Rico J, Isang Pagpupugay

Nitong mga nakaraang araw, ay namamayagpag sa aking pandinig ang mga OPM (Original Pilipino Music). Nalungkot ako sa balita noong isang linggo na pumanaw na pala si Rico J. Puno. Kaya para mabawasan ang aking pagkalumbay ay nagpipiyesta na lang ako sa pakikinig ng mga OPMs, lalo na sa mga kanta ni Rico J.

Isa si Rico J sa mga nagpasikat ng mga OPM. Siguro naman lahat tayong mga Pinoy ay alam ang kanyang mga kanta. Tulad nito:

“Kapalaran kung hanapin, di matagpuan, at kung minsan lumalapit nang ‘di mo alam.” (Kapalaran)

Sa totoo lang naisama ko na ang linya ng kantang ito sa isa sa aking blog, Bahala na si Batman.

Mayroon din siyang kanta na nakakapukaw ng damdamin. Tulad nito:

“Huwag damdamin ang kasawian, may bukas pa sa iyong buhay, sisikat din ang iyong araw, ang landas mo ay mag-iilaw.” (May Bukas Pa)

Nagkaroon din ako ng blog na ang pamagat ay mula sa kantang ito, May Bukas Pa.

At mayroon din mga kanta si Rico Puno na pinangarap mong sana ikaw rin ay kagaya niya. Tulad ng:

“Macho gwapito raw ako!” (Macho Gwapito)

Pero hindi naman ako naging macho dahil patpatin nga ako noong araw.

Nakakalungkot lang isipin na wala na si Rico Puno. Para sa akin na lumisan ng ating bayan at matagal nang wala sa bansa, parang bang ako’y nanghihinayang na hindi ko na mababalikan ang aking naiwan. Para bagang may kulang na sa Pilipinas na aking nakagisnan.

Pero sangayon din sa isang awit ni Rico J, eh talagang ganyan ang buhay:

“Sa mundo ang buhay ay mayroong hangganan, dahil ay lupa lamang.” (Lupa)

Hindi lang mga OPM ang namimiss ko kapag nabanggit si Rico Puno. Namimiss ko rin kung saan ako nanggaling at kung saan ako lumaki. Kung hindi ninyo po alam, si Rico J ay lumaki sa may Balik-Balik sa Sampaloc Manila. Iyong apartment kung saan sila nanirahan noon ay sa kabilang kalye lang mula kung saan ako nakatira doon sa Sampaloc. Siyempre naging proud ang mga naging kapitbahay niya nang siya ay naging sikat na.

Mabalik tayo sa mga OPM, lumaki akong nakikinig ng mga kantang Pilipino, hindi lang kanta ni Rico J. Nakakaaliw ngang isipin na iba’t iba ang mga OPM.

May mga awit na makatotoo:

“Isang kahig, isang tuka, ganyan kaming mga dukha.” (Dukha by Heber Bartolome)

May mga kantang matalinghaga:

“Patakan n’yo ng luha ang apoy sa kanyang puso.” (Balita by Asin)

At mayroon ding mahiwaga:

“Butse kik, ek ek ek.” (Butse Kik by Yoyoy Villame)

May kantang mapangutya:

“Beh, buti nga, beh, buti nga, bebebebeh, buti nga!” (Beh Buti Nga by Hotdog)

May mga kanta na garapal:

“Pahipo naman, pahawak naman, hindi na kita matsangsingan.” (No Touch by Mike Hanopol)

Kung sa panahong ito kapag kinanta mo ito ay pwede kang kasuhan ng sexual harassment.

Meron din namang mga awit na nakakatawa, pero may aral.

“Banal na aso, santong kabayo, natatawa ako.” (Banal na Aso Santong Kabayo by Yano)

Pero ang mga awit na tunay na napamahal sa atin ay iyong may kahulugan sa atin. Marahil may mga karanasan tayong hindi malilimutan na nakakawit sa kantang iyon. Para po sa akin, isa sa mga ito ay kanta ni Rico Puno:

“Alaala ng tayo’y magsweetheart pa, namamasyal pa sa Luneta nang walang pera.” (The Way We Were by Rico Puno)

Sa katunayan nai-blog ko na rin ang karanasan kong ito, Alaala ng Luneta.

Nakakamiss talaga. Kaya magsa-sound trip na lang uli ako at magpapakalunod sa mga OPM. Maraming salamat sa mga magagandang alaala, Rico J. Puno.

A-2166666-1404547268-1768.jpeg

(*photo from the web)

Ene Be Yen?

Noong isang araw, ay nakikinig ang aking misis ng instructional video kung paano magsalita ng French. Malay ba namin, baka bukas makalawa ay mapadpad kami sa Quebec o kaya sa Paris para mag-order ng almusal na croissant at café au lait.

Hindi ko alam kung ako lang ba o lahat ng tao na hindi Pranses, pero para sa akin ay napakahirap yatang lenguahe ang French. Parang ngongo na hindi ko maintindihan. Ibang-iba ang pagbigkas kaysa sa pagkakasulat.

Tulad nito:

English: How are you?

French: Comment allez-vous? (Pronounced as: Kumant ale-bu?)

English: Where is the bus station?

French: Où est la gare routière? (Pronounced as: Uh eh lah gah uhutiye?)

Putris na ‘yan, magpapakaligaw-ligaw na lang ako, kesa magtanong kung nasaan ang istasyon ng bus.

Pero masarap pakinggan ang French kahit na hindi ko maintindihan. Alam mo ba na ang French language ay mayroong 17 na patinig (vowels)? Anak ng tinapa!

Pero mas matindi ang Danish language. Sila ay mayroong 32 na vowels. Limang vowels nga lang sa Pilipino ay hirap na tayong magkaintindihan, 17 o 32 pa kaya?

Pasalamat tayo at mas madaling bigkasin ang ating wika, dahil lima lang ang ating patinig, at bawat isa sa ito ay iisa lang ang pagbasa at pagbigkas. Pero siguro kahit pa isa lang ang patinig ng ating wika ay kaya pa rin nating ipahayag ang ating saloobin at magkakaintindihan pa rin tayo. Totoo, kahit isang vowel lang.

Hindi kayo maniwala?

Sege, pepeteneyen ke se enye. Besehen me ete:

Eng beyen keng Pelepenes,

Lepeen neng gente’t beleklek,

Peg-ebeg ne se kenyeng peled,

Neg-eley neng gende’t deleg.

Kete me ne, neeentendehen me pe ren, kehet pereng tenge leng. Enek neng tenepe! Eng geleng geleng, ‘ne. Ene be yen?

Kehet hende ke mekepenewele, pere ngeyen beleb ke ne. Genyen kegeleng eng eteng esep, keyeng ementende kehet ne pereng gege ne eng pegseselete. Mge Pelepene leng keye eng pewedeng mekesekey neng genete? Weleng senebe eng Englesh et French se eteng Peney.

Henggeng dete ne leng et beke meteleyen neng mesere eng etek nenye. Selemet pe.

Mebehey eng Pelepene!

 

 

 

Friday the 13th

Today is Friday the 13th. For superstitious folks out there, please beware!

Many people consider this as the unluckiest day in the calendar. According to an article from National Geographic, the fear surrounding Friday the 13th may be rooted in religious beliefs. It has to do with the 13th guest at the Last Supper, who is Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, who in turn was crucified on a Friday.

The fear for Friday the 13th is so widespread that psychologists even have a term for people who suffers from it: paraskavedekatriaphobia. That’s a mouthful. The irrational fear for the number 13 is called triskaidekaphobia.

Irrational or not, many buildings don’t have a 13th floor. So elevators will go from 12th floor and then skip to 14th floor. In 2002, based on an internal review of records, a report from Otis Elevator Company estimated that 85% of the buildings with Otis brand elevators did not have a floor named the 13th floor.

Most hotels have no room 13. Many hospitals have no room 13. Even our own ICU has no room 13. So you think medical institutions are not superstitious? Though I get it, I think patients or their family will freak out if they learn that they are being admitted to ICU room 13.

Speaking of ICU, I have been the ICU attending for the past couple of weeks now. It has been busy, plus you know that July is when the new residents or physicians-in-training start, so it is an added stressor to me. To destress, I blog.

It is known in the medical world that the rate of medical errors and surgical complications spikes in the month of July. The hospitals even have a name for it: the July effect. This is not due to a mystical phenomenon, but due to a very logical reason stemming from the inexperience of the newbie doctors.

Thus I am supervising and watching my residents like a hawk this time of year. And today, Friday July 13th, I will even be more vigilant.

To end, in connection to mystical events, I would like to share a story that was posted by a batchmate in the group chat:

Murder Mystery at the Makati Medical Center

There was this case in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit where patients always die in the same bed on Sunday mornings at 11 A.M., regardless of their medical condition. This puzzled the doctors and some even thought that it had something to do with the supernatural or even murder. No one could solve the mystery as to why deaths happen on Sunday at 11 A.M.

Mr. Licauco, Fr. Bulatao and the Ateneo paranormal folks were called. They arrived armed with special photographic equipment, infra-red devices and motion sensitive radar to detect any presence.

So on the next Sunday morning, a few minutes before 11 AM, all the doctors and nurses nervously  waited outside the ward to see for themselves what the mysterious phenomenon was all about. Some were holding wooden crosses, strings of garlic, amulets, prayer books and other holy objects to ward off evil spirits.

Just then, the clock struck 11. And then……..

Mang Joe, the part-time Sunday janitor, entered the ward, unplugged the life support system and plugged in the vacuum cleaner.

Have a happy Friday the 13th folks!

happy-friday-the-13th-1

(*photo from the web)

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.

Basagketbulero 2

Sangayon sa mga balita, kasalukyang iniimbistigahan ng International Basketball Federation ang naganap na insidente sa laro ng Gilas Pilipinas at Australian Boomers. Hindi pa alam kung anong parusa ang ibababa sa mga sangkot sa labu-labong suntukang nangyari sa basketball court.

Inakusahan ni Luc Longley, dating NBA player ng Chicago Bulls at kasalukuyang associate coach ng Australian basketball team, ang head coach ng Pilipinas na si Chot Reyes na ginatungan nito diumano ang kanyang mga players, kaya nauwi sa rumble ang laro.

Dinepensahan naman ng dating coach ng Pilipinas na si Yeng Guiao si coach Chot Reyes. Sabi ni Guiao wala raw kasalanan ang kasalukuyang coach at hindi dapat itong idiin sa mga nakakabahalang pangyayari.

Ganoon pa man, hindi nagustuhan ng Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas ang naging papel ni coach Reyes sa mga kaganapan. Hindi rin nila nagustuhan ang “performance” ng ating mga manlalaro at ang estado na kulang sa “skills” at “training” ang ating mga basketbulero.

Dahil dito ay tinibag na si Chot Reyes.

Ito na ang kanyang kapalit:

(*Ang balitang ito ay hindi fake news. Totoo, peksman.)

Basagketbulero

Basketball at boxing. Ito ay dalawang libangan na paborito nating mga Pilipino. Pero sa Pilipinas, kadalasan pinagsasama ang dalawang sports na ito sa iisang event.

Mula basketball sa kalye, liga sa baranggay, tournament ng mga kolehiyo, hanggang professional basketball games sa Pilipinas, ay minsan (o madalas), nauuwi sa suntukan. Ngayon umapaw pa ito hanggang sa international games. Siguro naman ay alam ng lahat ang nangyari sa FIBA games sa laban ng Pilipinas at Australia.

basketbrawl

Siguro may mga ilan din sa inyo ang nakakatanda noong 1998 sa isang exhibition game sa America, ang ating Philippine Centennial Team, kasama sila Marlou Aquino at Andy Seigle, ay nakipagsuntukan sa Minnesota college basketball team.

Ang mga Pilipino ba ay sadyang “Basagketbulero?” Basketbulero + basagulero.

Hindi ko sinasabing hindi ko naranasan ito. Dahil noong ako’y naglalaro pa ng basketball sa kalsada sa aming lugar, may mga panahon na nagkakainitan ang laro, lalo na kung ang mga kalaro (o kalaban) ay taga ibang kalye o mga dayo. Kahit nga iyong pa-liga ng aming simbahan, oo magkakapatid na sa pananampalataya, ay nauuwi pa rin sa away. Pero hindi naman ako nakakasama sa suntukan, dahil mabilis akong tumakbo – tumakbong palayo!

Bakit nga kaya?

Dahil kaya sadyang mapusok tayong maglaro ng basketball? Dahil kaya tayo ay lahi ng mga palaban? Dahil kaya may dugo tayong lahat na boksingero at gustong maging Pacquiao? Pero in fairness kay Pacquiao, kahit naging basketbulero din siya, hindi siya nakipagboksing habang nasa basketball court, sa boxing ring lang.

Baka naman dahil may mentality tayong “walang iwanan,” na kapag inapi ang ating kasama ay igaganti natin ito ano man ang mangyari? Ito ang rason na ginagamit ng iba sa ating mga manlalaro. O kaya naman ay mayroon tayong “rumble mentality” – hindi masaya kung walang away. O dahil ba madali tayong mapikon at wala tayong “self-restraint?”

Hindi ko alam ang tunay na dahilan. Ngunit nakakalungkot na inaalis natin ang “sport” sa larangan ng “sports.”

Kahit ako ay Pilipino, ang boksing sa basketball ay hinding-hindi ko maipagmamalaki.

(*photoshopped image from the web)

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.

SaturdaysRhapsody

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.

*******

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)

 

 

Abangers: Infinity Wait

Ilang araw na lang ay lalabas na ang bagong pelikula ng mga paborito nating superheroes, ang “Avengers: Infinity War.” Ito ay isa sa pinakamalaking production ng Marvel Studios at pagsasama-sama ng pinakamaraming superheroes.  Ang movie genre tungkol sa mga superheroes, ay isa sa mga pelikulang kinagigiliwan ng madla at malakas tumabo sa takilya.

Pero ibang superheroes ang gusto kong talakayin ngayon. Ito ay ang mga Abangers. Mga taong nag-aabang.

Hindi ko tinutukoy ‘yung mga tambay sa kanto. Oo nga’t nag-aabang din sila, pero hindi ko lang alam kung ano nga ba ang inaabangan nila. Siguro, Pasko?

Hindi ko rin tinutukoy ang mga pasaherong tinitiis ang pagod, gutom, init, at pakikipag-siksikan habang nag-aabang ng masasakyan. Tunay naman na umaabot ng siyam-siyam makarating lamang sa paroroonan. Sa ibang pagkakataon ko na lang tatalakayin ‘yon.

Ang aking tinutukoy ay ang mga nag-aabang sa pag-ibig na hindi nila maangkin. Sa simpleng salita, ‘yung mga nagmamahal ng taong may girlfriend o boyfriend na. O mas masaklap pa, nagmamahal ng may asawa na. Sila ay nag-aabang na magkahiwalayan ang sinisinta nila, para sila naman ang makaentra.

Maraming mga kanta akong kinagisnan noon na nagsasaysay ng ganitong sintimyento. Ito ang isa: Hanggang Sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan.

Ang orihinal na umawit nito ay si Basil Valdez, at ni-remake naman nila Gary Valenciano at Sarah Geronimo.

At kung sadyang s’ya na ang ‘yong mahal,
Asahan mong ako’y di hahadlang,
Habang ikaw ay maligaya ako’y maghihintay,
Maging hanggang sa dulo ng walang hanggan.

Ayan ang tunay na Abanger! “Abanger: Infinity Wait.”

Heto pa ang isa, awit naman ni Martin Nievera, “Ikaw ang Lahat sa Akin.” May cover din nito si Regine Velasquez.

At kung hindi ngayon ang panahon,
Upang ikaw ay mahalin,
Bukas na walang hanggan,
Doo’y maghihintay pa rin.

Meron pang isang kanta, ang awit ni Andy. Andy ba kamo? “Andy ‘to ako, umiibig sa ‘yo.” Huh?

Ah, eh si Ogie Alcasid pala ang kumanta nito. At my version din si Leah Salonga.

Nandito ako umiibig sa iyo,
Kahit na nagdurugo ang puso,
Kung sakaling iwanan ka niya,
Huwag kang mag-alala,
May nagmamahal sa iyo,
Nandito ako.

Ilan lang ‘yan sa mga theme songs ng mga Abangers. Sila ay mga superhero, di ba? Hero, bayani, as in martyr! Pwedeng-pwede na silang barilin sa Luneta.

Maaring iyong tatanungin, masama bang maging Abanger?

Unang-una, mahirap maging Abanger. Lagi ka na lang nagtatago sa dilim, naghihintay sa pagkakataon na lumabas sa liwanag. Laging patago ang iyong diskarte, at baka ka mahuli ng tunay na nagmamay-ari. Sabi nga ng lumang kanta ng Apo Hiking Society:

Mahirap talagang magmahal ng syota ng iba,
Hindi mo mabisita kahit okey sa kanya,
Mahirap oh mahirap talaga,
Maghanap ka na lang kaya ng iba…..

I-dial mo ang number sa telepono,
Huwag mong ibibigay ang tunay na pangalan mo,
Pag nakausap mo siya sasabihin sa’yo,
Tumawag ka mamaya nanditong syota ko.

Pero marahil ikakatwiran natin, kung tunay ang pagmamahal natin, ito’y ipaglalaban natin kahit pa may bakod na. Bahala na kung magkabistuhan pa. At handa tayong maghintay, kahit pa sa dulo ng walang hanggan, ika nga ng kanta.

Pero dahil kaya sa pagiging Abanger ay maaring ipinipinid natin ang ating paningin at sinasarado natin ang pinto sa ibang mga pagkakataon. Sabi nga ng isang quote:

When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. – Alexander Graham Bell

Minsan hindi pinto, kun’di bintana ang pinagbubuksan. Kaya’t tumalon ka na sa bintana. Jump out and move on.

Marami ang nabubulag at marami rin ang nagbubulag-bulagan dahil sa pag-ibig.

Isa pang dahilan, ilagay natin ang ating sarili sa sapatos ng boyfriend o girlfriend ng ating inaabangan. Hindi ko ibig sabihin na nakawin mo ‘yung sapatos ng boyfriend o girlfriend, pero siguro naiintindihan mo ang ibig kong sabihin. Hindi ba nakakabwisit kung may umaasungot o umaaswang sa iyong syota? Sabi nga ng Gintong Utos: Huwag mong gawin sa iba, ang ayaw mong gawin sa iyo ng iba.

Ang huling dahilan na naiisip ko kung bakit hindi magandang maging Abanger ay ito, hindi mabuti ang “One-Way Street” sa larangan ng pag-ibig. Hindi ito malusog na relasyon. O hindi ito maituturing na tunay na relasyon.

Unrequited love is the infinite curse of a lonely heart. ― Christina Westover

Tulad ng mga naririnig mong payo ng iyong mga kaibigan, ‘Ang mga martyr, binabaril!’ Alam kong may halaga ka, kaya’t pahalagahan mo rin sana at mahalin ang iyong sarili. Natitiyak kong may tao ring magpapahalaga sa iyo.

Masakit man isipin at mas masakit pang aminin, na ako ay naging isang Abanger din noon. Oo, nag-aabang ako sa pagdaan ng magtataho sa aming kalye noon.

Pero seryoso, naging tunay akong Abanger, nanligaw at nag-abang sa babaeng may boyfriend na. Ito ay nang ako’y nasa unibersidad pa. Akala ko nga kami na. Dalawang taon din akong nagpakagago! Pero salamat at naumpog ako at namulat sa katotohanang wala akong mahihitad at hanggang sa pagiging Abanger lang pala ako.

Hindi ako nagkikimkim ng galit. Hindi ako nanghihinayang. Hindi rin ako mapait sa mga pangyayari.

Noong makailang taon lang ang nakalipas, ay dumalo ako sa aming Graduation Silver Anniversary ng aming unibersidad sa Pilipinas. Dito ay muli kong nakita ang aking dating inaabangan. Oo nga’t may kaunting kislot sa dibdib nang akin siyang makita matapos ang dalawampu’t limang taon. Pero akin ding napagtanto na pundi na at wala nang liyab ang aking damdamin para sa kanya.

Hanggang sa ngiti na lang kami at pagbati ng “Kamusta ka.” Dahil para sa akin, natagpuan ko na ang aking “forever.” At hindi lang ako isang Abanger.

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(*Our class section of Medicine batch ’91, who attended the reunion gala night. Photo credit to our official photographer.)

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)