Noong nakaraang linggo ay nag-drive kami patungo sa Tennessee na may layo na 1400 kilometro mula sa aming bahay dito sa Iowa. Labing-dalawang (12) oras ang aming drive one way, at salitan kaming mag-asawa sa pagmamaneho. Oo, matiyaga kaming mag-drive, lalo na’t panahon ng COVID, at mapanganib lumipad dahil mahirap mag-social distancing sa eroplano at sa mga airports.

Kami ay pumasyal sa Smoky Mountains na isang kilalang lugar na magandang bakasyunan dito sa Amerika. Alam kong meron ding Smoky Mountains sa Pilipinas, pero hindi ito pasyalan at bakasyunan maliban na lang kung ang trip mo ay suminghot ng mabantot na hangin, dahil ito ay bundok ng basura (land fill) sa Tondo, Manila.

Makulimlim at magkahalong ulan at snow ang pumapatak mula sa kulay abo na mga ulap habang kami ay nagbibiyahe. Kahit mukhang pang-dayuhan at pang-Amerika ang tanawin, ang aking namang musikang pinakikinggan ay katutubong Pilipino. Ako’y nakatutok sa Eraserheads Radio mula sa Spotify.

Sumalang ang kantang Overdrive ng Eraserheads:

Magda-drive ako hanggang Baguio,
Magda-drive ako hanggang Bicol.

Biglang sumagi sa aking isipan ang alaala ng mahigit dalawampung taon na ang nakalilipas. Kasikatan pa noon ng Eraserheads at matunog pa ang kanta nilang Overdrive. Pinakikingan namin ang Cutterpillow cassette tape album nila habang kami ay nagda-drive dito sa Amerika mula New Jersey hanggang Ohio na may layo na 700 kilometro.

Alam n’yo ba na ang Baguio hanggang Bicol ay may layo din na halos 700 kilometro, at kaya itong i-drive ng sampung oras lang, pero aabot sa tatlong araw dahil sa trapik!

Isasama ko ang girlfriend ko,
Isasama ko kahit sinong may gusto.

Kasama ko noon sa pagda-drive ang aking dating girlfriend na naging misis ko na. Isang taon pa lang kaming kasal nang panahong iyon, at wala pang mga anak. Maingay naming sinasabayan ang kanta ng Eraserheads habang kami’y naglalakbay. Patungo kami sa Cleveland para sa isang application interview ko para sa aking medical training. Simula pa lang noon ng paghahabol ko sa aking mga pangarap. Matagal pa ang biyahe at malayo pa sa gustong patunguhan.

Maliit at compact car ang aming dina-drive noon. Simple lang ang aming kotse at ito ay lease lamang. Ibig sabihin pahiram o inuupahan lang namin, at hindi pa namin tunay na pag-aari.

Magda-drive ako buong taon,
Magda-drive ako habambuhay.

Pagkalipas ng mahigit dalampung taon, heto pa rin kami ngayon patuloy na nagda-drive. Pero natibag na ang grupo ng Eraserheads. Paso na rin ang mga cassette tapes, at kahit nga CD ay hindi na rin uso. At ang kantang Overdrive ay consider na classic oldies na ngayon.

Maluwag-luwag at SUV na ang aming sinasakyan ngayon. Marami rin itong amenities, tulad ng satellite GPS, kaya’t hindi na ako maliligaw. Sariling akin na rin ang kotseng aming dina-drive.

Magda-drive nga yata kami habambuhay. Subalit tapos na ako sa paghangos at pag-tugis sa aking mga pangarap. Maaring sabihing narating ko na ang nais kong marating at inaani na namin ang mga bunga ng aming pinaghirapan at ipinundar na panahon. Malalaki na rin ang aming mga supling, at tapos na nga ng kolehiyo ang aming panganay. Sila naman ngayon ang naghahabol ng kanilang mga pangarap, habang kami naman ay padrive-drive na lang para mamasyal at mag-relax.

Magda-drive ako hanggang buwan.

Pare, nakarating na rin ako kahit sa buwan.


Additional feature: Here’s a short clip of our drive the next day after we reached the Smoky Mountains. Of note, it’s not Eraserheads playing in the background anymore, but rather it’s Simon and Garfunkel with their song “America.”

Flower-Strewn Pathway

I was going out for my morning run a few days ago and as I got out of the front door I noticed that our walkway was covered with flower petals.

Beautiful morning. Flower-strewn pathway. What else could I ask for?

Maybe our crabapple tree was treating me as royalty, shedding and laying its flowers on my path.

I remember an old movie “Coming to America,” where the character played by James Earl Jones, the king of Zamunda, a fictional wealthy African nation, visited the United States, New York City, to be exact. He was looking for his son, played by Eddie Murphy, who was the crowned prince of that said nation. In one scene, as the king steps out of his limousine, royal attendants strew flowers on the ground where he would walk on. I know, I am no royalty.

Come to think of it that is what flower girls in a wedding do too. These cute little girls would scatter flowers in the path where the bride would walk on. But I am no bride either.

By the way the tradition of flower girls scattering flower petals has its origin from the Greek and the Romans. The young girls walking before the bride in ancient practice, scatter herbs and grains to wish the bride fertility. But nowadays it is replaced by tossing flower petals as a wish for happiness for the bride. And maybe fertility too.

Our journey in this life though is not always filled with happiness or a flower-strewn pathway, so to speak. Or perhaps it is, as our path could be littered with roses but including its thorns. Maybe the flower vase is thrown in the path as well with its broken pieces of glass!

A poem by Annie Johnson Flint said this, “God hath not promise skies always blue, flower-strewn pathway all our lives through.”

The author of the poem, Annie, was only 3 years old when her mother died while giving birth to her baby sister. Her father who also had an incurable disease decided to give Annie for adoption as he couldn’t take care of her, and he died not long after that. Annie was sent to school by her adoptive parents and was able to finish her education and became a teacher. However she developed painful and debilitating arthritis at a young age which extremely limited her mobility. She was resigned to a wheelchair most of her life.

Yet she still penned this poem:


God hath not promised skies always blue, 
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain, 
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
many a burden, many a care. 

God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain rocky and steep,
Never a river turbid and deep

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above, 
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

What a great reminder for us indeed.

As for my morning run that day, it did start with a flower-strewn pathway though it got a little thorny especially on the last mile. But I did fine.

I am thankful for the promised strength for the day. And I don’t mean just for running.

(*photo taken with an iPhone)

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.


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.

Birthday Prayer

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” — Reinhold Niebuhr

In my room of our home in Manila, was a poster with a picture of the sun shining through tree branches, and with the above quotation written on it. Even though I don’t have that poster anymore, the message seems to have forever imprinted in my mind.

With another birthday looming on the horizon, it’s that time again for me for an inventory.

No, I’m not doing an inventory of all the birthday gifts I received over the years, nor all of the properties I have. Inventory of my properties will be much easier, since I really don’t have much I can call my own – the banks, credit and lending companies owns most of them. I’m doing an inventory of who, what and where I am, at this point in my life.

As the above quotation said, there are things we cannot change and can change. So I have to accept my receding and thinning hairline. Wearing a hairpiece, is never an option for me (though the wig that Washington used and was common during those days, the one with side curls, looks interesting). And I should do something for my bulging and flabby belly. That means I need to keep running and do more crunches.

I read not too long ago that the average life span in the US is now pegged at 78 years old. This is higher than what it was several years ago, and people are living longer. I know I am already a few years past the halfway point of this average life span. There is no denying that I am in my middle age.

The problem is that, between my father and my two grandfathers (father’s and mother’s side), nobody among them lived past middle age. I have to contend with that genes. I cannot choose or change my family and its genetic pool. However, I definitely can change my lifestyle into a healthy one to improve my longevity.

But there is more to life than health and durability, even though those are important. Our relationships, the way we deal with our neighbors, friends and family, I believe are more precious. Things that really matter — what we want to be remembered, when we are gone.

Yes, I know I cannot change the world. I cannot change other people. Definitely I cannot change my enemies, but I can change my attitude towards them, and make them friends. I cannot even change my wife, but I can accept her as she is. Nor can I change my kids, but at least I can guide them. The only person I can change is me.

Boat in a Storm (by John Lund)

(image from here)

I am thankful for this blessed journey. I am thankful for where I have been, where I am now, and where this voyage will take me. As I continue to navigate in this sea of life, I know I cannot change the storms, the winds, and the waves. But I can change and adjust my sail.

There is one more thing I can do: trust the One who controls the winds and the waves, that He will guide me through.