Walang paramdam.

Siguro isama na rin natin sa mahirap makita ang mga ninong at ninang kapag panahon ng Pasko. Umeeskapo rin sila sa mga naghahanap sa kanila. Kawawang mga inaanak, nagiging maligno ang kanilang mga ninong at ninang.

Isa pa sa mahirap makita, lalo na sa mga taga Maynila, ay ang mga kalsada na sa matagal nang panahon ay nawawala. Sila ay nakukubli sa ating tanaw. Tulad ng mga kalsada sa Divisoria, Quiapo, at Sta. Cruz. Sa dami ng mga naglalako at mga paninda na nakatirik sa gitna mismo ng kalye, ay natabunan na ang kalsadang dapat sana ay daanan ng mga mamamayan.

Subalit, dahil may bagong pamunuan na ang lungsod ng Maynila, ang hindi ko akalaing makikita ay lumantad na.

Alam mo bang may maluwag palang kalsada sa Divisoria?

Divisoria district

Hindi ko maubos maisip na may kalye pala sa Carriedo?

Carriedo Street in Quiapo

At may lansangan palang lagus-lagusan sa Blumentritt?

Blumentritt Road in Sta. Cruz

Aaminin ko, hindi ko nakilala kaagad ang mga larawan ng mga lugar na ito, dahil malinis na sila sa mga illegal vendors na naglipana at nakabalagbag sa gitna ng kalsada, at wala na rin ang mga gabundok na tambak ng basura.

Saludo po ako sa bagong alkalde ng Maynila. At kahit matagal na akong wala sa siyudad na ito, dahil sa mga magagandang pagbabagong nagaganap sa lungsod na aking pinagmulan, ay lalo kong ipagyayabang na ako ay lumaki sa lungsod ng Maynila.

Sana ay maisiwalat at mailantad na rin ang mga aswang na nagtatago sa anino ng gobyerno, na sumisipsip sa kabang yaman ng bayan.

Masigasig ko pong aantabayanan at tututukan ang mga bali-balita mula sa aking bayan.

Mabuhay ang Maynila!

(*images from Philippine news outlet)

An ICU Love Story: A Reload

I have posted more than 850 articles and stories over the years since this blog’s inception, which in a few months, will be 10 years. It’s quite a popular practice in the media to have reruns or replays. Even social media have their “throwbacks.”

I would like to repost a throwback story/article once in a while, not that I am running out of ideas or stories, for as a matter of fact, I have more than 30 unfinished articles in my draft bin. But sometimes, I just want to relive a bygone moment, or perhaps give a new breath to a favorite story from the past.

Here’s a reload of a love story that I witnessed a few years ago:

Making Things Right

“I just want to make things right.”

That was what my patient told me. Wanting to make things right. Don’t we all? Here is his story.

He was in his 50’s, and he presented to the hospital with leg swelling and worsening shortness of breath. After initial work-up in the Emergency Room, he was diagnosed with blood clots in the legs and lungs (veno-thromboembolism). A serious condition.

His chest CT scan also showed a lung mass. After further work-up, which includes a biopsy, it was found to be cancer. Cancer in itself is a risk for developing blood clots. A bad prognosis.

After more work-up, it was determined that the lung cancer was far advanced. It has spread to the bones, liver, and lymph nodes. A grim outlook.

During his hospital stay, his condition deteriorated and was transferred to the ICU.

I approached him as he lay in his ICU bed. Knowing the severity of his condition, I asked him about his “code status.” That is, what he wants us to do if in case he cannot breathe on his own, does he wants us to place a tube down his throat and have a machine breathe for him? Or if his heart stops, does he wants us to shock his heart or pound on his chest to try to resuscitate him? Or does he wants us to just let him go peacefully?

There was a long pause before he replied, as he breathed heavily under the oxygen mask. “I want everything done,” he finally answered. “I want everything done, until I have done one thing. I want to get married.”

Get married? Did I hear him right? Was he of a sound mind or was he confused and hallucinating?

As he continued talking, I ascertained that he was very alert and not confused at all. I did not ask why he wanted to get married, but he explained to me the reason why. Perhaps he saw the quizzical look on my face.

“I just want to make things right,” was his reason. Apparently, he was living-in with his girlfriend for twelve long years. He wanted to make their union legal. This would make her girlfriend the legal decision-maker for him if he becomes incompetent. And she would also inherit his estate without questions, when he dies. But more so, he just wanted to show her how he loved her over the years, but did not quite made it to the altar. Now, he was “making things right.”

Two days later, there was a wedding ceremony in our ICU room. A bride, a groom, a chaplain, and a couple of witnesses. That was all you need for a wedding. Of course there was a gown too. But it was the groom who wore it, for I’m not pertaining to a wedding gown, but rather a patient’s hospital gown.

There was many well-wishers too, courtesy of the ICU staff.

The patient’s son was also present. I believe he was his son from a previous relationship, and he came from out-of-state to visit his very ill father. He was probably expecting to attend a funeral, but was surprised that he was attending a wedding instead.

A few days after the wedding, our patient’s condition improved that he was able to be transferred out of the ICU to the Oncology floor. Perhaps, getting married gave him hope and a different outlook in life, and willed himself to get better.

He was started on combined regimen of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Hope springs eternal.

Two weeks later, his condition started to decline once more. He grew weaker and weaker. His respirations became more and more labored. This time, he told us, he does not want to be resuscitated if his heart stops or if he cannot breathe on his own. I guess, he already accomplished his one wish, and now he was ready.

Then one day, he quietly faded away at the break of dawn. And he left a newly wed bride, a widow.

Cancer stumps hope. A so familiar refrain, sadly to say.

Yet love conquers all.

**********

(*This story was originally published in July of 2011; featured photo was taken a few weeks ago.)

Columns of History

Pompeii is an ancient Roman city near the modern day Naples in southern Italy. On that fateful moment in AD 79, it was suddenly buried in 4 to 6 meters of volcanic ash and debris during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

The city remained frozen in time, concealed under ash and rocks until it was discovered by surveying engineer in 1748. With methodical excavation, evidence of a once thriving city was unearthed.

When we visited Pompeii several weeks ago, we were able to witness the ruins, as well as take a peek at a slice of ancient Roman life.

Photo below is one of the main streets, where horse-drawn carriages or chariots pass through. It is amazing how the stone-paved road is in very good condition.

Though the pedestrians, experts believe, walk on the sidewalk and use the step-stones (big stones in the middle of the road) to cross to the other side of the road. The reason why pedestrians don’t walk in the stone-paved road was that most of the time runoff water was flowing in the road as part of their water drainage system. Plus, sewage from homes also stream through it, and you definitely don’t want to step on that.

Below is an entry way to a well-to-do home. I was impressed on the intricacy of the mosaic art on the floor.

Here is a courtyard garden inside the largest home on the block. It was believed that this residence was owned by a prominent Roman of the ruling class.

Below is an ancient eatery or food vendor, perhaps like the modern day McDonald’s or your local carinderia. The holes in the ‘counter’ are where the pots or vessels containing food were kept warm by a fire underneath.

Here is their theater (next photo) where they watch plays and concerts. I wonder what shows they have then. Maybe “The Three Roman Tenors?” Or perhaps “The Phantom of the Colosseum?”

The Romans also have public bath houses. The photo below, believe it or not, is a sauna room. A wood-burning furnace outside sends warm air under the raised floor to heat the room.

Next is a sample of their wall art. Much nicer than the modern day graffiti, I would say.

They also have some sort of sports complex. The facility below is a training ground for gladiators.

Below is Pompeii’s town plaza. At the backdrop is Mount Vesuvius, which is considered an active volcano up to this day, though the last time it erupted was in 1944.

As we walked around the ruins, I have noticed that there were lots and lots of pillars.

I supposed these columns that are still standing today, are testaments of a once proud and prosperous city, and what it stood for. Sorry, pun intended.

From Pompeii (while leaning on a pillar),

Pinoytransplant

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

The Power Pickpocket

(The following discourse was prepared for a local congregation.)

Have you ever been pickpocketted? When I was in high school, I lost 200 Pesos on my way to school. I knew I passed through a crowd during my commute. I was supposed to pay something in school with that money. It either fell out of my pocket or someone picked my pocket.

In the past I heard that when you land in Manila International Airport, you would be greeted with something like this: “Welcome to the Philippines, the only Christian nation in the southeast Asia. Please beware of pickpockets.” I am glad that this had changed for the better.

A few days after I first arrived here in the US, I was walking alone in the streets of Morristown, New Jersey, a relatively quiet town, when a stranger greeted me, “What a beautiful day, isn’t it?” I was taken aback. First of all, in Manila where I came from, you don’t talk to strangers on the street. Secondly, nobody in the Philippines talk about the weather, for it is the same the whole year through. And lastly, when a stranger talks to you, check your wallet if it’s still there.

Our story today is about someone who pickpocketted Jesus of His power.

Let’s read the story in Luke 8: 43-48.

Jesus just arrived from the other side of the lake, and probably landed in the town of Capernaum. Perhaps his boat was still far from the shore when a crowd of people already gathered to meet him.

Ruins in Capernaum

Have you ever been in a crowd? Maybe like in a sporting event, or a concert, or in a very crowded bus or train? During my time in Manila and also in New York City, when I rode the train it was so crowded that I could almost exchange faces with the people around me. And even if the train was moving I didn’t have to hold on to something, for I was propped up as we were packed like sardines.

That was how it must have been when the crowd gathered around Jesus, for the Bible said it almost “crushed” Him (Luke 8: 42). The Greek word used to describe it was sumpnigo. Interestingly, it is the same word that was used to describe the thorns “choking” the seeds that fell on the thorny ground in the Parable of the Sower.

One lesson for us is if we don’t have a deep foundation, the crowd and the cares of this world could crush and choke us.

Invisible Woman

Then a woman pushed through the crowd to get close to Jesus.

Who is this woman? We don’t know her name or her age. I would guess that she was not very old for she was still menstruating, and I will get into that. But we know that she’s been suffering for 12 years. Perhaps in the beginning of her illness she was seeing all the doctors that were recommended to her. From one doctor to another, were only met by disappointment after disappointment. According to the account of the Gospel of Mark, “she suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors.” In the end she used all her money and was broke, but still did not get well.

What was she suffering from? According to the Gospel writers she was “subject to bleeding.” I would surmise that it was some kind of vaginal bleeding like having menstruation. Yet this one did not stop, and has been going on for 12 long years! If you’re bleeding that long, you would be anemic, weak and fatigued.

As a doctor, I would speculate that her illness was most probably not cancer. Because she was still alive after 12 years. I think it was some kind of a benign uterine growth, like fibroids. This causes vaginal bleeding even between menses, and particularly can have very heavy menses. That’s why I think she was younger and not of menopausal age.

If you have uterine growth like fibroids, no medication can treat it. No kind of concoction would work. Only taking out the fibroid by surgery or doing hysterectomy will cure it.

Do you have an illness that no doctor can help? Have you been suffering despite all the medical interventions? Are you desperate for a healing? Maybe you can relate to the story of this woman. It is my prayer that this message is for you and that you find encouragement in this story.

Besides the physical ravages of bleeding for 12 years there’s another aspect of her suffering. She was socially exiled and emotionally isolated.

According to the Mosaic law, if you have bleeding, you are considered unclean.

“When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period. Any bed she lies on while her discharge continues will be unclean, as is her bed during her monthly period, and anything she sits on will be unclean, as during her period. Whoever touches them will be unclean; he must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening.” (Leviticus 15:25-27)

All she touched or sat on was considered unclean. People who had contact with her or with what she touched were considered unclean. This woman had been longing for human touch, and she probably had not received a hug for 12 years!

Why does being soiled with blood considered unclean? It is the Universal Precaution rule. If you work in the hospital today you will don on gloves, gown, goggles if you are handling blood or bodily fluids. This is to protect yourself from contacting disease or also from spreading the disease.

Before people discovered and learned about bacteria and viruses, or how a disease is spread, God already provided rules among His people, the ancient Israelites, on how to prevent spreading diseases. That’s why in the Mosaic law, you are considered unclean if you touch a dead person or an animal carcass, or if you touch an open sore. All pots that critters crawled on must be destroyed. God knows about the bacteria and how they cause diseases even before men discovered them! God is so wise.

A couple of hundred years ago, doctors who did autopsy in the morgue came to the hospital ward to examine patients without thoroughly washing their hands. They probably just wiped them. This was before the era of discovering the bacteria. Then they have observed that those patients nearer the door get sicker or die more frequently than those farther away from the door. Why? Who do you think the doctor touched first after coming from the morgue? The doctors were spreading the bacteria!

This is not Divisoria, but a market place in Jerusalem

Let’s go back to our story. To be considered unclean for 12 long years was like an imprisonment, punished by banishment from humanity. Or she must have gone incognito, and became an invisible woman, that nobody recognized or noticed her when she went out of her home.

Then she heard about Jesus and His miracles of healing. And she learned that Jesus was coming in this part of town. So she decided to see Jesus. Even though she had no business of going out in a crowd, for all she would get contact with would become unclean. According to the law, if she touch Jesus, she would make Him ceremoniously unclean.

Yet this woman was determined to elbow, push and claw her way through the crowd. Though pale and weak, nothing would stand in her way. She was unshakable on her mission. She believed that if only she could touch Jesus’ cloak, she would be healed.

She finally reached Jesus. She approached Him from behind, typical of the modus operandi of a pickpocket. Then she stretched out her hand.

Healing Wings

If you’re going to touch somebody in a crowd, isn’t it easier to touch the shoulder or back? Why stoop down and touch the hem of the cloak? We may think that like a pickpocket, she does not want Jesus to feel her touch, so the edge of the garment would do. But there’s more significance to this edge of the garment.

In the Mosaic Law, God instructed His people about the corners, or fringes, of their garments. In Numbers 15: 38-39 it says:

 Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God.

It seems like a strange instruction for us but in the Ancient Near East culture, the corner of a person’s garment represented his identity; it was a symbol of who he was and what he stood for. It is like an insignia, or perhaps a monogramed initials on the shirt.

In the story of Ruth, when she was seeking marriage to Boaz, she asked him to spread the corner of his garment over her (Ruth 3:9). It was a request for him to identify with her. The same Hebrew word means “wing” or “corner of a garment.”

When God spoke of making a covenant with His people, He pictured Himself as spreading the corner of His garment over Israel (Ezekiel 16:8)—a symbol of identifying with her as His bride.

In the story of David when he was running away from Saul, one day Saul fell asleep at the mouth of the cave where David and his men were hiding. David sneaked in and cut off a corner of King Saul’s robe, but “afterward David’s heart struck him” (1 Samuel 24:5). These pangs of remorse seem strange unless we realize that he had defaced an important symbol of Saul’s identity and God-given kingship.

So important were the corners of a man’s garment for the Jews that the Old Testament closes with a prophecy of the Messiah that references the corners of His garment: “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings” (Malachi 4:2 KJV. Again, the same word means both “wings” and “corners of a garment”). At the heart of the Messiah’s identity would be healing for all who have faith in Him.

So when this woman reached out to the hem of Jesus’ coat, it was more than just for healing, but she was identifying with Him and what He stands for. She was embracing that Jesus is the promised Messiah who has healing in His wings.

This woman was not the only one healed when they touched the edge of Jesus’ garment. In Matthew 14, when Jesus was in Genneseret, perhaps after people heard this woman’s story, sick people lined up by the road where He would pass, and all who touched the edge of His coat were healed.

When this woman touched Jesus’ garment, “immediately” she felt that her bleeding stopped. She was instantly healed! And she felt it. But somebody felt it too. Jesus felt it too.

Then Jesus asked around who touched him. The disciples thought that Jesus was being silly. Why asked who touched him when we knew that a crowd of people was almost crushing him. But Jesus said “I know that power has gone out from me” (8:46). The Greek word translated “power” (NIV) or “virtue” (KJV) is dunamis, from which we get our English words “dynamo,” “dynamic,” and “dynamite.” That must have been a power surge that left Jesus. And He was looking for the power pickpocket.

Why did Jesus want to confront the woman and make her secret known? I can think of two reasons. The first one was to release her from the burden of uncleanliness and to take away the stigma. It was to make known to her and to the people around that He accepted her, and that she does not need to be incognito or invisible anymore. Secondly, to let her know that it was not the magical power of His cloak, but it was her faith in Him that healed her.

Ironically there were many people around pressing upon Jesus. But they have only brushed and casually touched Him. Are we one of those people in the crowd? Always in church, sits in the pew every week, present in all the church’s activities, and yet we have not really reached out to Jesus with that touch of faith.

I pray that we be like that woman – who have that elbowing-and-clawing-my-way kind of faith, that nothing-can-stand-on-my-way kind of faith. And that we reach out to Jesus. Be identified with Him and who He is. And that we embrace the Messiah, our Savior, who has healing in His wings.

This is my prayer.

A street in Jerusalem

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(*all photos taken during our visit in the Holy Land a couple of years ago)