Isang Gabi sa Quezon Avenue

Malamig ang simoy ng hangin at magpapasko noon, mahigit dalampu’t limang taon na ang nakalipas. Namamayagpag ang mga kanta ni Jose Marie Chan mula sa kanyang album na “Christmas In Our Hearts.” Bago at hindi pa gasgas ang mga kantang ito noon. Pero alam kong kahit na hanggang ngayon, hindi pa rin kumukupas ang mga awit na ito dahil pinapatugtog pa rin sila kapag buwan na ng “Ber.”

Kakatapos ko pa lang ng medical internship at wala pa akong matinong pinagkakakitaan. Ang matalik ko namang kaibigan noo’y may maganda at matatag nang trabaho sa PAL (Philippine Air Lines). Maaring sabihin na ako ay sa PAL din noon – PALamunin. Isang gabi, niyaya niya ako at ang aking nobya (ngayo’y asawa na) na samahan siya sa kanyang pakay.

Kami ba’y mamamasko? O baka magka-karoling? Magkakaraoke kaya? Pupunta sa Boom na Boom sa CCP Complex (meron pa kaya nito ngayon)? O kaya’y hahaluglugin ang Metro Manila para hanapin ang kanyang nawawalang ninong?

Hindi po, ang sagot sa lahat ng ito. May kakaibang trip sa Pasko ang aking kaibigan. Kami raw ay magpapamudmud ng munting “aginaldo” sa mga taong nangangailangan.

Aking sinilip ang loob ng kanyang kotse at sa likod na upuan nito ay naroon ang maraming supot (plastic bag ang ibig kong sabihin at hindi ibang ‘supot’ na nasa isip mo). Laman ng mga supot ay ilang gatang bigas at mga de lata. Dahil daw nakatanggap siya ng Christmas bonus kaya ipinambili raw niya ito ng bigas at mga de latang pagkain para ipamahagi sa iba. Feeling Santa Claus lang. Napabilib ako sa kanya.

Kami ay nag-drive sa kahabaan ng Quezon Avenue at doon kami naghanap ng mga kaluluwang mabibiyayaan.

Quezon Avenue (photo from here)

Nag-park kami sa isang tahimik na parte ng kalye. Naghintay kami ng mga dadaan. Hindi nagtagal ay may isang batang paslit na dumaan. May bitbit pa yata itong cell – hindi cellphone kundi cellophane. Ano kaya ang nasa cellophane? Rugby kaya? Singhot boy pa yata siya. Subalit wala naman kaming pinipiling pamaskuhan.

Tinawag namin ang bata. Lumapit naman ito, dahil hindi naman kami mga mukhang pulis. Tinanong namin kung saan siya nakatira. Tumuro siya sa isang dako, pero baka sa ilalim lang ng tulay ito natutulog. Inabutan namin siya ng aming pamasko. Natuwa at nagpasalamat naman siya at dali-dali nang umalis.

Maya-maya pa ay dinumog na ang aming sasakyan ng mga batang palaboy. Siguro nagtawag ng kanyang katropa ang unang batang aming binigyan. Mga madudungis na mga palad ang nakalahad at naghihintay sa aming bintana. Buti na lamang at marami kaming nakasupot na ipamimigay. Matapos naming abutan silang lahat, mabilis na kaming tumakas at baka isang baranggay pa ang dumating.

Nag-drive na muli kami at sa ibang lugar naman kami nag-parking. May mga paisa-isang bata o matanda kaming nakita, ilan ay naghahalungkat ng basura. Inabutan din namin sila ng aming aginaldo.

Sa isang bahagi ng Quezon Avenue kung saan kami nag-park, ay dalawang dalagita ang lumapit sa aming sasakyan. Mukha lang silang mga teenager. Kusa silang lumapit sa aming kotse kahit hindi namin sila tinawag.

Hindi ko alam kung anong gusto nila. Siguro nakita nilang dalawa kaming lalaki na nakaupo sa harapan ng kotse. Mga kalapati kaya sila? Siguro napansin din nila ang aking girlfriend na nakaupo sa likuran ng kotse. Pinagkamalan ba nilang siya’y kalapati na aming na-pick-up? Kawawang girlfriend.

Paglapit nila sa aming sasakyan ay nagpakilala naman sila. Sila raw ay si Salbe at si Lable. Siguro Salve at Lovely ang pangalan nila, pero ang pagkakabigkas nila ay Salbe at Lable.

Hindi namin alam kung anong kwento ng buhay nila ngunit hindi na namin masyadong inusisa pa. Ano kaya ang dahilan kung bakit sila gumagala-gala sa kalsada kahit gabi na? Ano kaya ang nagtulak sa kanila para pasukin ang buhay na iyon?

Kung anumang ligaya ang inaakala nilang aming hinahanap ng gabing iyon ay hindi po ganoon ang aming balak. Sabi lang namin sa kanila na kami ay nagbibigay ng mga pamasko at ito ang nagdudulot sa amin ng ligaya. Inabutan na lang namin sila ng aming naka plastic bag na aginaldo at binati sila ng Maligayang Pasko. Tinanggap naman nila ito, at kami’y umalis na.

Iba-iba ang ating estado sa buhay. Iba-iba ang ating kalagayan sa Paskong ito. Habang ang iba sa atin ay maginhawang pahiwa-hiwa lang ng keso de bola, ang ilan nama’y nahihiwa sa mahigpit nilang pagkapit sa mga patalim. Maaring ang ilan sa atin ay palunok-lunok lang ng cherry at ubas, habang ang iba nama’y pilit na linulunok ang mapait na katotohanang sa kanila’y gumagapos.

Lumibot-libot pa kami hanggang sa maubos nang tuluyan ang aming mga pamasko. Kahit naubos na ang aming mga munting aginaldo, hindi naman naubos ang galak sa aming mga puso. At kahit mahabang panahon na ang lumipas, ito’y nagdudulot pa rin ng saya kapag aking naaalala.

Napihit ba namin ang gulong ng palad ng aming mga napamaskuhan upang ito’y magbago? Marahil hindi. Kung mayroon mang nagbago ito ay ang aming pakay at pananaw sa buhay.

Ilang mga tao pa kaya ang nag-uukay-ukay sa mga basura ngayon? Ilang mga bata pa kaya ang namamaluktot habang natutulog sa ilalim ng tulay. Ilang mga Salve and Lovely pa kaya ang gumagala-gala sa gabi?

Sana wala na.

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(*Salamat Al at kami’y iyong isinama.)

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)

Electric Outlet Plugs and Precious Memories

I am taking a break from studying. I took two re-certification exams from American Board of Internal Medicine for different subspecialties this year. One in May and another this November. Next up is for another subspecialty, but it’s not until September next year. So I’ll chill out for now.

Because of the preparation I did for the boards, I have spent a lot of time reading and studying. I chose to review in my daughter’s room. Since my daughter is in college now and her room was empty, I took residence there and used her study table which is near the window. It was nice and quiet there plus it has a great view of the outside.

I also downloaded my favorite music for studying in Spotify and had it playing while I was reviewing. My go-to music when I’m studying is Jim Chappell’s. I discovered him back in the early 1990’s when I was preparing for my Philippine Medical Boards. His music is calming and perfect for quiet reflection. It puts me in a right mood too, I guess.

As I was studying in my daughter’s room, I was surrounded by her articles and effects – the stuff toys she had in one corner, the favorite books she read in the book case, the medals and trophies in the shelf, and other sort of things. Lots of memories tied to all of these items.

Then I noticed that some of the electric outlets in her room still has the plastic plug covers. We child-proofed our home and placed these outlet plugs when we moved into this house years ago. She was still a little girl at that time. Obviously we place those covers to protect her from being electrocuted in case she stuck her little fingers on those electric outlets.

But time has passed so quickly it seems that she has grown up and we have not noticed that she don’t need those outlet plug covers anymore. She probably left some outlets covered as she did not need them anyway. The wallpaper in her room may also require some updating as it was from the original owner of the house. But my daughter said she liked them, so we let it be.

I took out the plastic outlet plugs now for there were no use for them anymore. Besides I have to plug my laptop, my phone, and my portable speaker near her study table.

My daughter will be finishing college this year with a degree in Music. In fact, a few nights ago we attended her cello solo recital at the university. In a few months she’ll be performing in her final senior piano recital which will be a bigger event, since piano is her major.

It seems not too long ago that she was sticking her fingers in the peanut butter jar, playing dirt and picking dandelions in our yard. Today, those beloved beautiful fingers are electrifying musical instruments. We are glad we protected them from harm, including injury from electric outlets.

Below is a photo of my daughter during her recent cello recital. She was accompanied by her piano professor.

It is kind of funny that even the simplest of things like an outlet plug cover will evoke such precious memories. Or maybe it was the music that I was listening to that made me.

Alright, I’ll blame it all on the music.

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Here’s Jim Chappell’s song, “Precious Memories.” (video from Youtube)

Tampisaw

Noong isang umaga, ako’y nagising sa dagundong ng kulog at kalaskas ng bumubuhos na ulan. Balak ko sanang tumakbo noong umagang iyon pero dahil sa malakas na ulan, ako’y nagbatu-batugan at nagbabad na lang sa higaan. Utak ko nama’y nagtampisaw sa mga alaala ng nakaraang mga tag-ulan – mga alaala na matagal nang nakasampay ngunit parang basa at sariwa pa rin sa isipan.

Nagliwaliw ang aking isip noong ako’y maliit na bata pa. Gaya ng maraming bata batuta, ako’y mahilig maglaro sa ulan lalo na kapag maalinsangan. Kahit pa sabihing baka raw sipunin, o magkapulmonya, o kaya’y mapasma, ay hindi namin alintana, dahil sa musmos naming isip, masarap maligo sa ulan. Kung hindi pipigilan ay lagi kaming susugod sa ulan.

Nagbabakasyon kami palabas ng Maynila tuwing buwan ng Mayo noon. Mga dalawang linggo rin kaming lumalagi sa Ilokos Norte, ang probinsiyang pinagmulan ng aking nanay.

Isang araw habang kami ay nagbabakasyon, ay umulan nang todo-todo. Kami, kasama ko ang aking mga pinsan, ay pinayagang maligo sa ulan. Masaya kaming naghabulan sa kalsadang graba, habang umaagos ang malalaking kanal na ang tubig ay malinaw, hindi gaya ng tubig kanal ng Maynila. Dahil mala-batis ang linis ng tubig sa kanal, sinasalok pa namin ito ng tabo, tapos itataob namin ang tabo na may lamang tubig sa aming ulo, habang kami’y sumasayaw at tumatalon-talon sa ulan. Akala ninyo palaka lang ang masaya kapag umuulan?

Pinupulot din namin ang mga nalalaglag na kamachile dahil sa lakas ng hangin. Hindi na namin kailangan pa itong sungkitin. Sana nga ang mga mangga sa puno ng aking lola ay magkandahulog din, pero kailangan yata ng ipo-ipo bago ito malaglag.

Sa bahay naman namin sa Maynila, konting ulan lang ay baha na kaagad ang mga kalye, kaya sanay akong lumusong sa baha. Hindi namin iniisip ang Leptospirosis, dahil hindi ko pa naman alam kung ano iyon at hindi ko pa rin alam ang spelling nito. Noong nasa medical school na ako kesa ko pa lang natutunan ito, at sa katunayan, may naging pasyente kaming namatay dahil sa Leptospirosis. Sangayon sa history niya, siya ay bumagtas sa baha.

Nang ako’y nasa kolehiyo na, masaya pa rin ako kapag malakas na ang ulan. Hindi sa ako’y sadista at gusto ko ng bagyo, pero dahil kalimitan ay nakakansela ang pasok sa UST kapag baha na, lalo na sa Espanya. Umaabot hanggang hita o hanggang bewang pa ang baha doon.

photo credit: Michael Angelo Reyes

Minsan nang ako’y nasa medical school na, bumuhos ang malakas na ulan maghapon at hindi humumpay kaya bumaha ang buong ka-Maynilaan. Wala kaming masakyan pauwi, dahil mga pailan-ilang bus na lamang ang malakas ang loob na bumaybay sa malalim na baha. Walang rin namang pumapasadang bangka. Kaya lumusong na lang ako sa baha at naglakad mula sa UST hanggang sa amin sa may Balik-Balik. Sa awa ng Diyos nakarating naman ako nang ligtas sa aming bahay, at hindi napatianod o nalunod sa baha, at hindi rin nahulog sa mga nakabukas na imburnal. Wala naman din akong nahuling dalag.

Nang matapos ako sa Medisina, ako’y pansamantalang namasukan (moonlighting) sa isang maliit na ospital sa Plaridel Bulakan, upang makaipon nang konti habang ako’y nag re-review para sa medical licensing exam ng Amerika. Kung maipapasa ko iyon, magiging pasaporte ko siya upang makalabas ng bansa. Sa Plaridel na ako lumalagi ng mga ilang araw, at linguhan na lang akong lumuwas ng Maynila. Trabaho ako sa gabi, at konting tulog at puspusang review sa araw.

Isang okasyon, dinalaw ako ng aking nobya na galing Maynila sa aking trabaho doon sa Bulakan. Matindi ang ulan noong araw na iyon. Kahit na may dala pa siyang payong, ay basang basa siya nang dumating sa aming ospital sa Plaridel. Para siyang basang sisiw. Ako naman ay parang palakang kumakanta.

Habang siya ay nagpapatuyo, at habang kami ay nakaupo at nakadungaw sa bumubuhos na ulan, ay masaya naman kaming magkaulayaw kahit na maiksing sandali lamang ang sa ami’y inilaan. At para bagang awit ni Basil Valdez (may version din si Regine Velasquez), alam namin na kapag tumila na ang ulan ay lilisan na siya upang bumalik sa Maynila, at ako’y maiiwan na.

Pagmasdan ang ulan unti-unting tumitila,
Ikaw ri’y magpapaalam na,
Maaari bang minsan pa,
Mahagkan ka’t maiduyan pa,
Sa tubig at ulan lamang ang saksi,
Minsan pa ulan bumuhos ka
Huwag nang tumigil pa,
Hatid mo ma’y bagyo
Dalangin ito ng puso kong sumasamo,
Pag-ibig ko’y umaapaw,
Damdamin ko’y humihiyaw sa tuwa,
Tuwing umuulan at kapiling ka.

Malakas pa rin ang buhos ng ulan at tumatabing pa rin ang maiitim na ulap sa bagong silang na umaga. Pero kailangan ko nang bumangon at kailangan nang pumasok sa trabaho. Hanggang sa muli na lang ulit ang aking pagtatampisaw sa mga alaala ng kahapon.

Aking pinagmasdan ang aking katabi. Mahimbing pa rin ang kanyang pagkakatulog. Pero alam kong kahit tumila pa ang ulan, kami ay magkapiling na at hindi na namin kailangang magpaalam pa.

Magdadalampu’t limang taon na palang bumubuhos ang ulan.

(photo taken with an iPhone)

Dinosaur Technology

Not too long ago, these things roam and rule the earth. But like dinosaurs, they are now extinct. I don’t think the millennials or the younger generation have any idea what they are.

I will give you a snapshot if you will, of my normal day employing the current technology of the time when I was still in college:

One evening, I wanted to call my classmates so we can meet up in the library before our late morning class to work on our school project. But I had to wait for our party line to hang up before I could use the phone. An hour later, I finally was able to make the call. I dialed the number (not punch in, mind you; this explain why we say “dial”) using this device:

The next day, after taking a shower, I dressed up and was heading out the door when I happened to glance at this big “box” and checked the weather forecast. The talking box said no need for an umbrella today.

On my way to the university, I boarded a jeepney plying the Balic-Balic route with loud music blaring inside. The driver was proudly playing an expensive music console system using this:

The jeepney driver probably was an ex-OFW and bought this console when he was still in Saudi. What made me think that? Because a sign in front of his jeeney says “Katas ng Saudi.”

Though I wish I had my own portable music that I could choose what songs to listen to. Then I noticed one passenger in the jeepney who was rocking to a different rhythm than that of the music we were hearing. Of course he had this:

I know it’s kind of cool, but it makes you a hot target for snatchers especially if you’re walking in the streets of Metro Manila.

After meeting up with my classmates for an hour, it was time to attend a lecture in a big hall. Our professor was using lecture aids and was projecting it on a wall using this gadget:

While our professor, who was also a practicing physician, was giving his lecture, he asked to be excused for a minute to make a call at a payphone outside the hall. He was responding to a message he got from this:

Later that day, we started writing our paper for submission. We could have gone to Dapitan or Recto and had it done for us, but we decided to do it ourselves to save money. So we worked on this:

Of course we needed duplicate copies so we had to use these:

This explains why even in our e-mails now, we call a copy to a different recipient a “carbon copy.”

After a while we had noted that the letters we were typing were getting faint. So we had to replace this:

We also had several mistakes, but we were able to correct them thanks to this:

We had to work on the presentation of our paper too. During our brainstorming we decided to make our exhibition fancy and we planned on having photos or slides. So we had to borrow this gadget for our presentation:

However we had to take photos first. Our group chipped-in some money and they handed them to me. They asked me to go to Raon near Quiapo to buy this:

And for better picture-taking, just in case the lighting is not good, I bought these as well:

We wanted to make sure that we only take good photos so not to waste any film. But can you imagine taking a photo and not seeing the picture until after a few days?

Before going home I passed by a friend’s house. I heard they just got this gadget called a “computer” that would be the future of all technologies. I even tried it and I was able to do some of our school project on it. My friend was kind enough to have me save my work and transfer it to this:

Maybe it was just an excuse for me to use their home computer. For what I really wanted to do was to play some games with my friend in their other “computer:”

The end.

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Can you name all of them? Do you have an idea what they are?

If you know all of these gadgets and have used them before, then you are probably “old” like me.

(*photos from the web)

Leksiyong Pang-Grade One

May mga bagay na nakaukit na sa ating isipan. Kahit pa may mga ilan na hindi natin matandaan, gaya kung saan natin inilapag ang susi ng bahay, o kaya ang birthday ng ating biyenan, pero may mga bagay na hindi natin makalimutan. Tulad ng aking mga karanasan at mga leksiyon noong ako’y Grade One.

school_supplies_t715

Ako ay nag-Grade One sa isang maliit na pribadong paaralan sa Quezon City. Hindi kalakihan ang klase at mag-kasama pa nga ang mga estudyanteng Grade 1 at Grade 2 sa iisang classroom.

Hindi ko makalimutan ang ilan sa aking kaklase. Si Rolando, na kukurap-kurap, na para siyang laging kumikindat. Noong tumanda na lang ako, kesa ko nalaman na isa palang medical condition iyon – facial tic disorder. Nandiyan din si Nathan, na mestisuhin. Hindi sa ako’y naiingit na maputi siya, dahil masaya ako sa kulay kong “Italyano” – Itang Ilokano. At si Ronald na aking seatmate. Seatmate din namin ang nanay niya, dahil nakaupo ito sa likuran namin sa boong isang taon ng klase.

Maghapon ang aming klase kaya may bitbit akong baon. Inilalagay ang aming mga lunch box sa isang tabi ng classroom. Isang araw, isang Grade 2 na estudyante ang kumuha at kumain ng aking baon. Iniabot daw ng isa niyang kaklase ang aking lunch box dahil sa akalang ito’y sa kanya. Ang mokong naman kahit alam na hindi ito sa kanya, ay kinain pa rin ang aking baon!

Kaya’t unang aral ko sa Grade One ay ito:

1. Magpakatatag, kahit ang buhay kung minsan ay hindi patas. May mga bagay na nararapat na para sa iyo, ay aagawin pa ng iba. 

Hindi ko na matandaan kung ano ang aking kinain nung tanghaling iyon. Pero aking ipinaalam sa aking guro ang nangyari. Nakatagal naman ako hanggang hapon at hanggang sa mag-uwian na. At bumalik pa kinabukasan sa klase.

Naaalala ko rin noon na matapos ang aming lunch break, kami ay laging may siesta. Papatayin ang ilaw, at kami ay hihiga sa sahig o kaya ay sa desk para kami ay magpahinga. Medyo sapilitan ang pagpapatulog sa amin. May mga class monitor pa, sila iyong mga kaklase namin na in-charge daw, at sinusumbong nila sa aming teacher kung sinong ayaw matulog. Isa ako sa ayaw matulog.

Kung ako lang ang masusunod, maglalaro ako sa labas at magtatatakbo sa initan ng katanghaling tapat, hanggang sa tumagaktak ang aking pawis. Bakit pa kasi kailangan ng nap time?

Pero ngayong tayo’y tumanda na, kahit pa ibawas sa ating working hours ay payag tayo, magkaroon lamang ng ilang saglit na pahinga o siesta. Dahil sa sobrang abala at pagod natin, inaasam-asam natin kahit konting nap time o kaya’y free time para sa ating sarili.

Kaya’t ang pangalawang leksiyon ko sa Grade One ay ito:

2. May mga bagay na hindi mo gusto at parang walang kabuluhan ngayon, ngunit sa pagdaan ng panahon ay hahanap-hanapin mo.  Matutong pahalagahan ang mga ito.

Nakakatuwa lang isipin na ang batang galit sa tulog noon ay isang duktor na espesyalista sa pagtulog ngayon.

May panahon namang binibigay para kami ay maglaro. Ang mga gusto kong laro noon ay sipa, jolens, trumpo, teks, shato, patintero, habulan, prisoner’s base, at taguan. Kahit nga piko at jackstone ay nilalaro ko kalaban ang mga babae kong kaeskwela.

Hindi lang naman kaming mga Grade One ang naglalaro. Kahit ‘yung malalaking bata ay naglalaro din. Dahil medyo maliit ang school ground ng aming paaralan kaya minsan walang masyadong space para maglaro.

Isang hapon, may mga Grade Six na mga estudyante ang nagta-tumbling tumbling at nagsa-sommersault sa playground. Dahil haharang-harang ako, o dahil kasi maliit ako kaya’t wala silang pakundangan, nasipa ako ng isang lalaki habang ito ay nagta-tumbling. Tumilapon akong parang lata ng tumbang preso!

Kahit ako’y nasaktan, hindi naman ako makapalag. Nang ako’y mahimasmasan at lumingon sa batang nakasipa sa akin, nakita ko itong namimilipit na rin sa sakit. Ito ay dahil sa isang estudyanteng Grade Six ang humangos upang ako’y ipagtanggol at inumbag niya sa sikmura ang batang lalaki. Ang mabilis na sumaklolo sa akin ay ang aking ate. Oo, ipinagtanggol ako ng isang babae.

Kaya’t isa sa aral ko mula Grade One ay ito:

3. Mahalin natin ang ating pamilya. Sila ang  magtatanggol at tutulong sa atin sa oras ng pangangailangan.

Oo nga’t batid ko na hindi perpekto ang bawa’t pamilya. Ngunit darating ang panahon na walang iba kung hindi pamilya pa rin natin ang magsasalba sa atin. Ika nga nila, “Blood is thicker than water.”

Sa katunayan madalas akong tumilapon noon. Kaya kong tumilapong mag-isa. Bata pa kasi ako ay dare-devil na ako. Mahilig akong umakyat kung saan-saan at tumalon na parang Spiderman. Wala nga akong kadala-dala, kahit pumutok na ang noo ko noong ako’y tumalon sa hagdan, tapos pumutok din ang nguso ko nang ako’y lumipad sa swing. Eto ay bago pa ako mag-Grade One.

Isang araw nang ako’y nasa paaralan, tumatakbo ako sa loob ng banyo. Kahit banyo ginagawa kong playground noong ako’y Grade One. Dahil basa ang sahig, bigla akong nadulas at nakanto ang aking mukha sa pader. Pumutok na naman ang mukha ko at muntik na sa may kaliwang mata. Hindi ko nga alam kung bakit mukha ko ang lagi kong ipinangsasalo ng disgrasya.

Dinala nila ako sa aking teacher upang asikasuhin ang aking sugat. Duguan na naman ang dating ako. Ano kaya ang nasa-isip ng aking guro? Siguro sa isip-isip niya, may mararating ang batang ire kung hindi lang mababalda sa kalikutan, o kaya’y may potensiyal ang batang ire kung hindi lang mababasag ang bungo.

Matapos mapatigil ang pagdudugo, ay pinahiran ng aking teacher ang aking sugat ng mercurochrome. Ito ‘yung pulang likido na mahapdi kapag ipinapahid sa sugat. Sa aking isip noon, masakit na nga ang sugat, bakit kailangan pa itong lalong pahapdiin. Hindi ko pa maintindihan na ito ay anti-septic at kailangan para hindi ma-infection upang maghilom ang aking sugat.

Kaya isa pa sa aking leksiyong natutunan noong Grade One ay ito:

4. May mga karanasan sa buhay na mahapdi, pero kinakailangan para sa ating ikabubuti. Dahil sa mga sugat, tayo’y natututo.

Iyon na rin ang huling peklat sa mukha ko.

Kung tutuusin marami talaga tayong natutunan noong Grade One. Tulad ng pagbabasa, pagsusulat, pagbilang, pagtula at pagkanta. Oo nga’t parang payak lang ang ating alam noon pero ang karunungan ay isang proseso.

Mayroon akong isang kalaro na bata pa lang siya ay pangarap na niyang maging Engineer. Kwento ng nanay niya sa nanay ko, umuwi raw na umiiyak ang aking kalaro noong unang araw niya sa Grade One. Ang dahilan? Dahil hindi raw pang-Engineering ang tinuturo sa Grade One.

Isang araw, kami ay tinuraang bumasa ng oras ng aming guro sa Grade One. Ipinaliwanag niya na may dalawang kamay ang orasan – ang hour hand at minute hand. Para lalo naming maintindihan, tumawag siya ng dalawang estudyante sa harap para magrepresenta sa mga kamay ng orasan. Si Ronald, ang aking seatmate ang minute hand, at ako ang hour hand. Sinabi niya kay Ronald na lumakad nang mabilis, at habang ako nama’y lumakad nang mabagal.

Dahil gusto ko ring lumakad ng mabilis at makipag-unahan kay Ronald, kaya’t ako’y inakbayan at ginabayan ng aking guro na magdahan-dahan. Sa tingin ko hindi lang pagbasa ng oras ang natutunan ko noong araw na iyon.

Isa pa sa aking natutunan noong ako’y Grade One ay ito:

5. Huwag natin laging madaliin ang buhay.  Kahit mabagal, basta may katiyakan ang ating pakay ay makakarating din tayo sa paroroonan.

Nakaalpas naman ako ng Grade One. Pero ako’y inilipat na sa ibang paaralan nang ako’y mag-Grade Two.

Ano na nga ang nangyari sa aking kalaro na umuwi ng bahay dahil hindi raw pang-Engineering ang tinuturo sa Grade One? Nagtuloy din naman siya ng pag-aaral at nakatapos. Siya ay nangibang-bayan din. Ngayon, siya ay isa nang ganap at matagumpay na Engineer Registered Nurse.

(*photo from the web)

New York Minute

A New York minute is defined as an instant or a very short amount of time. Or as Johnny Carson once said, it’s the interval between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the guy behind you honking his horn. As you can imagine, everybody in New York City is in a hurry-up mode.

Hanging on the wall of my office here in Iowa is a clock that I bought long time ago. I got it when we were still living in New York City back in the late 1990’s. It has been a part of me ever since. Maybe that’s why I’m always on the run as I am always operating in New York minutes.

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My clock

I was doing my fellowship training in Pulmonary at that time and was on a very limited resources. But when I saw this clock in one of the stores in Queens, I wanted it so bad even though it was not in my budget to buy it.

It is kind of funky clock, with the Polka dot tie and fancy pants as its hour hand and minute hand respectively. In addition, it also depicts the New York City skyline on its face. At least the known skyline during that time, with the famous twin towers.

But that skyline was forever changed on that ill-fated September 11 morning. It changed many things as well, including the way we look at the world.

For those whose lives were affected, changed or snuffed out by that particular day and time, we remember you. Not in a New York minute, but in a long-lasting remembrance.

Here’s to a solemn 17th anniversary commemoration of 9/11.

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Above photo is me taking a stroll at a park here in Des Moines, passing by thousands of flags that were set-up in remembrance of 9/11. Each flag represents a life that was lost during that tragedy.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

 

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)

Electric Reminiscing

Last week during July 4th celebration, we had an experience that reminded me of my days in the Philippines. You may say, how can be a holiday that is so American (US Independence Day) remind me of my home country, the Philippines? Please stay with me and keep on reading.

Our last 4th of July was kind of unusual as we were invited for dinner by our friend to celebrate it with their friend, whom I never met before. We celebrated the holiday in a farm about an hour drive away from our home, in the outskirt of a small town of rural Iowa. We had dinner – burgers, hotdogs, potato salad, and vegetable salad (very American meal) – in a log cabin near a small pond. Then when darkness came we sat in our camping chairs and watched the fireworks that was fired from the nearby town.

Even though the setting of the log cabin was similar to a small barrio back home, but that’s not what reminded me of the Philippines.

Earlier that day, since it’s a holiday and I wanted my wife to take a break too from the kitchen, so we went out for lunch. We chose a restaurant that is located in a large shopping complex close to our home. After we were seated and only a few minutes after our order was taken by the waitress, the power went out. A blackout!

Why do we call it blackout or brownout? Technically the lights are out so it’s black or dark. Should it be “black in?” And is there a difference between blackout and brownout? Many people, including me, think they are synonymous. But according to energy company’s definition, a blackout is a total power outage while a brownout is a partial reduction in system voltage or system capacity. Now I learned something too.

So while we were sitting in the restaurant without power, that brought me back memories of the power outages in Manila.

I was reminded of those candlelight dinners we had, not because we were creating a romantic ambience, but because there’s no electricity and yet we need some light so not to swallow the fish bones. Those sweltering heat that all you can do was to fan yourself with the abaniko made of fronds from buri palm. For your information, we don’t have air-conditioning in our Manila home, but we have a few Standard or Hitachi electric fans.

Most of the people, at least from our neighborhood, would go outside in the street and hangout in front of their houses when the power is out. No TV to watch any teleserye, and it’s too hot to relax or nap indoors. So no other recourse but to gossip with your neighbors outside while enjoying Manila’s evening breeze. Lahat istambay sa kalye. 

Those blackouts most of the time, would last one to two hours.  And during the 1980’s to early 90’s, we had rolling blackouts or scheduled power outages, to conserve energy as there’s not enough power supply to cope with Metro Manila’s increasing electric need. Or perhaps the government just thought it was a good fad.

Sometimes it was not just once a day that we had blackouts, as it could be twice a day or more. With the lights going on and off so often, all business becomes “patay-sindi.” Of course the real “patay-sindi” establishments or the red-light districts just gets darker. And when the power is out, Metro Manila becomes one big sauna place, with its residents sweating profusely that no amount of tawas or Rexona matters.

Even hospitals and other vital facilities were not spared from this power outages. Some of the facilities have their own power generator, but even then, their generators cannot supply all their facility’s electric need. So maybe the generators can support the power for the lights, but not the air conditioning or some other functions.

When we were 4th year medical students, one of the roles we have was to become human ventilators. One of our sign-outs was the list of all patients in the hospital on mechanical ventilator. So when the power goes out, we all would run to our assigned patients and manually ambu-bagged the patient for the next hour or so, or until the power returns. Squeezing the ambubag for an hour was a good exercise for the forearm though and it strengthens the grip. I just did not realize until then that, that was one of my duties when I signed up for medical school.

When the long-awaited electric power finally returns, you could hear a loud hurray and even applause from the whole neighborhood. As if we need to cheer the energy company for restoring the power. It’s like it was our “utang na loob” to have our electricity back. Utang na loob na buhay ‘yan!

Back to our 4th of July lunch in the restaurant, as we waited for our food, the waitress told us that our food would be ready soon. They might have gas-powered grills as they can still cook even without electricity. Though it was already starting to get hot inside as there’s no a/c. They did not have to bring out candles though as it was still bright with all the windows open. We were not given the reason for the power outage which in the first place, was a very rare occasion here.

Not too long after, our food came. The restaurants closed its doors for new customers but let those people inside finish their meals. After we were done eating, the waitress told us with a smile that we can go and don’t have to pay, as our meal was on the house. I think with their computers off, we can’t pay with credit cards anyway.

I left a generous tip on the table, both for the free lunch and for the evoked reminiscing – a sultry trip down memory lane.

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)