Math, We Have A Problem

Love it or hate it, you cannot live without math. It is not only the accountants and the mathematicians that live by it. If you go to the market, you apply math. If you’re a bus conductor or a jeepney driver, you really should know your math. Even if you’re an ordinary salaried employee, you need to know math. Or maybe that’s the reason your salary runs out before the days of the months do, is that you don’t know your math. We simply cannot disregard math.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of ours shared a math problem in a group chat. This posed a challenge to us, as we all believe that we are math whizzes. Maybe it was more than math prowess that was required, but also some analytical ability and a sprinkle of common sense.

Here is the problem she posted:

What is your answer?

A. 30

B. 20

C. 15

D. 43

E. None of the above, this is a trick question.

F. I don’t know and I don’t care, I hate math.

Looking at the problem and applying the math rules that I remember in solving equations, I easily arrived at an answer. Me and my wife have the same answer,  making us confident that we solved it right.

When we show the math problem to our son, he looked at it intently and said that our answer was wrong. We checked our solution again, and we were positive we were right.

My son told us his answer that I thought was definitely wrong, but he was certain of his answer. He just smiled with a knowing grin, like a cat who swallowed a canary, but he would not divulge to us on how he arrived at his “ridiculous” answer. 

When our friend who posted the math problem gave out the solution, it turned out that our son’s answer was right. We failed math!

How could it be? We were the ones who taught this boy math (we homeschooled our children), and yet the student turned out to be better than the teachers.

Well, it just prove that we are not math geniuses that we believe we are and we are no Einstein.

Hint: It needs good eyesight too to solve this problem. And me and my wife were not wearing our glasses when we try to solve this problem. At least that was our excuse, and we’re sticking to it.

(*For the solution and answer please see the comment section. The image is not mine and I apologize to the owner if there’s a copyright infringement.)


Black Friday

Thanksgiving week is the busiest time for travel in the United States. Students who are in distant colleges and universities, family members who have moved away from their parents, and most people who have wandered far, all journeyed back to the place they call home to be with their family.

For a day the family gathered around the table with a spread of bountiful food and gave thanks. For a day the family was one again. Unless you have no family, or you don’t like your family, or you hate food, it is hard not to like this holiday.

Of course for some people this time is for vacation and some time off work. For some it is about parties. For some it is about parades. For some it is all about watching football. And yet for some they make this holiday time all about shopping – the Black Friday event. But primarily, this time is for families and about giving thanks.

I am in charge of the hospital’s ICU this week. I know there’s no good time to be sick and be admitted in the ICU, but being sick during the holidays is terrible. It is particularly difficult for the families involved.

We have one patient who was admitted in our ICU about 10 days ago. He is in his mid 50’s and he got really ill. He has multi-organ failure. Despite all the efforts, he did not get better. He is on mechanical ventilator, on continuous dialysis, and on several medications to keep his heart pumping and blood pressure up, yet he is sliding away. More concerning still is that he is not waking up.

His family would like us to continue our intensive management until many of his family, especially his children, who are in other states could come and see him and then they would say their goodbyes. For one more Thanksgiving, they gathered, though not in front of a bountiful dinner table, but in an ICU room, as one family again. Then today, Black Friday, they decided to transition to full comfort cares and let their father passed on after a final farewell. It’s kind of hard to give thanks in such circumstances.

Sadly to say, that story is not unique to that family.

In another ICU room, a mother who is only 40 years old, has metastatic breast cancer to the brain. She failed all surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and is now having frequent seizures. Family would like to keep her in the hospital until Thanksgiving day. Last night they took her home with Hospice to die.

In yet another ICU room, a man who is in his 70’s suffered a large intracranial hemorrhage a week ago. Even after surgery to the brain to evacuate the blood, the patient remains comatose and is in continued vegetative state. The family also would like to have family members from far away places to come on Thanksgiving to see him. Today, they took him off life support.

The saddest of all is in another ICU room. The patient is in his 60’s who had cardiac arrest and prolonged CPR four days ago. We cooled his body down (hypothermia protocol) to try to preserve any brain function. However after we rewarmed his body temperature and discontinue all sedation, he’s not waking up. There is no family members around and we cannot find any one except for a friend that said they don’t know any family of his, and perhaps he is estranged from his family. Both the cardiologist and I felt that continuing life support is medically futile given his significant anoxic brain injury. We let him passed on peacefully, with nobody around him except our ICU staff.

To many, today, Black Friday means bargain sales and wild shopping spree. But in this frantic place, inside these ICU walls, it has a different meaning. It is the solemn color of mourning.

For those of you celebrating this holiday time, may you cherish each moment you have with your family, and commemorate this season in it’s true essence.

(*photo taken with an iPhone)

Tag, You’re It

With fresh snow on the ground and with temperature of 14º F (-10º C) that we trekked down to the nearby tree farm. It’s that time of year again to choose a Christmas tree.

From our previous experiences, it usually takes us several minutes (though it feel like hours) to go up and down the line after line of trees, before we could pick the “perfect” tree.

Not this time.

On the first line of trees that we approached, we already made our choice. We did it in less than a minute! It is a record!

Here’s a close up photo of our Christmas tree with my wife tagging it with our name.

We’ll be coming back in two weeks to have this tree cut and bundled and for us to bring it home.

Since we did it so quickly, there was plenty of time for me to eat popcorn and sip hot chocolate inside the tree farm’s store. 

Actually I was looking for Santa, who usually is sitting inside this store, to give him my Christmas list. But he was not there. Perhaps he’s still busy preparing the turkey for the Thanksgiving.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)


A Concert Grand

Thank you Steinway Concert Grand* for singing wonderfully tonight. Thank you for making Johann Sebastian Bach’s Prelude and Fugue live and breathe for us. For having Robert Schumann’s Papillion flutter and dance. And for letting Maurice Ravel’s Sonatine serenade us tonight.

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I know you have played in so many recitals and concerts before. I know you have performed with so many great professors and excellent students. I am even sure you made music with some world-renowned pianists in the past.

But tonight is different. It is special. Very special. At least for me.

Thank you Steinway Concert Grand for letting my little daughter play with you tonight. For letting her delicate little fingers run and tinker with your ivories and ebonies. Those beautiful little fingers, that only yesterday, were playing with dirt and plucking dandelions in our yard.

I know. She’s not as little anymore, than what I want to believe.

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(*A Concert Grand piano is the standard for Classical performance and recording. It measures about 9 feet long.)

(**Photos taken during a university’s junior solo recital.)

Pingas at Lamat

Mga ilang buwan na ang nakalipas nang hindi sinasadyang mabagok ang cello ng aming anak. Ang anak naming ito ay nasa kolehiyo na bilang isang music performance major. Dahil medyo malakas ang pagkakatama ng cello, ito ay nagkalamat. Dinala namin ito sa dealer at matapos suriin ng eksperto, ay aming nalaman na hindi pala lamat lang kundi malalim pala ang biyak nito.

Hindi ako nakaimik nang sabihin na ang estimadong babayaran ay halos kalahati ng halaga ng cello. Marami raw dapat ayusin upang maibalik ang magandang tunog nito. Maari rin daw mag-depreciate ang halaga ng cello dahil nabasag na ito. Pero dahil napamahal na sa aming anak ang kanyang cello, kaya pinagpasyahan pa rin naming ipakumpuni ito.

Noong ako’y bata pa, aking naaalala na sa aming bahay ay may mga ceramic na figurines na may mga basag. Ngunit kahit pa pingas at basag ang mga ito, sila ay naka-display pa rin sa aming tahanan. Bakit? Ito ang kuwento ng mga figurines:

Kami ay nagbakasyon sa Ilocos Norte kung saan naroroon ang aming mga kamag-anak sa parte ng aking nanay. Dahil sa nataon na birthday ng bunso kong kapatid nang kami ay naroon, kaya doon na rin idinaos ang selebrasyon ng kanyang birthday. Kasama sa mga regalo na natanggap niya ay mga ceramic na figurines. Sa aking pagkakatanda, may figurine na mag-anak na aso, may isang cute na pusa, at mayroon ding bata.

Nang kami ay lumuwas na pa-Maynila ay bitbit namin lahat ng mga regalo, kasama ng ang mga figurines. Binalot namin sila ng dyaryo at lumang komiks. May tinapa at tupig (delicacy ng Ilocos) din kaming inuwi na nakabalot din sa dyaryo.

Fariñas Transit ang aming laging sinasakyan noon papunta at pauwi mula Ilocos. Mula sa istasyon ng bus ng Fariñas sa Sampaloc, ay sumakay kami sa isang taxi pauwi sa aming bahay sa may Balik-balik. Kahit na sobrang siksikan ay nagkasya naman kami at ang aming mga bagahe.

Nang kami ay paliko sa Visayas Avenue, mga ilang kanto na lang sa aming bahay, isang rumaragasang owner jeep ng pulis ang bumangga sa aming taxing sinasakyan. Tumilapon kami sa lakas ng pagkakabangga. Buti na lang at hindi tumaob ang aming taxi, at walang malubhang nasaktan sa amin.

Bumaba ang pulis sa kanyang jeep at kami ay kanyang sinilip. Ang paliwag ng pulis ay may hinahabol daw itong kotse ng mga hinihinalang carnapper, ngunit nawalan daw siya ng preno, kaya’t bumundol ito sa aming taxi.

Kahit kami ay nakalog at nasindak sa pangyayari hindi naman kami kailangan dalhin sa ospital. Bagkus pa nga, nag-lakad na lang kaming pauwi sa aming bahay, dahil ilang kanto na lang naman ang layo nito sa lugar ng aksidente.

Nang kami ay makarating sa aming tahanan, aming sinuri ang aming mga katawan at mga maliliit na pasa at bugbog lang naman ang aming pinsala. Nang aming buksan ang aming mga bagahe, aming natuklasan na ang mga figurines ay may pinsala din – may pingas at basag ang ilan sa mga ito.

Ngunit dahil ang mga pingas at basag na figurines ay nagpapaalala na kami ay buhay at ligtas sa kabila ng aming aksidente, kaya’t idinikit lang namin ng glue at idinisplay pa rin namin ang mga ito. Sila’y tanda ng aming pinagdaanan.

Kayo ba? May mga bagay ba sa inyong tahanan na kahit pingas at sira ay napamahal na sa inyo?

Isang pang display sa aming tahanan sa Maynila noon ay isang family tree na yari sa marmol. Ito ay regalo at galing pa sa Romblon. Sa bawat sanga ng puno ay may nakahapon na ibon.

Noong maliit pa ang aking pamangkin, sa sobrang kalikutan nito, ang marmol na family tree ay kanyang natabig at ito ay nahulog. Napigtas ang isang sanga nito. Matalinhagang babala kaya iyon? Naidikit naman namin itong muli sa pamamagitan ng epoxy. Sana nga lahat ng problema sa buhay ay nalulunasan lang din ng epoxy.

Bagaman may basag na ang marmol na family tree, mayabang pa rin itong naka-display sa aming tahanan, dahil para sa amin ay lalo lang nagkaroon ng mas malalim na kahulugan at halaga ito sa aming pamilya.

Sa ating buhay, tayo ay nakakaranas ng mga pagsubok at paghihirap na maaring sumugat, bumasag, o pumunit ng ating pagkatao at dangal. Sa aming karanasan ay marami kaming pinagdaanang ganito noon. Hindi aksidente sa taxi o sasakyan ang aking tinutukoy. Ang aking ibig sabihin ay ang malalakas, madidilim at masalimuot na bagyo ng buhay.

Hindi ko na isasaad ang mga partikular na mga pangyayari, ngunit sabihin na lang natin na ito’y nag-iwan ng lamat sa aming pangalan.

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Ngunit hindi natin dapat isipin na tayo ay marupok. Sa halip ay ating isipin na ang mga lamat, peklat at pingas ay isang tanda na tayo ay matatag. Ito’y tanda na ating nalagpasan ang mga pagsubok at lalo lang tayong tumitibay at lumalakas. Kaya nating bumangon sa anumang hagupit na maaring ihatid ng buhay. Sa bawat sugat, ang ating halaga ay hindi bumababa, kundi lalo pa itong tumataas.

Maaring ikaw ay may mga pinagdaanan o pinagdadaanan ngayon. Maaring ikaw rin ay may mga sugat at lamat. Kaibigan, taas noo nating ipakita sa mundo ang ating katatagan.

(*photo of broken figurine from here)

For Fathers Who Aren’t In Heaven

Sad stories are life’s reality. Several weeks ago I heard one sad story. It was told by a young man, but he did not even relayed it to me. I just overheard it.

We were in a youth camporee, and I went there as a supervising adult (see previous post). There were more than 300 boys and girls from several youth clubs that came to that camping.

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evening worship at the camp

One morning in the boy’s public bathroom, I was in one of the toilet stalls minding my own business. There was no phone signal in the camp, so I cannot surf the web on my smart phone to keep me entertained. I was just watching a small spider spinning his web at one corner of the stall.

(Sorry, this is my second post in a row that discuss something about restrooms. It is not my intention to turn this blog into a toilet talk, but just bear with me, for there’s a good point I want to make here, I promise.)

Then I heard people came to the restroom. I believe there were at least two boys who came in. While brushing their teeth and perhaps washing their faces at the lavatories, they started a conversation.

After some small talk and introducing themselves to each other, like their name and what youth club or place they came from, one boy opened up with a very personal information. I was not being nosy nor eavesdropping, but as the wash basins were just a few feet from the toilet stall I was in, I heard all their conversation.

“I never knew who my father is, for I never met him,” one boy confessed.

He added that he met his real mother when he was eleven years old, but her mother never told him who his real dad is. Then he said that his mother told him that she gave him away for adoption for he was a “blue baby” when he was born. “I was blue as a Smurf,” he quipped. Her mother thought that she cannot take care of him due to his condition, so she gave him away.

As a medical doctor, I know that “blue babies” have an anomaly in their heart or in their circulation causing poorly oxygenated blood to course into their arteries giving the bluish discoloration of their skin. Unless a life saving procedure or surgery is done immediately, they will not survive. Most likely this boy underwent such surgery.

I know this boy is a survivor. Yet he might had the corrective surgery to close a hole in his heart, but the void and longing in his heart for love, especially from a father he never knew, was never filled.

Like a priest inside a confession box, except that I was in a toilet stall, I heard all this heart-breaking confession of a young man without him seeing me. Most likely he didn’t even know I was there listening to his story. He is not aware that the walls, even the very private toilet walls, have ears.

I would like to break out from the stall I was in and give this young man a big hug, but given the situation and place, that may be deemed inappropriate. Perhaps even scandalous.

The thing is I know his first name, his age, where he is from, and what club he is a member of, but I never saw his face. By the time I was done with my business, and came out of the stall, the two boys were gone.

My heart was broken just listening to that sad story. I can just imagine what heartache that boy was feeling. I just hope he finds the love he was looking for even if he has no father. Though one thing for sure, “our Father who art in heaven,” loves him and I pray that he realized that.

This made me thinking, that fathers who aren’t in heaven, me included, have such a great responsibility. We may never change the world singlehandedly, but we are given this distinctive duty and privilege to make a positive impact in the precious lives of our children. And perhaps if all fathers will do that, then the world will change.

For you fathers who may be reading this, or for you young men or even boys who will be fathers some day, I hope we all rise up to this challenge.

Have a happy and meaningful Father’s Day.

A Weekend To Remember

Few days ago I drove to my outreach clinic which is an hour and a half away. As I mentioned in the past, the drive there is mostly serene and relaxing, going through picturesque rural Iowa landscapes. Unlike the frustrating drive through EDSA being stuck in traffic for an hour and half. It was a beautiful spring day too, with colorful blossoms on the trees lining the highway.

This journey provides me an opportunity to ruminate, I mean to think deeply, not chew the cud like cows here in Iowa. And a chance for some “sound tripping” too. The music album I picked that day for the drive was an album I have not listened to for quite a while. I just added it recently to my iPhone’s music library. It was Jim Chappell’s “Saturday’s Rhapsody.”

While I was cruising down the road and listening to the music, it took me back 25 years ago. To be exact, it was a Saturday night in January of 1993.

I was a fresh graduate from medical school, and I just passed the Philippine Medical Boards. Some of my friends had been harassing (kantiyaw) me for days to take them out to eat as a celebration for my recent board passing. So I told them, perhaps the coming weekend after a church function, we can go out if we wish. A wishy-washy plan.

There was this girl, a friend of a friend, who recently became part of my circle of friends, that I knew it was her birthday that weekend so I brought a gift just in case she’ll show up and join the party.

The gift was a music cassette tape. Remember them? Compact discs were not in vogue yet or they were more expensive than the cassette tape that time. It was Jim Chappell’s album “Saturday Rhapsody.”

Jim Chappell is an American jazz pianist. I’m not really a jazz type-of-guy. I am more of Pinoy folk, rock and country type-of-guy, with favorites like Freddie Aguilar, Asin and Eraserheads. But when I’m studying, I avoid those songs, as I would break out in a song which will be disruptive. So I gravitate to instrumental music or music without words. That’s how I end up listening to jazz music, especially when I was reviewing for my boards.

As I was listening to a smooth jazz radio station in Manila, I heard the music of Jim Chappell, and I got hooked. I bought my first album of his, “Living the Northern Summer.” I love his music so much that I shared this to my friends, as I gave them Chappell’s album as a gift. And that brought me to that particular night in January 1993.

I bought the album “Saturday Rhapsody” as a possible gift. That is if this particular girl would show up that night. If not, I can keep it for myself, for I still don’t have that album anyway.

But the girl showed up.

Darn, I would like to keep that cassette tape for me! Yet it was also a good thing, since it was her birthday, thus it was her blowout too. So she shared on the bill for the restaurant meal for our group, saving me some money.

After seeing the album, this girl thought that the music was kind of “bastos” (lewd), as the picture on the cover of the album was some sort of a naked woman (see photo below). She also thought I was “presko” (fresh or impudent)! But afterwards, when she listened to the album, she found that it was decent music and she liked it. It changed her impression of me too.

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We became good friends since then. We even went together to the concert of Jim Chappell when he came to Manila and performed at the Philippines International Convention Center in the summer of 1993.

In the end, the album that I gave away, became mine eventually and I didn’t have to get one for my own, as she and I shared it together. We have been sharing more than just music together for the past 25 years.

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Here’s a sample of one of the songs in that album “Saturday Rhapsody.” This song is “A Weekend to Remember.” It really was.

(*photo from the web, video from YouTube)

 

 

Unplugged

Last weekend we shed life’s conveniences and spent some time in the wild. We went camping.

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For three nights we slept in a tent. But before you think it was really miserable and uncomfortable, it was not. We have camping cots, so we did not have to sleep on the ground. We also have comfortable sleeping bags, blankets and pillows.

We did not go hungry as well, for we did not have to forage for something to eat in the forest or hunt for some wild game. We have canned goods and packed foods in our coolers. We even have propane powered stove and oven to cook our food. Though we build an open fire to keep us warm and for real “camping-feel.” In addition, we have to roast our marshmallows for the s’mores in the camp fire, of course.

Furthermore, we did not have to dig a latrine, for there was a modern bathroom facility with several toilet and shower stalls. And with heated running water!

You may argue that what we did was not really camping, but “glamping” – glamorous camping.

However, there’s one life’s convenience or some may even consider this a necessity nowadays, that was not available in the campsite. What is it?

There was no cellular phone signal there. It was a dead zone.

For three days, I have no use of my smart phone, except to take photos. No phone calls, no text messages, no e-mails, no Facebook, no news feed, no Google, no ability to check NBA scores, and no access to my blog. Nothing, nada, zilch.

In this current age, we are so wired up that we have connection with people around us and even people in the opposite side of the world. Phone call, texting, Facetime or Skype has been part of our everyday life now. I am finding out that nowadays courting has been reduced to video chat and sending text messages. What happened to the formal home visit, bringing flowers and asking the girl’s parents if they can meet?

I am not saying that this is bad, as it has made our world smaller. This technology has been a lifeline for families that have loved ones working overseas. Skype, Facetime, or any form of video chat is definitely a boon for them.

With the internet available almost anywhere whether thru Wi-Fi or cellular signal, we have access to any information we need. I remember the days we have to go to the library and search for the facts and data we want. Today, we have that instantly at our fingertips that I am not sure our present society will survive without this technology.

But I survive without a phone signal and internet for 3 long days. Proving we can live without it. The only connection I had there was with people around me in the “here and now.” You may say that we were isolated from the outside world, but there was plenty of interaction and connection in those days we were on the camp.

Where we went was a camporee. My wife and I volunteered to join my son’s club as supervising adults. There were 25 other youth clubs, and more than 300 people in that camp. So there’s a great deal of communicating and socializing. Though not by Facebooking or texting.

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some young people leading the worship service

Yet we did have some “long distance” interaction while we were in the camp. We witnessed the mighty sun as it sets by the lakeside and it was gorgeous. We marveled at the distant bright stars above us at night. Moreover, we had quiet communing with the Creator who surrounded us with these beautiful nature, who by the way, is really nearer than we think.

I believe we should be spending more time unplugged.

(*photos taken with an iPhone) 

 

Return to Florida

We were in Florida for a few days about a week ago. We accompanied our son who had a team competition held there. That was our official purpose to go to Florida, though there were other reasons.

One reason is to escape the cold, as there was still snow on the ground in Iowa when we flew to Florida. Another excuse perhaps was to see the ocean. Iowa is a land lot, and the nearest ocean is about 1000 miles away, so it’s not everyday that we can view the ocean. But the biggest reason to return to Florida, was to see our many friends there, for we once called that place home. That was before we moved to Iowa.

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beach in Sarasota

We have lots of good memories in Florida. Spending weekends in the theme parks or time in the beach were not even the highlight of our three years of residence there, even though we’ve become good acquaintances of Mickey. First of all, it was in Florida where I started a “real” job, after three years of Medical Residency (New Jersey) and another three years of Subspecialty Fellowship (New York) training.

After finishing my training in 2000, I had to change my visa from a “training” to a “working” visa. That transition took several months to get approved, and I was in limbo with no permit to work and no place to go. I was jobless, broke, and homeless. I cannot provide for myself let alone for my wife and my daughter who was a toddler at that time.

During that dark period of our life, we were fully dependent on the kindness of friends and family. We spent a month living in our friend’s home in New Jersey, then two months in another friend’s apartment in New York, then several months with our relatives in California. We did not starve nor sleep in the streets because there were good people who adopted us and cared for us. They provided everything, from the food we eat to the diapers for my daughter. It was a humbling experience, yet at the same time awe-inspiring on how good people can be.

When my visa got finally approved in 2001, we moved to Florida for my first employment. It was a wonderful feeling to move to an apartment of our own, sleep in our own beds, buy our own groceries, and cook our own food. It was not that the food we ate during the times we were “homeless” taste bad, but it was just good to taste food from the fruits of our own labor. Florida is known as the “Sunshine State,” and for us we really experienced a sunny existence there after going through some cold and dark circumstances in life.

So during our return to Florida last week, besides seeing our friends, we also visited the homes we rented (we moved twice) when we were still residents there. We felt so nostalgic driving through the streets and neighborhoods we used to know. Although it took us some time driving around to find the homes we rented, as there were considerable changes in that area. It was sad to see that the orange groves around our previous residences are now gone and turned into commercial complexes.

We drove by the clinic and the hospital where I used to worked. We also visited the hospital where my son was born only to find that the whole building was demolished and the site was turned into a park. The hospital was relocated to a new site and is a much larger facility now.

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the new relocated hospital

I even teased my son that we’ll return him to the hospital where he was born. The back story to that was after my son was born, our daughter who was 5 years old at that time was jealous at the attention our new baby was getting. So she pleaded, “Let’s return the baby back to the hospital.”

Since technically the hospital where my son was born is gone, he can argue that we cannot return him anymore. I guess we are stuck with him. Hah!

I would be lying if I say that it was all good things that we experienced in Florida. For there were alligators there. They were not just in the lakes and swamps. They wear clothes like you and me. To be fair, they can be anywhere not just in Florida. Yet I still believe that overall, people are good.

While we were living in Florida, we had a friend and his wife who underwent a transition phase where they were in-between jobs, just like what we went through before. They have no place to go, so we adopted them and they stayed with us for a few months. We cannot repay those who adopted us before, but we can do to others what was done to us. We paid it forward.

As expected, this couple made it through their dark times and was able to get back on their own. We were happy for them.

So guess where we stayed when we visited Florida recently? At the Disney Resort? No, done that. At the beachfront hotel? No, done that too. In a tent at a campground?  Not this time. We stayed somewhere much better.

We stayed at the home of our friend whom we adopted before. A home where love abounds trumps even the most posh hotel. Not just we stayed there for free, it also gave us more time to catch up and enjoy each other’s company again. Besides, their place was cozy with a resort-like feel. Consider waking up to this view (photo below).

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We also had a meet-up with other friends who took special efforts to delight us. From a treat to a restaurant, to a home-cooked Pinoy breakfast, from home-baked bread to freshly picked malunggay for our “pabaon.” I’m not sure we deserve all these kindness but we’re thankful to all of them.

We surely had fun visiting Florida again. And we did not even see Mickey.

(*photos taken during our last trip to Florida)

Ang Tandang at si Uncle Tom

Ako ay may tiyuhin na Amerikano. Siya si Uncle Tom.

Tatlong dekada na ang nakalipas nang isa sa aking mga tiyahin ay nagka-penpal ng isang Amerikano. Uso pa noon ang ballpen, magsulat sa papel, at maghulog ng sulat. Matagal-tagal din silang nagkasulatan, at dumating sa yugto na gusto nilang magkita. Wala pang Facebook at FaceTime noon, kaya’t nag-planong lumipad papuntang Pilipinas ang Amerikanong penpal ng aking tiyahin.

Dahil kami ay may bahay naman sa Maynila, at para na rin tuluyang makaliskisan, este makilatis pala ang ibig kong sabihin, ang kanyang penpal, kaya pinakiusap ng aking tita na sa bahay na namin tumuloy ang Amerikano.

Itanggi man natin o hindi, marami pa rin sa atin ang nagnanais na makakilala ng isang banyaga, at mapangasawa ito. Dahil sa isip natin ito ang ating magiging pasaporte para lumisan ng bansa. At kung tayo ay medyo tag-hirap, ito ang ating pagkakataong umunlad at makaahon sa buhay. Darating kaya ang panahon na ang mga Pilipino ay hindi na mangangarap na umalis ng bansa?

Kaya nang dadalaw na ang Amerikano, hindi kami magkandaugaga sa aming paghahanda sa kanyang pagdating. Para kaming naghanda sa isang official state visit, gaya nang dumalaw si President Trump sa Pilipinas. Kulang na lang ay umarkila kami ng banda ng mga musikero at magpa-piyesta sa aming kalye sa pagsalubong sa kanya.

Lumuwas pa ng Maynila ang aming lola mula sa probinsiya at nagdala ito ng mga buhay na manok, para raw ipanghanda sa Amerikano naming bisita. Siyempre, mas masarap pa rin daw ang lasa ng native at free-range na manok. Organic pa at siguradong hindi sinaksakan ng growth hormone at antibiotic.

Isa naman sa aking tiyuhin ang sumundo mula sa airport. Hindi na ako sumama dahil puno na ang sasakyan at baka wala pang maupuan ang aming bisita. Pagkasundo sa airport, ay sa bahay na namin sa Sampaloc Manila tumuloy ang Amerikano.

Sa aking silid pinatulog ang bisita. Malaking tao pala itong Amerikano. Hindi ko alam kung paano siya nagkasya o kung naging kumportable siya sa aking munting katre. Aaminin ko medyo masikip ang aking silid, pang-Petite (Palito?) size lang ito at hindi pang-Jumbo size. Hindi ko rin alam kung naglagkit sa init ang aming bisita, dahil wala naman kaming air conditioner. Pero may bintana naman at bentilador ang aking kuwarto.

Kahit payak ang aming bahay at masikip ang aking kuwarto, ay siguro naman ay lumutang pa rin ang aming pagiging hospitable sa aming panauhin. Kung tutuusin hindi lang ang Amerikanong penpal ng tiyahin ko ang banyagang natulog sa aking munting silid. Minsan ay nagkabisita kami ng galing Papua New Guinea na tumuloy din sa aking kuwarto. Marami ring kaming mga bisitang lokal ang nanuluyan dito. Kaya puti, itim, o kayumanggi – walang kinikilingan ang aking silid.

Balikan natin ang mga manok na dala ng aking lola. Isa dito ay puting tandang, pero hindi ito pang-sabong. Dahil hindi lahat ng manok ay ihahain kaagad, kaya’t ang iba ay hinayaan munang buhay. Kasama dito ang tandang na itinali sa veranda ng aming bahay.

Unang gabi ng aming bisita, maaring pagod na pagod sa biyahe ang Amerikano, at may jet-lag pa, kaya hahayaan lang sana namin siyang matulog kahit tanghaliin pa siya ng gising. Subalit may ibang balak ang puting tandang.

Bago pa magbukang liwayway o maaninag ang liwanag ng umaga, at bago pa magsipag-byahe ang mga traysikel ay simula nang tumilaok ang puting tandang. Walang patid at masigabo sa pagtilaok ang pesteng manok. Pumwesto pa ito malapit sa bintana ng aking kuwarto.

Hindi nagtagal ay nagising ang aming bisitang Amerikano. Galit at mainit ang ulo nito. Masama ang pagkakagising. Sino nga bang hindi mauunsiyame kung mabulabog ka sa iyong mahimbing na pagkakatulog.

Paglabas niya sa kuwarto, ay ako ang kanyang nasalubong. Sabi niya sa akin: “Where is that #&*@^! rooster, I’ll wring it’s neck!”

Sa halip na sa ilang araw pa sana kakatayin ang pobreng tandang, noong araw rin na iyon, naging tangahalian na namin ito. Nahimasmasan naman ang init ng ulo at natuwa pa ang aming panauhing pandangal, nang matikman niya ang masarap na luto na inihain namin sa kanya. Tinolang manok!

Nang malaon na ay nagkaigihan naman ang aking tita at ang kanyang penpal. Sila ay nagkataluyang magpakasal, at siya ay naging aking Uncle Tom. Hindi na nagtagal pa ay nakalipad na rin ang aking tita papuntang Amerika.

Maaring sabihin na dahil kay Uncle Tom, ay naging masuwerte ang aking tiyahin dahil siya’y nakarating ng Estados Unidos. Kahit man ako ay nabiyayaan din, dahil ang tiyahin kong ito ang isa sa tumulong sa akin sa pinansiyal nang ako’y nag-a-apply na papuntang Amerika para sa aking Medical Residency Training. Dahil sa ako’y natanggap sa isang academic hospital para mag-training, ito naman ang naging daan para ako’y makapangibang-bayan.

Noong nakaraang Pasko, maliban sa aking pagtawag sa mga kamag-anak sa Pilipinas, ay tinawagan ko rin ang aking tiyahing ito na naninirahan na sa California. Siya ang pinakamalapit kong kamag-anak dito sa Amerika. Ang California ay mahigit na tatlong oras na biyahe sa eroplano o dalawang araw na drive mula sa amin dito sa Iowa.

Sa pag-uusap namin ng aking tita ay nabanggit niya na medyo lumulubha na raw ang kalagayan ni Uncle Tom at nagiging makakalimutin na rin ito. Sa katunayan, may mga ilang taon nang may sakit si Uncle Tom. Salamat na lang kay tita na tunay na nagmamahal sa kanya, at hindi niya ito pinababayaan. Isa pa, dahil nurse ang aking tiyahin, naaalagaang lubos si Uncle Tom.

Sa aking tingin at palagay, kung naging masuwerte ang aking tiyahin, mas naging masuwerte si Uncle Tom dahil nakilala niya ang aking tita at ang aming pamilya. At hindi lang ito dahil sa nakakain siya ng tinolang manok.

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(*photo taken during our last visit to the Philippines)