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.

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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)

 

 

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)

Chasing Phantom Fishball

Yesterday our temperature here in Iowa finally wandered above 50º F. Considering that we had snow last weekend, and even had some flurries the day before with subfreezing temperature, we’re just excited that finally spring has sprung.

I was able to come home early with the sun still way up in the horizon, so I decided to go for a run outside.

I wore my brand new cool running shoes that I bought as a birthday gift for myself. I also planned to wear my new colorful running shorts and nifty running shirt that my wife got me for my birthday, but I found out they were still in the laundry. You see, like a child I need all the enticements to keep me motivated in running.

I’m proud to say that I finished my first outdoor 5-kilometer run for this year. Though I would not deny that I was a little out of condition and I struggled to complete the run.

While I was doing my run and I was on my 4th kilometer navigating through our neighborhood, I suddenly caught a whiff of a very familiar scent. I took a deep breath and inhaled it in to confirm. It was the unmistakably glorious smell of fishballs being fried in a lake of oil on a deep frying pan.

Instantly, I was transported back to my days in Manila, as if I entered a Twilight Zone. I felt I was in Forbes Avenue (now Arsenio Lacson Avenue) in front of the UST Hospital. I could almost hear the jeepneys and buses plying that route. Most afternoons, there was a fishball vendor there with his push-stall near the entrance of the hospital.

It does not matter if health experts say that it may not be “safe” to eat street foods, like fishballs, as you can get hepatitis A and some other illness, especially if you dip the fishballs in those jars of sauces. The reason is that some people do “double dip,” that is after taking a mouthful bite of their fishballs on the stick, they would dip it again in the sauce, and that’s how a disease is spread. Could it be the tincture of slobber that makes it more tasteful?

But my courageous friends and I don’t care what the experts say.

After an exhausting day in the hospital working as medical clerks (4th year medical students), we would trek down outside the hospital in our white uniform and all, and buy those delightful fishballs. While they were still hot and floating in oil, we would make “tusok-tusok” the fishballs with the stick, then dunk them in the different dipping sauces. My favorite one was the black spicy concoction with floating onions and siling labuyo. Sometimes I would also dip in the tangy sweetish brown sauce. Sometimes I would dip in all the three jars of sauce. But I swear, I don’t do double dip.

Interesting enough, during our 25th graduation anniversary meeting and reunion held in our medical school two years ago, they served fishballs on a stick during one of the breaks. They have the authentic taste like the ones peddled on the street. It was definitely a hit!

As I reached the end of the cul-de-sac, I came back to the realization that I was on a street in Iowa, and not in Manila. I looked around to search if there’s a fishball vendor around. But there was none. Just the leafless trees, brown grass, and the empty street that I was in.

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Was I hallucinating? Was it because I was huffing and puffing that my brain was oxygen deprived? Or was it because I was hungry and my blood sugar level was running low? Has my brand new running shoes have anything to do with it? Or maybe I was plainly home-sick again?

Fishball, o fishball, why are you haunting me?

(*photo taken during my run)

Ang Lola Kong Adik

(Addict: a person who is addicted to an activity, habit or substance.)

Sang-ayon sa mga balita, marami raw adik sa atin sa Pilipinas. Pero nababawasan na raw ito dahil sa takot kay Duterte. Noong ako’y bata pa, kapag kami ay lumuluwas sa probinsiya, ay mayroon akong natutunghayan na kakaibang adiksiyon.

Sa bahay ng aking lola sa Norzagaray Bulacan, ay nakatira rin ang isang tiyahin ng aking tatay. Maaaring sabihin na kasama siya sa mga kumukunsumo ng adiksiyong ito. Hindi ko na sasabihin ang tunay niyang pangalan, at tawagin na lang natin siyang Nana Pula.

Aking pinapanood si Nana Pula na uupo na lang sa sahig sa isang sulok ng bahay. Tapos ilalabas na niya ang mga nakasupot niyang paraphernalia. Dito mag-uumpisa na siyang mag-gayat. Magdidikdik. At magbabalot.

Pero bago ninyo isipin na shabu o crystal meth ang kanyang dinidikdik, o kaya’y marijuana ang kanyang binibilot, ay hindi ito gayon. Ang kanyang ginagayat, dinidikdik at binibilot ay nga-nga.

Siguro alam ninyo kung ano ang nga-nga (betel quid). Sa mga nakababatang Pilipino na maaring hindi na pamilyar sa sinaunang bisyo na ito, ang nga-nga ay nginunguya. Hindi ito sinisinghot o hinihithit.

Ang nga-nga ay ang combinasyon ng: ikmo (betel leaf), bunga (areca palm nut), at apog (slaked lime). Gagayatin ang bunga, tapos papahiran ng apog, at ibabalot sa ikmo. Minsan dinadagdagan pa ng dahon ng tabako, para mas matindi ang tama.

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nga-nga (image from the web)

Matapos bilutin ni Nana Pula ang kanyang nga-nga, ito ay kanya nang isusubo at nguguyain. Habang nakasalampak, ngumangata at sumisipsip ng katas ng nga-nga, ay paminsan-minsan siyang dudura ng mala-dugong laway sa siwang ng sahig na kawayan. Para siyang kambing na ngunguya-nguya, pero kontento sa kanyang buhay. At pag-ngumiti si Nana Pula? Pula ang kanyang bibig at mga ngipin! Kaya nga Nana Pula.

Meron din kaming ninuno sa Bulakan na ang tawag sa kanya ay Tatang Puti. Pero hindi dahil sa puting ngipin, kun’di dahil siya ay tunay na maputi. Siya ay meztiso at dugong Kastila. Tunay naman na may lahing meztisuhin ang aking angkan. Pero hindi ako kasama sa mga mapuputi, dahil nakuha ko ang kulay ko sa aking nanay na dugong Ilokano. Teka, naligaw na yata ang usapan.

Balik tayo sa nga-nga. Ang tradisyon na ito ay matagal nang umiiral sa Pilipinas, bago pa man tayo sakupin ng Kastila. Nabanggit ito ni Jose Rizal sa kanyang nobelang Noli Me Tangere, kung saan sa unang kapitulo ay sinaad niyang inalok ito ni Kapitan Tiago sa kanyang mga bisita. Sa kapanahunan noon, hindi Skyflakes at softdrinks ang inihahain sa bisita, kun’di nga-nga!

Ang kustombre ng pagnguya ng nga-nga o betel quid ay hindi lang sa Pilipinas. Maraming bansa sa South at Southeast Asia, at sa kalawig na mga isla sa Pacifica ay kilala ang sinaunang tradisyong ito. Sabi ng World Health Organization, maaaring may 600 milyong tao ngayon ang haling sa bisyong ito.

Ang pag-nguya ng betel nut ay ipinamana sa atin ng ating mga ninuno. Sa katunayan, sang-ayon sa mga archaeologist, may nahukay silang bungo ng tao na may apat na libong taon ang tanda, at ang ngipin nito ay may bakas ng elemento ng betel nut. Ganoong katagal na ang nga-nga!

Gaya ng sigarilyo at iba pang bisyo, bakit kaya nakaka-adik ang nga-nga?

Ang bunga o “betel” nut, ay mula sa areca palm (scientific name: Areca catechu). Ito ay may natural alkaloid, na ang tawag ay arecoline. Ang arecoline ay mild stimulant. Kaya ito’y nakapagbibigay ng energy boost at feeling of euphoria. Sa madaling salita, nakaka-high! Kaya kapag ngumunguya na sila tatang at nanang, ay sumasaya sila at para na silang lumulutang. Tripping na si lola!

Ngunit parang nicotine mula sa dahon ng halaman ng tabako (scientific name: Nicotiana tabacum), ang arecoline mula sa areca palm nut ay nakaka-adik din. Kaya bago pa naging palahithit ng tabako, o bago pa magsipagbilot ng marijuana, ay ngumangata na ng nga-nga ang Pilipino. Lahi nga kaya tayo ng mga adik?

Maliban sa nakaka-adik ang nga-nga, may iba pa bang masamang epekto ito?

Sang-ayon sa mga pag-aaral, ang nga-nga ay maaring maging sanhi ng kanser sa bibig. Iyong ibang matatanda sa atin, nag-nganganga na, nagtatabako pa, tapos nasa loob pa ng bibig ang sindi ng tabako, kaya’t mataas ang insidente nila ng kanser sa bibig.

Dahil laging ngumunguya ang kumukunsumo ng nga-nga, ito ay maari ring magdulot ng oral submucous fibrosis. Ang kondisyong ito ay sanhi ng “stiffness in the mouth and eventually the loss of jaw movement.”*

Isa sa pinakamalinaw na sanhi ng nga-nga ay ang pamumula ng bibig at ngipin. Para silang nagpahid ng sangkatutak na lipstick, pero kasama pati ipin! Maari rin itong sanhi ng tooth decay, gum disease at bad breath.

Kaya noon pa man, kapag nag-nganga-nga na si Nana Pula, umiiiwas na akong pahalik sa kanya, dahil baka mag-amoy nga-nga at apog ako. Pero nagmamano pa rin naman ako kay Nana Pula.

Subalit kahit may kakaibang adiksiyon si Nana Pula, ay mapayapang mamamayan naman siya. Mapagmahal din siya sa kanyang mga kamag-anak at kaibigan. Maaring sabihin na adik siya sa pagmamahal sa kanyang mga pamangkin at apo, kasama na ako, kahit gaano pa ako kakulit noon.

Isang araw, matahimik na pumikit si Nana Pula, lumutang at pumailanglang sa walang hanggang kawalan. Wala sa aming nakababatang pamilya ang pumulot ng kanyang bisyo, kaya’t ito’y naglaho na rin sa pagpanaw ni Nana Pula.

(*from Journal of the American Dental Association)