Oh My Gulay!

The Filipino language is rich in interesting idioms and expressions, that make our conversations more colorful. Like the expression, “isang bulate na lang ang hindi pumipirma,” which means near-death condition. It definitely sounds light-hearted on an otherwise grave predicament.

Anyways, since it’s summer here where I live, and we have planted some vegetables, I would like to showcase our use of vegetables (gulay) in our idioms and expressions, and their respective meaning.

1. Nagmumurang kamias.

This means an “old” individual acting like “young.” For instance, a grandma trying to dress-up like a teenager, perhaps with a hanging shirt and short mini-skirt. In other words, it is used to describe people who are not acting appropriately their age.

Example: Pare, ‘yung lolo mo nagmumurang kamyas, niyaya ba namang i-date niya ‘yung pinsan kong kolehiyala.

2. Pulis Patola

The term means a good-for-nothing cop. I think the term is use, as policeman usually carry a baton (batuta). But here it is described as the police carrying a patola instead of a baton. There’s even an action-comedy movie with that title in the 1990’s.

The expression of “sundalong-kanin” have a similar connotation, a useless soldier whose only contribution in the battle is to consume the rice ration.

Example: Sabi ni General Bato, ititiwalag niya lahat ng mga Pulis Patola.

3. Nangangamatis

This term is used to describe something that is swelled up and inflamed, like a tomato that is plump and red. But mostly the term is reserved for a complication after a boy’s circumcision. Definitely you don’t want that term to describe the you-know-what after being circumcised.

Example: Hijo, pagkatapus mong tuliin, langgasin mo araw-araw, para hindi mangamatis.

4. Nangangamote

Nangangamote means having difficulty or failing to do well. We also use the term kamote to describe somebody who is dim-wit or unintelligent. For sure, you don’t want to be called anak ng kamote. You don’t want to receive the kalabasa award either.

I am not sure why we use kamote as a derogatory term. Kamote for all I know is a highly nutritious food and don’t deserve to be treated with disdain.

Example: Nangamote ka naman sa exam, mas bobo ka pa sa row 4.

5. Mani-mani lang

This term is the opposite of nangangamote. Mani-mani lang means it was so easy that you breezed through it whatever it was. Again, I don’t know why we favor mani (peanut), but hate kamote.

Mani is also used as a slang term for a female’s anatomy. Yes, the counterpart of that thing I mentioned above that can become nangangamatis.

Example: Mana sa akin sa pagka-genius ‘yung pamangkin ko, kasi minani-mani lang niya ang Quantum Physics.

6. Giyera Patani

This is an old expression that means a fight or an argument without causing serious harm or consequences. As you know, a patani (lima bean), is a pod vegetable that has lightweight seeds. And even if you hit somebody with these seeds, it will not cause grave injury.

Example: Hanggang giyera patani lang naman ang away namin ng misis ko.

7. Pupulutin sa kangkungan

This term means a summary execution without having a trial. In other words it is extra judicial killing (EJK), which nowadays is a very hot topic of contention. The origin of the expression is that one way of hiding a “salvage” victim’s body is to dump it in the swamps or where there’s a heavy growth of kangkong (swamp cabbage).

Example: Kung hindi ka tumigil sa pagiging addict, baka pupulutin ka na lang sa kangkungan balang araw.

8. Mala-labanos ang kutis

This expression is comparing the complexion of someone’s skin to be like labanos (horse-radish), which is white and smooth. I am not sure though why we who are supposed to be proud to be lahing kayumanggi are so pre-occupied and trying so hard to be “white.” Just look around and we are so inundated with all those advertisements of whitening products.

Example: Gumagamit kasi ako ng mga Belo products kaya’t mala-labanos na ang kutis ko ngayon.

9. Parang luya

Unlike the expression mala-labanos which is mostly deemed as a compliment, the expression parang luya is far from being one. In fact it is an insult. The term is usually used to describe an ugly feet. This is due to the fact that luya (ginger) has crooked and contorted branching fingers.

Example: Kahit anong pa-pedicure mo, parang luya pa rin ang mga paa mo.

10. Balat-sibuyas

This term is used to describe a person that is easily hurt or sensitive to criticisms. This idiom is due to the fact that the onion has very thin skin. I am not sure if the added fact that peeling and cutting onion makes one cry, contributes to the meaning of the term.

Example: Balat-sibuyas naman itong si Dagul, sinabihan lang na malakas pa siya sa balyena kung kumain, ay umiyak na.

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That’s all for now folks. I know there’s still a lot of vegetables mentioned in the song Bahay Kubo that we have not covered here. So if you know more vegetable expressions, please drop me a comment. Thank you for reading.

 

Hagibis

Ako’y tumakbo kaninang umaga,

Sa amin dito sa Iowa,

Habang humahangos sa daan,

Ay aking pinakikinggan,

Maiingay na halakhak,

Ng mga ibong taratitat,

At sa aking paghingal,

Aking namang nalalanghap,

Ang mabangong halimuyak,

Ng mga bulaklak ng lilac.

Pero miss na miss ko na,

Mag-jogging sa Maynila,

Kung saan naghaharana,

Mga traysikel na umaarangkada,

At aking muling masasanghap,

Usok ng tambutsong kay sarap,

At takbo ko’y lalong bumibilis,

Parang anak ni Hagibis,

Dahil ako’y hinahabol,

Ng mga asong nauulol.

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

 

Little Things

While we were on a trip in Israel, we stopover for lunch in a restaurant overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Even though it is named the Sea of Galilee, it is actually a lake and not a sea.


Besides enjoying the view, I enjoyed the food there as well. The most popular in their menu being beside the Sea of Galilee is fish of course. And that was what I ordered.

After the meal I saw this sign on a wall.


That is absolutely correct. Be thankful for even the small stuffs in this life. Like a good meal. Or a beautiful day. Or a smile from a stranger. Appreciate the little things. Nothing wrong with this reminder, right?

Except that we must be careful on what we call  as “little things” as it could be a slight jab or even a downright insult. Depends on the situation, I guess. You don’t believe me?

Well, here’s the whole story of this sign.


(*Photos taken at a restaurant in Tiberias, Israel)

Pampalaglag

A post-Valentine’s story……

Sa isang maliit na barrio sa Pilipinas, isang babae ang nagpatingin sa duktor. Siya ay desperada.

“Doc, sana po ay matulungan ninyo ako. Wala po akong ibang mapupuntahan. Gusto ko pong magpalaglag,” ang halos na umiiyak na sambit ng babae.

Tinanong ng duktor ng ilang mga katanungan ang pasyente.

“Hija, ano ba ang iyong nararamdaman?”

“Kasi po lumalaki na ang aking tiyan, at para po itong laging humihilab,” sabi ng babae, “at lumalakas din po akong kumain.”

“May asawa ka ba,” ang tanong muli ng duktor.

“Wala po, pero mayroon po akong nobyo,” ang sagot ng babae.

“Anong sabi ng iyong nobyo tungkol sa problema mo,” and uling usisa ng butihing duktor.

“Hindi raw po muna siya makikipagkita sa akin, hangga’t hindi ko po raw nalulunasan ang problemang ito,” ang malungkot na dagdag ng babae.

“Ano naman ang payo ng iyong mga magulang,” ang tanong pa ng duktor.

“Ayaw ko pong malaman nila, at baka hindi po nila ako matanggap,” ang mahinang sagot ng kaawa-awang babae.

Marami pang naging tanong ang magaling na duktor, at sinagot naman ng babae ang lahat ng mga ito sa abot ng kanyang makakaya.

Matapos makuha ng duktor ang buong kuwento, ay kanya nang in-eksameng mabuti ang pasyente. Naging detalye at masinop ang duktor sa kanyang eksaminasyon.

Sumulat na ng reseta ang duktor at ito’y inabot sa kanyang pasyente.

“Hija, ito na ang mabisang gamot para sa iyo. Inumin mo ito ngayong gabi at bukas na bukas din, sigurado akong mawawala na ang iyong problema,” ang kumpidanteng sabi ng mabuting duktor.

Dali-daling nagtungo sa botika ang babae at binili ang niresetang gamot ng duktor.

Nang kinagabihan na, ay ininom ng babae ang resetang gamot sa kanya. Tatalab kaya ito? Malulunasan kaya ang kanyang problema? Ano kaya ang sasabihin ng kanyang mga magulang? Ano kaya ang magiging opinyon ng mga ibang tao? Makikipagbalikan na kaya sa kanya ang kanyang boyfriend?

Nang kinaumagahan na ay nakaramdam ng matinding sakit ng tiyan ang babae. Parang umiikot at gumigiling ang nasa sa loob na kanyang dala-dala. Butil-butil ang kanyang pawis at para baga siyang nanglalamig. Pakiramdam niya ay para siyang nakakain ng panis na pansit at kailangan niyang ilabas ang sama ng loob. Hindi na niya mapigilan.

Mabilis siyang tumakbo sa banyo. At sa kanyang pag-upo ay biglang lumuwal ang isang malaking kulapol ng patay na………..

Bulate!

Ang niresetang gamot? Combantrin.

(*Ang kathang isip na kwentong ito ay sanhi ng aking pagkalipas gutom.)

 

 

Lost in Spelling

Last week, when news from my country is making the rounds on the news networks, I even saw Stephen Colbert, host of The Late Show, made some digs at the Philippines. Of course he also made fun of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but that’s already old news.

In one of Colbert’s monologue, he questioned why is it that the Philippines is spelled with a Ph, while the word Filipinos, is spelled with an F? He then added, it is so Ph-up!

I have to admit, I also laughed at the joke. For I agree it does not make sense.

However, I would like to try to give an explanation for something that is totally not our own doing.

The Philippines was named after King Phillip II of Spain. The Spanish explorer Ruy Lopez Villalobos named our archipelago Los Islas Filipinas in 1543. After all, Phillip is Felipe in Spanish.

So the original name of our country is Filipinas. And that’s spelled with an F. So it makes more sense that we are Filipinos, at least by what we are called by our first colonizers, the Spaniards.

Thus it is the English language and the translation of our country’s name that made the confusion of why Ph is use in one, and F in the other. Blame it on the English-speaking people.

I think we can blame other things to the English language.

For instance, why is it that the French drinks a lot more alcohol, but their incidence of stroke is not as bad as the English people and the Americans. Also, why is it that the Japanese works much harder, but their rate of heart attack is not as high as the English and the Americans. And why is that the Filipinos eat more salty foods but again the prevalence of cardiovascular disease is not as high as the English and the Americans. Therefore, speaking English is the one that can kill you.

Sorry I digress. Back to the Ph and F.

To make it more confusing, in our native language, Tagalog or also now known as Pilipino, we spell our country’s name or the name of our people with neither Ph or F. Now that’s really Ph-up!

In our original alphabet, which has only 20 letters, we don’t even have the letter F, as it not needed in the phonology of our language. Though recently F has been added in the modern Filipino alphabet, with other letters, like C, J, Q, V, X and Z. We also have the letters Ñ and Ng in our alphabet, making for a 28-letter alphabet.

Therefore, when we speak in our native tongue, the name of our country is Pilipinas. And we the people are known as Pilipino. And both of them is spelled with a P!

Many times we confuse and interchange the use as well as the pronunciation of F and P. This has been a butt of jokes for us Filipinos. It hurts our peelings. We should not peel inferior just because we don’t speak ferpect English.

By the way, “Put@ng-ina,” our beloved president’s favorite battle cry, is also spelled with a P.

Gunita Sa Makulimlim Na Umaga

Noong isang araw, ako ay lumabas para maghehersisyo. Makulimlim at mahamog ang umaga. At habang ako ay tumatakbo, ang gunita ko naman ay nagliliwaliw at tumatakbo rin. Ito ay napadpad sa isang nakaraan. Sa isa ring makulimlim na umaga………

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Sariwa pa sa aking isip ang araw na iyon. Bagama’t tanghali na ay binabalot pa rin ng dilim ang umaga. Makapal at maiitim ang ulap na tumatabing sa sikat ng araw. Bumubuhos din ang napakalakas na ulan. Para bagang tumataghoy at tumatangis ang langit. Nakikiramay kaya ito sa aking nadarama?

Dahil sa kailangan naming dumalo sa isang tinakdang pagtitipon at dapat makarating sa tamang oras, ay napasabak kami sa napakalakas na ulan. Aming sinuong ang bumubuhos na delubyo. Nakarating naman kami sa aming paroroonan.

Matapos kaming makarating sa gusali ng pagtitipon, ay aking pinagmasdan ang mga taong pumapasok sa bulwagang iyon. Lahat sila ay pawang mga basang sisiw na nilublob sa tubig. Kulang na lang ay magsabon na rin sila. Pormal at magagara pa naman ang bihis nila. Buti na lamang at may dala kaming payong. Ngunit gayon pa man ay basang-basa pa rin ang aking sapatos at pantalon.

Kahit na makulimlim at bumabagyo noong araw na iyon, at kahit pa basang-basa ang karamihan dahil sa sinugod nilang lakas ng ulan, ay maaliwalas at maligaya ang napupulsong damdaming sa loob ng bulwagang iyon.

Hindi ko alam kung bakit ko piniling magsuot ng itim noong araw na iyon. Ako ba’y nagluluksa? Ako ba’y dadalo sa libing?

Sabi nila ang araw na iyon ay isang kaganapang tinatanaw.  Sabi nila ito raw ay kasagutan sa isang inaasam na pangarap. Pangarap na maraming tao sa iba’t-ibang lupalop ng mundo ang nagkakandarapa na makamit. Sabi nila ito raw ang katapusan ng mahabang paghihintay. Para sa akin, mahigit dalawampung taon ang inabot.

Sabi pa nila ito raw ay masayang okasyon. Ito raw ay araw ng pagdiriwang. Araw na dapat ipagbunyi. Ngunit bakit may kurot ng lungkot akong nararamdaman? Oo nga’t may tuwa sa aking puso ngunit bakit may bahid rin ito ng lumbay?

Matapos makapasok sa malaking bulwagang iyon ang lahat ng kinaukulan at maupo kami sa tinalagang upuan para sa amin, ay nagsimula na rin ang hinihintay naming seremonya. Tumahimik ang lahat, at kulog at ugong na lang ng malakas na ulan ang aming naririnig.

Pumasok na ang hukom. Ito’y nagbigay ng isang masayang pagbati.

Hindi na nagtagal kaming lahat ay pinatayo. Ako, kasama ng maraming tao, mula sa iba’t-ibang lahi at bansa. Ipinataas sa amin ang aming kanang kamay, at kami’y pinabigkas.

At habang ako’y nanunumpa sa harap ng dayuhang bandila, habang umiiyak ang mga alapaap, ay nangingilid naman sa aking mga mata ang luha………

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Halos isang taon na rin pala ang lumipas mula nang aking ipagluksa ang aking inang bayan. Mag-iisang taon na pala ang nagdaan nang aking isuko ang aking pagkamamamayan sa lupa kong sinilangan.

Namatay at nalibing na nga ba ang aking pagiging isang Pilipino? Huwag naman sanang mangyari.

*******

(*isinulat para sa pagunita ng buwan ng wika)

(**Photos taken with an iPhone, one foggy morning)

 

Long Beach, a Gala, and an Electromagnetic Lecture

Part of our big summer trip few weeks ago was going down to Long Beach, California. Long Beach is a city in Los Angeles County at the pacific coast of the US. It is 24 miles away from the city of Los Angeles, but that drive can take more than an hour due to terrible traffic.

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We went to Long Beach to attend my medical school’s sponsored event. It was the 24th University of Santo Tomas Medical Alumni Association of America (USTMAA) Grand Reunion and Medical Convention.

The Hilton Long Beach was the site of the event, and that’s where we stayed for a couple of days.

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Only a few blocks away from the hotel is the ocean and the Pine Avenue Pier. One early morning, I went out for my 2-3 miles run, and I wandered down to the pier (above and below photos were taken during my run).

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The Pier was lined with prime restaurants, so I guess you won’t get hungry if you stroll there.

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Here’s the marina with some of the boats docked there.

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There’s even a lighthouse at that Pier.

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Back to the USTMAAA event, since the event is billed as a Grand Reunion, many medical alumni from different batches attended. The oldest batch represented in the gala night was from medical class of 1951, though he was a lone attendee of his class. He was probably in his 90’s or nearing 90, yet he still looked strong and springy.

One of the biggest contingent was from the class of 1966, who were celebrating their 50th (Golden) anniversary. I tell you, those “old” folks can still dance the night away.

The “youngest” (the term ‘young’ is really relative) batch in that reunion was our class – from year 1991, which in my estimation was the biggest group represented. We were celebrating our 25th (Silver) anniversary.

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Above is a photo I grabbed from USTMAAA website, showing our batch during the parade of the different classes at the gala dinner. Though many of my other classmates who went to Long Beach did not attend the gala, but came for the other festivities and the medical conference.

To be honest, I am not really a fan of galas and pageantries, so that was not the main reason I attended. Sad to admit, I can’t even dance. Of course seeing my old friends and classmates was enough motivation to attend.

But the biggest reason I came was, I was invited to give one of the lectures during the medical convention, which I considered an honor and a privilege. Many of the lecturers, including the keynote speaker, was from my batch.

The theme of the conference was “Current and Interesting Topics in Medicine and Surgery.” Below is an ‘official’ photo (grabbed from USTMAAA website) of me giving the talk.

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The title of the lecture I gave was: The Lung and Winding Road (my apologies to the Beatles): Current Trends in Lung Cancer Screening and Diagnosis.

A portion of my talk was about Electromagnetic Navigational Bronchoscopy, a relatively new technology using GPS-like guidance with videogame-like images, when doing bronchoscopy and lung biopsy (see previous post about this topic).

Are you wondering what was the slide projected on the screen on the photo above?

Here is that specific slide on my presentation:

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For readers who are not familiar with the above character, this is Voltes V. He is an anime super robot, aired as a TV series in the Philippines in the 1970’s. One of his weapon was the “electromagnetic top.” We definitely are not the first ones to use the “electromagnetic” technology.

After the lecture, many attendees approached me and told me that they enjoyed my presentation very much. Maybe they were all Voltes V fans.

I had a fun time in Long Beach. I hope to be reunited with my classmates and other alumni in the next UST event. Borrowing the battle cry from the Voltes V team, “Let’s volt in!”

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P.S. Voltes V is now forever profiled in the USTMAAA website.

 

 

Pinaglalaruan: Kwentong Multo

Taong 1991, ako ay isang medical intern na nakadestino sa Canlubang, Laguna sa isang maliit na ospital bilang aming community service. Isang malamlam na gabi, isang binata ang itinakbo sa aming Emergency Room. Ito’y walang malay at para bagang naninigas pa.

Sabi ng mga kamag-anak nito ay wala raw silang alam na sakit ang binata. Alam lang daw nila na mahilig itong mapag-isa at malimit itong pumaroon na walang kasama, sa tabi ng ilog.

Tumingin sa akin ang nakatatandang duktor na naka-duty sa Emergency Room. Tinanong niya ako kung ako raw ba ay “naniniwala.” Naniniwala saan?

Hindi ako nakasagot. Dahil hindi ko rin naman alam ang aking isasagot.

Hindi na lang umimik sa akin ang Emergency Room doctor, ngunit naringgan ko na sabi nito sa isang nurse, na baka raw napaglaruan ng espiritu ang binata.

Bilang mga Pilipino, tayo’y maraming mga paniniwala. Hindi alintana kung ano man ang antas natin sa buhay, bata man o matanda, mataas man ang pinag-aralan o wala, marami sa atin ay may mga superstisyon.

Naniniwala tayo sa multo, sa aswang, sa tikbalang, sa kapre, sa tiyanak, sa manananggal, sa nuno sa punso, sa engkanto at engkantada, sa dwende at marami pang iba.

Balik tayo sa Canlubang. Isang buwan din ang naging rotation namin doon. Apat na babaeng co-interns ang kasama ko sa rotation na iyon, ako lang ang lalaki. Sa isang maliit na gusali sa likod ng ospital kami nanirahan habang kami ay naninilbihan doon.

Isang gabi, isa sa aking co-intern ay may hinahanap na gamit niyang nawawala. Kami ay tinanong niya kung amin daw ba itong nakita. Sumagot ang isa ko namang co-intern na baka raw “hiniram” lamang ito.

“Hiniram nino?” ang aming tanong.

“Maari ng mga dwende,” and sagot niya.

Nagkatinginan na lamang kaming apat. Tanong namin, “May dwende ba rito?”

“Oo, ayun nga ang isa sa may pintuan o,” ang dagdag pa nito.

Biglang nagtayuan ang aming mga balahibo! Sumulyap kami sa may gawing pintuan kung nasaan daw yung dwende, ngunit wala naman kaming nakita.

Mayroon daw talagang mga tao na kitain ng dwende, o ng multo, at ng kung anu-ano pang kataka-takang pangitain. Siguro katulad ko ay may mga kakilala rin kayong kagaya nila. Ayaw natin silang kasama, kasi lalo lang tayong matatakot.

Mula noon, lagi nang nagpapasama sa akin ang aking mga co-intern paglalabas sila sa gabi mula sa aming tinitirahan, kahit patungo lang sila sa ospital, na may ilang hakbang lang ang layo. Madilim at mapuno naman kasi ang paligid, tapos dadaan ka pa sa tabi ng morgue ng hospital. Sino nga ba naman ang hindi matatakot?

Marami pa akong narinig na makababalaghang kwento mula sa aking pagkabata sa mga lugar na aking narating. Tulad ng White Lady sa Balete Drive sa pagitan ng Aurora Boulevard at Rodriguez Avenue. O kaya nama’y ang kwento ng diwata sa bundok ng Makiling, na kilala na si Maria Makiling. Nang kami din ay bumisita sa isang liblib na purok sa probinsiya ng Quezon, bilin sa amin ng mga tagaroon, huwag daw kaming masyadong tititig sa mga nakadungaw sa bintana na hindi namin kakilala, at baka raw kami mamaligno.

Naalala mo rin ba noong bata ka, huwag ka raw tatapak sa maliit na bunton ng lupa, at baka raw may nuno sa punso na nakatira sa loob nito. O kaya ay binabawalan ka na huwag kang turo nang turo kapag nasa gubat o mapunong lugar, at baka ka ma-matanda. Umiwas din daw sa puno ng balete at baka magambala mo ang mga nilalang na naninirahan doon.

Naniniwala ba ako sa mga ito at mga kwentong multo?

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May kinakausap kaya ang batang ito sa puno ng balete?

Pagkatapos ko ng aking internship, dahil hindi ko pa tiyak kung anong specialty ang aking pipiliin, kaya’t nag-moonlight muna ako sa isang ospital sa Plaridel, Bulacan. Habang ako ay nagre-review para sa Medical Licensure Exam ng US, upang makapag-training sa Amerika, ay sa Plaridel muna ako nanilbihan ng kulang-kulang isang taon.

Maliit lang ang ospital na iyon. Nasa looban ito at nasa daang graba. Sa ikalawang palapag ng ospital ay mga kwarto ng pasyente. Sa unang palapag naman ay ang klinika, at ang emergency room.

Isang gabi na medyo matumal ang dating ng mga pasyente, ako lang at isang nurse ang nasa ospital. Walang pasyenteng naka-admit sa ikalawang palapag, kaya’t patay lahat ng ilaw sa itaas. Wala ring laman ang Emergency Room maliban sa akin at sa nurse na naka-duty. Naroon din naman si Manong na katiwala ng ospital na nakaupo at nagbabantay sa pinto ng Emergency Room.

Nagpaalam ako sa nurse at sabi ko ako’y bibili lang ng softdrink sa may tindahan sa kanto. Sinabihan ko rin si Manong na tawagin at takbuhin lang ako sa kanto kung sakaling may emergency na dumating.

Pagbalik ko sa Emergency Room ay humahangos akong sinalubong ng aming nurse.

“Doc! May multo po yata sa taas!” ang gimbal na pahayag ng aming nurse.

Tinanong ko kung ano ang nangyari. Sabi niya ay may narinig siyang malalakas na yabag mula sa ikalawang palapag. At para bang may kinakaladkad pa itong kadena, wika pa ng aming nurse.

Alam namin na walang ibang tao sa ospital. May mga ligalig kayang kaluluwang gumagala-gala sa gusaling ito? Ano kaya ang kanilang gustong ipahayag? Baka naman “pinaglalaruan” lamang kami.

Bumaling ako kay Manong. Sa halip na takot ang mababakas sa kanyang mukha ay parang nakangisi pa ito, na para bang may sanib.

Marahan kong nilapitan si Manong, habang pilit kong tinatago ang tunay kong nararamdaman. Ako’y bumulong sa kanya, “Bukas ko na lang po isasauli ang aking hiniram.”

Kinaumagahan, isinauli ko na ang hiniram kong kadena ng bisikleta ni Manong, na aking kinaladkad noong gabi.

Pinaglalaruan nga ba kamo?

*******

P.S. : Nurse Owie, peace na tayo.

(*photo from the web)

Smells Like Philippines

“Dad, you smell like the Philippines.” That was what my son told me the other morning.

It was the weekend and I did not have to go to work, so I was preparing breakfast. But I was  cooking omelet and not a typical Filipino dish, like the tapsilog, so I know that’s not it.

What is the “smell of the Philippines” anyway?

Most of us would associate the smell of the Philippines with the typical Filipino dishes. Like the adobo, or the kare-kare, or the tinola, or the lechon. Not to forget the more “smelly” foods that we Pinoys are known for, like the tuyo, the danggit, the pusit, and the bagoong.

Some of us would definitely remember the Philippines with the sweet scent of sampaguita, or the ilang-ilang, or the calachuchi, or the dama de noche. Or some would like the more exotic fragrance of the durian. That is for certain a pungent scent for not the faint of heart, or more accurately, for not the faint of “sikmura.”

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Durian

For expats and oversea workers out there, maybe it is the distinctive smell of the palengke (wet market) of the Philippines that you miss. The mixture of odors of fish, fruits, stale water, pig’s blood, and mud. Or maybe it is the smell of Philippine traffic with the smog, the diesel fumes, cigarette smoke and body odor that you miss.

Since I now live in Iowa, a land lot in the midwest of America, where the nearest ocean is about a thousand miles away, I miss the smell of the ocean. Definitely I associate the salty air smell with somewhat fishy accent with my days in the Philippines and its gorgeous beaches.

By the way, do you ever wonder what gives the ocean its distinctive briny smell? Scientists said it is not mainly the salt nor the fish. It is mostly from the phytoplanktons. The what now? Phytoplanktons are marine microscopic organisms. When they die they release dimethyl sulfide or DMS, the chemical that is responsible for that specific ocean scent.

There’s also memories of certain scents that I associate particularly from the Philippines. Like the barber shops, with the whiff of rubbing alcohol, pomade, and Johnson baby powder. The hair salon that I go to here in the US, does not have that certain nostalgic smell that I used to know.

But there are also the smell of the Philippines, that maybe we are not proud of. Like the stench of the clogged canal and esteros, or the sad fate and smell of our slums and squatters, or the reeking pile of the uncollected garbage, and the stinky street corners and walls, even with “Bawal umihi dito!” written all over them.

Back to my son’s comment, I tried to figure out why he said I smell like the Philippines. Do I smell like tuyo? Or the wet market? Or the stinky walls of Manila? But I knew I just took a shower, and just put on clean clothes.

Then when I sniffed my shirt, it dawned on me that the shirt I was wearing was a shirt I have not worn since I came back from the Philippines a few months ago. So it was last washed in Manila, with the undeniable scent of hang-dried in the sun and Philippine laundry soap. It certainly smells like Philippines!

For expats like me, even the laundry, can remind us and make us long for home.

(*photo from the web)

Tumubo Mula Pinatubo

Nataandaan mo pa ba kung nasaan ka nang pumutok ang Mount Pinatubo? Maaring wala ka pang kamuwang-muwang noon, o baka naman wala ka pa at hindi ka pa iniluluwal sa mundong ibabaw nang mga panahong iyon.

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Dalawampu’t limang taon na pala ang lumipas mula nang sumabog ang bulkang ito. Ngunit ang naging sakunang dulot nito ay bakas pa, at malalim pa ring nakaukit sa alaala.

Hunyo 6 – 15, 1991, nang bumuga ng apoy, lava, at usok ang Mt. Pinatubo. Dito rin umulan ng abo at luha, at naging sanhi ng pagbaha ng lahar at paghihinagpis sa Pilipinas. Sangayon sa mga tagapagtala ng kasaysayan, ang pagputok ng Pinatubo ay ikalawa sa pinakamalakas na pagsabog ng anumang bulkan sa buong mundo noong 20th century.

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Maraming napinsala. Mahigit sa 800 katao ang namatay sa pagputok ng bulkan, may mahigit sa 10,000 mamayan naman ang nawalan ng tirahan, at libu-libo pang mga Pilipino ang nasalanta at natabunan ng paghihirap. Bilyun-bilyung pisong halaga rin ng ari-arian ang nilamon ng epekto ng pagsabog ng Mt. Pinatubo.

Isa sa mga napinsala ng Mt. Pinatubo ay ang base-militar ng Amerika sa Pampanga. Sa katunayan, hindi panukalang batas ng pamahalaan o kongreso, hindi rin ang pagpo-protesta ng mga mamamayan, kundi ang pagsabog ng bulkan ang tunay na nagpalayas sa mga Amerikano mula sa Clark Air Base. Sa aking opinyon, ang Mt. Pinatubo ang siyang naging huling hataw kaya nag-alsa balutan ang mga Amerikano.

Ngunit kamakailan lamang, matapos ang mahabang panahon, at matapos humupa ang lahat ng usok hindi lamang ng bulkan, kundi pati nagbabagang sentimyento laban sa mga Amerikano, ay muling pinaplanong ibalik ang mga base-militar ng US sa Pilipinas ngayon.

Katatapos ko lang ng pag-aaral ng Medisina sa UST, at ako ay isang medical intern sa St. Luke’s Medical Center, nang pumutok ang Mt. Pinatubo. Community service ang aking rotation noon at ako’y nakadestino sa Canlubang, Laguna, sa isang maliit na provincial hospital doon. Kahit hanggang doon sa Canlubang ay umabot ang abo ng Pinatubo.

Umiikot lang sa sarili kong mundo ang buhay ko noon. Hindi ko pa tiyak kung saang landas ako ihahatid ng aking bukas. Hindi ko pa rin alam kung saang lupalop ako ibabalibag ng tadhana. Pangangailangan ko lamang at ang susunod kong kakainin ang akin lang iniintindi. Wala akong masyadong pakialam pa sa mga pangangailan ng ibang tao, kasama na dito ang mga naghihikahos nating mga kababayan.

Ngunit hindi katagalan matapos pumutok ang Pinatubo, isang kakilala ang nag-imbita sa akin na sumama sa isang medical mission sa Pampanga upang tumulong at magbigay lunas sa mga kababayan doon na naapektuhan ng rumaragasang lahar. Bilang isang bagitong duktor, nasabik akong sumama. Wala pa rin naman akong suweldo noon, tapos libre daw ang pakain sa mga volunteers, kaya’t ano pa ang hahanapin ko?

Ito ang una kong pagsama sa isang medical mission. At hindi rin ito naging huli. Nasundan ito nang maraming beses pa ng pagbubuluntaryo ko sa iba’t ibang medical mission noong panahong iyon. Dito ako namulat nang husto sa nakalulungkot na kalagayan ng ating lipunan. Kalagayan na hanggang sa ngayon ay maliit pa rin ang pinagbago.

Mula sa Pinatubo, napunla sa akin ang diwa ng paglilingkod.

Kaya matagal pa bago pa ako sumabak sa mga nasalanta ng bagyong Yolanda (see previous post here), ay nauna muna akong sumabak sa mga nasalanta ng lahar mula sa Mt. Pinatubo.

May isa pang naging bunga ang pagsabog ng bulkan. Dahil sa aking pagsama lagi sa mga medical mission matapos pumutok ang Mt. Pinatubo, ay mayroon akong nakilalang magandang binibini na lagi ring nagbubuluntaryo. Dito sa mga medical mission, akin siyang nakasama at lubusang nakilala.

Sa pagsabog ng bulkang Pinatubo, ay may magandang tumubo, umusbong, at lumago.

Siya’y naging kasama ko hanggang ngayon.

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(*photos from the web)