Leksiyong Pang-Grade Two

Balik-eskwela na naman ang mga bata. Pero marami sa mga schools sa ngayon ay virtual class ang meeting dulot ng COVID-19 pandemic. At dahil po pasukan na naman, ay minarapat ko na muling sariwain ang mga leksiyong natutunan ko noong ako’y nasa mababang paaralan pa.

(Related previous posts Kwentong Kindergarten and Leksiyong Pang-Grade One.)

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Ako ay inilipat sa mas malaking paaralan nang ako’y mag-grade 2. Hindi tulad ng paaralan ko sa Kindergarten na nilalakad ko lang mula sa aming bahay, at ang eskwelahan ko ng Grade 1 na isang tricycle lang ang layo, ang bagong school na pinasukan ko noong grade 2 ay malaki ang inilayo nito: 2 sakay ng jeepney at 1 sakay ng tricycle. Lumipat ako doon dahil sa ito ay academy – elementary hanggang high school.

Bagong paaralan. Bagong lugar. Bagong uniporme. Bagong lunchbox. Bagong classroom. Bagong teacher. Bagong mga classmates. Bagong hamon.

Sa Grade 2, ako at iilan lang estudyante ang bagong lipat. Halos lahat ng mga classmates ko ay magkakakilala na dahil doon silang lahat nag-Grade 1. Buti pa sa Kindergarten o sa Grade 1, lahat kami ay bago. Sa Grade 2, ako lang ang bagong salta. Kumbaga ako’y “new kid in town.”

Hindi ko sasabihin na naging madali ang naging transisyon ko sa bagong paaralan. Pero alam kong kailangan itong mangyari. Kaya ang isa sa leksiyon na aking natutunan noong grade 2 ay ito:

Huwag matakot sa pagbabago. Dahil sa pagbabago tayo ay natututo at lumalago.

Sapagkat ako nga’y bago at wala pang kakilala, pag-recess na ay nasa isang sulok lang ako. Mahiyain ako at hindi naman ako ipinanganak na parang pulitiko na maboka at magaling makipagkaibigan. Buti na lang at may dalawang mag-pinsan na bagong salta ring katulad ko. Kinaibigan nila ako, o siguro naawa sila sa akin dahil mukha akong basang sisiw.

Mula noon kapag lunch break na, kahit may bitbit akong baon dahil nga malayo ang bahay namin, ay sumasama ako sa mag-pinsan kong kaeskwela, at doon sa bahay nila ako kumakain ng tanghalian. Kung alam lang ng nanay ko na kung saan-saang kalye at eskinita ng Pasay ako sumusuot at naglalakad ay siguradong mag-aalala ito. Nariyan ang mga maton at siga sa daan na aming nasasalubong. Mayroon din mga lasing at adik. Sa awa ng Diyos, wala namang nangyari sa akin.

Naging kaibigan ko ang mag-pinsan na ito, at mga ilang buwan din akong kaladkarin sa bahay nila. Nakatulong din na naging “in” ang aking bagong kaibigan dahil magaling siya sa sipa at pinakamabilis siyang tumakbo, kaya naman kahit sabit lang ako ay isinasali na rin ako pag-naglalaro na. Hindi na ako basang sisiw.

Isa pang leksiyong aking natutunan noong ako’y Grade 2:

Ang mga taong may kaparehas mong hamon sa buhay ang makakaunawa at makakatulong sa iyo. Ang mahirap na sitwasyon ang makakapagbuklod sa inyo.

Mga ilang taon ko rin naging kaibigan ang mag-pinsan na ito. Ngunit isang araw, lumipat na sila ng paaralan. Tunay na ikinalungkot ko iyon. Hindi man lang ako nakapagpaalam sa kanila. Salamat na lang at marami na akong mga kaibigan pa nang sila’y nawala.

Dahil ako ay baguhan nga, may isang bata rin ang nag-bully sa akin noong ako’y nasa Grade 2. Sabi niya isusumbong daw niya ako sa aming teacher kesyo hindi healthy ang aking baon at hindi raw ito ‘kosher.’ Isusumbong niya ako dahil may kulang daw sa aking uniporme. Isusumbong daw niya ako dahil hindi ako naggupit ng kuko. Isusumbong daw niya ako dahil masyado akong guwapo. At iba’t-iba pang walang katotohanang akusasyon, maliban sa huling paratang.

Tinanong ko ang aking nanay, at sabi niya baka raw inggit lang ang aking kaklaseng ito. O marahil nagugutom lang ito, kaya’t i-share ko na lang daw ang baon ko. Kaya nang sumunod na isusumbong na naman daw niya ako sa teacher, ay binigyan ko na lang siya ng kalahati ng sandwich ko. Masaya naman niyang tinanggap ang inalok kong pagkain. Mula noon, hindi na niya ako ginambala. Gutom nga lang pala.

Kaya isa pa sa leksiyong aking natutunan:

Sikaping intindihin ang gumagawa ng hindi mabuti sa iyo. At kung kaya mong gawin ay gantihan na lang ito ng mabuti.

Marami akong naging paboritong laro noong ako’y Grade 2. Tulad ng agawan base (also known as prisoner’s base), habulan, sipa, at jolens. Hindi naman sa pagyayabang, ay naging mahusay ako at kinilalang hustler sa sipa at asintado sa jolens.

Isang araw, matiwasay kaming naglalaro ng jolens. Ngunit may isang kaeskwela na nang-gugulo habang kami ay naglalaro. Tinitira niya ang aking jolens kahit hindi naman siya kasali. Sinabihan namin na tumigil na siya, ngunit tengang kawali lang siya. Napuno ako, kaya’t dinampot ko ang jolen niya at ibinalibag ito sa pader. Nag-arboroto siya at sinugod niya ako. Hindi ko siya inurungan. Nauwi ito sa suntukan.

Salamat na lang at maraming nakakatandang bata ang umawat sa amin. Hindi naman kami naging duguan. Damdamin lang ang naging sugatan. Hindi ko akalaing makikipag-away ako. Hindi ko rin akalaing may dugong Pacquiao pala ako.

Siyempre napagalitan kami ng aming teacher na si Mrs. de Vera. Pati magulang ko ay pinagalitan ako. Pero mula noon, wala nang gumagago sa akin. Siguro napagtanto nilang pumapalag pala ako kahit na ako ay patpatin. Natuto rin naman akong makisama, umiwas, at lumayo na sa mga away at basag-ulo.

Ito pa ang leksiyon kong natutunan sa Grade 2:

Umiwas sa mga away. Ngunit sa buhay, darating ang sitwasyon na kailangan mong lumaban at ipagtanggol ang iyong sarili.

Siyempre marami pa akong natutunan sa loob ng classroom, tulad ng calculus, biochemistry, at geopolitics. Teka, teka….. hindi yata sa Grade 2 ko natutunan ang mga ‘yon. Ngunit may mahahalagang leksiyon mula sa labas ng classroom na ang naging guro ko ay karanasan.

Oo nga at hindi na ako magaling mag-sipa at wala na ang husay ko sa jolens, pero ang mga aral na napulot ko noong Grade 2 ay bitbit ko pa rin hanggang sa ngayon.

September Morning: Reloaded

It is September once again. I would like to re-post an entry I wrote 8 years ago.

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The cool air is moving in, heralding that the days of summer are numbered. It is not that cold yet that it is freezing, but just enough to make the mornings cool and crisp. The night temperature falls usually meeting the dew point  (as if I know what I am talking about) and this forms a thin wisp of fog above the ground in the mornings like a floating white blanket. The days are getting shorter too. And the Iowa cornfields are turning into golden-yellow. It is indeed September.

September. There is something about this month that brings about a certain sentimentality. Some kind of nostalgia if you will. Just the number of songs that I know that have September in its title proves this point. From “See You in September” (The Happenings), “September” (Earth, Wind and Fire), “September Morn”  (Neil Diamond),  and “September of my Years” (Frank Sinatra), all from yesteryear, to the more recent songs like “The Late September Dogs” (Melissa Etheridge), “Wake Me Up When September Ends” (Greenday) and “September” (Daughtry). I know you can name a few (or a lot) more songs than these. Perhaps you can sing them all too.

To me though, September ushers a certain kind of sadness. I know September marks the end of summer, but that’s not why I feel this way. You see, I grew up in the Philippines, a tropical country, where we have summer-like days the whole year through, so I don’t associate this month to the gloom of approaching autumn and winter. In fact in the Philippines, September marks the unofficial start of the long joyous Christmas celebration. Christmas songs (especially Jose Marie Chan’s) can be played and Christmas decorations can be displayed as soon as the months ending with “ber” rolls in.

To me this melancholic feeling about September has a deeper personal meaning. Painfully personal.

It was one day in September, twenty-five years ago that my life’s boyhood summer came to an end. That was when my father passed away at a premature age and we were left to carry on. My sheltered and carefree innocent living came to a screeching halt.  And I became a man overnight, burdened with the huge responsibility passed on to me.

hazy morning sun over golden field of corn ready for harvest

Though September morning just like today, also attests that we can rise up to the challenges of life. We, like the sun can continue to ascend and claim our rightful place in the sky. Soon enough the fog of uncertainties and doubts will burn away in the warmth of the day. The golden fields of harvest will be ours for the taking. And our commitment to reach our dreams will be fortified to face even the harshest days of the coming winter.

September morning. Let the cold wind blow.

A Room with a View

Our planned trip to Canada this summer went kaput. Because of this COVID-19 pandemic, the northern border is still not open for tourists. Instead of giving back the vacation days that I already took, we scrambled to look for an alternate local getaway.

As we were booking for a hotel or a lodge, we were looking to have a room with a view. I for one is really particular of having a view. Even if I spend the whole day doing nothing, as long as I enjoy looking outside the window, that’s more than enough for me. Thus on many of our trips we hunt for a room with a view. And if we checked in to the hotel and we’re given a room that was different than what we imagined, we would request to be moved and not settle until we get the room that we wanted.

Who wouldn’t like a room with a view?

I don’t know if this can be applied when being hospitalized. First of all you cannot really pick your hospital room. Second, most hospitals don’t have a view. And lastly, if you do have a beautiful hospital window view then you may not want to leave at all, which is counterproductive.

I am not saying that hospitals should not have a good view if they can provide it. After all I believe a serene setting or view could be in itself therapeutic to patients. In our hospital we have a central garden with pretty flowers and some rooms overlook this garden. While a few of the rooms have a view of our city’s skyline. While many rooms in our hospital have brick walls for their view.

Recently, one patient of ours told me that he was surely glad that he was referred to our hospital. He was transferred from a small regional hospital to our tertiary medical center for further management of worsening respiratory status from COVID-19. He told me that besides the advance medical care we can provide in our facility, the view from his window at the regional hospital where he came from was not “reassuring.” In fact he said it was downright depressing.

A couple of years back, we started going to that regional hospital once a month, which is an hour and 45 minutes drive from our main office, as part of our outreach clinic, so I fully understand the comments of that patient. Across the street of the regional hospital is a very “serene” park, though it is probably not what you want to see when you are sick. The said hospital, believe it or not, is overlooking the town’s cemetery. That could be depressing. Though it could be an incentive to get better too, or else you end up across the street.

I remember a story* I read years ago about two hospitalized men who were sharing a hospital room. Both of them were suffering from serious illnesses. One patient was by the window and the other one was across the room. The one far from the window was unable to get out of bed, so everyday he would ask his room mate what he sees in the window. Every time the patient who was lying by the window would tell the other one the beautiful view outside. Like how the sun was shining in the sky, or the children playing at the park, or the pretty flowers blooming in the garden, or the ducks swimming at the pond. This lifted the spirit of the other patient and gave him encouragement to get well so he could go outside and see for himself the beautiful view.

Then one day the patient who was by the window died. The one across the room felt very sad for his room mate, yet he felt good at the prospect that he could transfer to the bed by the window.

When he finally got transferred to the bed by the window, he was terribly disappointed. Why? The window of their hospital room was facing a brick wall. No view of a park, nor of a beautiful garden, nor a pond.

He realized that his former room mate made it all up to inspire him and to keep his hopes alive. That hope that sustained him through his illness and pain.

The next day, there came a new patient who was laid in the bed far from the window. This new room mate ask him what he sees outside their window. To this he replied, “Oh, there were children merrily picking flowers……”

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(*Original short story is by Harry Buschman, “The Man by the Window.” I added the last twist.)

Fleeting Fireflies

I am re-posting “Catching Fireflies,” an article I wrote nine summers ago. It was a time when my son had a fascination of capturing fireflies. He has outgrown that. After working in a summer camp as a “Nature Director,” he even now forbids us to keep our porch and driveway lights on through the night, saying that the bright lights will prevent the fireflies from finding their mates. Time have changed.

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Fireflies. Also known as lightning bugs. There is something in these twinkling insects that fascinates us. And kids, or the kid in us, wants to catch them. Maybe we think that if we capture them, we will hold magic in our hands.

Catching fireflies has become a summer tradition for my children for the past few years. My son had his container with perforated lid for catching fireflies, prepared way back in February (late winter) this year. He even labeled his jar with a hand drawn picture of a firefly.

When June rolled by and there were still no fireflies, he became impatient. He asked me when will the fireflies come. I jokingly told him that maybe all the fireflies migrated out of Iowa, since they learned that there is this boy who wants to catch them.

When we came back from our California visit on July 4th (we flew back home on Independence Day), my son got very excited when he looked outside our window and saw glittering bugs hovering above our lawn. Fireflies! In fact, he was more excited to see the fireflies than the fireworks that were firing in the sky.

(photo from shutterstock)

My son hurriedly took his jar and ran outside. I also went outside to enjoy the summer’s breeze, and shoot some hoops in our driveway basketball goal, while my son catches fireflies. Though there were other bugs, aside lightning bugs, that hovered and buzzed in our ears and feasted on our arms and legs. We did not catch those bugs -we swatted them.

While we were outside, our nearby neighbor had a “private” fireworks show in his yard. We did not need to go very far, just in our driveway, to watch the fireworks. Yes, it may pale from comparison to the fireworks show in New York, but I thought it was entertaining enough.

My daughter also came out, not to catch fireflies, but to watch our neighbor’s fireworks display. Perhaps she was past the fascination of catching fireflies.

My son proudly showed me his jar with a few fireflies that he caught. He placed some blades of grass inside the jar, and asked me if fireflies eat grass. I told him, I don’t know what fireflies eat that make them glow. Maybe fire? Or sulfur? Or kerosene? But I told him that even if we feed them, they will not last very long in his jar.

The stunning fireworks sparkle for few moment, but fade in the dark. The alluring fireflies flicker, and then grow dim. This beautiful summer will also soon disappear, as well as all the fireflies.

And that is true with everything in life.

I know not long from now my son’s childhood innocence will wane and he will be off to chasing other fancies. My kids will soon be going to college, and to their own lives, pursuing their own dreams, and we will be left with an “empty nest.” I also know that my life’s summer will soon (I hope not too soon!) fade into autumn, and my strength will decline, and I will not be able to shoot hoops anymore or chase fireflies.

But for one magical night, I soaked it all in, while it lasted. And now I hold them in my memory forever………. or at least until my memory fails me too.

As for the captured fireflies? My son set them free into the fleeting summer’s night.

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Post Note: I still can shoot hoops in our driveway basketball goal.

Added Feature:

Our neighborhood’s Independence Day fireworks for this year 2020.

Who Will Roll Away The Stone?

(I was invited by my home church in the Philippines to give a message during their virtual church service through Zoom and this was viewed via Facebook live. Here’s what I shared, though it was in Tagalog.)

Good morning to all of you, though it’s night time here where I am. Thank you for inviting me to share the word of God today. It is strange that when there is a time of travel restriction and stay-at-home order, that’s the time I am able to go back to my home church. In fact I have been worshiping with you for more than 2 months now. We must remember that the church is not the building in Sampaloc. The church is us, the group of believers wherever we may be.

Unprecedented Time

We are living in an unprecedented time. Never in our lifetime have we seen so many parts of the world placed in lockdown. For you people in Metro Manila you have been in community quarantine for more than three months now, and I know you are longing to get out.

Never before in my lifetime have I witnessed the police guarding stock of toilet paper. Who could have imagined that I would go to the bank teller asking for money and I was wearing a mask? We have problems right now that we never knew we would have. Like, can I trust my wife to give me a haircut? Or, how many type of dish can I make out of a can of sardines?

More seriously now, yes we have problems in this world currently that we don’t have an answer for, and we’re looking for someone who can help us solve them. As a worker in the medical field, I have witnessed first hand the deadly effects and devastation of this COVID 19, especially in the place I work – in the ICU.

I would like to review a story in the Bible, where people had a situation and they asked who could help them with their problem? I entitled our study today as “Who will roll away the stone?”

Mark 16: 1-3: When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

Extravagant Burial

It was Sunday morning, and the women, the two Marys and Salome, were on their way to Jesus’ tomb. The mood among Jesus’ followers were doom and gloom. Their Messiah died, and many of them went into hiding. They went into self imposed quarantine. I am not sure if these women were the only ones with quarantine pass so they went out, but the men were afraid to go out not because of a virus, but because they were afraid for their lives. These women’s hearts were broken, yet they would like to show their devotion to their fallen leader by anointing his dead body with fragrances.

It was the custom of the Jews to anoint the dead. The anointing of perfume was not to do mummification, but to put spice and fragrances to cancel the bad smell of decomposition. The most common spice used to anoint the dead is myrrh. Where else have you heard about myrrh? If you said that it was one of the wise men’s gifts given to Jesus when he was born, then you’re absolutely right. Do you see the theme here? Jesus was a baby destined to die.

We may ask, was Jesus’ body not given proper burial rights before being buried that the women have to do it again? Let’s read:

John 19: 38-40: After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.

One hundred pounds of spices (some Bible version says 75 lbs; the original Bible manuscript in Greek says 100 litras). That’s a lot of spices! Twenty pounds of spices was the usual burial custom in those days. Forty pounds was for the rich. So 100 pounds was really extravagant. I read that it is estimated that the cost of 100 pounds of this mixture of myrrh and aloes would cost about $150,000 (7.5M pesos) in today’s market. Those men, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, gave Jesus a burial fit for a king.

Do we have that extravagant devotion? Do we give honor to God that is fit for the King of Kings? But even how extravagant our devotion to God is, one thing for sure, we cannot out love the Lord. Do you know what extravagant love is? This is extravagant love – when Jesus exchanged his divine and royal crown for a crown of thorns and gave His life for you and me.

Very Large Stone

So back to those women, why did they have to go? I don’t think these women thought that the anointing of Jesus’ body was not done right or not enough, but rather they only wanted to show honor and respect to their fallen Savior in their own little way.

So while the women were on their way, they asked: Who will roll away the stone? This implies that they alone cannot roll away this stone.

me trying to move a large stone in Jordan

Archeologist have found many tombs around Palestine that they believe were first century tombs. Most of the time the opening of the tomb was blocked by a stone. It could be a large mill-like stone, though some experts say that it could also be a square rock that can slide. Though to me when the women said “roll” away, original Greek word apokylio, it must be circular that it can roll like a wheel.

The books of Mathew and Mark said that it was “very large.” If we say it should cover 4 to 5 feet of tomb entrance, then a disc stone would have a diameter of at least 6 feet. That rock could weigh 1.5 to 2 tons. That weight alone even though it can roll like a wheel, would be hard to move.

But there’s another factor that was found by archeological diggings: usually the groove where the stone rolls was in an incline or had a deep ditch where it would drop. Meaning, it may be much easier to close it, but a lot harder to open it, as you have to roll it against an incline or lift it out of a deep rut, and put a wedge to keep it open. In a conservative estimate, you need more than 10 strong men at the least, to roll away the stone.

One more factor, according to Matt 27:66, it was closed with a Roman seal and thus cannot be opened without the permission of the Roman authority. Besides, there were Roman soldiers guarding the tomb. A usual Roman guard unit is 4-16 men, most of the time 4 men stay on guard while the rest sleeps, and they change shifts every few hours, to keep them fresh.

We must give credit to these women, even though their faith was imperfect as they did not expect that Jesus would be alive as He told them He would, yet they went out anyway even if they knew there would be barriers in accomplishing their mission.

So they asked, “Who will roll away the stone?”

People have the same question today? Who will help us if we get sick of this virus? Who will provide us our daily provision? Who can stop this world pandemic? Who will release us from our quarantine? Who will roll away the stone?

Rolled Away For Us

But when they came to the site, what did they see? The stone was already rolled away! How? Let’s read:

Matthew 28: 2-4: There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

No need for ten strong men, one angel is enough. No need to put a wedge on the stone, for the angel sat on it. No need to contend with the Roman guards for they became like dead men. Heaven took care of their problem!

The women seeing that the stone was rolled away, came in to the tomb, and the angel told them that the Jesus they were looking for was not inside the tomb, for He is alive!

Yes my friends, we serve a risen Savior. Our God is alive! The tomb was empty! That stone blocking the entrance of a tomb was rolled away!

I believe that the stone at the entrance of the tomb was not rolled away so Jesus can come out. What? Before you accuse me of teaching heresy and false doctrines, just hear me out first.

Remember when He appeared to the disciples when they were inside a house with closed door? Let’s read:

John 20:19: On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

The disciples were staying at home and in lockdown. Doors were closed and locks were securely fastened, yet suddenly Jesus stood among them. How? He came through the walls! I believe Jesus when He was resurrected, can verily come out of the tomb even with the stone locked in!

But why was the stone rolled away? It was not that Jesus can come out. It was for the women and His disciples to come in inside the grave, and see that the tomb was empty. The stone was not rolled away for Jesus. It was rolled away for us, so we can believe.

Are we still asking who will roll away the stone? The stone of this pandemic. The stone of our failing health. The stone of our unemployment. The stone of our financial difficulties. The stone of our broken relationships. The stone of our addiction. The stone of our day-to-day struggles in life. The stone of our unbelief.

If we are asking the question “Who will roll away the stone?” then we are asking the wrong question. The answer is already clear.

The question for us is: “Do we have faith to believe that God can roll away our stone?”

David wrote a psalm during the time that he was running away from King Saul. Or maybe he was just doing social distancing from the king and his soldiers. During that time he was hiding from one mountain to another, staying in one cave to another. And he wrote:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalms 121:1-2

Faith Moves Mountains

Few years ago, we were blessed to visit Israel. During one of our trips our bus was traveling to Bethlehem, the tour guide asked us to look beyond Bethlehem hills and direct our sight to a strange-looking mountain in the distance. It was truncated and cone-shaped.

It was a strange-looking mountain because it was man-made. The mountain was named Herodium, a fortress that Herod the Great constructed, about 5 kilometers southeast of Bethlehem. This was the same King Herod that tried to kill Jesus by slaughtering all the male infants in the region.

As history recorded it, when Herod the Great, was searching for a place to build his home and fortress, there was not a mountain high enough for him to build this structure. Instead there were two hills near each other at the site where he wanted it.

So what did Herod do? He cut down one hill and with an army of laborers he placed the pared hill on top of the other hill to make it higher, one bucket of dirt and rocks at a time. He literally moved a mountain.

When Jesus and his disciples were having discussion about faith, they were probably looking at this Herod’s mountain, which was hard to miss in the Judaean desert. Its dominating presence was a constant reminder of an oppressive regime. It was a common knowledge of that time how Herod moved a mountain.

Jesus told his disciples: “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

What Jesus was telling his disciples is that faith, is much powerful than what Herod can do. With faith they can be greater than Herod the Great. With faith they can be mightier than the mightiest ruler of their time.

Yes, our God is powerful and He can move mountains. And if we have faith in Him we can do that too. And if God can move our mountains, we should never be asking anymore, “Who will roll away the stone.”

(*most photos taken from the web)

Bugnutin

Sabi ng aking misis ay nagiging masungit at bugnutin daw ako habang ako ay tumatanda. Siguro dahil na rin sa stress sa trabaho, lalo na at napaka-busy pa rin ng aming ICU at sunod-sunod ang aking duty, at marami pa rin kaming kaso ng COVID-19. O marahil talagang gusto ko lang maging “grumpy old man.”

Pero may nahukay ako sa aking baul na magpapatunay na hindi ako tumatandang masungit at bugnutin. Ang aking ebidensiya? Bata pa lang ako ay bugnutin at salubong na ang kilay ko!

Post Note: Kaaway ko siguro yung litratista.

(*photo circa 1970’s)

A 2020 Vision

(I was asked to contribute a page for a high school students’ yearbook. My son was one of the co-editors. Their theme was Vision 2020. Here’s the message I wrote.)

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Vision is a precious gift from God. It is one of our senses that we use to interact with the outside world. With our vision we can see a cloudless summer sky, the intricate details of a flower, the changing colors of the autumn leaves, and so much more.

The term 20/20 vision means that one can see a specifically sized target at a distance of 20 feet. 20/100 vision means one can only see the target at 20 feet what another person with 20/20 vision can see at 100 feet. The bigger the bottom number, like 20/200, the poorer the vision.

So important is vision that if we are deprived of this faculty it is considered a disability. But there is a graver condition than having no sight. According to Helen Keller, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” What an interesting insight from a blind person.

Vision is not just the state of being able to see, but it is the ability to think about and wisely plan for the future with imagination, optimism, and most of all faith to the One who holds our tomorrow. I believe that this is a far more important gift we are given. 

To the graduating class of 2020, we extend to you our sincerest congratulations.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18

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Post Note:

Who could have envisioned that the year 2020 will be this unsettling? And we are only a quarter through it. I feel sad for senior students, including my daughter who is supposed to graduate from college next month. She still would graduate, but there will be no commencement ceremonies due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With or without graduation ceremony, should not lessen the momentousness of their accomplishments.

(*The photo above was from a few years back, taken at Nevada’s Highway 50, the loneliest road in America, a perfect place for social and physical distancing.)

A Beautiful Night

I did two overnight in-hospital ICU call in a span of three days lately. This has obviously derailed my circadian rhythm. Normally in our group of intensivists, a doctor only do 24-hour duty once a week or less. But this is not normal times.

So on the day I was off after my back to back calls, I woke up in the middle of the night and cannot sleep anymore. My body was fatigued yet my mind was awake. Instead of tossing and turning in bed, I got up and went to another room so not to disturb my wife who was fast asleep.

I pulled up a chair and sat by the side of the window and stared outside. The night was still and the moon was halfway through the horizon in the sky. The warm glow of the moonlight bathes the whole surrounding and it was quite enchanting. It was after all the super pink moon – the biggest and brightest full moon of this year 2020.

Ah, year 2020. Who could have predicted that this year would be this challenging? At my work we have more than 30 ICU beds, but with the predicted patients surge from COVID-19, our hospital has a contingency plan that we could convert other parts of the hospital into temporary ICUs and that we could potentially take care of 90 critically-ill patients on ventilators. The good thing is we have not seen that kind of surge like what is happening in New York City and New Orleans. At least not yet. I hope we never will.

We do have several confirmed COVID-19 patients on ventilators though, and they are pretty sick. But they are getting better, and the truth is many of them are getting off ventilators after a few days. Even our first ever confirmed COVID-19 patient that ended up on mechanical ventilator improved and got off of it after almost three weeks.

There were deaths though from this virus, even in our ICU and we cannot deny that. In fact the other night that I was on call, there was one patient that was a COVID-19 suspect and I placed him on a ventilator that night. Of course I had my full protective gear when I intubated him. Yet despite of our best efforts he died. But testing came back later that it was not the novel corona virus, but he had positive blood culture for a bacteria and he died from an overwhelming sepsis. People die from other causes as well, not just COVID-19.

As I gazed outside the window, I uttered a prayer for strength and protection not just for me, but for all the healthcare workers that continue to fight this battle. I also prayed for my family and all the families of frontliners who are at continued risk of contracting this disease from us when we come home. More importantly I prayed for the patients and their families that are going through such a woeful and difficult time.

The saddest part of this pandemic is that patients in hospitals are going through their ordeal alone, as family and friends are not allowed to visit them. And for those people who succumbed from this COVID-19, they die alone with nobody to hold their hands even in their last dying breath. It is really heartbreaking.

I looked at the radiant full moon and it was glorious. I observed that the light of the moon cast long shadows on the lawn from the trees. I was unaware on how the trees around us had gone so big and tall now. The evergreens that stayed lush and strong through the cold months and had survived many bitter winters. The deciduous trees that were currently barren but the leaf buds were beginning to appear for it is spring time after all, reminding us that life begins again. I also noticed that there were faint stars in the sky, though their light were subdued by the bright moon, yet they were twinkling whether we see them or not.

All in all, it was a beautiful night.

Photo by David Besh on Pexels.com

Then a thought came to me as if God was answering me. Even if we are going through the night, if we don’t dwell on the shadows and focus on the light, there is still beauty around us. Many times darkness heightens our senses to appreciate the light and other lovely things that we may have taken for granted. Yet the most reassuring thought is that even how dark the night is, morning is surely coming and a new day will emerge.

Yes, we may have lost many in the night and we should remember them, but for most of us, we are going to be alright. Have a blessed and meaningful Easter everyone.

A Silver Lining

They say that in every dark cloud there is a silver lining. I totally understand that what is going through our world today with this pandemic is alarming and quite nerve-racking to many, yet maybe there are some lessons we can learn from this time of crisis.

I read from one blogger from Italy, a nation that is hardly hit by this COVID-19 pandemic, on how he have learned something from this calamity. He said that he has a “bad” habit of going to a coffee shop 3 to 4 times a day. But since many establishments are closed, coffee shops included, he now brings to work coffee from home in a thermos, and he realized that he was wasting lots of money before. An eye-opening reality.

A day in Florence Italy, before COVID-19 scare

I agree with his realization. Do we really need to go to the coffee shop several times a day? Do we really need to spend lots of our time and money in clubs and bars? Do we really need to eat in a restaurant every night just because we can? Do we really need to go to the mall to buy that 100th pair of shoes?

What we might think is important before, may not be so important after all. This changing times changed our perspective.

I have a friend that posted a photo of a store where uniformed police officers standing guard to a huge pile of toilet paper. That may be extreme, but I believe they were trying to enforce a limit on how much a buyer could get. Who would have thought that we will see something like this, for all we know is they guard only valuable things like gold bars and jewelries. I guess you cannot wipe your behind with your jewelries, nor could it make you clean.

In time of crisis we determine which ones are needs, and the rest are just wants.

It is also interesting in this crucial time that we now have deemed the healthcare workers, (from doctors, nurses, to even the ones that clean and sanitize our hospitals), and the farmers who provide our food, and the grocery workers that stock our food, and the truck drivers that keep the pipeline of essential supplies going to where it is needed, and the police officers that implement the law of lockdowns and curfews – are people more important than movie actors and actresses, pop singers, professional athletes, and other famous people we used to treat as gods.

I have nothing against famous people. What I am against is how we view them compared to the people around us that give us valuable service. Let us give these “regular” people their proper due.

Since we are advised to do social distancing, I encourage all of us to do our fair share of this. I know some of the recommendations by the health authorities may not be feasible to some. Like there is a recommendation that no group of 10 or more people should gather together. But how about those people in very densely populated cities where there might be 10 people already sleeping in one room? How can you do social distancing of at least 6 feet apart, if you already live like sardines?

As we are forced to stay home, let us just be grateful to spend time with our own family – our children, our parents, our siblings – the most important people in our lives that we barely spend time with before. Even though we are not in a beautiful vacation resort or in a cruise to an exotic place, may we find this opportune time with our families, inside the four walls of our home, precious and productive.

It is quite sad to think that it took a pandemic for us to set straight our priorities in life. I know that this crisis will also pass just like every problem we have, but I hope that the lessons we learned from this, we will not forget.

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(*Photo taken during our visit last year, way before the travel ban and lockdown.)

Thoughts From An Old Couch

Where do old couch go?

Few days ago, my son and I carried out our old couch to the end of our driveway for waste management to pick-up. Would it be recycled into a new form or would it rest in a land fill? I don’t know. This is not the first time though, that I have dealt with a couch on a curb.

About two and a half decades ago, I came to United States on a training visa to start my medical residency. I had one suitcase in hand which was all my belongings plus a few dollars in my wallet. Leaving our home in the Philippines, I arrived in Morristown, New Jersey and stayed with another Filipino medical resident whom I just met. I crashed at his apartment for I have no place of my own.

One day we saw a couch left at the street curb to be picked up by the garbage collector. Seeing that the couch still has some life left on it, I thought it could be of use to me. My friend and I scooped up the sofa before the garbage truck could pick it up. Of course we inspected it first and it passed our visual and smell test.

A month later after I received my first paycheck, I was able to move to my own apartment. My friend and I transported the couch from his residence to mine which was 1 kilometer away. No, we did not load it on a truck for we had no truck. We carried it through that distance. Even though it was not that big, it seemed that it got heavier and heavier as we went further along. Especially considering that we were two scrawny and muscularly-challenged guys.

Good thing was, midway, somebody saw us struggling with our load. She flagged us down and asked how far we were going. We were actually already sitting (and panting) on the couch taking a break at the side of the road. The lady lent us a furniture dolley so we can roll the sofa instead of lifting it, and she said to just bring it back when we’re done. That was nice of her. That was one of my first impression of that place – that people were nice and trustful of their neighbors.

The lady even asked if it was some kind of a special “oriental” couch that we were transporting. Perhaps she was wondering if it was that valuable that we would go through all that trouble. If only she knew that we just picked it up from the street curb.

Several months later, my wife got her visa and came to America to join me. We used that salvaged couch for a couple of years. When we moved to New York, we did not bring it along anymore. We left it at a street curb for the garbage collector or perhaps somebody else to pick up. Did it find another owner? I don’t know.

We moved several more times since then and in fact, we had 10 different address changes until we finally moved to our current address. It seemed like we were in a witness-protection program that we kept on moving, roughly every year. However, we are living in our present home for 14 years now and counting.

Regarding this couch that my son and I just placed at the curb, we bought it when we were still in Florida after we moved out of California. We got it on a clearance sale. We really did not care about its blue color, but my wife thought she could make a cover for it. Her family’s business when they were growing up in Pampanga was making drapes and seat covers. After she made a phone call to her brother and asked for some tips, she sewed a white fabric cover for our couch. It turned out pretty good actually.

We hauled this sofa along when we eventually moved here in Iowa. We have sat on it, lounged on it, spilled food on it, my kids barfed on it and I spent many lazy days sleeping (and drooling) on it. Over the years of use the covers that my wife made got torn and for a long time now we were just tossing a white blanket over it. It has seen better days and now it is time for it to have another life apart from us.

As we placed our couch at the curb, I sat there for a few moments, reminisced, and watched as the season (and our life’s season) turns. There are so many things to be thankful for. Including old couches.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

(*photos taken with an iPhone)