Sunday, February 27, 2011

Number coding in the Philippines

I have always been a stern believer that only stupid people can come up with stupid ideas.

And it takes a multitude of indescribably inept nincompoops mired in corruption to come to agree.

The number coding scheme is one such stupid idea.

In 1995, then Metro Manila Development Authority chair Prospero Oreta signed MMDA Regulation No. 95-001 which aimed to reduce the volume of vehicles in Metro Manila. The idea here was to reduce traffic by reducing the number of vehicles plying the metropolis. The original program, which began December 1, 1995 prohibited vehicles with plate numbers ending in ODD numbers from plying major thoroughfares on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and cars whose plate numbers ended in EVEN numbers on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays during the rush hours - 7:00-9:00 AM and 5:00-7:00 PM. There were a few exemptions then (ambulances, government vehicles, registered school buses, diplomatic vehicles), including cars that carried two or more passengers. The latter was done to encourage car pooling.

For public utility vehicles, the original plan was to make them color their roofs with a particular color so that it is easily recognized when they should or should not be seen on the road. Hence, it was also called the color coding scheme.

While the strategy may have worked to probably some degree at reducing the number of vehicles on the road, the original idea was more practical and did not usurp on the rights of the citizen who owns a car.

Over the years, the original plan of the MMDA was rewritten by idiots who replaced Mr. Oreta.

Today, this has had its own version called the Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program. And the original scheme has been replaced by so many versions. There are some cities in the metropolis that adapt this scheme, while others don't. On the other hand, EDSA alone carries with it the number coding scheme for a particular window hour, which means that from 9 AM - 3 PM, cars with plate numbers that are banned on those days can use EDSA. But this can be tricky because if you're "number coded" that day and would like to travel from say Paranaque to Makati and will traverse EDSA at 1 PM but will have to hit Makati, well well well, welcome to the City of the Binays. In Makati, there is no such thing as an exemption to the rule!

The number coding is confined to Metro Manila alone. Which means that if your car's plate number ends in 1 & 2 you cannot use the roads from 7AM to 7PM on Mondays; 3 & 4 on Tuesdays; 5 & 6 on Wednesdays; 7 & 8 on Thursdays; 9 & 0 on Fridays. This tyrannical idea had evolved from what was once a more justifiable concept that the vehicle reduction program be confined only to rush hours to a stupid, inane, idiotic, brainless, machiavellian, ridiculous, mind-boggling, corruption-tainted program which government officials insist on carrying on. From one idiotic MMDA chair to the next!

What I do not get is why the private sector (and now the public) has to suffer continuously at this medieval attitude of implementing a rule that has no factual basis at all. The MMDA screams that a study done by the University of the Philippines has shown that there are too many private cars clogging the metropolis. So does that mean that we have to reduce the number of vehicles drastically to the point where even the tax payer is deprived of use of his own vehicle because a study says so? Perhaps we should just go ahead and say that everyone from the University of the Philippines should not own a car. Period. That way we would have reduced the number of cars on the road as well, since the study came from their end.

So it results in having to buy an extra car or not use your car and take a public vehicle for the day you're number coded. Unfortunately, we're not all PNoys who can afford to buy a Porsche as a hobby car. We save our hard earned cash for the extra cost of gasoline which we need to shoulder. We need to take the unreliable public transportation system because we are number coded for the day. We resort to swapping plate numbers of cars so that we can use our car on the days we are number coded. We put fake MD signs on the plates of cars so that we are exempted from the number coding scheme. We bribe the traffic enforcer P100 so that we can get away with having to get harassed over using our cars during the number coding days.

Metro Manila is not the only place in the world that has traffic woes. Even in Los Angeles or Bangkok or HongKong or Tokyo or Paris, rush hour is horrendous. But they don't ban cars from the roads like we do. It's a given right of every citizen to make use of his or her vehicle, paid for from pure blood, sweat and tears. Bought with taxes which we remitted to the government and which the government has already claimed and put to use - either for their own purposes or for the public.

What one has failed to see is the larger scale of where the traffic is coming from.

The number coding scheme has been revised into oblivion. It has been the mulcting grounds for lowly traffic enforcers who don't do anything on the streets of the metropolis but look at the plate numbers of the cars on the road. Never mind the public utility vehicles that violate so many regulations on the road in front of their very eyes! Their obsession with catching private vehicles that do not adhere to the number coding scheme has been the source of traffic congestion on the streets of Metro Manila. Never mind if anarchy on the road rules. As long as they're able to make a quick buck, these vultures dressed in various shades of uniform colors (depending on the city they work at) are up and about during regular work days. You can see that when there is a directive from the MMDA that they are suspending the number coding for a particular day, these traffic enforcers are nowhere to be seen!

Worst of all, when the traffic is all in a snarl, and you look for a traffic enforcer, he's busy chit chatting with the security guard or some other colleague or texting on his mobile phone. Sanamagan this country!

There's also the poor coordination between those that plan to fix the road or water pipes or whatever they want to fix and the local government. One day you see that traffic is flowing smoothly, the next day you wake up to your worst nightmare because some gopher called Maynilad decided to dig the streets overnight and you're in for the surprise of your life the following day! No notice from the local government official. "Surprise surprise!!! You'll be so late today because you got caught in our surprise!!" Or that the garbage trucks are out at 7AM together with all the cars during rush hour, stopping to pick up garbage at every nook and alley of the squatters area in broad daylight. Why in God's name can they not do that between 10PM - 12midnight?!?!?!?!?

We need to review this number coding scheme and just scrap it in the meantime.

It is a disservice to the Filipino people to continue a program that is mindless and baseless, considering that the real contributors to the ever worsening traffic scenario in the country are actually violators of laws and regulations - public utility vehicles that load and unload where and when they want, people who do not use pedestrian lanes and cross when and where they want, illegal parking or parking on the major thoroughfares because they want to park there.

I bet I can do a better job at managing the traffic conditions in the Metropolis without resorting to the number coding scheme. But in the Philippines, there are just too many supporting actors who want to win the best actor trophy. These are the metro manila Mayors who are most likely mired in just as much graft and corruption that they wouldn't want to lift a finger to help alleviate the traffic conditions in Metro Manila.

The only way to put order in chaos is to scrap a very bad idea and review the process. All stakeholders must be well represented during the committee reviews when they implement new policies. That's the way a true democracy works. And if PNoy is really bent on curbing graft and corruption, he must start at this level where the lowly traffic enforcers are the clearest examples of corruption among our lowest animal kingdom.

[All pictures were taken from my iPhone during a really bad traffic along Alabang Zapote Road]

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Postmortem of a revolution

I was mulling on whether to post my next blog on Philippine politics - again.

There's so much more to blog about in Philippine politics. After awhile, it gets to be tiring. I guess I'm part of that crowd that lost the cheers of the EDSA revolution. The Philippines should be proud of what it started globally as a seemingly good trend to overthrow "peacefully" an unfit government official. But all the chutzpah died after awhile. We did another EDSA II with Erap, but the next president wasted the efforts and threw away the meaning of justice served. As the late General Angelo Reyes says it, "weather weather lang yan".

Like so many of our countrymen, justice has remained elusive for the run of the mill Juan de la Cruz.

Millions of pesos are schemed off the coffers of the motherland for corruption in all branches of government.

I remember a few years ago the mother of my patient had told me how their car was taken at gunpoint in their own garage in their home. She brought home her daughter from school and as they got into the garage of their house in Quezon City, a man and his cohorts poked a gun at her, at her husband and yanked out the kid. In less than 60 seconds, their brand new SUV was gone. They reported it immediately to the police. The response of the cop was "it's brand new and insured. Let it go. You'll get a brand new car anyway because it's still fully covered. Rather than make the thieves come back to harass your family."

It's that kind of response that makes you think that the cops are in cahoots with the criminals, if not criminals themselves! That's the kind of response that makes you feel that this country has gone to the dogs. That's the kind of response that shows you the kind of protection we have from our local police officers. That's the kind of response that makes you angry at being unable to do anything. It's the kind of response that makes each night a sleepless one.

In the subdivision where I live, there are a lot of government officials and retired military officials who reside there. I do not mean to brag. But in the area where I live, the upscale neighborhood is not affordable to the ordinary person who makes less than P100,000 individually a month. That kind of money cannot even buy 5 sq m of prime property in our village. And yet their lots are bigger than ours with sprawling gardens and swimming pools. So much for lifestyle checks in government.

At the mall, you see a government official with his family and bodyguards in tow on a spending spree. The wifey is on a shopping binge in LV while the husband is hoarding several shirts at Lacoste and Burberry. The kids are at the Mac store buying a laptop each. Either they hit the lotto the other day or someone just gave them their share of the pie from the last shady deal.

On the plane, you have another government official with his family all in business class. With a salary of P50,000 a month, you could just imagine how he can actually afford to pay for 7 business class tickets to the US! And don't give me that crap that it was paid for in miles!!!

The truth of the matter is, after 25 years of the EDSA revolution, I find nothing to celebrate about.

The old players are still around and everything is just political mumbo jumbo. The idealism was lost in the 25 years that catapulted the Philippines to basically a country that exports its people to war torn places because we cannot provide better pay and job opportunities to Filipinos in our own motherland. While we have become the BPO capital of the world, we have also managed to tip the scale with the most number of drug mules and human trafficking in Asia (if not in the world).

And scandal after scandal has not seemed to paint a rosy picture of the Philippines as the destination to go to. While the picturesque beauty of this country is one of the best in the world, the many efforts at selling us as a tourist destination is hampered by so much crime that not even our own citizens feel safe in our own homes or tourist spots.

Even in my own clinic, there is no month that goes by without my having to fill out forms that my patients will need as requirements for their migrating to another country. When I ask parents why they decide to leave, they only reply that this country is hopeless or that it's for their children or that they need to start anew without having to raise their kids in this kind of hopeless environment.

Where every game show on television shows you to what extent the Filipino would go to just to bring home money. Whether they sing, dance, look stupid or even put on a sad story of how they buried their whole family or how far they traveled just to be in the game show or how pathetic their lives are, the one day shot at fame and hopefully fortune is all the hope that they have.

Where people will audition for supposed talent, even when they are simply laughing stock of a talent search. Where all the poster boys and girls are willing to shed less clothes if only to become an overnight sensation even when all the talent they have is but a face and a crotch to show.

Where we begin to acknowledge foreign born Filipinos as Filipino-Canadians or Filipino-Chinese or Filipino-Japanese or Filipino-Brazilian or Filipino this and that, so that we can bring home some recognition simply because we have a sore lack of authentic talent back home.

Where we have no regards for rules and laws and are willing to look the other way in exchange for money. Where the number coding scheme of the MMDA is really against the rights of car owners and is a source of corruption and greed from the lowly traffic enforcers engaged in mulcting the drivers rather than paying attention to traffic on the roads. Where you can get a professional driver's license even if you can't read or write. Where you see children not only smoking but selling cigarettes as well. Where the sign that alcohol is served only to those above 21 is simply a suggestion and not a rule. Where each law can be so twisted that even a lowly traffic enforcer or barangay tanod is able to provide a steady source of income through pay-offs.

Where have we gone wrong? What has the revolution for democracy at EDSA taught us?

Someone told me that with the EDSA revolution, we have had better opportunities. She was speaking from her perspective because her family happens to be rubbing elbows with government officials on various government infrastructure projects. But 70% of the Filipinos who still live in proverbial poverty do not agree with her. While it is true that we are at pace with the world in terms of technological advancement, we have remained lacking in basic needs for our Filipino citizens. And other third world nations have not caught up with us but advanced in gains over the last decade. And we are struggling to catch up from behind.

Twenty five years. Graft and corruption ridden, we seem to be back to where we started.

I guess the Filipino people just didn't get it. The EDSA revolution was not about overthrowing a dictator. Nor was it over Ninoy Aquino's death alone. It was supposed to overthrow the greed and corruption ingrained in every Filipino that desired for a true moral change.

We just never get it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

POSTHOC ANALYSIS: Does drinking diet soda increase the risk of stroke and heart attack?

I posted a report which was picked up by media from one of the findings based on a study presented at the annual International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles recently.

While the conference centered on many breakthroughs and landmark findings in the management of stroke, the study done by Hannah Gardner from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine grabbed the media limelight.

The study, which followed more than 2,500 New Yorkers for nine or more years, found that people who drank diet soda every day had a 61 percent higher risk of vascular events, including stroke and heart attack, than those who completely eschewed the diet drinks. In this study, researchers surveyed 2,564 north Manhattan residents about their eating behaviors, exercise habits, as well as cigarette and alcohol consumption. The study volunteers were also given physical check-ups that included blood pressure measurements and blood tests for cholesterol and other factors that might affect the risk for heart attack and stroke. The increased likelihood of vascular events remained even after Gardener and her colleagues accounted for risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Pointing the finger more squarely at diet drinks, the researchers found no increased risk among people who drank regular soda.

Obviously, this report sent the beverage companies as well as the US FDA scrambling at the preliminary report that could potentially damage a multitrillion dollar industry.

The question that looms is - Does drinking diet soda daily increase the risk of vascular events?

First of all, a prospective study that is randomized and well-controlled in design using a very large number of subjects would be impossible to do. Not only because of the enrollment criteria for such a study but based on this survey, it would pose ethical risks for conducting such a study that can put people enrolled in the study at risk for a vascular event (stroke or heart attack). Let me put it simply - it's like doing a prospective study on whether smoking causes cancer or not. All the data for smoking causing cancer are based on retrospective data. Which means that the investigators looked at patients with lung cancer and then looked back into their history of smoking and voila! The studies point to the fact that patients who had a smoking history had a higher risk of developing lung cancer (and other forms of cancer) than those who did not smoke. Remember. The key word here is HIGHER RISK. Which means that even if you did not smoke, you still have a chance of getting lung cancer in your lifetime even if you lived in a plastic bubble.

So why not design a prospective study? I mentioned the ethical dilemma here. Patient safety as well as patient risk should never be compromised in the design of a scientific study. The prospective risk studies are unethical to conduct. You cannot randomize one group of subjects to 1 pack a day for 20 years and compare them to another group of subjects who do not smoke and then follow them up for a period of 20 years! This is unacceptable and cannot be conducted in humans.

Hence, we're left with looking at studies designed in the way Gardner and colleagues did their study on diet soda and the risk of vascular diseases.

Second is the fact that while the authors had statistically analyzed the data by removing some other risk factors such as increased cholesterol and hypertension and history of heart disease in their study, a historical data is difficult to verify and can be unreliable particularly when you're doing a survey.

I have taught epidemiology even before epidemiology even was a formal course in the Philippines. So I would know what I am talking about when I say that the difficulty in conducting surveys is the veracity of the response of subjects. Reliability can range from 0-100% and the person conducting the survey (enumerator) would have to be in the cast of "Lie to Me" (the TV series) in order to spot whether the subject being surveyed is truthful or not. However, the considerably large number of subjects in this study would possibly account for outliers. But like all surveys and retrospective studies, we take everything as face value and analyze the data given what we have.

This is how studies on linking smoking and lung cancer, marijuana intake and lung cancer, sun exposure and skin cancer, HPV infection and cervical cancer, hepatitis B and liver cancer were born. No one does a prospective study.

Which goes to the analysis on other factors which MAY have contributed to the higher risk of stroke and heart attack of patients drinking diet soda.

In this diet conscious era, we all like to look like supermodels. Yet want to eat like pigs! (Ouch, did I hurt anyone?) So some beverage company comes us with a slogan that we can go ahead and drink all the soda we want without the guilt feeling of having to consume more calories. But the human mind (and the gastronomic capacity) will always reason out that since we're having a can of Coke Zero then we have saved enough calories to go ahead and devour a chicken and go for the unlimited rice galore at Mang Inasal!

So let's do the math.

A regular coke will contain the following calories depending on the amount you take in:

8 fluid oz. = 105 calories
12 =155 calories
16=200 calories

And I'm talking about the bottled beverage. A can of coke is about 140 calories while coke from the dispenser will vary from each fast food outlet. For example, an 8 oz coke from Wendy's is about 160 calories while 8 oz coke from McDonald's is 250 calories. That's because the dispensers will have varied caramel-sweetener-water mixture.

And while we're busy counting calories from the beverage drink, we forget the food we eat.

Let's do the math again. This time we drop the regular coke and exchange it with Coke Zero (0 calories) and go for the extra rice.

In short-grain white rice there are:
approx 267 calories in 1 cup steamed or boiled

In medium-grain white rice there are:
approx 242 calories in 1 cup steamed or boiled

In long-grain white rice there are:
approx 205 calories in 1 cup steamed or boiled

In medium-grain brown rice there are:
approx 218 cals in 1 cup steamed or boiled

In long-grain brown there are:
approx 216 calories in 1 cup steamed or boiled

In basmati rice there are
approx 190 calories in 1 cup steamed or boiled.

In wild rice there are:
approx 166 calories in 1 cup of steamed or boiled

In Chinese restaurant steamed rice there are:
approx 199 calories in 1 cup (loosely packed).

So you've balanced everything off with the same junk you disposed to the junk you took in. Talk about zeroing it out then adding more!

Put that in the Pinoy's perspective where noodles are served in parties as viand and not as main dish and here's what you get with eating pasta or noodles together with your rice:

Without sauce, butter, or oil, there are:

approx 38 calories in each ounce or 28g of cooked fresh pasta
approx 44 calories in each ounce or 28g of (enriched) cooked pasta
approx 35 calories in 1 each ounce or 28g of (enriched) whole wheat pasta

approx 133 calories in a 3½ oz or 100g serving of cooked fresh pasta
approx 152 calories in a 4 oz or 114g serving of cooked fresh pasta
approx 304 calories in an 8 oz or 227g serving cooked fresh pasta
approx 608 calories in a 1 pound or 454g of cooked fresh pasta

approx 175 calories in 1 cup (5 oz) of (enriched) cooked whole wheat spaghetti
approx 182 calories in 1 cup (4.1 oz) of cooked small shells
approx 190 calories in 1 cup (5 oz) of cooked fresh spaghetti
approx 212 calories in 1 cup (4.7 oz) of cooked spiral shaped
approx 221 calories in 1 cup (5 oz) of (enriched) cooked elbow shaped
approx 221 calories in 1 cup (5 oz) of (enriched) cooked spaghetti

And I could go on and on, but the take home message is that while we are gullible enough to believe advertising gimmicks (all the models for diet sodas are reed thin), the studies do not take into consideration the daily dietary practice of people who exchange another serving of food for the zero calories in a beverage drink.

Finally, is the fact that artificial sweeteners and coloring have long been studied to be carcinogenic in mice and laboratory animals.

While it may be a fact that aspartame or food coloring (caramel) will need to be consumed in larger amounts in humans compared to animal studies to probably cause cancer or vascular problems, the same science is true for the amount of nicotine exposure to animals before there is lung damage in humans. But the US FDA will not comment on this issue because undermining the diet soda industry will definitely send the stocks of Coca-Cola tumbling down and mark the end of the era of an American beverage industry that supports American Idol. More so, not at this time when the American economy is still reeling from a financial deluge.

So what do the studies show?

If you plan to go on a diet because of nutritional or health reasons - please count the calories. If you need to take something to drink, don't just go for the zero calories but with artificial sweeteners. There's always water which has zero calories as well. This study may not have enough data to shake the rabid eating and drinking habits of people, but it's a wake-up call that we need to improve the overall dietary habit in order to lead healthier lives.

After all - you are what you eat!

[Calorie facts from and Nutrition Center of the Philippines]

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The top 5 text messages that drove me crazy!

So I get text messages from mothers who have issues or concerns or queries about their kids health.

While some of them deserve immediate medical attention, most of them are the mundane or stupid (excuse my comment).

I selectively picked the most stupid and irritating and annoying. There are times that I don't even want to answer the text message. But my conscience gets the better of me.

So you judge for yourself which should be the top irritating text message from parents (I saved them then decided to delete them after I blogged). The message in parentheses are just my wishful thoughts which I wanted to text back but did not.:

1. 930PM
M (mom): Si baby nag thu-thumb suck. Bakit kaya?
R (reply): Ewan. Baka gutom.
M: Tinatanggal ko pero umiiyak pag inaalis ko ang thumb niya.
R: Huwag mo ng tanggalin.
M: Di ba masama mag-thumb suck?
R: Bigyan mo na lang ng gatas.
M: Na-i-istress ako sa pag thumb suck niya doc.
R: Dalhin mo na lang sa clinic bukas at paliwanag ko sa yo.
M: Next month na lang pag check up niya. Ano kaya puede ko gawin in the meantime?
R: Wala. Ikaw na lang mag-suck ng thumb niya.

2. 130AM
M: Pasensiya na kayo magtatanong lang. Iyak ng iyak si baby. Natataranta kami dito sa bahay. Nagagalit na si lola at kanina pa umiiyak anak ko. Bakit kaya siya umiiyak? May kabag ba? Ok ba ang acete de mansanilya?
R: Baka gutom o basa. Paki tingin.
M: Napadede ko na pero pagkatapos ng dede eh umiiyak pa din.
R: Pakidala na lang sa clinic mamayang hapon.
M: Naku eh baka naman puede magreseta muna kayo ng gamot.
R: Para sa?
M: Para tumigil ang pagiyak niya.
R: Dalhin niyo sa emergency room.
M: Ngayon?
R: Yes. Ask the resident to check the baby.
M: Wala pa asawa ko. Walang magdadala sa amin.
R: When your husband comes home take the baby to the hospital.

3. 1125PM
M: Elvis, 3 years old, has fever and cough for 5 days. What to give?
R: Paracetamol. Bring to the clinic tomorrow.
M: May exam siya bukas sa school.
R: No school muna. Bring to clinic tomorrow.
M: Naku, may honor pa naman siya. Di siya puede mag-absent.
R: No school! Bring to clinic tomorrow.
M: Puede yung nabigay mong antibiotic last year?
R: No. Bring to clinic tomorrow.
M: Kawawa naman anak ko.

4. 3AM
M: Doc, 10 x na nagtatae at 5 x na sumuka si baby kahapon. What to do?
R: Bring to the ER
M: Walang gamot?
R: Bring to the ER so the baby can get assessed.
M: Meron akong Ercefuryl. Gamot ng aking pamangkin. Puede ba yon?
R: Bring to the ER. If he keeps having diarrhea and continues to vomit, he will get dehydrated.
M: Kasi baka panis na yung gatas.
R: Can't tell unless you take the patient to the ER. Have the resident assess him and they will call me.
M: Sige doc, observe ko muna baka mawala.

5. 2AM
M: Hi Doc. Ask lang ako kasi may nakapa akong bukol sa puwet ng anak ko (7 years old). Anong puedeng ipahid?
R: Wala. Bring to the clinic later.
M: Kasi katabi niya si lola at nagaaala si nanay baka cancer daw.
R: I don't think so. Baka pigsa lang.
M: Di makatulog si nanay. Nagpapatext sa inyo.
R: Bring to clinic later. Kung cancer yan eh hindi ako nagrereseta ng chemotherapy sa text!
M: Ganun? Nakakatakot naman.
R: Wala yan. Bring to clinic later for check up.

These are but some of the weird text messages I got over the week. Nothing is more stressful than having to answer them "nicely". Seriously, I think these people think that we're text buddies and that I don't sleep. Geez! Some people have got to get a life. But if you happen to be a pediatrician who really likes entertaining these loonies, let me know. I would be more than happy to transfer these patients to you.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Of love, lost and moving on

During the early 1950s, no one would have thought that there would come a time when the internet would make meeting people a breeze. For many young Chinese couples, those were the days where finding a life-time partner would require the manual internet - a matchmaker. That was the tradition. And that was how my parents met.

After a few months of courtship, their parents thought it was time to tie the knot. Both were still in college when they married.

Unlike many children today who marry young and then depend on their parents for their daily sustenance, my father's family insisted that once he finished college he would have to be independent.

I came 1 1/2 years after they were married. My sister followed another 1 1/2 years later.

We were not rich. My father had to find odd jobs to make ends meet. My mother had to be resourceful to augment the meager income he was making. We grew up shuttling from place to place - living with my grandparents then moving to a warehouse then back to my grandparents home then to a drafty apartment then back to my grandparents home then an apartment in Makati then finally finding home to where we are today.

I grew up remembering both the good and bad times we shared as a family.

There were days when I could feel the tension at home because dad had a bad day at work or was up to his neck in debt. Or the days when my mom would have to dig into her piggy bank for our allowance or hock her jewelry so that we had money for tuition fee, which would bring a tear to her eyes. Or the days when we had to make do with an electric fan because we had no airconditioner and when the electric fan wasn't working my mom and dad were up the whole night manually fanning both me and my sister. As a family we had our share of arguments as well.

But in between those tough times, I found love.

I found love in the daily tuyo and spam in "toyo and calamansi" and fried rice my mom would prepare for us for breakfast.
I found love in the lazy stroll at Roxas Boulevard after mass from Baclaran on a Sunday morning.
I found love in the weekend Sunday at some forsaken beach with my parents and sister.
I found love in the tiny matchbox cars that served as a reward for the purple and green stars and I brought home each grading period from school.
I found love in the little gifts that dad would bring home every valentine's day for my mom, even though we had very little to spare.
I found love in the thoughtfulness of every small occasion our family would share each payday.
I found love in the cramped room we huddled in to watch a TV show.
I found love in the stories my parents would tell us about how life was both kind and unkind.
I found love in the small kiosk my parents owned where Sundays would be a day we needed to be all present to cook hotdogs and sell softdrinks and ice cream at the zoo.
I found love in the struggle of my dad with his diabetes and eventually his debilitating stroke.
I found love in my mom's having to drive my dad back and forth the hospital during my training days in the US.

Even when we lost my dad over 16 years ago, I found love in many of those who came to his wake or expressed their condolences.

He was a simple man who taught me that the worth of a real man is one who had integrity, honesty, and generosity.

In his demise, we lost a man who stood by his principles on decent living, on making a marriage work in spite of the odds, on fidelity and love and family, on being a friend when you needed one most.

Today I find love in each day I live.

I find love in caring for my aging mother.
I find love in the Sunday brunch with the remaining family and my partner.
I find love in the occasions where I get to splurge a little or splurge a lot.
I find love in caring for the sick and the needy, in being a little more generous to those who have less, in not taking advantage of position and power.
I find love in a careless day at the pool, simply dozing off to a good book or to simply look back at the past and find the story of the life of my parents whose love surpassed the challenges of this worldly life.
I find love in walking the dog or caressing the cat or feeding my fish.

I will always find love in the ordinary things we do in life.

Because I learned from someone who taught me that true love weathers the challenges in making relationships work, and that it does not expect anything in return. If we only look for it deep within our hearts...we will find love.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Postscripts from the grave

I received the text message at 840 am that Angelo Reyes had died at 832 am on February 8, 2011.

A former AFP Chief of Staff who held several key positions in government after his stint in the military from Ate Glue, who became embattled in the imbroglio of the AFP scandal, had committed suicide.

During the senate inquiry on the AFP scandal - former comptroller Garcia getting a slap on the hand through a plea-bargaining agreement with the Ombudsman, Rabusa spilling the beans on the alleged malversation of funds and former COA auditor Heidi Mendoza revealing the very bad audit trail and alleged cover-up in the military funds - I could not help but want to share my thoughts as citizen Juan de la Cruz on the matter.

And while I was waiting for the perfect timing to write it all down, the perfect storm happens. Angelo Reyes commits suicide.

HIs death has left more questions from the Filipino people, who probably for the longest time, are tired of the corruption in government.

It is without doubt that the average Juan de la Cruz has suffered tremendously and has perhaps become callous with the way graft and corruption has become a lifestyle for government officials. When Heidi Mendoza points out that not all in government are corrupt and that still those in government who join this institution as public service to the Filipino people, this practice has become the exception rather than the rule.

I do not cast aspersions against Angie Reyes. He had an illustrious career. An officer and the chief of staff of the Philippine Army. While he is known for his bravery and his rise to the ranks, he is also better known as the chief of staff of ousted president Erap. He took a stand to defy his commander in chief for reasons perhaps only he will know and which he takes to his grave. And if this is so much of the bravado that was Angie Reyes, Erap's successor undeniably was ridden with more questionable ethics and moral values when she stole the presidency from the rightful winner of a democratic election. Ironically, he stood by her.

Ate Glue had stayed in office because her generals were well rewarded. That, no one can doubt. It is evident that key governmental posts were provided to the chiefs of staff on a silver platter.

But the graft and corruption that riddled the AFP is no different from the graft and corruption in the Philippine bureaucracy. One does not need to look far to see this. From the BIR to the Bureau of Customs to congressmen and other local government officials who utilize pork barrel funds in order to enrich themselves while in public office, they are a dime a dozen. This apparent lack of transparency has numbed the average Juan de la Cruz. If those who serve public office can steal from the coffers of the government, then why not the average worker? And as long as public officials remain exempt from being dragged to court or are incarcerated for enriching themselves in public office, it will be a lonely battle for PNoy who seeks to change the ethical and moral conduct of those in government.

And this is where I beg the indulgence of the Reyes family. You see, after all the flames have been put away, it cannot be underscored that the money used to enrich those in public office come from hard earned money by the average Juan de la Cruz. For us who strive to make a decent living, who toil each day and probably work several jobs or take an exodus and work in dangerous countries in order to provide a better future for our families, the misuse of public funds will definitely catch the ire of every average Filipino.

You see, it is not only you as a family that grieves for the death of a loved one. There is no heroism in the act of suicide of Reyes. He takes to his grave the quest for justice of Juan de la Cruz.

The fact is, that those who serve in government will never be able to enrich themselves or even provide palatial homes or pay for trips for wives and family around the world, or own multitude of cars and bank accounts with how much they earn. And this is what strikes a chord with every Filipino. Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez is wrong and lying when she says that there is no way you can pin down ex-Maj Gen Carlos Garcia for plunder. His family have lived the good life while 70% of Filipinos live below the poverty line. His SALN do not match what he has in the bank. His wife, unless she is Jackie Onassis or Jinky Pacquiao or his children will never be able to buy a condominium in New York with how much the husband makes.

The media has simmered down and wrote only the good things Angie Reyes had done during his career as a public servant. And those that have come to his defense are colleagues and comrades who are mostly generals as well.

As a family man, there is no doubt that Angie and all the generals have provided well to their families. How well, is apparent in their lifestyles. Where their children are schooled. The kind of houses they live in. And how disproportionate their living conditions are compared to even the average business manager who seems to have to shuffle in between jobs in order to send their children to school, provide a house over their heads and food on the table.

Angie Reyes, a bemedalled soldier had fought the physical battles in his lifetime. It was unusual that the man who led the destruction of Camp Abu Bakkar would be so engulfed with depression when the time came to prove his innocence from a fight with allegations on corruption in the military.

To the Reyes family - media or the senators or those who casted aspersions against Angelo Reyes did not kill him. An innocent man will always stand and fight for his innocence. I for one would be in a fighting stance if someone maligned my family and my personality. No amount of puny senate inquiry or people who are out to destroy my reputation will succeed in destroying my spirit and resolve to clear my name. There is no doubt that Angelo Reyes earned his medals bravely, but behind his downfall was a more powerful person who had destroyed and besmirched his reputation.

His death was tragic and it left a large void in the hearts of the Filipino people. He took what he knew to his grave.

And justice will remain elusive to the average Juan de la Cruz.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The supporters of PNoy and Juana Change

This 5:30 mins video has had almost 70,000 hits.

It has also had some flak from government officials and the jockstraps, uhmm, supporters of PNoy.

I supported PNoy when he ran for President. My support though was a skeptical one. It was either him or the stoogie of GMA or Erap. The choice was simple. His support from me (and from most of my friends) were based on the platform of change and the fight against greed and corruption. His support stemmed from a legacy of parents who were morally and ethically upright. And let me remind his die-hard supporters, that if we supported the presidency of PNoy then, it was not because he had the brains to be the president. After all, in all PNoy's years in public office, he had nothing to show. Nothing presidentiable. It was because among the candidates, he was the only one with enough moral ascendancy to lead.

I also made the stern resolution that while I supported him, I will also be his number one critic during his term in office.

It's almost one year since he took office. And while I still support his leadership, his "barkada" in the palace need to place themselves in the proper perspective that any criticism against their "boss" is supposed to be a good thing. It's not a hatchet job, but a reminder that he cannot get sidetracked in his vow and aim to clean up the government from scalawags in and out of a uniform. He needs to grab the current situation by the balls and not simply depend on his groupies in the palace to report to him. Visibility in the perimeter is not the only role of the president. He has to act decisively and be on top of the situation.

Nobody said the presidency would be an easy task.

The problem is, since he took up the challenge, he is responsible for living up to the job description.

His amateur groupies in the palace whom he handpicked through a friendship and long-time bonding process are mostly amateurs. Some of their decisions are highly flawed because implementation is through a trial and error method. The criticisms PNoy receives should be taken with a grain of salt and should be a reminder to him and his cabinet on the promise of change.

Government positions is not a call on friendship bonds. True friends will guide you in the right direction. Those that just take advantage of you have no place in your "family" of government officials. At the end of the day, as president of this country, you will be accountable not only to the Gokongweis, Sys, Ayalas, Tans, Robredos, Carandangs, but to every Juan de la Cruz that Juana Change!

Kung kami ang boss mo, yung mga hinayupak mong tsutsu ay dapat ilagay mo sa ayos!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Stressed and Tangled

The start of February was an usually busy month. The whole week just flew by so quickly. After giving 3 talks in the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society of the Philippines annual meeting and a talk for the Merck Meetings, and sitting as panel in the UST Graduate School Colloquium, I found myself stressed and weathered out in the first 5 days of the week of February.

Even the Chinese New Year was greeted by a peck on the cheek for my mom and a quick send of SMS to my partner, relatives and friends.

This is my first blog entry for the month of February and while I try to compose an upcoming blog for the upcoming Valentine's Day, let me just give a quick and short review of the Disney movie "Tangled" which my partner dragged me to watch after this horrendously hectic week.

I am basically a Kid at Heart. If there is something that makes me feel relaxed and carefree, it's bringing back childhood into my life. Basically, at our age, physically transporting ourselves back in time is impossible. Even all the Lancome, Shu Uemera, Philosophy Miracle Worker do not seem to be doing a rejuvenating job as well as I expected. Nevertheless, Hope in a Jar will remain the tall order of the day as the stress factors taking a toll on maintaining a youthful looking skin seems to be heading for Botox valley.

Then there is being a child all over again.

The weekend was off to the movies, even if it meant that after speaking and attending a wedding reception, we would have to watch the last full show of the movie.

Walt Disney's 50th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series is adapted from the German fairy tale Rapunzel by the Brothers Grimm.

The story tells of an old woman Grothel who chances upon a drop of pure sunlight that hits the ground and an enchanting flower with magical powers blooms. She sings to the flower and is able to make herself reverse her age back to her youth (now talk about the true fountain of youth!). She keeps this flower hidden from all so that she can stay young forever.

One day in the Kingdom, the Queen falls ill while she is pregnant. None of the medicines could cure her and the soldiers are sent out to look for the magical flower. Unfortunately for Grotherl, the flower is found and brought to the palace where it is made into broth. The Queen recovers and gives birth to Rapunzel, whose hair of gold would bring magical cure to almost any infirmity including resurrecting someone from the dead! Grothel finds Rapunzel and snatches the baby from the palace. She hides in the forest in a tower and raises Rapunzel on her own.

All the palace soldiers are unable to find Rapunzel and so the devastated King and Queen send out thousands of floating lanterns into the sky hoping that one day their princess would return.

And as Rapunzel grew up together with her pet chameleon, Pascal (what a cute creature) alone in the tower, she could not help wonder why on her birthday she would see those strange floating lanterns in the sky and where they were coming from.

Of course there should be a prince charming. In this case, it was a thief in the alias of Flynn Rider (real name Eugene Fitzherbert) who stole the princess' crown from the palace in the style of Mission Impossible. His run off with the palace guards and Maximus (the horse that acted like a dog) had led him to the tower where Rapunzel lived.

With Rapunzel's resolve to find the source of the floating lanterns and conniving with Flynn Rider to the see the floating lanterns for her 18th birthday, the adventure begins.

Fun filled, witty, excellent script, beautiful music and one helluvah ride in this animated tale that not only enchants and captures the hearts of even the seasoned viewers. I found myself transported into my childhood days, this time marveling at the animation, romance and comedy that only a Disney film can give.

What captivated me was the floating lantern scene where I oohed and aahhhed as I watched the movie in 3D! The original music "I See the Light" is one of the highlights of this floating lantern scene and it brought tears rolling down my eyes and a lump on my throat.

It was one of Disney's finest moments and while the 3D movie may be a bit steep for the average Filipino viewer, I strongly recommend that this movie be seen in 3D so you can transport yourself back in time, and feel part of Once Upon a Time...all over again.

See you at the movies!!!