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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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!


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.)

Soaked from the Rain

During my recent short stint (only 7 days) in the Philippines, I have experienced once again the heavy rain showers of Manila. There were no typhoons, just run-of-the-mill soaking monsoon rains of the tropics.

In one instance while I was there, the heavy rains have caused flooding in Metro Manila that traffic crawled to a halt. I even heard in the evening news that my alma mater, University of Santo Tomas, was forced to close the school due to high floods in España. This brought a flood of memories as well, of my wading days in “water world” of Manila.

Our family have also experienced another type of rain. Rain that just not soak us wet but can bring us down to our knees. Yet these rains if we survive them, can make us strong.

I went home because my mother was not doing well. At one point she was even knocking on heaven’s doors.

I spent most of my stay in the Philippines inside the hospital, University of the East Ramon Magsaysay (UERM), where my mother was admitted. In fact, I slept a couple of nights in the hospital not as a doctor-on-call, but as a “bantay” or watcher of a patient. My mother must have appreciated that she have me as her bantay, not because I am a doctor, and an ICU specialist at that, but more so, that I was there as her son.

The system in the Philippines is kind of different that all patients have a family member, as a watcher, to attend to the patient’s need while they are in the hospital. In the US, rarely any patient have a watcher. They have a call light to summon the nurse if they need something. That’s it. No wonder, patients feel all alone.

One day while I was the watcher in the hospital, I went out to SM Santa Mesa mall, which was a couple of blocks away from UERM, to get lunch, as I was getting tired of the food from the hospital cafeteria. I have nothing against hospital food though.

Then it rained. Heavy downpour.

I got stranded at a waiting shed near SM during the rainfall. Of course I did not bring an umbrella. I think an umbrela will be useless in that heavy downpour anyway.

I was waiting for the rain to lighten up. But as I looked up in the sky it was getting even darker, and I may be waiting there for a long, long time. I knew I needed to get back to the hospital.

So I decided to run in the rain in full abandon.

I got wet. Though not really drenched. But to me the rain was refreshing as it cooled me off and washed away some of the afternoon heat.  It also helped clear my mind and realize what my real priorities in life were. Not getting wet was not one of them. Besides, why are we afraid to get soaked from the rain anyway?

We may prefer eternal blue skies and beautiful summer days. We don’t like the rain to spoil our fun. We don’t like the rain to wet our beautiful outfit. We don’t like the rain to ruin our perfect plans.

Yet, rain and clouds are part of our lives. I don’t mean just the weather.

I am back in Iowa now. And we are also getting unseasonable lots of rain here. We have plenty of rain that the grass here are still so green even if it’s almost end of summer. Usually by this time of year here, the grass has started to turn brown. But I’m not complaining.

This morning, I finally came out to run after fighting jet-lag for several days. I was trying to put back on track my training for the half marathon which is not too long from now, since my training was temporarily derailed by my emergent and unscheduled trip to the Philippines.

As I came out, the road was wet from the heavy rain last night. I have noticed thousands of earthworms scattered in the paved road. Why earthworms go out after the rain is not really clear. Some experts say the rain drive them out of their burrows so they will not drown, while other experts refute this, as earthworms don’t drown, and they can live totally submerged in water for few days.


earthworms out after the rain

In any case, these earthworms who are now on the road, will die and will get baked in the heat of the sun, unless they get back to the soil in time. Are they afraid to get soaked from the rain too? But trying to run away from getting soaked put them more in harm’s way.

While I was running, the dark rain clouds gathered around above me again, taunting to pour down its contents.

I’m not an earthworm. And I’m not afraid of the rain anymore.

Let it pour.


(*photo taken in our neighborhood, with an iPhone)





Lumutang sa Baha

Nuong isang linggo ay bumaha sa aming basement. Pumalya ang aming sump pump, at kahit hindi malakas ang ulan ay lumubog sa tubig (hanggang sakong ang lalim) ang silong ng aming bahay. Hindi ko akalaing susundan pa rin ako ng baha, kahit wala na ako sa Maynila.

Dahil nakulob ang tubig at nababad sa tubig ang carpet, ay naging masangsang at nag-amoy basang sapatos ang aming bahay. Nagsimula nang amagin ang carpet at dingding. Akala ba ninyo, hopia lang ang inaamag? Kaya tinuklap ang carpet, at binakbak ang mga dingding at drywall sa aming basement. Isang malaking abala. At siyempre, gastos!

Ngunit matapos ang lahat, at akin itong mapagisip-isip, ay nagpapasalamat pa rin ako, hindi dahil sa baha, kundi sa aral na maaring maidulot ng karanasang ito. Basement lang ang inilubog ng baha, hindi ang aking pananaw. Meron nga bang leksiyon sa baha?

Sanay ako sa baha. Lumaki akong lumulusong at nagtatampisaw sa tubig baha ng Maynila. Konting ulan lang ay baha na sa aming lugar sa Sampaloc. Dahilan na rin sa ating kapabayaan at sa mga tinapong basurang bumabara sa mga kanal at estero kaya tayo binabaha. Sabi nga nila, “ang basurang itinapon mo, ay babalik sa iyo.” Dahil din sa patong-patong na pagtatambak at pag-eespalto sa kalsada, ay naging mas mataas na ang aming kalsada kaysa garahe at silong ng aming bahay. Kaya’t lalo nang pinapasok ng tubig ang mga bahay sa aming kalye.

Kahit hindi bagyo, mapalakas lang ng konti ang ulan, ay kadalasan hanggang binti o tuhod ang lalim ng baha sa amin. Minsan nga ay naging hanggang baywang pa ang lalim. Dapat sana ay nag-alaga na lang kami ng dalag o tilapia sa silong ng aming bahay, at pinagkakitaan pa namin.

Nuong ako’y nag-aaral na, ay masaya ako kapag baha na. Hindi sa dahil masaya ako kapag may inaanod na bahay, kundi dahil sa walang pasok ang eskwela. Kahit nuong ako’y nasa kolehiyo na, parating walang klase kami sa UST dahil madaling bahain ang Espanya. Sa katunayan, tawag namin kapag baha na ito ay Espanya river. May pagkakataon pang ako’y naglakad sa mga bahang kalsada mula UST hanggang sa amin sa Balik-Balik, dahil walang masakyang jeepney. (Wala ring bangka!) Buti naman at hindi ako nahulog sa mga walang takip na imburnal.

Nuong ako’y natutong mag-drive na ay tinangka ko rin gawing submarine ang kotse ng aking tatay. Ngunit ako’y itinirik nito sa gitna ng baha. Pumasok ang tubig sa loob ng kotse. Buti na lang at may mga mamang nagtulak sa aking lumubog na kotse. Ang pinagkaiba ko lang kay Christopher Lao, ay walang TV News crew na nakakita sa aking kabobohan.

Alam kong hindi lang mga maliliit na perwisyo ang sanhi ng baha. Maraming mga tao ang napipinsala nito. Inaanod ang mga ari-arian, pati na mga pangarap. Minsan pati buhay ay tinatangay nito.

During typhoon Ondoy in 2009

Ilang taon lang ang nakakalipas nuong kasagsagan ng bagyong Ondoy, ilan sa aming kamag-anak ang nakasama sa mga binaha. Isa sa aking tiyahin na nasa Marikina, ang kanilang buong bahay, hanggang bubong, ay lumubog sa tubig. Lumutang ang kanilang mga kasangkapan at wala silang gamit na naisalba. Ngunit sa kabila nito’y nagpapasalamat pa rin sila, dahil sila ay ligtas at buhay. Ito lang ay nagpapatunay na may mas mahalaga kaysa ating mga ari-arian. At tulad ng maraming taong nasakuna ng baha, sa kanilang patuloy na pagpupursigi at pagsisikap, sila ay muling nakaahon. Maraming dayuhan ang namangha na tayong mga Pinoy ay patuloy pa ring nakangiti sa kabila ng baha.

Oo nga, ang baha ay pumipinsala at nagpapahina sa mga haligi ng ating mga bahay at gusali, ngunit ito naman ay maaring magpatatag sa saligan ng ating pagtatalaga at determinasyon. Ito man ay nagtatangay ng ating mga yaman at pag-aari, ngunit ito rin ay maaring magpunla at mag-ugat sa ating pagtitiwala at pananampalatayang tayo ay babangon muli.

Hindi kayang ilubog ng baha ang lumulutang na pag-asa.