The Challenge

In the driveway I saw you this morning,

I pass under where you’re standing,

Lording over as if you’re taunting,

You look down at me silently mocking,

Daring me that I got no more hops,

That I have also lost the touch,

I may have slowed and I have aged,

But I’m still up for a challenge.

IMG_4991.jpg

the takeoff

IMG_4992.jpg

the propulsion

IMG_4993.jpg

hang time (as in time for the old man to hang it up?)

IMG_4994

the release

IMG_4999

Goooaaal!!!

PS: Were you expecting a dunk? Maybe in 10 years when I am 60.

 

Hagibis

Ako’y tumakbo kaninang umaga,

Sa amin dito sa Iowa,

Habang humahangos sa daan,

Ay aking pinakikinggan,

Maiingay na halakhak,

Ng mga ibong taratitat,

At sa aking paghingal,

Aking namang nalalanghap,

Ang mabangong halimuyak,

Ng mga bulaklak ng lilac.

Pero miss na miss ko na,

Mag-jogging sa Maynila,

Kung saan naghaharana,

Mga traysikel na umaarangkada,

At aking muling masasanghap,

Usok ng tambutsong kay sarap,

At takbo ko’y lalong bumibilis,

Parang anak ni Hagibis,

Dahil ako’y hinahabol,

Ng mga asong nauulol.

(*Hagibis means speed in Tagalog, it is also a Filipino comics hero, and the name of an all-male pop group.)

 

Doorhenge

If you live near the equator, the time of the sunrise is almost the same throughout the year. When I was living in Manila, the earliest sunrise is about 5:30 in the morning, and the latest will be at 6:30. The more distance you live above or below the equator, the more the difference in the times of sunrises and sunsets through the year.

Where I live now here in Iowa, the earliest sunrise is at 4:40 (Standard time) in June, but due to Daylight Saving Time from March to November, so the adjusted time is 5:40 in the morning. We have about 15 hours of daylight at this time. Then the latest sunrise is at 7:40 in December, and have only 9 hours of daylight.

Have you also noticed that the sunrises and sunsets are not in the same spot on the horizon all year? This is due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis of rotation, which is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees (sorry, I’m such a nerd). As a result, at some points in the orbit of Earth, the north pole is tilted towards the sun, and at other points it is tilted away from the sun, making the location of sunrises and sunsets different depending on the time of year.

By the way, that specific tilt of 23.5 degrees of Earth is also the reason for the different seasons of the year. But that is a subject of discussion perhaps for another time.

With regards to viewing sunrises, one enigma of our civilization is the ancient structure, the Stonehenge. One theory is that it was built as a celestial observatory. Though it could be an altar or some kind of sacred monument as well. In any case, it is built to have been perfectly arranged to face the midsummer sunrise, and midwinter sunset. So if you stand in just the right place inside the Stonehenge monument on the day of the northern summer solstice, you’ll see the sunrise align through those pillars.

A similar phenomenon also happens in New York City, when the setting of the sun aligns perfectly with the grid-pattern streets of Manhattan, which happens twice a year, typically in May and July. This is also known as the Manhattanhenge.

Interestingly, I have a similar event in my house here in Iowa. That is on a certain time of the year, the sunrise perfectly aligns with my front door and shines directly through the corridor and into our living room.

IMG_4954

When this happen, I know that we are halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice. Or this is just time to let the sunshine in and start a new day.

Have a good day everyone!

(*photo taken last weekend with an iPhone)

 

 

 

Nanay

Mother’s Day. A day that the world be celebrating this coming Sunday. Long distance calls will be made (for those who live far away from home), flowers will be delivered, cards will be sent, visitations will be done, and restaurants will be full.

Mother’s Day in fact, is the busiest day for restaurants, at least here in America, but may be the same throughout the world. Perhaps families think that on that day, they would like to give moms a break in the kitchen, so they would dine out. Or perhaps they just wanted to celebrate and give them the attention they all do deserve.

This will be the third Mother’s Day since my mom passed away. Because my mom’s birthday is on the second week of May, so Mother’s Day (every 2nd Sunday of May) and her birthday celebration usually coincide. I will surely miss calling and talking to her.

For my wife, this will be their first Mother’s Day without their mother. She passed away last July. I will also miss calling and talking to my mother-in-law. After all, I am her “favorite” son-in-law. Just don’t tell the other sons-in-law.

For this Mother’s Day, I would like to share a tribute that my wife read on her mother’s funeral last year:

Nanay. Perhaps the first word I uttered. Perhaps the first word I really learned the true meaning of.

I know when I was very young and can barely walk and talk, I would say the word Nanay, and I am assured that I would be fed. I say Nanay, and my thirst would be quenched. I say Nanay, and  I would be safe. I would utter Nanay, and I would be taken care of.

Over the years of my life, the word Nanay has become synonymous to provider, protector, and love.

Now Nanay is gone. Never can I utter the word Nanay again with the same meaning, the same urgency, the same pleading anymore.

But I am glad Nanay had trusted and is now resting in the Lord, who is our true Provider, Protector, and encompass the true meaning of Love.

Goodbye Nanay. We will see you in that Great Morning.

For all of you who still have the chance to celebrate Mother’s Day with your moms, please value and cherish this opportunity, for we don’t know how many more opportunities we are given.

As for me, I would still be celebrating this day with the reigning world’s best mother in the world, at least in my perspective – the mother of my children. I hope there’s table for us and the restaurants are not too full.

For all the nanay in the world, may you have a happy and blessed Mother’s Day!

duyan

“Duyan,” painting by Nestor Leynes

(*Nanay is the Filipino word for mother.)

 

Conflicted

What do you do when you see a sign that says Caution:Wet Paint?

Are you like many people, which includes me, that can’t help but touch it? Just to see if it’s really wet! Maybe because we have been lied to so many times, and we don’t believe anything unless we prove that it’s true.

The other day, since we were having some construction in our office to add more examination rooms, I saw this sign. I know it’s a mundane sign, but it caught my attention.

IMG_4935

Do you suppose I touched that wall? Of course I did.

But there’s more to this sign. Is it wet? Or is it dry? I think the wall is conflicted. Is that an oxymoron, a wet drywall? Do you still call it a drywall when it is wet? I’m confused.

I believe the caution here is like that wall, some people today are conflicted and confused. We are lost in our identity. We are neither wet nor dry. Neither hot nor cold. Constantly riding the fence, and compromising our beliefs.

 

 

Illusive Hope

During my last weekend call, one of the many admissions I had to the ICU was a man in his 70’s, who was found unresponsive in his home. Since he lives alone, he probably have been lying on the floor for a couple of days before he was found.

After work-up in the emergency room, it was determined that he had a large stroke. As he was very sick and unstable, we were consulted to admit him in our ICU.

The next day, after providing supportive measures, his vital signs stabilized and he became more responsive, and even following simple commands. Yet he still has significant neurologic deficits due to the devastating stroke.

The patient’s son who was the power-of-attorney, talked to me and showed me his father’s living will, which specifically detailed that in case he had an “irreversible condition,” he does not want to be on any form of life support including artificial nutrition, like tube feedings or even intravenous fluids.

I assessed that with the severity of the stroke, the likelihood of “good” recovery was doubtful. My projection was that he would never live independently again, would most likely be nursing home-bound, and definitely would not be the same person that they know. In addition, he could even get worse as the swelling of the brain increase. No question, I painted a grim scenario.

After hearing my assessment, the patient’s son and family, were ready to call hospice and just make the patient comfort cares. The son told me that his father, for sure would not like to live a life with such a poor quality as I have projected. Though I told them, that the neurologist whom I consulted have not seen the patient yet, and perhaps they should wait on what he has to say.

Not long after, the neurologist came. He extensively reviewed the CT scan of the head, and he made a careful and detailed neurological examination of the patient, as he tried to evoke even obscure reflexes that I can only read in the medical textbook. After his evaluation, the neurologist, the patient’s son, and me, went in a room for a conference.

The neurologist explained that with his estimation, even though the stroke was large, since it involved the non-dominant side of the brain and mostly the frontal lobe, he believes that the patient can still have a “meaningful” recovery. In addition, since the acute stroke was a few days ago, he thinks that the swelling was on its way down, and perhaps we were already past the worst phase. He backed this with his expert knowledge of brain anatomy and function.

Thus the neurologist believed that at best, though it may take months of rehabilitation, the patient can talk – though with a funny accent, walk – but with a limp that he even demonstrated, and maybe could even live independently later on. He definitely painted a more rosy picture than the gray picture that I have painted.

Hearing the neurologist’s opinion, it was obvious we have a “slight” difference of opinion. Perhaps slight was an understatement.

After considering the neurologist’s evaluation, the son and the family changed their mind and decided to defer calling hospice and instead support the patient as much as possible, including tube feedings and all.

To be honest, I was a bit perturbed that I gave such a bleak prognosis than what the other doctor gave. Have I given up on that patient too soon? Have I killed the embers of hope prematurely? Perhaps I have become so pessimistic in my view of things. Perhaps I have seen so many prolonged sufferings and bad outcomes despite our best intentions and efforts in my ICU experience. Perhaps I was just saving the family from the heartaches of clinging to unrealistic optimism. Or perhaps I become more cynical and have lost my faith in hope.

In my defense, maybe I just see the front end and the acute catastrophic courses of patients in the ICU, and have limited exposure to the success stories of patients’ wonderful recovery after prolonged and extensive rehabilitation.

But even though I felt betrayed by my negativism, I felt relieved that I have heard a differing opinion, and perhaps gave a chance to a life that we almost gave up on too soon. Even though I felt embarrassed and almost apologetic for my opinion, I was thankful that we gave hope a chance. Everybody deserves that chance.

The following day, when I rounded on our stroke patient, he was more obtunded and unresponsive. He now have labored breathing and had to be placed on a ventilator. I then requested a repeat CT scan of the head.

The CT scan showed what I was afraid would happen: a further extension of the stroke and more swelling, displacing the structures of the brain beyond the midline and even herniating down the brainstem. This was unquestionably a grave condition, and most likely fatal. No more differing opinions.

The family decided to transition to comfort cares, and the patient expired a day later.

I did not kill hope. It died.

IMG_3659

Sheep Crossing

When we we’re traveling in Jordan, our tour bus came to a sudden stop not because of traffic, nor stop sign, nor because of a bus stop.

It stopped because of this.

IMG_4036

I am not sure why the sheep cross to the other side, when the grass is greener where it came from. Maybe the grass always looks greener when we look at it from the other side.

Discontent, can put our lives in peril.

(*photo taken in rural Jordan)

Hanging Gardens

When we visited the Holy Land last month, we went to the city of Haifa, the third largest city in Israel. Haifa is where Mount Carmel is located.

IMG_4664

monument of Elijah in Mount Carmel

Mount Carmel, as you probably know, is the site where prophet Elijah, as recorded in the Bible, challenged the prophets of Baal in where his sacrificial offering was set ablaze by a fire from heaven. But that’s for another post.

What I want to feature now is another popular tourist site also found in Mount Carmel, the Baha’i Gardens.

IMG_4646

The Baha’i faith is a religion, which started under 200 years ago by a Persian, of the name Siyyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi, who proclaimed himself as the prophet Bab (Bab means “gate” in Arabic). Today, some 7 million people practices this religion.

The Baha’i Gardens or also known as the Hanging Gardens of Haifa, are garden terraces around the shrine of the Bab.

IMG_4661

These gardens are relatively new, as its construction was started in 1987, and was completed and opened to the public in 2001. It has 19 terraces and has about 600 steps.

From the garden terraces you can view the Mediterranean ocean, the port of Haifa, and part of the city.

IMG_4648

DSC_0556


We entered the garden from the top entrance and work our way down through steep stairways. Definitely it was much easier going down than up, as long as you don’t get dizzy and fall down the steps.

DSC_0569

DSC_0570

Starting from the bottom and going up the stairs will be a real chore, unless you feel like Rocky-in-training.DSC_0595

The gardens are linked by a set of stairs that are flanked by streams of running water cascading down the mountainside through the steps and terrace bridges. These waters are fed by fountains on each terrace level.

DSC_0567

IMG_4653

The Shrine of the Bab is the second most holy place for the Baha’is. The Bab was executed in 1850 in Iran and his remains were later brought to Haifa and laid to rest in this site in 1909. The original mausoleum was turned into this beautiful shrine built in the 1950’s, complete with a golden dome.

IMG_4657

IMG_4662

Located also in the gardens is the Baha’i Archive Library which holds many of the sacred items of the Baha’i faith (photo below).

DSC_0588

Today, this garden and shrine attracts more than a million visitors a year. It is also a pilgrimage site for the Baha’is. And since this place is considered sacred, they would like visitors to be reverent and be quiet while visiting this garden. For sure it is a beautiful place just to be silent and reflect.

IMG_4658

I may not be a Baha’i pilgrim, but as a life’s pilgrim, I feel grateful and blessed to visit this magnificent place.

IMG_4651

(*Most photos taken with an iPhone, except for the B&W photos, which I took with Nikon DSLR, but forgot to check that its mode is on “effects,” so the B&W shots were unintentional.)

Paalam Kaibigan

 

Alam kong hahantong sa ganito,

Hindi sa dahil hindi ko napagtanto,

Ngunit kahit pilitin ko mang itanggi,

Tuloy pa rin itong mangyayari.

 

Yakapin man kita nang mahigpit,

Hihilagpus ka pa rin sa aking bisig,

At ayaw man kitang bitiwan,

Takda ka pa ring lilisan.

 

Tinangay na nga ba ng kahapon,

O tinalikuran na ng panahon,

At wari bang ako’y iyo nang iniwan,

Sigabo ng aking kalakasan.

 

Habang sa salamin aking pinagmamasdan,

Ang anino na nasa aking harapan,

Anyo at kasagsagan ng kasiglahan,

Ay bakas na lamang ng nakaraan.

 

Ngunit hindi ko dapat ipagluksa,

Kun’di dapat pa ngang ipagsaya,

Kaibigan, minsan nating pinagsamahan,

Kaya’t paalam na, o aking kabataan.

(*thoughts as I hit half century of life; an ode, or maybe a eulogy, to my lost youth)

 

Walking Where Jesus Walked

Life is a journey they say. As I commemorate my fifth decade here on earth, I decided not just to go for a trip, but for a pilgrimage. I wanted to walk where Jesus walked.

In tracing the steps of our Saviour, we ventured to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. But unlike the familiar Christmas hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” Bethlehem today is not a little town but a thriving busy city.


We were led to an old church, the Church of Nativity, where it was believed, based on tradition, to be the site of Jesus’ birth.

At the basement of this church was the marked site where He was born. But there was no shepherds. No angels singing. Just a crowd of eager people trying to make a bee line to see this site.

Then as we traveled through Israel, I saw signs that points to Nazareth, the place that Jesus spent most of His years – from His childhood until He started His ministry. But the Bible was silent about those years He spent in Nazareth.

We followed Jesus’ footsteps into the river Jordan. This is where He was baptized, signaling the start of His ministry.

Some in our group even decided to be baptized in the Jordan River.


Jordan River is not as a large and mighty as I imagined. Though it appears “muddy” as it was described in the scriptures. No wonder Captain Naaman of the Syrian army as recorded in 2 Kings, refused to dip in this water.

Yet, muddy or not, I must at least dip my hand, and my belief.

Then we followed Jesus’ footsteps into the mountains near Jericho. This is the mountain where it was believed He was tempted.

What could it be like to spent 40 days and 40 nights in this barren place? Though interestingly today, there is a stone quarry at the foot of the mountain. Definitely lots of stones that can be turned into bread.

Then we looked for Jesus’ traces in the town of Cana. This is where He performed His first miracle, where in a wedding feast, He turned water into wine.


IMG_4622

Our trip then led us to a town that He spent some time during His ministry, a town called Capernaum or Capharnaum.

The only remains of this town today are ruins. Though the site is still beautiful as it is beside the lake, known as the Sea of Galilee. We even saw the remains of an old synagogue (photo below).


Even though we only see ruins of that Capernaum town, it showed us a glimpse, a window if you will, of where Jesus walked.

We climbed a mountain beside the Sea of Galilee. This they say is where He gave His teachings or His sermon on the mount, that became known as the Beatitudes.

img_4588

img_4594

As I looked at the beautiful scenery, I tried to listen through the blowing wind, to His voice and His teachings, in that Beatitude mountain.

img_4605

We even had the chance to sail across the Sea of Galilee, where on this very waters, He shouted “Peace, be still,” amidst the roaring waves and howling winds. Good thing there’s no violent storm when we sailed across it.

img_4535 I could even imagine the footsteps that He left on the waters, when he walked on it. But no one among us tried to walk on the water, for that will be preposterous.

We followed Him through Jerusalem. We climbed the Mount of Olives, where He spent some time teaching and praying.

From the Mount of Olives we viewed the City of Jerusalem (photo below). This is where Jesus wept when He looked into the city and the temple, knowing of its coming destruction.

IMG_4336.JPG

Then we trace Jesus’ footsteps into the walled city of Jerusalem and walked in its streets and alleys.

IMG_4402

IMG_4455

We followed Him into the Garden of Gethsemane where He fervently prayed, the night before He was arrested.

IMG_1501

Then we walked the path known as Via Dolorosa or the Way of Suffering. This is the path that he chose to walk on his way to Calvary in behalf of you and me. (Photo below is Station V of the Stations of the Cross in the Via Dolorosa)

IMG_4454

We then went to the place known as the Skull Hill (calvarium is Latin for skull) or also known as Golgotha. This is the place believed where Jesus was crucified and died, so we can have life.

Below is the Skull Hill today. Old photos of this hill showed it is really shaped as a skull, though recent earthquakes have changed its distinct features.


Then we went to see the tomb where they laid His body after He died. (The Garden Tomb is one site, though there’s another possible site, the Holy Sepulchre Church, which we also visited.)

We even went inside the tomb. But that tomb was empty. For He is risen! And that is the very foundation of my faith.

As we celebrate this Lent season, may we contemplate on His life and what He has done for all of us.

IMG_4541

at the Sea of Galilee

And as a pilgrim, I realize that walking where Jesus walked would be pointless, unless we also follow His will and walked spiritually as well, where He walked.

May we have a meaningful and glorious Easter.