Leksiyong Pang-Grade One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iyon na rin ang huling peklat sa mukha ko.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(*photo from the web)

Watching the Game

The NBA season is now in full swing, and you probably know already that I am a basketball fan. I enjoy watching as much as playing the game. (Read past post here.)

Iowa has no NBA team though. So if I want to watch a live NBA game, I need to drive north to Minneapolis that takes 3 hours, or go east to Chicago that takes 5 hours, or south to Oklahoma for 7 hours, or west to Denver for 9 hours. Those are the nearest locations I have. Of course I can always stay at home and watch it on TV.

We have decent college basketball teams in Iowa nonetheless. In fact, college basketball games may be more energetic and intense, as the players are younger and more fearless. But I am not in to college hoops. At least not that much.

I have seen a live NBA game before when we were still living in Florida. That was fifteen years ago. I got the chance to see the Orlando Magic twice, and for free too, courtesy of a friend of a friend who had season tickets.

However that was not my first time to watch a live professional basketball game. When I was still in the Philippines, I had a former classmate in high school who became a journalist. She invited me to watch a Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) game, as she had reserved seats as a sports writer. We were so close to the action as we were seated at the back of the scorer’s table. That was a real treat!

All those experiences were from a long time ago.

That’s why when the NBA came in town here in Iowa, I cannot resist the opportunity to see a live basketball game again. I bought tickets even if it was just a pre-season game.

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The seats that I got were near the court side that I can easily read the names of the players on their jerseys. It was close enough that I can even hear the coach during their huddle.

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But since it was a pre-season game, it does not have the intensity of a regular season game. And it definitely does not have the fever pitch excitement of a playoff or championship game. Although Giannis Antetokounmpo made a couple of spectacular dunks in that game.

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Anyhow, the more wild and high-flying action was during the intermission.

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Overall, it was a good enough experience for me.

In my opinion, nothing still beats the elation of playing the game yourself, rather than being a mere spectator. Even if the basketball game you were playing was just in the streets and you were bruising it out with your friends, or strangers from the other street. Those were the days I really miss.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

My Rabbit

We all have our passion. We all have our aspiration. Something that we pursue. Something that we chase. Our rabbit.

Here’s mine:

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Unfortunately this one got away, so I have to track another one:

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But the real rabbit is the sense of fulfillment, plus the self-discipline that I develop, and not to mention the health benefits of keeping this chase.

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Photos taken during my half-marathon (13.1 miles). A pacer, a runner that sets the pace and have you finish the race in certain projected time, is also called a rabbit. The first photo was taken at the 8th mile. However, leg cramps made my first rabbit got away. The second photo was taken at the 12th mile.

A Concert Grand

Thank you Steinway Concert Grand* for singing wonderfully tonight. Thank you for making Johann Sebastian Bach’s Prelude and Fugue live and breathe for us. For having Robert Schumann’s Papillion flutter and dance. And for letting Maurice Ravel’s Sonatine serenade us tonight.

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I know you have played in so many recitals and concerts before. I know you have performed with so many great professors and excellent students. I am even sure you made music with some world-renowned pianists in the past.

But tonight is different. It is special. Very special. At least for me.

Thank you Steinway Concert Grand for letting my little daughter play with you tonight. For letting her delicate little fingers run and tinker with your ivories and ebonies. Those beautiful little fingers, that only yesterday, were playing with dirt and plucking dandelions in our yard.

I know. She’s not as little anymore, than what I want to believe.

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(*A Concert Grand piano is the standard for Classical performance and recording. It measures about 9 feet long.)

(**Photos taken during a university’s junior solo recital.)

App and Ready

In about a week, I will be running the Des Moines half-marathon. It will be my seventh time to run this distance.

Marathon is a long run, but do you wonder why it is some odd distance of 26 miles? It is because that is how far the battlefield of Marathon (town in Greece) to the city of Athens was, wherein the legendary Greek soldier, Pheidippides, ran the entire distance without stopping to relay to the people of Athens the message that they won over the Persians in 490 BC. Shortly after exclaiming the good news, Pheidippides collapsed and died. His epic run inspired the modern race.

Obviously half-marathon is half that distance. It is for people who are crazy enough to run for a long ways but not capable enough to finish an entire marathon. People like me. Well, that’s not entirely true, for I know there’s a lot of people who are more than capable of finishing a marathon but just choose to run the half as their preferred race.

You already know that this year, I am using a running app to help me train and record my progress. I originally thought that I can improve my pace to about 10-minute mile using this app. Not that I intend to break some records, but for mere bragging rights.

Yet in the end, I settled to a pace that is more comfortable for me, where I can run the distance without killing myself. I think highly of Pheidippides, but I don’t like what happened to him. I guess I’m stuck at 11 to 12-minute mile, a pace I used to run even before I avail this darn app. App to no good?

Speaking of fast pace, last month, Eliud Kipchoge set a new marathon world record by finishing it in 2 hours, 1 minute and 39 seconds. His average pace was a blistering 4 minutes and 38.4 seconds per mile. And I thought 10-minute mile is already hard!

Few weeks ago, before we went to Texas for a medical mission trip, I joined the annual 3.1-mile (5K) run, sponsored by our local church as a fund-raising event. I have been joining this run for the last 5 years, but this year I got a medal. I was the third placer in the men’s division!

Maybe the app helped me after all. I ran that 3.1 miles in 27 minutes and some seconds. That was a 9-minute mile pace, the fastest I covered that distance ever. The two men who were faster than me finished it in 22 minutes, and one was a Kenyan.

According to the running experts, elite male runners finish the 3.1 mile run in 13-15 minutes, while “average runners” finish it in 20-25 minutes. My best time does not even fall into “average,” so I cannot really brag about it then.

Anyway, here are the last three long runs that I did in preparation for the half-marathon, as documented on my app.

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I believe I am ready. So bring it on!

(*background photos taken during each run)

A Passenger

Would you like to be a driver or a passenger?

Many of us would probably choose to be the driver, for we want to be in control. However, there are certain journeys in life where being a passenger is more delightful.  And just enjoy the ride.

Eight years ago, I was a passenger to my son’s playful dream (see original post here).

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Today, I am really his passenger.

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Even though it can be uneasy, I will savor this passage.

Who knows what’s next on this journey, but I am looking forward to it.

(*photos taken by the passenger)

Steel Magnolia

Silo|ˈsīlō|: a tower or pit on a farm to store grain.

Silos are a common sight here in Iowa. Since Iowa is mostly farm fields, they are part of our landscape. Yet, when we went to Texas, we toured a silo. What we visited was not an ordinary silo though. In fact it was a popular destination.

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As you already know, we went to Texas two weeks ago for a medical mission (see previous post). But we were still able to squeeze some time for a side trip.

After we landed in Fort Worth, Texas and were on our way to our hotel, we saw many road signs that lead to Waco, Texas. My wife asked our Uber driver how far Waco was from Fort Worth, and he told us that it was about an hour and fifteen minutes drive. My wife got excited.

Waco, Texas has been known in the past for some disturbing events. Some even correlate Waco to Wacko, which means Psycho. If you don’t know the history, it was about a cult led by David Koresh who had his followers live on a ranch in Waco. However, it was later put under siege by the government authorities in 1993. The compound was set ablaze, leading to several deaths.

My wife was not excited to see Waco for that. Fortunately, Waco is now known in a more positive light thanks to the popularity of Chip and Joanna Gaines. This couple became famous due to their HGTV show “Fixer Upper,” where they converted many rundown houses in Waco into beautiful dream homes.

The “Fixer Upper” show ended, but this couple has engaged in some other business of their own. They had bought a property in Waco that has a rundown silo, and they turn it into their own store, making it their most notable project to date. It is officially known as the “Magnolia Market at the Silos.” It is rustic, yet chic. Like a blend of steel and flowers. This property is now a tourist destination.

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It was not in our initial plan to go to Waco, but my wife, who is an avid fan of Chip and Joanna Gaines, could not resist the chance to see this place. In order to visit Waco from Fort Worth, we had to rent a car. Going by taxi or Uber would have been impractical as it would be too costly, and riding a bus would take us several hours – a time that we didn’t have.

When we went to the car rental, we were told that the only vehicle available since we did not have a reservation, was a large pick-up truck. That did not stop us. We drove that big truck to Waco and readily blended-in as Texans. Everything is big in Texas!

My wife could not contain her excitement when we reached the Magnolia Market. Needless to say, we did not leave that store empty-handed.

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Besides the home décor store, they also have a garden, a seed supply store, and several food trucks selling gourmet sandwiches, interestingly flavored ice cream, freshly squeezed lemonade and much more.

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In that market, they also have a bakery that sells some rather tasty cupcakes. The bakery was so popular, that the line snaked long outside the building. A sign in that bakery states: “A balanced diet is a cupcake in each hand.” Of course we tried some of those bake goods too.

Even though we were there for only a little more than an hour, we felt gratified. We spent more time driving than the actual time we stayed there, but it was still worth the effort. For one thing, it made my wife happy. And that was more than enough for me.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Texas Mission

Last week we were down in Texas. I did not attend a medical conference. It was not for a vacation or leisure trip either. I was there for some very serious work.

My family and I volunteered to join Your Best Pathway To Health (YBPTH), a non-profit organization that provides a free mobile mega clinic. There were medical, surgical, optical, and dental services offered, all free of charge to patients. There were also mental health, physical therapy, massage therapy, haircuts, financial planning, and lifestyle counseling among other services provided in that event. (See their Facebook page here.)

It was our first time to join this organization’s humanitarian mission, though they have already served in many other cities in the past, like Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Antonio, and Phoenix. This year it was held in Fort Worth, Texas. The free services were offered to people who could not afford medical care or had no medical insurance.

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photo credit: CBS news

In this event, people started lining up outside the building even the night before the clinic opened. I felt bad for the people who lined up for many hours, only to be told that they have to come back the next day as we were already full for the day.

Though if one clinic was full, for example the dental clinic, which appeared to be the service that most people lined up for, then we suggested to them that they go to the medical or vision clinic instead. Yet, there were still some, that sadly to say, we had to turn away completely, for we just could not accommodate them all. The mere number of people who lined up and were willing to wait several hours in line substantiates that there is a great need for these kind of services.

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photo source: YBPTH Facebook

The event was held at the Will Rogers Auditorium in downtown Fort Worth, which was converted into a mini-hospital, complete with operating suites. Minor surgeries and even cataract surgeries were performed here too.

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photo source: YBPTH Facebook

There were dentists, optometrists, ophthalmologists, internists, family practitioners, pediatricians, OB-GYNs, an ENT, orthopedists, podiatrists, a cardiologist, and a GI doctor present. I was the lone pulmonogist in the team. Below is a photo of my own cubicle.

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Since consultation to the Pulmonary Department was not that overwhelming, I assisted also in the Primary Care Clinic, as they were swamped with many patients there. Afterall, I am an Internist still. I probably have done more breast exams (for patients with breast lump complaints) and rectal exams (for patients with rectal bleeding complaints) in that 3 days alone than what I have done in the past 10 years of my practice now as a lung specialist. I declined to do PAP smears though and referred those patients to Women’s Health, as I have not performed that since I was in residency 20 years ago.

At the end of the event, in my estimation, I was able to see 100 to 120 patients. It was tiring to say the least, yet it was fulfilling.

We knew that there would be no monetary payment when we joined this mission. The only thing we got for free was lunch, which by the way was also provided to all the hundreds of patients seen. We even had to pay for our own airfare and hotel, and use our own vacation time to join this event. But the smile, or the simple “thank you” from the patients, and the satisfaction that we helped somebody was enough for our reward.

Yet to say that I did not receive any payment at all would not be true. There was one patient who gave me a large bar of chocolate as a present, and another one gave me a freshly home-baked loaf of bread. Those simple gifts were more valuable than my professional fee.

My wife was assigned in the Vision Department, assisting in the Optical services, and they were even busier than the medical department. My son, who is 15 years old, was in the Patient Assistance and Transport Department, and he probably was the busiest among us three, as he was walking and accompanying patients into the different clinics the entire duration of the event.

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photo source: YBPTH Facebook

The clinic ran for two and a half days, and at the conclusion of the event, the final report was that we had seen a total of 6,805 patients. That was an impressive number of people served.

Many local news media covered this event, so we were instructed on how to answer questions in case we were interviewed. As you know, health care is a hot political issue in this country, and an overzealous reporter might drag us into answering a touchy subject.

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A doctor being interviewed. (Photo source: YBPTH Facebook)

We were directed that we should avoid any political statements, and that when we were asked why we had volunteered and why we were giving all these medical services for free, our answer should be: Because we wanted to be the hands and feet of our Lord Jesus. Nothing else.

In truth, that was really the very reason we volunteered. To God be the glory!

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!