Thursday, December 23, 2010

The good, the bad, the ugly...The year that was 2010

I'm taking my cue from Gigi, a classmate of mine way back in college. She writes her blog - once a year! A good write though and one to look forward to. Unlike her though, I blog a little more regularly. This probably will be the final blogpost for 2010. And as we countdown the days to Christmas, then the days to the New Year, one can't help but look back at 2010. And perhaps I should always make a tail ender each year as well.

I have a run-of-the-mill job and my life centers on family, partner and career. With that said, there was not much drama nor action for 2010. It was not a daunting year that my resources would either have multiplied a million fold (no I did not win the lotto) or would have been zapped to zero (thank God for that). And while there were extra expenses that needed to get dealt with, some blessings came along the way to balance it out.

I was trying to make heads or tails with the practice of medicine in the current scenario. The number of patients physically seen and consulting at the clinics had dropped by about 10%. The number of patients that consulted through SMS or MMS or email had gone up by about 25-40%! Yes, you read it right. MMS. Which means that there were parents that were taking pictures of the rashes, vesicles, pustules, lesions, or whatever landmarks you can see on the skin of their kids and were sending it to my phone! It's like they were board examiners asking me to give a diagnosis pronto! And of course, text back the treatment. Golly gee wow!!! Talk about scrimping!

Anyway, I think it was a financially challenging year for everyone and I hope that things turn around for the Filipinos next year.

So here's my final take on the Philippines 2010, the year that was:


So finally, GMA finishes her presidency after 9 years in office. Mired in so much corruption including allegations of stealing the presidency, she final steps down...however, to being congresswoman in a district in Pampanga. One thing I have to hand to her though, GMA is a true Madam Butterfly and this woman has got balls! She was able to computerize the 2010 elections that in a day or two, we had known - beyond the shadow of a doubt - that PNoy would be the next president of the Philippines.

All eyes on the Philippines as Charice graces Glee Season 2 and David Foster graces Manila (I'm sure it was through Charice. Now only if Oprah can come to Manila c/o Charice?). Then there was Venus Raj, the stellar beauty who almost, almost, snagged the Miss Universe title in a major major way. And Manny Pacman winning his umpteenth title against Antonio Margarito. Three cheers for the Filipino!

In the final days of the year, PNoy announces that there will be no more economic holidays in 2011. Economic holidays are meant for developed countries. Third world nations do not benefit from economic holidays because essentially, there is minimum money to spend for a vacation. Patients end up weighing whether they will bring their kids for a check up when the child is sick or needs to get immunized. They end up weighing on one hand the doctor, and the other hand whether they will go to the mall or bring their children galivanting..."doctor, pasyal", "doctor, pasyal", "doctor, pasyal"...pasyal!!!! Perhaps by cutting down on the choices, they can better take care of their kids without having to take into consideration so many many many vacations they need to take. Don't get me wrong. I am not against vacations and long weekends. But I have more serious patients this year because the parents procrastinated the inevitable. Even if the kids are sick, because they have already a scheduled outing or some other form of bonding, they will literally drag the sick child...then begin to panic when the kid becomes seriously sick. And because resources are already spent or used up, one can't really blame them for the "unwise" decision of "pasyal"!


Of course there is the brouhaha of Philippine politics. Even with the chant of PNoy on fighting corruption, I guess you gotta hand it to the fact that corruption in this country is rooted so deep that it probably will take gazillion years or even never, to wipe out. But I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that somehow, somewhere, some dumb politician who can read and write will get to read my blog. It's my way of saying NO to corruption and how we can somehow remember that it takes a people's will (not just lip service of political will) to stamp out graft and corruption.

Ahem - attention Merci and Sandiganbayan! The Garcia case has dragged the Philippines into a bad spotlight. Really now? After stealing P303M and with the statement from Garcia's wife, Clarita, that the money they amassed was "shopping money" given to them by suppliers and that she was always given "pocket money" by suppliers since 1993 is smack right of graft and corruption in the military!

What ever happened to decency in politics? Have we been so used to being abused by politicians that we just roll over and play dead?

Then there's the traffic which had gone from bad to worse. You have all these pedicabs, kuligligs, tricycles, jeepneys, busses, and motorcycles screaming at the top of their lungs their rights to the streets. Jeez. I never knew that anarchy was part of democracy. What about our rights? I never understood why there was a need to create a traffic summit - when inevitably all the rules and regulations are in black and white. Implementing them as simple as ABC. But I guess we don't have the political will. And using poverty as an excuse for committing traffic violations is pathetic.


All I can say is that the August 23 hostage taking that ended up in lost lives by innocent tourists will never be forgotten. No matter what apologies, no matter what investigations, no matter what we say - we will indelibly leave a landmark on our tourism business.

2010 was capped with the a fire that killed 16 people in a Pension House in Tuguegarao. All because the fire officials were late at the scene. They were having a Christmas party. Lives would not have been lost had the pension house been closed for not having fire escapes. It did not even have a license to operate, but operate it did. And the families will spend the holidays burying their next of kin - zapping all dreams and hopes - only because some government official turned a blind eye at safety.

2011 is a few days around the corner. As a people, we cannot just be bystanders in a nation where we live and where our children grow. We need to show more concern and resolve to do better, to think wiser, and to become more concerned - not for ourselves but for our country. After all, it is the country that we call home.

Bayan natin ito. Maawa naman kayo. Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa tayo magbabago? Habang buhay ba kawawa tayo?

[Images: "Leanna & Bianca"
Photographer/Artist: Antonette Amora
Date Taken: 2004
Place Taken: Isla Parilla, Sarangani Province]

Sunday, December 19, 2010

(In)justice we swear

Former military comptroller Major General Carlos Garcia's P303Million plunder case has been dismissed after he pleaded guilty to bribery and violation of the anti-money laundering act - two lesser offenses he faces before the SandiganBayan. Of course, after he pleads guilty to these, he was granted P60,000 bail. On December 18, 2010, at 11 am, Garcia walked out of the PNP custodial center after serving almost 6 years in jail. Then there is talk of a compromise deal on the supposed return of the ill-gotten wealth. And that since he has served the maximum time for jail for an offense called bribery, he probably will go scot free.

The case of Garcia stemmed from the confiscation and eventual prosecution by United States authorities on trying to sneak in $100,000 in cold cash by his sons to the US. His wife Clarita, and all his sons - Ian Carl, Timothy Mark, and Juan Carlo - are US Citizens. They are co-accused in two cases against them.

A general in the Philippines does not and will never in his lifetime make that much money even if he dies in the line of duty. If you set the pay check of the President of the Philippines as the highest pay grade for government officials, well you can figure the math. He earns P37,000 a month. He is reported to have transferred P44M to the US in 11 years. Their family own several properties in the US.

The sequence of events leaves much room for cry for justice in the Philippines where those that are in power and those that have money have preferential treatment, are able to get better lawyers who go around the bush to find a way out of the corrupt practices of our government officials who steal from the coffers of the nation.

If the current administration is serious in its mission against graft and corruption, it must begin with this case. The wife and children of Garcia should be extradited and all ill-gotten wealth must be recovered, even if it means that the Garcias will be poorer than the poorest of the poor. It is, after all, the money of the people of the Philippines.

It should be done soon and swiftly so that it will serve as a lesson to others in government who will dare touch money intended for the development of its citizens and not the few who choose to steal and get away with it.

But justice in this country is wanting. The case of the Marcoses is a perfect example. And as long as we turn a blind eye at the the way money changes hands in exchange for justice, we will remain third world.

How many more lives and more Filipinos should live in poverty because those that are supposed to serve us steal from under our nose?

[For those interested in the whole story trail of Garcia's travail, copy and click on to this site]

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Yayas and the Baby Carriages

In short, they're the local version of nannies.

At Rustan's yesterday, during the Christmas rush, a yaya had provided me the impetus to blog about them. I had tried to put off writing a nasty comment about them and the baby carriages that they lug around like training wheels for the disabled. After the tiff yesterday, that was the last straw.

You may not like my comments, but who cares?

While my mom and I were queuing at the cashier (in the very narrow aisle of the toy department), a yaya who was pushing a large (and I mean large - the ones with a canopy and extra sidings for extra bottles and diapers and whatever baggages you wanted to fill in) baby carriage was choo-chooing like a train saying, "excuse me, excuse me, excuse me" to everyone who was on line. I was irked because we all had to move away just to make way for the baby carriage. WHICH WAS EMPTY EXCEPT FOR THE THINGS FOR A BABY!

Darn! Why couldn't these people fold the carriage so that it wouldn't take up space? There was no child in it anyway?

Of course I snapped at her and said - there's no baby there. Fold that carriage!

She snapped back and pointed at the baby - 100 meters away, large enough to kill a rhinoceros and being carried by the biological mother!

I snapped back and said - the baby is big enough to walk! That carriage should be folded.

The mother overheard the conversation and asked what happened. Of course, the yaya was raising at the top of her voice that I was snapping at her for pushing around that large baby carriage and that I was making comments about the baby (not being a baby anymore) could walk and blah blah blah...the mother of the child just looked away. She couldn't even look at me as I was staring at them. Only the yaya was glaringly mad.

My simple take on this is that the local yayas are overpaid and under worked. Many of them refuse to carry the child in the malls. Their backs and arms will hurt eventually and that they would have to lug around so much milk bottles and carry on packs for the child's diapers that they would become Mr. Philippines' entry to the next bodybuilding contest. Many (if not most) of them think they are experts on child care (when in reality they want to seem to be).

I see patients at my clinics with yayas whose personalities are delusional!

Each time I provide advise to mothers who ask about health issues, the haughty yaya will always butt in and say "oo nga maam - dapat yan ang ginagawa mo kasi yan din ang ginagawa ko nung huling alaga ko." - BIDA parati si yaya! Mayabang pero walang alam. Pakialamera pa! Akala niya anak niya noh! [But who can blame them? Sometimes parents forget that they have a child and that they should be hands on with their children. Unfortunately they forget this in the myriad of all the work and play of life that they relegate what they need to be doing to the yaya.]

Which leads to the second crutch. The baby carriages.

These are supposed to be for babies. They are not supposed to be used akin to grocery carts, where you store everything from the milk bottles to the shopping bags in the cart! Going to the mall or to public places cannot be all about YOU! Be considerate about your fellow human beings! Darn!

In the elevators at the hospital, I am tempted to lash out at these parents who tug along these large (I mean really large) baby carriages and the yaya(s) with them when they bring their kids for a check-up. It's like they're going to war! Gosh, they bring the whole kitchen with them! I pity the disabled who ride with us on the elevator. These yayas rush into the elevators like kamikaze pilots so that they can steer the baby carriages in. AND THE BABY CARRIAGES DO NOT HAVE A BABY. The other yaya is holding the baby (or carrying the child), and the mom is lugging her Louis Vuitton bag (that's bigger than the baby). Imagine that - talk about being considerate! Never mind the disabled as long as the baby and their peripheral belongings are on the elevator! Dang!!!! Wala naman tao yung carriage eh di ilupi naman (the baby carriage has no baby - fold it)!

There ought to be a law on these baby carriages or strollers as the oldies would call it.

You'll notice that when we go to the malls, no matter how small your bag is the guards will insist on doing a pat down or an inspection! But the baby strollers or carriages with all those bottles, bags and other paraphernalia go through the beeping doors without even being checked thoroughly! Talk about security! Talaga naman utak kulugo ang Pinoy security.

But the Pinoy will never be proactive and many of them are inconsiderate. We just need to wait for a tragedy or disaster to occur before we put things into perspective. [Read - an explosion in the mall occurs because of a baby carriage containing bomb.] In the meantime, we hire these mediocre yayas because we're too busy caring for ourselves.

For parents (or relatives) who follow my blog, the following pictures show the kind of baby strollers or carriages that are over- the-hill and in-your-face and should be avoided in public places. OA masyado ang mga yan! They are fluffed and packed with parasols and covers because they're for countries that have winter! Walang winter sa Pilipinas. Get real! Tapos mag rereklamo kayo may diaper rash ang mga anak ninyo! Aba mainit kaya yan!

The ideal baby stroller should look like this:

Sunday, December 12, 2010


It was a Sunday. One of those days where you didn't want to go to work, but had to.

I had just made rounds with four critically ill patients and had come home past lunch. A little over an hour, I received a call from a colleague of mine if I wouldn't mind seeing a referral. "No I wouldn't." After a quick lunch I broke my Sunday rest and gave in to the call of duty.

He was an 11 year old boy transferred from a provincial hospital. I will not talk about the diagnosis or how the doctors there managed him, but when I entered the critical care area, he was dyspneic and oxygen saturations were between 85-89%. He was very ill looking and probably would need intubation in awhile. The chest x-rays were not compatible with the initial diagnosis on transfer and I was worried. The parents probably did not recognize the gravity of the situation, but I stayed on for 2 hours assessing him and decided a management plan. I just didn't like the gut feeling that things weren't going to go well with him.

True enough, in about 2 hours he was eventually intubated and transferred to the ICU. [I know that most of those that read my blog were my medical students. I will leave the grand rounds to where it should be.] What transpired in the next 48 hours was heart breaking. He clinically deteriorated in 24 hours and the chest x-rays showed signs of ARDS (adult or acute respiratory distress syndrome). The ventilatory set-up was at its maximum. For those who have managed ARDS patients, you know that the outcome is grim. Compounding the fact is that the family has already maximized their insurance coverage in just 24 hours at the intensive care. Financial problems are added burden in times of confusion.

His condition from guarded to critical had turned for the worse. I told the attending that I would talk to the mother.

Believe me when I say that in my 27 years as a physician, this is the part where they don't teach us how to deal with this in medical school. How do you say to a mother who is barely making sense out of everything at the moment, with her son intubated and probably at the brink of death that their family will need to brace with reality? The outcome for patients with ARDS is 1 in every 10. With ventilatory set-up that high, chances of pulmonary complications are high as well.

When I was discussing the situation with the mother, her mind was completely in chaos. Here she was, listening to what I wanted to tell her, but at the same time not being able to comprehend why this was happening to her boy. I am sure that his 11 years rushed into her head like a movie that needed to be compressed in 1 hour. She was angry. She was in denial. She was massaging his reed thin legs and asking him why he was going to leave her already. Even when I put my arm around her shoulder, she was just pouring out her grief and I could not help but suck in some air so I could hold back my own tears.

I don't think she understood what I said. I told her that we were already giving everything we could to take care of the infection. But I did not think that this was just an infection we were battling. I did not want to discuss any mumbo jumbo jargon which she probably wouldn't understand further. I told her that I was going to try something. The drug I was going to give is controversial in the management of ARDS. But there are positive results with some patients. In my mind, I was grasping at straws. In the next 10 minutes I needed to summon all my remaining powers and decipher and balance all the evidence-based literatures I could recall on the role of steroids in ARDS, in patients that were septic. I asked permission from the attending and she consented. My parting words to the mother was that "we are doing the best we can at the moment. We are trying him on a medication and there is no guarantee that this will work. But let's pray that it does because at the moment, this is our best option. We will do everything to make him better. I need you to be strong now." [I think I was talking to myself in that last sentence].

FLASHBACK. I never wanted to be a doctor. This is why I have a mathematics degree. But because it was a compromise between my dad and I, I reluctantly went to med school. Many events have transpired since I graduated from med school. In my chosen specialty and subspecialty, I had to deal with the dramas of life and death. And the latter has never been easy. It's always the reason why I get flashbacks...

On my way home, I decided to pass by the chapel. Said a little prayer for the patient and his parents. Knelt before God and asked Him that if there are miracles that truly happen, all I ask is a small miracle in today. Beyond all the fame and fortune He has given me, I begged Him for a miracle. And I made a pact with God - that if the boy survived, I would waive my professional fee just to see him alive.

The following day I missed making rounds early. The attending had seen him and I received a text message from her. The patient was doing much better and it was like he was rapidly recovering. The ventilatory set-up was much lower now and that he was more awake. When I made rounds that afternoon, after a whole morning of meetings and conference calls, the mother's face had a different aura. She was holding on to her husband and they were grateful as I was explaining that it looked like he was going to make it. That the drugs were working. That their son's condition from seriously ill to critical had become guarded. That if he continued to improve, he probably would make it.

This time, they grasped the situation. They began to discuss the finances they had incurred. I took the mom's hand and told her that when the patient is stable enough, we can discuss this. I told her also the pact I made with God. I was not going to collect a single centavo from them as long as their son survived.

In a few days the boy had been extubated and was transferred to the ward. When the boy was transferred to the ward, he gave me a letter he wrote thanking me for taking care of him. And of waiving the professional fee. The mom was profusely thanking me for the generosity.

I told her that it was not generosity on my part but on the part of God. You see, I was skeptical on the outcome as well. I needed divine intervention and her son is alive because God hears prayers. I was merely an instrument of the miracle that came their way. And if God is able to grant him another chance at life, who was I to collect from them at this time of need? Compassion is never taught. It is learned.

In return, I told the boy, the miracle of life provides him an opportunity to pay this forward. It's probably why he is still alive today.

I blog about this today because I know that most of my readers were my students in medical school. Many of them have provided kind comments on how well I taught and how well they learned from me. There is no formal class that teaches compassion for our fellow men. That teaches us to respect the dignity of life. That teaches us how to deal with death and the dying. But the medical profession is a noble one. That we are given the opportunity to make life or death matter with our fellow men is God's gift to us. And while my patient will remain anonymous to all my readers, he will always be a firm reminder to me of the gift from God called a miracle.

I was awed at the miracle that day. I knew that God was behind it all.

Miracles do happen, even in this day and age of Facebook and Tweeter and iPads. It is within us all. Deep within the hearts of every human being. If only we look for them...and believe...

[photo from Mike Greenberg]

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Conversation

Jesus: It's that time of year again and you know what? I envy you.

Santa Claus: My Lord, what do you mean you envy me?

Jesus: Well, you know that Christmas is approaching. I just find it strange that people anticipate more your coming than mine.

It was a short text message that went around and then during last Sunday's mass, the priest was preaching about advent and how much of Christmas was mired in commercialism.

In the Philippines, the Filipinos seem to have this yearly tradition of having to begin celebrating the onset of the Christmas Holidays as early as September - the official month when the months of the year hit the suffix "-ber".

Of course, you have to hand it to media and the moguls that run the media (who also own probably a mall or two) to rub it in. Sink in the message. Christmas is around the bend.

So all the tiangges, bazaars, bingos, and other entrepeneural skills that one is able to dish out comes to life!

But I agree. So much commercialism has gone into the Christmas holidays, most especially in the Philippines, where the frenzy goes into dizzying proportions as December approaches. Pinoys living in the Philippines look forward to the longest holiday fever, matched with the 13th month pay, and hopefully, a little Christmas Bonus or two from their workplace. Then there's the Christmas parties left and right, Christmas exchange gifts, Kris Kringle in the office, the postman who knocks on your door shoving an envelope (as if it were a necessity to have to give money for the work he gets paid to do) or the street urchin who jingles and jangles a can or two singing acapela some local Christmas song, or the godchildren who necessarily have to flock to the house of their godparents asking for a Christmas gift (take note of the work "asking" because it's a literal translation of the Filipino word "namamasko", which means "to ask for Christmas gift").

And with the malls, and streets and alleys, and trees and houses and my pooches' house all decked with lights, glitters and Christmas balls...or even the fake Santa Claus that sits in the mall wishing good will to all...I cannot help but actually agree with Fr. Gerard that so much commercialism has gone into Christmas. It is visibly palpable - newspapers advertising an iPad as the perfect gift or a trip to Disneyland or having dinner under the stars in Boracay...whatever your budget is, there will be a material gift that will be available in exchange.

I am no Scrooge. I guess we just need to reorient ourselves on what really all the preparation for Christmas is about. Is it about the birth of Jesus our savior or is it simply the materialism that surrounds us?

What is ironic is how we raise our children to so much materialism and commercialism that they forget that Christmas is not about Santa Claus. But why do we rather make them believe this, than believe in the miracles that the season brings?

[Images from and]

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kuliglig at Anay - Bow!

Short of sounding discriminatory, I will never probably understand what rights these "kuliglig" drivers are screaming justice for.

"Kuligligs" are makeshift pedicabs that are the new King of the Roads in the Philippines. Some smart-ass idiot had this bright idea that putting a tiny motor into the pedicab would convert this three-wheel tricycle into a "motorized" version of the pedicab. They are found in ALL areas of Metro Manila (and in the provinces as well) and seriously, have no respect for the rule of law when it comes to traffic. They counterflow, they load and unload in areas where they are not allowed to, they ply even major thoroughfares contributing to the already massive traffic jams, they are rowdy and have no vehicular insurance whatsoever, they have no license to operate and HENCE ARE ILLEGAL - in short, except for the fact that their drivers claim to owning and driving a "kuliglig" is their source of livelihood, they have no reason for existence as a public utility vehicle.

I was silent about this topic until another idiotic senator suddenly raised his concern and cause-oriented, pathetic fried brain cells (I guess it's like father like son), politically motivated plan to LEGALIZE the "kuligligs". It's barriotic, idiotic and infuriating that people even continue to vote for feeble minded persons like him into public office, just because his roots are well entrenched in the movies and media! Sanamagan this country! His father, who once ruled this country (before being deposed because of plunder), once thought of legalizing "jueteng" (an illegal numbers game) as well. You can tell how idiotic minds think alike!

So here's my take.

1. Poverty can never be used as an excuse for doing something wrong. "Kuligligs" are like termites. Once you start giving them a franchise or legalizing them, they just spread like wildfire. And like termites, it's hard to exterminate them. Even if you burn your house to the ground, they will just proliferate when you rebuild. This is what this government is like. Our bleeding hearts go out to the poor and the needy. And the majority of them take advantage of this. And when you try to fix the problem, like termites, they fight back with a vengeance, no matter how wrong the logic is. The Akbayan, Hukbalahap, Anakbayan, Commission of Human Rights and other cause-oriented groups now band together to make it seem that the termites have the right to existence, even if they don't. We cannot keep justifying a wrong by another wrong. It is not only moronic but immoral! It is the thought process of a Marxist or Communist that thrives on the empty bellies and empty heads of the poor and uneducated to feed on the convoluted idealism of equality.

2. Majority of the poor in urbanized areas are actually immigrants from the rural area. Armed with just their underwear and deodorants, they come to the city in search for greener pastures. Unlike the OFWs who dream to dream big, the "probinsiyanos" will live with relatives from the squatters area. They inculcate and imbibe the culture there. Armed with the artillery of survival, they learn the ropes and trades to exist in the urban jungle. Name me one city in Metro Manila that has no squatters area! Come on, I dare you!!! The politicians use these poor people to propagate their existence in the political arena and to create a political dynasty. Why do you think the Binays, the Ejercitos, the Marcoses, the Arroyos and so and and so forth stay in power for so many years? They hand down their local government position from father to son to grandson and they have no plans of leaving! They owe their position in power to the poor. And come next election, they will remind the poor of this. Ironically, those of us who have a better standard of living in the urban areas seem to need to adjust to the mindset of the people from the "boondocks". Why is that?

3. It seems that the sense of logic of our politicians has deteriorated if not left in the shit-house. While we are talking about rights here, what about our rights? Tax payers like us who contribute more to the government's coffers than the ordinary politician who makes a pittance out of their position in office and hide their true assets and liabilities from the peering eye of the public need someone to espouse our rights as well. After all, it is a fact that it is our money that is keeping these dumb politicians in office and it is our money that is keeping these poor people alive. As to how our taxes are spent (and whether they are spent well or not by the corrupt public official) is not our fault.

Each day, I traverse the harried streets of Metro Manila wondering how many tunnels, how many fly-overs, how many skyways, how many more roads we need to build to ease traffic in the metropolis. I know the answer. I've blogged about it time and again. No rocket science here. Simple discipline and logic - two things even government officials cannot simply carry out - are sorely lacking.

Enough of the bleeding hearts. For too long a time, is it too much to ask these government officials to consider legislating for us tax payers who put food on their tables?

As for the partylist government officials and the pathetic youth groups who seem to not find meaning in life, here's my message - GET A LIFE!

[For more blogs on kuligligs, you can go to
where the author rights an interesting article about this as well]

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Heroes in our midst

CNN Heroes of the Year 2010 was a touching revelation of how the human heart can overcome the obstacles we face in our daily lives.

Perhaps some of us just don't see the misery, the poverty, the decadence or the hardship that other fellow human beings go through.

Perhaps in the very confines of beautiful homes and comfortable work places or the fact that we are not financially incapacitated, makes us miss the point of the Heroes of the Year awards.

But here are the 10 ordinary people who made it to the CNN Heroes of 2010.

1. Guadalupe Arizpe De La Vega founded a hospital in Juarez, Mexico, that cares for about 900 people daily -- regardless of their ability to pay. Despite the escalating violence in the city, the 74-year-old travels there several times a week to make sure residents get the care they need.

2. Susan Burton was once caught in a cycle of addiction and incarceration. Today, her nonprofit A New Way of Life Reentry Project provides sober housing and other support services to formerly incarcerated women in California.

3. With her weight-loss challenge, Shape Up Vicksburg, Linda Fondren is helping her Mississippi hometown battle the bulge. Through free fitness activities and nutrition classes, residents have lost nearly 15,000 pounds to date.

4. Anuradha Koirala is fighting to prevent the trafficking and sexual exploitation of Nepal's women and girls. Since 1993, she and her group, Maiti Nepal, have helped rescue and rehabilitate more than 12,000 victims.

5. Narayanan Krishnan brings hot meals and dignity to India's homeless and destitute -- 365 days per year -- through his nonprofit Akshaya Trust. Since 2002, he has served more than 1.2 million meals.

6. Since 1992, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow has dedicated his life to helping people in need. Today, his program, Mary's Meals -- run from a tin shed in the Scottish highlands -- provides free daily meals to more than 400,000 children around the world.

7. Harmon Parker is using his masonry skills to save lives. Since 1997 he has helped build 45 footbridges over perilous rivers in Kenya, protecting people from flash floods and predatory animals. The bridges also connect isolated villagers to valuable resources.

8. Aki Ra is helping to make his native Cambodia safer by clearing land mines -- many of which he planted years ago as a child soldier. Since 1993, he and his Cambodian Self Help Demining organization have cleared about 50,000 mines and unexploded weapons.

9. Evans Wadongo, 23, invented a way for rural families in Kenya to replace smoky kerosene and firelight with solar power. Through his Use Solar, Save Lives program, he's distributed an estimated 10,000 solar lanterns for free.

10. Since 2005, Texas home builder Dan Wallrath has given injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans homes of their own -- mortgage-free. He and his Operation Finally Home team have five new custom homes under construction.

Ordinary people with extraordinary efforts at making life better for others...

Anuradha Koirala was the CNN 2010 Hero of the year. In her very own words, "one day all this trafficking will end". In the words of Aki Ra, making Cambodia safer by clearing land mines ins "one mine, one life". Indeed, one act, one day, one at a time.

I know that there are more ordinary people like them (including our very own Efren Penaflorida, CNN Hero of 2009). If each of us contributed to society by helping others and serving as a beacon of hope and light for those who have less in life, this world would be a better place.

We do not expect to make Mother Teresa's from each one of us. It would be a tall order to ask. But become a hero in our daily encounter with everyone is something achievable.

As we all get enmeshed in the Holiday rush, we shouldn't forget the real meaning of Christmas. It's not about Santa Claus or the material gifts the season so commercially symbolizes.

It's about giving more to those who have less in life.

It's about time there are more heroes in our midst.