Destined Rest Stop

Returning home one evening after dropping off my daughter to her university, I came to this rest area. Since I was still several miles away from home, and needed to take a leak, so I use the rest stop.

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Rest Stop where I stopped

For the weary road traveler, rest stops are such an inviting place. Especially if they are beautiful, clean, and well maintained, like the one I used above. For people with hyperactive bladder, like me, rest stops are life-savers.

Many times we just stop to take a bathroom break. Though sometimes we take a rest for several minutes to stretch our legs or take a walk. While some take a longer break and even sleep for a few hours in their car or truck, before continuing on their long journey.

Not to brag, and since I have driven from America’s coast to coast, I believe rest stops here in Iowa are among the cleanest and well-maintained facilities. Of course I’ve also been to ones that are not worth a stop at all.

The world’s largest rest stop or truck stop is found here in Iowa along I-80. This stop has pretty much anything a road warrior needs. In addition to plenty of fast food restaurants, there is a movie theater, a laundromat, showers, a trucking museum, and a church that have service on Sundays.

Though rest stops are not meant to be our final destination. They are mere transient stops along the way. They are just there to provide us a respite from the weariness of our long travel. And that’s should be true as well in our life’s journey.

Few days ago, I learned from our batch that two of our classmates from medical school passed away. One died from a “lengthy illness” according to his obituary. While the other died suddenly from a ruptured brain aneurysm while he’s on a trip.

Of all circumstances, dying while on a break or a vacation, to me is just not right. Perhaps some will say, at least your last memories are of a happy occasion. But then again, is there really even a “good” time to die?

I am deeply saddened by these news. I guess me and my classmates and contemporaries are now in that age that we can get seriously ill and die. Though I would say, they were still too young to die.

The one who died suddenly from a ruptured aneurysm was a classmate of mine not just in medical school in the Philippines, but even since we were in pre-med. Besides being in the same classroom together since our teen years, we also played a few basketball games together, went to some outings together, and much more.

Then when we were both doing our post-graduate training here in the US, when I was applying for my subspecialty training, I even stayed in his home for a couple of days when I had an interview in Chicago, where he was still living at that time.

He worked in the US for several years, but he left a lucrative cardiology practice here, and went back to the Philippines last year, to practice back home and serve our own people. Perhaps he’s more nationalistic than I am. Or perhaps he just wanted to go home.

In one level or another, he did go home.

The last time I saw him was in Manila during our 25th graduation anniversary from University of Santo Tomas (UST) medical school, earlier this year. At one time, after a whole day event in UST, we, together with other friends went to a restaurant near Ortigas for a night-cap. Even though the place was probably less than 10 miles from the school, it took us almost 2 hours to get there due to horrible traffic. Who needs a rest stop, when we were already stopped all the time?

As I was riding with him in his car and we were stuck in Manila’s traffic, at least this gave us more time to catch up with each other’s lives. Never did I imagined, that will be the last time we’ll spend time together, and that will be our last shared trip.

Our life’s journey is so unpredictable. We plan for a long haul, but at times our travel is shortened. Way too shortened. Some of us will arrive at a rest stop. And it’s a permanent rest stop.

Rest in peace, my friends.

Pagmumuni-muni sa Bubong na Yero

Umaakyat ka ba sa bubong ng inyong bahay upang doon tumambay? Sabi nila pusa at mga kalapati lang daw ang umuupo at lumalagi sa bubong. Pero bakit si Spiderman o si Batman, laging tumatambay sa bubong?

 *******

Hunyo, 1987.

Mahigit isang linggo pa lang nagsimula ang pasukan. Unang semestre at unang taon kong tumapak sa medical school. Masasabing punong-puno ng pag-asa ang aking hinaharap. At ako rin nama’y punong-puno ng pangarap.

Ngunit isang gabi, nang ako’y umuwi, ay mayroon kumosyon sa amin. Hindi lamang sa aming bahay, kundi sa aming magkakapit-bahay sa lugar namin sa Maynila.

Akin napag-alaman na may sunog daw sa malapit sa amin. Ngunit kahit sa kabilang kalye pa ang sunog, dahil sa dikit-dikit na parang mga posporo ang mga bahay doon sa amin sa Sampalok, ay madaling kumalat ang apoy.

Hindi ito ang unang sunog na aming naranasan. Mahigit isang taon lang ang lumipas bago ang sunog na ito, nang magkaroon ng sunog sa mismong kalye namin. Dalawang bahay lang ang layo mula sa amin. Lumikas na nga kami sa aming bahay. Buti na lamang at naagapan ng mga bumbero at hindi masyadong kumalat ang apoy. Gayon pa ma’y isang bata ang namatay noon, dahil hindi ito naitakas.

Kaya nang magkaroon ulit ng sunog sa aming lugar nang gabing iyon, hindi maiaalis ang takot sa aming puso. Ako’y inutusan ng aking nanay na tanawin kung gaanong kalayo ang sunog, upang malaman kung kailangan naming mag-alsa balutan.

Paano ko tatanawin ang sunog? Wala namang tore doon sa amin. Hindi rin naman pwedeng akyatin ang poste ng Meralco. Kaya’t walang pinakamagandang lugar para makita kundi sa bubong ng aming bahay. Kahit pa ba dalawang palapag lang ang aming bahay, kapag nasa bubong na, ay malayo na rin ang matatanaw.

Maraming beses na rin naman akong umakyat sa bubong ng aming bahay. Nariyan ‘nung mag-palipad ako ng saranggola kasama ng aking tiyuhin sa aming bubong. At minsan din ay tinulungan ko ang aking tatay na magpahid ng vulcaseal sa aming mga yero dahil tumutulo ito kapag umuulan.

Ngunit lahat ng pagkakataon noon ay sa araw ako umaakayat sa bubong. Ngayon lang ako umakyat nang gabi. Pero hindi ako miyembro ng “akyat-bahay.”

Matapos kong tanawin ang sunog, ay aking natanto na malayu-layo naman pala ito sa amin. Siguro, tatlong kalye ang layo. Akin ding naobserbahan na ang ningas ng malalaking dila ng apoy ay dahan-dahan nang humuhupa. Siguro dahil na rin sa pagsisikap ng mga bumbero.

Pagkatapos kong isigaw at ipaalam sa aking pamilya na malayo naman pala ang sunog at hindi naming kailangang lumikas, ay nanatili at tumambay pa muna ako sa bubong ng aming bahay. Habang ako’y nakatanaw sa nagliliyab na apoy, ay akin ding tinangkang tanawin kung ano ang bukas para sa amin.

Sa katunayan, galing lang ako sa ospital ng gabing iyon. Sa ospital kung saan nakaratay ang aking ama. Aking kinuha ang mga plaka ng kanyang CAT scan mula sa isang lugar kung saan ito isinagawa, at inihatid ito sa ospital kung saan siya ooperahan.

Isang malaking tumor sa utak ang hatol sa aking ama.

Mapanganib daw ang gagawing operasyon. Hindi rin kayang isiguro ng duktor kung magiging tagumpay ito. Ngunit operasyon lang ang tsansang meron kami, kung gusto pa naming madagdagan ang buhay ng aking tatay. Siya ay singkwenta anyos lamang.

Totoo, hindi ang tinatanaw na sunog ang pinakamalaking nagbabadyang panganib sa aming buhay noong gabing iyon. Hindi apoy na maaring tumupok sa aming bahay ang aking kinakatakutan, kundi isang sakuna na papatay sa apoy ng aming buhay at aming mga pangarap.

Paano kung hindi kayang lunasan ang sakit ng aking ama? Paano kung hindi magtagumpay ang operasyon? Buhay niya ang nakasalalay dito. At buhay rin naming pamilya ang magdudusa.

Ngunit habang ako’y nakamasid sa apoy na tumutupok sa mga bahay, ay isang katahimikan ang sa aki’y sumukob. Ang aking takot at pangangamba ay pawang inalis at isang kasiguraduhan ang aking nadama.

Hindi ko man batid kung ano ang hatid ng bukas, ay batid ko naman kung sino ang may hawak ng bukas. At ipinangako ko rin sa aking sarili, na anuman ang mangyari, ay hindi ako bibitaw sa aking mga pangarap.

Pagkalipas ng tatlong buwan matapos kong magmuni-muni sa bubong ng aming bahay, ay pumanaw ang aking ama.

*******

Enero, 2016.

Ako ay muling nakatanaw mula sa isang mataas na lugar sa Maynila. Sasabihin kong mas mataas pa sa bubong ng aming bahay noon ang aking kinalalagyan. Muli akong tumanaw sa lugar ng Sampalok kung saan minsan isang gabi, maraming taon na ang nakaraan, ako ay tumanaw at nagmuni-muni.

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overlooking Manila area and the Sampaloc PLDT tower

Ngunit walang nagliliyab na sunog akong tinatanaw. Wala ring nagbabadyang panganib akong binabantayan.

Kahit pumanaw ang aking ama, sa gabay naman ng Maykapal, at dahil na rin sa pagsusumikap, ay nakaraos din ang aming pamilya. Ako’y napagkalooban ng scholarship na siyang nagtuguyod na magtuloy ako sa aking pag-aaral. At kahit pa laging maliit at minsan ay kulang ang aking baon, ay naigapang naman at nakatapos rin.

Ngayon, ako’y  nanumbalik sa aking unibersidad doon sa Maynila, upang dumalo sa aming 25th graduation anniversary mula sa medical school.

Mula sa mataas na lugar na iyon, muling nagmuni-muni at nagpasalamat. Wala mang sunog akong tinatanaw, ang apoy naman ng mga pangarap ko’y patuloy pa ring nagliliyab.

*******

(*Photo taken during my last visit to Manila, January 2016)

 

University by the Bay

My alma mater have seen renovation and updates in its structures and facilities over the years. After all, a more than 400-year-old establishment needs to keep up with the changes of time.

Earlier this year, when I revisted my school, I have noted some changes in the campus that were not present when I left its portals 25 years ago.

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If you enter the campus through the España entrance, the first structure that will welcome you is the Arch of the Century.  Somehow adding this low wall bearing the university’s name (photo above) at the side of the arch, gives this archaic landmark a fresh look.

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In front of the Main Building, which is arguably the most recognizable building on the campus, there is now the huge “UST” letters, as well as a growling tiger (above photo) prowling on the university’s grounds.

Even the plaza where the statue of Father Benavidez stands, got some modern framework around it giving it a contemporary look (photo below).

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I believe many of the makeover and updates in the campus were constructed right before the 400th year celebration 5 years ago.

Below is the landmark commemorating that event.

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Even the walkway that I passed everyday during my time in the university, has a different look. I don’t even remember that it was named Burgos Lane (photo below). I also like the “No Smoking” sign, which I hope is being followed and enforced.


Besides the changes inside the campus, there are also noticeable changes around and outside the campus. For sure the skyscrapers towering around the university campus were not there during my time.

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Then a couple of days ago, somebody posted a photo of my alma mater. I would say that this is the most ambitious and spectacular update to date that I have ever seen.

They added an ocean to the campus!

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Now it can claim to be called the University by the Bay.

*******

P.S. On a serious note, I pray for the safety of all who are affected by the heavy rains and flooding in the Philippines.

(*Photos I took and processed with an iPhone, except for the last picture which was taken by Michael Angelo Reyes and I grabbed from the internet.)

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.

 

 

Bangungot sa Sampalok: UST Doctors’ Nightmare

Muli akong nalungkot sa mga bali-balita na nanggagaling sa bayan ko nitong nakaraang lingo. Tungkol ito sa sanggol na namatay dahil hindi umano tinanggap na maipanganak sa UST hospital.

Unang-una, nakikiramay po ako sa pamilya ng mga Pelayo sa pagpanaw ng kanilang sanggol. Walang magulang ang dapat dumanas ng masaklap nilang karanasan, at walang salita akong maiialay sa kanila na makapagpapabalik ng buhay ng kanilang anak na si baby Vince Adrian.  Huwag na nating dagdagan pa ang kanilang paghihinagpis, para sila ay pulaan kung sila man ay may pagkukulang din.

Pangalawa, nakikiramay rin ako kay Dra. Anna Liezel Sahagun na naging tampulan ng paninisi at panglalait ng mga mamamayan na maaring hindi naman ganap na naiintindahan ang mga bagay-bagay at buong pangyayari. Hindi ko po sasabihing naging gahaman siya sa salapi, dahil unang-una na, siya po ay residente lamang sa OB-Gyn. Kahit po siya ay lisensiyado nang manggagamot, wala po siyang bayad na tatanggapin mula sa sinumang pasyente na kanyang gagamutin. Ang serbisyo ng mga residente ay libre kapalit ng training na kanilang makukuha sa panahon ng kanilang Residency Program.

Pangatlo, ikinalulungkot ko na nasangkot ang paaralan at ospital na nagbigay sa akin ng kaalamang manggamot. Noong nakaraang buwan lamang ay aking pinagsisigawan ang aking pinagmamalaking paaralan. Aking pinagyayabang ang aking pagdalo sa aming 25th year graduation reunion ng UST Medicine na may tema na “From Tamarind Dreams to the World,” o sa madaling salita Sinampalukang Pangarap (see previous post). Ngayon sa balitang ito, ito ba ang Bangungot sa Sampalok?

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Ang nangyari sa pamilyang Pelayo ay nagaganap po araw-araw sa maraming mahihirap na mamamayan ng ating bansa. Ganito na po ito noong ako’y nag-aaral pa sa UST. Sa lahat ng mga pribadong ospital, tinatanong agad nila ang kakayanang makabayad ng maysakit bago nila ito tanggapin. Buti nga ang buntis, may ilang buwan para makapaghanda bago sila manganak sa ospital. Paano na lang yung nasaksak o kaya’y inatake sa puso, wala silang panahon para makapaghanda ng pambayad. Ngunit itinatanong pa rin sa pamilya kung mayroon ba silang pambayad bago sila ipasok sa ospital.

Alam ko pong totoo ito, dahil noong itinakbo namin ang aking ina sa isang pribadong ospital sa Maynila ilang taon pa lang ang nakakalipas, kasama sa mga tanong ay ang kakayanan naming makabayad. Kung walang pampayad ay irerekomenda nilang dalhin ang aking ina sa gobyernong ospital. Ngunit aking aaminin, kadalasan ay mas kumpleto at advance ang technology at facilities sa pribadong ospital. Kaya tulad ko, pinili naming dalhin ang aking ina sa pribadong ospital. Paano na lang kung walang pambayad?

Dito sa bansang aking tinutuntungan ngayon, walang tanong tanong kung may pera o wala ang isang pasyenteng dinadala sa Emergency Room. Lalapatan muna ng lunas lalo na kung emergency, at saka na lang proproblemahin kung mayroon silang pambayad o wala. Iba ang patakaran dito. Kahit pulubi, hindi puwedeng itaboy mula sa Emergency Room kung may sakit. Marahil maari nating sabihing dahil may salapi ang bansa at gobyerno.

Alam kong patakaran o standard policy sa mga pribadong ospital sa Pilipinas na tanungin agad kung may pambayad o wala, dahil malaking gastos naman talaga magkasakit.

Ngunit dapat nga bang palitan na ang patakarang ito? Sa tingin ko po ay nararapat lang na ito ay baguhin na.

Ngunit paano? Sinong magpapasan ng gastos kung walang pambayad ang pasyente? Ang ospital? Ang doktor? Ang mga politiko? Ang gobyerno?

Wala po akong kasagutan, dahil wala naman po talagang madaling katugunan. Habang naghihirap ang ating bansa, ganito pa rin ang magiging kahihinatnan ng mga dukha nating mamamayan.

Maari ba nating sisihin ang mga duktor? Tutal mayayaman naman sila di ba?

Ngunit ating alalahanin na maraming duktor ay nagsusumikap lamang din. Kung hindi nila makakamit ang nararapat sa kanilang mga pinagpapaguran, maghahanap na lang sila ng mas luntiang damo sa ibayong dalampasigan. At ito na nga ang nangyayari ngayon. Marami sa mga manggagamot ay nayayamot at nabibigo sa mga kondisyon, palakad, at patakaran sa ating bansa.

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UST Hospital

Sa mga duktor at nurses, o iba mang propesyon, na may oportunidad na lumabas ng bansa, ngunit piniling manilbihan sa ating bansa, kasama na rito ang mga duktor na nanatili sa UST, saludo po ako sa kanila. Sila po ang mga tunay na bayani ng ating bansa.

Ngunit ano po ang ating ginagawa sa mga bayaning ito? Binabaril natin sila sa Bagumbayan! Hinuhusgahan natin sila na parang mga kriminal na walang tamang paglilitis.

Ako na lumisan ng bansa, aaminin kong mayroon akong pagkukulang, at isa sa mga dapat sisihin. Ngunit tulad ko, ikaw, mga mamamayan, mga politiko, ang gobyerno, TAYONG LAHAT, ay may pananagutan sa mapait na kalagayan ng ating bayan.

Tayong lahat ay may kinalaman sa pagpanaw ni baby Vince Adrian.

Sinampalukang Pangarap

Sinampalukang manok. Pinangat na tilapia sa kamias. Sinigang na bangus sa bayabas. Ginataang santol. Alam natin ang mga ito bilang Pilipino. Alam din natin na kahit maaasim ay masasarap ang mga ulam na ito.

Pero nakarinig ka na ba ng Sinampalukang Pangarap? Masarap din ba ito? O maasim?

Noong nakaraang buwan, ako’y nag-balikbayan at nag-balikpaaralan para dumalo sa pagdiriwang ng aming 25th graduation anniversary mula sa UST College of Medicine and Surgery.

Dalampu’t limang taon na nga ba ang nakalipas? Parang kahapon lamang ito. O hindi ko lang matanggap na matanda na talaga ako, at nag-uulianin na.

Ang tema ng aming selebrasyon ay: “Mundi Dottore*: From Tamarind Dreams to the World.” Sa madaling salita, sinampalukang pangarap.

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Ang temang ito ang napili dahil ang UST raw ay nasa Sampaloc, Manila, at marami sa aming mga nagsipagtapos dito, ay nagsipangalat sa iba’t ibang lupalop ng mundo. Para sa akin, na tunay na lumaki sa Sampaloc, at nagmula sa isang simpleng pamilya at pamumuhay, ay talagang naaangkop ang “sinampalukang pangarap.” Mula sa uhuging bata ng Sampaloc na nakarating sa kabilang dalampasigan ng mundo.

Marami-rami rin sa amin ang nanumbalik at dumalo sa selebrasyong ito. Kung saan-saan ang ang aming pinanggalingan. Mula sa iba’t-ibang bahagi at iba’t-ibang isla ng Pilipinas, at mula rin sa iba’t-ibang sulok ng ibayong dagat. Kasama na ako rito.

Totoo, bago mag-reunion, ay naging sabik akong makita ang mga dating kaklase na naging kaibigan at kasangga sa anumang pinagdaanan, sa hirap man o ligaya. Kamusta na kaya ang mga kumag?  Ano na kaya ang kanilang racket ngayon? Ano na kaya ang itsura nila? Gaya ko kaya silang tumanda? Tumaba? Pumayat? Pumuti ang buhok? O naubos ang buhok?

Makikilala pa kaya ako nila? O makikilala ko pa rin ba sila?

Aaminin ko na bagama’t saya ang pangunahing naramdaman ko sa aking pag-babalik, ay may halo rin itong kaba, pag-aalinlangan, at konting pait. Dahil alam naman natin na hindi lahat ng mga nakaraang ala-ala ay masasaya. Parang sampalok, may maaasim din.

Mayroon din palang sinampalukang ala-ala?

Paano kung makita mo ‘yung dati mong nakaaway? O ‘yung nang-basted sa iyo? O ‘yung ayaw kang turuan at ayaw rin namang magpakopya, kaya tuloy nag-remedials ka. O ‘yung laging magulang at tamad kapag duty ninyo? O ‘yung nagsumbong at nagpahamak sa inyo? Buhay pa kaya ang mga anak ng tinapa?

Sa kabilang banda, paano naman kung makita mo ‘yung mayroon kang atraso noon? O kaya’y ‘yung kaibigan mo na hanggang ngayon ay hindi mo pa rin nababayaran ang hinayupak na utang mo?

Ano kaya ang iyong gagawin kung makita mong muli ang malupit mong guro na nagpahirap sa iyo? Ano kaya ang mararamdaman mo kung makita mo ang teacher na dahilan kung bakit ka hindi nakapag-marcha sa graduation? Makaya mo kayang ngitian sila o baka magdilim ang iyong paningin at hindi mo mapigilang mag-hurumintado?

Pagtapak mo kaya sa dating paaralan, masasayang gunita lang ba ang sasagi sa iyong isip? O hindi mo rin maiiwasang maalala ang iyong mga naging pagkakamali, na matagal mo nang pinagsisihan at pilit nang kinalimutan?

Hindi ko na lang sasabihin kung ano ang aking mga naramdaman, ngunit sabihin na lang nating may mga sugat na kahit naghilom na, ay masakit pa rin kung makanti.

Subalit lahat ay lumilipas din. Hindi dapat manatili sa maaasim. At kung may maaasim mang mga alaala ay higupin na lang ito na parang sinigang sa sampalok, na matapos mong namnamin, ay masarap din naman pala.

Ang mahalaga ay nakatapos, at naging matagumpay sa pinili mong landas na tahakin. Kahit pa naging puno ng putik at balakid ang iyong dinaanang landas. At ngayon ay taas-noong nanumbalik at nakipagdiwang, para ipakita sa kanila na ang iyong mga sinampalukang pangarap ay iyo ring naatim.

Kaya kahit sampalok man, ay tumatamis din.

********

(*Mundi Dottore is Latin for World Doctor)

 

 

Back in the City

I am back in my favorite city. A city that I love despite of all its ills and nuisances. A city that I have left so many times, and yet I kept coming back to. This city is no other than Manila.

The following photos I have here of Manila, are seen from a different angle and perspective, at least from the point of view of the Manila I used to know.

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Ninoy Aquino International Airport

“Manila, Manila, I keep coming back to Manila,” says the 1970’s song of the Hotdogs, and that rings true for me as well.  And every time I return, the city warmly (as in hot!) welcomes me back.

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Speaking of welcome, above is the Welcome Rotonda, which marks the boundary between Manila and Quezon City. The photo is facing the Manila side of the boundary, overlooking España Boulevard, though technically I was standing in Quezon City  when I took this picture.

The photo below is an area of Manila that I am very familiar with. The prominent structure is the Sampaloc PLDT tower. So the immediate vicinity is Sampaloc, Manila – the place where I grew up. It is just interesting that I have never looked at Sampaloc before from such a high point of view, since there was no high rise buildings in this area during my youth. Unless I climb the PLDT tower of course.

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The main reason of my short visit back to Manila is to attend my 25th year graduation anniversary (I’ll make a separate post on this) from the University of Santo Tomas school of medicine. Thus several photos are from the UST campus. The different perspective is that I am viewing this campus not as a student but as a homecoming alumnus.

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Arch of the Century at the entrance to the university

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the Main Building of UST

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Building of the College of Medicine and Surgery

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University Hospital

Most of the activities of the homecoming festivities were done in the UST campus, but the big gala night took place in Manila Hotel. Even though I know Manila Hotel is a very old establishment (opened in 1912), and I passed this area several times before, I have never set foot inside of it. Until now.

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Above is the swimming pool at the back side of Manila Hotel. Photo below is one of its beautiful hallways.

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The back of the hotel looks over the marina and Manila Bay, while rooms facing the city side gives a grand view of the walled city, the Intramuros. Honestly, I have never seen Intramuros from this angle before. From this view, you can see the contrast of the old walled city and the new high rise buildings in the distance.

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From Manila Hotel, I still went on foot to see Luneta, a place full of loving and joyful memories from my childhood.

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But there is something different in this place. It is impossible to miss the change in the landscape as you view Rizal’s monument. Definitely cannot ignore the monstrosity of Torre de Manila.

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However, with the right angle and positioning, I can still make the huge eyesore disappear. Look, it’s gone!

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I enjoyed my return to the city of my birth, even for so short a time. And seeing the familiar places albeit in a different point of view is kind of refreshing.

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For now, once more, I say goodbye to you Manila. Hope to see you again……soon.

(*all photos taken with an iPhone)

 

 

The Dead Speaks

Part of the benefits of a physician practicing in a teaching hospital is that there are regularly scheduled academic conferences and meetings where you can attend and learn something.

This morning I attended the Medicine Grand Rounds which was a clinical and pathological presentation of an interesting case.

A senior medical resident talked about a woman admitted in our Intensive Care Unit several weeks ago, who came in very ill. Her condition deteriorated quite rapidly that she died in less than 24 hours after admission despite of all the efforts to save her. An autopsy was requested from the family, to know what caused the patient’s demise, and in addition it was felt that the information from it would help us care for future patients.

After the history and the hospital course was presented, the Pathologist revealed his findings. He showed pictures of the gross and microscopic features of the autopsy. He then gave the verdict on the cause of death. And it was something unexpected. At least for me.

For all the medical specialists, it is the pathologist that always have the correct and final diagnosis. When I was still in medical school, which was more than 20 years ago, I have heard this saying:

“Internists know everything but they don’t do anything.” (Meaning internist like me have all the knowledge but don’t open up and explore the patient to intervene.)

“Surgeons don’t know anything, but do everything.” (Meaning, even though they don’t know yet, they open up and explore the patient to find out.)

“Pathologists know everything, and they do everything, but it is too late.”

Though in fairness to the surgeons, nowadays, with the advent of all the high-tech imaging modalities, like CT scan and MRI, they almost always have all the information they need before they cut open the patient.

I would say that part of a doctor’s learning is from the morgue. In fact, when we have a patient that died and we were granted permission for an autopsy, I make it a point to have my medical residents rotating with me, to come down to the morgue during autopsy and learn what the findings of the pathologist were. I think this is essential for a good training.

I am not trying to gross you out, but that’s the reality of our line of work. Though with all the TV shows, like CSI and NCIS, anybody can witness an autopsy, whether it is real or imagined.

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scene from an episode of NCIS

My first exposure to a real autopsy was when I was a 4th year medical student in University of Santo Tomas, in the Philippines. I was rotating in Forensic Medicine at Fort Bonifacio. There was a victim with multiple gunshots, and two pathologists were performing the autopsy. It takes a lot to gore me out, so it was no big deal to me. Plus we have been exposed and even dissected cadavers in our Anatomy class. By the time we got used to it, we can even eat our lunch in the Anatomy Hall.

While the autopsy was underway, an army sergeant walked in into the morgue with several new army recruits in tow. The sergeant told the recruits to stand in the corner and watch the autopsy so they know what would happen to them if they were killed.

As the pathologists extricate the internal organs one by one to examine them, I have noticed that the new army recruits who were standing in attention started to sway. Their stoic faces started to grimace. Well, who wouldn’t? I guess it was a sort of cruel initiation for them.

Since then I have witnessed several more autopsies over the years, not including what I watched in NCIS. It is not that I enjoy them, but I have to admit, I learn from them.

However I have maintained my utmost respect for the deceased. These bodies that were cut open for us to study were once living individuals. They were persons. They have a name. A purpose. A life. But now gone. Yet in these hallowed halls, they still speak.

Inscribed over many entrances of morgue, medical examiner’s office and anatomy hall is the Latin maxim, “mortui vivos docent,” meaning “the dead teaches the living.” Yes, indeed.

 

A Divisoria Suit and a Recto Resumé (Couture Edition)

(The following is a haute couture edition of an article I posted a month ago. Published in Manila Standard Today, on May 12, 2011)

January 1994. New Jersey, USA. In one of the hospital affiliates of Columbia University.

I was sitting nervously in a brightly lit, plush, spacious waiting room, with a group of people. I was fighting off my jet-lag, as only a few days ago, I was still plying the streets of Manila, busy applying for my visa, and preparing the needed documents and paper work for my trip.

As I sat, I was still reeling from my initial disappointment of being denied a visitor’s visa by the US Embassy at Roxas Boulevard in Manila. The consul said I don’t have enough invitations from different US hospitals and medical institutions – I only had five separate invitations for interview at hand. How can I pursue my dream of training in the US, if I am even denied of coming for my scheduled interview? Two days later I received three more interview invitations and I went back to the US Embassy. Finally I was granted a visa, and so here I was.

I was wearing a suit, the first ever suit I owned. It was midnight blue in color, made of wool cloth that I bought in Divisoria. It was a double-breasted style suit which was sewn by Mang Willy, a local tailor in Balik-Balik, near my home. I chose double-breasted because I thought it looked more stylish, although I had no idea that it was a little out of fashion already at that particular time. At least my tie was not one foot wide – something from the 70’s era.

Under my suit, I was wearing a white long-sleeved shirt (“trubenize” as my mother would call it), that I bought at SM in Carriedo, the original department store of its kind, before all the big SM malls sprouted like mushrooms all over the Philippines. I was always been more comfortable shopping in the Quiapo area, the “Old Downtown” where the real deals were.

My shoes were “stateside,” I bought it at Cartimar in Pasay. I wanted sturdy shoes that could withstand the cold, and that I could use to walk on snow. But who knows, it could have been made from Marikina and was just exported to the US and then made its way back to the Philippines. I did not realize that my “snow-proof” shoes did not really go with my suit. But what the heck, it served its purpose, for it was snowing that day.

In my lap (not laptop, just lap!), rested a Manila envelope that had in it my curriculum vitae (CV). I even had my CV’s printed by “jet-printer” on fine thick paper at one of the printing shops in Recto, the copyright capital of Manila. Also inside the envelop was a copy of my diploma from University of Santo Tomas, College of Medicine and Surgery. Yes, it was a copy of a real and authentic diploma, and not a dubious certificate that you can get along Recto.

It was the day of my interview. I was applying for a position for a postgraduate training in Internal Medicine. In the same room were other applicants. A few were graduates of other foreign countries like me. But mostly were local graduates from medical schools here in the US. All of us were dressed formally, as if we were attending a funeral or like we were pallbearers. And we looked somber too – maybe that was just the tension in the room.

Looking around the room, I felt uncomfortable in my seat. I felt I was out of my league, not on just how I dressed, but where I came from – a halfway around the world. In my mind I thought, would my Recto-printed resumé have the chance to compete and survive?

*******

January 2011. Des Moines. In one of the hospital affiliates of University of Iowa.

I was sitting at ease in a softly lit, technologically modern, big auditorium. A senior Internal Medicine resident whom I mentored, was presenting a case for the Grand Rounds. In the auditorium are other doctors – attending physicians of different subspecialties like me, medical residents, and some medical students.

I was in my usual everyday work clothes of khaki pants and white long-sleeved shirt, no tie, under my white lab coat. A group of young men and women in one corner of the hall caught my eye. They were nicely and formally dressed, in their dark suits and ties. I figured that they were applicants for the Residency Training Program of this hospital where I work now. That day was their interview day.

It surely brought back memories of my own interview day. I was glad that they looked beyond the suit, the shoes, and the resumé paper, and gave the boy from Sampaloc, Manila the opportunity to prove himself.

Divisoria Suit and Recto Resumé

January 1994. New Jersey, USA. In one of the hospital affiliates of Columbia University.

I was sitting nervously in a brightly lit, plush, spacious waiting room, with a group of people. I was fighting off my jet-lag, as only a few days ago, I was still plying the streets of Manila, busy applying for my visa, and preparing the needed documents and paper works for this trip.

I was wearing a suit, the first ever suit I owned. It was midnight blue in color, made of wool cloth that I bought in Divisoria. It was a double-breasted style suit which was sewn by Mang Willie, a local tailor in Balik-Balik, near my home. I chose double-breasted because I thought it looks more stylish, though I have no idea it was a little out of fashion already at that time. At least my tie is not a foot-wide of the 70’s era.

My shoes were “state-side”. I bought it at Cartimar in Pasay, as I wanted it to be “US-style”. Plus I wanted sturdy shoes that can withstand the cold, and that I can use to walk in snow. But who knows, it could have been made from Marikina and was just exported to the US and then made its way back to the Philippines. I did not realize that my “snow-proof” shoes does not really go with my suit. But what the heck, it served its purpose, for it was snowing that day.

In my lap (not laptop, just lap!), rests a Manila envelope that has in it my curriculum vitae (CV). I even had my CV’s printed by “jet-printer” on nice thick paper at one of the printing shops in Recto, the copyright capital of Manila. Also inside the envelop is a copy of my diploma from University of Santo Tomas, College of Medicine and Surgery. Yes, it was a copy of a real and authentic diploma, and not a dubious certificate that you can avail in Recto.

It was the day of my interview. I was applying for a position for a post-graduate training in Internal Medicine. In the same room were other applicants. A few were graduates of other foreign countries like me. But mostly were graduates from medical schools here in the US. All of us were dressed formally, as if we were attending a funeral or like we were pallbearers. And we look somber too. Or maybe that was just the tension in the room.

Looking around the room, I felt uncomfortable in my seat. I felt I was out of my league, not on just how I dressed but where I came from – a halfway around the world. In my mind I thought, will my Recto-printed resumé have the chance to compete and survive?

*******

January 2011. Des Moines. In one of the hospital affiliates of University of Iowa.

I was sitting at ease in a softly lit, technologically modern, big auditorium. A senior Internal Medicine Resident whom I mentored, was presenting a case for the Grand Rounds. In the auditorium are other doctors – attending physicians of different subspecialties like me, medical residents, and some medical students.

I was in my usual everyday work clothes of khaki pants and white shirt, no tie, under my lab coat. A group of young men and women in one corner of the hall caught my eye. They were nicely and formally dressed, in their dark suits and ties. I figured that they were applicants for the Residency Training Program of this hospital where I work now. That day was their interview day.

It surely brought back memories of my own interview day. I am glad that they looked beyond the suit, the shoes, and the resumé paper, and gave the boy from Sampaloc, Manila the opportunity to prove himself.

 

(*A long version of this article was published in Manila Standard Today)