Whatever mountains you’re climbing, or big problems you’re facing, life is always still worth living for.
Noong makalawang araw ay bumisita sa aming bahay ang isang kaibigan, kasama ang kanyang asawa at panganay na anak. Siya ay isa ring Pilipinong duktor dito sa Iowa. Meron lang silang dinaanan dito sa amin.
Aking napansin na bago ang sasakyan niyang dala. Sabi niya, ipinamana na raw niya ang lumang Honda sa kanyang anak. Akin siyang kinantsawan na sobrang asenso na niya. Ika ko nga, “hindi ka na ma-reach!”
Kasi, naka-Chedeng na siya.
Malugod din niyang ipinakita ang mga features ng kanyang bagong kotse. Pinindot lang niya ang kanyang cellphone at umandar na ang kanyang kotse, kahit wala siya sa loob nito. Napabilib ako. Siguro pwede pa niyang i-program na utusan lang ang kanyang smartphone: “Siri, start my car.”
Mayroon din daw itong standard safety features, gaya ng automatic braking kung sakaling aanga-anga siya at hindi nakapag-preno kaagad, at nagbibigay din ng warning kung may sasakyan sa kanyang blind spot at kung siya ay antok-antok at lumilihis sa lane. Hindi lang din daw camera sa likod ang makikita niya kung siya ay umuurong, kung hindi 360º view. Higit sa lahat, kaya nitong magself-park, kahit pa parallel parking. Sabi ko nga, kulang na lang mag-drive ‘yung kanyang Mercedes na mag-isa.
Pero sang-ayon sa mga eksperto, by year 2020 or 2021, mayroon ng mass production ng self-driving cars, at available na ito sa lahat. Kahit sino ay pwede nang maging Knight Rider!
Habang ipinagyayabang ng aking kaibigan ang kanyang Mercedes, ay para kaming mga musmos na natutuwa sa bagong jolen, o trumpo, o kaya’y matchbox. Iyon nga lang, totoo ‘yung matchbox.
Noong ako’y batang paslit pa, ang kilala ko lang na luxury car ay Chedeng o Mercedes Benz. Kilala ko rin si Aling Mercedes, pero hindi siya kotse. Hindi ko pa alam noon ang BMW, Audi, Porsche, Jaguar, Ferrari, Cadillac o Lexus. Kilalang-kilala ko naman ang Sarao. Tingin ko sa mga naka-Chedeng noon ay sobrang yaman at sobrang matagumpay sa buhay.
Sa katunayan, wala nga akong kilalang naka-Mercedes noong ako’y nasa elementarya at high school pa, maliban sa isa. Siya ay crush ng bayan sa aming eskwelahan, dahil maganda na siya tapos naka-Chedeng pa. Ang tatay niya ay duktor, at sila ay nakatira sa Dasma (Dasmariñas Village).
Noong nasa kolehiyo na, ako ay namulat sa katotohanan na kahit sa mahirap na bansa’t lipunan pala, ay marami pa rin burgis. Marami akong naging kamag-aral na naka-Chedeng. May mga kaklase pa nga ako na may sarili silang kotse at naka-tsuper pa. Buong mag-hapon naghihintay lang ang kanilang tsuper sa may parking lot ng unibersidad. Hindi lang nga Mercedes Benz, may nakita pa akong estudyante na ang dina-drive ay Porsche. Okay lang, ako naman ay “Cadillac” – kadilakad.
Balik tayo sa kaibigan kong Pilipinong duktor dito sa Iowa. Habang kami ay nagku-kwentuhan ay aming napag-usapan na parang kailan lang ay mga musmos pa ang aming mga anak. Ngunit ngayon, pareho na kaming may anak na nasa kolehiyo. Ang bilis ng panahon.
Nagawi ang aming usapan noong kami ay nasa-kolehiyo pa. Siya ay nag-aral din sa Maynila. Nabangit ko na napakarami nang nagtataasang condominum sa Maynila pati sa university belt. Sabi naman niya ay marami na rin daw masasarap na kainan sa paligid-ligid ng university belt. Sa susunod niyang uwi sa Pilipinas, gusto raw niyang pumasyal at kumain sa mga turo-turo sa tabi ng unibersidad. Simple pa rin talaga ang trip ng kaibigan kong ito, down-to-earth pa rin.
Napag-usapan din namin kung paano kaming nakikipag-habulan sa mga jeepney, at kung paano kami halos makipagbalyahan at siksikan, makasakay lamang. Pinaririnig lang din naman namin sa aming mga anak kung gaano sila kaswerte ngayon, at hindi nila naranasan ang hirap na aming dinaanan.
Hanggang sa napag-usapan noong kami ay nasa elementarya pa. Kwento ng aking kaibigan, dahil siya ay lumaki sa probinsiya, ay naglalakad lang daw siya araw-araw patungong paaralan nila. Ang pampublikong paaralan ay nasa kabilang barrio, kaya’t medyo malayo ang kanyang linalakad. Para mag-short cut, siya ay tumutulay sa pilapil ng mga palayan habang bitbit-bitbit niya ang kanyang chinelas para hindi maputikan. Minsan pa raw, binibitbit din niya ang kanyang chinelas para hindi ito maupod agad, upang makatipid.
Ako ay napangiti at napaisip. Ang batang nagbibitbit lang ng chinelas noon para hindi ito maupod, ngayon ay naka-Chedeng na.
Tignan mo nga naman talaga ang tadhana. Marunong pa rin itong ngumiti sa mga nagsisikap na umasenso sa buhay. Kahit na hindi Mercedes, ang kanilang pangalan.
(*photo from the web)
They said that it was the greatest show under the sun. The solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, billed as the Eclipse of the Century or also referred as the Great American Eclipse was visible within a band across the entire United States. The last solar eclipse that was seen across the contiguous United States was in 1918.
Where I live now, which is in Central Iowa, we only have partial eclipse, but it is still 95% cover. But if I want to see a total solar eclipse, all I need to do is drive about two hours west, or two hours south of me, and I will be in that narrow band of total solar eclipse path. Two hours travel is nothing. When I was still in Manila, it takes two hours just to cross EDSA.
There were places that I know that advertised their town or city as “the destination” for the best viewing area for the total eclipse. Their hotels were fully booked months before the event. I know some friends of mine tried to book a hotel on these popular places but were not able. Though they were still able to find hotels in smaller towns nearby.
In one place, they made their city parks and regional airport as the designated viewing place, but you have to reserve a spot for parking weeks before the event as they expect a wave of visitors. Of course there’s a fee involved. In another place, it was a military base that they assigned to welcome eclipse travelers, but again you need to reserve a slot there. Perhaps all the streets in these prime towns and cities suddenly have parking meters.
Even several weeks before the solar eclipse, I already knew that I am not working that day. It’s because I would be on-call the weekend before, so I am off that Monday. Thus I considered going to those prime viewing places. However, I learned that by that time, summer vacation is over and my children will be back in school already, and so I did not make any early plans.
As the event got nearer, and the hype for the eclipse got hotter, I thought that maybe we don’t even need to stay overnight in those choice places. I could easily drive early morning that day as it is just 2 hours away from us, and the time of the solar eclipse is not until around noontime anyway. And even if I have not made any parking reservation in those viewing areas, I thought I could just park in their town’s Wal-Mart.
Few days before the eclipse, I still have not procured the recommended glasses which is needed to safely view the solar eclipse. I tried to look for the certified eclipse glasses in the stores around our area, but all of them have sold out. I want to see the solar eclipse but I also don’t want to go blind. It was really poor planning on my part.
The weekend of my duty came. I worked and was on-call for an ungodly long time of almost 60 hours straight. Besides being so busy it was depressing too. In one stretch of time, we even had a string of deaths in the ICU that Sunday. I was just glad it’s over.
Solar eclipse by the way, for the superstitious, is regarded as an evil omen. The word “eclipse” comes from the Greek word “ekleipsis,” which means “an abandonment.” Thus it is not a surprise that civilizations throughout history associate it for bad things to happen.
Come Monday, the day of the eclipse, I was awakened by lightning and thunderstorm. I checked on the weather and found out that it will be raining the whole day in our area. Rats! So much for viewing the solar eclipse.
I also checked on those areas where I initially planned on driving to see the totality of the eclipse, and the weather forecast there was cloudy too for the whole day. Suddenly I felt bad for those people who made such elaborate arrangements and plans to view the solar eclipse, only to be disappointed by the cloudy weather.
I end up just visiting my daughter in her university which is also two-hour drive away. But it was north of us and going farther away from the band of the total solar eclipse path. I reasoned, If I’m not able to see the total eclipse due to the weather, at least I’m seeing my daughter.
When we arrived at the university, it was cloudy there too. The university have even arranged an eclipse viewing party. Outside the university campus, in the town center, there were also lots of kids and their parents gathered outside the public library with their lounge chairs and eclipse glasses. But all were disappointed, as the sun can be barely seen due to the cloudy skies.
Below is the best we were able to get a glimpse of the solar eclipse:
The greatest show on earth was covered not by the moon shadow. But by the dark rain clouds. The eclipse was eclipsed! What a bummer!
Clouds are part of our lives here on earth. And so are disappointments. We can make all the elaborate plans for the future. But there is always that element of unknown that is beyond our control. All we can do is make the best of the situation.
It was still cloudy when we got back home. It even rained some more. But as the sun was about to set, this showed up in the sky:
Sometimes, those rain clouds that disappoint us can also give us unexpected joy.
(*photos taken with iPhone)
Few weeks ago, my family visited a 90-acre field of wild flowers. It was actually a farm land before, but the owners turned it into a natural prairie. Here in Iowa, the state gives incentives through federal conservation program wherein the government will give yearly rental payment in exchange of farmers turning their agricultural land into a prairie or a wooded area. This is one way of reclaiming industrial lands into natural habitats for the wild life.
Wanting to see more beautiful field of flowers, my wife checked on a website and learned that there is a lavender farm here in Iowa. She envisioned that it will be an expansive gorgeous fields of lavender flowers. Besides, the farm is located near a scenic route, the Loess Hills, which is included in the National Scenic Byways of America, meaning it is a must-see drive. Since we have not seen it yet, so we drove to it last weekend.
The lavender field is about two hours drive away from our place. Here in the United States’ midwest, two hours drive is nothing. At least when we say two hours drive, we mean we’re really driving mostly at maximum speed limit. Unlike in other parts of the world, like in Manila, two hours drive means a distance you can get to in twenty minutes but you’re stuck in traffic for two hours.
After finishing our Sunday morning chores, we packed the family in the car and drove. My college-age daughter, who is home for the summer, was not even feeling well that morning due to menstrual cramps, but we drag her anyway so she won’t miss it. She just brought a pillow and laid down in the backseat.
It was a relatively cool day for a summer, as it was cloudy and even had intermittent showers. In fact we encountered some heavy rains along the way, which to me, just made the trip more interesting.
As we approached our destination, we passed by an overlook area. It has a tower where you can view the surrounding scenery. My daughter was feeling better already at that time, that she got off the car and also climbed the tower.
When we came to a nearby town just minutes to our destination, we decided to stop for lunch first before heading to the place. We discovered a nice old diner. It has a 1960’s theme, or perhaps they just did not change it since they opened. We found out that this diner was a major hub even back in the days, as it was near a major train station.
When we continued on our trip, we got lost as our GPS directed us not to the exact site. Yes, I gave the verdict that the GPS was at fault, and it cannot defend itself. We phoned the farm’s number and it re-directed us to its location.
Finally we found the place. As we were pulling into their parking lot, we saw the field in front of us and it was nothing like what we imagined or expected. It was a dud. A let-down. A disappointment.
No stretches of beautiful lavender. No expansive field of wonderful flowers. Instead, it was a patch of drying bushes. In its defense, perhaps we were just expecting too much.
As we already drove for two hours, so we still went down and checked the farm, including the small shop they have in that place. We did not tarry though.
We then decided to drive further in a road that has a sign “National Scenic Byway.” It was said that this scenic byway, the Loess Hills, has a unique terrain, formed by windblown silt, called loess. No other place in the world except the one in China, where there are higher loess hills formation than this place in Iowa.
After driving for some time in this said scenic byway, we admit that they were interesting, but we’re not utterly impressed. Maybe because we have already driven from US coast to coast, and we have seen more stunning scenic byways. We turned around and headed for home.
We passed by a small town that has a number of antique shops on our way home. The last time we were there was more than 10 years ago (see previous post). My son who was less than 3 years old at that time, accidentally knocked down an antique mirror sitting on a floor at one of the stores. The mirror fell on its face and shattered the glass into several pieces. I ended up paying $200 dollars. Since I paid for it, I took home the wood or board where the mirror was mounted. $200 for a piece of board!
They say that breaking a mirror will cause seven years of misfortune. I don’t think so. What followed was several years of bliss living in Iowa.
This time we did not shatter any mirrors. Just shattered expectations, I guess. After that last stop, we came home after almost 6 hours on the road.
Have you had any similar experience? Going to a place that did not live up to your expectations? Did we just wasted a day and some gallons of gas? I don’t want to believe so. For even if the destination was less than spectacular, we still spent some quality family time together.
Life is a journey. Sometimes it is not the destination that matters. But it is the joy of experience, discovery, shared moments together, and the eventual precious memories during the travel, that really matters.
(*photos taken with an iPhone)
It’s summer here in our place. Well, not quite officially, as the summer solstice is not until June 21 which marks the official start of summer in the northern hemisphere. Yet the mercury is rising, as our high temperature for the past few days and the coming week will be in the 90’s to even reaching 100 º F.
But this morning, it was a comfortable 74 º F, so I went out for a run. It is also about this time of year that I should start preparing for the half marathon, if I should decide to join again this coming fall.
As I was approaching the small pond in my running route, I have to stop and let the family of geese get off the road before I could pass. The mother goose was already hissing at me as I was approaching them. They can be very territorial you know. But that’s fine, I can share the road with them, and I have no plans on swimming in their pond.
Same thing happened when I came to an area where a couple of wild rabbits were on the side of the road foraging for food. They also scurried away at the sound of my slow feet, before I can get near them. They may also laughing at me for being slow.
I admit, I am getting slower. Maybe my age is catching up on me. I have no match for the swiftness of the deer and the hare. They seem to dash so effortlessly and yet so gracefully. While me, I push for every step of my way to get to a pace that runners would even consider “running.”
Maybe all of us can relate in one way or another, and in different endeavors, that we feel we are no match to the “competition” we are going against. Whether it be in sports, or in school, or in our work, and in life in general.
Then as I was fighting my way uphill, I saw this guy.
They are called snapping turtles not because they snap their fingers as they go, rather they have the ability to snap, as in bite an attacker. That’s why I kept my distance.
The pond, or any body of water that I know in this area, was hundreds of meters away. I don’t know how long it would take him to get there, if that was where he was heading. But I’m sure his slow pace does not stop him from continuing, for that’s who he is.
It gave me a good insight for the day. Life they say could be like a race. But it is not always for the swift, but to those who kept on running.
What do you do when you see a sign that says Caution:Wet Paint?
Are you like many people, which includes me, that can’t help but touch it? Just to see if it’s really wet! Maybe because we have been lied to so many times, and we don’t believe anything unless we prove that it’s true.
The other day, since we were having some construction in our office to add more examination rooms, I saw this sign. I know it’s a mundane sign, but it caught my attention.
Do you suppose I touched that wall? Of course I did.
But there’s more to this sign. Is it wet? Or is it dry? I think the wall is conflicted. Is that an oxymoron, a wet drywall? Do you still call it a drywall when it is wet? I’m confused.
I believe the caution here is like that wall, some people today are conflicted and confused. We are lost in our identity. We are neither wet nor dry. Neither hot nor cold. Constantly riding the fence, and compromising our beliefs.
When we we’re traveling in Jordan, our tour bus came to a sudden stop not because of traffic, nor stop sign, nor because of a bus stop.
It stopped because of this.
I am not sure why the sheep cross to the other side, when the grass is greener where it came from. Maybe the grass always looks greener when we look at it from the other side.
Discontent, can put our lives in peril.
(*photo taken in rural Jordan)
During our trip to the Holy Land, we visited a place known as Mount Nebo, which is located near Madaba, Jordan, or the land of the Moabites in Biblical times. It’s pretty high that it provides a panoramic view of the surrounding areas around it, including the land known as the Biblical Canaan.
As we were enjoying the view beneath an iron cross, the tour guide was giving insights and explaining the significance of this place to our group.
You probably know or heard that song:
I am bound for the promised land,
I am bound for the promised land
O who will come and go with me
I am bound for the promised land.
But the irony of this is, historically, here in Mount Nebo was where Moses stood and God showed him Canaan, the Promised Land from afar. But here also in Mount Nebo was where Moses died and was buried, without reaching the Promised Land. Moses was not bound for the Promised Land.
Moses, even though he was chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and to go to the Promised Land, was not allowed to enter it. All his life work – including 40 years of top-notch Egyptian education, including military tactics and operation, and another 40 years as a lowly shepherd just to learn patience in preparation for his mission, and finally 40 mighty years of leading God’s people out of Egypt, and into the wilderness, on their way to the Promised Land – yet he never set foot to that land.
Was Moses a failure then? Not at all!
Sometimes we are assigned something to do, but we may not see the conclusion of that work. We may have started something that we are not able to finish, not because we are a failure, but because it is not planned for us to fully fulfill that. For God has some other plan for us, or He had appointed another one to finish the work we have started.
More importantly, when Moses stood there in Mount Nebo, while looking at the Promised Land from afar, he did not complain to God why he was not allowed to enter the land that is “flowing with milk and honey.” A land that was promised to his ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. A land he probably dreamed of claiming all his life. He humbly submitted to God’s plan for him.
He may have not entered the Promised Land here on earth, yet God had a better plan for him. For he was taken up to the Promised Land in heaven.
So we may not be able to achieve the dreams or goals we set for our lives here on earth. We may never live a life so rich that it is “flowing with milk and honey.” We may not be able to claim the “promised life” we hoped for here on this world. We may not be bound for the earthly promised land.
But may we set a higher goal, the one God had promised for us. To live in heavenly Canaan with Him.
(The sign under the cross reads: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” John 3:14-15)
Last summer, we took a long road trip that took us from the cornfields of Iowa, to the mountainous wilderness of Montana, and to the concrete jungle of Los Angeles California. As we were pulling up into a parking lot in Los Angeles, we saw this sign that said, “Please take your valuables with you.”
I think that is a fair warning, as they don’t want you to lose something that is important. Or perhaps they just don’t want to take responsibility of any theft that will happen. Or perhaps they don’t want you to tempt others of bad thoughts by displaying something valuable, or something that they would think is valuable, inside your vehicle.
I don’t think this warning applies in Los Angeles only, as it is true in many parts of America and the rest of the world.
I remember when we were still living in New York City, somebody tried to break in into our parked car, and in the process broke the door lock of our car. And there’s really nothing of value inside, except maybe the car itself. They took my tire hub caps and antenna instead. Then we had some friends whose car windows were shattered just to get some change of coins and some barely valuable things inside their car. Maybe the thief needed coins so badly for a cup of coffee or for a ride on the subway.
Same in the Philippines. When I was still living in Manila, there’s an instance that me and my dad witnessed a car theft while we were parked near Binondo. It happened in a blitz, and they acted so smoothly that we think these guys were “professionals.” Bad use of their skills and talents, I guess. With dexterity and quickness like that, they could be show-time magicians. On second thought, they were already magicians, making things disappear!
Back to the parking lot in Los Angeles, we kind of chuckled when we read the sign. Not because it was funny nor it was an unreasonable or unusual sign. To us it was just interesting that few days before that, when we were in a national park in Montana, we read several signs that contain a completely different warning.
The warning sign when we were in the wilderness of Montana states, “Please take your trash with you.”
It was just sensible that they don’t want you to litter in such a pristine place. Plus the wild creatures, like bears, can get attracted to your trash and rummage through them. This may endanger their well-being. More so, your well-being and your life may get endangered as well, if the bear cannot find what it’s looking for (a jar of honey?) and is not happy with your trash and attacks you.
It was a totally different perspective. In one, “take your valuables with you.” In the other, “take your trash with you.”
Yes, there are places in this world that they don’t care about your valuables. It does not matter whether you’re lugging a Louis Vuitton bag or a DSLR camera with an ultra zoom lens. Just don’t leave your trash too!
This made me think, in this life, there are things that we consider our valuables. Like our fancy jewelries, our expensive toys like our cars and gizmos, our pricey wardrobes, our houses and estates, our bank accounts, and other worldly treasures. And it’s not only that there are places that they will not matter, but there will come a time as well, that all of these will be deemed worthless. Rubbish. Garbage. Trash. For you cannot take them forever with you.
I do hope that we discern what really are the important things in this life. The “valuables” that no thief nor anybody can take from you.
(*photo taken last summer in Montana)
The other day, I let our medical intern in the ICU place a dialysis catheter on one of our very sick patients. It is a minor surgical procedure of placing a thick catheter in the patient’s jugular vein using ultrasound for guidance. Of course she had lots of supervision, as one of our senior resident was assisting her, and I was around as well for support.
The intern was not able to place the catheter that quick being inexperienced, so it took a little longer doing the procedure. Though that is nothing out of the ordinary. This is normal for a teaching hospital, as interns and doctors-in-training has to start somewhere.
While we were doing the procedure, the patient became unstable, and then went into cardiac arrest. We called a Code Blue (a call for help on a patient having cardiac arrest). Moments later the whole room was teeming with hospital personnel responding to the code.
The patient survived and was stabilized after several minutes of furious cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
The intern was visibly shaken to what just happened. I saw her later in the workroom crying. One of the senior resident told me that the intern felt that it was her fault that led to the cardiac arrest.
However after extensive work-up, we found that patient has a weak heart to start with, and in fact was in congestive heart failure and kidney failure, and that was why he was in the ICU. Then he suffered a heart attack, that caused the cardiac arrest. It was just coincidental that it happened while we were placing the catheter. It was not a direct complication of the procedure.
I reassured the intern that it was not her fault, and gave her some words of encouragement, that this is all part of our work. Besides, this intern is good, intelligent, comes prepared on rounds, and has initiative to learn. I see a great potential in this young doctor. Her only fault is that she is new and inexperienced. But we all have been there.
I have been an attending physician in a teaching institution for a long time now. In fact five of my partners in our practice, who are now full pledged Pulmonary and Critical Care doctors are once my medical interns in the hospital. So at some point in time, I showed them the ropes. And now they are probably better than me, and once in a while I asked for their opinion in difficult cases.
I remember when I started my medical internship in a Columbia University-affiliated-hospital, I was not a “good” intern. At that time, I was a new arrival to the US from the Philippines, was new to the American system of medicine, and definitely not the sharpest among our batch. Compared to our star intern, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, I was like a kindergarten. I was really lost and I struggled in the beginning. But I am thankful for my seniors and attending physicians who saw the rough potential in me. Though I would be lying if I tell you I was not lectured on at times, or even chewed and spewed.
At the graduation ceremony of my Internal Medicine Training, they gave me the “Tabula Rasa” award. It took me a while to figure out what it meant. But I guess I was really like a “blank slate” when I started, which what the Latin “Tabula Rasa” means. I must also had that blank stare like a deer in the headlights, that goes with my blank mind.
But as I said, we all have to start somewhere.
In some academic centers they have a very defined hierarchy. Even one year of seniority feel like a world of difference. The attending physicians act like demigods as they would climb up their high horses when they do their rounds. The attendings treat the medical residents as dirt. In turn, the senior residents treat the junior residents as dirt. The junior residents treat the interns as dirt. The interns treat the medical students as dirt.
It may be hard to admit, but I witnessed this hierarchical state of thinking when I was in my medical school in the Philippines. And being the medical student, I was at the bottom of the totem pole.
But I don’t buy into this old-school hierarchical philosophy and system that treats our inferiors like dirt. I adopted a philosophy of providing a more collegial environment which I believe is more conducive to learning even for the least of us. A resident, or an intern or even a medical student can approach me freely without fearing of being chewed on.
Back to my intern, I hope she’ll learn something from that difficult day. I know someday she will become a good, experienced and a well-rounded doctor too. And if someday she becomes the chief of the medical staff in this hospital, as she has a great potential, or becomes the head of a big-shot medical corporation, or even becomes the US Surgeon General, I hope she remembers me and the words of encouragement I gave her during one difficult day.
(*photo taken from reddit.com)