Sunday, December 30, 2007

some of my favorite 2007 pics

as the title suggests...

at the pool in Lake Balanan... look at that amazing backdrop

kayaking in Lake Balanan

in Siquijor: Jo Anne, Tonette, Arlyn, Jouie, me and Aivan

in Cambugahay Falls, Siquijor with Aivan

picture perfect

why study...when you can laag? hehe...

at Ver's room during the Dumaguete fiesta

practice for caroling (go Lurjie!)

...and ang caroling na jud

at the SUMC Christmas party with Arlyn and Bianca

at Dr. Absin's holiday house

mean girl

Those who have gotten to know me know that I can be the crankiest person alive. That side of me might not be obvious, because my cranky moments don’t come that often, and I’m otherwise all smiles and generally in a genuinely good mood. But those who have spent a lot of time with me can attest to (and at times have been unfortunate enough to be at the receiving end of) my acid tongue.

Aivan’s term for it is “mokalit lang ug ka-lami.” He’s got a term for it by now because Lord knows he’s had to deal with it for five years. Do we all have those moments, I wonder? When we just feel like being mean to others, especially those whom we love most? Or is it just me? Am I really a girl with a mean streak? Or am I really just a mean girl? It’s a horrible thought, a horrible feeling to confront yourself as if looking in a mirror for the first time, and realizing you’re not that beautiful. I have no illusions about what a great, nice person I am, but…I really don’t like being mean! Hehe! And yet sometimes it seems like I can’t help it.

So, to all those I’ve hurt – with sharp words, inconsiderate actions, or just meanness in general – I’m really sorry. Especially my family and especially Aivan. I know I can help it. I really hope I can be a kinder person, not just because a new year’s coming, but because the world would be a lot nicer if we could all be a lot kinder.
* * *

Pop psych, which has permeated our culture in the last few decades, often deals with questions directed towards exploring one’s self. Ever since Freud made popular the psychodynamic school of thought, the world has embraced the notion that what we are on the surface is just “the tip of the iceberg.” Repressed emotions and defense mechanisms have become household concepts; a lot of people started going to psychotherapists and blaming their bad behavior on childhood “issues.”

Oprah and other shows with inspirational or motivational themes, on the other hand, seem to have made practicable the humanist ideal of self-actualization. Perhaps the most recognizable name in this psychology paradigm is Abraham Maslow, who formulated the Hierarchy of Needs pyramid. Fulfillment and nourishing one’s soul have become everyday goals.

Another way of exploring human behavior is the, well, behaviorist approach. This basically says that if you do something and you get rewarded for it, you would tend to do it again with the expectation that you will get rewarded again. “Conditioning” is the more scientific term, and Psychology 101 students will no doubt recognize the names of Pavlov and Skinner. (Remember the dog that salivated upon hearing a bell that was consistently rung before he was served with food?)

There are many other psychological paradigms on human personality and behavior. That is to say, we haven’t yet come to a consensus as to why humans are the way they are and why they do the things they do. I guess psychologists themselves align with one particular school of thought or another based on their own beliefs and upbringing and personalities.

The “latest,” at least when I was a Psych student, was the cognitive approach: all about the brain and neurotransmitters and stuff like that. But then a bright mind thought to ask a sensible question, which I would paraphrase as thus: if brain transplantation were possible, and Raul Gonzales would get transplanted with, say, Jovito Salonga’s brain, when he wakes up from surgery, would he be a great and noble statesman or would he still be Raul Gonzales?

Then I think there was one psychologist who experimentally videotaped every second of his child’s life to get a better understanding of human behavior. With all that data, he wasn’t quite able to predict that his child one day would commit suicide. His study’s attrition rate: 100%.

I guess that’s what I find so interesting about psychology. With all the research that’s been done and experiments on human behavior that have been conducted, no particular theory can yet claim to fully understand and predict the thoughts and actions of even one human being. I won’t bet my life (as my psych teacher was often fond of saying) that the human being won’t ever be completely “sequenced” like DNA, but I’d say it’s highly unlikely.

I guess that’s also why I didn’t go on with a career in Psychology. With all the sub-fields around, the one that seems most profitable, in Western Countries at any rate, is psychotherapy. And I guess it could be rewarding. But I can totally predict that one day I’ll reach the point where I’ll be super annoyed with all my clients and I would have to keep fighting the urge to say things like, “Just deal with it, damn it!” to over-dependent counselees or “Sa kadaghan sa tawo sa kalibutan nga wala’y gikaon, mao ra gani na imong problema, mag-drugs na ka?! Hala sige padayon! Aron dili na modaghan imong lahi” to troubled teens.

And I’ll end up in jail or penniless or most likely both, all because of my acid tongue.
* * *
Duty na pod ko ugma! So… Happy new year na lang ninyo tanan daan!! ;-D

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ang Mga Pagbasol

I just couldn't resist posting this text message that I received just this morning.

Ang Mga Pagbasol

1. Gihigugma nimo, milakaw ka, gihigugma man pod diay ka niya

2. Gihigugma ka, manhid man pod ka

3. Ok na, gipasakitan pa jud nimo

4. Nagbuwag mo, ayha na hinuon migwapa/migwapo

5. Gihigugma na nimo, dili na cya

6. Gihigugma na gani ka, talawan man pod ka

7. Ready na ka, lain na iyang hinigugma

8. Pakipot au, dili na hinuon cya

9. Sobraan ka torpe, naa na hinuon nakauna

Anga mga angay ma-igo, hinaut unta ma-igo na. Ug labi na sa mga tawo nga na-igo sa #3, mayra!!! Hehehe!

proof of life, and about time

To all those who are wondering whether or not Rey Cabalejo is still alive, er, yes, he is. I had coffee with him at Bo's - Ayala last December 24, 2007. Since there were no paparazzi following us, I took pictures of our encounter myself, and these I will be posting later. (I forgot the Bluetooth connection for my laptop.) He would like to assure us all that he still intends to be a doctor and he wants very much to re-enter the medical world already. He understands that, in order to do this, he has to finish his paperwork. Unfortunately, this is what he's having trouble with; to be more exact, he finds it hard to start.

The journey of a thousand histories begins with a single step inside the CVGH Records Section and, as a fellow paperworks pasaway, trust me: lisod gyud. To all those who helped and offered to help me with my own paperwork back then, thank you kaayo. Graduation wasn't sweet in itself; being able to paso will never in a million years make it to my list of treasured memories; but it was sweet because it was a victory for all those who helped me and prayed for me. I promise to all of you that I will be a good doctor.


I went home to Cebu last December 22-26, and for someone who's pretty much been a homebody all her life, I was amazingly laagan during my 5-day Christmas break. I went shopping for 3 days straight, met Rey, had dinner with Hershe, attended the annual Solera Christmas eve dinner, attended the annual Arceo Christmas day lunch, had pizza and videoke with my friends from Church, had coffee with my high school friends, and spent quality time with Aivan and my family. Then, during my last day, my mother gently grumbled that I spent more time with others than with my family.

I realized, with a pang of guilt, that she was right. To be more exact, I'd spent more time shopping for gifts for loved ones. It never entered my mind that those loved ones might actually appreciate it more if I'd spent that time with them. I've read so many books about how important it is to slow down and spend time with the people you love. I know that, I do really actually know that, and still I wasn't able to understand that that was exactly what I wasn't doing until too late. I felt, then, a sense of loss.

It's the same feeling I get whenever I leave for Dumaguete and realize that I still wasn't able to have long talks with my grandfather. Not that there's something I have to talk to him about. But I just really want to spend time with him, before it's too late. I'm always resolving to spend time with him in his small store, talking about nothing. And I always fail to do that. How pathetic am I?

You can't really turn back time. You can't undo what you did, or do what you failed to. All you can do is hope that there will still be a tomorrow in which to set things right.

* * * * * * *

As promised, here's the proof that Rey is still alive (hehe!).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

part 2: the tale of the bass amp

Jet tells me that there are many things that happened in 3rd year med that I don't know about, and I can very well believe that, since, despite being friends with Making, a lightning rod for all the chika in the world, I tend to be among the last who hear the gossip. But there were several events during 3rd year that affected us all. I've already recounted the boobs incident. This is the tale of the bass amp.

I suppose no one has an unbiased version of the story. But the facts, as far as I understood them from a heated YahooGroups discussion, are as follows:

Brian, Chofi, Ver, NeilBac and Teofi formed a band for the purposes of performing at the annual CIM Barrio Fiesta, which we, as 3rd years, were organizing that year. They apparently had been practicing for quite some time. Part of the reason why they really wanted to play during the party was so that Ver (who at that time was still rather shy and not the blabbermouth that he is now) would get a chance to display his prowess at the guitar and become popular and all that. During many of their later practices, they borrowed Dinkoy's bass amp, with the agreement that Dinkoy could jam with them in their practices. Everything was fine at that point.

As the date of the party loomed, Dinkoy and his own set of friends decided they wanted to play at the party too. So they formed their own band but wanted Chofi to play bass for them, and later they asked Teofi to play the k-hon. The two agreed. Apparently, however, the group did not get to practice as much as they could have, such that, on the day before the barrio fiesta, they agreed to get together a few hours just before the party to practice.

However, decorating the venue proved to take longer than expected that day. Among those who helped with the decorations were Chofi and Teofi. By the time they (actually: we) finished decorating, it was time for their practice. But they hadn't had time to freshen up and get dressed and all that, so they went home instead. Thus, when Dinkoy and Matmat and the others arrived for their practice, Chofi and Teofi were nowhere to be seen. Tempers flared, and (as I understand it), Dinkoy's group felt their performance was being "sabotaged" by the two, who were also members of the other band that was to play. In his anger, Dinkoy refused to let the other band use his bass amp that night for their performance. In short, no one got to play.

Many of the class took sides, and even the blissfully unaware (including myself) began to notice that the tension in the air had thickened to gruel consistency. Then Brian posted that piece in YahooGroups, and people started responding, including "Pan Sa Julies," and thus started the most exciting phase in the life of our YahooGroups forum. Right after classes, people would troop to the computer lab to see if any new posts had been made. The class became divided into the Brian/etc. group, the Dinkoy/etc. group, and the amused spectators (such, hehe!).

The whole issue resolved over time, but, for those on opposite sides, things didn't really return to normal. Interactions with the other group were rare and strained. We all said that someday we would laugh about the whole thing, but, as the two sides weren't really close friends to start with, I don't think they've laughed about it yet. Thus ended the tale of the bass amp.

The laughable part of the story is that it was Brian/Chofi/Teofi/NeilBac versus Dinkoy/Dodong/Doming/Jiji. No one was versus Ver...except Ver. While the two sides were blaming each other, Ver blamed himself. He was, he claimed, jinxed. On two previous occasions during college, he was scheduled to play with a band during the Silliman Founder's Week. However, on both occasions, he didn't get to play. I don't remember the exact reasons, but I remember one of them had something to do with rain starting to pour just before Ver's band was going to enter the stage.

Anyway (and this is the point of the whole blog, as well as the previous one), Ver finally proved to himself that he wasn't jinxed. Last Saturday, he and Chofi and Brian (with 2 other people) played 5 songs in front of the whole hospital, to heartfelt applause. Though I wouldn't want to be corny, it felt like a triumph as I listened to them. Ver may not have played before the whole school and become wildly popular, as his med school friends wanted for him. But he was able to play before the Who's Who in Dumaguete's medical world. In a setting where everyone knew him as Dr. Arco's son, he was able to prove his mettle in something that was important to him: his music. And although Ver's statement that competence in guitar-playing separates men from boys seems rather far-out (like many of his other statements, hehe), I'm glad that the good intentions of his friends finally paid off.

Delayed gratification is gratification nonetheless, and often sweeter.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ask anyone in the batch, and even those who were living under rocks will tell you that our 3rd year in med school was eventful. To say the least.

First was the boobs incident. As part of our Surgery junior clerkship, we had to practice palpating for breast masses. We were made to practice on a silicon model, which apparently cost an arm and a leg, and was therefore guarded zealously by a consultant-surgeon who specializes in breast masses. Group 1, who was rotating in a surgery at that time, were told to get the silicon model but they didn't know, or did not recall being told, that they weren't supposed to use the models until the surgeon was present. To make a long story short, the consultant arrived and saw them already passing the models around, and raised hell. He gave out repeat-rotations to those who got caught redhanded and asked who else had touched the models. Everyone had, but only few admitted it. Those who decided on honesty were given extensions. (As they say, no good deed goes unpunished.) Thus started the war between the "honest" and "dishonest" members of Group 3. That went on for quite a while, and many friendships were never the same after that.

The second incident involved

Ay unya na lang kay taas pa ni nga storya nya hapit na mahurot akong batt.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I love caroling! Well, it's either that, or I just love singing, and getting to visit other people's houses and have nice dinners with friends are icing on the cake. Either way, I'm having a lot of fun caroling these days with other PGI's and a few residents. Even practicing is fun, because it builds camaraderie amoung our group. True, we often get a glare or a yam-id from Chofi when we go out of tune or when we're late for practice, but we often just laugh it off. And I think that really should be the point of singing Christmas carols: beyond the coins we collect, it's about having fun with each other and spreading cheer to the people around us.

I don't care if I sound corny: there really is something magical about the air come Christmas time. It feels ripe with possibilities. It's the time of year when you feel like your crush will very likely ask you out even if he hasn't actually talked to you before. The cold night air and the sparkling lights add to the Christmas high. Hope is there for the grabbing, peace present beyond reality, joy sprinkled in every face, love enough to take and give away.

Merry Christmas in advance everyone!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

My sister, though she's 5 years younger, actually has a lot of influence on me. I started this blog, for example, because I was inspired by how eloquently she expresses herself in her own blog ( She even has a regular reader: my friend Hershe.

It was also my sister who got the idea of selling earrings and bracelets back when those chandeliers and beads were in fashion. I shamelessly followed suit: I spent more time those days walking around the Carbon area than opening my med books. I never saw myself as an entrepreneur (I haven't the PR skills, for one), but the money I earned copying my sister's idea enabled me to go on a trip to Singapore. So, Lan...thanks for selflessly sharing with me your borloloy market. ;-)

Wala lang. The thought just entered my mind and I decided to preserve it here. Hehe!

We call it the “what if” game.

One of the nice things about living in Dumaguete is that everything is within walking distance of each other. At the very least, going from Point A to Point B takes only a five-minute pedicab ride. But since pedicabs (or tricycles) aren’t allowed inside the Silliman Campus, we often walk from a jaunt downtown back home to Abby Jacobs, our dorm.

It was during one such walk that Ria and I, in a contemplative mood, came up with the “what if” game. We began with our greatest regret in life. What if I hadn’t done that? Or: what if I’d had the courage to do that? And we took it from there. What if I hadn’t become a doctor? What if I’d taken Engineering, as I’d planned, or BS Math, as I’d been encouraged? What if I didn’t have a boyfriend? What if things weren’t the way they are now? And the important question: would I have been happier?

I don’t know what my greatest regret in life is, so far. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, of course, but I’m subconsciously selectively amnestic. A lot of the bad memories I have, I’ve forgotten the details. Or I’ve totally forgotten the events themselves. So I can’t say which one I really regret. But what I can say is that things are fine the way they are now. If I hadn’t made those mistakes, if I’d made different decisions, perhaps more people would be happy, or less people would be hurt, or things would be better, at that time. But would I really be happier?

To illustrate, here’s an example: I have a friend who had this crush, and the guy happened to like her too. They went out for a couple of dates, but there was nothing definitive. The guy happened to be States-bound. Then one time, while my friend was on duty, the guy called her and asked if they could talk. (Doesn’t that expression – “can we talk?” – remind you of high school? Hehehe.) But my friend was with a patient that time, and said that she couldn’t. So the guy got off the line, didn’t call back, and soon thereafter went to America. My friend currently doesn’t have a boyfriend, and, whenever the topic comes up, she always wonders, what if she’d had that talk with that guy? She has since concluded that, if only they’d talked, they might be together now. But I, realistic to a fault, always counter: yeah, but would you have been happier? What if that guy just wasn’t for you? What if he’s not The One, but you end up with him? Wouldn’t that be a greater disaster than just currently being loveless?

Many of us can easily cite the decisions we regret making, the paths we regret treading. But would we really have been happier? Everything happens for a reason, as the cliché goes. So let the “what if” game just be a pastime, trip-trip lang, not an excuse for feeding our regrets. As long as we make our choices on good faith, for the right reasons, I think God will take that into consideration when judging our wrong choice and deciding on its consequence. Whether the decisions we made are wrong or not, we are still in the hands of the God who loves us. Things will be okay.

(An important caveat: making the wrong choice might be forgivable. But if you know what the right choice is, and still make the wrong one, then that’s just plain stupid.)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Back in Cebu, whenever anybody mentioned the fact that Ver's father was a doctor, he would always downplay it. He would always say his father was "just an internist" and that he often wondered how his father could afford to send him to school. To hear Ver talk, you would think his father was the smallest of all small-time doctors. Given Ver's penchant for twisting reality, though, we weren't surprised to learn, when we came to Dumaguete, that Dr. Arco was actually a very respected physician who had lots and lots of patients. Then, when we told Ver how much we liked his father, that his father was palpably good-natured, Ver shrugged off the compliment and said that of course we would say that because we were his friends, and that he would probably think that our own fathers were great when he met them. anyone who knows Ver would agree, this is just classic Ver.

But his comment made me think about my own father. Without hesitation, I can say that if someone meets my father, he or she would think well of him. My father, too, radiates that sort of respectability that is palpable even at first acquaintance. Perhaps it helps that he is a quiet sort of person; my father is not one to make silly comments, and when he says something, it almost always makes sense. His motto (one of them anyway) is, "A thing worth doing is worth doing well." And when he is asked to speak at a gathering, my sister and I can predict what he is going to say: "we are a product of the choices we make." But he's actually not as boring as he sounds. ;-D He can create the most relaxing, close-your-eyes-and-smile tunes on his old guitar. Many of his clothes and socks have holes in them or are stretched out too thin because his own needs are his last priorities. He always puts us first...and that makes him a hero.

I know many other fathers who are heroes. One of my uncles owns a billiard hall and, once, it caught fire. Even when the flames were already blazing, he rushed inside, grabbed the fire extinguisher, and saved the place from burning up completely. The nearby houses were spared from themselves catching flame: he was a hero. But like many heroes, my uncle has scars to remind him of his bravery, and in his case, the scars are physical. His whole body is covered in keloidal scars, his handsome face disfigured by the burns he sustained. My younger cousins became afraid of him because he looked strange to their eyes. People in church would stare at him. He couldn't attend his daughter's wedding because he was still in the hospital, wrapped in gauze, while the wedding date could not be moved because his other daughter had come all the way from America to attend it and could not prolong her leave. I can't imagine how my uncle must have felt. He saved many houses from catching fire, perhaps even lives, but the price he had to pay was high.

There are, indeed, many heroes around us. I can name many more, but the recounting of their stories would take too long. Their heroism does not consist of dying for their country. Their deeds are not written in history books. Instead, they are heroes because they do the best they can with what they have. They show kindness and unselfishness, and they do it everyday. They may have flaws, but at the end of the day, in their own ways, they make our lives better.

To all the heroes in my life, I salute you. Thank you.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Here at Cafe Noriter, where I write most of my blogs and where I open my email and my Friendster accounts, and where I surf for nothing in paticular, the walls are adorned by snapshots of people and places. Some are pinned to the wall, some hung on a nylon clothesline, some mounted on blocks of wood. One particular photo caught my eye just now: one of a streetside shop in France labeled "Souvenirs of Paris."

I don't know why it's called the "travel bug" but yup, like many others, I've been bitten. Not that I actually act on every impulse to pack up and head for places I've never been to. Wish ko lang ma-afford nako! Mostly I just watch the Travel and Living channel with my roommates and give out an envious sigh every other second. But travel is included in my long-term plan for myself and my family; I wouldn't really care about having a big house or driving the best cars, but I'd like to have enough money one day so that my family and I could travel during breaks.

When I was a kid, my parents, my sister and I used to go to Manila every summer and Bukidnon every semestral break to visit my mother's sisters and their families. Those trips didn't cost as much as they should have because my father worked for PAL and was entitled to discounts on airfare. I didn't realize then what a privilege that was. Even if we weren't at all rich, while I was still a kid I'd learned the stewardesses' pre-flight pantomime by heart and visited the cockpit and knew what it was like to have clouds speeding beneath me.

More importantly, I'd tasted the delight of traveling. I grew to love packing, though I'm not the most efficient packer and I would invariably leave something important behind. Summers, we went to Luneta Park, visited Harrison Plaza, saw the Manila Zoo wildlife, rode the MRT...the whole early-1980's middle-class Manila experience. Octobers found us walking through the pineapple plantation, trekking to the dam, playing in the plaza, eating mounds of sineguelas, bundling up in the warmest blankets while savoring the cold Camp Phillips climate. Those were some of the most pleasant memories I have until now.

My first trip outside the Philippines was on a short trip to Hong Kong. I almost spoiled the whole thing by making sapot while we were there (one of the most annoying things about me, hehe). But we had fun nonetheless. We went to the Ladies Market and the Night Market, saw a streetside Chinese performance, and rode the tram to Victoria Peak. I had my first taste of a city with an efficient transport system, and I've been in love with trains ever since.

We went to Singapore one or two years after. If you're after a cultural experience more than a shopping bargain, you really can't ask for more than Singapore. The city is smaller than Cebu, but it's got such a variety of people and places: there's Little India, where you can buy sarees and stuff yourself with curry; there's Chinatown, where you can buy pasalubong for everyone even if you're on a budget and where there's exotic food like jellyfish and shark cartilage; there's an Arab quarter and a Malay quarter, which I haven't explored fully; and, of course, the city's predominantly Chinese. What I love about Singapore is that you can never get lost as long as you have a map. A lot of the interesting spots are within walking distance, or if not, an MRT station is bound to be. Again, gotta love the trains. ;-)

Finally, my family and I have also been to Bangkok. Now this is the city to be in if you're looking to shop till you drop. The weekend market at Chatuchak is too big to be believable. I'm not a good haggler so I don't get as much out of it as, say, my sister. But a fan of quick transactions such as myself can always find a good bargain in Bangkok. The sights of palaces and temples liberally sprinkled around the city are remarkable, and the canals are worth exploring. And I don't know why, but the sight of Buddhist monks in their saffron robes always makes my day.

My sister Leilani has also been to Cambodia. My father has been sent to other countries several times for training in aircraft maintenance: he's been to Amsterdam, France, China, etc. My dream is to someday go on a cruise to Antarctica. You see I once read this book by Madeleine L'Engle entitled Troubling A Star, and the characters are on a cruise to Antarctica and they see these amazing icebergs and beautiful penguins and, basically, just nature unspoilt.

I didn't write about my travels to impress or to boast. It's silly to boast about a blessing, and that's what all of it is: a blessing. I've been blessed to see other places and interact with people from other cultures and backgrounds. Perhaps it makes me more open-minded; perhaps it also makes me prouder to be a Filipino. Traveling, I think, leaves in the heart of the traveler something a little different from what it leaves in another, be it satisfaction in an exceptionally good bargain or speechlessness after watching another religion's sacred ritual. It helps you to see yourself in a new light. It plants the yearning for adventure and experience, and it brings to mind the warmth of home. Whatever travel may bring to you, whenever the opportunity may present itself, bon voyage!