Monday, June 29, 2009

Paris - The last chapter

It's almost the end of June and the final chapter of this blog has been long delayed.

It's been over a month since I returned from Paris but the thought of having been there and having one of the best vacations of my life has lingered on.

Perhaps it's because of the beauty of the place, or the fine food and fashion, or just the sense of going on vacation per se!

What better time to go and spend spring in Paris. Upon arrival at the Charles de Gaulle Airport, we had gone through immigration and customs with a breeze. Just waited for the chauffer for about 5-10 minutes and were whisked off to the hotel. Paris at 8pm was still bright and the sun was still up. After unpacking, it was off to the Arc d' Tromphe for us and it was a wonderful 1 mile stroll down the stretchy tourist lane.

Paris is not Paris without visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and gazillions of other churches and museums. Paris is not Paris without strolling down Champ d'Elysees and the other high-fashion districts. Paris is not Paris without enjoying the food at the fabulous restaurants including the famous Laduree Patisserie.

Then again, you can always deviate a little like I did - EuroDisneyland at the Chessey exit of the Paris subways, watching the Moulin Rouge show in the red light district, or splurge at the branded name shops Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Ferragamo, Hermes, Zara, Lacoste, Chanel, Prada, Dolce and Gabanna...

There will always be something memorable with Paris. Maybe Milan, Rome and Berlin next year?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Branded vs. Generic Drugs

The government plans to bring the cost of branded (innovator) drugs by half. The top 20 drugs in the market will be the testing ground. This means, for example, that if Lipitor by Pfizer currently sells for P62, it will then cost the consumer P31 if this plan pushes through. Minus the 20% senior citizen discount, it will total P25 at retail price.

This is part of the Cheaper Quality Medicines Act of 2008. A maximum retail price CAN BE imposed by the government for drugs that are highly needed in times of an emergency situation.

Which goes to the question - are these drugs whose prices are to be lowered being done so in an emergency situation? Lipitor, an antihyperlipidemic agent, for example is NOT classified as such because there are other statins that work the same way and are abundant in the market.

It also poses the question that while the intentions may be good, it defames the very purpose of having generic equivalents available in the market. Does that mean that the government is "forcing" the industry to bring down the cost of branded drugs because the generic equivalents in the market are lousy and they are not effective at all?

Of course, the industry will simply follow what the government will impose, but this will not be a healthy business environment for the pharmaceutical industry in the Philippines. It will mean that when the cost of drugs are cut, so will the jobs of those in the pharmaceutical business.

One cannot but help wonder if the DOH is being pressed to do this to gain points for the current health secretary in the upcoming elections should he plan to run for senator.

As secretary of health, he must swallow the bitter pill and not join the bandwagon of political nincompooops who are capitalizing on pleasing an ignorant public on a law that is all wrong in the first place.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The road most traveled

Normally, I do the writing. Today, I do the sharing. I often read the Young Blood column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and sometimes like what I read. Not until now do I share one article, which I believe had good insight, depth, and meaning. I edited it to be a bit more concise, but am retaining the meat of the article.

It's written by Paolo Bonifacio...

I am what many people today call a "corporate slave". It's a term that refers to a guy who practically lives in front of his computer and drowns himself in work, sometimes even on weekends. I'm a guy who's been voted "Office King" and "Mr. Homeless" for three straight reunions since graduating from college

It was amusing the first time I won such a mock award. It became somewhat embarrassing the second time around, and an the third, it's just downright sad. It has me think about my whole life again.

It's not that I hate how my life has turned out thus far - in fact I feel exactly the opposite. But I imagine that if the world were different, I might have ended up as a wandering musician, instead of a management consultant. I once imagined a life of traveling around the world with my suitcase and my guitar, living for the moment, loudly and freely and playing my music wherever there would be people to listen to it. Today, I work in a business wherein getting on a plane one moment and making a presentation before an important audience the next is a normal part of the job. the difference is that I carry a laptop instead of a guitar, and the audiences I have are serious-minded business people, who don't really care about melodies or notes, but bottom-line figures and savings.

Indeed, we live in a world where we don't always end up doing the things we think we were meant to do in life...I have a good friend who I believe was born for the outdoors...In another time and place, he could have been something like a lion hunter or the leader of an army. In this universe, however, he is a graphic artist in a multimedia agency, a career of which I believe he has grown somewhat tired of though it does pay the bills and helps support his siblings.

In a generation wherein mottos such as "live out your dreams" or "follow your passion" are celebrated nearly to the point of becoming cliches, the road most traveled, for me and countless other youths today, often runs in the opposite direction of our dreams. We go to school, discover our innermost talents and passions, and yet many of us graduate to find ourselves leading very predictable, ordinary lives. For some it's an 8 to 5 office job in a BPO or a bank; for others it's a life of a nurse or a contract worker abroad. We seldom end up as the artists or adventurers we dreamed ourselves to be as children.

Those of us who go against the flow are the courageous few. With luck, some actually turn out to be rock stars, but unfortunately making a living remains a struggle for many others. I believe, however, there is a price they pay willingly to remain true to themselves.

I sometimes wonder what my friends say about me, now that we've all grown up and taken separate paths in life...the truth is, the life and the choices I've made thus far have served me well. I admit it isn't exactly the most exciting, out-of-the-box lifestyle...But through my hard work and sacrifices, I manage to earn enough to take care of myself and, to a certain extent, help support my family and my loved ones. I was able to buy my mom the home entertainment set she had always wanted. I am able to lend my dad money every now and then to balance our farm's irregular cash flow requirements. And one day, I will have saved enough to marry the girl of my dreams and build a comfortable home for my own family. It's true that I never got to perform with a rock band in front of a large audience, but I am happy striving for simple, yet meaningful dreams in this life. And all things considered, I have no regrets.

Martin Heidegger once said that our lives are characterized by a certain "throwness", that we are beings thrown into this world, into the here and now, into a time and place that define the kind of lives we lead. I believe we are thrown into a time in history and into a part of the world wherein social and economic conditions simply call us to become BPO agents instead of poets, or nurses instead of ballerinas. It's just the way things are, and I believe that we must neither curse nor reject these circumstances, but rather embrace them as a part of our lives. In the end, it is not the path that you walk that matters, but how you walk on it.

...never let go of your dream. Strive to earn the freedom to pursue them one day. And never be ashamed of yourself, even if you are branded as ordinary, or dry, or unexciting. Be proud of who you are. Be proud of what you do. Fight on. Walk on.

(Photo by flicker: eyeore2710)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Birthday blues

It's that time of year when I start counting my age.

I actually stopped counting last year. Held a bash to celebrate 50 years, and instead of buying the Audi that I've always wanted, had my house renovated.

Another year, another chapter in my life unfolding.

I count the grey hairs that appear or the flab that's developing in my gut, or the temperamental mood swings I go through (which of course were present even when I was younger), or the number of tablets of drugs I need to take to keep my blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar in control, or the number of hours I need to stay on the treadmill to burn that fat that I build each time I take one bite off a chocolate bar or the many times that I wake up in the middle of the night wondering why in God's name I'm wide awake at 1am...yup, it's another year and I've crossed the golden border.

I recall the younger years and how much has changed since 25 years ago. My status in life, my career path, my love life, my relationships with the people who have come and gone, my bank account, and I cannot help but wonder how I made it through and be where I am today.

Life, is simply a roller coaster ride. Some day you're up, other times you're down and out. Sometimes the good days outnumber the bad, and vice-versa. Life will never be what we want it to be, as fate and destiny play vital roles.

When I finished medical school, I thought of repaying my parents for all the hardship they had to go through so that I could graduate from medicine. Payback was part of my agenda but tragedy would strike and my dad eventually became bed ridden. It was also then that I had the opportunity to do more postgraduate training at Boston University. The fork in the road. The choice I had to make - stay and take care of dad or leave and find my destiny.

Leaving my parents at a time of difficulty was heart breaking and I had more insecurities in a place I was unfamiliar with. But I knew that there were people rooting for me and people who really cared. After training, I passed up an opportunity to work at Boston University Hospital in spite of the offer for an H1 visa. I returned home and started to care for my parents.

Fate was not kind because soon after I had returned, my father passed away. And my mom had gone through periods of depression.

Those years of having to balance my life with the challenges it posed left my soul scarred and I desperately began my search for meaning to life, or something like it...I desperately clung to asking God for answers to questions I was even afraid to ask myself.

Each year passed quickly as I buried myself in work. This year will be another year that marks a milestone for me. In a few days I will celebrate the last leg of my journey towards my senior year.

With the help of my dermatologist, Shiseido, Shu Uemura and Tri-aktiline, I probably can visibly shed a few years off my age in looks. But life has taught me the lessons that have me hopefully more prepared for the final leg of enjoying life to the fullest. After all, I can only share my journey with all of you who have made my world worth living.

It's time to age gracefully!