Monday, December 24, 2012

90 seconds on a day before Christmas

It's the day before Christmas, December 24, 2012.

On my way to the gym early this morning, the streets were mostly deserted. The supermarkets at the malls were open early and that's where all the cars were parked. I guess it's a sign that people are busy preparing food for tonight's noche buena, a tradition that millions of Filipinos and billions of people all over the world carry. To the Christian community, it marks the birth of Jesus Christ. To the majority of the people all over the world, Christmas has become one of the most anticipated festive occasions of the year.

As my car stopped on an intersection, I could not help but watch some children without slippers and in ragged clothes huddle in a corner. And while the music in the car churned to the dancing and prancing and rocking of Christmas carols, the young woman carrying a baby outside the window of my car was begging for food.

The 90 seconds wait hit a lump on my throat. Here were children who did not deserve to be on the streets the day before Christmas or any other day in their lives. They were peering into cars that did not even bear plate numbers (read - spankingly NEW!). And no one even opened the window for them.

On the other side of the street were people bringing loads of supermarket items and plates of food, I surmised in preparation for tonight's gathering and merry making. It was like a film in slow motion where I slowly picked up my bag for some change while watching the counter of the traffic light tick slowly away. I pushed down the window switch and a whole flock of children had leaned against the car. The coins were enough for them.

When I got home I could not rub the picture off my mind. The 90 seconds kept rewinding on my mind while I had lunch. I, and let me say it cynically, most of us, have more than what we expect from a good life. Sure, we've had good and bad days. Sure, we've had our share of heartaches and headaches. But we should consider ourselves luckier than most. And the largesse that we have should not be shared solely among those who already have more in life but to the very least.

A few more hours and it would be Christmas. I took out my checkbook and wrote an amount for a preschool child to go to school. I gave it to our parish church. It would make a difference in his or her life. I went back home and looked at how much food there was on the kitchen table. They were gifts from several people. I asked the household help to divide all these cookies and pastries and fruits and candies and whatever there was into several packages. When I get the food I ordered for tonight's dinner, I will pass on some gifts to those who are on the streets on Christmas eve.

If we all put out a little from what gifts we earned the whole year round, it really would be a better place for all. It's my grown up Christmas wish list.

What's your Christmas wish?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Silent nights

It's 6 days to Christmas and I have not posted a blog for the longest time.

Oddly, it's one of those days where I don't even feel the Christmas spirit. I am not sure if it has anything to do with the workload or or what has happened to some of my employees, friends and loved ones this year. It was, I should say, a most challenging and difficult year.

There were those who I had the honor of working with for the longest time, leave the company. There were those who had lost loved ones to illnesses which even the best that medical science could offer, could not save. There were tasks in the work field that became difficult and patience became a virtue. (It definitely isn't me, but I had to learn it the hard way.)

In short, there were hellos and goodbyes.

Perhaps the most difficult of all was to see loved ones go through the worst days of their lives and there were times that I felt that God was not around to make the pain go away.

I remember the year when my father passed away, it was one of the most miserable Christmas of my family. My family and I huddled in a corner and hoped that the year would pass quickly.

During the weekend at the mall, I strolled around to see the merry making, shopping, caroling, dining, glittering and whatever joy that decked the halls that make Christmas tralalalala-lala! And as I reached home, it would be one of those silent nights, waiting for a brand new day.

I mulled on the thought that while the shoppers were busily wasting their 13th month pays and Christmas bonuses on gifts galore, there were street kids who have nothing to look forward to. The victims of the recent calamity, Typhoon Pablo, had yet to recover from their losses. And it looked like the community where I lived was awash in cash and gadgets.

Even newspapers had the commercial angle of posting articles on "what do you want for Christmas"? Gadgets, Clothes, Cash were at the top of the list. Food was at the bottom. Christmas had lost its meaning. It is a materialistic season and that's the bottom line.

In reality, media has brainwashed us into believing that the true spirit of Christmas was in the spending spree of all that we earned or worked for for the year. It's the once a year splurge that heralded the airwaves even as early as September (in the Philippines, the -ber months stood out to mean that Christmas would be near). In the Philippines, there are two seasons where work comes to a standstill - the holy week leading to Easter Sunday and Christmas leading to the New Year.

And while we prep up the economy through spending more this Christmas, there will be many as well who will not feel the yuletide joy. And the mixed feelings of joy and sadness permeate my silent nights.

I hope that for those of you who regularly read my blog, you may find a new meaning to Christmas...more than just the gift-giving and merry making in our homes, but in those whose lives we can touch and we can change because this Christmas, we made a difference in their lives.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A little bit crazy

We're a little bit crazy in someway.

I guess life's challenges puts us at the throngs of balance between too much happiness and too much sadness.

We are all tested by major changes, delayed promises, impossible problems, unanswered prayers, undeserved criticisms and even senseless tragedies. Often times, we say that these are just "tests in life" and we need to pass the tests.

The tragedy felt by family members of suddenly losing a parent to a disaster in a family that is tightly knit is different if the family was in disarray from the get go. Job loss or financial difficulties are more stressful to someone who is the major bread winner. Whatever the problems are, the circumstances surrounding it form the "icing on the cake".

Mental health is as important as physical health. In the United States, it is estimated that about 25-30% of Americans suffer from mental health problems - anywhere from anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, major depression, alcohol and substance abuse, sexual deviations, to name a few. The data in the Philippines is not any different - perhaps what will vary are the types of mental health disorders but the overall statistics more or less remains the same. Which means that about 30Million Filipinos suffer from mental disorder. The difference in gathering more data in the Philippines lies in the fact that seeing a psychiatrist or seeking assistance for mental health problems carries a stigma in the country. It's probably why we brush aside patients who have mood disorders and say that they're just not in their element for the day or children who are hyperactive as just part of the growing up years or that they're just "spoiled" brats.

Because of the cultural differences and the fact that many Filipino physicians even fail to recognize early signs of deteriorating or changing mental health is a barrier to educating laymen on the process of recognizing and helping patients with these disorders.

Today, people and science are taking mental health to a new level. With awareness, must come answers to properly address how we can manage, recognize and refer patients to health care providers experienced at diagnosing and treating mental health disorders.

Here are a few tips on recognition of mental health problems:
1. Children react differently from adults. While adults may talk about it, children usually mimic what they see by re-enacting it or experience night terrors or nightmares.

2. Mood changes between mania and depression may be abrupt and often times are difficult to recognize. Because it may be rapidly-cycling, the general public brush aside these mood swings as "sumpong" of the person.

3. We're all a little bit crazy. That's a given. I have my mood swings and have had good and bad days as well. The tipping point comes and goes and I coast along the road of life. For those who have mental illness, however, the symptoms continue over a period of time. In short, it's pervasive. Remember, there are various mental disorders and each of them should fulfill a cluster of diagnostic criteria to fall under a classification.

4. People who suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) mimic depression. Flashbacks are common among these victims of trauma and symptoms can appear much later after the incident (sometimes 3 months to 1 year). Nightmares and avoidance of certain places or people who trigger the trauma are usually presenting manifestations. They also retell the story over and over again to those who are willing to listen. They are usually easily started or are hypervigilant.

5. Never take suicide - whether expressed verbally or attempted - casually. Any form of expression of suicide must be taken seriously.

6. Just because you understand the symptoms does not mean that it can replace professional advice, treatment or any other form of care. If you really understand what the person with mental illness is going through, you need to help him/her seek professional help. Understanding alone is not the solution to the problem.

7. Many illnesses have symptoms that may either overlap or be similar in appearance as another disorder. For example, patients may be mis-diagnosed as major depressive disorder when in fact the patient may be in the depressive phase of a bipolar disorder. On the extreme end, however, is the fact that ONE symptom is not an indication for a mental illness in the person.

You can help your friend or neighbor or relatives or even yourself by making sure that your mental health stays in check as well.

The site of the Philippine Psychiatric Association with this link

is a great read.

Think about it...we're all a little bit crazy some days of our lives. But for those who are a bit crazy for most days of their lives, there's hope for them than just mere understanding. They have the right to lead better lives as well and the road to recovery isn't just about recognition of the's about taking the road with them one day at a time...

[Photo from the Philippine Psychiatric Association]

Monday, November 19, 2012


The best and the worst of the face of digital technology has shown its face.

Last week, the video of #amalayer went viral. The video showed Paula Jamie Salvosa berating lady guard Sharon Mae Casinas at the LRT Santolan station after the guard had told the former to place her bag in the conveyer belt for scanning as part of the security procedures of the train stations and going into the train station at the wrong entrance. Apparently peeved by the guard, Salvosa went on a psychotic anger spree and the rest is history. [She probably had too much espresso that morning.]

Salvosa has gone down in history, courtesy of YouTube, and digital technology as the most watched and trending topic worldwide, replacing even the "Chuck Norris" jokes. Several spoofs were born from the original video that was shown on major network stations during prime time news. After going viral, the life of Salvosa would never be the same again. She probably will never get a job anymore, except probably as some floosie cocktail waitress or masseuse or go-go dancer somewhere in the Santolan area as well.

Technology has made lives of people more productive and communication across all barriers has been torn down. On the other hand, it has served as the medium for destroying careers and personalities.

You will recall the fighting tiff between Raymart Santiago and Mon Tulfo at the Cebu Pacific counter. The sex videos of Dr. Hayden Kho has been the final ax on his blossoming career as a supposed "cosmetic surgeon" (when in actuality he is only a general practitioner) and increased his popularity as a porn star stud. Christopher Lao the Ateneo law school graduate who berated a MMDA officer because Mr. Lao had forced his car to go through a flooded area only to realize that it was neck deep. He was angry with the MMDA officer because the latter had not warned him of the depth of the water. He later accused people who uploaded the video of cyberbullying him. Then there was the case of the Robert Blair Carabuena who berated and slapped the MMDA officer who accosted him for beating the red light. The Human Resource executive of Philip Morris now has a pending case with the government and his driver's license has been permanently revoked.

Media has had a frenzy at the various YouTube uploads lately. Short of having enough news to report, they have included what has become "viral" in an effort to increase their respective viewers. With various networks battling each other for every nook and cranny for the popularity ratings, what has turned "viral" alone in YouTube has now become a "contagion" with media fanning the flames of stupidity, idiocy, sex, violence and profanity.

On the other side of the sword are the faces of success from technology. Charice Pempengco's life changed overnight after Ellen Degeneres and later Oprah made her an overnight sensation. Efren Penaflorida had won the CNN Heroes of the Year a few years ago because the Filipinos had pushed for his achievements online.

And so the story goes, while digital technology has improved in connecting the stories and lives of many, it has also served as the destruction and downfall of others.

The moral of the story - the next time you open your mouth or go into an outrage - STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN. Someone beside you may be taking a video of your rampage and I guarantee you, life with never be the same again - no matter how much you try to explain your side. Media will always be "holier than thou". After all, to media, it's only about the numbers. It will not matter what you say at the end of the day because you have been judged from hello.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Over the long holidays, the news of a UST alumna who was murdered in cold blood hogged the headlines. Cyrish Magalang, a 20 year old cum laude graduate of Tourism was found dead, hogtied with 49 stab wounds and her face bashed with a hollow block so that no one would recognize her.

Suspects Rolin and younger brother Roel Gacita, both tricycle drivers, were later arrested.

From the ABS-CBN news desk, this was what was in the media report of the side of the Gacita brothers:

"Rolin, in an interview with radio dzMM's Rated Korina, admitted to killing the UST alumna while he was under the influence of drugs.

He said Roel, also a tricycle driver, picked up Magalang. He then told his brother to go to an area where he killed the Thomasian alumna.

"Naano po yung pag-iisip ko, tulirong-tuliro, dahil sa nag-away kami ng asawa ko at naka-inom ako, kaya naka-gawa ako ng 'di maganda," he said.

"Wala ho ako sa sarili ko, tulirong-tuliro ang isipan ko. Dahil nga sa, 'yun nga, 'yung droga. Kaya 'di ko na alam ang nagawa ko," he added.

Rolin said he stabbed Magalang with a screwdriver and then smashed her head with a hollow block.

He also insisted that his brother never had a hand in the crime. He also denied that he raped Magalang.

"Hindi naman ho 'yung kapatid ko 'yung nagplano. Nagulat na lang siya nung sinabi kong ihinto niya 'yung motor... Nagulat siya nung pumasok na lang ako sa tricycle... Pinilit ko lang siya na dalhin 'dun…Ako lang naman po [ang pumatay]. Bale yung kapatid ko, nasa labas lang, nakabantay lang sa motor niya," he said.

Rolin claimed he has no other criminal record, saying he was only a simple tricycle driver who sidelines as a vegetable vendor.

He also appealed to Magalang's family for forgiveness. "Nagsisisi ako sa nagawa ko. Pagdurusahan ko po ang kung ano mang ibibigay sa aking parusa para mapatawad lamang ako ng mga magulang niya," he said. – with reports from Eric Dastas and David Oro, dzMM"

The interview was a startling revelation of no remorse on the part of the criminal. He was able to aptly describe (in spite of his being in a drugged state) the senseless gruesome act that he committed.

The sheer fact that he claims that he has had no criminal record and that he was "only a simple tricycle driver who sidelines as a vegetable vendor" is hogwash and a pathetic excuse to make him look like a sheep in wolf's clothing. There is no such this as a "simple" driver. The mere fact that the killer is hooked on drugs is a crime in itself. There must be a more thorough investigation on how the alleged killer was able to get prohibited drugs, who the source (or drug pusher) is, and get to the bottom of the prohibited substance industry.

Methamphetamine HCl (otherwise known as Shabu) is one of the most common substance abused drugs in the Philippines. Otherwise known as poor man's cocaine, Shabu thrives mostly in the poorer communities of the Philippines. It is estimated that almost 80% of those living in the slum areas have used shabu in their lifetime, while 60% of these 80% are regular users of shabu. Obviously, because of its euphoric effects, its users range from the very poor to the affluent in society.

Shabu is a stimulant and a psychotropic agent in the amphetamine class. Ephedrine and amphetamine carry similar chemical structures, which makes it easy to manufacture methamphetamine HCl or Shabu in any ordinary backyard laboratory.

What makes Shabu appealing to drug users is not only the low cost for getting high - it's the getting high part. Shabu induces mania, euphoria, increased libido and self-esteem, alertness, self-confidence, and increased energy. Because of these effects, almost 95% of prostitutes in the Philippines test positive for shabu use.

You can always detect a user. Symptoms of heightened alertness, diminished fatigue, weight loss or no weight gain and no appetite, constantly thirsty with dry lips yet looks dehydrated (you'll notice this among some of our movie personalities or models), excessive talking and during the "high" stage, shabu users are awake all day. When the drug's effects wears off, the user begins to crash and this is when they become violent, aggressive, and confused.

Drug addiction has become a large problem in the Philippines. Drug mules are a dime a dozen with China executing several Filipino drug mules who want to earn a quick living and dash for the execution chamber. The irony here is that the Philippines and Jejomar Binay are quick to dash on the next plane to ask for a reprieve for the crimes they commit. Crimes that bring shame to the Filipino people as a race. Crimes that we commit in our own country and cannot seem to grapple at containing this heinous act of drug peddling.

I don't think we get the picture clear here. I am sure that we have military officials and government officials that are the biggest fish here. If you don't have the highest people in the land coddling these drug pushers, they won't exist.

And the problem won't go away until the President of the Philippines wages an all out battle against what destroys and kills the very future of our people. It's not the Gloria Arroyos or the Marcoses or the Chief Justice that should be his major agenda. It's sending a message to an all out war against the very core of what kills the Filipinos. While it may not get "pogi" points as political vendetta, it is the right road (read - ang tamang daan) to take.

The all out war against drugs must take precedence over friends and colleagues in order to end these senseless random acts of violence. Only a true leader who has the balls can take this all out war against drugs in the Philippines.

I sympathize with the Magalang family on the loss of Cyrish. Dreams snuffed in one senseless act where some "simple" tricycle driver gets high on drugs because he has a scuffle with his wife and gets a tantric moment and goes on a killing spree. The "simple" tricycle driver has really no role in life. He was born to what? Get high on drugs and become a murderer? How much more sense could you put into this picture?

Do our leaders have the balls to rise beyond politics? Do our government officials even have the brain to think about this picture?

Next year as we troop to the polls to select local government officials, think about it. Are the leaders you vote for in this for serving the public in where and what and when it really counts? At the end of the day, it's really up to us to decide whose hands we put the state of our nation.

No one to blame but us.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

No greater love

There's the story of a young boy and his parents.

As the boy grew up, he and his parents struggled with his growth pains, as every family would realize in raising children.

Lately, the boy would always come home late from school. Supper was already ready and the parents would wait for him to get back from school so they could eat together. When asked why he came home late from school lately, the boy replied that he would hang out with friends. So the father told him that if he comes home late from school again, he would only get one piece of bread and a glass of water every time he came home late.

During the next week or so the boy came home on time. Then one day, he came home late at night again, this time much later than he used to. His mother was furious when she opened the door and gave him the cold treatment. His father was seated in the living room in silence. They all proceeded to the dinner table. His stomach was grumbling and the scent of a freshly cooked meal permeated the air. When he sat down he noticed that the plates of both his parents were filled with delicious food. And he saw that on his plate was a piece of bread with a glass of water on the side. And his face fell and he knew it was his punishment.

After a few moments of silence, his father stood up, took his own plate filled with food and swapped plates with the boy. Tonight, he was taking the punishment for his son as his own.

There's always a story of an act of love that surpasses many "I love you" we share. Love is not about giving the most expensive jewelry or fanciest car. It's the little sacrifices and it's about dying a little so that someone else lives better lives that make a difference.

I remember when I was growing up, my mother used to buy ripe yellow mangoes for me and my sister. Because we didn't have much money to go around with, whenever she would serve us the mangoes, she would slice it into three parts - the two faces with the seed in the middle. She would give the best parts to me and my sister and she would suck on the middle portion of the mango. And she would be contended with having sips of the succulent fruit.

I guess in our lives, we have had someone who has given us no greater love in their own small way. Often times, we miss seeing the big picture because we're often engrossed with ourselves and sometimes our pathetic personal wants and needs.

There will always be a bit of Jesus Christ that dies on the cross to save us from the bigger crosses we bear.

For just a few minutes in your day, have you taken the time to sit back and reflect on the people who have given you no greater love?

Think about it, and thank them for it. Because when they're not around anymore, you'll regret the day you missed the chance to say "thank you" for loving you during the worst days of your life.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

of rags, tabloids and the varsitarian editorial

I was a product of the Varsitarian.

I rose from the ranks of news reporter to the editorial staff from 1980-1983.

In my curriculum vitae, I was always proud of being part of the Varsitarian. From the hundreds of students who took the exams to be part of the V, I was one of the few that passed. I took pride in the fact that I could probably have the prowess for writing.

Our publications director then, Mr. Felix Bautista taught me how to write. In him, I learned not only how to write directly from the typewriter but to write with passion and with ethics.

I am proud to be in the ranks of Varsitarian staffers who are today, excellent journalists and great writers. While I may not have pursued a journalism course, I was taught well and I know Mr. Baustista would have been proud.

The last editorial of the Varsitarian dated September 30, 2012 was, well to say the kindly - controversial. To put it in this perspective is really a kind way of saying that it was written badly. There was so much bashing, bullying and in a distinct fashion akin to the Pharisees, there was finger pointing on who was holy and good versus those who were sinners.

The editorial serves as the stand of whatever or whoever the publications is owned by. In this case - it is the official student organ of the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas. Hence, it purports to be the stand of the student Thomasian community. Given this fact, why are many Thomasian students screaming for the head of whoever wrote the editorial, on a silver platter?

It is shoddily written by someone who had much hatred against Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University. The arguments against the Reproductive Health Bill had taken a back seat from the paper's stand against this bill. It was like the writer came from a game that the UST Tigers had lost and bashed at the keyboard initially with the RH bill in mind then had hallucinations of the loss game and diverted his anger to ADMU and DLSU. In short, this was a very bad piece of editorial that shouldn't have seen the light of day.

But it went to press. It went viral. And the rest is history.

The Varsitarian carries a long tradition of being one the best and most respected student publications organ in the country. To have this trashy editorial made it look like some ragtag tabloid with those naked girls and boys on the front cover in order to sell the rag. Has it become so desperate for attention that the writer had focused on pointing out only two schools - in Katipunan and Taft? There are other Catholic schools whose teachers or professors have the same stance as those who are pro-RH. Talk about academic freedom! While academic freedom may not be absolute, neither is press freedom absolute. You don't use the editorial of the newspaper to go around castigating other schools, other sects, other religious orders just to get your opinion or your point made.

I am a physician as well. And I vow to do no harm to patients. And while I understand the pharmacology of the drugs used for reproductive health and warn people on its use, I do not go around saying that the professors from Ateneo or La Salle are lacking in brains or are pretenders and interlopers.

The fact that the University officials say that "The University thus supports the Varsitarian, its official student publication, in its stand against the RH bill and for that matter any organization united in this regard with the Catholic Church" is fine with me! That's their stand but it's not fine! There was a thin line that needed to be drawn and that was where this editorial went awry. In the first place, you cannot agree to one part of the editorial and apologize for the unsavory comments against other schools in the other paragraphs. After all, the editorial had to deliver one message - the RH Bill! Did it need to bash other schools and result in name calling? No. It needed to get edited. That was the responsibility of those that were supposed to supervise and teach the students on responsible journalism. Something very lacking in this piece of trash.

Even Thomas Aquinas would be turning in his grave at the way the school took the stand on the editorial. According to the official university bulletin - "We remain united in Christ with the Ateneo de Manila University, the De La Salle University and the other universities in our mission to promote Catholic education and to form students to become living testaments to the teachings of Christ and the principles we hold sacred—competence, commitment, and compassion."

Competence, commitment and compassion were truly lacking in this piece of trash.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Our hell on earth

We are masters of our own universe.

With that said, I blog about depression and how it eats up the human heart and soul.

Most of us feel sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps one time or another. But as the saying goes - we need to snap out of it after a short while.

A major depressive disorder becomes a clinical condition when it lasts for months. It is a disabling condition classified by the American Psychiatric Association as a mental disorder that is manifested by low mood accompanied by low self-esteem, loss of interest or pleasure in what are normally enjoyable activities.

I have friends and loved ones who go through their personal hell on earth. When I see some of them having to fight with the devil from within, it tears my heart apart. My mom for example has had her good days and bad days before she was diagnosed with major depression disorder.

I remember when my father passed away, my mother was left in a void. Suddenly she had chest pains, abdominal pains, and other body aches which various doctors tried to address and which various medicines could not cure. Everyday would be anxiety-laden because when she would clasp her chest, I would rush her to the ER only for her to feel better when we got there or have the multiple laboratory tests come back normal.

That was when I decided that she should seek help. Help beyond what I can emotionally support her with. We both needed to move on with our lives.

The problem with depression is that it not only engulfs you but those who love and care for you. People who go into depression don't realize that their conditions are "infectious". Obviously, they wallow in their own world and become a prisoner of their own fears and anxieties. Depressed people are highly agitated, restless and irritable. Some become withdrawn and isolated. Others practice high risk behaviors - either sexually or through illicit drugs. There's a feeling of worthlessness, self-hate, guilt and trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.

People who suffer from depression must not only have the motivation to seek help. They must be able to wage a personal battle with the devil from within. Psychotherapy and counseling may help but the family and those close to them must bear extreme tolerance to their conditions. Something that's not easy to do because many of us have our own lives to live. We cannot be crippled by carrying other peoples lives all the time. Then there are medicines that address the depression but may end up with other metabolic problems for the patients.

There are many theories on why depression may be more prominent in some individuals while others who may have more stressors in life don't seem to be affected to a greater extent. Whatever they are, I would surmise that people who suffer from depression have their own stories of their hell on earth.

And while there are treatment options that can range from taking a pill to psychotherapy, the underlying goal here is to help people who suffer from depression to "snap out of it" and live full regular lives. No matter how you try to assure them that it's probably just a phase and that everything will fall into place eventually, there's the devil within that whispers to them that it's not going to be okay and that people tell them it will be alright so that you stop bothering them. And they go through another cycle of having to fight the negatives from within.

The internal struggle of having to live with depression leaves a lingering experience of despair each and every waking hour. It's their story of their hell on earth. And how their families and friends are affected by their intertwining stories of their lives.

Is there hope for them?

Yes. And it's a work in progress at fighting the evil from within. It's a concerted effort from those who support them physically, mentally and spiritually to help them move on with their lives and get to live life to the fullest.

We all have our stories to tell. Sharing them is the first step. The second, is realizing that you're not alone...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Does it really matter?

At first, there was drama at the Senate. Tito Sotto gave a dramatic performance (this being a hard act to do coming from a comedian) - delivered with eloquence akin to the actor that he is. There was matching tears of regret over having lost a son because his wife, Helen Gamboa had taken a contraceptive pill (even if the pill had not been in the market yet. I guess his wife must have been in the developmental phase clinical trials of the drug company at that time.) That night, his "moving" speech was all over the news. And Sotto had his finest moment of his senatorial career - only to be squashed eight hours later, when his speech was torn into shreds by technology. People googled his speech, as they did Supreme Court Justice Mariano del Castillo or Manny V. Pangilinan or Krip Yuson or even columnist Amando Doronilla. With technology at our finger tips today, I am sure that even the most respected writer would not escape the inquisitiveness of those who search for originality in what they write.

After the fiasco, Sotto was publicly shamed (no cyber-bullying here Tito, as you had it coming) and his aide-de-camp Atty. Hector Villacorta (this guy must have been a two bit notary public before Sotto decided to put him on board his writing club) had begun to clean up the mess in the shame that they created. And they were thwarting allegations left and write, even daring those who questioned the speech as an act of plagiarism to go ahead and sue them! My gosh! Talk about people lacking not only balls but brains!!! Susmaryosep!

I am ashamed of Sotto as a senator of the republic of the Philippines. I am ashamed that my country has millions of people who vote for government officials not based on what their cerebral capacity contains or what their moral upbringing and values are, but based on a joke or a spiel or a commercial or an endorsement and hide behind the curtains of the entertainment industry and their colleagues. Remember: these are people that get PAID to say anything for a price!! Kahit na hindi totoo and endorsement nila, basta may bayad, they will endorse it! Let me say it with conviction - napaka-JOLOGS at ang tatanga ng mga naniniwala sa inyo!

It is why when Aga Muhlach trumpeted that he would be joining PNoy's Liberal Party to run for Congressman of Camarines Sur, I almost fainted. NOT AGAIN!!! Muhlach was quick to defend those in the entertainment world as being equally capable of running a town, municipality, city, province, or even country! My God! What gall! Did the guy swallow so much Jollibee chickens that all the cholesterol has lodged in his brain? These entertainers whose careers are already in the rut undoubtedly turn to politics as government-official-wannabes. They use their fame and whatever fortune they have amassed over their career years so that they can become government officials later on.

But that's where it all becomes awry and scary.

You have 3/4 of the Filipino voting population screaming in wanton over the underwears of their idols that they forget that they're stuck in oblivion with half a brain (if it's working) and half a ball (if it's still there) of intelligence and commitment to good governance. I will put it nicely - yung mga walang pinagaralan at nakatutok sa teleserye eh nagpapauto sa mga artistang laos at pulpol. The advertising and entertainment industry use these people as endorsers and people simply remember them with the recall factor - from medicine to soap to candy to beer to

And if you look back at the batting average of governance of people who came from the ranks of the entertainment industry, it's no wonder why our country is literally a banana republic - simply because we're run by monkeys!

I was telling my mom over lunch that between Sotto and Lito Lapid, I give more credit to the latter because the guy just shuts up and says nothing. Even Sen. Lapid is true to form when he says the reason why he doesn't say much is that he doesn't know that much. Bravo!!!

Does it really matter that we pay attention to the matter of Sotto's plagiarism?


Somehow, this should educate even the little people who adore their entertainment idols, that deception comes in various forms. And how little these actors and actresses actually know about governance. That we should not let people like these - who cannot even seem to accept their mistakes even at "copying" other peoples writings and claiming it is theirs, govern us. Tama na ang Iskul Bukol sa pamahalaan!!

It's time that we owe it to ourselves to make this country and it's people proud by revealing the impostors, the frauds we elect into office, and teaching them a lesson in humility so that we can regain our lost dignity.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Abe's Farm - a getaway to farm life

During my growing up years, my family and I would shuttle to San Jose City, Nueva Ecija where my mother's family lived. After all the members of her family passed away, we stopped going "home".

It's been quite awhile that I've been to the northern part of the archipelago. The long weekend holiday was an opportune time to strike a difference - family bonding, a relaxing getaway to what life used to be when I was growing up, and good company.

Our destination - Magalang, Pampanga. Home to Abe's Farm.

Abe's Restaurant, part of the LJC group of chain of restaurants is home to Manilenos for great Filipino Kampampangan cuisine. The restaurant Abe started in their farm home in Magalang, Pampanga - a trivia unknown to many of the urbanites in Manila.

A sleepy laid back town in Pampanga, Magalang was home to Abe's Farm. It was as authentic as one could get - of course, this included the smell of cow dung as you dined. But the ambience of the place and the food was truly Kapampangan and nothing could come as home cooked as you could get.

After the excellent meal, you can always choose to stay overnight in one of their cottages and go around Angeles, Dau and San Fernando City. Or just relax in one of their spas where they offer therapeutic massages for a very affordable price.

The next time you and family decide to get away from it all, or just want to have a great road's a place you can spend half the day in. Good food. Family bonding. Good company. Relax and unwind. And get an experience of the provincial life.

Life is great and more fun in the Philippines!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Borrowed happiness

What does it take to make you happy?

I have a friend who never told me that there was something lacking in their five-year relationship with her partner. After awhile, it got to be kinda funny that they've been together for the longest time and yet have not tied the knot. Over a cup of coffee, some delectable macarons and a lazy afternoon - she casually told me that she was looking for a more "permanent happines". I was dazed and asked her what her problem was. I mean, you gotta hand it to her - a job that pays great, a lot of friends that like her, and a fiance that's good looking and seems to love her to death.

In this story, my friend happens to be the other woman.

Human nature dictates that in our lifetime, we search for love. More often than not, lust takes the better half of that search. While sex is part of a relationship, it should not be the centerpiece in it.

I do not prejudge people who are in a complex relationship. After all, as individuals, we make our own decisions...and should be responsible for its consequences. I told my friend that in any relationship, we need to understand the "I" factor. This means that we take hold of respect of self as the first and foremost goal. We cannot make others - whether they are our relatives or friends or acquaintances - respect us if we cannot seem to take a grasp of our own lives.

It is easy to drum up excuses for holding on to what I call "borrowed happiness". Happiness, is, after all something we all deserve. But being happy at the expense of the misery of another party is selfishness on our part. Some people like being the "other woman". It's like being appreciated more than the "true" better half. But men can be animals. They throw their attention to you in order to get laid or prove that their waning libidos are still working.

Gay relationships are just as cruel. Most gay men and women are attracted with the physical attributes and are more promiscuous than heterosexual couples. Irregardless of sexual preference, each relationship comes together in the search for the "happily-ever-afters".

There is no love in a crowded relationship. I don't believe in the BS that sharing a marriage or a relation ends up in a win-win situation. All parties end up hurting each other and we lose respect of self. There is no winner in this kind of relationship and the few hours of happiness are simply "borrowed" so to speak.

The ultimate goal is to challenge ourselves to learn to walk away when there is nothing left in a relationship to begin with, or to salvage.

One of my favorite authors, Paulo Coelho puts into perspective what love is. "Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused." In reality, love is not to be understood. It is to be attained, but only if we work hard to overcome the challenges in searching for the right person, by finding self-respect in ourselves first.

And the greatest lie in the world is when we make believe and rationalize on "borrowed happiness" at the expense of other peoples misery.

“After all, what is happiness? Love, they tell me. But love doesn't bring and never has brought happiness. On the contrary, it's a constant state of anxiety, a battlefield; it's sleepless nights, asking ourselves all the time if we're doing the right thing. Real love is composed of ecstasy and agony.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Witch Of Portobello

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Stem cell therapy: Have we discovered the magic bullet?

There has been a lot of hoopla generated by the public regarding stem cell therapy. It’s been touted to be the smoking gun for almost every disease – from stroke to diabetes, to even it’s claim as we have found the “fountain of youth”.

Many clinics offer stem cell treatments and make claims that are not supported by the science of medicine. The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSRCR) has come out with an eight-page brochure (updated in 2011) on common problems myths and fallacies that is a MUST read for the general public who want to know more information about stem cell therapy.

This article provides an overview of what stem cell treatment is all about.

First and foremost are the types of stem cells. There are many types of stem cells that come from various places in the body (or formed at different stages in life). Embryonic stem cells form during the earliest stage of development while there are “adult” or tissue-specific stem cells that appear during fetal development and remain in our bodies forever. It should be remembered that our bodies use different types of tissue-specific stem cells for a specific purpose. The most common example is hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow. These are used to regenerate blood and hence are also called blood-forming stem cells. In short, because of tissue-specificity, a certain tissue can only regenerate the same tissue in return. “BE WARY OF CLINICS THAT OFFER TREATMENTS WITH STEM CELLS THAT ORIGINATE FROM A PART OF THE BODY THAT IS DIFFERENT FROM THE PART BEING TREATED!”

Based on the above mechanism of stem cell action, it is unlikely that a single type of stem cell treatment can treat a multitude of diseases like Diabetes and Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. The bottom line is that the cell type used as treatment is specific and appropriate to the disease.

Embryonic stem cells are being investigated for a wider range of human diseases. Aside from the current ethical dilemma surrounding embryonic cell stem cell, there are drawbacks in embryonic stem cell treatment because they have bee found to cause tumors and are unlikely to become the cells needed to regenerate a tissue on their own. They will need to get “coaxed” to become a specialized cell, which is currently difficult to do. “A MAJOR WARNING SIGN THAT A CLINIC MAY NOT BE CREDIBLE IS WHEN TREATMENTS ARE OFFERED FOR A WIDE VARIETY OF CONDITIONS BUT RELY ON A SINGLE CELL TYPE”.

Because of the ethical issues surrounding stem cell therapy, the number of well- conducted clinical trials is far from the desired number in order to arrive at a highly recommendable conclusion. The best defined so far are blood, bone, skin and corneal stem cell transplantation. These have been generally accepted as safe and effective in medicine.

“Just because people say stem cells helped them doesn’t mean they did.” The ISSCRC points out that there are three main reasons why a person might feel better that are related to the actual stem cell treatment – placebo effect, accompanying treatments, and natural fluctuations of the disease or conditions. These factors make testing under a non-controlled set-up difficult. It’s like looking at herbal or complementary alternative medicine where you depend on testimonials without the science of clinical trials. Unless there are randomized control studies large enough to make justifiable conclusions, “BE WARY OF CLINICS THAT MEASURE OR ADVERTISE THEIR RESULTS THROUGH PATIENT TESTIMONIALS.”

Science is a long and tedious process. There is no such thing as a medicine that was discovered as a miracle drug overnight. Some medicines may look promising from the get go during pre-clinical studies (in culture cells or animals) but eventually fail in humans. It is estimated that 1 out of 200 molecules that come of research end up in the clinical trial stage. And when a drug is tested in humans, safety is the most important or critical issue. Efficacy of treatment takes a backseat as we weigh benefits to risk of treatments offered.

Stem cells are not magic bullets. They need to get “instructed to behave in specific ways”. BMT or bone marrow transplant is successful because the cells do exactly what they were designed to do – make more blood. The greatest impediment to the development of a successful stem cell therapy is to get the cells to behave the way we want them to. It’s also important to remember that once these cells get transplanted into our body, they need to be in concert (integrate and function) with our body’s other cells as well. At this point, we are still learning how to direct stem cells to become the right cell type, to grow only as much as we need them to, and the best ways to transplant them “BE WARY OF CLAIMS THAT STEM CELLS WILL SOMEHOW JUST KNOW WHERE TO GO AND WHAT TO DO TO TREAT A SPECIFIC CONDITION.”

Like medicines, each medical procedure has a risk. “While your are unlikely to have an immune response to your own cells, the procedures used to acquire, grow and deliver them are risky. Contamination from other bacteria, virus or fungi can occur and can cause a deadly disease, which may be more difficult to treat. It can also cause a reaction to your own cells resulting in an immunologic reaction that can be deadly to the patient.

It is understandable that people feel they have nothing to lose with stem cell therapy because the diseases that stem cell therapy purports to cure are usually considered incurable by other means. Remember, “there are very real risks of developing complications, both immediate and long-term, while the chance of experiencing a benefit is likely very low. “ The bottom line is that “there is something to lose by trying an unproven treatment”.

“Experimental treatment offered for sale is not the same as a clinical trial”. This is the difficult part of explaining to a skeptical public who believe in magic bullets on the differences between experimental treatments and clinical trials. All clinical trials are FREE and the investigating pharmaceutical company shoulders the whole treatment and adverse events that occur during the treatment. An experimental treatment for sale is bogus. “BEWARE OF EXPENSIVE TREATMENTS THAT HAVE NOT PASSED SUCCESSFULLY THROUGH CLINICAL TRIALS”. Responsible medicine requires responsible clinical trial development phases because they allow us to learn if the treatment is SAFE and effective.

With that said, stem cell science is extremely promising. Great advances in treating certain conditions especially of the hematologic system have provided a large avenue for diseases once untreatable. Many scientists are currently studying ways to harness stem cells to diagnose and treat various diseases and conditions. In February 2010, the British company ReNeuron had been approved to do phase 1 studies of a neural stem cell for the treatment of stroke. The US FDA has also approved the first embryonic stem cell-based treatment for acute spinal cord injury in the phase 1 of clinical trials. It will still be quite some time before we probably will see stem cell as basic armamentarium in the treatment of various diseases.

There is a silver lining that will make stem cell therapy a promising treatment alternative in the future. In the meantime, the public needs to understand the science behind stem cell therapy so that scrupulous individuals and clinics that offer it as the “fountain of youth” or the magic bullet to disease treatment do not deceive them.

The most unethical part of medicine is to pan out a treatment at the expense of selling false hope to patients who are desperate to find a cure. The Hippocratic Oath of “First do no harm” should be the dictum at all times.


For more information, log on to to download the eight-page brochure on Stem Cell Facts

This article was originally written for eMagazine in My Virtual Healthcare Solutions, Inc. at

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The pain in pretending

They say that every relationship has both good and bad times.

There are stories on how relationships work or don't work, on failed relationships, on people on the "rebound", on how whether you need to break up or strive harder to make things work, and best of all, on the "happily ever afters".

Even marriages that have seen the best of times, have had the worst of times.

Strangely enough, some relationships are made in heaven. Others are a work in purgatory. The rest, well, they're a living hell.

It's human nature to seek for love. It gives one a sense of belonging, of being wanted, of being needed. And while we seek for acceptance from another person, there is the innate nature of going astray. I've always said that love is like looking at a glass filled half with water - one party sees it as half full, the other sees it as half empty.

You see, in a reality, there's always one party that probably loves more, cares more and pays more attention to the relationship than the other. And here's the rub, they get hurt more too during those bad and rough times.

And then things change. Just to stay in a relationship, we begin to pretend. Even if it hurts our pride and principles, we endure the pain. We rationalize that perhaps the hurting is there as a challenge to the relationship. That perhaps by overcoming the challenge, things will be alright.

We pretend that we will have happily-ever-afters even after the hurt and pain we endure because that's part of the journey's story.

Until it gets cold and dark and callous. When we can't feel what's real and what's absurd or what's right and what's wrong or whether we've just been used or really loved back in return.

But I believe that everything happens for a reason.

Pretending in the pain needs to have closure. People change, so you can learn how to let go. Things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they're right. You believe in lies so that you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself.

And sometimes, good things fall apart so that better things can fall together.

Think about it.

When was the last time you needed to let go to make the pain in pretending go away so that you can have peace of mind?

Monday, July 2, 2012

They came for a "Bag of Hope"

It was a trek that spanned 13 rivers for ten students, their school principal and three teachers. They left their homes as early as 4AM donning their school uniform and slippers to get from their homes in Tanay to Libis where a Pocari Sweat van waited to pick them up.

It was their first ride on an airconditioned vehicle, their first trip seeing high rise buildings and vehicles on a busy road, and their first ride on an elevator. When they arrived at our office building in Makati, the kids were treated to two movies - Ice Age 3 and Up with matching popcorn and loot bags to boot!

This year, Otsuka Philippines Pharmaceuticals, Inc. together with Black Pencil Project had Nayon Elementary School in Tanay, Rizal as its recipient for its Corporate Social Responsibility program. The ten students that initially came to the office were the representative students consisting of Dumagats (natives of Tanay) who traveled from their homes to be given royal treatment.

You could tell the story of their lives with the slippers they wore that bore the hardship of life. Lunch served was a sumptuous one but you could see that they were separating some of the food that was served to them. When you asked them why - they'd coyly reply that the food was too much but really they were bringing the other half home to their siblings or parents. You could see the sparkle in their eyes when they were each given study kits which comprised of back packs with basic school materials (notebooks, papers, pencils, crayons, erasers). [The school was given classroom supplies and reference books for the teachers.]

That was just the beginning. I am sure they were excited to tell their stories of hope when they got back that evening.

The following day, the CSR team of Otsuka Philippines trekked to the mountainous community of Tanay Rizal to deliver the rest of the study kits to all of the 205 students of Nayon Elementary School. The school is a 45 minute travel from Tanay town proper where the community of Dumagats Remontados (returning Dumagats)is found. The villages of Sta. Inez, Sto. Nino, Mamuyao, Cayabo and San Andres share surviving members of the Dumagats Remontado of the Sierra Madre Mountain. During the rainy season, flood waters from overflowing Tanay River make these villages inaccessible and classes are usually suspended because most of the teachers come from Tanay town proper. While Tanay, Rizal is geographically just a few kilometers off Metro Manila, Nayon Elementary School typically exemplifies the irony of it being "so close and yet so far" from civilization.

Jose P. Rizal, our national hero, said that "the future of our nation depends on our youth". Nurturing them, giving them hope, helping them fulfill their dreams.

Last June 16, 2012, it was a sight to see the glimmer in the eyes of these children come together for a "Bag of Hope". It felt like we gave them a "Bag of Dreams" to fulfill...

What's your story?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Johns of our lives

John is a shorter Hebrew version of Yehohanan. Meaning "Yahweh is gracious" or Yahweh has shown favor".

In the Catholic calendar, there are only three birthdays that are celebrated by the church - Jesus, Mary and John the Baptist.

John was the gift of God to Zechariah and Elizabeth in their old age. From disbelief to miracles, John was God's instrument to introduce and prepare the world for the coming of the greatest man who ever lived - Jesus.

People come in and out of our lives. Sometimes, they may be those that are not worth it. But there are some that make the journey in our life worth the travel. They're the friends who we can lean on whether good or bad times. These are Johns of our lives. They're there to trumpet our triumphs but comfort us during our downfalls. Some people may not be around that often but they are more sincere in their relationships with us.

Are you the John of peoples lives and who are the Johns in your lives?

Sunday, June 17, 2012


I recall over a dinner conversation with my nephew and niece the topic on how "primeval" the educational methods used in school while we were growing up.

Today's youth have the luxury of the power of knowledge at their fingertips. Nothing bad about that if you're looking at it from the point of view of the future.

Come to think of it, I recall the times that we had Library Science as a subject (and as a course to some!). Technology just evaporated the role of librarians and sent this dying breed into exile earlier than they would have thought. I recall those times when I'd practically spend 3-4 hours in the library on school days. Those vacant periods would be spent pouring through the hundreds of references for our assignment.

Gone are those days when students would have to trek to the libraries in order to stay updated or do their assignments. With the advent of the iPad, iBooks, iLibrary, and Kindle, you could download, google, search, surf and even publish information on the world wide web.

There's the good and the bad side of this technological breakthrough. Even the "oldies" like I, get to enjoy the value of information technology. No more having to queue for movie tickets, no more having to waste time paying researchers to dig up data, no more having to subscribe to the Yellow Pages (hence saving more trees), no more having to do business over the counter, no more having to spend hundreds of pesos just to talk to friends and relatives in other countries (soon we can talk to the Martians as well), no more having to be at the airport gazillion hours to get good seats as I can check in online, no more having to go to Timbuktu to get your take out as you can order online, no more having to go to the mall to buy clothes or stuff...YESSSS...we can all be turds and just sit back at our computer desks and type in wild abandon what we want - so we can get it without having to move from point A to point B.

And there's the rub.

Technology has created the monster called complacency and its sister obesity.

Students simply copy and paste information and pass it as their work or assignments. People have forgotten to acknowledge references and pass it as their own. The devil called plagiarism reels an ugly horn - from kindergarten to the Supreme Court of the Philippines.

People today want to take the shortcut. We now have more time to do other things. Like - uhmmm...what? Get into a third or fourth job? Go on porn sites? Pick a boyfriend or girlfriend through the net?

Now that we have more time and our kids have more time in their hands, there's more time for iPad and PSP games. And the kids and youth of today are so different. They're so materialistic. Once upon a time, many of the kids enjoyed little Barbies and Lego. Today, they've got to have an iPad or Galaxy. No money to get their kids immunized or brought to the hospital when they are sick but they have money to get the latest gadgets. And it's not simply because they want to keep up with technology. It's more out of envy.

The "shortcut" mentality has created a culture of attention deficit disorder in many. Many prefer that you cut the chase and go directly to what's needed. I go to Sunday services and see how many - young and old alike - feel so uneasy when the priest gives a longer sermon than usual. They bring out their iPhones to check on messages, or go out of the mass service to make a call or answer calls. There's this teenager who sits in front of us each Sunday mass who can't wait to get mass over and while in church dazingly googles through his Blackberry and his parents who are seated beside him don't even tell him or teach him the propriety of texting during church services. It's like a once a week religious affair with God. If you can't make your kids appreciate even the little time to thank God or say a little prayer to Him, well just leave your kids at home playing with their gadgets and toys! Sheesh!!!

We're in a hurry these days. A million bucks by the age of 21. A career by 25. A house and lot by 27. A company by 30. A king by 35.

Perhaps technology has pushed us to this level of looking at life with a shortcut. It would be sad that at our deathbeds, we would have to rewind quickly the journey we had and find it empty. Or will our exit in this world be a shortcut too?

Monday, June 11, 2012

"Not once, but twice!"

These were the exact words that Susan Roces blurted out to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when the latter had won the presidency over her husband in a cheating marred elected. GMA had also taken over President Joseph Estrada when the latter was deposed from office by a handful of people belonging to the upper echelon of society, in what is tragically history's EDSA II.

And so what goes down in history for 2012 is how the Americans had apparently cheated Filipinos or those of Filipino decent on the plum crowns for singing and boxing, from a country that apparently proclaims itself to be the land of the brave and free.

First down was Jessica Sanchez who lost to a WGWG (white male with guitar) contestant. Of course, I'm not sour-graping. On a mano-a-mano singing level, Phillip Phillips was a distant contestant among the five finalists of AI. As to why he won - perhaps only the Americans will know. As they say, even if you were born and raised in the United States of America, your color and race will still matter in the end.

Then there was Manny Pacquiao. While I am not a boxing fan, and definitely not a Pacman fan, I did watch the Pacquiao -Bradley bout. And clearly, Pacquiao won hands down. There are several analysts that went on to defend why Bradley had won, but I guess this was one for the books. Bradley was "Desert Storm" and the symbol of America. Pacman needed to floor him to win. Perhaps Pacman showed signs of his age in the last few rounds of the fight. Perhaps it was a throw-away fight (as everyone knows that boxing is a gambling game). But three people deciding on who the victor was in the fight clearly saw it all differently compared to all the other sports analysts who were covering the fight.

Glaringly and clearly, I don't think the Americans are ready to give any prize awards this year to Filipinos or anyone not belonging to their race for sure.

It just shows you that even in the country where millions flock to in search of greener pastures, discrimination will remain inevitably be their foremost enemy.

Even in the land of milk and honey, we will always be second class citizens.

Not once, but twice over.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


This month celebrates father's day, my birthday and my dad's death anniversary.

Somehow, I cannot tell if my bipolar world has been activated in some weird way because of these events.

My dad and I were probably not that close. Considering that I was the eldest of the brood of our clan, I should be donating the seedlings to multiply our family name. But as fortune and choice would destine it, I would be the last of our breed. It's probably why there was no "man to man" bonding between my father and I.

But as I grew older, and even if there was this policy of "don't ask, don't tell" in our house, I knew he knew. And I knew deep inside me that it was painful for him and pointless for me to change.

The only compromise I had with him (in not so many words) was to fulfill a dream he had - to have a son that finished a medical degree.

Which is why when I shifted course from General Science (Pre-Medicine) to Mathematics in my undergraduate years, it was devastating for him. I never wanted to be a doctor. But somehow, I kept my end of the bargain and he kept his - he never asked me about my sexual preference.

We do not come from a wealthy family.

In spite of his diabetes, my dad worked day and night to make ends meet. I could see the frustration in his eyes when it would be school time again. It was time to borrow money from the office because enrollment was at the corner. My sister and I are only 1 1/2 years apart, which meant that we were both going to college at the same time. And when I trotted off to medical school, I knew that the financial burden would only be aggravated. We had loans to pay, considering that we had just finished building our house.

But my father was a quiet man when it came to family matters. You could read the frustration in his eyes when it came to money matters. But you could see his determination to juggle more work so that he could make ends meet in order to provide for his family. In his life, there probably were more bad days than good ones.

In my own world, I could not let this man who provided a roof over our heads, food on our tables and weekends on the boulevard down. There were days when I felt I disappointed him seriously.

The last step to graduate from medical school was the oral revalida. My failure there hurt me at the core of pride. It hurt my father at the core of his dream. It devastated me because I failed my father - again.

And while he kept his silent frustration to himself, he also revealed the side that would inspire me later on. He crept into my room and told me that I was free to choose to continue with medical school or choose to chase my dream.

It was not an act of frustration or desperation I saw in this man.

It was an act of selfless love. No questions were asked. No reprimand. Simply giving in.

A few days after swallowing my pride, I went back to med school. A young man with a new direction in life. More determined. More motivated. More focused. More inspired.

Where I am today is all because of my father's inspiration. And I know that even if he is not around to see what I have become and what I have achieved, I know wherever he is, he is smiling down at me with approval. In my life, failure will not be an option - because the man who taught me how to survive life's biggest challenge was my greatest inspiration.

I will always remember that inspiration that my father was - to give without counting the cost, to share even what we need ourselves, to give the best even when it hurts. It is possible to give without love, but it is impossible to love without giving.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The vice-president and the popularity polls

Strangely, when someone DOES NOT do anything, he or she is the most popular.

It's because the one that is the least seen or heard, is usually the lesser evil.

And this is how the popularity polls SHOULD BE interpreted.

Let's look at the perfect example of the SWS polls being conducted to trump those well liked versus those despised in government service.

Survey says: BINAY tops the list of most liked. Like yeah, sure. What in the world has the Veep done in the last 2 years that he's liked?!? Like ALL the other Veeps in the past, there's always that wonder of all wonders on what his role in life actually is. Like all Veeps in any organization, the Vice-President of the Republic of the Philippines is left in limbo or purgatory. All you need to do is remember the roles of Noli de Castro or Joseph Estrada. They are provided the least stressful and least useful of all government positions. No one cares if the Veep lives or dies. They always are - inconsequential.

So now Jejomar Binay is rocketed off to an inconsequential role - housing czar?!?! That's the same weird role of Noli Boy, and where have these housing contributions and loans gone to? Our monthly contributions of P250/month is about P3000/year. If you work for 10 years that would have been P30,000.00 You think that would be enough to buy you a house?!?! Nails for the house probably or some god-forsaken shanty. I think this Pag-Ibig fund is a joke. A big joke on the contributors and a big joke for the borrowers.

Going back to the Veep, I cannot recall a single thing that would catapult Veep Binay to a "likeable" category. All I recall about him after he was elected Veep of the Philippines is his transferring his office to the Coconut Palace AND his desperate attempt to stay the execution of the Pinoy drug mules - a case of procrastinating the inevitable. After the government had spent money for his trip, the Pinoys were still executed.

Perhaps it was a blessing that Mar Roxas lost the last election. Had he won, he would have been in Binay's shoes - a position of complacency.

Well, it gives time for Binay now to jostle for the election in 2016.

And the he's banking on the stupid Social Weather Station to provide the impetus to the millions of gullible Filipinos who bank on superficial information as their main source of information.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ningas cogon

Cogon grass is a tall, thin green grass that grows in large fields. Because it is reed thin, it easily catches fire, and is put out quickly as well.

The term ningas cogon is part of Philippine culture. They say that is part of our heritage. After showing fervent desire in one topic, just like the cogon grass, they lose interest in it as rapidly. Some people say that the Filipinos are a "forgiving" people. I don't agree. They are masochists. After people inflict pain on them they easily forget. I don't know where this attitude emanates from, but seriously, it's one that's not helpful to the nation and to its people.

The Marcos dynasty is a perfect example of how easily the Pinoys forget (and forgive?). In every municipality and barangay in this country of 7101 islands, you will find a political dynasty created mainly by the rich, the powerful and those who run for office because they have an ulterior motive - not to serve their constituents, but to enrich themselves.

And so we have lived through a century of various political dynasties. As the Pinoys would call it - "weather weather lang". Every election year, politicians go up the campaign platforms to trump their reminders on the power they possess and their never ending promise to address the woes of the Filipino people, fix the school buildings, roads and bridges, crime and corruption and bring justice home. After every election, these promises are swept under the rug, and the next three to six years end up with empty promises and Juan de la Cruz with an empty stomach.

The recent events on the impeachment of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court sends an important message to corrupt government officials. The trial of the decade should not be merely for show. Mr. Corona, had left an open challenge to everyone in public office. Show your legitimate statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (otherwise called SALN). Before and during the trial, many politicians had said they were willing to show what they have - hidden wealth and all! But after the impeachment, sanamagan...these idiots led by the lead idiotic prosecutor Neil Tupas has recanted! Now they justify that it's not they that were on trial and that there was no need to prove anything. This line of reasoning is the kind of reasoning why Miriam Defensor-Santiago gets a standing ovation even during her lucid moments - after all, she's got a point!! God strike everyone dead in the senate impeachment court if they don't show their SALN!!!!!!

Some say that the average Juan has become more politically mature with this impeachment process.

I disagree. We are a million miles away from political maturity. It is when we have dismantled the dynasties and other leaders are chosen based on quality and not friendship, do we learn the art of true governance FOR THE FILIPINO people.

In the meantime, with some of our politicians acting ningas cogon, there is no cause for celebrating the impeachment of the chief justice.

In the meantime, the SALN is not statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. To the politician or government official SALN means SEKRETO ANG LAMAN NITO!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ano daw?

Or maybe I just didn't get it.

I had better things to do than watch the three hours zarzuela on TV on the Chief Justice of the Philippines taking the witness stand in his impeachment trial.

But I made sure that when I got home from work I needed to hear his side. I still gave him the benefit of the doubt.

So he and his wife come from well-to-do family. That's what he said. They are people beyond other peoples means. In short, we're poor and they have moohlah. Boo! When he was starting in his law practice, he had the foresight to invest money. At the time he was practicing, he said, the currency exchange was $1 = P2. OMG! He was already a lawyer in the 60s?!?! Okay, so let's do a little math. He is 64 today. He was born in 1948. Which means that in 1960 he was 12 years old. OMG!!! He was practicing law already during this time??!?!!? Naman naman naman. Kung si Cuevas pa yan eh naniwala ako. But as far as I know, when I was growing up in the 60s, the exchange rate of the peso to the dollar was already $1=P4.

Let's give him the benefit of the doubt again.

Then there's the numbers. His dollar accounts and peso accounts. His properties. No 82 dollar accounts, no thirty plus peso accounts, no gazillion properties. Just 4 dollar accounts, 3 peso accounts and 5 properties. If there wasn't so much hogwash on how these properties got acquired and how his money got transferred from one pocket to another, what was the big deal? But it didn't seem that way. What was obvious though was the thickly veiled and seemingly deliberate attempt to hide all this cash and transfer properties left and right.

Of course, then there's the drama. I didn't think he scored pogi points by being emotionally moved. And when the cameras turned to the employees of the Supreme Court who were apparently drawn to tears in what was the telenovela of their boss, well that peeved me. It dawned on me that these people in the Supreme Court must be made of the same material, same character and yes, same moral fiber - to stand by his side to the end.

And then more drama unfolded. Did I hear it right that he quoted a republic act on bank secrecy law - citing that the dollar accounts were privileged and that he was guarded by the law not to reveal anything? OMG to the nth degree!!! So how could a guy like the Chief Justice hide under this cloak? If he had nothing to hide, he should have cited that there was such a law but that because of transparency, he was just showing what he had and to hell with the law! But of course, he twisted the drama and took out a piece of paper, signed the waiver and said that all those who signed for his impeachment should show their dollar accounts as well! Naman! Hindi naman ako tanga noh! What about the idiots who did not sign? Yung mga karancho ni GMA na nagnakaw nung panahon ni Gloria. They didn't sign. So they're exempted?

And the persecution complex of CJ was just apparent. He started ranting, raving and emphasizing how he was persecuted in the last 5 months by the Aquino administration. Because? I didn't get it. Was it just about Hacienda Luisita? What vengeance was he talking about? I mean, the palace wanted to get Merceditas Gutierrez out of the equation as well. Was she in any way connected to Hacienda Luisita? When Angelo Reyes shot himself, was it also about Hacienda Luisita? Kawawa naman yung Hacienderong Presidente natin at lahat na lamang eh kasalanan ni Hacienda Luisita.

Then the dramatic exit (note, walking on his two feet) then comeback after all exits were sealed (note, in a wheelchair looking haggard) was the coup de grace. He had a hypoglycemic episode. Dang! My father was a long time diabetic when he was still alive. I am a doctor. And hypoglycemia is easily managed. I can tell drama when I see one and that was one hell of a dramatic episode that fooled a lot of sympathizing kibitzers.

The summary of the news about CJ Corona's taking the witness stand only told one story. That here's a man in the highest office of the land who has lost all moral ascendancy to lead. Perhaps it was a fight to the finish for pride. It was a fight to the end to clear a tainted name.

If you understood what the drama was all about yesterday, then hurray for you. I didn't. Was he sick? Yup. I think he needs a mental check-up and when his mental status has been cleared, the he can probably go back to practicing law again.

In the meantime, the only way out of this is to resign. The people of the Philippines need to move on. Enough drama. Enough justification that didn't make sense. Enough is enough.

There are more important issues to tackle and less clowns to entertain. Ibigay na ang best actor award para matigil na ito!

Sunday, May 20, 2012


14, 15, 16 & 18.

The news of the four teenagers dying in a horrific car crash at 4AM inside the posh Ayala Alabang Village was shocking. They were just two blocks away from home.

Three were declared dead on arrival at the nearby Asian Hospital and Medical Center. One died a few hours later.

Unlike most news that come out of media, there was little said about this except that it was a tragic one and that they were investigating its cause. Of course, because the families are well-off, the media circus will definitely be a hush hush.

But that's not the purpose of this blog.

The age of technology has changed the lifestyle and outlook of everyone. The youth is the most vulnerable in this scenario. With almost anything and everything at our fingertips, the sins of greed, pride, lust, envy, gluttony, sloth, anger are also not far behind. The music scene is no exception to this as well. MTV and other movie channels readily available on cable are easily accessible to them. The influence of technology changes peoples perception and the most vulnerable ones are at highest risk.

Several studies point to this as a fact. With parents usually busy chasing their own professions and successes, many of our youth are left to fend for themselves without proper guidance.

Even in my practice, I see more teenage pregnancies today than five years ago. The YAFS (Young Adult and Fertility Study) in the Philippines shows that males engage in riskier behavior than females. More than 60% of males have engaged in sex with multiple sexual partners (both men and women) by the age of 15. Females are lower at 25%. Risky behavior includes drug use and drinking. Even if the law mandates that alcoholic beverage is not allowed to be sold to those 18 years old and below, business establishments look the other way. Date rape with illicit drug use or inebriation through alcohol is considered locally a heinous crime. And while I may be taken for a prude on this matter, accountability of a situation is on both parties who are either sober. One cannot say that he/she was intoxicated at the time of the risky behavior that the risk is on the offending party.

The point is that we all need to be accountable for individual actions. Whether we flirt or project to other people we casually meet in a club, bar or social networking site, any risky behavior we engage in will always have consequences. And it is sad that we forget that personal accountability during the most vulnerable period is often overlooked.

We can always blame it on the "age" of growing up, or that it was more "fun" getting engaged in risky behavior, or that "we will never know until we've tried it", but the painful lessons and consequences will leave us scarred for life.

It is time that parents get more responsibly involved in raising their children properly, not in the image of what their neighbors have or don't have, but in the spirit of what a family should be. Friends should look out for the good of other friends and not encourage or bully them into being "cool" or "in" so that children and adolescents become "acceptable" to peers.

I can only blog about this as a reminder to all that maturity and responsibility is part of being taught during the upbringing of our children.

I hope that there is still time for many of us who raise our children or nurture relationships.

I pray that they're not dead before they reach their prime.

It would be tragic to have to bury your children.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Will she, won't she?

I waited until the top 3 to write down this blog entry.

I have never been much of an American Idol fan. Even with past Fil-Am idol contestants Jasmine Trias or Thea Megia, truth be told, I was never impressed.

Then Jessica Sanchez came along.

Seriously, this 16 year old Filipino-Mexican American can sing! Watching her week after week was something I looked forward to on a Thursday night in Manila. She wowed me and made me a firm believer of what is truly called pure raw talent.

Then she got the lowest votes even before she could land in the top 5. Whatever drama transpired with "Saving Jessica" was one hell of a show! The fact is that she is the only "save" in American Idol history to land in the top 3.

The life story of Jessica Sanchez revolves around a young girl in search of a dream and passion for singing. She was first seen in "America's Got Talent" when she was only 11 years old. Ironically, "America's Got Talent" producer Simon Cowell had commented back then that in spite of Jessica not making it to the finals, commented that "she's one the best I have ever heard." And that was five years ago.

Today, Jessica sings her heart out to America, hoping to capture the final two spots in the race to the finish for American Idol. Last girl standing and yes, she is neither black nor white. She is born to immigrant parents who had gone to seek greener pastures in America.

It's a matter of talent. Either you've got it or you don't. And bias aside, Phillip Phillips needs to leave AI and leave the final battle to Joshua Ledet and Jessica Sanchez. As a matter of fact, I still don't see what America or Randy Jackson sees in Phillip with all the nicey comments to his mediocre singing. Of course, with Ledet, Sanchez and Phillips left in the competition - it would be sad to see Sanchez lose out to Phillips as the latter is a poor competition to Ledet. Most of the "controversial" winners of AI have never really had careers that took off with the runners-up like Jennifer Hudson, Adam Lambert, to name a few, making names for themselves today.

The little girl from Chula Vista, San Diego has made me a firm believer that the Filipino is one of the best in the world. Her rendition of the Jennifer Holliday song "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" was one of the best I have ever heard.

Our lights shine when we are given the opportunity to. And as a Filipino I am proud of Jessica. Proud to encourage Filipinos all over the world to vote for her. Proud to even tell the American public to judge with their ears and heads and not see her as a mixed brown girl raised in the US of A.

And as I count down to the last few weeks of AI, I keep my fingers crossed that Jessica Sanchez would be given the chance to be pitted against Joshua Ledet - not because I want, but because it's what's left of AI's last 3 talents.

Turn up the volume of your computer and you'll hear why Jessica has even left me...stuttering....