Monday, February 25, 2008

a call to arms

In the spirit of EDSA, I beg your indulgence for this, another old work. Being bombarded with nationalism tends to make one want to tune out after a while, I know. But let me post just one more call to arms, just one more...for today. Hehe!

---

“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head --
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

Watchfulness and critical-mindedness -- as exhibited here, albeit comically, in Lewis Carroll’s amusing ditty -- are only two of the attributes that society demands of the youth. Rizal, and so many other leaders after him, have laid the burden of the country’s hopes on the shoulders of the Filipino youth, and many are wondering whether the current crop of young Filipinos are equal to the task. Indeed, there are those who already have, in their minds, weighed the country’s youth and found them wanting. Apathetic, passive...these are but some of the adjectives that have been used in the past by adults to describe the present “hope of the fatherland.”

It is true that the youth’s response to their inherent civic responsibilities and roles in nation building leave much to be desired. The amazing results of EDSA 2 have demonstrated that the youth continues to be a force to be reckoned with, in politics as in everything else. Alas, it has stopped there. Most of the indignant throng who unwaveringly stood by their cause a year ago have now gone back to relative obscurity. What’s left are the radical few, whose sirang plaka rhetoric and questionable characters destroy whatever valid point they are trying to make.

And yet we must not mistake for apathy the more erosive cause behind the youth’s seeming inaction. We must look a little closer, for the malady that besets the youth merely reflects the sickness that pervades all of Filipino society.

“You accuse me of indolence,” Raul Manglapus cries in his beautiful piece Land of Bondage, Land of the Free. “But I am indolent, not because I have no will, but because I have no hope. Why should I labor, if all the fruits of my labor go to pay an unpayable debt? Free me from bondage and I shall prove you false.”

The past 20 or so years -- the entire time, more or less, that today’s youth have been alive -- have seen many, often dramatic, shifts in power. Dictators and drunkards have been overthrown, and the reins of government handed over to people promising prosperity and efficiency and honest service. But these leaders merely ended up being replaced by other politicians promising pretty much the same things and accomplishing pretty much the same nothing. Every once in a while, genuinely good leaders appear and offer their services to the country, only to be set aside by the gullible citizenry, who would much rather elect actors and basketball stars. Leader after leader, politician after politician...and the people slowly awaken to the fact that it takes more than a changing of the guards to effect real change. Painfully, the people start to realize that it is the system itself that needs to be overhauled.

Small wonder, then, that most of the youth aren’t exactly enthusiastic about getting involved with the government -- whether it’s working for the government or standing as watchdog thereof. In The Wounded Healer, Henri J.M. Nouwen observes, “They share a fundamental unhappiness with their world and a strong desire to work for change, but they doubt deeply that they will do better than their parents did, and almost completely lack any kind of vision or perspective.”

It is not that the youth don’t care; it is that they think it usually doesn’t really make a difference whether they care or not. The corrupt, inefficient, bureaucratic system that has been there since before they were born is there still -- EDSA revolutions, coups and elections notwithstanding -- and the youth wonder what else they can do that their elders have not tried before, without success.

Shall we then excuse the youth’s lack of action? Of course not!

Far from being defeated by the country’s dearth of principled leaders, the youth must instead resolve all the more to be, in their time, the leaders they’ve always wanted. Is the system too big, too overpowering? Then forget the system! Start small. Start with yourself. Tired of dishonest leaders? Then stop lying, or else you would just be a younger version of those whom you loathe. Frustrated by graft and corruption? Then why, for goodness’ sake, do you keep on cheating? Why do you only do favors for others when you can get something out of it?

Think about it. Perhaps our political revolutions have failed because, through them, we sought to change others, and in changing others we can only go so far. Perhaps what we need is a moral revolution, and seek to change ourselves.

Let this, then, be the country’s call to the youth: start with yourself, then be the fire by which others light their candles.

---

Hehe. Okay that's it for today. Happy EDSA everyone!

remembering EDSA

As a 5-year-old during the EDSA People Power Revolution, all I remember was the radio blaring and dashes of yellow and green everywhere. I think my father put up a couple of handmade posters outside our house. And I keep thinking of caimito leaves whenever I try to recall 1986...I don't know why! For a while I thought red and blue were bad colors. Yellow-and-green was the way to go, and the V-sign made with the thumb and forefinger a must-know.

The emotion of the moment was not lost on me, and the victory everyone felt when Marcos left Malacanang is forever etched on my soul. But it was only much later that I understood the full significance of EDSA, and the events, schemes and sacrifices leading up to it.

When I was studying Psychology, we had a subject called FILIPINO PSYCHOLOGY, taught by Sir Mike, a cool guy who taught us wearing shorts. We were in UP, after all; we ALL wore shorts and Spartan slippers to school. Anyway, Sir Mike made us choose one person whom we felt had a great impact on the psychology of Filipinos today. He then asked us to write a paper explaining why.

I chose Ninoy Aquino. He is one of my father's heroes, and as I read about him in what books there were in UPCC's library, I could understand why. He probably wasn't a saint. I don't think anyone could play politics as well as he did and not get his hands just a little dirty. But in the end, I think, he really was a great leader who really loved his country.

This was my little paper on him. (I'm too lazy to write another tribute, hehe!)

* * *

Forty million cowards and one son of a bitch.

This was how the Filipinos of the martial law era were reportedly described by one American senator. And from his point of view, that observation was not that hard to come by. True, at that time you held anti-government demonstrations at your own peril — and peril is a kind word to describe what political dissidents went through in the hands of Marcos’ henchmen — but then nobody even seemed to want to demonstrate. Most Filipinos found excuses to ignore the ugly side of martial law, partly because of the dictator’s propaganda, mostly because they wanted to believe the propaganda. In shrink-speak, we were in denial.

Not Ninoy, though.

Even in his maiden speech in the Senate, he warned about a “garrison state” in the making. One of his last and most important exposés was his September 13, 1972 speech baring “Oplan Sagittarius,” a government plan to put Greater Manila and its environs under martial law. And on the day itself of September 21, 1972, Ninoy was warning student activists in UP about the imminent imposition of dictatorship — this shortly before he was hauled off to a detention camp, where he stayed locked, but never silenced, in solitary confinement for seven years and seven months. In 1977, he was sentenced to die before a firing squad by a Military Tribunal whose jurisdiction he steadfastly refused to recognize. In 1980, he was allowed to go to Boston for an emergency heart bypass operation. He and his family stayed for three happy years there. But Ninoy saw that the situation in the Philippines was worsening, and, in a decision that his son described as “like he had his head in the lion’s mouth, was able to take it out and then he was putting it back in,” he resolved to go back home.

He only got as far as the airport tarmac. On August 21, 1983, in the Manila International Airport, Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. was killed, by a shot that prematurely ended his life but that unwittingly — and this perhaps was what Ninoy had wanted all along — revived the nation’s rage at a twenty-year-long tyranny that had blatantly deprived them of life and liberty. His arrival speech, undelivered, read, “Order my immediate execution or set me free.” He would not be set free, but by his willing sacrifice, he would make possible the deliverance from bondage of his millions of countrymen.

---

But what has that got to do with sikolohiyang Pilipino?

Let me first point out that sikolohiyang Pilipino aims to be a psychology that is both malaya and mapagpalaya — liberation psychology, Enriquez calls it. It denounces the exploitation of the masses and is against the perpetuation of the “colonial status of the Filipino mind.” But what was Marcos’ totalitarian regime if not an exploitation of the masses and the colonization of Filipino minds? How else can you describe a political system that rode into power through appealing promises of reform and economic development only to bring about the worst economic conditions ever in the country? How else can you describe an administration that forced policies into the throats of its constituents, as if the latter could not think for itself? In essence, sikolohiyang Pilipino was fighting the same fight as Ninoy — with a different enemy perhaps, but on parallel planes and on the same direction.

Also, sikolohiyang Pilipino stresses the need for social awareness and involvement, which to some extent was the exact antithesis of what Marcos had planned for us. Media was shut down, rallies were outlawed, and even word of mouth was placed under regulation. Philippine psychology itself was under fire, as psychologists who dared to ask questions inevitably found themselves in jail. It wasn’t just psychologists or any particular group of people anymore who needed to get involved, it was everybody. But they needed a concrete cause, a rallying point so to speak, and Ninoy’s death provided just that. “I’m not a political person, God knows,” wrote one protestor. “It wasn’t politics that made me make a silent promise to support what Ninoy had died for. Many of us, knowingly or unknowingly, made a commitment during that miserable last week of August in 1983.”

The way I understand it, kapwa as a core value gives rise to such other values and behavior patterns as lakas ng loob, pakikisama, bahala na, and pakikibaka, and that sometimes one value can be at odds with another. For example, pakikisama “implies an adjusting of one’s individuality for the sake of some dubious social orientation,” whereas pakikibaka as “seen in the light of…paninindigan can very well be a direct manifestation of ‘di-pakikisama.’”

Ninoy’s relevance to all this is that he showed us that boundaries have to be crossed, that we can’t go on adjusting our individualities, because what was sorely needed by the country was pakikibaka, people standing up for convictions that are, after all, a part of their beings. In fact, I may go so far as to say that Ninoy even embodied these values. His guts (lakas ng loob) and his determination (bahala na) could hardly be questioned, and his example prodded other Filipinos to find within themselves a sufficient measure of guts and determination to take on a tyrant.

Ninoy, too, had an effect on the foundations of the Philippine value system. Virgilio Enriquez even writes: “Katarungan (social justice) is now invoked as an indispensable condition for peace in Philippine society, in the same breath as food and employment. The movement for ‘justice, freedom, and sovereignty,’ which gained the limelight upon the assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr., underscored the importance of justice as the movement itself was named JAJA, an acronym for ‘Justice for Aquino, Justice for All.’”

“Justice can be realized only when those who have not been victimized become as outraged as those who have been,” Ninoy himself said.

Kalayaan had no stauncher defender than he. It is said that kalayaan for Filipinos is not just the license to do as one pleases but more — a matter of life and death, in fact. With Ninoy, it was death, but it was a meaningful one, just as he wanted. He even said: “The lesson — Liberty’s Truth — is: A people that is not willing to speak out for freedom and to suffer and die for it, does not deserve freedom.”

Karangalan. His — “A time comes in a man’s life when he must prefer a meaningful death to a meaningless life. I would rather die on my feet with honor, than live on bended knees in shame.” — and ours — “I have carefully weighted the virtues and faults of the Filipino, and I have come to the conclusion that HE IS WORTH DYING FOR!”—he defended until the very end.

---

We must have seemed like a sorry lot then. Helpless. Spineless. A lot of people gave up on us. We had started giving up on ourselves, on our liberties. Many patriots were losing heart at our choiceless apathy. Not Ninoy. He even said once to a friend who had been complaining, “Teddy, don’t take it like that because you will remember what Rizal said, that a man who would lead his people must learn to forgive them.”

Marcos robbed us of our dignity; Ninoy, rather than give it back to us, showed us that we had the power to get it back for ourselves, and that — empowerment — is even more important. He believed in us when we didn’t believe in ourselves. He loaned us courage and demanded a hundred ten percent, not for himself, but for the country, which he held dearer.

Most of all, he gave us hope.

“Ours is to keep lighting the beacon light of freedom for those who have lost their way…Ours is to articulate the fervent hopes of a people who have suddenly lost their voices…Ours is to adopt the solid stance of courage in the face of seemingly hopeless odds so that hope, no matter how dim or distant, we will never banish from sight.”


* * *


A lot of us are jaded nowadays. No one can blame us -- we have a circus for a government. But once upon a time, there were people who truly cared for our country and were brave enough to say, "I'm gonna do something about it." We might not all be brave enough, but perhaps we can all try to care.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

catholic and proud of it

I was having breakfast this morning with a couple of people at work, and one of them was going on about how the speaker that they had invited to a conference they were organizing was making unreasonable demands. She said she wished the speaker would just outright refuse their invitation instead. She already had a replacement speaker in mind, who was a "Christian" and who would be sure to do it out of service. The original speaker, she surmised, was not acting on pure motives. And then she added, "Unsa man gud na sya? Catholic?"

I tried to ignore the comment. Religion, I think, is one of those topics where people think what they want to think and dismiss those who disagree with them. Debates are engaged in, not to search for truth, but to prove oneself right. I've always believed that the answer will finally and irrefutably come to us only when we're dead and it smacks us in the face. Meanwhile, I think that God reveals Himself to each and every one of us, and if He chooses to reveal Himself to us in different ways, that's totally His prerogative.

Still, the more I thought about the comment, the more it made me angry. Perhaps it's partly pride, that someone should make snide remarks about MY religion. But, partly, I also couldn't help thinking, "How dare SHE?"

Put some emphasis on the word "she." This person, the one who made the remark, is very vocal about how she is a "Christian." That proclamation often raises eyebrows, however, because one can never imagine Jesus Christ being like HER. She is quick to notice the flaws of others, and is always interested in the controversial aspects of other people's lives. If she were a character in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, she would be Miss Stephanie. But I will never forget how, when she learned about a doctor in Cebu who tested positive for HIV, she immediately called up a lot of friends and spread the word. To me, that was just disgusting. Even presupposing that HIV is a disease you would rarely find in the morally upright, I don't think even "Christians" have the right to spread that kind of news around. I knew the doctor concerned and grieved when I learned the news. But there was not even a tinge of grief in her voice as she related the story to her friends. More like excitement, I must say.

I'm quite aware, of course, that shedding doubt on a person's character does not automatically render that person's statements questionable. Still, a criticism of Catholics coming from HER is just toooooo muuuuuuch.

That's not to say that there is nothing to criticize about us Catholics. On the contrary, I'm fully aware that we, in general, have too many flaws for comfort. I'm not speaking for all Catholics, of course, or even most Catholics. But just from personal experience, and from observation of those Catholics that I know (family, friends, etc.), there are many aspects of our Christian life that can and should be improved. We read the Bible too rarely. Devotion to saints and to Mother Mary often gets carried away. The personal lives of priests can be horrendous. And so on, and so on.

But are flaws really limited to the Catholics? I don't know, really. Maybe they are. Maybe all the Protestants in the world know the Bible from cover to cover. Maybe they all are more saintly than even the Catholic saints. Maybe they're all nice people who do everything out of pure motives and out of the goodness of their hearts. Good for them, then.

But I say this for myself, as a Christian, and, yes, as a Catholic. I am NOT a good person. I'm a sinner through and through. I don't always have the best motives. I don't always do things out of the goodness of my heart. My heart isn't even that good. My knowledge of the Bible is limited and childish. I own 4 editions of the Bible and I haven't read even a quarter of one, and that's ridiculous. I don't have a regular prayer time. I spend too little time praying. I don't live my love for God as I should. If, as that rhetorical question goes, Christians were being persecuted, they wouldn't find enough evidence to find me guilty. I am a lousy, LOUSY Christian.

But you know what? God still loves me. I am a bad person and that's precisely why He came down from heaven and died for me.

Maybe Catholics are lousy Christians. But they're still Christians. We believe Jesus came down from heaven and died on the cross in order to save us. We don't think good works can save us. That bit of misinformation comes from Catholics too stupid to understand Catholic theology. We try to be good because that's what true Christians do. We don't intend to replace faith with works: we believe works are natural consequences of a true living Christian faith.

Heaven is something we will never deserve. It is Jesus' gift, and we received it when we were baptized as infants. We receive it every year, on Easter Sunday, as we consciously renew our baptismal vows.

What a cruel joke God would have played on us if, after receiving the gift of eternal life, we should find heaven populated by people who are always judging other people and delighting in talking about others' misfortunes.

***

For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish people. - 1 Peter 2:15

Friday, February 15, 2008

and the winner is...

Ma'am Glory and Reverend!! Woohoo!!

I'm not supposed to be biased, being one of the organizers, but I'm really glad our VOTE FOR LOVE campaign turned out the way it did. Dr. Gam is one of the coolest persons I know, but Ma'am Glory makes me laugh so hard, my sides ache. Plus she's had this crush on Rev for the longest time. It's nice to know some wishes do come true, even if things don't always work out in the end in the way we expect or hope.

I alternately laugh and cringe in embarrassment whenever I think about my past crushes and how I coped with my often unreciprocated "feelings" (eeeww, sounds so high school!). I was in Grade 2 when my friends first asked me who my crush was. I barely even knew the meaning of the word, but they all had theirs, so I made up one on the spot. Genius that I was, I chose a classmate, and ended up being teased for supposedly liking someone I actually didn't. Which is kind of sad, because you only get to have one first crush in your lifetime, and why waste it on a fake one? At any rate, the real crushes came and went, but it took me a while to learn a valuable lesson: most girls, even those who are supposed to be your friends, aren't to be trusted about keeping secrets as juicy as who has a crush on whom. On hindsight, though, secret crushes just aren't as fun as those you've told a few people about. What's the point of being kilig when you have no one to share it with?

Perhaps someday I'll write about my own love story. (Would anyone actually be interested in reading about it? Hehehe! If I make it sound funny, maybe someone would.) For now, maybe I'll just list the ones I like:

The Bronze Bow - is not actually a love story but I like the way that Malthace and Daniel grow to love each other through the experiences they share. Malthace waits for Daniel to make the first move (I always approve of this strategy, ahehehe!) Daniel thinks he can't possibly be any good for Malthace, but he eventually stands by how he feels (good for him! hehe...) and they end up together.

The Notebook - what I like about it is that they die together...now that would be a cool way to go. No grieving for the loss of the love of your life. No wondering what you're going to do now that he's gone.

The Horse and His Boy - one of the books in the Narnia series. Also not actually a love story; also about a boy and a girl who get together because of the adventures they shared. Well, it's not really because of the adventures they shared, but that's what got them together in the first place, and they fall in love because they're good for each other.

Elizabethtown - the love story between Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst is original, and I like it that the girl here is just crazy, hehe!

Good Will Hunting - I can't decide whether I want to be the girl or the genius. Intelligence is sexy, hehe!

Tonette and Laurjie are packing up, so I guess I'll just end the list here. My favorite love stories have a common factor: they all have happy endings. Here's hoping all of you who read this live out your own happy endings. ;-D

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

VOTE FOR LOVE

When I was younger, I always viewed Valentine's Day with mixed feelings: I knew, was almost certain, that nothing even remotely romantic would happen to me. Nothing happened last year; nothing happened the other year, and all the other years before -- why should this year be any different? But always there was that grain of hope that, just maybe, something would. Maybe the universe would conspire for me, for once, and not against me: maybe this was the year I would spend my first Valentines with the person that God had created for me. Ha ha ha. Fat chance. I wasn't a hopeless romantic, but I gradually began to think I was hopeless. I turned into a February sourgraper, until fate gleefully challenged all my assumptions.

My first Valentines date was hilarious. I didn't realize it would be in a place without a bathroom, and I spent the entire night trying to restrain my bladder. Well, not the entire night. Before we left, my mother told me she was expecting me back home at 9 PM. (For the record, I was already TWENTY-TWO years old!! Hahahahaha!) We managed to negotiate it to 10 PM. (I'm generally a dutiful daughter.) Just as well, because my bladder couldn't have lasted till 10:30.

That first Valentines was also bittersweet. My family -- my father, mother, sister and I -- used to spend Valentines day together, going out for dinner and having a happy family time. That year, my father got 4 sets of silverware, like he always did. He realized his mistake and sadly returned the 4th spoon and fork: for the first time, they would be needing just three.

Now, just when I'd gotten used to having a date on Valentines, I will, once again, be dateless. I'll be on twenty-four-hour duty and will most likely spend the night attending to gunshot wounds (of those facing the firing squad, ahehehe...) and such other surgical mishaps befalling the in-love and the loveless alike. Those of you who will be going on dates, please take a moment to remember those of us who won't be, in the service of humanity. Hehe, not that we wouldn't wriggle our way out of a rotten schedule if we had half the chance. But, seriously... I know this because my father works for an airline, which, just like hospitals, restaurants and other service-oriented institutions, continues operating even on red-letter days. During those special days of the year, while we're having a warm, wonderful time with our family and friends, a lot of people aren't, because they're on duty, because the rest of the world still needs to travel or still wants to dine out or still gets sick even on holidays. So, well, do take the time to thank those people, even just silently.

Oh, don't thank me! I'm the one trying to depress you. ;-D

At any rate, I've already anticipated, and come to terms with, a boring Valentines Day this year. That's the reason why I'm enthusiastically working on our PGI batch's Valentines fundraiser: a contest entitled "Vote for Love." (Ahh, the reason for this blog's title surfaces.) At the suggestion of Dr. Charo Amasula, we asked the entire hospital to nominate couples who aren't together yet but are so obviously meant to be. Each nomination costs P10, and subsequent votes cost P1. We're entering the Final Round tomorrow, and two leaders have emerged: Dr. Gam Garcia and Ms. Pinpin Tan, both still single; and Reverend Golosino and Ma'am Glory, both widowed. Hey, if romance isn't in the air for me, at least, it'll be in the air for one lucky couple. And who knows (as our advertisement goes), one of them just might find true love this Valentines. Won't that be a nice PGI "project"?

"Love is just a word, until someone you meet gives it a proper meaning."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

the curse of jeanette

After weeks of planning a trip to Siquijor, I bailed out on Jeanette and went to Casaroro Falls instead. "Dili feel" is a reason as good enough as any, I suppose, but I still felt guilty. I was also a little afraid: Siquijor is home to many mangbabarang, and I was afraid Jeanette would be angry enough to enlist their services.

A drizzle greeted us -- Brian, Tonette, Anning, Jouie, Dr. Amasula (a.k.a. Chona) and me -- when we arrived at Forest Camp. While we had a lunch of roasted chicken and liempo, I noticed a guy fanning what looked like raw fish on the outdoor grill despite the rain, and I commented, "Kaluoy pod ana niya oy, naninguha gyu'g sugba bisa'g nag-uwan." We all broke out in laughter minutes later when the guy approached our table and we realized that it was Dr. Aplaon, an orthopedic surgeon at SUMC, unrecognizable in a shirt and shorts.

Different locals had different opinions as to how far the falls were from Forest Camp and how long it would take us to walk the entire way, but everyone thought we were crazy to attempt it. Pride, however, urged us to panindigan what we started. We therefore spent over an hour walking uphill, all the while trying to catch our breaths and trying not to mind too much the screams of pain from each and every muscle fiber in our lower extremities. Moreover, the skies were an angry grey, and it looked like at any minute the rain would begin again.

The curse of Jeanette, I thought. Soon we would be feeling piercing pain all over our bodies once the mangbabarang starts on our voodoo dolls.

When we finally made it to the entrance of the falls, we had to make our way down some 300 steps to get to the river bank, and then we had to walk a few yards more to get to where the falls dropped. I was filming Anning using Brian's camera and failed to notice the falls when we got there. Brian and Tonette laughed when, after putting the camera away, I was suddenly transfixed. Before me, dropping from an impossible height and surrounded by deep green foliage, was the most beautiful waterfall I'd ever seen.

A wizard of words might be able to describe just how amazing Casaroro Falls is; I can't. You have to be there to understand the awe I felt. The falls is framed by rugged black stone and drops from a height of a hundred feet into a basin of ice-cold green water that laps against huge stone boulders. The whole area is enclosed by lush foliage, dark green because of the limited sunlight that gets past the towering cliff and overhanging trees. The roar of the water is majestic more than musical, and you get the feeling that you are encountering nature as it should be.

In the end, Jeanette turned out to be very gracious about my decision not to go with them to Siquijor. My thighs and calves no longer burn with pain. All is well that ends well enough. But in my mind's eye, I can still see a waterfall; in my soul I feel the majesty of its Creator; in my heart I feel His love and mercy. If there was anything I'd learned today, it's humility.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

murder i wrote

I abandoned my dream of being a writer when I realized there were times when I can think of absolutely nothing to write about. I always thought having a column in a newspaper or magazine would be cool, but the challenge to regularly think of something witty or inspiring or in whatever way worth reading can be daunting. Writing for myself, in a blog tucked in a small corner of the world wide web, affords me the liberty of writing sporadically or feverishly, whichever I feel like doing.

Last night, though, Dr. Rebaya and Sherwin and I were starting our evening rounds when the hospital's PA system suddenly blared: "Surgical resident to the Emergency Room NOW!"

We all rushed to the ER, where Brian was already on the verge of intubating an unconscious, mud-covered, bloody-faced man in Bed 4. (Bed 4 is the ER bed you wouldn't want to be in. It's right next to the cardiac monitor and the emergency cart, so that's where they put all the bad cases.) The man who brought the patient in had found him lying in a ditch by the road, right next to an overturned motorcycle. An MVA, we all thought. (Short for motor vehicular accident, the staple of most Surgery ER cases.) He smelled of alcohol, so it was easy to think of why he was lying in the ditch. We resuscitated him for almost an hour, but his pupils were already dilated, and there was blood continuously spilling from his ears, nose and mouth. He finally flatlined and was pronounced dead.

After we'd stripped off the ECG wires, the cardiac monitor leads, the oxygen tubing and the IV, we decided to examine him from head to toe to document all his injuries, something we didn't have the luxury of doing while we were resuscitating him. We turned him from side to side and noted his abrasions and contusions, and then Sherwin poked a gloved finger in the laceration we'd noticed earlier at the back of his head. To all our surprise, Sherwin's finger went right through the skull. We all tried it and we noticed bone fragments sticking to his brains. Dr. Rebaya decided to order a skull X-ray post-mortem. It was a good thing he did: the X-ray showed a bullet lodged in the patient's brain.

The ER immediately started buzzing. The man had eventually been identified as the chief of police in Bacong, the town next to Dumaguete. He had taken alcohol that night, but no one had witnessed what actually happened to him. Speculations about who shot him were put forth and discussed. We all joked whether Brian would be called in as an expert witness if ever the killer was found and tried. I thought it exceedingly lucky that Dr. Rebaya had decided to order the X-ray. If we'd signed off the patient as just another motor vehicular accident, the killer would have laughed his brains off at us. As we headed back upstairs to continue our rounds, I thought, well, maybe I'll go to Noriter tomorrow and write about that.



Not that the 2 weeks that I haven't written anything here have been uneventful. Let's see: we went to Pulangbato, somewhere in Valencia, where there's a beautiful aqua waterfall set against a backdrop of, you guessed it, red rocks. Well, they were more orangey, actually. There was a smaller waterfall below which they'd made a pool, and the water was so tempting Jeanette jumped into it in her jeans. ;-D I hadn't brought a change of clothes so I stayed at the wooden picnic table by the pool. Contrary to popular opinion, I wasn't actually jealous of those who'd jumped in. Pulangbato is the kind of place where you're just glad to be there. The waterfall was awe-inspiring, the route leading to it was ruggedly beautiful, and there was even a place where, on one side, white sulfur fumes was coming out of the side of a mountain, and on the other was a cliff below which was a verdant valley where a river was flowing through red-orange rocks. Swimming would have been a bit of an anticlimax.

Then there was Dr. Cruz's birthday party, the first party I'd been to where almost everyone around me was drinking and yet I wasn't bored. I almost always get bored when people start drinking. But I wasn't then.

I also got to watch Fiddler on the Roof at Luce and it was really nice. The actor who played Tevye was really good: his acting was effortless, and he made his character shine with dignity as well as humor. I'd watched the movie as a kid but I'd forgotten the entire story except for 2 scenes: the one where Tevye is frozen as he is thinking, and his blue eyes almost pop out; and the one where he says that if the whole world operated on the concept of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, then everyone would be blind and toothless.

And, oh yeah, my sister visited me here for two whole hours! ;-D I took her to Cafe Antonio, which she immediately loved for its outdoor/indoor cafe feel and its swing. (Another place y'all must visit if you ever find yourself here in Dumaguete.)

Now Valentine's is coming up. I've already had my Valentine's day surprise: a bouquet of red roses from Aivan. (And he was surprised, too, when he learned the florist had sent only 11 roses instead of 12, hahaha!) I bet Valentine's day itself will be boring. But hopefully not. Who knows? At the risk of sounding corny (and at the risk of another series of laguv from Brian), life truly is an adventure, one day at a time. Blog-worthy or not. When I think about the future, my courage sometimes fails. But when I think of it, in the words of Tirian, the last King of Narnia, as "the adventure that Aslan sends" me, then I know: I'll be okay. I'm in good hands.