Sunday, February 28, 2010

Why me?

That's a familiar statement that we make.

And it seems that each time we're in a rut, or don't get what we pray for, or get by passed during a promotion, or end up being broken hearted - we ask the proverbial question - WHY ME?

Failing seems to be an anathema in our lives. Worst part of it is that many (if not all of us) pray so hard that not getting an answer to our requests through prayers does not come well for those that don't get what they pray for. Why me? we ask...and then we lose our faith.


In 1983, I almost lost it all. From the time I stepped into kindergarten, I knew I was intelligent. Straight A student, top of the class, top of the heap, Dean's lister, gold medalist, you name it, you've got it.

During the oral revalida for my final year in medical school, my tribunal thought I did poorly. In a class of 400 students, I was the only one in my class that failed. It was devastating. My parents would not see me graduate.

Tatay had always wanted me to be a doctor. It was not part of my plan in life. But we compromised. I finished my mathematics degrees, and went into med school. And I saw Tatay and Inang scrimp to the very last centavo. Even when I found med school utterly boring and brainless, I did my best to make sure that my parents would see a doctor in the family. We were not poor. But we were not rich either. And every centavo counted. It came from blood, sweat, and tears.

I did not want to disappoint my parents.

I did not want to disappoint myself.

It was the year that I wanted to die. After the miserable failure, I swore never to go back to med school. I smoked 2 packs of cigarette a day. Didn't want to eat or get out my bedroom. Cried all day and all night. I was up all night asking God - Why me? Of all the idiots in the class - why me? Of all the nights I was up bringing parts of the cadaver home or poring through voluminous chapters of Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Medicine, Anatomy, Neurology....why me?

I gave up my social life. My love life. My sex life. My night life. Anything that had to do with life and the life thereafter, I gave it all up. Why me?

One week after feeling shitty and sorry for myself and my parents feeling bad about "forcing" me into med school, a good friend told me that "I deserved to fail". It's people like who make the worst doctors. And the tribunal was right in their decision. How I accept that decision, would be my fate...and mine alone. Seven days later, I walked back into the emergency room for my pediatrics duty. Everyone burst into a loud clap. And life would never be the same again.

Fast forward.

Why not me?

These are the words that rarely come out of us. We think that the world owes us everything. Even in prayers, it is always the I and rarely the WE. And when we do not seem to get what we wish for, we are full of anger. We forget the good graces and opportunities we have been given. We are disappointed and we feel abandoned.

I blog about this today, because a very special person in my life is depressed over the "why me" situation. If she is reading this blog today, I can only tell her that life is never fair. For every sunshine, there will always be rain. For good times, there will always be bad.

There are moments when we are at our lowest. We have no friends, no family, practically no one to turn. Or that even the most comforting of words will not drown our sorrows. But it's alright. We have the right to feel this way. Even if our prayer is not answered today, I have found out that God has given me a trial that I needed to surpass on my own, so that I can always remember my crucifixion...die a resurrection...and say why not me?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Summer and the Stars

It's that time of the year when you know that summer is fast approaching.

Hot as it is outside, the asphalt pavements are all cracked up from the heat. But nothing beats the heat of the festive mood in the Philippines as summer approaches. Aside from the upcoming election, each summer brings back memories of youth.

I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I was breastfed up to the age of 1. I never grew up with grandparents or relatives that were doting. And my parents were very young and hardly knew how to raise a child. Perhaps those are enough reasons why I am allowed to be a little bit crazy, a little bit weird, and dream a lot...

Unlike most children that looked forward to summer because their parents planned trips together with them, I faintly recalled my parents ever bringing us out for the 'summer holiday'.

While I and my sister were growing up, tatay was trying to make ends meet. Inang was busy trying to learn to be both a housewife and a mother. And my sister and I were left to imagining the sun, the seas, the stars.

During the summer, we would run outside the house looking for playmates and when we could not find any, we would run back to our rented apartment and put up the large blankets and play store. I had a fascination for delicatessens.

, a local patisserie, is much older than me. It was the swankiest pastry shop this side of town then. When tatay once took us to Dulcinea, I knew I fell in love not only with the delicious pastries but the elegance and the way it was served. They were all lined up in a huddle, and my little face was plastered on the glass display cabinet - craving at the cakes and smelling the aroma of coffee, churros and baked pastries. It was heaven on earth. And the crumpled 50 peso bill from tatay's old wallet would mean a special cake for his precious angels who stood beside him at the counter with their mouth watering for the eclair or churros or sansrival...Tatay would remind us that then the 50 pesos was all he made from the week of selling shoes in the sweltering summer heat. But today, it would be spent watching his two children gobble up the sweet pastries. And that would leave a smile on his tired face.

Back at home, the summers of my childhood would be a world of make believe. My sister and I would use plastic poker chips used by my parents for mahjong and the mahjong tablets and domino tablets as make-believe pastries. The other toys we had, we assembled altogether and would play store the whole day - imagining our own little Dulcineas in our lives...

During the later part of high school and my early college years, each Lenten season heralded summer. That was as far as I could remember. As long as it was lent, it was summer. And the summer escapades now grew to a drive to Los Banos to soak in the hot springs or to a beach in Cavite, to frolic in the sand and sun. Both my sister and I were always excited when it was summer time, as it gave us the opportunity to travel...outside the confines of our home, and the city. Again, unlike most families that spent "quality time" bonding together, spending overnight vacations out of town or out of the country, my parents always reminded us to be frugal. And that we needed to save and scrimp because after the summer sun, came the rainy season.

They did not mean that literally. As a figure of speech, I guess both of them always referred to the fact that right after the summer vacation, it was enrollment time again. And since both I and my sister went to exclusive schools in the city, we really needed the money. There were times when I would reuse the same set of pants or shirt or socks for two school years so that my parents could send us to a good school.

College was different. Tatay had better pay and while his income was now regular, he wanted to build a house. Which meant that we would be scrimping again. Tatay had a dream and he talked about it at the dinner table every night. I have never seen him that excited. We would have a house of our own now. No more renting he would say. He needed to borrow money. And after 10 years of amortization, the house would be ours, he would exclaim. He hired an architect, brought home the plans, and our family of 4 would pore over the blueprints and began to dream.

He then bought a lot. In January of 1975 the construction of the house began. No feng shui dates. Right after Christmas of 1974 we watched them dig a hole in the lot. And brick by brick, stone by stone, it rose. Every weekend, tatay would drive us to the construction site and we would see how much work and sacrifice had gone to watching our dream come to be.

That summer, I began to work at my uncle's hardware store. I was the cashier for his store, while his whole family would take a week vacation in the summer capital, Baguio. And while I envied my cousins who enjoyed each summer on weekly or monthly holidays while I took care of their store, I saw the fruits of my dad's dream come to fruition. In August of 1975, we had moved to our new home.

For the next four summers, I would spend my summers working at my uncle's hardware for a little more cash to save...for those rainy days and those little wants and desires.

Life after the house that was built during the summer of 1975 would never be the same again.

Today, my mom and I still live in the house that tatay has undergone two renovations over the years since tatay passed away in 1994, exactly 9 days after my birthday.

Even though the house is old, it has stood the test of time. When tatay passed away, I told Inang that I would buy us a new home and that we would move on. We had ventured on seeing several other houses, townhouses and condominiums over the past years. But on solid ground of true love and sacrifice our old house stood. And so we continued renovating it. It will probably not set us free. Not yet.

To me, it is home. Where once upon a time in the summers of our lives, a young boy grew up to dream of the stars...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bitching 101 - Willie Revillame and Tiger Woods

After the fall from grace, Tiger Woods announced that he would be making a comeback in the golfing circuit.

But many of his once major sponsors are too spooked to endorse him the second time around.

Vanity Fair featured him in January 2010. On the cover was a buffed Tiger Woods. Inside the magazine is the story of a man who led double lives.

He rose to fame winning over 70 professional golf association tournaments, endorsing several sports wear, drinks, aids, branded watches, and being the richest professional athlete of his time. At 21, he had stunned the world by capturing prestigious gold tournaments after golf tournament events. At 33, his double life had caught up with him. In a dazzling dip from his popularity, a car accident had revealed the indiscretions - his taste for kinky sex (threesomes with women on women being his fave, s/m play, sex addiction, pay for fee escorts, dirty text messages and porn) and his affiliation with a doctor known for providing regulated (read, prohibited) drugs for performance enhancing (read, steroids and growth hormones).

His marriage became a sham. A beautiful wife was emotionally battered. Irreconcilable differences led to his crucifixion by media. And his meteoric rise to fame would be erased in one day. In the history of sports victory, the life story of Woods would be the kind of tale that would be talked about in years to come. Even Hugh Hefner had puked over the pornographic lifestyle of Woods.

In retrospect, even in his interviews during his early beginnings, there were signs of immaturity, of proclivity to the world of sex and sex and more sex...

Has America forgiven their favorite son? Perhaps not that soon and while Woods tries to make this comeback, he will be facing the greatest challenge of his life from a country that once placed him on a pedestal. In a country that has made Tiger, the Americans are not the kind that will soon forget the shame he has brought on them.

Back in the Philippines, Willie Revillame is no Tiger Woods.

Revillame is a rags to riches story. As a comedian in many two bit slapstick movies, he crawled his way to fame and fortune. Unlike Pacquiao and perhaps Manny Villar, Revillame is a different breed.

Ricky Lo in his column in the Philippine Star had two pages dedicated to the P145M mansion that Revillame had recently bought and furbished. Aside from that is the lot right in front of ABS-CBN which Revillame had bought from Freddie Garcia (former ABS-CBN president) to the tune of P45M. A mall, called Wil's Mall, owned by Revillame and co-developed by Manny Villar is now rising right there.

What is astonishing is how much does Revillame actually make? He has only his Wowowee show on ABS-CBN. It is reported that he makes P1M per show (minus taxes should be about P700,000, that is IF he pays taxes). Then there are of course his record albums. But he is not a singer. Even in the CD albums, he cannot sing. He simply talks and rants and they say...raps? But it is reportedly always a best seller. Duh??!?!?! Talk about the deaf.

And there is Bench. No, he is not an underwear model (God forbid, otherwise Bench would go bankrupt). But what the? Cologne by Revillame? What's with the scent? He's a model? He doesn't even have the looks and the brawn for it.

And there is TechnoMarine. This is one expensive watch. But I do not think that his followers could actually afford this watch, so what's with TechnoMarine's take on Revillame endorsing them?

In the Philippines, the following of Revillame is actually the masses belonging to the first and second wealth quintile of society. Probably a sprinkling of those belonging to the third and probably a rarity from the 4th and 5th quintiles. So I have my doubts on TechnoMarine's sales going up because Revillame is endorsing it. And I have my doubts that he actually sells CD albums or colognes to this segment of society as well.

Revillame's fame is actually mass based. Like Woods, Revillame has had his stories of indiscretion (wild women, young women and failed marriages) and scandals (Ultra stampede and deaths). Unlike Woods, Revillame has a penchant to show off. Revillame attributes it to hard work.

I disagree. Revillame owes his fame and fortune to the poor. They, whom he has fooled. I've always said - there is no greater fool than the fool that was fooled by a fool. Madaling mauto ang mahirap. Kahit na kaluluwa nila itataya nila, lumabas lang sila sa telebisyon. And most, if not all the game shows have hosts that not only make fools out of the contestants (especially the local game shows), but have this penchant to make them really look stupid on the air.

Look at some of the game shows - from Deal or No Deal, to Game Ka Na Ba or the noontime game shows of Eat Bulaga, or the defunct the Singing Bee...- notice how they treat the contestant if the contestant is a celebrity and if the contestant is the ordinary Juan de la Cruz? Babuyin na si Juan de la Cruz pero hangaan ang damit ni Kim Chiu. Leche talaga ang buhay.

Wow! Revillame apparently has a helicopter, a yacht, dozens of expensive cars, million peso houses, lives the lifestyle of the super rich...nothing wrong here, but where is his money coming from? If the show hosts in this country are making so much dough, the BIR should be running after all of the movie actors, actresses, show hosts, wannabe actors and actresses, whatever! They seem to be making gazillions and are not afraid to flaunt what they have. With what Revillame makes, and what the BIR taxes, he must be paying about P150M a year at the minimum - if he actually pays his taxes.

But the Filipino unlike the American is a forgiving race. A forgetful race. A different breed.

For a country that is so poor, where the idiots take the lunatics for a ride, the fall from grace in this country is actually a redemptive value because the Pinoys love an underdog. The tears that Revillame sheds on TV buys the general public into accepting him into their fold.

It is because his life story is the kind of story that every Filipino dreams of.

And the difference between Woods and Revillame is the kind of people they pan to, that are are willing to be taken for a ride.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

40 days

This Sunday marks the first day of lent.

At the traffic light on my way to church, I had seen a young boy of about 12 caressing the face of a 1 year old in his hand. Both were sitting on the very hot pavement, baking under the scorching sun.

These two young mendicants had no right to be where they are. It's a Sunday. They should be at home playing or in the mall strolling with their parents or in the park running free - just doing what children do - being carefree.

But they were begging for a morsel of bread.

Today's gospel is the temptation of Jesus Christ in the desert. After fasting for 40 days and nights, he was tempted by the devil three times - to turn stone to bread, to have the kingdom of the world as long as Jesus worshiped him, and the dare to throw himself over the parapet of a temple and prove that if Jesus was truly God's son, the angels would save Him.

That was the desert story of Jesus. But we too have our desert stories to tell. To the majority of us, not everything in our lives is provided on a silver platter. Even the best of families or relationships go through trials. Betrayals. Lost of loved ones. Pain. Agony. Defeat.

And yes, temptations. A choice between materialism and worldly wants. Our search for paradise on earth or in the life after and the meaning of life.

Just like the young boy and the toddler on the hot Sunday afternoon, they too have their forty days in the desert.

"When we trust God, we understand that our lives have our own forty days in the wilderness. There is strength that we can draw, a strength that displays sense of hope and an experience of inner faith in God's son, whose desert experience touches our own."

It is our road to Calvary.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bitching 101 - The statistics and politics of money

Who says you can't buy the presidency?

Like the Wowowee game show, the Pinoy is treated to two choices in the upcoming 2010 elections - Pera o Bayong? But what the hell? The Pinoy is used to Willie Revillame chanting on the crowd into a frenzy mode.

So...Game na ba kayo?

The AGB Nielsen data showed the advertisement values indicative of advertisement spending for media by the presidential candidates. These are data from November 1, 2009 to January 31, 2010. These do not include the "professional fees" paid to the endorsers and the production costs. They do not include paid game shows for endorsement.

On ad duration of presidential candidates on GMA7 and ABS-CBN2 alone, the top advertisers for this period in minutes were:
1. MANUEL VILLAR, JR (696 mins Ch2, 758.5 mins Ch7)
2. GILBERTO TEODORO, JR (293.75 mins Ch2, 257.75 mins Ch7)
3. RICHARD GORDON (248 mins Ch2, 127.5 mins Ch7)
4. BENIGNO AQUINO III (218.75 mins Ch2, 136.75 mins Ch7)

Clearly, there has been a barrage of advertisements from the Villar camp right after the declaration of candidacy from the Aquino camp. The Villar camp had noticed the sudden drop in statistics from the presidential wannabe and there was a need to hype the campaign strategy to a search and destroy mode.

And now you will hear the familiar tune of poor children singing the Villar national anthem (and I will not be surprised that it can change the more patriotic songs in the near future) where the first line of the song "Nakatulog ka na ba sa dagat na basura..." (Have you ever slept in a sea of garbage...) seems to be a populist hit among the Pinoys.

No need to plaster the pains of poverty IN YOUR FACE. Being poor is not an excuse for being stupid and lazy.

But hey, that's the way the political game plan is set. Flood the airwaves till they make the people zombies and puke and sleep and dream singing the to the tune of the campaign song! Hell hath no greater fury! If you can hypnotize the people into voting for you, darn, go ahead and hypnotize them!!!

The Villar and Teodoro camps have spent formidable expenses even during the pre-campaign period.

On total advertisement cost for the same duration, the top spenders include the following with the corresponding expenses (non inclusive of professional fees, production costs, and other non specified costs related to media campaign [under-the-table grease expense, endorsement fees, freebies...etc]):

1. MANNY VILLAR P1,024,176,253 [73,319,407(radio) , 0 (print), 950,856,846 (TV)]
2. GIBO TEODORO 407,364,839 [37,276,793 (radio), 1,319,122 (print), 368,768,924 (TV)]
3. NOYNOY AQUINO 268,802,493 [14,220,000 (radio), 440,667(print) , 254,141,826 (TV)]
4. DICK GORDON 244,639,361 [5,964,732 (radio), 0 (print), 238,674,629 (TV)]

It is estimated that since the data presented are all BEFORE the allowed campaign period, and that there is now a limit to the amount of air time in media among these presidentiables, the total cost of advertising alone would balloon to probably P10B (and this is an underestimate). Remember, the TV advertisement values were actually reduced by 50% to arrive at the indicative real advertisement cost. I also deleted my nuisance candidates - ERAP, Brother Eddie, Jamby and the other inconsequential two whose names I cannot even recall.

All these statistics and data show that this is going to be the most expensive election campaign in the history of Philippine elections.

And the gloves are off.

This has become a no-holds barred contest, where everyone who has a stake at the presidential crown is putting in the Money (no pun intended for Manny). At the rate that Manny V seems to be spending surreptitiously and extravagantly, even the air waves is becoming too deafening to hear the pathetic crowd chant the mantra for the song without the actual meaning.

The last radio ad of Manny V includes resurrecting his dead brother into his campaign. This time he is his own endorser. In the 15 second melee he gives a new meaning to word poor. He has used his dead brother (God rest his soul, he must be writhing in his grave though), by emphasizing in his radio ad the query on "have you been so poor that you had a relative die because you had no money to buy medicines? I have. My brother died.." blah blah blah...and then he cuts to the chase that he was once poor (oh so who hasn't? ) and promises to deliver us from poverty...PRAMIS HA?!?!?

My take on the latter is that while I admire the promise, I doubt that he is the messenger sent to deliver the Pinoy from poverty.

The Pinoys are cursed with poverty. Not only do both Pinoy and Poverty begin with the letter P, they are somehow attached to the way of the life among our government officials. Every Philippine president, since time immemorial has never alleviated the Philippines and the Pinoys from poverty.

It's the graft and corruption, the moral standards, the kind of governance, and the payback that mattered most...and will matter most in the end. It's arithmetic stupid! If you can't read between the lines, at least you can see the numbers. But the Pinoy has always been the poorest when it comes to math and numbers. (The Pinoys cannot pride themselves with being good at numbers. Even the ones that won the math contests abroad were Chinoys. Their names all ended with Tan, Lim, Go, Co, Chua, Choi, Eng, Lee...walang de la Cruz, Ampatuan, Arroyo, Mangundadatu, Villar, Aquino, Teodoro, Prieto, Locsin, Binay, Estrada, Madrigal, Ejercito, Revilla sa listahan!!)

Every election is the same. Every promise is renewed just like the proverbial vows we have each Lenten season, or each New Year resolution, or marriage encounters...

Every election, every politician will promise heaven, purgatory and hell to it's people. Even if Gibo has to choose between his mother-in-law or La Gloria, even if Dolphy will have to resurrect from his sick bed to endorse Manny V, even if Brother Eddie and his flock will have to swear by the bible that there will be change and that change is coming and with his staff and rod he will part Manila Bay...they are all the same...

It is election fever.

It is a time for repentance and sacrifice and crucifixion.

It is a time when money flows so freely and abundantly.

It is a time when the statistics show that with so much cash being spent on this election, you know how much and how long the Pinoys will still have to suffer when the winning candidate redeems his expenditures after being elected into office.

I am willing to make a bet that unless these advertisements stop brainwashing the Pinoys into electing the one with the most money to give, we will end up with a the first president who has bought himself his way to the palace.


Note: Some data were obtained from

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My ash wednesday

February 17 marks Ash Wednesday in the Catholic/Christian calendar. The biblical significance is that it heralds the onset of the lenten season - 40 days to Easter Sunday.

It is also the title of two films - but I only saw the one where Elizabeth Taylor and Henry Fonda, which was released in 1973. I must have been a teen then but I can still recall the theme of the film.

"Ash Wednesday" tells the rather sad story of Barbara Sawyer (Elizabeth Taylor) a wealthy woman from Detroit who is entering that difficult period of her life when her visual charms are fading and her equally aging husband (Henry Fonda)is experiencing his own late midlife crisis and looking elsewhere to help make him feel young again. Driven by a desire to please her husband and save her marriage she travels to Italy and undergoes extensive plastic surgery in the vain hope that all their marital problems will evaporate. What she realizes is that time has moved on and both of them have changed over time and now have different needs and directions to go off in. "Ash Wednesday" contains a beautifully restrained performance from Elizabeth. She is in turn afraid of the consequences of the surgery, joyful at the superb results, apprehensive about her husband's feelings towards her and developing a growing confidence in her ability to once again be an interesting and attractive woman in her own right. Often accused of allowing herself to become locked into variations of her Oscar winning performance as Martha in "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf" here Elizabeth takes on a whole different type of character and one which suits her perfectly. Barbara is no shrieking harridan, just a woman rediscovering herself and learning a bit about life and how it works in the process.

The film may have been a very old one, but it's definitely a classic.

We all have an "Ash Wednesday" in our lives. A day of repentance, sacrifice and fasting. A day where we feel that time has passed us by so quickly and that we need to make those sacrifices, retreats, soul searching, mind breaking and heart wrenching decisions in search of our Easter Sunday.

I will not elaborate on the various crossroads I have faced and even the ones I still am about to go through. But one thing I am sure is that I am not the only one with lenten sacrifice in our lives.

Life is never fair and there are times that when we're at our lowest point, it brings out the best in us (or makes us really looney).

The decisions I have made in life may not be the best, but it's what makes my achieve my resurrection.

After Ash Wednesday, we reach the pinnacle of our worst moments in our Good Friday. We die a little only to rise again.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The health of our nation

Last Saturday, Dr. Emmanuel Johann Obana, was interviewed in the Mindanao Agenda.

The latter is an investigative TV program of GMA network in Davao City. Dr. Obana is one of a handful of idealistic doctors in the Philippine government's "Doctors to the Barrio" program.

In the interview, Reporter John Paul Saniel showed how Doc Eman tried to divide a bottle of paracetamol among several kids or how he used one overly used thermometer for practically all patients, or how difficult it was in grabbing a banca (water boat) to see patients that were difficult to reach.

It was in Doc Eman that I flashbacks on my days as training officer for pediatrics of a government hospital (Ospital ng Maynila) and a private hospital (UST Hospital).

My years in training the residents in pediatrics was blood, sweat and tears. It was not the measly pay that the local government provided (P2,400/month and you were required 8 visits a months), or the fact that you had to wait 3 months to get paid (or 6 months on some occasions), or being castigated by some hot shot councilor because the patient's parents were complaining about why we were asking them to buy medicines (answer - because the hospital does not carry it stupid!)...

Yup. Those were the years when I shared my teaching skills with my residents and took the time, patience and sighhhh....even money. But it was hard for some government big time assholes to see the light at the end of the tunnel. To them, even the plight of health care in the Philippines was (and should I say - IS) just a show. The media frenzy is the their big turn on. These shit heads have crap on their shoulders. I hated them - not for their guts, but for their brainless behavior.

I once interviewed a prospective candidate applying for residency in pediatrics. I asked her why she wanted to pursue pediatric training, considering that she is a city health officer (in one of the big cities in Metro Manila) already. She said that the Lina Law on the devolution of the local government had made her mayor lose significant IQ points. In short, he turned from dumb to dumbest overnight. (He's a public official - it was a curse he was to inherit.) He told the local health officials that their pay would be scaled down because NO ONE can get a pay more than his pay! Sounds logical right? Wrong! It's stupid.

We are not mayors. We are doctors.

We cure people and we work more hours toiling to see patients get better.

In our professional practice, we do not steal.

I was appointed to head the pharmacy of the government hospital. On my first day on the job, I was told that there was going to be good news. I am being given P3M to purchase drugs for the 400 bed capacity hospital.

Then the bad news. I will need to spend that money for the purchase of drugs for the whole fiscal year. Watdfuk!?!?!

I did my math. It meant P250,000 in medicines per month. Assuming that there will only be 400 patients for the whole month, (which is the thinking of Councilor Stupid), this would mean P625.00 for medicines for each patient. Presuming that he will be admitted for the whole month, that would mean medicines worth P20.83 per day. Sanamagan!?!?!?! Only in the Philippines!!!

That same year, they repainted the whole hospital, changed the glass panes of the windows (which were still quite new), bought new air conditioners for some offices, painted lines in the parking slots, upgraded the medical directors office - all to the tune of P50M.

The following year, I resigned from my position in the Pharmacy and as residency training officer and as consultant in pediatrics. I needed to keep my sanity and did not want to die an angry man early in life because some asshole politician forgot to clean his sh*t! And I'm not going to clean it for him.

In the report of poor flung to the barrios doctor in Caraga, the reporter noted that Caraga Mayor Alice Mori had several stacks of government-issued medicine supplies in her possession. And nope, it was not located in the health center nor the municipalities. It was in her house. When interviewed, Mayor Mori claimed that the medicines in her house will be used for medical missions. (The election is near and it is time to hoard for political campaigns?) The mayor refused the reporter's request for video footage on the drugs because she said that it might be used as propaganda by the political opposition (well, I guess this is the opposition's opportunity to bash the mayor).

As reported by Carlos Isagani T. Zarate in the Daily Inquirer, "before the TV program on the interview of Doc Eman was over, the good doctor had already said a mouthful that not only described his frustrations but even aptly indicted the skewed priorities of the government's health program. Doc Eman is one of only two 'doctors to the barrios' assigned in far-flung areas of Southern Mindanao..." Doc Eman hails from a poor family in Cavite.

It's people like him that actually go back to basic grass roots of trying to pass goodness forward.

"Unfortunately, last Wednesday - before Mindanao Agenda was shown on local TV - Doc Eman was pulled out by the Department of Health from Caraga, Davao Oriental. He received death threats via text messages on his mobile phone two days after Saniel did an interview on him and Mayor Mori."

In a country so much in dire need not only of spiritual healing, even those who tend to the living bodies are not spared by the politics of desperation and greed. There is no remedy to this. Even in death...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

God help us!

This is not about the political state in the Philippines.

Today I blog about my faith.

Have there been times in your life when your faith in your religion has actually come to a crossroad - and you've asked the proverbial question - WHY?

I have. Several times.

There are times when I am alone in the quite solitude of the Adoration Chapel or church asking for an answer from my best friend God, answers to my many whys.

They come during the most unexpected times, but yup, they do come. And it's during those trying times that makes you cling to your faith and on bended knees beg for answers.

For example, I always go to Sunday anticipated mass at our parish church. I've always wondered why there is a "Prayer for More Priests" right before the mass. I will be downright a hypocrite if I say that I take that prayer seriously. What runs through my mind when the crowd mumbles the prayer - WHY DON'T THEY JUST PRAY FOR BETTER PRIESTS? Why do we want to pray for more priests when a bunch of the priests I know can actually (and should actually) do better?

Some of the priests just mumble their way through the mass, even without a concrete preparation for the sermon right after the Gospel reading. There is even a priest in one of the churches I used to go to who I think should retire permanently. He doesn't make any sense at all during the sermons. Instead of bringing in more of the faithful to the fold of the Catholic faith, it is people like him who have served as the concierge pointing us to another religious route.

Then there are the multiple collections for various causes. I mean, can they not just get it from their coffers? Should there be separate collections for Haiti, or Africa, or Nigeria, or to the typhoon victims or for Pondong Pinoy? You can always reason that if you want to help go ahead and if not, just shut up. Sure! But there has to be some rationalization to the asking for alms on behalf of the charitable institutions. Are we asking for more priests so that they can go ahead and ask for more money or for them to actually spread the good news and become fishers of men?

Seriously, the other Christian movements seem to be doing a better job at renewing the lost faiths of the people. Their numbers are swelling and without a doubt, the conversion to Catholicism is wanting.

Then there's the prayer for H1N1 that's not only repetitive but seriously, why is it even in the prayer for the people? It's like getting the illness is an anathema to death. Why not pray for those afflicted with HIV or cancer or tuberculosis? No rhythm or rhyme. It just doesn't make sense to have a prayer for the faithful that is so repetitive, uninformative and a disservice to the public.

There are moments in our lives when we need God the most and seek refuge in Him. Because my faith is deeply rooted in His love and understanding, I try to stay focused in living my life to my very best each day.

But when you need your parish priest the most, have you ever had the chance to run to him and talk to him and have him listen to you?

I have not.

I tried once upon a time...but he was too busy to make time for me. He refused to come down from his pedestal.

We don't need more priests. Just better ones.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Private Practice - As real as it gets

Not since ER or Grey's Anatomy have I enjoyed a medical drama series called Private Practice.

In the Philippines, it shows on Star World (cable channel) at 9PM on Thursday evenings right after American Idol's 9th Season.

The series which started September 2007 in the US is a spin-off of Grey's Anatomy and features Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh) as she leaves Seattle Grace Hospital to jon a private practice firm based in Los Angeles.

The physicians are private practitioners based in LA and the setting is a private clinic. But the lives of both the doctors and families and patients that are intertwined in the series is the most heart wrenching medical drama that I have seen. It is not some Doogie Howser where a young physician is a genius at bay, nor is it like House where the doctor is the central theme of the story.

Rather, the story evolves around both the medical and timely, ethical and legal issues surrounding the lives and decisions that doctors, like us, have to make in the practice of medicine.

It's as surreal as it gets and is on it's third season (in the US or if you can get pirated DVDs in the Philippines, you'd be up-to-date on this).

If you're a doctor, you're bound to be engrossed in the ethical dilemma physicians face. It's actually a good teaching material for an ethics class for students in the medical school. If you're a patient, you'll understand the crossroads doctors face when you see us for consult.

If you haven't seen it yet, you should. It's not just drama. It's as real as it gets.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A good life

We've heard the line before.

And each of us has our own story to tell.

Some may have been born with a silver spoon on his mouth. Others need to slither through the hardships to achieve our dreams.

Which is why I have always detested the commercialism of selling the concept of "poverty" in order to win popularity. And I am not only talking about the upcoming elections where some of the candidates claim that even someone who "rose from the ranks" of poverty deserved to become president. Or that a commercial like Coca Cola will try to sell the idea that opening a bottle of soda will bring out happiness in the midst of dire need.

So we are a poor nation. It does not lessen our dignity by admitting it. But prostituting it, is a different story altogether. It stabs at our inner most weakness and ironically, the concept actually sells. It sells because more than 70% of the Filipino people live below the poverty line. But being poor is not an excuse to be stupid or lame or without a dream. Life has it's own storm. We need the rain and snow to see and appreciate the beauty of sunshine. We need the heat to appreciate the cool weather. We cannot have everything on a silver platter.

No one ever said that life should be fair.

My pride comes from my own story and struggles in life. While my grandparents were filthy rich, my family bears the story of riches to rags. My parents had to struggle to send me and my sister to school, to put a house over our heads, to put food on the table. And we were not spared from health problems.

My family does not share an exceptional story. Tragedy would strike us at the most vulnerable time and sadly, we would have to give up some of our prized possessions in order to survive. But with each other, we would survive. And that is life - in all it's glory and sorrow.

The Filipino family is a survivor. Each OFW has his own story to tell. And there will always be poignant tales of strife and pain in the midst of success.

We are all entitled to a good life. But a good life can only be attained not by dole outs but by real struggles in the midst of adversity. Which is why many of us have our own stories to tell, our own pain to bear, our crosses to carry.

Every good thing in life takes time and there is no limit on how much time it might need.

Maybe a week, a month or maybe even a year or your lifetime. But see, none of that matters...because if it is meant to be...

it will happen..

Monday, February 8, 2010

The metrosexual: Straight guy or straight gay?

metrosexual (met.roh.SEK.shoo.ul) n. An urban male with a strong aesthetic sense who spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle.
—metrosexuality n.

You hear this word around town and in the fashion circle. Perhaps a fad or a clique or just a commercialism hype? The latter never ends with the fashion and beauty industry trying to sell a product, why not sell the concept of a "man not afraid to face his feminine side" and dub it as a metropolitan dude whose actions are more akin to grooming habits of homosexuals?

Historically, British author and journalist Mark Simpson (, the 'father' of metrosexual, retrosexual, and spawner of sporno was interestingly initially cited in The Independent, a British publication:

The promotion of metrosexuality was left to the men's style press, magazines such as The Face, GQ, Esquire, Arena and FHM, the new media which took off in the Eighties and is still growing (GQ gains 10,000 new readers every month). They filled their magazines with images of narcissistic young men sporting fashionable clothes and accessories. And they persuaded other young men to study them with a mixture of envy and desire.
Some people said unkind things. American GQ, for example, was popularly dubbed ''Gay Quarterly''. Little wonder that all these magazines — with the possible exception of The Face — address their metrosexual readership as if none of them were homosexual or even bisexual.

—Mark Simpson, "Here come the mirror men," The Independent, November 15, 1994

Football star David Beckham in 2002, later became the poster boy (or should I say, whipping boy), for the subsequent commercialism of the metrosexual man. Many, including I, believe that the concept was born out of commercial exploitation of the male homosexual who is confused with his identity - hence, the term - metrosexual.

Simpson adds:

The typical metrosexual is a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis — because that's where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are. He might be officially gay, straight or bisexual, but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference. Particular professions, such as modeling, waiting tables, media, pop music and, nowadays, sport, seem to attract them but, truth be told, like male vanity products and herpes, they're pretty much everywhere.
—Mark Simpson, "Meet the metrosexual,", July 22, 2002

Argumentatively, there is NO SUCH A THING AS A METROSEXUAL. The narcissistic affront of the male sexuality can be left to the human male being the macho-on-the-go. I think (and the girls do too), that it's sexy to have the guy flex his machismo side. NOT the well-sculpted pecs, delts, abs and arms rolled around a super tightly hugging shirt that scoops so low in front that the guy's tits are showing his cleaves (darn I thought that only women would look really sexy showing off those bumpers), but the real brute non-aesthetically made up look.

Once upon a time, a guy would swagger his pheromones based on his machismo image rather than the amount of Shu Uemura or Laura Mercier or Kiehl lines plastered all over his face. And there's the rub. Today, you have endorsers of "male beauty products" showing off their machismo side with all these foundation powders and supposedly male eyeliners, and male glossy lips and you've got the "men" queued up good at the cosmetic corners at the shopping malls. Truth be told, there are times when I want to tell the guy buying the foundation that he doesn't actually need it - what he needs is plastic surgery.

The gay population is a growing breed. I see a lot of would-be gay boys logarithmically expanding in numbers in the next decade. If you saw the Lady Gaga concert in Manila last year, the Araneta Coliseum was practically packed with young gay Pinoys aged 21 and below. And I was just counting the male homosexuals.

There is the screaming faggot, the repressed gay man, the macho gay, the tranvestite, the transexual and a garden variety of categories among the gay population. However you call them or dress them, their sexual orientation is geared towards same sex.

They are men in love and have sex with men.

Alexa Hackbarth in the Washington Post describes her concept of the metrosexual man:

At dinner the other night, my date listed the calorie count of the main entrees, raising an eyebrow at my chicken Alfredo selection after he had ordered a salad. I saw him check his reflection in the silver water pitcher three times. During dessert, he looked deeply into my eyes and told me he thought what we have together is very special. It was our third date.

It was then that I realized why my dating life has been as mysterious as the Bermuda Triangle since I arrived in Washington. This city, unlike any other place I've lived, is a haven for the metrosexual. A metrosexual, in case you didn't catch any of several newspaper articles about this developing phenomenon (or the recent "South Park" episode on Comedy Central), is a straight man who styles his hair using three different products (and actually calls them "products"), loves clothes and the very act of shopping for them, and describes himself as sensitive and romantic. In other words, he is a man who seems stereotypically gay except when it comes to sexual orientation.
—Alexa Hackbarth, "Vanity, Thy Name Is Metrosexual," The Washington Post, November 17, 2003

And as fantasy riddled as the vampires and werewolves in the Twilight series, if I may add, enigmatically emboldens the male to now hide his sexual orientation to women (albeit, foot them) by claiming metrosexuality.

No, I am not going to bash the metrosexual cult. Just an eye opener to the ladies who think they're dating a real man.

Think for a moment:
- the guy has nails so well manicured (and at times colored pink or violet or black) that it makes your magenta red coloring look like your nails were done in some lonely beauty parlor by Madam Auring
- you're having dinner with your new date and he comes sashaying into the restaurant wearing a tight fitting burgundy Armani t-shirt showing his well toned biceps and pectoralis major and minor, a hip hugging low waist Relay jeans wrapped around by an accenting Armani belt with a buckle that screams the logo; his slick black mane highlighted with whisps of blond coloring on the side; he smells better than you with his whiff of Calvin Klein One Summer Scent; and oh yeah, accessories by handbag by Gucci with shoes and socks to match; and all you came in was some dress you got on sale at The Black Shop, shoes and bag and accessories by Celine.
- when he suddenly drops his "purse" in the movie house, you notice that Shu Uemura and Laura Mercier are part of his make-up kit tucked neatly in the bag
- that his celphone has bling blings hanging at the end
- that he talks to you about going shopping for clothes in the gayest of all shops, picking out the shortest, kinkiest, sexiest and wildest underwear even if each pair costs P500 each
- that he has a penchant for matching his clothes to the color of his watch (purple shirt, purple watch, purple contact lens)
- that his ideal date with you is both of you getting a facial at Rustan's and a body scrub at the Spa
- that he admires it when not only women stare at him, but men as well
- that he has adoring looks at what other men wear and how they wear their clothes and compares himself with them ("Look hon, what nice biceps that guy standing in the corner has and I love the way he wears his jeans so low at the crotch, I wonder if I will look good as well in that? Where did the guy get those clothes? Damn they look hot on him!")
- that whenever you're out shopping, he's probably at the men's underwear section checking out the newest styles or at some Bench, Jockey or CK underwear shop, checking the latest merchandine
- that his netbook and his mobile phone are adorned with stickers and various protectors and he loves to hang out at wifi free stations showing off his gadgets and comparatively oogling at the men in the crowd
- that one look at his room and you notice that he's not only spic and span, but he has a room that would make the Queen of Sheeba shrink in envy at the amount of decorations and the design that was spent in garnishing the place
- that when it comes to making a fashion statement, he is so up-to-date that it would make Tim Yap look trampy and you look like his servant (or better yet - Maid!)
- that his pet dog is a Chihuahua or a Rotweiller?!?!?
- that he owns his very own compact mirror, which he carries 24/7 in his, where else but his clutch bag?

Vanity for vanity sake has a limit. Even our narcissistic egos can only go so far. Anything more flamboyant than being what your sexuality declares is a bit weird and coming up with the metrosexual term is but a pathetic excuse for men who in reality want men or so to put it bluntly are actually gay but hide under the guide of metrosexuality.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Happy valentine or happy lunar new year?

This year, strangely enough or by a stroke of luck, Valentine's Day falls on the Lunar Calendar of the Chinese New Year. The latter ushers in the Year of the Metal Tiger.

You can google the internet for the history of Valentine's Day. It is said to be in commemoration of something (love, affection and companionship), but also in commemoration of St. Valentine's (consecrated by Pope Gelasius in 496 AD). As to how the saint and cupid ever got involved in the tradition of celebrating Valentine's Day as a "Araw ng Kapuso", well it's a trivia that I discovered, seemed to have no connection at all.

But you've got to hand it to the Americans, who seemed to have brought so much commercialism to this day. With Esther Howland (from Worcestershire, Massachusetts) creating specially hand made greeting cards, eventually paving the way for the much ballyhooed event where lovers pledge allegiance and spend horrendously on flowers and candies pegged at 300-500% of it's actual retail price! Talk about highway robbery!

Did you know that since 1900, this is the only the third time that Valentine's Day and the Chinese New Year fall exactly on the same day?

Anyway, my crystal ball shows that 2010 is the Year of the Tiger, which arrives actually of February 4 and culminates the Lunar New Year on the 14th of February. Of all the elements (fire, water, wood, metal and earth), 2010 falls under the metal element. And while Gold is a metal (which is probably the reason why a lot of people think that it will be a prosperous year), the metal element is symbolized by the color White. The color white is symbolic as bad luck or karma or death in the Chinese astrological history.

The Chinese Astrology is more complex than the usual astrological science many of us are familiar with. The elements and animals are theorized to play a complex role in the Yin and Yang (or the balance) in this world. It is said that the metal and tiger are the worst of enemies as they fight among themselves. Which means that this will be a more turbulent year in terms of economic recovery (perhaps that's why you should not splurge this valentine's day?).

People born in the year of the tiger are authoritative and strong. However, they have very poor people relationship, especially with family members. In the Chinese tradition, people born in the year of the tiger are unwelcome in weddings (and hence, are uninvited).

Those born in the year of the Snake, Monkey and Tiger will not share good relations this year.

Using these elements and the Astrology birth chart predicts the Feng Shui of your life based on the Chinese astrology.

There is no truth that love will conquer all this year because of the combined effort of Valentine's Day and the Year of the Tiger! They are two different beliefs and traditions.

Valentine's Day is simply in commemoration of St. Valentine's. The other celebration (of hearts and love) is commercialism at work. If you truly love one another, you do not need a day to express it. Everyday, should be Valentine's day. It's the way love should be properly expressed - everyday.

As to the Chinese astrological predictions, well, I've always said that our paths and fate are sealed from the day we were born. We make our own life. How we live each day and mold ourselves to be the best is up to us. While there is such a thing as destiny, we chart it ourselves. Perhaps, to some degree, the complex lives we all lead is controlled by a higher being (depending on what religion you believe in).

I believe that we are all destined for a purpose in this world. We just need to find it and be the best in who and what we are.

Kung Hei Fat Choi!!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Temporary home and utopias

"This is just a where i belong...this is my temporary home..."

Frances Jakelyn Abad is 15 and is a 4th year student at General Santos High School under the Special Program in the Arts major in Creative Writing. In Youngblood, the PDI column for contributors twentysomething and below, she writes about Utopia and seeing things from two perspectives - having it all (luxury car, mansion with pool, several maids and guards, great business, being King of the World) and having contentment.

"I guess seeing things in a positive way is the best way to be happy. Nowadays a lot of us think only of how to make money. Yes, money can make us happy - for a while. But does money buy us salvation when we die? Does money change the way God will judge us?...My teacher in Trigonometry and Statistics once said as she was writing the equation for the Growth Law (N=Noekt) - (that) you may have hundreds of money that multiply like a bacteria, but can you make it indestructible so that you can bring it when you die?..."

While listening to this song, it gave me goose bumps and left a lump in my throat. It made me realize that our life on earth is actually a terminal to our final destination, wherever it will lead us. At whatever age or stage in life, from birth to our growing years to our relationships and to our death bed, our stopovers are actually temporary homes.

I remember my youth, my hardships, my dad, my friends, those who have come my way...and have gone to a better place...

Our temporary home...sooner or later we will all be finally home.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The bitter or better half?

Since it's the heart month, February, I decided to dedicate my first blog of the month on relationships.

I am not THE expert nor AN expert on relationships. But I am simply sharing a piece of my mind on this.

There is no perfect relationship. There are many reasons why we end up with the one we share our life with currently. In this life, we all search for happiness.

From infancy to childhood, we look at the nurturing capacity of our parents and relatives. Our adolescent period is actually a struggle between dependence on material needs from our family and independence from their emotional baggage. It is the latter that we actually struggle from on our road to creating relationships with others - friends, peers, or lovers.

There is that first love or love at first sight or the eternal love. Whichever category you fall in, most of us (and I am the expert on this matter), search for THE ONE true love.

For better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health...till death do us part.

Which of these do we really adhere to? Some of us perhaps are bound by the piece of paper called marriage. At times, getting stuck in a rut or a relationship that sucks because of marriage can actually be detrimental not only to the couple but to the children that are caught in the eye of a stormy relationship. It is unhealthy to raise children in a relationship where parents see each others as enemies. There is no love at all. Hate is all that is shared.

In this age where same sex relationship is tolerated (or accepted) by societies, the same principle holds true. While same-sex marriage is not approved (in most countries), same-sex relationship ironically is likewise in search of the "happily ever after" endings as well.

It is human nature to want to be happy. It is human nature to want to be loved.

Unfortunately, our love stories are not like movies that have either happy endings or tragic ones. The movie puts a period in the imagination of the viewer. But the stories are real events in each of our lives, hence the storyline for romance films.

When my friends ask my for advice, I provide unbiased professional opinions after balancing each side. Of course, we will always be biased to who our friends are, but seriously, I provide good advice.

There are three cardinal rules I preach and follow when getting involved in a relationship.
1. Never get involved with the people you work with
2. Never get involved with people who are married or are already in a relationship
3. Never get involved with the people who work for you

People say that love comes from the most unexpected places. But one does not have to look desperate when searching for love. Love on a rebound, love by destroying other relationships on the brink of destruction, love for the sake of lust...these are the kind of relationships that will never last and will never bring happiness.

A relationship is borne on trust and respect. You need to respect the other person and be accountable for your actions. You need to trust each other and openly discuss faults and gains so that you can share each others weaknesses and not only each others strengths. A relationship involves two people, who not only love each other, but respect each other. The strength you draw from each other is tested at the most unexpected times...and it counts that both of you grow from the bond you have formed.

Which is why I've always loved this line when it comes to saying goodbye...which actually means that you've both said goodbye to all the pain and trials a relationship goes through.

there are days when I close my eyes and wonder why...a tear sometimes rolls down softly on my cheek and I wonder why...then a smile on my face tells me, now I know why...perhaps you've found happiness...and that's all that matters to me. Then I know that it's say...goodbye...

And when you let the other go because he or she has found happiness, you too will realize that there will be closure in your own search for true happiness.

Think about it - Are you the bitter or the better half?

p.s. It's an old song...but listen to the shares so much of oneself in the search of love and happiness...